Coastal Breeze News » Salute to Veterans http://www.coastalbreezenews.com Sat, 19 Apr 2014 13:03:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 James “Bud” Kornse: A life of service http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2012/06/14/james-bud-kornse-a-life-of-service/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2012/06/14/james-bud-kornse-a-life-of-service/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2012 21:47:06 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=22084 By Natalie Strom

natalie@coastalbreezenews.com

Surrounded by photos of family and military memorabilia. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Three wars and thirty years of service. This is the life of James “Bud” Kornse, Marco Island resident and military veteran. Born March 5, 1927, Bud spent 30 years in the Navy. After retiring, his contributions to his country still continued. From World War II, to the Korean War to Vietnam to the present day, Bud fought for freedom and veteran affairs on the battlefield and beyond.

Born and raised just outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey, Bud was the oldest of four. At the age of five, he began boxing at the local YMCA, where he picked up the nickname “Bud,” which has been with him ever since.

In 1944, at the age of 17, Bud enlisted in the military. “I had my dad sign me up. I said, ‘dad, they’re going to draft me in a year anyway, so I want to go now so I can pick what I want. He asked me what I wanted and I said, ‘I want the Navy, dad. That’s what I want.’”

That’s exactly what Bud got. He was sent to the United States Naval Training Center in Bainbridge, Maryland. Bud was among the first groups to go through training in Bainbridge, as it had only opened two years prior. “I got out of there, and the next thing I knew, they told me I was a part of the Amphibious Forces,” he adds. Made up of a group of warships, the Amphibious Forces were used in World War II to secure the islands in the South Pacific. “We had carriers, destroyers, transports, battle wagons, cruisers; there were so many ships out there. I remember we had something like 1,500 ships when we invaded the Philippines.” Overall, Bud spent 24 months with the Amphibious Forces in the South Pacific.

Bud received a plaque of appreciation for his work with the Philippine Government during WWII.

During World War II, “we went through the Gilberts, the Marshalls, the Marianas, Saipan, Guam, Timian, and the Philippines. There were so many that I can’t remember them all. Okinawa was our last invasion. That’s when we really knocked the hell out of ‘em. They already knew their days were numbered.”

World War II ended in August of 1945, but Bud and the Amphibious Forces continued to fight alongside Filipino forces to liberate the Philippines from Japanese rule. Bud and his fellow comrades also helped rebuild the Philippines after the war. A plaque of appreciation from the Government of the Philippines hangs on his wall to this day as a reminder of his service to their country.

Working as a radioman on two landing crafts during World War II, Bud decided to reenlist when the Korean War broke out in 1950. “I signed up for six more years,” he adds. “I spent 36 months off the coast of Korea on different aircraft carriers, basically until the war ended. Then after Korea, Vietnam comes along. I thought, ‘what did I reenlist for? Are they trying to get me killed?’ But I beat ‘em all! The good Lord must want me around for some reason.”

The Vietnam War began in 1955, one year before Bud’s service was to end. He was sent to Vietnam, where he did four tours, or about four years. Between Korea and Vietnam, Bud spent time on seven aircraft carriers: the USS Essex, USS Midway, USS Philippine Sea, USS Valley Forge, USS Kitty Hawk, USS Ranger and the USS Constellation. “I had a series of heart attacks because of the stress and the strain from the battles. The next thing I knew, they flew me into the Philippines, to Clark Air Base. I went from there to the San Diego Naval Hospital. From San Diego, they checked my records, and flew me to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital because that’s where I was from.

Bud remains close with his sister, Elizabeth, who brought him home after he was discharged on diability.

“The doctor told me my heart was too weak to be operated on and that I would be retired on disability. They put me out of the hospital, and there I was standing on the street corner. They dumped me on the street. That’s what happened to me. They just dumped me. So I called my sister in New Jersey and I said, ‘sis, come and get me.’ She and a friend drove down that day and I went back to New Jersey with them.

“During World War II, we were greeted warmly when we returned, but Vietnam was different. We were cursed. I had somebody splatter my place with red paint. They called us baby killers and spat on us. I was spit on too. We were treated horribly. Any of us that served in Vietnam, we were considered anything but patriotic. According to the people we were killers. But I only tried to do what I felt was right. I’ve been that way all my life.

“People don’t realize what we go through during the battles or war, but also what we go through when we come back. Today it’s different. People are starting to realize the importance of taking care of our veterans.”

After a number years volunteering at local schools in New Jersey, Bud decided he couldn’t take the cold anymore. He moved to Florida in the late 70s and has called it home for over thirty years. While in New Jersey and in Florida, Bud was a member of the Masonic Order, an organization based on service within communities. He became a Master Mason, working his way up to a 32nd degree Shriner.

A young Bud surrounded by his medals of service.

He also got involved in local politics. “A friend of mine, Lou Schultz, who was a Veteran Service Officer for Collier County, convinced me to run for the Chairman of the Collier County Veteran’s Council. It was about 1991. I said I wasn’t qualified, but he said, ‘the hell you’re not! After thirty years in the military and three wars, I can’t think of anybody more qualified than you.’ So I ran and I held the position for two years.”

During his time as Chairman, Bud fought for the veterans of Collier County. At the time, the closest VA Hospital was in Ft. Myers. “I said, ‘this isn’t gonna work. So we called up our local Congressman at the time. We said, ‘we have over 40,000 veterans here in Collier County. We need a hospital. They called us back a few months later and said, ‘we couldn’t get you a hospital but we can get you a VA Clinic. Recently, I found out they finally have a Vet Center in Naples.” These centers retrain members of the military for civilian life.

“They didn’t have any of this when I came out of the service. I was lucky I had sense enough to go to my sister’s place. The government is finally doing right by its veterans, and they should. People are realizing if it wasn’t for the veterans, they wouldn’t have the jobs they have today or be secure and have the freedoms that they have. That’s my sentiments and I’m sure other veterans would feel the same.”

During his thirty years and three wars, Bud served on nine ships altogether; two landing crafts and seven aircraft carriers. “I don’t miss the combat, but I miss the camaraderie. You don’t have it like you do in military life. Out here it’s dog-eat-dog. You do for yourself or die, but it’s not like that in the military. We looked out for each other.”

Bud’s living room wall features awards and letters from the United States Government, the Phillippine Government, Masons, Shriners and more.

Bud was forced to adjust to civilian life on his own. “I just did it. I made myself do it. But I’m glad to see that they have the VA Clinic and Vet Center here for the men and women coming home because they really need it. I really want to thank Lou Schultz and his wife, Louise, for all of their involvement. If it weren’t for them, our local Congressmen and all that were involved in the Collier County Veteran’s Council, we wouldn’t have the VA Clinic in Naples. I would also like to thank those who were a part of developing the Vet Center. To the doctors, nurses and office personnel who do an excellent job taking care of the veterans at the VA Clinic and Center in Naples, I also thank you. I’m not saying it was easy, but without the United States military, I would not have what I have today.”

Because of veterans like Bud, we can still call our country, “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” To James “Bud” Kornse and to all the service men and women of the United States, Coastal Breeze News thanks you.


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Veterans Day celebration leads to surprise reunion http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2011/11/29/veterans-day-celebration-leads-to-surprise-reunion/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2011/11/29/veterans-day-celebration-leads-to-surprise-reunion/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2011 20:35:31 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=16106 By Natalie Strom

The Veterans Day Ceremony at Veterans’ Memorial Park on November 11th was certainly one to remember. Special Guest Speaker, General James K. Guest, would definitely agree. During his speech he explained to the large crowd why this particular Veterans’ Day was so special to him.

“Veterans’ Day is a day to remember the life-long friendships that were forged on the battlefield. This is one of the greatest benefits of being a veteran,” General Guest told the crowd. With that he invited two men onto the stage, both who served under him during the Vietnam War. VFW Commander of Marco Island, Jim Lang, and veteran John Kutay joined Guest as he continued. The story that unfolded next was truly inspiring.

In 1966 General Guest was Captain of the Company both Lang and Kutay served in. As Lang explained, “We threw (Kutay) on a chopper one night never expecting to see him again and he survived even after taking eight to nine rounds from an AK-47.” After nine long months of being “put back together,” according to Kutay, he was finally released from the hospital. Forty-four years have passed since that time and General Guest had never seen him since.

While helping to plan the Veterans Day Service and new Memorial Dedication to the Veterans’ Community Park, Jim Lang decided to plan a surprise for his two friends from service. He invited General Guest to speak at the event, not informing him that Kutay would be there. At a dinner hosted for the General the night before Veterans Day, Guest and Kutay were reunited. It was a long-awaited moment for both soldiers.

“After 44 years, I just can’t even tell you how I feel. I’ve thought about (Kutay) over the years many times. He was a great soldier,” explained Guest. According to Kutay, the reunion “was very warming.”

The rest of the ceremony and dedication held the same sentiment. The Morning Musicians of Tommie Barfield Elementary sang a number of patriotic songs, waving their American flags high, in salute to the many veterans present.

The Marco Island Strummers played the songs of all five military branches while veterans of each stood to be recognized.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring moment came as Anna Schilling sang a beautiful rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Mid-song a group of four military fighter pilots flew over the new Veterans’ Memorial, sending chills of patriotism and pride throughout the crowd.

These unforgettable moments were shared with one of the largest crowds Marco Island has seen during a Veterans Day celebration. As the ceremony came to a close, many in attendance took their time leaving as they were admiring the dedicated pavers along the path that leads to the new Memorial.

Veterans Day is a day of remembrance. We remember the soldiers who risked their lives and the soldiers who lost their lives in order to allow us the freedoms we have as Americans.

The Memorial Dedication and Veterans Day Celebration certainly kept that spirit alive. It is one that many will never forget, especially for General Guest and his fellow soldiers and friends, Jim Lang and John Kutay.


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Veteran’s notes http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2011/10/25/veteran%e2%80%99s-notes/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2011/10/25/veteran%e2%80%99s-notes/#comments Tue, 25 Oct 2011 19:51:41 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=15294

Honor a Hero: Call for Photos Campaign

If you have a photo of anyone who died in the Vietnam conflict or know someone who does, you can help honor a hero.

The traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall known as “The Wall That Heals” will be installed on Marco Island at Veterans Community Park from December 7 through 10. If you have a photo of someone killed in that conflict, bring it to the information center at The Wall. You will be asked to fill out an information form about that person. The photo and the information will be uploaded to Washington, DC and placed on the virtual wall website, http://vvmf.org/thewall. When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund completes its planned Education Center adjacent to the Memorial in Washington, DC, all the photos will be displayed. On the anniversary of the person’s death, his/her picture will be projected along with others who died that day.

To date, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has collected 21,000 photos. Help the Fund honor all of the 58,272 names on the Wall by bringing any photos you may have to The Wall That Heals while it is on Marco Island. If you are unable to visit The Wall during those dates, submit your photos and information online at http://www.vvmf.org/photos. For further information about this project, consult the website http://www.vvmf.org

Volunteers Needed

Lee Rubenstein, chairman of the Marco Island Traveling Vietnam Wall Committee, is looking for a few good men and women to assist with The Wall That Heals project December 7-10 by reading aloud the names of some of the 1,954 Floridians who died in the Vietnam conflict.

Marco Island is honored to be the only city in Florida selected for the next two years to host The Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Officially known as “The Wall That Heals”, it is accompanied by a mobile museum and computerized name locator. The Wall will be located in Veterans’ Community Park and open to the public from December 7 through December 10, 24 hours a day.

During these four days, community volunteers will read aloud the names of Floridians lost in this conflict; your help is needed.

If you would like to assist with this worthy project by reading some of the names, call Lee Rubenstein at 239-564-9894.


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SALUTE TO VETS http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2011/09/08/salute-to-vets/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2011/09/08/salute-to-vets/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2011 01:58:56 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=13985 A TRIUMPH OF LOVE IN THE MIDDLE OF WAR

By Jane A. Marlowe

LTS. Georgia and Edward Olsen.

From parachute to wedding gown.

Coastal Breeze News salutes a couple as part of its continuing recognition of World War II veterans. Two young lieutenants met while serving in the United States Army and neither war nor far away assignments could keep them from finding each other again and again.

Georgia Ivanoff Olsen resides on Marco Island in the same condo she shared with her husband, Edward, until his death here in 2005. Their northern homes were in Chicago and Fontana on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin where they raised their only child, Lucienne.

In 1943, Georgia, a recent nursing school graduate, was working in comfortable conditions in the United States but knew about the urgent need for nurses in the armed services. She wrote to the Red Cross describing her interest in enlisting and one week later received a reply. Georgia still has the correspondence.

She chose the army, quit her job and boarded a train for Camp Ellis, Illinois. Her mother and father were the parents of daughters and as the oldest, Georgia considered it her duty to serve her country in the name of her family. Following her training, she was assigned to temporary duty with the 43rd Field Hospital and transferred to Camp Stoneman, California to await orders.

Lt. Edward Olsen served at several army bases in the United States before he was ordered to Camp Stoneman for shipment overseas as a replacement infantry officer. Just before shipping out, he met another lieutenant, Army Nurse Lt. Georgia Ivanoff, at a dance in the Officers Club at Camp Stoneman. The young couple promised to write one another.

Hand painted wedding invitation.

On February 14, 1944, Lt. Olsen embarked for Kauai, Hawaii to join the 33rd Infantry Division as a rifle platoon leader. On February 15, 1944, Lt. Ivanoff departed for Milne Bay, New Guinea to help set up the 43rd Field Hospital. It was a rough crossing and upon arrival in the bay, the nurses were transferred to “ducks” for landing on the beach. They were thoroughly soaked along with all their gear.

Their wedding menu.

The new arrivals were trucked into the jungle to their base of operations. Quarters were tents on platforms cocooned in mosquito netting, four to a tent. They slogged through ankle deep mud to their quarters and discovered there was no running water. These newly minted officers, used to typical American homes and all their comforts, were told to use their helmets for “spit showers” and to do their laundry.

A smiling bride-to-be.

The hospital and the mess were on a rise where conditions were a little dryer. The 43rd Field Hospital staff lived on spam, sausages and powdered milk. They were saved by a great baker whose delicious bread became the mainstay of their diet.

The nurses were assigned wards and treated the wounded soldiers brought in from the front lines. The most difficult cases were patients with “jungle rot.” Soldiers who had been on the line for days and weeks with wet boots and socks, subjected to rain, mud and sweltering jungle heat suffered terribly and the damage to their lower legs and feet was nearly impossible to treat.

Local youth assist corpsmen of the 43rd.

Georgia praised the corpsmen for their devotion to duty, helping to lift and move wounded soldiers with great care, assisting with treatment and making it possible for the nurses to look after the constant influx of patients under trying, difficult conditions.

A corpsman came rushing to Lt. Ivanoff one day to report that two patients were fighting with each other. The petite lieutenant interceded and led one of the soldiers to another part of the hospital to talk with him and help him calm down. He looked down at her and said, “and a little child shall lead them.”

St. Louis Cathedral.

Lieutenant Edward Olsen, now a rifle platoon leader in the 130th Infantry Regiment, landed at Finschaven, New Guinea in May, 1944. Finschaven was a seaport town where allied shipping found safe harbor as more of the Japanese navy was destroyed. In October, 1944, the 43rd Field Hospital left Milne Bay with new orders to set up base in Hollandia. Their hospital ship made a brief stopover at Finschaven and upon hearing the news, Edward rushed to the harbor. Edward and Georgia had their second meeting, an unpredictable, unexpected, happy encounter in the middle of war.

A photo for her soldier.

Lt. Ivanoff remained with the 43rd Field Hospital in Hollandia for several months ministering to sick and wounded soldiers. Lt. Olsen, still with the 33rd division, had moved on to Morotai, Netherlands, East Indies. In the winter of 1945, as the Japanese were pushed back by the U. S. Sixth Army, the 33rd landed at Lingayen Gulf, Luzan, Phillipines. Olsen established a munitions dump for his battalion, stockpiling ammunition, grenades and other explosives. He organized and led parties to transport ammunition to the front lines.

Lt. Ivanoff was on the move again with the 43rd. This time her destination was Urdaneta, a village near Lingayen Gulf.

Does this incredible circumstance really sound like the vagaries of war? The two lieutenants met for the third time and agreed that in the midst of this terrible war something wonderful was happening. Edward said,” it was meant to be since even the Army is cooperating!!”

Lieutenant Olsen’s division was ordered to capture Baguio, the Phillipine summer capital, which was still under Japanese control. The young couple managed a few visits even as Edward led dangerous missions to the front and Georgia worked long hours tending to stricken soldiers brought to the 43rd. The city was liberated at last in May, 1945 and its citizens finally freed. Georgia and her nurses were climbing up a hilly street one day when there was a commotion about a passing Army officer. They quickly discovered it was General Douglas MacArthur. “How shall we act, what do we do?” came the excited questions. “Just as you would conduct yourself for any other ranking officer,” instructed their Chief Nurse. They stood at attention by the side of the road as his jeep passed by, an exciting moment after a long and arduous struggle.

Edward, Sister and Georgia.

Now a new effort began, how to obtain all the necessary permissions and documents required to get married. First their superior officers had to grant permission. Edward’s colonel not only gave his approval but was best man for the couple and Georgia also received the approval of her Chief Nurse. Documents came from Georgia’s parish priest, her father, even her elementary school!

But how does one plan the special details of a wedding day in the midst of ongoing war with nowhere to shop and nothing to shop for? The answer–the Sisters of St. Paul, a Belgian Order of Sisters associated with St. Louis Cathedral in Baguio. The Sisters made Georgia’s wedding gown from a parachute. The gown survives today, a truly memorable and beautiful gift from the Sisters to the bride. The dress, done with delicate hand stitches, was designed with long, tapered sleeves, covered buttons at the wrists and a short train. The lace trim around the graceful neckline was taken from a donated negligee. Another parachute was transformed into a flowing, feminine nightgown and a pair of lounging pajamas with hand embroidery on the jacket.

The Sisters of St. Paul planned the details of the wedding ceremony and reception. Georgia and Edward wrote charming commitments to one another. A wedding menu describes a sumptuous dinner all provided by the Army!

A rare day off.

The wedding took place at St. Louis Cathedral in Baguio at noon on August 6, 1945. Unknown to the bride and groom and their guests, it was the very hour when the Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima.

The war in the Pacific ended during Georgia and Edward’s brief honeymoon. Georgia returned to the United States and Edward proceeded to Japan as regimental liaison officer for the 130th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service and separated from the military on May 29, 1946. The civilian Olsens made their principal home in Chicago where Edward conducted his optometry practice until retiring in 1988.

They bought their Marco Island home in the 1970’s and retired permanently here in 1988. Georgia still makes her home here and enjoys visits from her daughter, Lucienne and husband, Keith Klipstein, her three grandsons and now a great granddaughter. Coastal Breeze News salutes Lt. Edward Olsen and Lt Georgia Ivanoff for their dedicated service to our country and for their example of enduring love which flourished through a dreadful war and a 60 year marriage lived well and faithfully.


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Fire! Fire! Fire! This is not a Drill! http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2011/01/28/fire-fire-fire-this-is-not-a-drill/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2011/01/28/fire-fire-fire-this-is-not-a-drill/#comments Fri, 28 Jan 2011 06:31:48 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=9752 Bill Duncan recalls the Blazing Inferno on the

USS Forrestal (CVA-59) – July 29, 1967

By Carol Glassman

An aerial view of the Forrestal.

The USS Forrestal, the flagship of the 7th Fleet and pride of the Navy, was so large it was classified as a super carrier. The nearly 60,000-ton Forrestal was launched in 1954 and in spite of its size, could still attain speeds of 33 knots. On June 6, 1967 she left Norfolk, Virginia for combat deployment, routed to WESTPAC (Western Pacific) duty. On July 25, fully loaded with fighter/attack squadrons, the giant carrier arrived in Yankee Station, Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam to begin combat operations under Commanding Officer Captain John K. Beling. During the next four days her aircraft flew 150 sorties and at 10:52 a.m. on July 29, just as a launch was being readied, a Zuni rocket accidentally fired from an F-4 Phantom that was parked on the starboard side of the flight deck aft of the island. A terrifying chain reaction followed: the missile shot across the deck rupturing a 400-gallon fuel tank on a parked A-4D Skyhawk, spraying highly flammable fuel onto the deck. This ignited and spread flames over the flight deck and under the fully loaded aircraft preparing to launch. Ordnance exploded, other rockets ignited, and the wind quickly spread the flames to turn the flight deck into a blazing hell. The first explosion killed almost all of the specially trained firefighters aboard. Pilots, trapped in their cockpits, were forced to jump onto a flaming deck and run for their lives or be incinerated. Fifty men trapped immediately below the flight deck died, while others were blown or jumped overboard. Before the day of horror was over, 134 personnel were killed and 21 aircraft destroyed. Even after the fire on the flight deck was under control following nine explosions, secondary fires took almost half a day to be controlled.

Author Gregory A. Freeman in “Sailors to the End” documents the ensuing hours and days as the crew tried to battle the fire to reach mates trapped in damaged compartments and waiting to die. The majority of them were just teens of 18 and 19 and Freeman interviews a cross-section of them as they painfully recall what many label “the worst day of my life”.

Bill holds a photo of his friend Don Jedlicka who has a special place in the Duncan’s home. Photo by Val Simon

How did such a catastrophic event occur on the pride of the navy? Author Freeman discloses information which he has assembled from naval documents and personal recollections, correcting the official U.S. view: for 35 years, the government allowed the Forrestal crew to carry an undeserved share of the blame for the tragedy, never acknowledging that it sent the carrier faulty bombs that exploded before the crew even had a chance to contain the initial fire. Many felt that although Captain John Beling was finally exonerated from blame, his final assignment as Commander, Iceland Defense Force, during the Cold War instead of aboard a ship was a kind of ‘undeserved punishment’ for him as scapegoat.

Freeman seems to have an agenda of his own in the book: he praises the crew as the true heroes of the event and lays the blame on old, defective ammunition, the source of those massive explosions that took most of the 134 lives that were lost.

“The ship’s ordnance experts were enraged when they were supplied with these ancient, defective and dangerous bombs the day before the accident — but they were told nothing else was available. Lyndon Johnson had ordered a big escalation in the bombing campaign, regardless of the fact that there was not enough modern ammunition available to do the job.”

Freeman claims this factor was swept under the rug in official assessments of what went wrong that July morning.

Another contributing factor was the short-circuiting of two separate safety precautions concerning the activation of rockets on planes ready to take off on bombing missions. This is one of those bureaucratic mix-ups that can happen, and as any veteran can tell you, there is no larger or more bureaucratic entity than the U. S. military.

The young sailors never flinched. Submitted photos

Bill Duncan of Marco Island was just one young man aboard the Forrestal on that horrific day and it has taken him years to be able to talk about it. Even though more than 40 years have passed, it is obviously a very painful experience for Bill to recall: the day he lost his best friend, Don Jedlicka, who perished in the Forrestal fire.

Bill was aboard the Forrestal in Fighter Squadron 11, an Electronics Counter Measures Technician (ECM) whose job it was to put devices on certain planes to jam enemy radar detection systems and deceive their surface-to-air (SAM) missile systems. He was also on a fire/rescue team and assigned to a ship’s company, Four Fox Fire and Rescue, trained to extinguish fire from new bombs in three to four minutes using fog foam. According to Bill, the ship had taken on some old World War 2 black powder bombs that blew in 90 seconds, just as the highly trained fire fighting teams arrived on the scene; in the first few minutes of the fire 70% of the best firefighters were killed.

“It has haunted me for years,” said Bill with typical survivor’s guilt. “I was the only one to get out of the cubicle where I slept with five other guys. Don was on the bottom bunk directly across from me.

“In the navy we trained, trained, trained: they’d say, ‘General quarters, this is a drill. That morning however, they called, ‘General quarters, Fire! Fire! Fire! Flight deck! This is NOT a drill!’”

USS Forrestal - a blazing inferno.

Bill, who fortunately was up, awoke another crew member and was able to get to the berthing area exit port just as a bomb exploded and blew him down a ladder to the next deck. When Bill and his Fire/Rescue team arrived at the catwalk and peered out to see what was happening, “A missile launched by the fire came right at us, about twenty feet in front of us, didn’t go off but bounced and went over our heads into the sea.”

What amazes Bill, even to this day, is that all these young men — boys really — who had voluntarily enlisted, did not cut and run but headed straight into the inferno to help others. Badly burned and wounded himself, Bill helped others to the sick bay that was full of the badly burned and injured. He spent four months recovering from burns and shrapnel wounds in Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

“One minute we were the flagship of the Seventh Fleet, and then I was standing beside Captain John Beling and heard him say to the executive officer, ‘Prepare to abandon ship’ as we were leaning so hard we were in danger of capsizing. The fire was so intense that when we turned water from the fire hoses on the bulkheads it turned to steam and came back and burned us. So much for those who used to say, ‘Oh you went into the navy — you took the easy route.’”

Bill went back and served another tour in Vietnam. When he returned home, he found it difficult to discuss what he had endured personally because of the emotional pain and Vietnam was not exactly a ‘popular’ war among the masses. Unfortunately, he points out, many young heroic men received less than a hero’s welcome home because of public sentiment.

He states that his experiences changed his life permanently, in how he regards things: “When things are blowing up, flying by, whizzing by — the turning point in my life was when I realized I could run, move, and perform my duty as I was trained to do. A great peace came to me.

With this revelation, everything became clearer; it changed my whole perception forever. Everything – the colors were more vivid, the smells, all my senses were more intensified. All I could think was that my mom and dad would not understand, but if I died right there I was okay with that. I knew I was right where I wanted to be and I could accomplish anything I wanted.”

At his mother’s insistence that he enlist or get a job, 18-year old Bill had chosen the Navy where he became best friends with Don Jedlicka, a young sailor from Iowa. They made a pact to see each other’s families if anything happened to either one of them; however, when Don was killed, Bill was hospitalized and as time went on, it became even more difficult psychologically, he said, to make the call. When Bill retired to Marco Island in 1999 he got in touch with Don’s sisters Helen and Joan. They said, “We’ve been waiting for this call for over 30 years” and hastened to add, “It’s a good thing that you didn’t call until now. Our mom never accepted his death. She just died at the age of 92 and she still drove his car. If you had come right after he died it would have killed her. Every holiday she set his place at the dinner table thinking he was going to show up.”

When Bill went to see them in person, he said he finally realized just how cold and callous it must have been to be on the receiving end of a body shipped home with little explanation. Don had big dreams and things he wanted to do, but he died before he was 21.

“The kid went off, the letters stopped, you got no notice. You got a telegram and a box came home. They called the Navy chaplain and they would say they’re sorry but they have so many dead coming home (like 500 a week) at that time that they didn’t have any details to give you.”

W. M. Duncan, third from the left in the back row.

Bill attributes his wife Denise with encouraging him to air his feelings about the past in order to heal. He went out to meet Don’s family in Sioux City, Iowa and found the area very different but the commonality offered by sharing the loss of someone in war was the best reward for him. They had photos of the two sailors and wanted to know every detail of every experience he had with his friend. He shared their being propositioned by a young woman for the equivalent of fort-five cents and not accepting the offer, in the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Don, a “good Catholic boy” admitted to Bill he confessed “just enough” of their activities to the priest.

“Oh yeah, that’s our Don!” they replied — making it so real for them and removing a heavy load from Bill’s shoulders after many years.

Bill, who has a picture of Don in his great room at his home and has Bill’s Vietnam Service medal attached to the picture, believes that the ones who didn’t return are the real heroes.

John K. Beling, Rear Admiral USN (Retired) who had been captain of the Forrestal in July 1967, passed away Friday, November 5, 2010 in Reston, VA. He was 92.

On June 16, 2010 the USS Forrestal was towed out of the berth where it has sat idle for the past 16 years, its fate uncertain, but possibly headed for a Navy storage site in Philadelphia where it will either be dismantled or sunk to create an artificial reef.

This article is dedicated to the courageous young men and women who served in the Armed Forces, especially those who did not return. http://forrestalmemorial.com/index.html


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Tim Sullivan – I’ve been to 54 countries and every continent http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/11/23/tim-sullivan-i%e2%80%99ve-been-to-54-countries-and-every-continent-2/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/11/23/tim-sullivan-i%e2%80%99ve-been-to-54-countries-and-every-continent-2/#comments Tue, 23 Nov 2010 18:37:49 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=8453 Navy from Feb 73-Sept 93

Tim Sullivan US Navy. Submitted

The draft was in effect so I decided to ‘join’ rather than be pulled out of school. The day I was sworn in, President Nixon ended the draft! My dad had been in World War II, I remember when asking him but he always refused to talk about it. I took service day by day, the war in Vietnam was coming to an end. I liked being in the navy, there were no worries. For boot camp, I went to the US Naval Station Rosie Roads in Puerto Rico, similar climate to here. Then transferred to a naval ammunitions facility where I was a cook-striker. It reminded me of McHale’s Navy, we were so far away. We worked five and two which meant five days on and then two days the next week. I was in charge of preparing the food, cooking and serving and collecting the money for it. I cooked for 15-20 people until marines came on the island and then it would jump to 100. I did it all by myself. My best memory of that time were the local girls, they were very friendly and nice. Soon my two years were up and they asked me what I wanted to do….I said go fishing! So I re-enlisted for four years. I was assigned to the USS Holland in Holy Lock, Scotland for two years, but only went fishing once! Then I caught the USS Portland in Naples, Italy. I cruised the Mediterranean as a baker for about 600 men. The USS Portland was a dock landing ship, referred to as an LSD, which meant marines came onboard with tanks and other cargo and made beach landings.

On our way back to home port in Virginia we went through the Bermuda Triangle, that’s where they say strange things happen. And they do! I was in the galley and all the pots and pans were flying off the shelves. I went topside thinking we must have some bad seas, but it was completely calm! Back downstairs the pots started flying around again. This went on for four hours!

After that I was assigned to Mayport, Florida and worked for Special Services which was like a gym. It was like a regular 9-5 job with no worries at all. One time as Junior Officer on deck, a hurricane blew through. All the phone lines were down so I had to call the electricians in to get power back and everyone else who could help out.

Tim swimming in slop during hazing. Submitted

I was moved onto a ‘pre-comm’ on the Fahrion, an FFG22. It was her maiden voyage. I was the galley supervisor. Eventually she was commissioned in January of 1982 in Seattle, Washington. We had to go back around through the Panama Canal to get back to Mayport, Florida. It was the first FFG to complete an underway replenishment where another ship comes alongside, they shoot cables across and then use the line to bring food and supplies across.

The ship was repositioned to the Mediterranean. Once the seas were so rough we had to strap ourselves into the bunks so we wouldn’t fall out. I was one of about 30 men, out of 200, that didn’t get sick! We were rocking and rolling!

We were sent to the coast of Beirut after terrorists blew up the marine barracks. They drove through the gates and killed hundreds of marines at the base there. We were there for support offshore, if warranted.

We continued our mission in the Mediterranean. I was on the first FFG to stay at sea 90 days straight! All through holidays; Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years….no mail, nothing! We returned to Mayport where I received an assignment to NATO headquarters in Naples, Italy. The day after I arrived in Naples, the local employees went on strike. They piled up tires at the front gate and set them on fire. I wondered what I got myself into! It went right back to normal the next day. The summertime was the best time there. It seemed like every month we had a three day weekend. I did two years there which went by quickly.

Then I was assigned to the USS San Bernadino LST #1189 in Sasebo, Japan, another marine transporter. That was a great tour! We did a ‘southpack’ cruise and visited Indonesia, Bali, Thailand and crossed the equator. Until you cross the equator in the navy, you are considered a ‘polywog’. I was a pollywog for 15 years. You go through a ritual ‘hazing’ and then become a ‘shellback’. In the hazing some guys get their head shaved, walking on all fours like a dog. I don’t think they allow hazing anymore. We had to swim through a pool containing a week’s supply of galley waste. When it is all over, they ask you ‘what are you now?’ ‘I’m a SHELLBACK!’ When it’s all over you can take a shower, but it has to be outdoors, you’re so full of crud!

We cruised the islands. We dropped marines off in Okinawa and then cruised back to Sasebo, our home port. The Japanese were very friendly, even the old-timers who suffered through the war. I saw the Hiroshima memorial in Nagasaki.

I was transferred to another ship, the USS St. Louis as Galley Supervisor. Our job was to transport marines wherever they needed to go….Our motto was “You call, we haul!”

Before I knew it, another two years was up. I loved Japan, so they stationed me up by Tokyo at a US Naval Station Radio Transmitting Station. It was a very small crew of less than 20. I was in charge of the galley and the barracks. I was there for a full two years. In 1993, I was sent to San Diego, California for my retirement.

After retirement, I joined the Merchant Marines for five years. I saw more islands. We transported food, weapons and oil. It was a great life! I saw no action and we had better pay, better food and the living conditions were good. I remembered when I was a kid growing up, my dad refused to talk about his time in World War II. One day, he finally opened up about it. He said he was in Saipan when they finally secured it. Little did I know then that in 1997 I would pull into Saipan. I went to the memorial in honor of my dad’s buddies that had died there.

Tim with daughter Lorrylyn. Submitted

I met my future wife in Singapore. I brought her back to the US, got married and I quit the Merchant Marines. In 1999, we moved to Marco Island.

My worst memory in that 20 year span was going through a super typhoon near Guam. The winds were at 265 miles per hour. We rescued the crew of another ship that sunk. The sharks had a good meal that day. There was no loss of human life, but there were carcasses of goats and sheep. It’s safer at sea than in port during weather like that.

I have a daughter, Lorrylyn, in Tommie Barfield Elementary. She’s in 5th grade in Mrs. Embree’s class. She loves school. I am proud of her.

Overall, I saw 54 countries, all the continents and 15 states. I learned more in my time in service than I would have in any history book!


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Tim Sullivan: I’ve been to 54 countries and every continent http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/11/18/tim-sullivan-i%e2%80%99ve-been-to-54-countries-and-every-continent/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/11/18/tim-sullivan-i%e2%80%99ve-been-to-54-countries-and-every-continent/#comments Fri, 19 Nov 2010 04:52:50 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=8236 Navy from Feb 73-Sept 93

Tim Sullivan US Navy. Submitted

The draft was in effect so I decided to ‘join’ rather than be pulled out of school. The day I was sworn in, President Nixon ended the draft! My dad had been in World War II, I remember when asking him but he always refused to talk about it. I took service day by day, the war in Vietnam was coming to an end. I liked being in the navy, there were no worries. For boot camp, I went to the US Naval Station Rosie Roads in Puerto Rico, similar climate to here. Then transferred to a naval ammunitions facility where I was a cook-striker. It reminded me of McHale’s Navy, we were so far away. We worked five and two which meant five days on and then two days the next week. I was in charge of preparing the food, cooking and serving and collecting the money for it. I cooked for 15-20 people until marine’s came on the island and then it would jump to 100. I did it all by myself. My best memory of that time were the local girls, they were very friendly and nice. Soon my two years were up and they asked me what I wanted to do….I said go fishing! So I re-enlisted for four years. I was assigned to the USS Holland in Holy Lock, Scotland for two years, but only went fishing once! Then I caught the USS Portland in Naples, Italy. I cruised the Mediterranean as a baker for about 600 men. The USS Portland was a dock landing ship, referred to as an LSD, which meant marines came onboard with tanks and other cargo and made beach landings.

On our way back to home port in Virginia we went through the Bermuda Triangle, that’s where they say strange things happen. And they do! I was in the galley and all the pots and pans were flying off the shelves. I went topside thinking we must have some bad seas, but it was completely calm! Back downstairs the pots started flying around again. This went on for four hours!

After that I was assigned to Mayport, Florida and worked for Special Services which was like a gym. It was like a regular 9-5 job with no worries at all. One time as Junior Officer on deck, a hurricane blew through. All the phone lines were down so I had to call the electricians in to get power back and everyone else who could help out.

Tim swimming in slop during hazing. Submitted

I was moved onto a ‘pre-comm’ on the Fahrion, an FFG22. It was her maiden voyage. I was the galley supervisor. Eventually she was commissioned in January of 1982 in Seattle, Washington. We had to go back around through the Panama Canal to get back to Mayport, Florida. It was the first FFG to complete an underway replenishment where another ship comes alongside, they shoot cables across and then use the line to bring food and supplies across.

The ship was repositioned to the Mediterranean. Once the seas were so rough we had to strap ourselves into the bunks so we wouldn’t fall out. I was one of about 30 men, out of 200, that didn’t get sick! We were rocking and rolling!

We were sent to the coast of Beirut after terrorists blew up the marine barracks. They drove through the gates and killed hundreds of marines at the base there. We were there for support offshore, if warranted.

We continued our mission in the Mediterranean. I was on the first FFG to stay at sea 90 days straight! All through holidays; Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years….no mail, nothing! We returned to Mayport where I received an assignment to NATO headquarters in Naples, Italy. The day after I arrived in Naples, the local employees went on strike. They piled up tires at the front gate and set them on fire. I wondered what I got myself into! It went right back to normal the next day. The summertime was the best time there. It seemed like every month we had a three day weekend. I did two years there which went by quickly.

Then I was assigned to the USS San Bernadino LST #1189 in Sasebo, Japan, another marine transporter. That was a great tour! We did a ‘southpack’ cruise and visited Indonesia, Bali, Thailand and crossed the equator. Until you cross the equator in the navy, you are considered a ‘polywog’. I was a pollywog for 15 years. You go through a ritual ‘hazing’ and then become a ‘shellback’. In the hazing some guys get their head shaved, walking on all fours like a dog. I don’t think they allow hazing anymore. We had to swim through a pool containing a week’s supply of galley waste. When it is all over, they ask you ‘what are you now?’ ‘I’m a SHELLBACK!’ When it’s all over you can take a shower, but it has to be outdoors, you’re so full of crud!

We cruised the islands. We dropped marines off in Okinawa and then cruised back to Sasebo, our home port. The Japanese were very friendly, even the old-timers who suffered through the war. I saw the Hiroshima memorial in Nagasaki.

I was transferred to another ship, the USS St. Louis as Galley Supervisor. Our job was to transport marines wherever they needed to go….Our motto was “You call, we haul!”

Before I knew it, another two years was up. I loved Japan, so they stationed me up by Tokyo at a US Naval Station Radio Transmitting Station. It was a very small crew of less than 20. I was in charge of the galley and the barracks. I was there for a full two years. In 1993, I was sent to San Diego, California for my retirement.

After retirement, I joined the Merchant Marines for five years. I saw more islands. We transported food, weapons and oil. It was a great life! I saw no action and we had better pay, better food and the living conditions were good. I remembered when I was a kid growing up, my dad refused to talk about his time in World War II. One day, he finally opened up about it. He said he was in Saipan when they finally secured it. Little did I know then that in 1997 I would pull into Saipan. I went to the memorial in honor of my dad’s buddies that had died there.

Tim with daughter Lorrylyn. Submitted

I met my future wife in Singapore. I brought her back to the US, got married and I quit the Merchant Marines. In 1999, we moved to Marco Island.

My worst memory in that 20 year span was going through a super typhoon near Guam. The winds were at 265 miles per hour. We rescued the crew of another ship that sunk. The sharks had a good meal that day. There was no loss of human life, but there were carcasses of goats and sheep. It’s safer at sea than in port during weather like that.

I have a daughter, Lorrylyn, in Tommie Barfield Elementary. She’s in 5th grade in Mrs. Embree’s class. She loves school. I am proud of her.

Overall, I saw 54 countries, all the continents and 15 states. I learned more in my time in service than I would have in any history book!


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DROP IN ANYTIME…. Part Two http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/10/22/drop-in-anytime%e2%80%a6-part-two/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/10/22/drop-in-anytime%e2%80%a6-part-two/#comments Sat, 23 Oct 2010 00:18:52 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=7890

Viet Cong prisoner being interrogated by Colonel Howey in 1968. His face was hidden by the sand bag to protect his identity while he informed on other VC seated in the gathering. Submitted

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of Vietnam. One day, August 19, 1969 I found a tunnel. When I pulled on the handle, the VC pulled back. I started to pull harder and I believe I was breaking his knuckles. Finally, he let go and I fell backwards with the cement cover. At the same time he threw a grenade up. It was an American M-26 hand grenade which has a three-second delay. He wasn’t counting on that, or my head would have been blown off. He threw it up and it fell back down and killed him. Funny thing was, I can see legs standing next to me and it was my young team clerk. He was about to go home in a week, but he wanted to go into the field just once. He said he had never been in the field and couldn’t go home after all this time without having the experience. After a lot of discourse with the Team Commander, I said it would be okay. Nothing much was expected to happen in the area we were headed. After the grenade blew up, I looked around and here are these legs standing next to me. I said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ He said, ‘I thought it was a frog!’ I said, ‘That’s it! Get back to my jeep and go back to headquarters. I’ll radio when I want to be picked up! I am not sending you home in a casket!’ So I sent him back to our headquarters. It turned out there was quite a bit more contact with the VC that day so I’m glad he wasn’t with us. However, I was very proud of him for wanting to go into the field.”

“When Grenada came around, I was the Defense and Naval Attaché to Jamaica. I was pulled out of my job as the G2 (senior intelligence officer in the division) to the First Marine Division. Washington knew this thing was building up and it was my job to convince the Jamaican Defense Force to go in with us. The State Department was working with Prime Minister Seaga, and I was working with Brigadier General Neish because we didn’t want it to look like this was a U.S. intervention only. We wanted the different islands in the Caribbean to contribute troops so we could say this effort wasn’t just Americans; it was all of us. Eventually that is what happened. So the night we were to fly the Jamaicans to Barbados to join up with the Marines, I got a call from BGen Neish. It was my birthday and he was at my house for a party when he got a call from the Prime Minister to report to his home. Neish went to the Prime Minister and immediately called me and said, ‘Bill, can you come to Up Park Camp (his headquarters)?’ I went over, and he said the communists on the island had sabotaged the Air Jamaica aircraft that was to fly the Jamaicans to Barbados. ‘I don’t have any way to get my troops there.’ I went back to the Embassy, picked up my secure telephone, called the White House, and said, ‘I’m so-and-so and I want to talk with the senior military person on duty.’ This lovely voice (Fawn Hall) came on the line and said, ‘Yes, Lieutenant Colonel North is on duty tonight.’ I said, ‘Get him on the phone.’ Ollie came on and said, ‘What do you want?’ After inquiring about the beauty of the lovely voice, I stated the situation and he said he’d call me back in fifteen minutes. He did. He informed me I’d have two U.S. Air Force aircraft coming, and they would be there at about 2 a.m. I went back and told B.Gen. Neish, and we got the troops to the airfield. They were disciplined and we got them on the planes. They arrived in Barbados a half hour before the scheduled movement to Grenada.”

“There are a lot of observations you can make between Vietnam, WWII, Afghanistan, and Iraq servicemen and woman. With each succeeding war, the servicemen were better educated and had better technology. We’ve come up with more lethal ways to kill people than one could think of twenty-thirty years ago. But there really is no difference between the troops of each era. They’re hometown American kids across pretty much the entire social and economic spectrum of our society, though I served with more poor kids and kids from the middle class, than with rich ones. Today, troops have an opportunity to get an education, although I am not sure they take advantage of it. Certainly, our service men and woman have the opportunity–more so than ever before in history.”

Greeting left to right, Marge and Bill Howey, Vice-President George and Barbara Bush. Submitted

“My retirement from the military was forced. In 1986, the Commandant of the Marine Corps came out with a letter stating that any officer who had thirty years or more service had to retire by the first of October. I received a call from Washington saying, ‘Bill, the Commandant wants you to know this does not apply to you.’ He said, ‘We’re putting you in for Colonel.’ I reported to Washington and, lo and behold, I was out running and something happened. I wound up in the hospital where they found out I had heart disease. When that happens that is the end of the career; you have to leave. I spent one year in the Pentagon preparing for retirement. I hated the place! The powers that be told me I was going to be the direct representative of the General in charge of Marine Corps Intelligence to the Admiral for Naval Intelligence. Right! I was a Lieutenant Colonel and I had five Navy Captains layered between me and the Admiral. I said, ‘This is never going to continue.’ I was unhappy to retire. But I was happy to leave the Pentagon! A wonderful thing did happen to me just before I left the Corps. I got a call from the Assistant Division Commanding General of the First Marine Division in California. Brigadier General Cates said, ‘Bill, we hear you’re very unhappy in the Pentagon.’ He said, ‘If we can work it out, would you be willing to take over the G2 again?’ I said, ‘I would, but they found out I have heart disease and have to retire.’ This great general wanted to save my career, but because of the disease I wasn’t able to do it. That was the greatest thing! To know I was really wanted. I have never forgotten Brigadier General Cates’ call!”

“When I was sitting at home recuperating from being vastly overmedicated by the VA hospital in Bethesda, MD, my wife would watch the soap operas. I could always guess what was going to happen next. ‘This is going to happen, she’s going to say . . .,’ etc. After about a year, she said, ‘Enough! Get out! Get out of the house. Get a job! I started to look for one when she said, ‘Bill, you always loved kids and teaching. Why don’t you go up and get your certification?’ I went to the area college. I wouldn’t even name it in the book because, here I was with a Master’s Degree, but they wouldn’t give me a teaching certificate unless I did one year at their school. It was the worst educational year of my life! The courses and professors were horrible. I had to pass a Pennsylvania state teachers’ exam, and when I found out there was geometry, trigonometry and algebra on it, I told my wife there was no way I’d pass it. None of the educational courses taught math, and all I had was the basic addition, subtraction, etc. The results came on New Year’s Eve, our anniversary. My wife asked if I wanted to open the letter or wait a couple of days, and I said, ‘Go ahead.’ She screamed, ‘Bill you passed! I put my name in for a teaching job and there were 435 applications for one social studies job. They selected me. I had a wonderful time teaching for the next fifteen years.”

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Bill Howey at home on Marco Island. Photo by Val Simon

“I took on teaching because I wanted to give something back to society. I had been so lucky in my life. In the last year before I left the high school, the principal told me I had to hold all my classes in the auditorium. My audience would consist of my students, students from study halls, teachers, parents, and the superintendent and his staff. These people wanted to hear my version of history and government as I lived it. When I reached my final day at school I had been honored as the 1999 Montgomery and Berks County Teacher of the Year and had been nominated for Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers for twelve straight years. Teaching was incredibly rewarding. I can’t tell you how many of the kids have kept in touch with me! On my last day of school, all these students came walking out of the cafeteria, filling the hallway and carrying this big banner wishing me well. It was signed by half the high school. The kids told me the other half didn’t get a chance to sign it. It was unbelievable. I had to work my tail off to get the kids to work at their potential. Those who did still stay in touch by e-mail. When I sold my book up there, my new wife, Cindy, said, ‘I don’t believe this. The whole town of Boyertown, PA is out there!’”

“About 1990, my first wife and I started to visit different cities along the Gulf Coast looking for a place to retire. One year, I said, ‘What about this Marco Island place?’ We finally looked into Marco around 1996 and by 1998, the Marriott employees would ask me, ‘Mr. Howey, would you like the same room next year?’ I lost my wife during a liver transplant operation in 2002. I continued to come to Marco Island and, by 2004, I knew I had to make a move. I had lost Marge, but had kept teaching for two more years after that. Thank God! I don’t know what I would’ve become. I knew if I didn’t retire, I’d never write the book. But, before I retired, I came down for one last visit. As I was walking down the beach by myself, I told myself, ‘I am coming to Marco!’ I went back to the hotel and was walking through the corridor, when I heard one of the managers say, ‘Mr. Marriott, I would like you to meet one of our loyal customers.’ I was introduced. We went into the office and talked about the hotel and Marco Island. I told him what a wonderful place Marco Island was; how nice the hotel was; and how great the people were on Marco, especially his employees. We parted ways. About a week later, this crate was delivered to my front door. It was a statue of dolphins from Mr. Marriott and the manager. One of my friends in Boyertown fell in love with it, so when I came down I gave it to her.”

“There was a group of eight women in the high school who would do all sorts of nice things for people when they were sick. Dealing with my wife’s illness was time consuming and these ladies would cook, clean, get groceries, whatever was needed to help any teacher in distress. They never expected anything in return and never sought recognition for what they did. After I retired down here, I said it was time someone did something for them. I made arrangements for them to fly to Marco Island for a week with all expenses paid. I had them picked up by a limo in Boyertown, and another limo picked them up in Fort Myers. When they walked down the steps, each one was wearing a T-shirt that read I am Bill’s girl. Then they handed me a t-shirt that read, I am Bill! It was very entertaining for the passengers at the old terminal.”

“I can thank my second wife, Cindy for my being here today. We were about to be married when I went in to take a physical exam on a Wednesday and was told I had to go under the knife first thing Monday morning. They planned to do four arteries, but when they got in they had to do all five. Dr. Schultz came by to see me the next day and said, ‘You had about six weeks to six months to live–they were that bad. Now you have twenty-four or so more years.’ Meeting Cindy saved my life!”

“Advice or wisdom I’d like to pass on regarding the global conditions today? I am convinced the planet is divided between good and evil. I have learned that, while we like to always portray ourselves as being the good guys, we aren’t always. My advice would be to NEVER TRUST OUR GOVERNMENT! You must always be vigilant, take part in it, and understand it. And protest! I love what the Tea Party is doing. They are actually making people on both sides sit up and pay attention. More power to them if we can clean out the rats’ nest that is our government. Protesting is one of the only things humanly possible we can do that these politicians understand. I am so angry at this country right now! The politicians have taken this country over for themselves. There are 535 people who don’t give a damn about the American people! Quite frankly, I am incredibly worried about where this country is going. We have lost our credibility around the world. We are hated in half the world; and it is all because of the way these politicians treat other countries. So my advice; DON’T TRUST YOUR GOVERNMENT!”

“My life has been wonderful! That is why I wanted to write a book. When I was teaching the kid’s would say, ‘Mr. Howey, you’ve got to write a book. You’ve got to put this down in writing.’ When I married Cindy, I started Hard Knocks and Straight TalkFrom the Jungles of Vietnam to the American Classroom. It is still selling on Amazon.”

Reflecting on his years of service, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Howey said, “Until the day I die, I believe God was, and is, looking out for me. Vietnam certainly tested my faith, but HE won out. I attend the Marco Island Lutheran Church, and I believe it is the best Lutheran church I’ve ever attended anywhere.”


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DROP IN ANYTIME…. Part One http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/10/08/drop-in-anytime%e2%80%a6-part-one/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/10/08/drop-in-anytime%e2%80%a6-part-one/#comments Fri, 08 Oct 2010 05:48:14 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=7543

William Howey. Submitted

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Lieutenant Colonel William Howey (Ret) speak to a group of Rotarians on Marco Island. It is an honor for anyone to hear him speak. Lieutenant Colonel Howey readily garners the attention of every member of his audience with his thrilling, and often edge-of-your-seat scary, life experiences. Speaking with him candidly during this interview was even more enjoyable…

“In the first game of my junior football season I had my arm broken badly; there were actually thirty-four breaks and chips! It was so bad I spent nine weeks lying in a hospital bed with a pin through the elbow and weights to attempt to get the bone back in place. Then there were six weeks in a cast, and seventeen more in a sling. I told my dad I wanted to quit school and come back next year so I could play football and basketball for two more years. He agreed if I promised to go back to school, which I did.”

Bill explained how he entered into service: “My father, who was in the Navy in World War II in the South Pacific, said, ‘Billy, what are you going to do when you graduate from high school?’ We came from a very poor family–very poor. The only jobs in town were in the coal mines, and I wasn’t going there.”

“So I said, ‘Dad, I am going to go into the military.’ He said, “Okay” and then went into a twenty-minute dissertation about the Navy and how there was a warm bed to sleep in every night… three hot meals every day and…no boom boom’s all night very often. My brother, who served in the Marines in the Korean War, was sitting there eating and waited until my father was finished. Then he looked at me and said, ‘If you want to be a man, join the Marines.’ Then he went right back to eating. The next day, at age seventeen, I went down and joined the Marine Corps Reserve.”

“I graduated high school on the 8th of June, 1955 and on June 9th, I was on a train to Parris Island, South Carolina. I didn’t want to be a financial burden on my family. I had already been promoted to the rank of Private First Class (PFC) while I was in the Reserves. I did all the things that Marines do at the wonderful place called Parris Island, and I think every young man in America should be sent through there! I think we’d have far less trouble in our country.”

Lieutenant Colonel William Howey. Submitted

“During my early years in the Corps, I was a very lucky person. Higher ranking people around me thought I had potential and they began looking out for me. I was picked to be an armed courier for a female 1st Lieutenant Top Secret courier. We would go to the Pentagon once a week. Here I was a young PFC, toting a loaded weapon and making the trip from Quantico, Virginia to Washington, D.C. to pick up the latest top secret material. While I was doing my job in Quantico, a Master Sergeant had been watching me for almost two years and thought I had a lot of potential. He got me assigned to the Marine Security Guard School in Washington, DC. That opened the door for me to go to India as a Security Guard at the American Embassy for two years. Here I was, in New Delhi at nineteen years old. That was unbelievable! I got to see a lot of the world out there, and it really opened my eyes. When I came back, others saw potential in me, too. I kept getting promoted ahead of my peers. Then Vietnam came along.”

“My first tour in Vietnam was in the MeKong Delta working for the U.S. Army 704th Counterintelligence Detachment. During my second 13-month tour in Vietnam, I had attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. Again, someone saw potential and they promoted me to Second Lieutenant. I never looked back. The promotion caused me to realize that, if I wanted to be a real officer, I needed an education. So after returning from Vietnam, upon completing my third tour I went to night school for three years and picked up my Bachelors Degree, then I went another year and picked up my Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management.”

“My years in the Marine Corps were loaded with experiences. I worked for the CIA, the State Department, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Secret Service. While with the Secret Service I was on two Presidential (Johnson and Nixon) details with them. All this while I was still an active duty Marine officer.”

“While in Vietnam I worked for the CIA predominantly. I participated in the Chieu Hoi program which was working with Viet Cong who had defected to the South, and we tried to turn them against their old buddies. It was my job, at an isolated base in the northern part of South Vietnam, to take these Chieu Hois across the river at night, and they would go off and do their assigned missions. At a pre-arranged time they would signal and I would go back across the river and escort them back into our camp. I spoke Vietnamese, so I could de-brief them. Anything they told me of intelligence value I would inform the company commander and we would board amphibious tractors and cross the river to neutralize what they supposedly found for us. Most forays were a complete waste of time, while other missions were very productive.”

Bill Howey’s book is available at Amazon.com

“I also worked for the CIA’s notorious PHOENIX program in Hoi An city during my final year in Nam. I told this story in my book, Hard Knocks and Straight Talk, where this lady wanted to have her husband rescued. He was a Viet Cong village chief and she was sure he was going to be killed. I made specific arrangements with her and she went back to discuss his surrender. He agreed to the terms and she came back to me in Hoi An. We flew to Hill 110, southwest of Danang, where she and I went down the mountain. I waited while she went into the village and out she came with, not only her husband, but two other Viet Cong who wanted out of the war. They weren’t carrying their weapons the way they were instructed, so I yelled at them in Vietnamese and they did exactly what I wanted. The VC were carrying big boxes on their heads which later turned out to be the Goi Noi Island intelligence files on every person living in that area – a real intelligence find. My helicopter had not returned and we were sitting on a bunker. I pointed to the valley where we could see a Marine company walking up the valley. I said, ‘Tuie Quan Luc Chien (soldiers of the sea).’ He pointed and said, ‘VC!’ I turned to his wife and asked her what he was saying. She said, “He’s telling you the VC are waiting in ambush.” An Army helicopter was flying over the mountain and we radioed for him to come down, which he did. At first he refused to fly me into the valley but I convinced him to do so. [Editor’s note: We can imagine how he convinced him.] He wouldn’t land and I had to jump the final ten feet. The Marine commander came up to me and said, ‘What’s going on?’ I showed him the ambush location and explained the situation. My helicopter had arrived and I had to get back to the top of the mountain. The pilot came down and picked me up. Then we took my VC back to Hoi An for interrogation and a review of the intelligence they had given me. The Marines killed ten and captured eleven and there were no Marine casualties which was wonderful! My VC was quite a turncoat. Not only did he give us intelligence on the entire area, but he also gave up the VC whom he had ordered to be in that ambush position. Obviously, we never really put full trust and confidence in any captured VC.”

“When I got back to my headquarters in Danang, my Counter-Intelligence Team Commander said to me, ‘Hey, the 7th Marines just sent a message to you through the commanding general.’ The message was: ‘YOU CAN DROP IN ON US ANYTIME!’”

“My hair turned white when I was about thirty years old. Being an officer, having been an enlisted man, I didn’t want my men to do anything they hadn’t seen me do first. We were taking a lot of casualties in our small counter-intelligence teams. One of our duties was to search the tunnels we found. The VC had begun working those tunnels as far back as World War II so they had twenty years to dig and shore up. Some of the tunnels were small–only going a few yards, others were five stories or more deep and fifteen miles long. They had hospitals, rest areas, food chambers, headquarters and everything else they needed to survive, including lighting and air ducts. The tunnels I went into were confined one–about 200-300 feet at most. There were hidden walls. If you jumped into the wrong tunnel they would stab you with a spear, usually aiming for the spine. The VC planted mines in some tunnels which they didn’t use, but knew if we found them, we’d investigate. Just kneel down and you could blow yourself up. They also tied small poisonous snakes, called a Krite, into small openings near the roof of the tunnel. We generally had to remove our helmet and flak jacket and sometimes you’d have to strip down to your pants or shorts just to get into the tunnel. While crawling along and looking ahead, the snakes would strike and it would be over in seconds. Some tunnels just came to an end and you’d look up and there would be a trap door. These were the worst situations. You’d open the trap door by pushing up and they’d be standing there to shoot you in the face.”

“I loved the Secret Service guys out of the Los Angeles office. One time they were coming to our base in Santa Ana, California. They would call and say, ‘Bill, we’re short-handed, how many of your men can we have?’ I’d say, ‘All fourteen of us!’ We’d be the only ones on the base allowed to carry loaded weapons, other than the Secret Service. President Johnson was going to be in a hangar giving a speech to a departing battalion. The agent in charge asked if I wanted to be in the Presidential Detail next to him. I said, ‘No!’ I wouldn’t walk across the street to see him! I hated Lyndon Johnson. In fact, one night I was in a bombardment, I was lying on top of the ground, and the only thought in my mind was how I wished Johnson was there too, just to face what we had to.”

“The Secret Service and I had a wonderful relationship. Remember, the anti-war movement was going on at that time. They were always trying to do something on our base to sabotage or embarrass the military. We’d beat them every time and the Secret Service would just eat it up! They loved what we were doing because it was helping them out at the same time.”

“What do I think of Vietnam now? I supported it then because I was in it and it was the decision our Commander-in-Chief had made. After all, we were saving the world from the Communist domino-theory. After getting an education, I believe we should never have been in that war; our government made a mistake. General Eisenhower was right. It was un-winnable – politically! While the press tries to make it out that we lost the war militarily, they are wrong. We had the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong beaten, but our politicians and press cost us the victory, wasting more than 58,000 American lives and millions of Vietnamese. Kennedy and Johnson disregarded reality because, I believe, they wanted to win a war for their presidential record. They thought it would be an easy one and we paid the price.”

“I was very proud of everyone who served, except for the druggers. We didn’t have as many of those as the press reported, but we had some. I am proud of everyone who served, except those people.’

“We went out one night and set up an ambush. We knew there was a North Vietnamese company operating in the area and we wanted to engage it. We were about to set up an ambush about five miles from our base in Danang, and a Lieutenant told his radio operator to make a final call into the base before going radio silent. The operator reported to the Lieutenant that someone was on our frequency, reading John Lennon’s book. When the operator tried to get the guy on drugs off the radio by explaining the ambush situation, I can’t tell you the language the drugger used to the Marine. The guy said he didn’t care if we all got killed and he went right back to reading the book. We have two frequencies assigned to each radio, so the operator tried switching, and damned if the same thing wasn’t happening on that frequency. It was not the book, but drug talk between guys who used all kinds of weird nicknames for themselves. They said they weren’t getting off for some blankety-blank Marine: “They can go to hell.” Being without a radio is the worst thing in an ambush position. We couldn’t stay there so we started back to base. Here we were moving around in the dark with no radio contact to tell anybody we were coming back in! Worried about starting a firefight with our own Marines, one young Marine was brave enough to get close enough to yell the password. We were instructed to come on in, but we had to go one at a time. The company commander, a Captain, and I were the last in. I hated those druggers. They were lucky we didn’t catch them, if we had they would not have come home alive.”


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180 pounds going in, 90 pounds coming out! http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/09/23/180-pounds-going-in-90-pounds-coming-out/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/09/23/180-pounds-going-in-90-pounds-coming-out/#comments Fri, 24 Sep 2010 01:01:53 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=7271 SALUTE TO VETERAN FRED BURNHAM, JR.

Fred, sixth from the right in the front row, seated next to the assistant band leader.

When Fred Burnham, Jr. considered enlisting, apples were only 24 cents a pound and donuts were only 10 cents a dozen! If that doesn’t put a time line in perspective for you, his father, who had the foresight to suggest Fred enlist, was born in 1875. His father loved to read and had some college education.

In 1937, Fred was a junior in college. “I came through the front door and my dad was in his rocking chair.” He said, “Fred, if I were you, I’d seek something in the military. It would be better to enlist than if they draft you! Sure as I am rocking, we’re going to be fighting the Japanese!” Fred credits his father’s sharp intuition on being a ‘student of the news’.

Fred went into the National Guard in l937. He graduated from college in 1939. The 123rd Field Artillery Band, 33rd Infantry Division, Illinois National Guard and the 222nd Field Artillery Band of the 40th Infantry Division of Utah were called into Federal Service in 1940. Fred became a Warrant Officer in l940. He had played trombone and had experience directing a band in college and because of this experience, Fred was put in charge of the band as Chief Warrant Officer.

Fred Burnham, Jr. Submitted photos

“The band was made up of some of the same kids I played in the sandbox with!” Fred played all over the country. Once, he and the band played for Sergeant York, a World War I famous soldier. They played for parades, ceremonies, drills, concerts and several bond drives, including one with a well-known opera singer, Lucy Monroe, at Memphis, Tennessee. We lined up all the jeeps in a big V formation and a dot—dot–dash at the bottom point. Her manager came by and said we want the Star Spangled done in A Flat. So I had to tell everyone to change it from B Flat to A Flat, and she had trouble singing it, which made quite a splash in the newspaper.” The headlines read ‘She came through! but it’s difficult to sing anyway.’ Fred also has a newspaper clipping from April 24th, l942 when the band had played at a funeral. The headline read, “Funeral of the Last Confederate Soldier.” “Out of the group of 81+ soldiers, we put together two field marching bands and two dance bands. We traveled all over the place.

The 106th performed maneuvers in Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. On a firing range in Tennessee, Fred, with an intuition as sharp as his father’s, had asked his regimental commander, a West Pointer, “You know, my band isn’t always going to be able to play. Can you get me an officer that has been in combat that can give us training? He did. He got a guy who was fabulous. We got the equipment and he set up a mayhem pit. We had two teams and we had to throw each other’s team out. This training saved a lot of lives. Infantry bands, for the most part were annihilated. We were lucky. We had two guys hurt, but we didn’t lose anybody. I was fortunate. So many didn’t make it out!”

“As we later prepared for overseas assignment, I was given the orders to reduce the band to 56 soldiers.  That was so difficult because it meant I had to cut some of the friends I grew up with. I took half from a group of guys in the band from Utah and half from my band. They didn’t need me tootin’ anymore and the other Warrant Officer was one month my senior, which made me surplus. So, they made me Division Exchange Officer. I took five of the boys with me and we handled supplies for about 40,000 troops.”

On November 10th, 1944 they left Camp Miles Standish to board the USS Wakefield out of Boston to where they docked in Liverpool, England on November 17th. On December 2nd, 1944 they boarded the HMS Cheshire and waited for nightfall. The troops waited just off the French coast due to rough seas. They took rope ladders down to the landing craft. Fred recalls being on a river for awhile before being loaded onto trucks. On December 7th they rolled toward Belgium by night. The rain had turned to snow.

There were a bunch of times I was frightened. The most was when I was at the rear echelon at Vielsalm. The Belgium Bulge was just starting and German troops were coming in mass through our division lines. Believing it to be a quiet zone, the command had put all 3 combat teams (infantry and artillery) on line in place of 2 teams on line and 1 in reserve. The Germans cut between teams going behind 1 and 2, killing or capturing all. When the enemy came to our rear echelon they by-passed us, intending to capture or kill us later. It also had been assumed that since we were in the Schnee Eiffel the enemy could not move fast towards us. We learned, however, that the fire lanes through the forest had been built with concrete covered with dirt. The same tactic used by the Germans in WW I.

“My brother, Carl, was back at the rear echelon. He had been put in charge of a unit of combat engineers, but for some reason he was back with me…..I don’t know why.” He said, “I’ve got to get back to my platoon,” and I pleaded with him to please stay; we were 4 or 5 miles back. He left.

On his way back to the platoon, my brother was captured and taken prisoner by the Germans. He was 180 pounds going in. He was 90 pounds when he came out!”

“In 28 hours we lost 70% of 14,000 men. About half were captured. The treatment they got was horrible.”

Fred explains, “The Battle of the Bulge was Hitler’s last push. German’s came through the forest. You can’t imagine the noise and what looked like flames from the shells bursting. The first of their ground troops, coming behind the tanks, were literally mowed down. Some were old men, kids; and some were women. It was unbelievable! These were their citizens. The cement under mud and dirt, I mentioned earlier, was developed after World War I, with the intention it would be used again. Germans had excellent tanks. Much more rapid fire than what we had. Their tanks would come roaring through the fire lanes, going boom, boom boom very rapidly, much faster than ours.”

Fred with wife Priscilla at home. Photo by Val Simon

Fred continues, “My father found it hard to understand why, while I was stationed in Europe, I couldn’t find Carl. After the war was closing down, I got word that Carl was leaving for home. He’d be flying out or going aboard a ship. I talked an artillery observer pilot into taking me from Germany across Switzerland into France. I remember flying over a man with a horse-drawn plow working below us. As we got close to him, he hit a land mine. It almost turned our plane over in mid-air. The pilot flew back to see what was left. All we found was part of the plow and the front of the horse. The man and the rest of the horse were gone. By the time we got to Le Havre, the ship Carl had boarded had been gone for two hours. Probably a good thing I didn’t see him at 90 pounds.”

“We stumbled into a camp where the German’s were holding Jews. You can’t imagine what those people looked like. We were moving, at the time since the infantry in front of us were pushing the Germans back to the East. We had a heck of a time trying to help the people and handle the guards who readily surrendered. They were free to go as we moved on.”

“Towards the end of the push to the East, we picked up many of the German soldiers. Sometimes they would run right up to you. We put a fence up in a field, and put them in there. Dug a trench or a latrine and we would throw rations over the fence for them. They weren’t any trouble. In fact, sometimes I would grab a couple of them to help load supplies.”

“I remember an important incident at Vielsalm. I jumped in a foxhole as the Germans were coming down the road. We expected we had to fight or surrender. The Germans had determined that we were practically defenseless, having only a Salvation Army trailer and only one machine gun. They by-passed us thinking they could pick us up later.  After the Germans passed I was standing near a bush when a man’s head came through without a helmet—he quickly told me that the 82nd Airborne was here to get us out, which they did.”

Fred admits, “I stole a car once in Germany. The Motor Pool Sergeant, Otto, who had grown up near where we were, seemed to like me very much. His mother lived about 10 miles from where we were.” The Jeep assigned to me got rough to ride in so I thought I’d like to have a German car. I said to him, “Do you know where we can pick up a car?” He said he knew where the Nazis lived in this small town. So we went over to one house where a doctor lived and knocked on the door. We had him open the garage door to see his car. On this car the front doors opened back and the back doors opened towards the front. The headlights were on the fenders, but one fender had been smashed. Even so, Otto said, “That’s the car you should take.” But I wanted to keep looking so we went on. Soon we found another, but the owner had taken the wheels off. We went back to the first car. By the time we got back, the doctor had taken one wheel off. We made him put it back on…..it wouldn’t start so we had to drag the car back to Bad Ems, where I was quartered. Overnight, Otto had the car painted and had put my numbers on it. The next morning, at breakfast, the Provo Marshal sat down at my table and said, “Burnham, you wouldn’t know a Corporal and Second Lieutenant who would have gone to a nearby town and gotten a car, would you?” “Nope,” I said. You see, the Major had intentionally given the wrong ranks. I used that car until I came home… However, there was a G-4 that I had to constantly fight because he wanted the car. Every time he came to try to get the car for himself, Otto would have taken something out of it so it wouldn’t run. Otto’s mother made a small stuffed elephant which I later gave to my baby daughter, Susie, who was born in 1942.

“I was getting ready to come home when I was suddenly declared “essential” to the ETO for entertainment. That meant three more years in Europe. We were at Le Havre and I was saying good bye to my boys. They thought they were going to Japan, but instead they were going home. A Jeep pulled up and the Chief of Staff, Colonel Baker, asked me if I wanted to go home. “You’re damn right!” I said.

He said: “Keep your mouth shut and do as I tell you. It isn’t fair after all you were assigned to do, to hold you here.” They loaded everyone of Division Headquarters Officers alphabetically and they missed me. I thought the plan had failed when I looked up and saw Colonel Baker coming down the gangplank. He said to the officer checking us onboard, “Son, how come this man isn’t up there?” Then he said, “Get out of the way, boy.” When we got on deck he told me, “I am making you Chief Clerk for the General Staff. I don’t know what you will be doing, and you don’t know what you will be doing. But, you will be going home.” When I got to the separation station in Wisconsin, the guy I dealt with was a guy I went to college with. He asked me what I was doing there. I said, “Going home!” He said, “OK.”

The Commanding General of the Division presented the Bronze Star to me. I was set to receive the Legion of Merit, but I didn’t want to wait around for it. I wanted to go home!”

Fred had graduated from college in 1939. He had married his sweetheart from school in 1940. He was teaching school prior to being called into service. Although he had no intention of going back into teaching when discharged, the Superintendent from the school district egged him on. The Secretary of State had built a huge home which the Superintendent said now was owned by the Treasurer of the School Board.

“We went through this huge house and the owner asked if he bought a new ice box and a new coal feeder if $25 a month would be too much rent. So we took it….it was quite a home. I taught for one year, went to Washington University, St. Louis, got my Masters. Then I got the job as principal of the high school. Two years later, I became Superintendent of the District. The District covered 104 square miles.”

Eventually, an attorney, a math teacher, and I founded a company that consulted schools on big bond projects. We did about 1800 projects in Illinois. Publicity that helped us get jobs came from a project where we sold bonds for 3% interest, while bondsmen in a neighboring district where Illinois Power and Light provided most of the school taxes, sold for 4%. As a result Illinois Power and Light sued their district which provided good publicity for our new company.”

Fred did consulting work for 24 years, moving to Marco Island in 1984.

His first wife passed away in 1980 and he remarried in l984, when his second wife, Priscilla, according to Fred “caught him.”

What are some of Fred’s best memories of his time in service?

PLAYING IN THE BAND, OF COURSE.


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“I Thought I was Invincible!” http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/07/30/%e2%80%9ci-thought-i-was-invincible%e2%80%9d/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/07/30/%e2%80%9ci-thought-i-was-invincible%e2%80%9d/#comments Fri, 30 Jul 2010 22:44:08 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=6117 Coastal Breeze News salutes Gil Mueller in our ‘Salute to Veterans’ Series

By Val Simon and John Patterson

B-17 ‘The Flying Fortress’. Submitted photos

Gil Mueller started getting draft notices while he was still in high school in Park Ridge, Illinois. He was still too young to serve in the military. But as they say, the third time is a charm, at least for the government that is, because in the fall of 1942, when he received his third draft notice, he was not deferred due to his young age since he was now eighteen years old. After taking the required entrance exams, he was put in the air force and applied for pilot training. He felt lucky, two other guys he knew were sent out and one had already come home injured, the other was killed in a tank in Italy.

Gil travelled around the country for basic and pre-flight training. Then he  went overseas in the early part of 1944 where he learned all about the B-17  – ‘The Flying Fortress’. He was stationed at a base in Chelveston, England with the 305th Bomb Group. The 305thwas a notable group according to Gil. “They received citations from all the brass, but there were a lot of casualties, too.” The 305th flew 480 missions overall and 174 of the group’s aircraft were shot down or destroyed. Gil was in one of them…..

In all, Gil had completed fifteen missions. During the sixteenth mission, however, the B-17 had been flying in a diagonal pattern over Europe, from Chelveston to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. The problem was the mission had been announced days in advance. Skoda Ironworks was the target. The Germans were there, waiting for them. They got to the target and were hit in one engine.  It started to flutter.  Then the other engine started to flutter too.

The Chief Pilot was a man named, Sipes. He had flown twenty-five missions in Asia, and then volunteered to fly another twenty-five in Europe. “He was physically and morally a terrible man!” laments Gil. “He didn’t shave and every other word was cursing. He may’ve been a regular army man, but he was one excellent pilot.” Once hit, Sipes  gave the crew an option: bailout or skid in. “The crew didn’t like the looks of what was below us.  We had always been told we wouldn’t last five minutes in the English Channel.  We voted to skid in,” states Gil. “The wheels were down, but the Flying Fortress had to stop on her own accord.” They landed in Dupree, France which was unoccupied at the time. Only one crew member hurt: Gil Mueller.

Gil was transferred to the 115th General Hospital in Liege, Belgium. “It was a horrible, horrible place,” says Gil. “It was an old, gloomy chateau that had been converted into a hospital. The Battle of Bulge was still going on and they were bringing in injured infantryman all hours of the day and night. I was pretty mobile because it was my shoulders that were hurt.  Seeing these injured men coming in from battle was a horrendous sight. They finally dismissed me after about a month, but I will never forget that place or what I saw there.”

Gil proudly displays his medals.

While in the hospital, the war ended.  Gil traveled to rejoin his base, he presumed they’d still be where they had been and when he got there he found they’d gone!  It was April 25, 1945. They were relocated to Augsurg, Germany. “I took a train to get to Augsburg.   There were no beds, just a boxcar. I sat upright in a chair for three days. We had to stop here and there to fix rails that had been bombed out along the way. It took three days to get 100 miles.” The base in Germany was occupied for another three to four months to show a military presence. “I spoke a little German so I got along well with the locals, especially the girls!”

“Fifteen and a half missions and I never felt fearful or scared. Maybe just a little when shot down. I thought I was invincible!  No one could hurt me. At eighteen to nineteen years old you just don’t realize the danger.”

Back at home, Gil recalls trying to take advantage of the G.I. bill by enrolling in college. “The hard part wasn’t getting into college, it was finding living quarters.  The government paid for books, tuition and $60 a month for living expenses.  My mother sent thirteen letters all around the country trying to get me into college.  Finally, she found a little school in Alton, Illinois, a Baptist-oriented college.   I got on the railroad and headed down, it was just north of St. Louis. I registered and went into my room, it was a terrible dilapidated place.  I was up in this little room on the third floor.  I remember waking up in the night and there was something on my chest, I brushed it off.  It was a rat. I figured that was the end of my college education!  In the morning I went over to ‘un’register the prior days’ registration. I met two guys standing in line: Clark Stein and Bill Hays. They suggested we all go uptown and have a beer.  So we did and we spent the whole day together. By the time I got back, I figured I might as well stay since I had met such nice guys.   I stayed for five years, met my wife Marion there, and got my degree.”

Returning to Chicago, Gil worked for R.H. Donnelly as a sales manager for eveven years. Eventually, he started a little pamphlet as a skiing guide suggested by a friend. It started out with four pages, then eight, then sixteen and so on. Gil sold this little side business seventeen years later at 218 pages! It ended up being his vocation until he retired at age sixty-five.

Gil and Marion bought property on Marco Island in 1970, but moved permanently here in 1985. “I was a bored, lost soul when I retired, so I went to work for Dick Haberlin in construction. He kept me busy for seven more years. I was also busy volunteering for the Parks and Recreation Department Advisory Board, I set a service record of eighteen years!  It’s a record that still stands! I remember converting Mackle Park from the little building it was to the expanded building still there now. I was involved in Tigertail Beach as well. There are plaques with my name in both places. I consider serving the community a responsibility. I’ve accomplished quite a bit!”


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Joe ‘Pepsodent Smile’ Capilets http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/07/01/joe-%e2%80%98pepsodent-smile%e2%80%99-capilets-2/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/07/01/joe-%e2%80%98pepsodent-smile%e2%80%99-capilets-2/#comments Fri, 02 Jul 2010 02:12:16 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=5588 Salute to Veterans: Continued from last issue

Joe was called ‘Pepsodent Smile’ Capilets because, when he pitched, everyone thought he was smiling! He was really grimacing! Submitted photos

When I was young we were children of the depression. My father had no work and raised four kids. So, I poured my heart into sports; it was free.” He dreamt of being in the big league someday. At 17 he was offered an opportunity to be in the minor leagues, 3-I League (Illinois, Indiana and Iowa). Joe laments, “I didn’t have the guts to take the offer. I didn’t think I could handle eating in greasy spoons all the time while on the road and with so little pay.

After I graduated high school, I couldn’t afford college. Bus fare was 5 cents each way. We didn’t have 50 cents per week to spare. Instead, I entered the Civilian Conservation Corp which the army ran. We worked in the state parks.  They housed us, clothed us, and fed us.  It occupied the youth of America and gave men work too. The Department of Interior hired foremen like professional masons, who came in, taught us their trade; dig a hole, make a frame, pour concrete. Other trades too, like carpentry.”

Joe served from beginning to end in one outfit. He recalls being called up to headquarters after basic training to report to Colonel Fischer. He wondered what he’d done wrong.  They gave him a job and two stripes, and another shortly thereafter. He was Staff Sergeant, but he always regretted not being a PFC (Private First Class) first. Headquarters is where he met Captain Nelson Bryant.  Captain Bryant loved sports, especially baseball. He was putting a team together. On weekends Joe would work the obstacle course while others slept in. He wanted to be in the best physical condition. While assigned to headquarters, he worked in plans and training.

Letter from Patton

He was accepted for Air Cadet training, a program assigned to Army Air Corps. He said in his interview he wanted to be a pilot and fight one-on-one. He was concerned, being engaged to be married, he might not come back. He figured Nina, a beautiful young lady, could adjust if he didn’t return, but they decided not to wait and got married right away. After they married, General Arnold cancelled further pilot training and Joe was reassigned to his original outfit, Company D, 346th Regiment, 87th Division, who were still at Fort Jackson, SC. Now he was low man on the totem pole. He was lucky to rejoin his outfit where people knew him. Since he could read maps he was promoted to map Sergeant.

Company ‘D’ was really in the thick of it during the last six months of the war.   He was asked to be part of C Company because he befriended Captain James T. Sanderson from Miami, but he chose to stay with Company D.  A month later, Captain Sanderson was killed. Joe’s always wondered if he’d gone with him, would he have been with him.

Being on the frontlines, Joe remembered being asked to check on a broken wire for communication. “There were wires strung along the roadway for the phones, but the communication had been cut off. They didn’t know if the troops on the other end were taken by the Germans or what. It was midnight, dark, and here I am going down the line. Holy mackerel, I could be walking right into German territory, but it was my job to find the break.  I found it and spliced it back together and returned safely.”

It may seem like a frivolous thing in the midst of war, but interest in baseball gave soldiers something to look forward to, something to keep their minds occupied with instead of the ravages of war. Baseball Commissioner Landis had written President Roosevelt after the attack on Pearl Harbor questioning whether baseball should continue while the nation was embroiled in war. The President responded the next day with what is now known as the “The Green Light” letter. He suggested the game would offer a much needed morale boost to those on the home-front as well as to men serving overseas.

A young GI Joe in uniform.

Joe “Pepsodent Smile” Capilets was given orders to get a ball team together.  When the war ended in Europe they had had two-hundred German prisoners in the process of building a baseball field.  Captain Bryant told Joe if he wanted to pitch he’d have to turn down the pass he’d just earned to Paris. The colonel gave the order to win that ballgame! On his team was a Yankee Major Leaguer, Bill Johnson. Joe pitched.

The following is a recap of the game from Captain Bryant’s Sport Report:

The 345th waxed by order! 12-1

The 346th Invadors showing mid-season form opened their baseball schedule with a smashing, decisive 12-1 victory over the slightly faded Blue Devils for the 345th Infantry. The confident 345th’ers with two victories over the 87th Division team under their belt, were smothered under a combination of a 13 hit barrage, five hit pitching by Invader twirler Joe Capilets and flawless work in the field by the ‘Bryant-Man.’ Pepsodent smile Capilets worked well for the winners using a deceptive side arm delivery that had the 345th stickers coming back to the bench mumbling under their breath. Gene Tumelson and ‘Pop’ Reins took turns ducking line drives of the Invador line up which reminded one of the famous Yankee ‘Murderers Row’ with shortstop Bill Johnson, former 3rd baseman, adding the genuine Yankee touch. His long triple in the sixth inning was a clout that would have carried over many a left field wall in the Major League Parks that he cavorted in before coming into the army. Handling the catching chores was another American Leaguer, George Yankowski of the Philadelphia Athletics, whose heavy bat accounted for a single and a double, and whose smart ‘big time’ handling of pitchers promises to be one of the sparkplugs of the Invador championship machine. Centerfielder Rob Russell, former Georgie U. halfback put on a beautiful performance of defensive out-fielding that had spectators rubbing their eyes in amazement.  His great running catch of Tony Gelon’s long line drive bid for extra bases in the 4th inning was easily the fielding gem of the ball game.

So WHY was he called “Pepsodent Smile” Capilets? “When I pitched, everyone thought I was smiling! I was grimacing really.  It wasn’t a smile at all!” says Joe. “Captain Bryant did originate that name and sometimes referred to me ‘Jittery Joe’.”

He returned to America on a “Liberty” ship. During the next ten years, Joe and Nina had five girls.  In his forties he took up tennis, playing a regular schedule three times per week. It wasn’t until Joe was in his 80’s when his doctor threatened to treat him for a mental disorder if he didn’t’ give up the game, that Joe was convinced to give it up.

Joe views Winston Churchill’s quote regarding the Royal Air Force: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few,” as the most accurately descriptive about the war.


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Joe ‘Pepsodent Smile’ Capilets http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/06/18/joe-%e2%80%98pepsodent-smile%e2%80%99-capilets/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/06/18/joe-%e2%80%98pepsodent-smile%e2%80%99-capilets/#comments Fri, 18 Jun 2010 06:03:47 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=5410 “Hello Soldier!  Welcome to your death.”

Joseph C. Capilets was inducted into the US Army on February 11, 1943. He was assigned to the 87th Infantry Division, ‘The Golden Acorn’, 346th Regiment. After nine weeks of basic training, Joe was assigned to S-3 Section, Plans and Training at Camp McCain, Mississippi. The 87th trained new recruits for assignment overseas.

While engaged in training, the 346th participated in the South Carolina Serviceman’s Baseball League. Joe relates that one week prior to shipping out to the European Theater, the 346th lost a heartbreaker, 1-0 to the 15th Armored Division. He remembers this well, as four of that team’s starting nine members were killed early in battle.

Joe and Nina, 1944. Submitted

When Joe entered the service he was engaged to a pretty young lady by the name of Nina Lazzara.  They were married on July 6th, 1944, one month before he shipped out to Europe. Joe took a honeymoon cruise without Nina, but with several thousand other GI’s on the Queen Elizabeth I from New York to Scotland, without destroyer escort. Joe says the QE I was too fast for the German submarines.

The 87th served with great distinction in World War II, having participated in three battles: the battle of the Bulge (Ardennes); the Rhineland (Germany), and in Central Europe. Joe was awarded a bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge. In a recent book on the Battle of the Bulge, General Patton was quoted as saying “…the highly recognized 82nd Airborne may have gotten too much credit and the 87th too little for our success.”

Joe’s unit was awaiting return to the States and reassignment to the Pacific Theater of War when the Atomic Bomb ended the war. He returned to the States in September, 1945 and was honorably discharged shortly after. Joe started work with Binney and Smith (Crayola) in January, 1946 and stayed with that firm for 40 years. Nina and Joe moved to Marco Island in 1985. Joe was an avid tennis player. He has served as a member and Quartermaster for VFW Post #6370.

……excerpted from The Mail Call

Joe described some of his infantry years:

“My philosophy was soldiers were replaceable. The horrors of war had some men self-inflicting wounds to get out of duty,” ‘Pepsodent Smile’ Capilets  tells Coastal Breeze News, “We were taught to shoot and how to use a bayonet, even how to break an arm over your shoulder. The sergeants yelled and cussed at us about everything! It was blind obedience: whatever they said, we did it!  It was the sergeant’s job to make us obedient. Once deployed, we slept outside in foxholes no matter what the weather! The first thing we’re taught is to take an extra pair of clean dry socks with you.  While cleaning one pair you could put on the other. You couldn’t take your boots off, though, when you went to sleep. Your feet would swell up and you couldn’t get them back on, so we always slept with our boots on. A lot of men suffered from ‘trench foot’ from marching across France. We landed in France on September 1944. We marched across France into Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, and then to the Czechoslovakian border. We could have freed the Republic of Czechoslovakia but we had to wait there for 30 days for the Russians. That was the deal Roosevelt made with Stalin. The Russians wanted control over the Balkan states.”

Each man was given a pack to carry; it contained a sleeping bag and supplies. Joe’s carried his baseball glove! At the time, the military feared gas would be used as a weapon against the soldiers, so each man in the infantry was given a gas mask. “Funny thing, it was the first thing the soldiers threw away!   It was bulky and uncomfortable to carry so we just tossed them. I still remember being flashed a picture of a man with no lower jaw or chin in a film the army presented on the consequences of being gassed. It was horrible! We were told to watch for signs of gas, like phoscene which smelled like freshly cut grass. Still, once in the field, those gas masks were too much to carry and out they went.

We weren’t allowed to tell anyone back home where we were of course, all the mail was censored. In a letter to my mother, I referred to her maiden name which was Patten–a clue to where I was serving.   She got it.  Family members were not allowed to know, but the Germans certainly knew who we were and where the 87th Division was! In fact, our first day there, they dropped pamphlets of propaganda on us!   It read, ‘Hello soldier! Welcome to your death! While your loved one is out with another man, you’re here fighting England’s war.’

I remember my first day going into combat, we were the replacements. There were guys coming off the field and they looked so tired and weary. You knew this was it. Walking in the field, you see dead American soldiers, you don’t see dead Germans of course. I walked up to a man on the ground and he didn’t have a leg. I wondered where the severed leg went. A little ways further I came across it.  I was shocked. The soldier looked so neat and clean. It reminded me of playing a no hit game. But you see, the enemy brings back their dead, too. That’s why we didn’t see dead Germans there.

We were a part of General Patton’s 3rd Army. Patton had the heaviest casualties because he pushed harder and risked more.  He needed too. Once Patton came by to check out the front lines, ‘How’s everything, soldier?’ he said to me. I replied, ‘Fine sir.’

When I was young we were children of the depression. My father had no work and raised four kids.   So, I poured my heart into sports; it was free.” He dreamt of being in the big league someday. At 17 he was offered an opportunity to be in the minor leagues, 3-I League (Illinois, Indiana and Iowa). Joe laments, “I didn’t have the guts to take the offer. I didn’t think I could handle eating in greasy spoons all the time while on the road and with so little pay.

After I graduated high school, I couldn’t afford college. Bus fare was 5 cents each way. We didn’t have 50 cents per week to spare.  Instead I entered the Civilian Conservation Corp which the army ran. We worked in the state parks. They housed us, clothed us, and fed us.  It occupied the youth of America and gave men work too. The Department of Interior hired foremen like professional masons, who came in, taught us their trade; dig a hole, make a frame, pour concrete. Other trades too, like carpentry.”

Young GI Joe.

Joe served from beginning to end in one outfit. He recalls being called up to headquarters after basic training to report to Colonel Fischer. He wondered what he’d done wrong. They gave him a job and two stripes, and another shortly thereafter. He was Staff Sergeant, but he always regretted not being a PFC (Private First Class) first. Headquarters is where he met Captain Nelson Bryant. Captain Bryant loved sports, especially baseball. He was putting a team together. On weekends Joe would work the obstacle course while others slept in. He wanted to be in the best physical condition. While assigned to headquarters, he worked in plans and training.

He was accepted for Air Cadet training, a program assigned to Army Air Corps. He said in his interview he wanted to be a pilot and fight one on one. He was concerned, being engaged to be married, he might not come back.  He figured Nina, a beautiful young lady, could adjust if he didn’t return, but they decided not to wait and got married right away. After they married, General Arnold cancelled further pilot training and Joe was reassigned to his original outfit, Company D, 346th Regiment, 87th Division, who were still at Fort Jackson, SC. Now he was low man on the totem pole. He was lucky to rejoin his outfit where people knew him. Since he could read maps he was promoted to map Sergeant.

Company ‘D’ was really in the thick of it during the last six months of the war. He was asked to be part of C Company because he befriended Captain James T. Sanderson from Miami, but he chose to stay with Company D. A month later, Captain Sanderson was killed. Joe’s always wondered if he’d gone with him, would he have been with him.

Being on the frontlines, Joe remembered being asked to check on a broken wire for communication.   “There were wires strung along the roadway for the phones, but the communication had been cut off.   They didn’t know if the troops on the other end were taken by the Germans or what. It was midnight, dark, and here I am going down the line. Holy mackerel, I could be walking right into German territory, but it was my job to find the break. I found it and spliced it back together and returning safely.”

It may seem like a frivolous thing in the midst of war, but interest in baseball gave soldiers something to look forward too, something to keep their minds occupied with instead of the ravages of war.   Baseball Commissioner Landis had written President Roosevelt after the attack on Pearl Harbor questioning whether baseball should continue while the nation was embroiled in war. The President responded the next day with what is now known as the ‘The Green Light’ letter.  He suggested the game would offer a much needed morale boost to those on the home-front as well as to men serving overseas.

Joe ‘Pepsodent Smile’ Capilets was given orders to get a ball team together. When the war ended in Europe they had had two-hundred German prisoners in the process of building a baseball field.  Captain Bryant told Joe if he wanted to pitch he’d have to turn down the pass he’d just earned to Paris.  The colonel gave the order to win that ballgame!  On his team was a Yankee Major Leaguer, Bill Johnson. Joe pitched.

The following is a recap of the game from Captain Bryant’s Sport Report:

The 345th waxed by order! 12-1

The 346th Invadors showing mid-season form opened their baseball schedule with a smashing, decisive 12-1 victory over the slightly faded Blue Devils for the 345th Infantry. The confident 345th’ers with two victories over the 87th Division team under their belt, were smothered under a combination of a 13 hit barrage, five hit pitching by Invader twirler Joe Capilets and flawless work in the field by the ‘Bryant-Man’. Pepsodent smile Capilets worked well for the winners using a deceptive side arm delivery that had the 345th stickers coming back to the bench mumbling under their breath.  Gene Tumelson and ‘Pop’ Reins took turns ducking line drives of the Invador line up which reminded one of the famous Yankee ‘Murderers Row’ with shortstop Bill Johnson, former 3rd baseman, adding the genuine Yankee touch. His long triple in the sixth inning was a clout that would have carried over many a left field wall in the Major League Parks that he cavorted in before coming into the army. Handling the catching chores was another American Leaguer, George Yankowski of the Philadelphia Athletics, whose heavy bat accounted for a single and a double, and whose smart ‘big time’ handling of pitchers promises to be one of the sparkplugs of the Invador championship machine. Centerfielder Rob Russell, former Georgie U. halfback put on a beautiful performance of defensive out-fielding that had spectators rubbing their eyes in amazement. His great running catch of Tony Gelon’s long line drive bid for extra bases in the 4th inning was easily the fielding gem of the ball game.

So WHY was he called ‘Pepsodent Smile’ Capilets? “When I pitched, everyone thought I was smiling! I was grimacing really.  It wasn’t a smile at all!” says Joe. “Captain Bryant did originate that name and sometimes referred to me ‘Jittery Joe’.”

He returned to America on a ‘Liberty’ ship. During the next ten years, Joe and Nina had five girls.  In his forties he took up tennis, playing a regular schedule three times per week.  It wasn’t until Joe was in his 80’s when his doctor threatened to treat him for a mental disorder if he didn’t’ give up the game, that Joe was convinced to give it up.

Joe views Winston Churchill’s quote regarding the Royal Air Force: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few,” as the most accurately descriptive about the war.


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What was it Like? http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/06/03/what-was-it-like/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/06/03/what-was-it-like/#comments Fri, 04 Jun 2010 01:00:22 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=4988 A young man stopped me on the Washington Mall,
I was reading the names on the Vietnam wall.
He said  “tell me, soldier, about Vietnam.
What was it like to fight the Viet Cong?”

I looked at him, straight in the eye
and said  “Okay, Son, I’ll give it a try.
I’ll answer your question, if you’ll take the time
to answer just a few questions of mine.”

I said:

Have you ever had to pick up a gun?
Learn to fight  while on the run?
Learn to kill and learn to hide
and learn to keep the fears inside?

Have you ever had to shoot someone
and not think twice about what you’d done,
or crawl through the swamps and the Elephant grass
and wonder how long it takes a year to pass?

Did you ever want to just go Home?

Have you ever been scared when the sun goes down,
lay in ambush , tight to the ground,
cringe with fear at the slightest sound
hugging  the dirt so you won’t be found?

Have you ever crossed a paddy,   deep in slime
where every step can trigger a mine?
Have you ever put your foot on a dead man’s chest
just to make sure there was no breath left?

Did you ever want to just get out?

Can you glide through the Jungle like a deadly snake
and weave your way through the punji stakes?
Can you probe your way through a live mine field
where one mistake means your fate is sealed?

Can you walk twenty miles in the burning heat
then spend the night without any sleep?
Can you live in the rain for a month or more
with the clouds for a roof and mud for a floor?

Did you ever just want to call it quits?

If you can answer “yes” to the questions posed
then  you are one of the ones that know.
There is no answer to “What was it like?”
It’s  trying to see when there is no light.

So, if you still want to know what it was really like,
you’ll have to get a gun and get into the fight.
You can’t describe what has to be felt.
No need to make sense of the hand you were dealt.
The  secrets of the heart I can’t explain,
just know that every day there’s a touch of pain.

The young man turned and looked at me,
a tear rolled down his cheek.
I could see the quiver on his lips
I could see his knees go weak.

He said to me : “I didn’t know,
I never should have asked.”
He gently brushed the tear aside
and let another moment pass.

He then reached out and shook my hand
and said “ Thank you from us all.”
I held his grip and whispered back
“Thank those up on the Wall”

He gave a nod and walked away
Hesitating in his pace.
He turned back once to wave goodbye
To a distant time and place.

Author:  Geoffrey Muther, 5th Infantry, Quang Tri, Vietnam 69-79, geoffmuther@hotmail.com

Geoff Muther, a resident of Isles of Capri, was a Sergeant E6 and served as a demolitions squad leader along the DMZ (Boarder between North & South Vietnam) during 1969-1970. At a moving ceremony on Boston Common taps were played over 20,000 American Flags representing MA veterans that made the ultimate sacrifice from World War I to the current conflict.  Photo by photographer Jim Raycroft, who is also a Vietnam Vet.


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Salute to Veteran Owen Carr http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/05/21/salute-to-veteran-owen-carr/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2010/05/21/salute-to-veteran-owen-carr/#comments Fri, 21 May 2010 23:08:48 +0000 http://coastalbreezenews.com/index.php/?p=4713

US Army Air Corps Shield.

This is the second in our series of Salute to Our Veterans!

The handicap ramp and American flag flying high were unmistakable indications I was at the right place, veteran Owen Carr’s home. Owen had lost his leg during his military service. The memories many returning soldiers carry are difficult enough, Owen returned with those memories and a physical reminder that would be with him always.

Owen enlisted on September 7, 1942, just days after his 18th birthday on September 1. He served in the United States Army Air Force in Guadalcanal in the Southwest Pacific. For those unfamiliar, Guadalcanal is part of the Solomon Island chain and it served as the staging ground for the Allied efforts against Japanese advancement during World War ll.

Owen attended gunnery school in Las Vegas, Nevada. He completed his third phase of B-24 combat crew training at Clovis Army Airbase in New Mexico ranked as Staff Sergeant. Combat crew trainees were given a seven-day delay en route to Topeka, Kansas, where they were to pick up a new B-24 for deployment. They were told to go home and report to Topeka in seven days. Crew members realized it was impossible to make it to their homes and then to Kansas within the allotted time considering train, plane and bus schedules. Each decided they would return late, except for Flight Engineer Bill Kellums.

Owen Carr with the purple heart.

Nothing was ever said to the rest of the crew for the late arrival. But when payday came, they went to the paytable and were asked ‘name, rank, serial number.’ Each was handed their pay. It was then they realized they’d been demoted. Their tardiness had not gone unnoticed. Eventually, Owen earned his sergeants rank back.

On August 26, 1943 Owen lost his leg in battle. Owen describes this as ‘the day I died.’ He went on a mission from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal to his target at Kahili Airdrome on the southern tip of Bougainville Island. They were told they were going to have a fighter escort during the mission, but the escort never materialized. The mission did have three Curtiss P-40 fighter planes, (which were obsolete in 1943) and four Navy Corsairs.  There were approximately thirty B-24 Liberators from two groups. Owen was in the lead plane nicknamed the Cisco Kid, along with Squadron Commander Colonel Reddoch, and the rest of the crew.

When they reached their target, they salvoed their forty 100 lb. demolition bombs all painted yellow. Then the Bombay doors were closed.  Flying at about 30,000 feet in the air, Owen watched the bombs falling. He had to take his oxygen mask off to knock out the ice that had formed more than once. He was in the right waist window with his Browning caliber 50 machine gun sticking out.  He was back-to-back with the left waist gunner, Harold Nerstad.

He heard someone on the intercom, “Get Ready, here they come!” Then he saw the Japanese Zero’s. They were being attacked by 75 Japanese fighter planes and Owen was in the lead plane! Owen started shooting. He doesn’t even know if he hit the Zero before suddenly feeling like something was ripping his leg to pieces. Bursts of 20 mm cannon shells from a Zero hit the plane and literally tore his leg apart. The shells were designed to explode on impact. He heard Harold Nerstad, “Send someone back here, they got Carr and me!” Owen could feel the razor sharp shrapnel in his leg.

The Cisco Kid and crew.

Don MacAllister, who was the bombardier, had to man the right waist gun before he could administer first aid. He started shooting. Then he turned and manned the left waist gun and shot out of the left window. Owen could feel the hot empty shells from the machine gun hitting him in the face. He lay on the deck near Don’s feet. He pounded a clenched fist on his boot, “Give me some morphine.” Don was shooting from both windows while the plane was dropping altitude taking evasive action. All the while, blood from Owen’s leg is running over the deck from side to side, moving with the plane. He’s still pounding on Don’s boot. “Give me morphine!” Don finally gets a chance and goes to their first aid kit. He grabs a ¼ grain morphine surette, saws off the top and gives it to Owen. Don pins the empty surette on Owen’s electric-heated flying suit. Owen continues, “More morphine.” Don opens another, gives it to him and again he pins the empty surette to Owen’s suit.

The plane is returning to base now but Owen is still in excruciating pain. “More morphine,” he cried. Don opens another ¼ grain surette and pins the empty case to Owen’s suit.

Although they were the first plane out, the Cisco Kid was the last to land back at Henderson. Hydraulic systems on the plane had been shot out by the Zeros. They had to get the lowered ball turret on the bottom of the plane back up into place or they could not land. Commander Reddoch and George Vickers, the ball turret gunner, were putting their all into cranking it up by hand. It was difficult with gravity working against them. Then they had to manually get the wheels down, but in this case, gravity helped.

Current photo with wife and bullet.

Once landed, they took Owen out the waist window to an awaiting ambulance. Medics tell Don MacAllister he saved his life by pinning those empty surettes to his suit. One more ¼ grain would’ve killed him. He spends the next 48 hours in the 20th Station Hospital operating room, a long quonset hut with tile floor. There’s one fan on the floor fighting the 98 degree heat.    Major Patrick J. Nagle turned on the light over Owen’s gurney. “We better get to work on this man,” he says. Other members of  Owen’s crew plead with the doctors “Save his leg! Save his leg!” However, dry gangrene had set in. Owen mistakenly believed taking his leg would ease the pain. “It’s him or the leg,” said Major Nagle. They started cutting. He sat straight up screaming at the top of his lungs. That was the last he remembers, he passed out.

X-rays revealed Harold Nerstad’s spine had been severed by the nose fuse of a 20 mm Canon shell. They put him on a ship to New Zealand for further medical care. He died before arriving.

Owen’s recovery was difficult. He recalls the day of September 17, 1943, people came rushing in. They cleaned everyone up and changed all the sheets. The Official Red Cross representative, Eleanor Roosevelt, along with a large entourage, including admirals, generals, cameramen and photographers, came through. She was there only once.

During his stay, Owen befriended a man next to him, Owens Harrison. Owens complained to Major Nagle one day, “That man over there is mocking me! He keeps mocking me! He moans and groans whenever I do.” The doctor said “He’s not mocking you son. He’s in as bad a shape as you are.”

Eventually, Owen recovered. A few days after his surgery a man came in and handed him a small cardboard box. That was one day after his 19th birthday. He was told he had to sign for it, but Owen could barely do that. In the small box was a Purple Heart given for his service. There was no velvet lined case or any of the usual pomp and circumstance one would expect.

The rest of Owen’s story is of a man who wouldn’t let a handicap keep him down! He met his wife, Pat in Munich, Germany where they both worked for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. They lived and worked all around the globe: the Canary Islands, Hawaii, Japan and Thailand. He asked his good friend Owens Harrison if he knew of a good place near Naples, Florida and he referred him to Marco Island. They visited and decided to make it home. Pat works at Tommie Barfield Elementary and Owen is an active member of VFW Post 6370. Owens latest feat—skydiving! This past March, at 85 years of age, Owen parachuted out of a plane. One can only wonder what his next feat will be.


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