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The Incredible Rescue of LtCol Gene Hambleton

On April 2, 1972, the third day of the Easter Offensive, the largest combined arms operation of the entire Vietnam War, 53-year-old Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal ‘Gene’ Hambleton was a navigator aboard one of two United States Air Force EB-66 aircraft escorting three B-52s. Bat 21, call sign for Hambleton’s aircraft, was configured to gather signals intelligence including identifying North Vietnamese anti-aircraft radar installations to enable jamming. (Photo is Bat 21 in Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.)
Midway through the operation, Bat 21 was destroyed by a SA-2 surface-to-air missile and Hambleton was the only survivor, parachuting behind the front lines into a battlefield filled with thousands of North Vietnamese Army soldiers. The bodies of the aircrew were never found.

Because of Hambleton’s knowledge of Top Secret Strategic Air Command operations and an expert in surface-to-air missile countermeasures, his rescue was crucial. If he was to fall in the hands of the North Vietnamese and then turned over to the Russians, it could result it irreparable damage to American national defense. Thus, it became the “largest, longest, and most complex search-and-rescue” operation during the Vietnam War. It was also one of the costliest. Five additional aircraft were shot down during rescue attempts, directly resulting in the deaths of 11 airmen, the capture of two others, and another airman, Lt. Mark Clark, trying to evade capture. Further air rescue attempts were called off and the two airmen, travelling separately, were then told that the next attempt would be a land rescue by Navy SEALS up the monsoon-swollen Cam Lo River.

On the night of April 10, 1972, more than a week since Hambleton had been evading enemy capture, Navy SEAL Lt. Thomas R. Norris, leading a handpicked team of five South Vietnamese Lien Doc Nguoi Nhia (LDNN), similar to Navy SEALs, set off down the Cam Lo River in a sampan to get Clark.
Clark’s trip to the pick-up point was a harrowing one. Twice he was almost spotted by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) patrols. At around dawn on the morning of April 11, Clark and Norris linked up and the sampan sped back down the Cam Lo River to their Forward Operating Base (FOB) and safety.

Shortly after Norris’s sampan returned, the FOB came under attack by a resilient, well-armed NVA unit that was only repulsed after numerous air strikes were called in. The attack caused several casualties, including the killing of two of the South Vietnamese LDNNs. Two other LDNNs refused to go on any more missions.

On April 13, a Forward Air Controller received a message from Hambleton that he was at the Cam Lo River pickup point. That night Norris and LDNN Petty Officer Nguyen Van Kiet, dressed as local fishermen, got into a sampan and headed upriver.

After several harrowing close calls with NVA troops, they found Hambleton; weak and delirious but still alive. Quickly they got him into the sampan and hid him under some bamboo. Now it was a race against time to get back before dawn. Twice they were discovered by North Vietnamese troops. The first time they managed to escape downriver before the patrol could fire at them. The second time they found themselves cut off by an enemy unit with a heavy machine gun. Norris radioed for an air strike. Soon seven aircraft from the USS Hancock arrived on target, killed a number of North Vietnamese troops and provided cover for Norris and Kiet, allowing them to continue their downriver journey with their high value cargo.

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Cpl James Garner US Army (1944-1952)

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Cpl James Garner

US Army

(Served 1944-1952)

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Short Bio: He then went to Korea for 14 months in the United States Army, serving in the 24th Infantry Division in the Korean War. He was wounded twice, first in the face and hand from shrapnel fire from a mortar round, and second in the buttocks from friendly fire from U.S. fighter jets as he dove headfirst into a foxhole on April 23, 1951.


MCPOCG Vince Patton U.S. Coast Guard (Ret) (1972-2002)

pattonPersonal Service Reflections of US Coast Guardsman:

MCPOCG Vince Patton

U.S. Coast Guard (Ret)


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Ever since I was ten years old, joining the service was a rather easy decision for me to make. My oldest brother, who is 8 years older than I, joined the Navy. I always looked up to him (even now actually) and wanted to be just like him. So for at least seven years all I kept talking about was joining the Navy to be like my brother Greg (he eventually stayed in for 34 years, retiring as a CAPT/O-6). I even became a member of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC) during my high school years.

However, at age 17, when I was old enough to sign up for the delayed entry program, I chose the Coast Guard. That’s an even longer story … but the short answer is I actually walked in to the wrong recruiting office, thinking I was going to see a Navy recruiter.

Back in 1971 at the time, the Coast Guard uniform was the same as the Navy’s, with the exception of the ‘Treasury Shield’ on the right sleeve, and the hats for enlisted were different (we used to wear the old ‘Donald Duck’ hats). After realizing I walked into the wrong office, I was too embarrassed to walk out, so I decided to wait until the recruiter finished talking to me, and then go join the Navy. However, not ever knowing anything about the Coast Guard at the time, I became really interested in their mission, and the fact it is a small service. So, after seven years of telling everyone from my parents, my brother, friends and teachers at school about going in the Navy to be like my brother, I enlisted in the Coast Guard’s delayed entry program in January 1972, and shipped off to boot camp in June 1972 just three days after I graduated from high school.


After finishing boot camp in August 1972, I went off to Radioman (RM) ‘A’ School at Coast Guard Training Center, Petaluma, CA (about 70 miles north of San Francisco). I went ‘RM’ mainly because I had some experience in radio communications and knew Morse Code from my merit badge earnings in the Boy Scouts. I initially wanted to be a Hospital Corpsman, but the school was too long of a wait, so I went RM. It wasn’t a bad choice at the time.

After RM School, I reported to the USCGC DALLAS out of Governors Island, NY, after two years there, I moved on to Coast Guard Group/Air Station Detroit (my hometown). In 1976 I reenlisted, then reported to Coast Guard Recruiting Office Chicago, IL. After my tour of duty as a recruiter was up in 1978, I decided to change my occupational specialty rating from RM to Yeoman (YN).

After my tour in Chicago, I moved on to the Ninth District Office in Cleveland, OH, where I worked in the personnel office, then later became the district’s career information specialist. While I was in the Coast Guard up to that time, I continued on with taking college courses through the Service member Opportunity College Program (SOC), earning up to my Master’s Degree in 1979. In 1981 I became the first Coast Guard enlisted member to be selected for postgraduate school program, where I was transferred to Washington, DC to attend The American University, working on my Doctorate in Education. My dissertation was based on the development and implementation of the Coast Guard Enlisted Evaluation System, which was the purpose of my selection for the postgraduate program. After graduating from American University in 1984, I remained on the Headquarters staff involved with the implementation of the new evaluation system.

In 1985, I then went back to sea to the USCGC BOUTWELL, when it was then home ported out of Seattle, WA. After a three year tour on BOUTWELL, I returned to Washington, DC (the Coast Guard wanted to get their money’s worth out of me for that doctorate degree), and served as the first enlisted training manager for the Coast Guard’s enlisted training programs. These billets were previously done by officers and civilians.

In 1993, I was advanced to Master Chief, served on a six month special assignment with the DOD Task Force, and afterwards elevated to the ‘Command Master Chief’ status and transferred to the Coast Guard Atlantic Area, first out of New York, then Portsmouth, VA.

In 1998 I was selected as the Eighth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG), and retired in 2002.


I served as the senior enlisted adviser to Joint Task Force 160 during 1994 as part of ‘Operation Support Democracy’ which was an intervention designed to remove the military regime installed by the 1991 Haitian coup d’état that overthrew the elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

It was the largest alien migration operation in history, where I worked in both Port-au-Prince Haiti and Guantanamo Bay Cuba. The assignment was a temporary detailed position while I was the Command Master Chief for the Coast Guard Atlantic Area command.


There’s two actually; first was when I was assigned to Joint Task Force 160, where I got an up close look at seeing literally hundreds of people from Cuba and Haiti defying all odds to try to get to the United States. They came in just about anything that floated. I remember seeing a giant door from a church that served as a raft with six people on board that traveled just about 50 or so miles before we were able to stop them. Bad weather was looming and they certainly would not have made it the rest of the way. Then there are the hundreds of young children, mostly malnourished with a look of desperation and hunger that just wanted to be taken care of. It was an operation that really worked on the psyche.

Many of the service members involved in this operation were touched by the desperation that these people had in doing whatever it took to try to reach the U.S. in hope for a better life. It was a horrifying experience, and as I think of the earthquake in Haiti today, I can’t help but think about seeing the faces on the people who spent days just floundering in the Caribbean Sea trying to reach land. Unfortunately I remember the large number of bodies from capsized makeshift vessels we came upon as well.

The other is during the events of ‘9-11’. Most noteworthy was my walk along all three of the “Ground Zero” locations in NY, PA and the Pentagon, and seeing the huge destruction caused from the terrorist acts. That too was a sobering moment, but with it came a time of seeing people rise to the occasion in helping one another. I also recall my visit to the Trinity Church in lower Manhattan, just a few blocks from where the World Trade Center towers stood. While there was complete destruction all around the area, that tiny little church on Rector Street, which also had a small graveyard with the remains of some of our founding fathers such as Alexander Hamilton (the Father of the Coast Guard), the place was pretty much untouched, with exception of debris from the destruction all around. It was an amazing sight to see, where the only damage on the church was a broken window, but on either side as well as in front and in back of the church the buildings were completely destroyed from the crashing of the airliners.

It’s a sight that will forever be etched in my memory and one that sticks out of truly understanding the power of spirituality.


I was awarded the DSM principally for my performance of duty as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, where I was actively involved with the Coast Guard operations around ‘9-11,’ as well as the responsibilities I executed during my tenure as MCPOCG.


The most meaningful award to me was receiving my Cutterman’s pin, which is recognition for at least five years of sea duty. Being in a seagoing service like the Coast Guard – to me, this is what it was all about. I didn’t earn my Cutterman’s pin until towards the end of my Coast Guard career. Prior to my selection as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, I had accumulated 4 yrs, 11, 19 days of sea time – just a mere 21 days short of the required 5 years. I could have remained on my last ship (BOUTWELL) to get the 5 year minimum, however I actually thought I had it, but my sea service time was miscalculated. It wasn’t corrected until after my departure. So, in 2001, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, ADM Loy allowed me to take a 30 day PCS-administrative assignment from my duties as MCPOCG, to report to USCGC MAKO (home ported out of Cape May, NJ) to fulfill my required sea time, which also included having to meet underway and in port qualifications.

The requirements for the Cutterman’s pin also meant you had to be in a permanent change of station assignment for at least 30 days. Even with the award of the Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal, the highest peacetime award … the Cutterman’s Pin is my most prized and valued award. Going to sea is what being in the Coast Guard is all about!


There were two people that I must mention here. The first one was Hollis Stephens, who served as the Third Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard. I worked for Master Chief Stephens when I was assigned to Coast Guard Group Detroit. I’ll never forget what he did for me in encouraging me to pursue my education while I was on active duty. He was the catalyst for me to want to pursue to become the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard someday, rather than become an officer.

The other person is Admiral James Loy, who was Commandant during my tenure as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, but I also worked for him as his command master chief in Atlantic Area. The admiral believed in me, and just let me do my thing, knowing that I truly was there to support him. It’s refreshing to know that your boss really trusts you in everything. He gave me the hard jobs knowing that I could handle it, and showed me just what the true meaning of leadership is all about. Just about anyone who knows or has served with him from his days in Vietnam all through his illustrious career would probably say the same thing about him as I am. He’s the kind of guy that you would literally “walk through fire” without question if he asked you to.

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Angel of Death

angel of death

AC-130 Popping Angel Flares

Ghost Army

The Inflatable Tanks That Fooled Hitler

The Allies saved thousands of lives by embracing the artistry of war.

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Bill Blass was one of them. So was Ellsworth Kelly. And Arthur Singer. And Art Kane. Before these men embarked on the artistic careers they would become known for, they served together during World War II. But they were a particular kind of soldier, serving in a particular kind of unit: Blass and his brothers in arms were recruited from art schools and ad agencies. They were sought for their acting skills. They were selected for their creativity. They were soldiers whose most effective weapon was artistry.

Because their job was to fool Hitler.

ghostpatch.jpgBlass and his cohort were members of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, an elite force whose specialty was “tactical deception.” They’re now better known, though, as the “Ghost Army” — a troop of soldiers that doubled, in Europe’s theater, as a troupe of actors. (The unit was the brain child, one report has it, of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) The 23rd were, essentially, the Trojan Horse builders of World War II.

Except that their wooden horses took the form of inflatable tanks. And rubber airplanes. And elaborate costumes. And radio codes. And speakers that blared pre-recorded soundtracks into the forests of France.

These props — “advanced technology” as advanced technology — were amazingly effective, doing what all good theater props will: setting a believable scene. The Ghost Army, some 1,100 men in all, ended up staging more than twenty battlefield deceptions between 1944 and 1945, starting in Normandy two weeks after D-Day and ending in the Rhine River Valley. Many of those performances — “illusions,” the men appropriately preferred to call them — took place within a few hundred yards of the front lines.

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The Longest Day

It was a cloudy, breezy morning on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 as the largest seaborne invasion in history began when British, Canadian and American troops set off across the unpredictable, dangerous English Channel from Portsmouth, England. Their destination: the beaches at Normandy, France.

As the 5000-ship convoy carrying over 150,000 men and nearly 30,000 vehicles made its way across the choppy channel, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads. More than 300 planes dropped 13,000 bombs over coastal Normandy immediately in advance of the invasion. Naval guns fired volley after volley on and behind the beaches.

Allied infantry and armored divisions began landing on the coast of France starting at 06:30. They landed under heavy, deadly fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, and the shore was mined and covered with wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire, making the work of the beach clearing teams difficult and dangerous. Strong winds also blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha were American troops were to secure. The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture beaches codenamed Gold, Juno and Sword, as did the Americans at Utah Beach. Casualties were heaviest at Omaha where American troops faced heavy resistance from heavily entrenched enemy atop the high white cliffs.

Considering the massive size and scope of the attack it went pretty much as planned. But the terrible conditions and enormous challenges of the attack also brought about terrible, fatal, human errors. Hampered by overcast skies, a great numbers of troop transports overshot their drop zones by miles. Aircraft missed dropping airborne troops in designated drop zones, resulting in scattered units unable to hookup for hours, sometimes days. Troop carrying gliders crashed into obstacles set up by the Germans killing hundreds of paratroopers. Sixty percent of all equipment parachuted in was lost. There was staggering loss of life and limb, yet, in spite of incalculable risks, the invasion succeeded it purpose. Within days more than 100,000 soldiers had begun the slow, hard trek across Europe. By late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring the Allies had defeated the Germans. The Normandy landings was the beginning of the end of war in Europe.

Among the American solider to hit the beaches of Normandy were dozens of young men from Bedford, a small southern town in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with a population of just a little over 3,000. There were thirty-five soldier of them, all growing up together and as America went to war, so did they. All were in the same Army National Guard Company and in the first wave on Omaha Beach.

Of the nearly 4,500 allied soldiers who lost their lives in the bloody battle, nineteen were from Bedford. Later in the campaign, four more boys from this small Virginia town died of gunshot wounds. Proportionally this community suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses. That distinction and the fact Bedford was representative of all communities, large and small, whose citizen-soldiers served on D-Day, Congress approved the establishment of the National D-Day Memorial there.

This year, the memorial is dedicating a new sculpture to honor the “Bedford Boys” and to recognize a town that, like so many others in our nation, lost their sons and brothers on one day.

On hand was CBS News reporter Jan Crawford who interviewed a number of those who grew up with the 35 Bedford boys. Among them was Lucille Boggess who was 14- years old when her two brothers, Bedford and Raymond Hoback, left home.

“My parents and most all of us went to see them off,” Boggess said. “We were just kind of saying goodbye but, you know, ‘We’ll see you soon.’ And it wasn’t like they weren’t coming back.” But they didn’t. Both brothers are buried in the Normandy American Cemetery on a bluff above the sandy beach were they died.

“We were getting ready to go to church on Sunday, and the sheriff brought the first telegram. The second telegram was delivered by a cab driver,” Boggess said. “Several years after that, my mother had a stroke. And I can remember that we’d be sitting around in the living room at night, and she’d be sitting on the sofa and she’d say, ‘Where are my boys?’ I want to cry telling you that,” Boggess said.

Those in the same rifle company who survived and returned also suffered.

“I try not to think of it anymore,” Allen Huddleston said.

Another Bedford boy who made it home was Sgt. Roy Stevens, who died in 2007. His daughter Kathy said her father and his twin brother, Ray, both landed on the beaches, but only Roy survived. He last saw his brother Ray when they set out for Normandy on different boats. Ray wanted to shake hands with him, and Roy wouldn’t because he said, ‘I’m going to see you when we get to Normandy,’ and ‘course, Ray didn’t make it, he was one of the first ones out,” Kathy said.

“I’ve often thought, ‘Well, if all these men had come back, how would this community be different and what contribution would they have made?’ And I just felt like it would’ve been a better place, and I think that we still sort of cry for them and miss them,” Boggess said.

Understandable, the human cost of “The Longest Day” still casts a shadow over this town, seven decades later.

The biggest ceremony of the day took place at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial overlooking the Normandy beach itself. Thousands of people returned to the site of that pivotal battle in this year’s commemorations to mark its 70th Anniversary.

With French and American flags fluttering in a gusty breeze, President Barack Obama, together with French President Francois Hollande, addressed an audience seated against a backdrop of rows upon rows of headstones overlooking the site of the battle’s most violent fighting at Omaha Beach. He described D-Day’s violent scene in vivid terms, recalling that “by daybreak, blood soaked the water” and “thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand.”

Sharing the stage with the heads of state were approximately 400 World War II veterans of that fierce battle who traveled long distances to the remote historic site. When Obama recognized them, some removed their hats as the audience delivered a long standing ovation. While listening to the speeches, almost all reacted with standing applause and emotion, now sitting only miles from where they fought for their lives.

For many veterans who survived the invasion to tell their story this could mark the last for them. With every year that passes, fewer and fewer veterans can muster the strength to return.

So much sacrifice — a debt we can never repay or forget.


BMC Victor Mature US Coast Guard (1942-1945)

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BMC Victor Mature

US Coast Guard

(Served 1942-1945)

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(Veterans – view more celebrity military profiles on

Short Bio: In July 1942 Mature attempted to enlist in the U.S. Navy but was rejected for color blindness. He enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard after taking a different eye test the same day. He was assigned to the icebreaker Storis (WMEC-38), in Boston Harbor, which was doing Greenland patrol work (28 Nov 1942). After 14 months aboard the Storis, Mature was promoted to the rate of Chief Boatswain’s Mate.


MSgt John T. DeAntonio US Air Force (Ret) (1966-1988)

tonyPersonal Service Reflections of Airman:

MSgt John T. DeAntonio

US Air Force (Ret)


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Veterans – read more stories like the following when you join

Note from Admin: We lost Tony on Feb 27, 2013. He was a huge part of Air Force Together We Served and is missed by his many friends and adopted family on AFTWS. Fortunately he left a legacy of his military service to his family by completing his “Reflections” before his passing.

There were a few factors that influenced my decision to enlist. Several of my cousins were in the service at the time, three Air Force, two Army, one Coast Guard, and a brother in law in the Navy, so there was a strong family influence.

Another factor was the Civil Air Patrol, I was in the cadet program where I had the opportunity to become familiar with the Air Force and I found that it suited me. There was also a touch of patriotism contributing to my decision to enlist. This was the mid 60’s and there was an anti military air about the country which bothered me. Seeing the anti-war demonstrations aggravated me and I was ashamed of those of my generation for participating in what I considered to be unpatriotic behavior.

Then there was my circle of neighborhood friends, the guys that I grew up with, played sports with, went to school with and chased the neighborhood girls with. Most of them were two years ahead of me in school. When graduation was out of the way the next order of business was a visit to the recruiting offices. So, the day after I graduated from high school found me in the Air Force recruiting office of TSgt Day signing a delayed enlistment contract. It is a decision I have never regretted.


After basic I was sent to Keesler AFB, MS. For the 48 week long Aircraft Control and Warning Radar Maintenance course. So my first year in the service was spent in training. My first assignment was with the 765th Radar Sq. at Charleston AFS, ME. I was destined to spend the majority of the next twenty plus years on small, isolated, radar sites, far removed from the real flying Air Force.

Two years and one day later I was on my way to the 792nd Radar Sq. at North Charleston AFS, SC. Which coincidentally is my home town.

One year later, after a quick trip back to Keesler AFB for additional training, I was sitting atop Monkey Mountain, home of the 620th Tactical Control Sq., six air miles north of Da Nang RVN.

Returning stateside one year later I got the garden spot assignment to the 701st Air Defense Sq. at Ft. Fisher AFS, NC. Being such a plush assignment I was out of there at my one year mark. After a six week TDY to McClellan AFB, CA for additional training, I jumped the pond and landed in Germany with the 603rd Tactical Control Sq. – a mobile unit that lived more like grunts than like the spoiled airmen we are thought to be. I managed almost four years of trucks, tents, and C-rats then headed back to the good old USA. The destination this time was Fortuna AFS, ND. The 780th Air Defense Group needed another SSgt for their AN/FPS-35 Radar system maintenance team.

Just a little over one year later, I was ordered back to Keesler AFB for twelve weeks of additional training. After that party was over it was back to Germany, back to the trucks, tents and C-rats -back to playing Air Force grunt! This trip found me at Pruem AS in the Snee Eifel, home to the 612th Tactical Control Flight.

Five years later I returned to the States, California to be exact – back to McClelland AFB and the 1849th Electronic Installation Sq. With that outfit you don’t sit at home for very long, there was one TDY after another travelling all over the country and the world. As much as I loved the Tactical Units, EIS was my idea of the ideal job. As NCOIC of the Heavy Radar section I felt like I had the best job in the Air Force. It didn’t last long. I soon received orders to Cambridge Bay Canada, attached to the 4700th Air Defense Sq. DEW Systems Office. As a member of a Contract Performance Evaluation Team we were to travel the DEW Line from Point Lay, Alaska, across the very top of Canada, to the East coast of Greenland. Living a frozen nomad-like existence. With twin engine Otters as our camels we crisscrossed the Arctic stopping at isolated radar sites who were just ecstatic to see an Air Force Inspection Team drop in and disrupt their daily routines. As hard as I tried to get back to McClelland and the 1849th EIS, the assignment section had other plans for me. I was shipped back to the Garden Spot again and finished up my twenty two years of active duty at the 701st Radar Sq. at Ft. Fisher AFS,NC. The decision to retire turned out to be a bad one. Wish I had stayed in.


In a round about way I guess you could say I did. As the maintainer of the radar equipment that presented the data to the scopes that the operators used to direct our aircraft against enemy targets, I was a participant. If ducking for cover as the occasional rocket or mortar fell is participating, I did.
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Major Pays Tribute to Fallen Canadian Soldier

foxTo pay tribute to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on behalf of all Marines, A USMC veteran spent his time marching around the National War Memorial last week in Ottawa.

Recipient of FIVE purple hearts, three bronze stars and many other awards, highly decorated Vietnam veteran Major (Fox) Sinke traveled to the National War Memorial to show the world that Canadian and American veterans stand united in the face of terrorism.

“There are those of us who understand what’s happening and we’re not gonna lie down for it,” he said. “Not gonna happen. That’s basically why I’m here. I’m just here to make my own little personal damn statement.”

View Major Sinke’s records here:


Japanese Soldier Surrendering 30 Years After End of WWII

By the summer of 1945, the Japanese navy and air force were destroyed. Its army had been decimated. The Allied naval blockade of Japan and intensive bombing of Japanese cities had left the country and its economy devastated, it’s people suffering.

After the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack, factions of Japan’s supreme war council favored unconditional surrender but the majority resisted. When the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito told the supreme war council to negotiate the unconditional surrender. To the Japanese his word was that of a god.

On Sunday, September 2, 1945, more than 250 Allied warships lay at anchor in Tokyo Bay. Just after 9 a.m. on board the USS Missouri General Douglas MacArthur presided over the official surrender ceremony as Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed on behalf of the Japanese government. General Yoshijiro Umezu then signed for the Japanese armed forces. His aides wept as he made his signature. The most devastating war in human history was over.

Within days defeated Japanese forces surrendered their arm and returned to their homeland. But not all of them!
Japanese holdouts or stragglers either adamantly doubted the truth of the formal surrender due to strong dogmatic or militaristic principles, or simply were not aware of it because communications had been cut off during the United States island-hopping campaign.

For years after the war was over they continued to fight the enemy forces, and later local police. Some Japanese holdouts volunteered during the First Indochina War and Indonesian War of Independence (our Vietnam War) to free Asian colonies from Western control despite these having once been colonial ambitions of Imperial Japan before and during World War II.

Among the holdouts was intelligence officer Lt. Hiroo Onada. In 1944, Lt. Onoda was sent by the Japanese Army to the remote Philippine island of Lubang. His mission was to conduct guerrilla warfare against Allied forces. Once on the island, Onoda was supposed to blow up the pier at the harbor and destroy the Lubang airfield.

Unfortunately, the garrison commanders decided not to help Onoda on his mission and soon the island was overrun by the Allies. Most of the Japanese troops on the island withdrew or surrendered. A small number of Japanese, convinced the surrender by the Emperor of Japan was a hoax, retreated into the inner regions of the island and split into small groups to avoid capture. As these groups dwindled in size after several attacks, the remaining soldiers split into cells of 3 and 4 people. There were four people in Onoda’s cell: Corporal Shoichi Shimada (age 30), Private Kinshichi Kozuka (age 24), Private Yuichi Akatsu (age 22), and Lt. Hiroo Onoda (now age 23).

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