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10
Feb

Captain Jackie Cooper US Navy (1943-1982)

cooperView the Military Service of Actor/Director:

Captain Jackie Cooper

US Navy

(1943-1982)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/554837

Short Bio: Jackie Cooper was one of the few child actors that managed to have a career after growing up. He was also a true American hero – Cooper served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific towards the end of World War Two with Claude Thronhill and The Band of the US Navy Liberation Forces. He later became a leading naval recruitment officer in the Naval Reserve.

9
Feb

SP 4 Johnny S. Conroy U.S. Army (1967-1970)

conroyPersonal Service Reflections of US Soldier:

SP 4 Johnny S. Conroy

U.S. Army

(1967-1970)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Johnny.Conroy

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE ARMY?

A family history of military service played a big role. My brother SK2 Timothy Alan Conroy served with me aboard the USS Coral Sea in 1966-67, including one tour off the coast of Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin.

My brother SN Kelly Joe Conroy served in the Navy from 1970-74. Another brother served two tours with the Marines in Vietnam and was wounded twice.

My father Private J. R Conroy, Jr., served with Company G, 142nd Infantry Regiment 36th Infantry Division during the invasion of Italy (Salerno) in WWII, going ashore with the first wave of Americans to invade Europe. A combat related injury required his reassignment to CONUS by January 1944.

My uncle, Private Brady Cowan, was killed on Iwo Jima while serving with the 28th Marines during World War II.

My grandfather Private J. R. Conroy Sr. served in Company B, 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, then Troop H, 1st US Cavalry regiment during the Spanish American War.

My great-great-grandfather Private S. C. Cowan served with the 14th Brigade, Texas State Militia before and after Confederate Army service; in the 14th Battalion Cavalry, Texas State Troops, Confederate States Army; and in Company E, 2nd Regiment Cavalry, Confederate States Army in the Trans-Mississippi Department during 1863 and 1864.

My great-great-grandfather Private J. L. Brooks served in Company G, 27th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, Colquitt’s Brigade, Confederate States Army from 1862-1865. The Brigade served in the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee while he was a member.

My great-great-grandfather Private John Joseph Barton served in Company B, 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment, Rodes’ Division, (Jackson’s) 2nd Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, Confederate States Army from early 1861 to the end of the war. He was seriously wounded at Malvern Hill and again at Chancellorsville. Physically unable to continue to function in the infantry he became a teamster for the division train from late 1863 until war’s end.

My great-great-great grandfather, Sergeant John Wilkes Barton, served in Company C, 3rd Alabama Reserve Infantry Regiment, Confederate States Army from 1864 to war’s end.

So once the war started it was inevitable that I would find a way out of the Navy (expiration of enlistment) and into combat.

For more data on my military ancestors see their military tribute sites on this web site, Navy, USMC, and Army TWS.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.

I enlisted in the US Navy in 1963 at the age of 17. After boot camp at San Diego I was assigned as a deck hand (unrated Boatswain’s Mate striker) in the1st Division on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CV-43). Our ship’s pilots began the sustained bombing of North Vietnam on February 7, 1965 and we continued operations in the Gulf of Tonkin until December. We returned to the Gulf in July 1966 and left in 1967. I had transferred from 1st to GM Division to become a member of the Sidewinder guided missile crew in June 1965.

While in the Navy I attended a Navy firefighter school at Naval Station Treasure Island, became a qualified helmsman (driving the carrier around), and attended a Sidewinder Guided Missile School at Naval Air Station Coronado, California. I was discharged an Aviation Ordnanceman Third Class in May 1967. By Thanksgiving 1967, I enlisted in the US Army specifically for infantry duty.

After AIT I was given a PMOS of 45H20 (for guided missiles) and it took 6 months to get that resolved. I was by then through a leadership course and teaching machine guns to OCS Candidates at the Infantry School. PMOS 11B4H (Instructor) was awarded.

After a year at USAIC, Ft Benning, I was assigned to Vietnam, then the 101st Airborne Division, where I attended Screaming Eagles Combat Leader’s Course 39 at Camp Ray, Bien Hoa. Then I arrived at Camp Sally, I Corps and was assigned to A Company, 1st Battlion, 501st Infantry. I was involved in the tail of Operation Massachusetts Striker and the short-lived Operation Bristol Boots in the A Shau Valley.

On May 12, 1969, the North Vietnam Army (NVA) began a major offensive throughout the Americal Division area of operations at LZ’s Baldy, Center, and Professional. Our battalion was then op-conned (operational control) from 2nd to 1st Brigade and we were sent south to the Tam Ky area to bail the Americal Division out of the only Tactical Emergency declared during the war (Operation Lamar Plain).

We fought the 2nd NVA Division on and around the besieged FSB Professional and in the jungles and hills for several months until I was WIA for the second time and medevaced to Japan for medical treatment. I returned to Nam but then was quickly reassigned to Ft. Benning in late September 1969, which ended my desire for any further Army duty.

I served in the 1st Battalion, 58th Infantry (Mech, 197th Infantry Brigade until my release from active duty in December 1970. During that time I attended Personnel Management classes and became a TOW guided missile instructor.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?

From the time I left LZ Sally enroute to A Company, 1st Battalion, 501th in the A Shau Valley I was involved in combat ops of some sort. A brief layover of three or four days on Fire Base Thor in the middle of the A Shau Valley introduced me to dailyincoming fire.

I was finally relieved of the drudgery of filling sandbags on Thor in order to build it up. I was flown to FB Whip, near the Laotian border at the southern end of the A Shau. Once I was assigned to a squad I began helping to empty sandbags in order to tear down the base and to shut it down. Go figure!

While at Whip for several days we experienced tragedy when three men were blown to pieces by a case of grenades detonating in a fire. It was something I still visualize often and will not further describe here.

After several days at Whip the company was extracted (under harassing fire) and flown elsewhere in the A Shau to FB Pike. That evening, during a heavy rain storm, we walked off Pike and began patrolling the A Shau Valley.

I think that at this point I was the typical cherry grunt boy-san. I felt very alone and miserable. I was in such a new element I had no clue as to what was going on. The weather was wet, muddy and slippery the first night, all night due to continuing heavy rain, but we marched, up and down hills and ridges made nearly impassable because of thick jungle until well after dark, finally stopping and spending the night in a cold heavy downpour. The next day was hot and very humid and I was introduced to the norm in the field: sweating and humping with a 75-pound rucksack tearing into my shoulders and in the company of men snaking accordion-like through the jungle.

We were out for a good number of days, well over a week, but it was all a blur to me as I tried to adapt to this new experience and ever-changing situations. We marched and marched and got ambushed several times by trail watchers and fortunately never found the NVA in force. I fired very few shots, if any and never saw an NVA soldier. A wake up call was our LT deciding we could cut across country and head off and kill a trail watcher who had just ambushed our point man. After running full bore until even he saw the futility he led us full bore back across the jungle, through wait-a-minute vines, etc. I had a very hard time making it back up the hill to the company, where I was greeted by a medic with water and a pill and looks of disdain from the old guys and demeaning mutterings about “f—ing cherry.” But I found out later that it wasn’t only me, at least three of us were really dragging and barely functioning, probably on the verge of heat exhaustion.

To make matters worse the LT had a shortage of Sergeants and put me in charge of a loose “squad” of several soldiers. I was mortified that I would get someone killed due to my lack of experience and told him so. But he said that was just the way it was until some Sergeants got into our ranks. He then turned and walked off.

Well, luckily, we had no major contact and things rocked along as I began to acclimate and bear the burden better. I had no clue where we were, but was told later that we were patrolling the Ruong Ruong Valley and the southern A Shau Valley, and possibly Laos–depending on who read the map.

In order to maintain brevity I’ll just say we had excellent leaders in our unit.

On May 15th we were extracted back to FB Pike by slicks, then to Phu Bai Airport by Chinook where we were refitted and sent to Tam Ky to bail the Americal Division out of a pending disaster. They were losing the equivalent of a company a day in combat and had lost most of their AO to the control of the NVA. Thus, Operation Lamar Plain began, with 1st Battalion, 501th Infantry and 2nd Battlaion, 501th Infantry taking on the 2nd NVA Division. Some remaining Americal units also participated in the operation.

On May 17th my platoon attempted a night insertion to reinforce the battalion in a vicious fight. The lead pilot refused to land as we encountered fierce small arms and .51 cal. fire with all of his birds calling in hits.

Alpha Company went on to FB Professional which was under siege from rockets, mortars, recoilless rifles and ground assaults. After a harrowing week providing security and dodging everything imaginable we turned to patrolling.

On May 25th we got into a vicious firefight with my squad losing two very good soldiers. By this time there were two Sergeants in the squad and I was just another rifleman. One fire team overran a bunker and I and another guy held a mortar team at bay until help arrived and dispatched the remainder of them. We killed seven, I think, and took an NVA Sergeant prisoner.

As small firefights continued through the AO, we racked up losses and got some confirmed kills as well. It was lots of combat from the time we hit Tam Ky until after I was gone a few months later.

On June 2nd the battalion began the fight for Hill 376 and fought a reinforced NVA regiment for eight days and nights until we possessed the whole thing. It was a horrendous battle and we took many casualties in the companies and the battalion. Alpha Company was down to two undermanned platoons by then and I was assigned to a 90mm recoilless rifle team. We generally provided security for the HQ element, ran details such as ammo resupply to the squads, sometimes joined with them to fight, provided security for the overflowing battalion aid station and LZ, covered any withdrawal the company made, and did whatever else the captain asked. And we were responsible for using the 90, which had no sight due to shrapnel knocking it off. A Sgt. First Class became Platoon Leader when 2-6 was KIA. On the final day of the hill fight Gene Lunn, the 90 gunner, and I assisted Charlie Company knocking out a bunker after they had lost two men trying. Our shots were the last of the hill fight.

For the survivors it was back to patrolling, ambushes, fire fights, medevacs, resupply, air support, some few booby traps. One day turned into another as we pushed along searching for the NVA. I have no idea as to the chronology of events during the hill fight, or in the days following. We were so sleep deprived and weary that there was no way to understand the order of things, even to this day.

Then we went back to LZ Professional for more incoming fire and security duty. I was WIA, a small piece of shrapnel in the chest from a mortar, and returned to duty. Our last LT was WIA at the same time, leaving the CO the only Alpha Company officer in the field.

We had a two day drunken stand down at Chu Lai, and returned to the field, a hot LZ, 23 civilian  prisoners, 1 NVA KIA and 1 POW. The point man and I were still drunk and had walked right past a bunker when our Kit Carson Scout came up and took over. We sobered up in a hurry while he killed one and captured another. I have forgotten his name but our Kit Carson Scout was an ex-Viet Cong and a superb soldier. He was KIA in 1970.

The Americal Division had thrown us out into the field regardless of our condition after we were “disruptive” and even riotous toward them. That displayed their lack of leadership to me as much as Mai Ly did later and their loss of territory to the NVA control did in both 1967 and 1969, when in both cases the 101st Airborne had to come bail them out, losing many troopers in the process, but getting the job done.

Back in the field it was indistinguishable days and nights. At some point my old Lt, I think after 1-6 was WIA with me on Professional, had already done his field time but volunteered to come back to the field where he and a couple of other LT’s and replacements reformed the 3 platoons. We had had so many replacements lost so quickly I never knew some of their names. One got off the chopper, chatted with me, went to another company and was KIA within 20 minutes. Another who got off the chopper and went to get water, was shot 20 meters from the slick and medevaced with a head wound. It was continuous, or so it seemed.

Finally, on July 8 we set up a company perimeter in plenty of time to dig in before dark. I was a machine gunner by that time and argued with my Sergeant about where to set the gun up, to no avail. So my assistant gunner and I dug in. Just before dark the LT came to our position and told me to move the gun to the trail, where I had wanted it all along. There was no time to dig in. We had lots of movement to our front, our LP set its Claymores off when someone tripped a flare at their position, and we were at 50% alert early in the night. Things settled down and I laid on the ground to sleep. I was awakened when I was hit in the outer left thigh by a large piece of shrapnel. Ten or more of us were hit by artillery – our own. I was treated and carted up the hill in the dark, a harrowing and painful experience. We were medevaced in daylight, over 8 hours later.

My combat in Viet Nam was over, except for a few rounds thrown at a medevac plane I was lying in: just the NVA saying goodbye.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

A Company, 1st Battalion, 501th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

I saw such magnificent men perform under such strenuous circumstance. I was proud just to be a small part of them.

I won’t even go into the worse one. I might have another heart attack. I still bear grudges.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

Going one on one with an NVA soldier in my first serious fire fight, and prevailing.

IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

No. I was no hero, but walked with lots of them during my 7 years of service. I am proud that they knew that if they needed someone at their side or back I would be there and could be counted upon.

I still see some of these genuine heroes at reunions, but the ones we all consider heroes gave their lives covering our backs. The fallen are the biggest heroes.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

My Combat Infantryman’s Award. Many guys did much that went unrecognized, but the CIB meant that you were to be counted among the warrior ranks.

My two Purple Hearts mean more to those close to me than the CIB, because they do not understand the statement I made above. Thus, they are important as well. Otherwise, is sharing space with a high velocity projectile anything noteworthy?

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

This is difficult because I had so many good leaders at all levels. The 101st Airborne Division had many great leaders, including my company commander, Captain Patrick Maguire, who saw an attempt by the NVA to conduct a flank attack while our flank was “up in the air.” His actions saved the whole company from annihilation.

The biggest impact, though (other than keeping me alive in combat) was BM2 R. A. Fish on the USS Coral Sea during 1964-65. He understood that he had a bunch of uneducated, unskilled teenagers he had to turn from children into men and sailors, and when to give them leeway and when to tighten up. He was a hell of a leader.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

Yup! I stood on a hilltop talking with my Squad Leader, Terry Lucarelli, and our grenadier, Kenny Bunner, about our inability to dig into the dirt to make a fox hole at that location. The most we had succeeded in doing had been to scrape a shallow trench, about six inches deep and as wide as one man. There was a firefight going on the next hill, and a Navy Phantom came screaming over us at tree top level to bomb the enemy there. We knew we were going to catch a bunch of shrapnel from that.

So we all dove for the shallow trench, such as it was, at the same time. Terry was first to get into the trench with Kenny landing on top of him. I landed on top of Kenny, a full 18 inches or so ABOVE ground, which made me a great target. We caught a lot of small shrapnel, but no serious stuff, and had a good laugh about it afterward. We never did get a hole dug on that hill, either.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?

I worked for the USPS for a decade, then went into law enforcement. Twenty-three years of that and I retired. I am a Disabled Veteran.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

1. USS Coral Sea Association -annual reunions I attend every ten years or so.

2. Company A, 1st Battalion, 501th Infantry veterans. We have a loose organization and I attend reunions at least annually. There is the annual Kokomo reunion we attend, and others held in various places each year. We have web sites LZSally.com and Geronimo-VietNam.com and then the regular 1/501 Geronimo facebook site for anyone who ever served in it.

3. DAV

4. VFW

5. Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Specific benefits, other than at reunions – a cold beer? Spending occasional time with people I respect, for certain. Other than that I am not involved with any of them.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

My military experiences made me a confident and secure individual. I was always a leader at work, either formally or otherwise, because of this. It also gave me a certain pride in myself that I would not otherwise have experienced. One step toward being self-assured, which I believe I am.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE ARMY?

Thank you for protecting us. Your sacrifices are even more meaningful given what the politicians are doing to the military.

Find your old combat comrades NOW before they pass away one at a time and leave you stranded, if you are the lucky survivor. They get much harder to locate as time passes, and mean much more than many of us initially realize. Never stop searching for them.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

It has been a link to other 101st Airborne members of the era. Reading the details of other soldiers’ profiles has been a reminder of the great sacrifices made when ordinary men and women strive to become extraordinary in the service of their country and their countrymen.

That’s me of the left with two Vietnam buddies, Larry Darnall and Jon Quick in cammies.

6
Feb

Into the Rainbow

rainbow

A rainbow forms over the bow of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is undergoing an operational training period in preparation for future deployments.  MC3 Ignacio D. Perez/Navy

5
Feb

The Wereth 11 – Murder in the Ardennes

In the early hours of Dec. 16, 1944, Adolf Hitler’s army launched a massive surprise attack on Allied lines across the frozen, forested landscape of Belgium. Caught off-guard, the Americans fell back into defensive positions. For a few desperate days before Christmas, the outcome of the war in Europe hung in the balance.

Desperate battles to stem the German advance were fought at St.-Vith, Elsenborn Ridge, Houffalize and Bastogne. As the Germans drove deeper into the Ardennes in an attempt to secure vital bridgeheads, the Allied line took on the appearance of a large bulge, giving rise to the battle’s name: Battle of the Bulge.

The brutality rivaled that of the Eastern Front; no quarter was given. Incidents like the Malmedy Massacre became well-known. On the afternoon of December 17, 1944, over 80 GIs who had been taken prisoner were gunned down by men of the 1st SS Panzer Division. Some escaped to spread the story, which led to a steely resolve on the part of American troops.

But later that night another massacre occurred that received little attention during or after the war.

Shortly after the outbreak of Hitler’s Ardennes Offensive, members of the all-black 333rd Artillery Battalion were just eleven miles behind the front lines. With the rapid advance of the Germans, the 333rd was ordered to withdraw further west but two batteries, Charlie and Service Battery, were ordered to stay behind to give covering fire to the 106th Infantry Division.

On Dec 17th the 333rd were overrun with most killed or captured. The remnants of the unit were ordered to Bastogne and incorporated into its sister unit the 969th Field Artillery Battalion. Both units provided fire support for the 101st Airborne Division in the Siege of Bastogne, subsequently being awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Eleven soldiers, however, from the 333rd were separated from the unit shortly after they were overrun by the Germans. These men wound up in the little Belgian hamlet of Wereth, just 25 kilometers southwest of Malmedy, Belgium, site of another much more well-known WWII atrocity.

At about 3 pm on Dec 16, 1944, the 11 men approached the first house in the nine-house hamlet of Wereth, owned by Mathius Langer. A friend of the Langer’s was also present.

The men were cold, hungry, and exhausted after walking cross-country through the deep snow. They had two rifles between them. The Langer family welcomed them and gave them food. But this small part of Belgium did not necessarily welcome Americans as “Liberators.” This area had been part of Germany before the First World War and many of its citizens still saw themselves as Germans and not Belgians.

Word leaked out from a Nazi sympathizer in the area that the men had been sheltered and were hiding in the Langer home. When the SS troops approached the house about 4PM that day, the eleven Americans surrendered quickly, without resistance. The Americans were made to sit on the road, in the cold, until dark. The Germans then marched them down the road and gunfire was heard in the night.

In the morning, villagers saw the bodies of the men in a ditch at the corner of a cow pasture. Because they were afraid that the Germans might return, they did not touch the dead soldiers. The snow covered the bodies and they remained entombed in the snow until January when villagers directed members of the 99th Division’s I&R platoon to the site.

In the official US Army report it was revealed that the men had been brutalized, with broken legs, bayonet wounds to the head, and fingers cut off. It was apparent that one man was killed as he tried to bandage a comrade’s wounds.

In 2001, three Belgium citizens embarked on the task of creating a fitting memorial to these men and additionally to honor all Black GI’s of World War II. With the help of Norman Lichtenfeld, whose father fought and was captured in the Battle of the Bulge, a grassroots publicity and fund-raising endeavor was begun. The land was purchased and a fitting memorial was created. There are now road signs indicating the location of the memorial, and the Belgium Tourist Bureau lists it in the 60th Anniversary “Battle of the Bulge” brochures. The dedication of the memorial was held in 2004 in an impressive military ceremony.

It is believed that this is the only memorial to Black G.I.s and their units of World War II in Europe. Norman’s goal is to make the Wereth 11 and all Black G.I.s “visible” to all Americans and to history. They, like so many others, paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

Please visit his site where you can learn more about this dark and virtually unknown chapter from WWII. http://www.wereth.org/en/home

3
Feb

Cpl James Arness US Army (1943-1945)

arnessView the Military Service of Actor:

Cpl James Arness

US Army

(1943-1945)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/24013

Short Bio: Arness served during World War II with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, and was severely wounded during Operation Shingle, at Anzio, Italy, leading to a lifelong slight limp. A rifleman in 2nd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry, on January 25, 1944, he received his “baptism of fire” when he was almost killed by enemy 20 mm flak wagon fire during a night patrol behind enemy lines.

2
Feb

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)

(1972-2002)

Shadow Box: http://coastguard.togetherweserved.com/bio/Vince.Patton

Veterans – record your own Military Service Story atwww.togetherweserved.com at no charge)

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?

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.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.

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.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?

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.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

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.

IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

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.

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