By the summer of 1944, continuous successes against the Japanese placed Allied forces on the doorsteps of its mainland. Convinced an invasion of Japan was necessary for a final victory, military commanders began planning for an amphibious landing on the strategically located Iwo Jima, roughly 575 miles from the Japanese coast. Once in the hands of the Allies, Iwo Jima would be a perfect place where B-29 bombers, damaged over Japan, could land without returning all the way to the Mariana Islands retaken from the Japanese after brutal fighting on Guam, Saipan and Tinian. It would also serve as a base for escort fighters that would assist in the bombing campaign.
In June 1944, Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher’s Task Force began naval ship bombardments and air raids against Iwo Jima in preparation for an amphibious assault. One hundred and fifty miles north of Iwo Jima was Chichi Jima, another target of multiple bombings beginning on June 1944 and ending September 1944. These earlier raids and those prior to the landing on Iwo Jima on February 3, 1945, the total number of ship barrages and air raids were among the longest and most intense of the Pacific theater.
On Chichi Jima, the 25,000 Japanese operated a Naval Base, a small seaplane base, a weather station, and various gunboat, sub-chaser, and minesweeping units, as well as relay communications and surveillance operations from two radio relay stations atop its two mountains. While destroying the supply and repair operations were key, one of the primary target was the destruction of the radio relay transmitter.
At 7:15 am, on Sept. 3, 1944, four Avengers were launched from the USS San Jacinto, to join four Hellcats from the USS Enterprise. Each of the fighters carried four 500 pound bombs. Twenty-year-old Lieutenant Junior Grade George H. W. Bush was one of the Avenger pilots.
When the aircraft arrived over Chichi Jima shortly after 8 am, they began attacking designated targets. Bush was the third pilot to dive on the radio tower transmitter. After nosing over into a 30 degree dive, Bush lined up on the target when his Avenger plane was hit by antiaircraft fire, engulfing it in flames. He continued unto the target and with his visibility blinded by the smoke, released his bombs. All four made direct hits on the radio tower. Flying away from the island, his burning plane lost power. He radioed his crew, Radioman Second Class John Delaney and gunner Lieutenant Junior Grade William White, to “Hit the silk!”
Wanting to get a few more miles away from the island, Bush stayed at the controls as long as he could allowing Radioman John Delaney to bail out only to die when his parachute failed to open. LtJg William White went down with the aircraft.
When Bush jumped over the side of his aircraft, the slipstream caught his lanky frame and sent it crashing into the tail of the Avenger. His head grazed the starboard elevator and his parachute snagged on the tail and ripped.With a few torn panels, the chute plummeted too fast, dropping Bush hard into the ocean. Only slightly bruised from the fall, he waited for four hours in an inflated raft, while several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine USS Finback. For the next month he remained on the Finback, and participated in the rescue of other pilots. (Photo is Bush’s rescue by submarine crew members)
Several other American flyers on the same bombing mission were also shot down and those few who survived were captured by Japanese soldiers and held prisoners on Chichi Jima Island.
As the date for the February 3, 1945 amphibious invasion on Iwo Jima grew closer, bombing intensified over Iwo Jima and nearby Chichi Jima. During these bombing operations more than one hundred American airmen were shot down over and around the Bonin Islands, but American submarines were able to rescue only three of them, including future U.S. President George H. W. Bush. Most of the others died with their aircraft or succumbed to the cold waters off Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima. Only a few were captured and taken to Chichi Jima as Prisoners of War. That brought a total of nine American airmen known to have been captured. Then they seemed to disappear from the face of the earth.
MUS1c John Coltrane
Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/384295
Short Bio: Coltrane made his first professional Jazz appearance in 1945 playing alto in the Jimmy Johnson Big Band. Later that year, during World War II, he was drafted into the US Navy. While stationed in Hawaii he played clarinet in the Navy band called the Melody Masters.
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By Bruce Herschensohn, Prager University
Decades back, in late 1972, South Vietnam and the United States were winning the Vietnam War decisively by every conceivable measure. That’s not just my view. That was the view of our enemy, the North Vietnamese government officials. Victory was apparent when President Nixon ordered the U.S. Air Force to bomb industrial and military targets in Hanoi, North Viet Nam’s capital city, and in Haiphong, its major port city, and we would stop the bombing if the North Vietnamese would attend the Paris Peace Talks that they had left earlier. The North Vietnamese did go back to the Paris Peace talks, and we did stop the bombing as promised.
On January the 23rd, 1973, President Nixon gave a speech to the nation on primetime television announcing that the Paris Peace Accords had been initialed by the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and the Accords would be signed on the 27th. What the United States and South Vietnam received in those accords was victory. At the White House, it was called “VV Day,” “Victory in Vietnam Day.”
The U.S. backed up that victory with a simple pledge within the Paris Peace Accords saying: should the South require any military hardware to defend itself against any North Vietnam aggression we would provide replacement aid to the South on a piece-by-piece, one-to-one replacement, meaning a bullet for a bullet; a helicopter for a helicopter, for all things lost — replacement. The advance of communist tyranny had been halted by those accords.
Then it all came apart. And it happened this way: In August of the following year, 1974, President Nixon resigned his office as a result of what became known as “Watergate.” Three months after his resignation came the November congressional elections and within them the Democrats won a landslide victory for the new Congress and many of the members used their new majority to de-fund the military aid the U.S. had promised, piece for piece, breaking the commitment that we made to the South Vietnamese in Paris to provide whatever military hardware the South Vietnamese needed in case of aggression from the North. Put simply and accurately, a majority of Democrats of the 94th Congress did not keep the word of the United States.
On April the 10th of 1975, President Gerald Ford appealed directly to those members of the congress in an evening Joint Session, televised to the nation. In that speech he literallybegged the Congress to keep the word of the United States. But as President Ford delivered his speech, many of the members of the Congress walked out of the chamber. Many of them had an investment in America’s failure in Vietnam. They had participated in demonstrations against the war for many years. They wouldn’t give the aid.
On April the 30th South Vietnam surrendered and Re-education Camps were constructed, and the phenomenon of the Boat People began. If the South Vietnamese had received the arms that the United States promised them would the result have been different? It already had been different. The North Vietnamese leaders admitted that they were testing the new President, Gerald Ford, and they took one village after another, then cities, then provinces and our only response was to go back on our word. The U.S. did not re-supply the South Vietnamese as we had promised. It was then that the North Vietnamese knew they were on the road to South Vietnam’s capital city, Saigon, that would soon be renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
Former Arkansas Senator William Fulbright, who had been the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made a public statement about the surrender of South Vietnam. He said this, “I am no more distressed than I would be about Arkansas losing a football game to Texas.” The U.S. knew that North Vietnam would violate the accords and so we planned for it. What we did not know was that our own Congress would violate the accords. And violate them, of all things, on behalf of the North Vietnamese. That’s what happened.
T/4 Rod Serling
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/180324
Short Bio: Serling served as a U.S. Army paratrooper and demolition specialist with the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 11th Airborne Division in the Pacific Theater in World War II from January 1943 to January 1945 (Discharged stateside in 1946). He was seriously wounded in the wrist and knee during combat and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
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RM2 Kenneth Jordan
U.S. Coast Guard
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PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
My best friend and neighbor growing up didn’t finish high school and went into the Coast Guard four months before graduation. Over the next two years I followed his career since he was stationed only 110 miles away on CGC Coos Bay. I took him back to his ship whenever he came home on liberty or leave and met many of his shipmates.
Two years out of high school it was time for me to consider the military, and since I was familiar with the Coast Guard and how it plays such a significant peacetime mission, the choice was easy.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
Since high school I had been working for an electronics parts wholesale distributor. Nearly everyone working there had an amateur radio license and encouraged me to get one, which I did (the boss gave me a $5 bonus when I got my call sign). It was my hope to get to radio school and become a shipboard radioman. Near the end of boot camp I took the test with 3 other shipmates. We all made it to school and roomed together. Even though I graduated 2nd in class I didn’t get my 3rd class rate because I failed to copy at 15 words per minute. That really spurred me on when I got to my first ship, and 6 months later I made RM3. My Chief, John Gellings, was a good teacher and I made RM2 eight months later. With two years in I wanted to test myself to see if I wanted to make a career of the service, so I asked for an assignment where there would only be 1 or 2 other radiomen to rely on.
My next assignment in 1962 was to the USCGC Casco (WHEC-370) where I was the only radioman responsible for all communications when underway. With a crew of 45 men it was more like family and I really enjoyed my time on this ship. In cooperation with universities in the eastern United States and international agencies, Casco conducted oceanographic experiments between South America and Africa from August 1, 1963 to August 19, 1963. The Casco was home ported in Boston, MA for the duration of her life in the Coast Guard. The cutter participated in ocean station, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations in the Atlantic Ocean. A balloon shelter was added aft; there were spaces devoted to oceanographic equipment and hydrographic and oceanographic winches were added.
In 1964 I was assigned to the USCGC Hornbeam (WLB-394/NODM); a cutter with a legendary past. Following the collision between passenger ships Andrea Doria and Stockholm off Nantucket on July 26, 1956, Hornbeam assisted with rescue operations. The bow of the Swedish ship crashed through passenger cabins and 46 passengers and crew were killed, sinking the Andrea Doria into the bottom of the Atlantic. Five crewmen of the Stockholm were killed in the collision but she was able to limp back to New York.
On August 7, 1958 Hornbeam assisted rescue operations following the collision between merchant ship Graham and oil taker Gulf Oil in the east passage of Narragansett Bay. On January 29, 1961 she assisted USCGC Spar aground in Narragansett Bay.
While I was assigned to the ship we escorted USS Atka, which was taking on water off New Bedford, MA. That was in March and April 1965. In late November 1965 Hornbeam assisted the merchant ship American Pilot and Maumee Sun following their collision west of the Cape Cod Canal.
A little over six years after I left the Hornbeam, she had her own collision in which she sustained damage to her starboard side. It happened 24, 1972 when she collided with the British merchant ship Docelago. Fortunately there were no casualties aboard either ship.
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN COMBAT, PEACEKEEPING OR HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
Although I served a little over a year in the Vietnam era I did not see combat or go overseas. I do however remember very well going to DEFCON 2 for 13 days during the Cuban Missile Crisis; sometimes referred to as the October Crisis or The Missile Scare. When the Navy was fully deployed, our ship, CGC Casco, was assigned to escort an aircraft carrier from Boston Navy Yard to Cuba. We got underway and had just reached Boston outer harbor when we got word to stand down as the crisis was over. A near miss!
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a tense, 13-day political and military standoff in October 1962 between the leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba, just 90 miles from U.S. shores. In a TV address on October 22, 1962, President John Kennedy notified Americans about the presence of the missiles and said the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security. Following this news, many people feared the world was on the brink of nuclear war. However, disaster was avoided when the U.S. agreed to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s (1894-1971) offer to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for the U.S. promising not to invade Cuba. Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My fondest memories were my 18 months on the CGC Hornbeam. It was stationed at Woods Hole on Cape Cod. There were a number of shipmates that I became very good friends with and whenever we were in port we had great times together going ashore.
I had gotten married and was able to live with my wife in an apartment off base. It was a working ship, going out about 3 or 4 days a week, sometimes 3 days in a row staying overnight, but many times out at 8 am and back by 7 PM. I felt our work was useful, and as the only radioman, I felt my job was important.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
There are two. While on the CGC Casco we took part in an International Scientific study, EQUALANT II, involving many countries studying the water temperature and weather patterns along the equator. We sailed from Boston, MA to a point off the coast of the Canary Islands and back along the equator to Rio de Janereio, where we had 3 days liberty. In the 30 plus days of sailing I was initiated as a Shellback crossing the equator and we travelled 10,000 nautical miles.
The second memory was a rescue at sea in a hurricane. We had been undergoing efficiency training with the Navy at Gitmo when hurricane Floyd hit Cuba and we were ordered to ride it out at sea. After about 5 days of pretty rough sailing we returned to Gitmo where we were ordered to return to Boston. Riding some still pretty rough seas we were on the outskirts of hurricane Ginny. Off the coast of North Carolina we were ordered by the 5TH District Commander to turn into hurricane Ginny to locate the Navy DE-57 USS Fogg. It was being towed for decommissioning when its tow line broke and the Navy Tug headed to port. There was a 10 man decommissioning crew on board. After 1 1/2 days we found the ship, established communications and stayed with it until the CG Tug Chilula arrived. We then escorted the tow into Norfolk before returning to Boston. The official record states that seas were 65 ft. and winds 90MPH. The Commandant of the Coast Guard sent us a letter of commendation for our efforts.
IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.
The Commandant’s Letter of Commendation for the rescue of DE-57, the good conduct medal for 3 yrs. proficiency and conduct, the sea service ribbon for over 3 yrs. at sea, and the National Defense Ribbon for more than 90 days service after April 1964 when the Vietnam War was declared.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
I was proud to be a sea sailor and appreciate my sea service ribbon. The National Defense Medal because I did serve during the Vietnam era and for 18 months was subject to being called for overseas duty.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
My first Chief, John Gellings. There were 10 radiomen on the Casco and he did an excellent job of guiding all of us. I worked very hard to obtain my 2nd Class stripes and when I had completed all the courses and passed all the military questions I brought mypapers to him to sign and pass forward. He told me I had to pass his test first. It was a 40 question open book test, and I spent a lot of time while on watch on an Ocean Station Patrol going through pubs and looking for answers. It took me the whole 30 days, but in the process of searching I kept coming across other interesting information that I would read or note down.
When we arrived back in port he graded my test (38 right out of 40 – two answers I couldn’t find) and sent my papers right in. Smart ways to have me learn even more than I needed. He said he didn’t want anybody learning how to be 2nd class on the job; they needed to know before he would recommend the rate. He was very pleasant and good natured and we had an excellent radio crew because of him.
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?
There was a St. Patrick’s Day when 4 of us thought it would be neat to wear green neckerchiefs instead of our blue ones. They really stood out on our dress blues, but every bar we went to someone bought us a drink.
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?
After service I went back to my former civilian job, but 2 years later I started a career in real estate sales. Forty four years later I am still full time selling and I have no plans to stop anytime soon.
I have one son who retired a year ago as a CPO in the Navy and a younger son who just completed his 12th year in the Navy and is an Aviation Machinist’s Mate First Class. My wife and I live in a home we built 14 years ago in a typical New England village. My hobbies are antique cars, gardening on our 7 acres and travel throughout New England.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
It taught me to focus and work hard toward my goals. My leadership training has helped me in many ways, and working under great pressure, as during a rescue or emergency at sea, has helped me in life’s further challenges.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE COAST GUARD?
Take advantage of every opportunity to learn, do the best job you can, and be respectful to those who have responsibility above you.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
It has connected me with 4 shipmates from boot camp and school. It has also helped me learn about others who had similar experiences to mine and makes me feel like a ‘team member” even after all these years.
Instructors, crew and students of a Coast Guard National Motor Lifeboat School class train
for heavy weather boat operations in the harsh environment of Cape Disappointment
in the Pacific Northwest Nov. 12, 2009.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jamie E. Parsons)
During the last few years of World War II, the United States and Soviet Union – both long weary of the other – became unlikely allies against Adolf Hitler’s takeover of Eastern Europe. Following the defeat of German in 1945, however, the wartime allies became mortal enemies, locked in a global struggle to prevail militarily, ideologically and politically in a new “Cold War.” To learn of the other side’s military and technical capabilities, their actions and intentions, both sides used spies to gather information and intelligence about their enemy.
Alarmed over rapid developments in military technology by his Communist rivals, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a plan to gather information about Soviet capabilities and intentions using reconnaissance aircraft. Thus became the birth of the U-2 spy planes.Beginning in 1956, U-2 spy planes were making reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union giving the U.S. its first detailed look at Soviet military facilities. Managed first by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and later the U.S. Air Force, the U-2 provided day and night, very high-altitude (70,000), all-weather intelligence gathering. It was relatively slow, however.
The aircrafts vulnerability and the need for a faster reconnaissance aircraft was underscored following the downing of two U-2s. The first in 1960 when Francis Gary Powers’s U-2 was shot down over the Soviet Union and the 1962 fatal downing of Air Force Major Rudolf Anderson’s U-2 after being hit with a Soviet missile while flying over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crises.
Looking to replace the U-2, the CIA turned to Kelly Johnson, one of the preeminent aircraft designers of the twentieth century, and his Lockheed’s Skunk Works team. Together they had a track record of delivering “impossible” technologies on incredibly short, strategically critical deadlines. The design the team came up with became the SR-71, which became the precursor to “stealth” aircraft that followed.
A total of 32 aircraft were built; 12 were lost in accidents, but none lost to enemy action. Since 1976, with a speed exceeding 2,000 mph, it has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft.
CDR Jack Dempsey
US Coast Guard
Short Bio: In 1944 he was assigned to the transport USS Wakefield. In 1945 he was on the attack transport USS Arthur Middleton for the invasion of Okinawa. In July of 1945 he assigned to the Commander, 11th Naval District for assignment to Military Morale Duty. He was released from active duty in September 1945. He was given an honorable discharge from the Coast Guard Reserve in 1952.
(Veterans – view more military profiles of famous people on www.togetherweserved.com)