View the service history of Football Hall of Famer:
PFC Art Donovan
US Marine Corps
View his Service Profile on TogetherWeServed.com http://marines.togetherweserved.com/profile/394447
Short Bio: During World War II, he served on active duty from Donavan1943 to 1945, and participated in significant combat operations in the Pacific. Donovan served as a antiaircraft gun crewman aboard the USS San Jacinto where he saw action in the following major raids and battles; Caroline Islands, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Luzon.
Read the service reflections of U.S. Air Force Airman:
CMSgt Gilberto Flores
U.S. Air Force (Ret)
If you are a veteran or a family member of a veteran, join us TogetherWeServed.com
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE AIR FORCE?
Having little or no money to attend college after high school, I decided to join the Air Force, learn a skill and obtain a degree. I’m pleased to say that the Air Force was very supportive of higher education, and I managed to obtain a BS degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, an Associates degree from the Community College of the Air Force, and another Associates degree from the University of Maryland. This education helped me gain employment in Aerospace when I retired from the Air Force.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
I was in the Administrative/Information Management career field in my early years as an Airman. When I enlisted in 1961, there were not many available or open career fields other than support type jobs such as Supply, Food Service, Personnel, and so on. Because I did not have 20/20 vision without glasses, I was unable to enter combat related fields such as Combat Control teams, Weather, Rescue, etc. which I really wanted. However, I managed to attain the grade of Staff Sgt. before I retrained in the Aircraft Maintenance career field which enabled me to be promoted all the way to Chief Master Sergeant.
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.
While assigned to the 315th Air Commander Group (TC) at Tan Son Nut AB, Republic of Vietnam and working in the Airlift Control Center by day, I volunteered to fly aboard C-123 aircraft as an Illuminator Operator (commonly called “flare kickers”). We flew an average of 8-10 hours at nightsupporting ground forces under attack by enemy combatants. Because we flew at low altitudes while dropping our flares, we were always subject to enemy ground fire. In fact, several of our assigned aircraft came back from the missions with bullet holes and other damage. During my 14 months in country we lost two C-123 aircraft due to enemy action.
I flew a total of 42 combat missions and was awarded the Air Medal, of which I am very proud. I was 8 combat missions short of an additional medal. At the time the criteria for the Air Medal was 25 combat missions.
It should be noted that my Air Commando Group consisted of four airlift squadrons, including the Ranch Hand squadron which was responsible for defoliant operations. Little did we know how “Agent Orange” would affect us later!
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My favorite assignment was in Vietnam with the 315th Air Commando Group. It was an honor to serve with outstanding Airman (Air Commandos) whom I greatly admired and who had a great history and tradition going all the way back to WWII. This is the group I have the fondest memories of due to the fact that we were in a war. In fact , I always make it a point to tell people that I was surrounded by heroes every day while I was in Vietnam.
My least favorite assignment was serving 6 months in Guam. Other than work, there was not much else to do and the time went slowly before we returned to our home base in California. Those 189 days in Guam seemed like the longest in my 26 year career. We were in Guam in support of B-52/KC-135 operations during Operation Arc Light missions in Vietnam. During that period, several SAC combat wings deployed to Guam and Thailand for six month periods on a rotational basis.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
Throwing out a “hot flare” while on a combat mission in early 1965. Flying through turbulence and ground fire, one of our flares did not clear the open ramp and came back in to the floor of our aircraft–hot. Being closest to the ramp at the time, I somehow managed to grab a hold of the flare and threw it out of the aircraft before it ignited. As soon as it cleared the aircraft it did ignite turning night into daylight.
I think the Good Lord was on our side that night, and I thank him frequently for saving our aircraft and my 10 fellow Airmen on board. Each flare has a million candle power when fully ignited, and we carried several hundred of them on each flight. The aircraft commander told me after the mission that we would have surely lost the aircraft had it ignited inside the aircraft.
IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.
Proud of my Air Medal and aircrew wings which I earned in Vietnam while flying as an additional crew member on C-123, C-130 and C-7 aircraft supporting our ground troops with flare drop missions.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Air Medal for combat service in Vietnam and my four Meritorious Service Medals (MSM) and Commendation Medals in recognition of my service. Award of these prestigious medals showed me that my Air Force appreciated my contributions to the mission.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
Master Sgt. Gilbert Ching, my Administration supervisor and role model at the 3595th Aerospace Test Wing at Vandenberg AFB. He always told me to be the best I can be in everything I do as an Airman, NCO or Civilian.
His leadership style and professionalism left an enduring, positive impact on me and stayed with me throughout my career and into my current life. I unfortunately lost contact with him, but I often think 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?
My NCOIC and I were traveling through the flight line at March AFB in the fall of 1968 when we inadvertently entered a highly restricted area. Needless to say, after being laid out on the hot runway by a dozen Security Policemen and two guard dogs, and having to face the old man afterward, this was not funny at the time. It was downright embarrassing.However, throughout the years, I laugh when I think about the incident and have fond memories of my NCOIC who took responsibility, since he was driving the maintenance truck when the incident (a 7-High) occurred.
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?
Due to my experience in the Air Force, I went in to the Aerospace profession with McDonnell Douglas and the Boeing Company. I worked a total of 15 years in aerospace, mainly on transport aircraft, including the C-17 program.
Presently, I am happily retired and working with Veteran service organizations such as the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America. I hold an officer position in each one of these organization. This keeps me busy and I enjoy helping my fellow Veterans and their families.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
As listed in my profile, I belong to several military associations such as the Air Force Association, the Air Commando Association and TREA.
They each offer their own specific benefits, but the most important thing that do is working with, and on behalf, of Veterans both active duty and retired. Additionally, my membership allows me to keep a connection to the U.S. Air Force, although I no longer serve in the military.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
It thought me management, leadership and personal skills which has served me well throughout my life and made me the person that I am.
Because of my many years serving in the U.S. Air Force, I strongly believe in and try to live my life in accordance with our Air Force creed of: “Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in All We Do.”
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE AIR FORCE?
Always aim high (it’s more than a slogan), get educated, do your job to the best of our ability, and love your country. Best of luck to those of you who have recently joined the Air Force. You are now part of a great heritage, a proud history and a member of the world’s finest Air Force.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
TogetherWeServed.com has allowed me to keep in contact with my fellow Airmen, whom I consider to be my brothers and sisters. Further, it has encouraged me to put together my military service and contributions in a well laid out personal profile for others to see if they wish. In short, I am proud to be a member of this great organization. Thank you for all you do on behalf of our Air Force.
Lastly, it has showed me those former members of the various units I served with, and who are no longer with us. Let us never forget them, and may they continue to rest in peace at Post Everlasting.
The extent of military contributions by communist Cuba and its communist dictator, Fidel Castro, to the North Vietnamese effort during the Vietnam War, is a murky matter that remains officially unresolved. Then and now, neither the communist governments of Vietnam nor Cuba have divulged any information on this matter, while maintaining a cloud of secrecy around their cooperative efforts. But there is no question that at the very least, there was a sizable contingent of Cuban military advisors present in North Vietnam during the war.
Several reports indicate that Cuban fighter pilots were even flying MIGs in aerial combat with American pilots over North Vietnam. One American advisor flying in a Sikorsky H-34 helicopter even used an M-79 grenade launcher to shoot down a Cuban flying a biplane in Northern Laos. This was the same kind of plane used in the attack against Lima Site 85 – the top-secret base in Laos providing guidance for American planes in the bombing of North Vietnam.
Among these Cuban advisors was a large contingent of several thousand combat engineers called the “Giron Brigade,” that was maintaining Route Nine (better known as the “Ho Chi Minh Trail”), the supply line running from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam. The contingent was so large, Cuba established a consulate in the jungle to support them. Engineers from this same unit were building the airport in Grenada when American forces overran it, and they suffered 84 casualties and 638 captured, small consolation for what they are reported to have inflicted on U.S. Forces in Vietnam.
A large number of American personnel serving in both Vietnam and Laos were either captured or killed along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and in all likelihood, many by the Cubans. One National Security Agency Signet report states that 18 American POWs were detained at the Phom Thong Camp in Laos, where they were closely guarded by Soviet and Cuban personnel, with Vietnamese soldiers outside the camp.
The most alarming and horrendous of Cuba’s involvements in the war in Vietnam was the torturing of American POWs, some of whom died from their beatings. The full extent of what happened became clear after a number of the POWs who returned home in Feb. 1973 told others what they had seen or heard in what became known as the “Cuban Program,” which was the name given by its victims to the separation of 19 American POWs from the Vietnamese POW system and their subsequent interrogation and torture by a small group of Caucasians who spoke English with an apparent Spanish accent, had an excellent knowledge of Central America, and at least one seemed to have spent some time in the southeastern United States.
The “Cuban Program” was initiated around August 1967 at the Cu Loc POW camp known as “The Zoo,” a former French movie studio on the southwestern edge of Hanoi. The American POWs gave their Cuban torturers the names “Fidel,” “Chico,” “Pancho” and “Garcia” The Vietnamese camp commander was given the name “The Lump” because of a fatty tumor growth in the middle of his forehead. He and various other Vietnamese cadre were often present during the brutal torture sessions administered by the Cubans. According to POW debriefing reports, “The Lump” told a group of POWs that the “Cuban Program” was a Hanoi University Psychological Study.
“Fidel,” the Cuban leader of the “Cuban Program” was described in debriefing reports as a “professional interrogator” According to an expert on Cuba, “Fidel’s” profile fits that of Cuban Dr. Miguel Angel Bustamente-O’Leary, President of the Cuban Medical Association. Bustamente is said to be an expert at extracting confessions through torture, and he was compared to the infamous Nazi, Dr. Joseph Mengele.
According to the same expert, “Chico’s” profile fits that of Maj. Fernando Vecino Alegret, and it was stated in two intelligence reports that his “un-Cuban appearance” caused speculation that he was actually a Soviet Bloc officer (possibly Czech) in a Cuban uniform.
“Fidel” and “Chico” weren’t the only Cubans who were involved with American POWs. As part of their propaganda program, Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish-born psychologist, interviewed Lt. John Sidney McCain Jr. (later U.S. Senator) for an article published in Cuba’s house-organ Granma on January 24, 1970. Barral was a card-carrying communist Internationale residing in Cuba and traveling on a Cuban passport.
Several other documents confirm that CIA analysts identified two Cuban military attaches, Eduardo Morjon Esteves (who reportedly served under diplomatic cover as a brigadier general at the United Nations in New York in 1977-78 with no attempt being made to either arrest or expel him), and Luis Perez Jaen, who respectively had backgrounds that seemed to correspond with information on Fidel and Chico, as supplied by returning POWs. However, unless the Cubans were overconfident, it is highly unlikely that those who participated in the “Cuban Program” would have used their actual names when serving in a professional capacity, since it is standard practice in undercover intelligence operations to use new identities.
Following his release, Maj. Jack Bomar, a Zoo survivor, described the brutal beating of Capt. Earl G. Cobeil, an F-105F EWO (Electronics Warfare Officer), by Cuban Maj. Fernando Vecino Alegret, known by the POWs as “Chico”: The sight of Cobeil stunned Bomar, he stood transfixed, trying to make himself believe that human beings could so batter another human being. The man could barely walk; he shuffled slowly, painfully. His clothes were torn to shreds. He was bleeding everywhere, terribly swollen, and a dirty, yellowish black and purple from head to toe. The man’s head was down; he made no attempt to look at anyone. He had been through much more than the day’s beatings.
His body was ripped and torn everywhere: “hell-cuffs” (which are applied to cut off circulation during what is known as the “Vietnamese rope trick,” where the arms are repeatedly cinched up behind the POW’s back until the elbows are forced together, then if the excruciating pain of applying the “hell-cuffs” don’t achieve the desired result, the arms are rotated upward further until the shoulders dislocate) appeared to have nearly severed his wrists; strap marks still wound around his arms all the way to the shoulders; slivers of bamboo were embedded in his bloodied shins; and there were what appeared to be tread marks from water hose beatings across his chest, back and legs.
As Cobeil related to Bomar, during the beating Fidel had smashed a fist into Cobeil’s face, driving him against the wall. Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of rubber hose from a guard and lashed it as hard as he could into Cobeil’s face. Cobeil did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. Again and again, a dozen times, Fidel smashed his face with the hose. Because he was so grotesquely mangled, Capt. Cobeil was never repatriated alive, but instead was listed as “died in captivity” His remains were returned in 1974.
Air Force ace Maj. James Kasler was also tortured for days on end during June 1968. “Fidel” beat Kasler across the buttocks with a large truck fan belt until “he tore my rear end to shreds.” For one three-day period, Kasler was beaten with the fan belt every hour from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and kept awake at night. “My mouth was so bruised that I could not open my teeth for five days.” After one beating, Kasler’s buttocks, lower back, and legs hung in shreds. The skin had been entirely whipped away and the area was a bluish, purplish, greenish mass of bloody raw meat.
Much less is known about 17 captured airmen taken to Cuba for “experimentation in torture techniques” They were held in Havana’s Los Maristas, a secret Cuban prison run by Castro’s G-2 Intelligence service. A few were held in the Mazorra (Psychiatric) Hospital and served as human guinea pigs used to develop improved methods of extracting information through “torture and drugs to induce American prisoners to cooperate”
After being shot down in April of 1972, U.S. Navy F-4 pilot, Lt. Clemmie McKinney, an African-American, was imprisoned near the Cuban compound called Work Site Five. His capture occurred while then-Cuban president Fidel Castro was visiting the nearby Cuban field hospital. Although listed as killed in the crash by DOD, his photograph standing with Castro was later published in a classified CIA document.
More than 13 years later, on August 14, 1985, the North Vietnamese returned Lt. McKinney’s remains, reporting that he died in November 1972. However, a U.S, Army forensic anthropologist established the “time of death as not earlier than 1975 and probably several years later” The report speculated that he had been a guest at Havana’s Los Maristas prison, with his remains returned to Vietnam for repatriation. Unfortunately, our servicemen held in the Cuban POW camp near Work Site Five (Cong Truong Five), along with those in two other Cuban run camps were neither acknowledged nor accounted for, and the prisoners simply disappeared forever.
Conspicuously absent from the Operation Homecoming release in 1973 were POWs suffering from severe war wounds (amputees) and mental illnesses, leading analysts to believe these were among those permanently imprisoned in North Vietnam and Cuba, for ongoing experimentation and collaboration efforts after being broken by torture, drugs, and brainwashing.
The matter of the known prisoners of war held by Vietnam and Cuba whose remains have never been returned has been a major issue for their families. If our honor code of “Duty, Honor, Country,” and our national policy of “No man left behind,” are more than meaningless slogans, Cuba’s murderous leadership must account for our POWs – especially the 17 airmen taken to Cuba. The civilized world and American veterans demand it, and their families deserve it.
There are those still working tirelessly toward finding a resolution to our missing heroes. On March 28, 2016, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense to obtain records about American POWs who may have been held captive by Cuban government or military forces on the island of Cuba.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense, No. 1:16-CV-00151).
This suit was filed after the Defense Department failed to comply with a June 1, 2015, FOIA request seeking “Any and all records depicting the names, service branch, ranks, Military Occupational Specialty, and dates and locations of capture of all American servicemen believed to have been held captive by Cuban government or military forces on the island of Cuba since 1960.”
Responding to the suit, the Department of Defense initially claimed to have no responsive records.
(Sources: Miami Herald, August 22, 1999, and testimony by Michael D. Benge, before the House International Relations Committee, Chaired by the Honorable Benjamin A. Gilman, on November 4, 1999)
When I reported to the 5th Special Forces headquarters in Nha Trang in Nov, 1967, I was sent to get a Glama goblin shot. While waiting in the room for the medic to arrive, I noticed a movable hospital curtain. Curious, I looked behind the curtain and saw two bodies wearing non-described uniforms laying on gurneys. Both were dark-skinned with long black hair. When the medic came in, I asked about the bodies. He told me a Special Forces recon team operating in Laos near the Ho Chi Ming trail got into a firefight resulting in them killing some NVA and the two whose bodies were on the gurneys. Realizing the two were not Vietnamese, they gathered them up and carried them through the jungle to a place where they made an emergency extraction. The medic said the general consensus was the two were Cubans. He added that Russian soldiers were also helping the North Vietnamese as one of their bodies had also been recovered by a recon team a couple of months before.
View the military service history of actor:
US Army Air Corps
View his service profile on TogetherWeServed.com:http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/profile/120743
Short Bio: Craggy-faced, dependable star character actor Van Heflin never quite made the Hollywood “A” list, but made up for what he lacked in appearance with hard work, charisma and solid acting performances. He served as a combat photographer with the U.S. 9th Air Force, First Motion Picture Unit, which produced training and morale-boosting short films.
Richard Nixon had campaigned in the 1968 presidential election under the slogan that he would end the war in Vietnam and bring ‘peace with honor.’ However, there was no plan in place to do this, and the American commitment continued for another five years. The goal of the American military effort was to gradually build up the strength and confidence of the South Vietnamese armed forces by re-equipping it with modern weapons so that they could defend their nation on their own. This policy became the cornerstone of the so-called ‘Nixon Doctrine.’ As applied to Vietnam, it was labeled ‘Vietnamization.’
With a renewed U.S. offensive bombing campaign forcing a recalcitrant North Vietnam back to the negotiating table, with resulting progress in the Paris peace negotiations, on January 15, 1973, Nixon announced the suspension of all offensive actions against North Vietnam. This would be followed by a unilateral withdrawal of all U.S. troops. Twelve days later, on January 27, the Paris Peace Accords on “Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam” were signed, officially ending direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The agreement included the provision that all U.S. combat units would leave Vietnam by March 29, 1973. As an inducement for President Thieu’s government to sign the agreement, Nixon had promised that the U.S. would provide financial and limited military support (in the form of air strikes) so that the South would not be overrun. But Nixon was fighting for his political life in the growing Watergate scandal and facing an increasingly hostile Congress, which was withholding funding for the continuation of the war, and he was unable to back up his promise. Compounding the issue, many United States citizens had turned against the war, citing the length of time it had been going on, the high number of U.S. casualties, and U.S. involvement in such war crimes as the My Lai massacre.
With just a little over a month to go, American combat troops stationed throughout South Vietnam were ecstatic over the prospects of going home as they turned over their installations and war materials to the South Vietnam military. But as they did so, the NVA and Vietcong continued to wage battle, resulting in 68 Americans killed in 1973. Thirty-three of those KIAs alone occurred in a single one-hour battle at Fire Support Base (FSB) Mary Ann.
However, before the agreement was signed and American troops began standing down, fighting the NVA and Vietcong raged on. One battle in particular caught the eye of Americans – the siege of FSB Mary Ann on March 28, 1971.
The firebase was strategically located to interdict the movement of enemy troops and materiel down the K-7 Corridor and the Dak Rose Trail (branches of the Ho Chi Minh trail running from Laos to the coast of South Vietnam). Originally intended to be a temporary base, it evolved into a more permanent location garrisoned by at least one company of U.S. ground forces. The base was manned by 231 American soldiers at the time of the attack. Also present on the base was a Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) artillery battery awaiting the turnover of the FSB to ARVN units.
FSB Mary Ann was similar to other U.S. firebases in South Vietnam, although it occupied a bulldozed hilltop which looked like a camel with two humps. Running northwest to southeast, the firebase stretched 500 meters across two hillsides with twenty-two bunkers. The headquarters consisted of the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and Company Command Post (CP), and was located at the south end of the camp. The northwest end of the camp consisted of an artillery position with two 155mm howitzers, the fire direction center, and the artillery command post. Surrounding the firebase was a trench system protected by concertina wire.
For months leading up to the attack, the level of enemy activity in the area had been low and contacts were infrequent. The lack of significant recent engagements, along with preparations to turn the FSB over to ARVN units and their impending return home, had given the U.S. soldiers in the area a false sense of security.
View the military service of actor:
BM1c William D. Hopper, Jr.
Short Bio: Best remembered as “Paul Drake” on TV’s long running “Perry Mason”, the son of legendary gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, young William served with the United States Navy during World War II, as a volunteer with the Office of Strategic Services and as a member of the newly created Underwater Demolition Team. He received a Bronze Star and several other medals during operations in the Pacific. Operations on Pelelieu, Anguar Island and the Occpation of Ulithi as well as other Islands in the Caroline Islands and on the Invasion of Leyte and the Lingayen pre-landing activities.
Read the service story of US Army Soldier:
Sgt Richard B Martin
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/375009
TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR REMEMBERED PERSON’S DECISION TO SIGN UP FOR MILITARY SERVICE?
In 1940 the Depression was still adversely affecting the American economy. Employment was hard to find and pay was low, especially for a teenager who had not yet completed high school. So at the age of 16 years and 4 months our father managed to enlist in the 51st Pioneer Infantry, a non-divisional regiment of the New York National Guard. He obfuscated about his age so that he could join the military and begin his transition to adulthood.
TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH THEY TOOK.
On Feb 16, 1940 our father enlisted as a Private in Company “E” of the 51st Pioneer Infantry. The personnel of Company “E” were recruited almost exclusively from our father’s hometown of Binghamton, NY. Since he was only 16 years-old at the time, our father wasn’t completely forthcoming about his
age, because he didn’t want to have to wait another 8 months for his 17th birthday. On Oct 15, 1940, one day before he turned 17 years-old, the 51st was mobilized for federal service and by Oct 23rd the entire unit had been relocated to Fort McClellan, AL. During the following month the 51st was re-designated as the 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division in which our father was still assigned to Company “E” as a rifleman (MOS 745). On Jun 3, 1941, he was promoted to Cpl, and later that year on Dec 9th, two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor, he was honorably discharged from 106th so that he could join the Regular Army.
On Dec 10, 1941, our father reenlisted for a period of three years in the Regular Army and was assigned to “F” Company, 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division. The 1st Division was nicknamed the “Big Red One” because its distinctive unit insignia has a large red numeral “1” on a forest green background. At the time of his reenlistment, the 1st Division was in the process of relocating from Fort Devens, MA to Camp Blanding, FL. His new unit completed its move to Camp Blanding on Feb 21, 1942 and underwent a program of reorganization and refurbishment with new equipment. On May 15th, the division’s reconfiguration was completed and it was immediately re-designated as the 1st Infantry Division (1ID). By the following week the 1ID was temporarily moved to Fort Benning, GA for one month and then relocated again on Jun 21st to Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA where it underwent final preparations for overseas deployment. On Jul 1, 1942, “F” Company boarded the SS Duchess of Bedford for transport to southern England. Our father’s unit was part of the Advance Party for 1ID and it disembarked in Liverpool on Jul 12th. One month later on Aug 1st, the entire Division boarded the HMS Queen Mary at the New York Port of Embarkation and after a week of transiting the Atlantic Ocean, it disembarked on Aug 8th in southern England. Regiments were billeted at various staging camps located in the vicinity of Beaminster, Dorset County. The 16th Infantry Regiment HQ was assigned to Camp Parnham while “F” Company was billeted at Tidworth Barracks located about 15 miles northeast of Salisbury in Wiltshire County. For three months the Division remained in southern England to conduct unit training and staging preparations for Operation Torch, the invasion of north Africa.
For Operation Torch, the 1ID was assigned to Center Task Force (CTF) which also included the 1st Armored Division (1AD) and the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. CTF had the mission of conducting an amphibious and airborne assault of Oran, Algeria to seize its port facilities and airfields. The commander of CTF was MGen Lloyd Ralston Fredendall. This operation began on Nov 9, 1942 and “F” Co landed unopposed on “White Beach” near the town of Arzew which is approximately 25 miles northeast of Oran. It wasn’t until the second and third day of the operation that “F” Co encountered stiff resistance from the Vichy French forces before the defenders stood down and CTF was able to occupy Oran without further delay.
Soon after Operation Torch was concluded, CTF was re-designated as II Corps and it consisted of 1ID, 1AD, and the 34th Infantry Division. Our father participated in the American Army’s first battle against Rommel’s Afrika Corps at the Battle of Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia which began on Feb 14, 1943. This encounter with Axis forces was an embarrassment for the US Army since several of II Corps’ forward units were overrun and dispersed. A few days later, the Battle of Kasserine Pass turned into an even greater disaster for the Americans because elements of II Corps were forced to withdraw 50 miles west into the Pass with a significant loss of armor, artillery, and transport vehicles. Despite the chaos of being overrun by German panzers, our father managed to avoid capture, although he became separated from his unit for about 1 1/2 months. He apparently took shelter with a friendly Algerian family until he was able to rejoin “F” Co on Apr 5th. Following this humiliation of US forces by Rommel’s Afrika Korps, MGen Fredendall was relieved of duty as II Corps commander and replaced with MGen George S. Patton.
Subsequently, our father participated in the Allies’ more successful third engagement with the Germans on Apr 21, 1943 at the Battle of Mateur, Tunisia which significantly contributed to the eventual defeat of the Afrika Korps and the expulsion of all German and Italian forces from north Africa.
After the Battle of Mateur our father was promoted to Sgt on Jun 6, 1943 and assumed the duties of an infantry squad leader (MOS 653). Notably, our father turned-in his M1 Garand rifle for a Thompson submachine gun which was the standard issued weapon for a squad leader. Soon after he saw more combat with the 1ID when Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, began on July 10, 1943. US forces in this operation consisted of VII Army which was designated Western Task Force (WTF) and its commander was newly promoted LtGen Patton while II Corps was now commanded by MGen Omar Bradley. The operation began at approximately 0200 with an amphibious and airborne assault to seize the port facilities and airfields of Gela, Sicily. The amphibious phase of Husky was soon followed by a slugfest with German and Italian troops across Sicily’s interior mountainous region. It was at the town of Nicosia where our father was wounded in the right hip by German machinegun fire on Aug 3, 1943. This leg wound probably classified our father as an Echelon IV casualty which entailed initial treatment at a Field Hospital in the battle zone followed by evacuation by ship to a Station Hospital in north Africa, possibly in Oran or Algiers.
Recovering in a Station Hospital in north Africa apparently didn’t appeal to our father because while there he went AWOL on two occasions. The first unauthorized absence was Sep 11 to Oct 1, 1943. It’s unknown if he incurred any punishment for taking off for those three weeks, but nevertheless, he went AWOL again for 74 days on Oct 11 to Dec 23, 1943. After he came back the second time he found out that he had been demoted to the rank of Private effective Oct 28th. Where he went and what he did during these periods of AWOL are unknown, but presumably he got tired of laying on a hospital bed in a recovery ward surrounded by other wounded Soldiers. So once he was able to walk on his wounded leg, he probably went to stay with some buddies in a rear echelon unit, or else he was the house guest of some Algerian friends again.
By Nov 5, 1943, the campaign in Sicily had ended and 1ID was redeployed to England to begin training for the invasion of Normandy, France while our father was still hospitalized in north Africa to continue recovering from his leg wound, battle fatigue, and trench foot. He was finally evacuated to England on Feb 8, 1944 whereupon he was apparently assigned to another Station Hospital. By this time his leg wound had probably healed sufficiently so that he could be returned to duty with his unit, but it appears he was reclassified as an Echelon V casualty because he was eventually evacuated to the US on Apr 27th for treatment of his “battle fatigue.” His enlisted record shows that he arrived in the US on May 9, 1944 and was assigned to the Detachment of Patients, 1263rd SCSU, Mason General Hospital, Brentwood, NY. During WWII, this hospital was primarily dedicated for the rehabilitation of Soldiers who were suffering from “battle fatigue” and our father recalled that part of his “state-of-the-art” recovery process included sessions of electric shock. After almost three months of treatment at this hospital he was deemed sufficiently recovered, both physically and mentally, that he could be released from active duty with the annotation of “CDD” on his discharge certificate which was the WWII acronym for “Certificate of Disability for Discharge.” This innocuous term entitled him to long-term medical treatment at VA hospitals for his service related injuries. Subsequently, our father was honorably discharged on Aug 5, 1944 with the rank of Private, approximately four months before the end of his reenlistment contract in the Regular Army.
Our father was 20 years-old at the time of his discharge, and despite his young age, he had accumulated 4 1/2 years of military service which included 4 years of active duty. Even more impressive is the fact that he was only 19 years-old during the year he served in a war zone and the combat he participated in consisted of two full-scale amphibious assaults against an entrenched enemy; three major land campaigns; service as an infantry squad leader; and injuries including a gunshot wound to the right hip; debilitating battle fatigue; trench foot; and undocumented shrapnel wounds. At such a young age, he had done more than his fair share for his country.
IF HE PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE THOSE YOU FEEL WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO HIM AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
On Jul 1, 1942 our father embarked on the troopship, SS Duchess of Bedford, with the advance elements of the 1st Infantry Division (1ID) for transport by convoy to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). On Jul 12th he arrived at their point of debarkation which was Liverpool, England.
From there they were transferred to Tidworth Barracks near the small town of Salisbury, Wiltshire County which is close to England’s southern coast. This part of southern England had been reserved as a training and staging area for US forces as they prepared for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. 1ID was assigned to Center Task Force (CTF) with Major General Fredenhall as CTF Commander. CTF was given the mission of conducting amphibious and airborne landings to seize the port facilities and airfields at Oran, Algeria. The landings at Oran began on Nov 9, 1942, and our father said they had been hoping that the Vichy French forces would not resist, but unfortunately, the French put up a stiff defense on the 2nd and 3rd day of the operation and inflicted several US casualties before they stood down.
Our father’s next combat operation was during Feb 1943 at the Battles of Sidi Bou Zid and Kasserine Pass, Tunisia. 1ID was now assigned to the newly created II Corps with Major General Fredenhall in command again. These two battles were the US Army’s first ground engagements with Axis forces and the over the period of a week it resulted in a disastrous route of the Americans by Rommel’s Afrika Korps. The poor performance of II Corps resulted in the replacement of Major General Fredenhall on Mar 6th with Major General George S. Patton as the Commander of II Corps. Our father’s unit was apparently overrun by the Germans during the early stages of these battles, and he recounted how he had climbed a tall hill overlooking Kasserine Pass as the day was approaching sunset. He said he could see for miles toward the horizon, and below him in the Pass were dozens of burning tanks, trucks, and jeeps, and hundreds of American Soldiers in retreat. From his vantage point it probably looked like the US Army had been decisively defeated by the Germans and that he was in danger of being captured by the enemy. What he couldn’t know at the time was that the remaining elements of II Corps would eventually regroup 50 miles to the west at the exits of Kasserine Pass and receive British reinforcements to reestablish the Allied line of defense. By the end of Feb this new defensive line would halt the German advance and force the enemy to retreat eastward. While our father was separated from his unit a friendly Algerian family helped hide him, and there is evidence that he also had contact with a unit of the French Foreign Legion before he was able to make his way back to friendly lines.
Our father’s service record shows that he rejoined “F” Co on Apr 5, 1943 which was just in time for him to participate in II Corps’ more successful combat action against the Afrika Korps at the Battle of Mateur, Tunisia on Apr 21st. This battle was one of the final combat actions in Tunisia which led to the decisive defeat of all German and Italian forces in north Africa. Soon after this victory over the Axis, our father was promoted to Sgt on Jun 6, 1943 and made an infantry squad leader which put him in a demanding leadership position for a person who was only 19 years-old and in a unit that was about to undertake another major combat operation.
The next combat action our father participated in was Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. 1ID was still assigned to II Corps, but Patton was now promoted to Lieutenant General and given command of 7th Army while Major General Omar Bradley became the II Corps Commander. During Operation Husky the American forces were designated Western Task Force which included all of 7th Army as the landing force. Their mission was to conduct a nighttime amphibious and airborne assault of the southern coastal town of Gela, Sicily to seize its port facility and airfield. Our father’s regiment, the 16th Infantry, was in the first wave of this nighttime assault which landed at 0200 hours on Jul 10, 1943. Despite stiff resistance by the Italian defenders and frequent air raids by Axis aircraft, the town of Gela fell to Allied control by 0800, although the Italians had managed to destroy Gela’s pier facilities before being overwhelmed by the American landing force. Without pausing, the 16th Infantry began moving inland to seize the high ground which surrounded Gela and the nearby airfield.For this outstanding performance of duty during the first few days of Operation Husky, the our father’s Battalion was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation a year later. During the following 3 weeks the 16th Infantry Regiment continued to battle German and Italian forces across the difficult terrain of Sicily’s mountainous interior, until on Aug 3, 1943 our father was wounded in the right hip by German machinegun fire near the town of Nicosia. At this point in the Sicilian campaign, our father was also suffering from battle fatigue, trench foot and some undocumented shrapnel wounds. Subsequently, he was evacuated to a Station Hospital in northern Africa which was most likely located in Oran, Algeria.
While recuperating in north Africa, our father went AWOL from the hospital on two occasions and was eventually demoted to the rank of Private on Oct 28, 1943. He was then transferred to England on Jan 30, 1944 and arrived there on Feb 8th for more medical treatment. He stayed in England until Apr 27th when he embarked on a troop ship for transport back to the US whereupon he debarked at the port of NYC on May 9,1944. He was assigned to a detachment of patients at Mason General Hospital in Brentwood, NY until his medical rehabilitation was completed upon which he was honorably discharged from the Army as a Private on Aug 5, 1944.
OF ALL THEIR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY HE OR SHE HAD FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS THEIR LEAST FAVORITE?
Our father never spoke of a favorite duty station, but upon his return to England from north Africa, an English newspaper published the gist of one of his letters to a friend which extolled the virtues of returning to England after spending 15 months in north Africa.
FROM THEIR ENTIRE MILITARY SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT OPERATIONS, PLEASE RECOUNT ANY PERSONAL MEMORIES YOU MAY BE AWARE OF WHICH HAD IMPACTED HIM OR HER THE MOST.
Our father related that during the rainy season of one operation he had to spend days at a time in a foxhole that was full of water and mud. No one could safely leave their fighting position to dry their feet because the Germans would immediately start shelling their location.
Consequently, our father developed a severe case of trench foot that plagued him for the rest of his life. He only wore white socks because the dye in dress socks would irritate his feet. It was very common to see him suffer sudden and extreme bouts of itching feet which he relieved by vigorously scratching and then doused with hefty amounts of foot powder.
During one operation our father’s squad was moving down a road when they heard a tank approaching from their front. They quickly hid in the bushes by the roadside and watched as a single German Panzer passed by. One of the squad members had a rifle grenade attached to his M1 Garand rifle and after the tank went by the Soldier fired the grenade into the tank’s engine compartment which immediately disabled it. The German crew promptly bailed out of their tank and were taken prisoner by my father’s squad.
On another occasion our father recounted one instance when his squad was on patrol and they came upon a lone German soldier taking a bath in a pond. Before they could take him prisoner, one of the Soldiers in our father’s squad threw a grenade in the pond that landed right next to the German. The resultant explosion literally blew the German to pieces, and his flesh and blood was splattered all over the bushes and trees that surrounded the pond. I don’t recall in what country this happened or if my father was the squad leader at the time, but I’m sure it was one of many horrific encounters he witnessed during the war. I believe this was the last story he told of his combat in WWII.
When our father finally had orders to return to the US, he turned in his duffel bag for storage in the troop ship’s hold. This duffel bag contained two German Lugers which he had captured as war trophies. Unfortunately, that was the last time he saw his duffel. He figured it was either stolen or lost sometime during the transit of the Atlantic or debarkation at NYC.
IF HE RECEIVED ANY MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS OR QUALIFICATION BADGES FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT OR VALOR, PLEASE DESCRIBE WHAT THESE ARE AND, IF KNOWN, HOW THESE WERE EARNED.
On Aug 3, 1943 our father earned the Purple Heart after getting shot in the right hip by a German machine gun at Nicosia, Sicily during Operation Husky. He had other wounds from shrapnel and a severe case of trench foot, plus he was suffering from “battle fatigue.” These injuries occurred during the heaviest fighting that the Big Red One experienced as it progressed up the mountainous interior of Sicily. At this stage of the battle some American units had lost more than half of their personnel strength.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES HE RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
In 1944 the 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry received the Distinguished Unit Citation for its “outstanding performance of duty in action” during Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. This was in recognition of the valiant effort put forth by the 2d Battalion during the period of Jul 10 to Jul 12, 1943 when it successfully conducted a nighttime amphibious assault against entrenched Italian forces; repulsed numerous German counterattacks; and broke through encirclement by enemy tank forces, despite suffering heavy casualties including the wounding of the Battalion Commander. By the late morning of Jul 13th, the 2d Battalion secured the town of Niscemi which was the 16th Infantry’s primary objective for that stage of the operation. Our father served as an infantry squad leader during this battle, and undoubtedly, he and his men were in the thick of the fighting.
IF YOU ARE AWARE, PLEASE DESCRIBE ANY INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM HIS TIME IN THE MILITARY WHO WERE CLOSE FRIENDS OR STOOD OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON THEM AND WHY?
Our father never spoke of any specific individual in his unit that he was close to. However, he did have a low regard for General Patton who he thought was too eager to put them in hazardous situations. In contrast, our father had a very high regard for General Douglas MacArthur who he thought was a “great man,” and consequently, our youngest brother was named after him.
ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM HIS OR HER SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME BUT STILL MADE THEM LAUGH LATER ON?
Our father never recounted any particular moment of his Army service that he found to be especially humorous. However, he must have had some fun times, because many of the pictures we have of him posing with his buddies invariably show them as young men having a grand time.
IF HE OR SHE SURVIVED MILITARY SERVICE, WHAT PROFESSION(S) DID HE OR SHE FOLLOW AFTER DISCHARGE?
Following his discharge in 1944, our father eventually found employment for several years as an analytical reporter for Dun & Bradstreet in Arkansas. During the mid 1950s, he went to work for the US Postal Service as a mail carrier in El Dorado, AR and later as a front desk mail clerk in Shreveport, LA until his retirement from the Post Office in the 1980s.
IF KNOWN, WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS WAS HE OR SHE A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY SPECIFIC BENEFITS THEY DERIVED FROM THEIR MEMBERSHIPS?
In 1952 our father joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 2413 in El Dorado, AR.. After moving to Louisiana he joined VFW, Post 4588 in Bossier City, LA during Nov 1956. The following year he joined the American Legion, Post 191 in the same town. He was apparently a regular member of both organizations, and besides enjoying the company of other veterans,
IF HE SURVIVED MILITARY SERVICE, IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU BELIEVE HIS OR HER SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY THEY APPROACHED THEIR PERSONAL LIFE, FAMILY LIFE AND CAREER?
Our father frequently stated that he had given the best years of his life to the Army. He entered military service as a young, healthy 16 year-old and left active service as a 20 year-old man who needed a full year of medical treatment and rehabilitation before being able to return to civilian life. Despite the hardships, battle scars, and lingering physical ailments, our father was very proud of his military service and even somewhat amazed that at the age of 19 years-old he had successfully led men in some of the worst combat that WWII could inflict on a Soldier. The only time he talked about his wartime experiences was when he was asked, and even then he didn’t elaborate beyond a short story unless he was prodded for more information. He was probably more forthcoming about his Army service with other WWII veterans, but that is to be expected. Only his fellow veterans could truly appreciate what he had endured as a young Soldier.
IF THEY WERE HERE TODAY, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU THINK HE OR SHE WOULD GIVE TO THOSE WHO FOLLOWED IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS AND RECENTLY ENTERED MILITARY SERVICE?
Our father never encouraged anyone to enter military service because of the horrors he witnessed on the front lines as an infantryman. He also refused to have anything to do with firearms in his post-war years, despite his familiarity with all of the infantry weaponry of WWII.
HOW EFFECTIVE HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM BEEN IN HELPING YOU RECORD YOUR REMEMBERED PERSONS MILITARY SERVICE? DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL COMMENTS OR SUGGESTIONS YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE?
It has provided a very organized structure for my family to piece together our father’s service during WWII. Instead of a bunch of miscellaneous pictures and documents of his time in the Army, we now have a coherent record of his military service and how it fit within the historical context of the war.
Shortly after purchasing the Louisiana territory from France in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson ordered an expedition to explore and map the newly acquired territory and establish an American presence before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it. The campaign’s secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and establish trade with local Native American tribes. To lead the expedition of U.S. Army volunteers, Jefferson chose his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, an intelligent and literate man who also possessed skills as a frontiersman. Lewis in turn solicited the help of Second Lieutenant William Clark, whose abilities as draftsman and frontiersman were even stronger.
Lewis and Clark’s expedition began on May 21, 1804 when they and 33 soldiers and others departed from their camp near St. Louis, Missouri. The first portion of the expedition followed the route of the Missouri River during which they passed through places such as present-day Kansas City, Missouri and Omaha, Nebraska.
As the expedition crossed the Bitterroot Mountains along the border of Montana and Idaho, a party of six hunters led by Clark went ahead of the main body searching for wild game and other foodstuff. Near the western end of the Lolo Trail, the group came across a small camp of Nez Perce. Having a long association with French trappers and missionaries, the Nez Perce – many who had converted to Catholicism – welcomed the American explorers, treating then with generosity and respect. They also resupplied and aided the Army expedition.
After staying with the friendly Indians for days, the explorers continued their journey by boat to the Pacific. Horses were left with the friendly Indians to care for until the explorers returned. Faithful to the trust, the Indians returned the horses to the Americans without serious difficulty.
Unfortunately, like many other western tribes, this original goodwill would change due to westward movement of European Americans and the discovery of gold on traditional Indian lands.
For the Nez Perce tribes, it was when prospectors found gold on their reservation in 1860. This discovery led to a rush of settlement on the tribe’s ancestral lands. Tensions inevitable grew as the settlers appropriated traditional native lands and prospectors searched for gold with no regards toward their nomadic lifestyle.
Realizing a serious problem was growing between the friendly Nez Perce and the European Americanbelieving it was their Manifest Destiny (which held that the U.S. was destined to expand from coast to coast), the U.S. government took the same action they had done repeatedly when it came to relationships with the Indians: instead of forcing the white settlers to leave, the government’s solution was to reduce the land on which the Indians could live, forcing them into smaller and smaller reservations.
Like Indian tribes throughout America, the Nez Perce did not have one chief in charge of the entire tribe. Instead there were many Chiefs who were each leaders of small bands of Indians.
When the United States tried to reduce the Nez Perce tribe’s land, they negotiated mostly with the Chiefs that were on their side. This led to the Nez Perce spitting into two groups: one side – the farmers and livestock herders – accepted the coerced relocation to a reservation. The non-treaty group refused to give up their ancestral homeland in Idaho and Oregon and continued living in the tradition they had been doing for hundreds of years.
The non-treaty Nez Perce suffered many injustices at the hands of settlers and prospectors, but out of fear of reprisal from the militarily superior Americans, Chief Joseph of the Wallowa band never allowed any violence against them, instead making many concessions in hopes of securing peace.
In 1873, Chief Joseph negotiated with the federal government to ensure his people could stay on their land in the Wallowa Valley. But in 1877, the government reversed its policy, and Brig. General Oliver Howard threatened to attack if the Wallowa band did not relocate to the Idaho Reservation with the other Nez Perce. Joseph reluctantly agreed.
The day following the council, Chiefs Joseph, White Bird, and Looking Glass all accompanied Howard to look at different areas. Howard offered them a plot of land that was inhabited by whites and Native Americans, promising to clear out the current residents. Joseph and his chieftains refused, adhering to their tribal tradition of not taking what did not belong to them.
Unable to find any suitable uninhabited land on the reservation, Howard informed Joseph that his people had 30 days to collect their livestock and move to the reservation or face a war they could not win.
View the military service of Football Great:
SP4 Rocky Bleier
Short Bio: Served in Vietnam. Was drafted in December 1968. He volunteered for duty in the Vietnam War and shipped out in May 1969, serving with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. On August 20, while on patrol in Heip Duc, Bleier was wounded in the left thigh by a rifle bullet when his platoon was ambushed in a rice paddy. While down, an enemy grenade landed nearby after bouncing off a fellow soldier, sending shrapnel into his lower right leg. He was later awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.