Skip to content

Archive for

30
Dec

LCDR James Michener US Navy (Served 1942-1946)

View the service history of author:

michenerLCDR James Michener

US Navy

(Served 1942-1946)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/525298

Short Bio: Best known as the author of “Hawaii”, 1942-46 the U.S. Navy sent Michener to the South Pacific. In the spring of 1944. 1944-46 he was a Naval historian in the South Pacific. He was discharged with rank of Lieutenant Commander.

* He referred to himself as a “Paperwork Sailor”. As a Courier, he traveled in the company of an anonymous armed Military guard.

28
Dec

1SG Carl E. Howard, U.S. Army (Ret) (1986-2007)

Read the service reflections of US Army veteran:

howard1SG Carl E. Howard

U.S. Army (Ret)

(1986-2007)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Carl.Howard

WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

Growing up in a poor neighborhood and wanting to make more for myself than what was around me played a major role in my decision to join the military. Not to mention the attractive GI Bill sold very well by my recruiter. I knew early on that serving my country would be the biggest event I ever took on in my life. I was so right!

WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

My service career path started out in the administrative field. I initially wanted to serve three years, earn my GI Bill, and go to college. However, towards the end of my 1st term, I realized that the Army meant so much more to me than just the GI Bill. It had become a way of life for me, so I changed my MOS to Infantry to be all I could be and the rest is history.

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

I participated in four areas of combat operations. The Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. All of these operations were significant in their own individual ways. The Gulf War was my first combat deployment as a Specialist/E-4. I can remember being on edge almost every minute of the day not knowing what the unexpected was. It was a life changing event for me and I’m sure for all who experienced it. When I deployed to Kosovo, I was a fully mature Infantry Platoon Sergeant (Bradley Fighting Vehicles). It was my responsibility to ensure all of my men (The Mad Dogs) returned safely home. I did just that! My next experience was Afghanistan. I deployed an Infantry Company to Afghanistan by volunteering to put on the diamond. This was another unique experience as we delivered a shocking blow to the Taliban fighters deep in the Afghan mountains. This was the beginning of the end for me. I didn’t lose a life, but some of my brave warriors were bruised up. (Don’t feel bad, you should see the bad guys..lol). This was the decision maker for retirement. Upon retirement, I took a job in Iraq for a year (as a Defense Contractor), where I experienced a whole new set of emotions. Needless to say, I came home (for good) after completing my tour of duty.

WHICH, OF THE DUTY STATIONS OR LOCATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED OR DEPLOYED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?

Another tough one! Choosing one, I would have to chose Fort Benning, GA. Fort Benning really allowed me to grow as a Non-Commissioned Officer. This is where I served as a Drill Sergeant, met the love of my life, had my first child, was blessed with another child, and was promoted to senior NCO. Yeah, this had to be the one!

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

My Mad Dogs! These Soldiers were amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I have served with some of the most remarkable people I have ever met. However, my Mad Dogs were more like family. These Soldiers looked after one another and exemplify the phrase “Brotherhood”. Also, my memories as a Drill Sergeant are forever imprinted in my mind. Those were some of my most fondest memories as I was fortunate enough to train and mentor some of Americas bravest Soldiers. I am truly grateful!

OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

That’s a tough one. I have many medals, awards and qualification badges that mean a whole lot to me. If I had to choose only one, it would probably be my Drill Sergeant Badge. A Drill Sergeant is the epitomy of the Army’s NCO Corps. The Drill Sergeant is the first impression a Soldier receives upon enlistment. You have a very demanding and tough job instilling Army values, training and discipline in new recruits. There is no room for error! Your dedicated from sun up to sun down seven days per week. The reward is watching the look of achievement and pride on the faces of the Army’s future march on the parade field. What a great feeling and joy!

WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

Wow! Another tough one. I had so many who touched my life both NCO and Officer. The one that stands out the most would be Sergeant Williams. SGT Williams was my squad leader when I was a Private. He basically taught me everything about being “Squared Away”. From unannounced room inspections to surprise “GI Partys”, SGT Williams was on the job. Thank you SGT Williams!

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

I can remember when I was in Saudi Arabia, I was detailed to drive a 4×4 pick up truck to the burn pit outside the Assembly Area (AA) along with SPC Brown. Brown was the TC and I was the driver. After we burned all of the material, we headed back to the AA. SPC Brown rode in the back of the truck and was standing up holding on to the cab. As I approached the entrance to the AA, Brown said “I bet you won’t floor it”. Of course, I did floor it and the truck (and Brown) went Airborne. As we went through the entrance, I saw the Detachment Sergeant (SFC Johnson) running behind the truck trying to signal me to stop. I was hysterical. When he finally caught up with us, he went off. He said ” Are you crazy! You could have killed him”. His kevlar was on his head sideways, his weapon was at sling arms and I just burst out laughing. He was so furious, he just walked off. SFC Johnson was a Soldiers’ Soldier and a true warrior, but that was a hysterical event.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?

I decided to become a Defense Contractor after the service.

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

I am a life member of the VFW. The benefits I derive are knowing that the VFW goes the extra mile to care for our Veterans in need.

HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?

The military has been the best decision I have ever made. I am a disciplined person who has a purpose in this world who prides himself on contributing to the workforce post retirement. I am a dedicated citizen who believes in giving back to the community and to the less fortunate. I am a supporter of my civilian and military leadership, no matter who’s in office or position. I am conservative in what I do as far as resources. I ensure my children appreciate everything they receive and I teach them that helping others and doing something bigger than yourself is the way to success in this life. I contribute 90% of that to the military.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?

Selfless service will take you a long way in life. Go after your dreams, but never forget who you are. Always remember, someone helped you get there, be sure to do the same for someone else.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?

Togetherweserved is outstanding! I am sharing it with anyone I come in contact with associated with the military. This is truly a remarkable way to stay in contact and to find those with whom you served so many years ago. I love this website.

26
Dec

Military Myths & Legends: The World’s First Black Fighter Pilot

A largely unsung and non-known hero of the World War I was the fascinating Eugene James “Jacques” Bullard of the Lafayette flying Corps.

Bullard was born in a three-room house in Columbus, Georgia, the seventh of ten children born to William (Octave) Bullard, a black man who was from Martinique, and Josephine (“Yokalee”) Thomas, a Creek Indian. His father’s ancestors had been slaves in Haiti to French refugees who fled during the Haitian Revolution. They reached the United States and took refuge with the Creek Indians.

An adventurer by nature, he left the small town of Columbus and moved to Atlanta by himself while still in his teenage years. He had been told that the way to escape racial prejudice was to head to Europe, particularly France (he once said he witnessed a near lynching of his dad). A long time back his father had pointed out to him that Bullard was a French name and that at least one ancestor had hailed from there. Stirred by all the possibilities, he stowed away on a ship bound for Scotland, arriving at Aberdeen and made his way south to Glasgow. On a visit to Paris, he liked what he saw and how he was treated and decided to settle in France. He became a relatively good boxer in Paris and also worked in a music hall.

France had been good to Bullard, and he quickly fell in love with the country. So when World War I broke out in August 1914, he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion at a time when volunteers from overseas were only allowed to serve in the French colonial troops. Assigned to the 3rd Marching Regiment of the 1st Foreign Regiment as a machine gunner, he saw combat near the Somme River. It was during this time when he learned Americans and other volunteers were now allowed to transfer to Metropolitan French Army units, including the 170th French Infantry Regiment – nicknamed “Les Hirondelles de la Mort,” or “The Swallows of Death.”

Liking the idea of being part of a unit with crack troops appealed to Bullard, so he put in his request to join the regiment. In February 1916, his requested was granted just as the 170th Infantry was sent to Verdun, one of the largest and longest battles of the First World War on the Western Front between the German and French armies. The battle took place on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France. It was during this battle that Bullard was severely wounded on March 5, 1916 and sent to a Parisian hospital where he spent the next six months recuperating. During convalescence, he was cited for acts of valor at the orders of the regiment on July 3, 1917 and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

While convalescing in Paris, his friend and fellow Southerner Jeff Davis Dixon bet Bullard $2,000 that he could not get into the French Air Force. Bullard contended that he could, accepted the bet and on October 5, 1916 arrived at the French aerial gunnery school at Cazaux on the Atlantic. It was here that he met Edmond Genet (the first American flier to die in the First World War in April 1917). He told Bullard about the Lafayette Escadrille which inspired him to be a pilot and not a back seat gunner. In mid-October with Genet’s help he transferred to the flight school at Tours for pilot training. The training took a few more months, but it was inevitably given Bullard’s persistence that it would pay off. Bullard earned his pilot’s license and then Dickerson faithfully paid the $2,000. It was a considerable sum at the time, especially for a gentleman’s bet. Dixon admitted that he hated to lose the money, but was delighted that at least Bullard was from Dixie. The result of the bet was to launch Eugene Bullard into history as a first ever African-American aviator.

Like many other American aviators, Bullard hoped to join the famous Lafayette Escadrille, but after enrolling 38 American pilots in spring and summer of 1916, it stopped accepting applicants. After further training he joined 269 American aviators at the Lafayette Flying Corps on November 15, 1916. American volunteers flew with French pilots in different pursuit and bomber/reconnaissance aero squadrons on the Western Front.

On August 27, he was assigned to the Escadrille N.93 based at Beauzee-sur-Aire south of Verdun. The squadron was equipped with Nieuport and Spad VII aircraft that displayed a flying duck as the squadron insignia. He took part in over twenty air combat missions, and he is sometimes credited with shooting down one or two German aircraft. However, the French authorities could not confirm Bullard’s victories. His Spad had an insignia lettered “All blood runs red” and his nickname became the “Black Swallow of Death.”

When the United States entered the war, the United States Army Air Service convened a medical board to recruit Americans serving in the Lafayette Flying Corps for the Air Service of the American Expeditionary Forces. Bullard went through the medical examination, but he was not accepted, as only white pilots were allowed to serve. Sometime later, on a short break from duty in Paris, Bullard allegedly got into an argument with a French commissioned officer and was punished by being transferred to the service battalion of to the 170th infantry Regiment of the French army. He was discharged in October 1919 and returned to Paris.

After the war, Bullard settle down, and in 1923 married a French Countess from a wealthy family named Marcelle Straumann. They settle down and had two daughters Jacqueline and Lolita.

Post war Bullard bought a bar named “Le Grand Duc” on the north side of Paris. In the late 1930s, prior to the outbreak of World War II, he was recruited by French intelligence to spy on the Germans who come by his bar. He remained very devoted to France and tried to join the French army but was considered too old. In 1940, he managed to find a way out of German occupied France, biked all the way down to Portugal and returned to the United States on a Red Cross ship. He settled in New York City. He was able to extradite his daughters, but Marcelle remained in France and eventually they divorced.

In 1954, along with two other French veterans, he was invited by French Pres. Charles de Gaulle to light the flame of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Eugene Bullard received fifteen decorations from the government of France. He was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor, France’s most coveted award. He also was awarded the Medaille militaire, another high military distinction.

He died in New York City of stomach cancer on October 12, 1961 at the age of 66 with his achievements all but forgotten.

While Eugene Bullard is not as famous as a Tuskegee Airmen or Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Junior, as an African-American aviator, he came before all of them. The Chicago Tribune herald him as “as probably the most unsung hero in the history of the U.S. wartime aviation.”

23
Dec

Captain Glenn Miller US Army Air Corps (Served 1942-MIA 1944)

View the service history of Bandleader:

glenn-millerCaptain Glenn Miller

US Army Air Corps

(Served 1942-MIA 1944)
Shadow Box: http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/profile/116641

Short Bio: Alton Glenn Miller (March 1, 1904 – missing in action December 15, 1944) was an American big band musician, arranger, composer, andbandleader in the swing era. He was one of the best-selling recording artists from 1939 to 1943, leading one of the best known big bands. Miller’s notable recordings include “In the Mood”, “Moonlight Serenade”, “Pennsylvania 6-5000”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, “A String of Pearls”, “At Last”, “(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo”, “American Patrol”, “Tuxedo Junction”, and “Little Brown Jug”. While he was traveling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II, Glenn Miller‘s aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel.

 

21
Dec

MSgt Barry W Parker U.S. Marine Corps (Ret) (1977-2008)

Read the service reflections of US Marine:

profile1MSgt Barry W Parker

U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)

(1977-2008)

Shadow Box: http://marines.togetherweserved.com/bio/Barry.Parker

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

I’m one of seven Children and my parents believed it was a good idea to have each of us tested, in our pre-teen years, to find our path in life based on our interests. This was back in the early 70’s and to my knowledge, testing your children to see what job in life best suited them, was never heard of. My parent were way ahead of their time in a lot of aspects and have aways been a great influence in our lives. The results of my tests came back and stated, I would be highly succeed in the military. With that, I picked the Marine Corps of course, because I believed then and still do today that we are the finest fight force ever. I’d gone to College for a bit before I joined the Corps and got an AA on my own dime. Then a friend, who I worked with at the time, told me he was going in the Corps and asked if I’d like to go in with him on the Buddy Program. It seemed as good time as any, so I informed my parent that it I was joining the Corps. They of course were very happy and supportive of my decision. About a week later I was on a Plane to MCRD San Diego.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

I started out in RECON in 1978 in Okinawa Japan, which was awesome. The NCO’s and Officers I served with as a young Marine, I believe, were the basis of my success. They gave me a good foundation to work on, so I spent the first couple of years jumping out of perfectly good aircraft, scuba diving, swimming out of subs, shooting and blowing stuff up. It was great training. The picture is of our platoon in 1978. Ona Point, Okinawa Japan. Later in my career, (SGT) I decided to re-up because of an opportunity to join Marine Corps Aviation. So I went from Hopping and Popping, Snooping and Pooping, Looting and Shoot to Swinging with the Wing. I was sent to ADJ school in Millington TN for my new A school, then got orders to New River, NC and worked as a T-58GE-16 (CH-46E) Engine Mechanic. Back then it was H&MS-26 (Headquarter and Maintenance Squadron) which later became MAL-26 (Marine Aviation and Logistical Squadron) which is Intermediate level Maintenance. From there I went to the Organizational Level Squadrons, as a Senior Sgt, and the real fun began.

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.

Beirut 4 times with HMM-261 Raging Bulls. We were there so many times we thought about renaming ourselves “The Beirut Bulls”, Then 1st Gulf War, then Operation Restore Hope Somalia, Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom. Mostly sitting off the Coast of one Country or another waiting for the word to go in and pick up or drop off the Marine Landing/Assault Element. “We’re have fun now bro’s!” Going 120 Knotts, tree top high with 50 Cals out each side of the Aircraft, ready to rock! Hitting the LZ hard and fast. We also did a lot of aid work in poor 3rd world countries that needed basic necessities like food, water and medical supplies. I remember flying lots of hours over the years providing medical support and care workers into Impoverished country.

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

East Coast, HMM-261, Raging Bulls was my first Squadron where I got my Aircrew Training. Deployed to Beirut several time and did a lot of Mediterranean cruises. The crew pictured below were all senior NCO’s and Staff NCO’s. Best and Tightest crew I’ve ever served with. Over the years I’ve spent sometime looking for these Marines pictured and catching up on how there lives turned out. Marriage, Kids, Jobs and such. I found most of them on Together We Served or Facebook. Most of them, I’m happy to say, have had great and happy lives. Whenever I tracked down one of the crew that had been missing, I reach out to the others and let them know how they are doing and how to look them up. It’s been great. After several Med. Cruises, I was sent to the West Coast, to HMM-268, Red Dragons. Great team of Marines there as well. Deployed to the First Gulf War and then the ongoing peace keeping forces in Somalia, back to Kuwait on the 5 year Anniversary.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

Surviving some pretty hairy situations. Mostly support the ground element ashore with P.M.C. (Packs, Mail and Cargo) and Medivac missions. While doing so, getting shot at from below. Lost some great Bro’s but felt proud as hell to have serve with them. Always in my thoughts and prayers.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR OTHER SIGNIFICANT AWARDS, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

3 Combat Action and 3 Air Medals from Beirut. 1st Gulf War, Operation Restore Hope/Battle of Mogadishu and Iraqi Freedom. Meritorious Service Medal for the Presidential Helicopter Squadron HMX-1. All in all it was a great ride and great memories. “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” I was selected to server as the Quality Assurance Chief at Presidential Helicopter Squadron HMX-1. Pictured is myself and the Flight Crew, supporting the President on one of his trips.

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

Scuba Dive Badge: Naval Dive School back in the 70’s was one of the toughest I’ve been through. Army Airborne School, known as Jump School was a piece of cake. I got tired of jumping out of perfectly good Aircraft, had a wife and baby on the way so I joined the Air Wing. Can’t say it was any safer but I believed and was correct in thinking, that this move would give me some great opportunities when I retired. So I joined the Air Wing, went to Aircrew school and got my second set of Gold Wings (Aircrew Wings).

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

First I’d say it was my NCO’s, Staff NCO’s and Officers, when I was a young Marine in Okinawa. They gave me a good base of knowledge to start with. You have to remember it was Post Vietnam then and a lot of the Senior Staff NCO’s were combat vets of which you could learn a lot from. Later on in my Career I had the pleasure of meeting and working with General Al Gray, Twenty-ninth Commandant of the Marine Corps and Sergeant Major Harold G. Overstreet,12th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. Other than that, I could spend all day telling you of all the great people I met, worked with and who influenced me to be the best Jar Head I could be. Sergeant Major Overstreet is a big supporter of our annual Rolling Thunder ride to DC in support of our POW/MIA’s. Sergeant Major Overstreet would ride his Motorcycle from Texas, some 18 hundred miles to support and ride with us to the Wall. The Picture is of me shaking hands with the SgtMaj. at the Pentagon parking lot waiting to roll out 750 thousand motorcycles into downtown DC.

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?

The Navy Shellback Initiation and Certificate. It was some silly stuff but a lot of fun to go threw and help pass the time and built moral. Flying with the Presidential Clinton’s Staff, the Secret Service and the Press that covered his movement was something else. Met some awesome people and have some great stories to tell. Not sure if I can tell them all here because they maybe classified 🙂

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 I retired and I then got a job supporting the Army PEO Soldier at Fort Belvoir. I did that for several years, supporting their Weapons Systems programs. Then an opportunity opened up, of which I’m now back with the Marine Corps at Marine Corps Base Quantico G-4. Back with my Bro’s! I’m working for the G-4 Operations and Logistics Branch now. I retired in this area and think it is the best place, for a veteran, to get a job or maintain a job. I also can help out our troops and our Vets in the area.

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

NRA Life Member, Pop a Smoke Association, Force Recon Association, Marine Corps League life member at Mickey Finns detachment Veteran of Foreign War life member and Band of Brothers Motorcycle Riding Club. The picture is of the Band of Brothers Motorcycle Riding Club on our annual Toys 4 Toys run. We do this every year along with Rolling Thunder, IWO Jima Wreath laying ceremony, Walter Reed wounded veteran, Children’s Hospital fund raiser and poker runs supporting our Wounded Warriors.

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

Always Faithful to my family: The importance of my family and family values was taught to me by my Parents. Married over 60 years, my parents were a great role model for me growing up and it was reinforced in the Marine Corps values. Keep the faith with my Marine Corps Brothers and Sisters: This was always stressed to me as a young Marine and I always passed it on to the younger Marines I taught and served with. The Mission comes first: This was always stressed to me in my younger days but I always believed if you didn’t take care of your Marine and train them properly the Mission would not succeed. God, Country, Corps. and helping out your Veteran and Wounded Warriors is also a must and something I taught and believe in.

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

Take advise from your senior enlisted. Keep on training. Keep the Faith. Know thyself and seek improvement. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The only dumb question is the one not asked. Call your Mom and Pop once in a while, for goodness sake, you don’t know how long you might have left with them. Semper Fi, Snoot out!!

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

Long story, short. I came out of a 3 month coma from a motorcycle accident. Had some memory loss of my past. So my Doc. says, try reaching out to people who might remember you and ask them about your past to jog your memory. I signed up on Together We Served, dug through all my photo albums, reached out to my family and friends, to ask about things I’ve done, places I’ve been. When I joined Together We Served I got all kinds of hits and calls from Marines I knew from my past. I used T.W.S. to rebuild the memory of my past experiences and people I knew. What a trip. “I did what!” 🙂 It’s been great therapy.

19
Dec

Profiles in Courage: Charles S. Kettles

During the early morning hours of May 15, 1967, personnel of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were ambushed in the Song Tra Cau riverbed near the Duc Pho District in the South Central Coast of Vietnam by an estimated battalion-sized force of the North Vietnamese Army. The NVA attacked with numerous automatic weapons, machine guns, mortars, and recoilless rifles from a fortified complex of deeply embedded tunnels and bunkers that were effectively shielded from counter fire. Upon learning that the 1st Brigade had suffered casualties during an intense firefight with the enemy, then-Maj. Charles S. Kettles volunteered to lead a flight of six UH-1D helicopters to carry reinforcements to the embattled forces and to evacuate wounded personnel. As the flight approached the landing zone, it came under witheringly deadly enemy fire from multiple directions, with reinforcements hit and killed before they could even leave the helicopters.

Jets dropped napalm and bombs on the enemy machine guns on the ridges overlooking the landing zone, with minimal effect. Small arms and automatic weapons fire continued to rake the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters. However, Kettles refused to depart until all reinforcements and supplies were off-loaded and the helicopters were loaded to capacity with wounded personnel. Kettles led the flight out of the battle area and back to the staging area to deliver the casualties and pick up additional reinforcements.

Kettles then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival. Bringing reinforcements, he landed in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft. Upon departing, Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base.

Later that day, the infantry battalion commander requested immediate, emergency extraction of the remaining 40 troops, and four members of Kettles’ unit who were stranded when their helicopter was destroyed by enemy fire. With only one flyable UH-1 helicopter remaining, Kettles volunteered to return to the deadly landing zone for a third time, leading a flight of six evacuation helicopters, five of which were from the 161st Aviation Company. During the extraction, Kettles was informed by the last helicopter that all personnel were aboard, and departed the landing zone accordingly. Army gunships supporting the evacuation also departed the area.

When they were airborne, Kettles learned eight men had been unable to reach the evacuation helicopters due to the intense enemy fire and had been left on the ground.

With one of the rescued Soldiers on board in addition to his crew of four, Kettles immediately turned his unarmed Huey around and headed back to the landing zone to rescue the remaining troops. Without gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft, which was immediately damaged by a mortar round that damaged the tail boom, a main rotor blade, shattered both front windshields and the chin bubble and was further raked by small arms and machine gun fire.

Coming in low over the treetops, he skillfully guided his helicopter onto the ground where the eight Soldiers dove into the helicopter, but there was another problem: it was now about three men, or 600 pounds, too heavy. “I didn’t know if we were going to get out of there,” Kettles remembered, “but I was just going to give it my best try.”

In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, Kettles repeatedly adjusted the revolutions per minute until the heavily damaged aircraft lurched upward, stayed close to the tree tops and limped home to Duc Pho. Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of Soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield.

For his heroic efforts, Kettles was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the nation’s second highest medal for gallantry.

************************************

Charles S. Kettles was born in Ypsilanti, Mich., Jan. 9, 1930. The son of a World War I Royal Air Force (Canadian) and World War II Air Transport Command (U.S. Army Air Corps) pilot, Kettles had aviation in his blood. While attending the Edison Institute High School in Dearborn, Michigan, Kettles honed his love of flying on the Ford Motor Company Flight Department simulator.

Following high school graduation, Kettles enrolled in Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University), where he studied engineering. Two years later, Kettles was drafted into the Army at age 21. Upon completion of basic training he attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and earned his commission as an armor officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, Feb. 28, 1953. Kettles graduated from the Army Aviation School in 1953, before serving active duty tours in Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Kettles returned in 1956 and established a Ford Dealership in Dewitt, Mich., with his brother, and continued his service with the Army Reserve as a member of the 4th Battalion, 20th Field Artillery.

He answered the call to serve again in 1963, when the United States was engaged in the Vietnam War and needed pilots. Fixed-wing-qualified, Kettles volunteered for Active Duty and attended Helicopter Transition Training at Fort Wolters, Texas in 1964. During a tour in France the following year, Kettles was cross-trained to fly the famed UH-1D “Huey.”

Kettles reported to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1966 to join a new helicopter unit. He was assigned as a flight commander with the 176th Assault Helicopter Company, 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, and deployed to Vietnam from February through November 1967. His second tour of duty in Vietnam lasted from October 1969 through October 1970.

In 1970, Kettles went to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where he served as an aviation team chief and readiness coordinator supporting the Army Reserve. He remained in San Antonio until his retirement from the Army in 1978.

Kettles completed his bachelor’s degree at Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas, and earned his master’s degree at Eastern Michigan University, College of Technology, in commercial construction. He went on to develop the Aviation Management Program at the College of Technology and taught both disciplines. He later worked for Chrysler Pentastar Aviation until his retirement in 1993. Kettles currently resides in Ypsilanti, Mich., with his wife Ann.

Many who were present for or had heard of Kettles remarkable act of heroism wondered why he never received the Medal of Honor instead of the Distinguished Service Cross. Numerous attempts to get his DSC upgraded to a Medal of Honor were made, but all such efforts failed. Eventually, the tenuous efforts paid off, and his DSC was upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

On Monday, July 18, 2016, President Barack Obama awarded retired Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles the Medal of Honor during a White House Ceremony.

“You couldn’t make this up. It’s like a bad Rambo movie,” Obama said, describing the harrowing exploits of then-Major Kettles on that fateful day, May 15, 1967, in “Chump Valley,” South Vietnam.

As commander of the 176th Aviation Company, Kettles’ mission was to fly in reinforcements and evacuate wounded Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, who were outgunned and outnumbered by the North Vietnamese in a rural riverbed near Duc Pho. “They needed support fast,” the President said.

Towering above Chump Valley was a 1,500-foot-high hill where the enemy was entrenched in an extensive series of tunnels and bunkers. It was “the ideal spot for an ambush,” Obama said.

Despite the dangers that they all were aware of, Kettles and his fellow company of Soldiers took off in their Hueys. As they approached the landing zone, they met a “solid wall of enemy tracers coming right at them,” Obama said. “None of them had ever seen fire that intense. Soldiers in the helos were hit and killed before they could even leap off.”

Despite the withering fire, Kettles landed his helicopter and kept it there exposed so the wounded could board.

“Once more, machine-gun bullets and mortar rounds came screaming after them. Rounds pierced the arm and leg of Chuck’s door gunner, Roland Scheck,” Obama said. His Huey was hit. Fuel was pouring out as he flew away. His helicopter was so badly damaged that he couldn’t make it to the field hospital so Kettles found another helicopter and took them to safety, the President said.

By then it was near evening. Back in the riverbed, 44 American Soldiers were still pinned down. “The air was thick with gunpowder, the smell of burning metal,” the President described. “Then they heard a faint sound. As the sun started to set, they saw something rise over the horizon – six American helicopters, one of them said, “as beautiful as could be.'”

For a third time, Chuck and his unit “headed into that hell on earth,” Obama said. “Death or injury was all but certain,” a fellow pilot had said, “and a lesser person would not return,” the President related.

Once again, the enemy unloaded everything they had on Kettles as he landed: small arms, automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, Obama said. Soldiers ran to the helicopters as they had before. When Kettles was told all were accounted for, he took off, the President said.

On the return flight, Kettles received a radio call informing him that eight men had not made it aboard. “They’d been providing cover for the others,” the President said. They “could only watch as the helicopters floated away. “We all figured we were done for,'” one later said. Kettles came to the same conclusion, the commander in chief said, conveying his words: “If we’d left them for 10 minutes, they’d become POWs or dead.”

Kettles couldn’t shake from his mind the idea of leaving the eight behind, so “he broke off from formation, took a steep, sharp descending turn back toward the valley, this time with no aerial or artillery support, a lone helicopter heading back in,” Obama said.

“Chuck’s Huey was the only target for the enemy to attack. And they did,” he continued. “Tracers lit up the sky once more. Chuck came in so hot his chopper bounced for several hundred feet before coming to a stop,” the President said.

As soon as he landed, a mortar round shattered his windshield. Another hit the main rotor blade. Shrapnel tore through the cockpit and Kettles’ chair. Yet, Obama said, those eight Soldiers sprinted to the Huey through the firestorm.

The President described what happened next: “Chuck’s helo, now badly damaged, was carrying 13 souls and was 600 pounds over the weight limit. He said “it felt like flying a two-and-a-half-ton truck.” He couldn’t hover long enough to take off, but the cool customer that he is, he saw his shattered windshield and thought, ‘that’s pretty good air conditioning.’

“The cabin filled with black smoke as Chuck hopped and skipped the helo across the ground to pick up enough speed to take off, ‘like a jackrabbit bouncing across the riverbed,'” the President said, relating Kettle’s analogy.

The instant he got airborne, another mortar ripped into the tail and the Huey fishtailed violently. A Soldier was tossed from the helicopter, but managed to grab a skid, hanging on as Kettles flew them to safety,” Obama said.

“The Army’s Warrior Ethos is based on a simple principle: A Soldier never leaves his comrades behind,” Obama said. “Chuck Kettles honored that creed. Not with a single act of heroism, but over and over and over and over. And, because of that heroism, 44 American Soldiers made it out that day.”

The most gratifying part of this whole story “is that Dewey’s name and Roland’s name and the names of 42 other Americans he saved are not etched in the solemn granite wall not far from here that memorializes the fallen in the Vietnam War,” the President remarked.

“A Soldier who was there said, ‘That day, Major Kettles became our John Wayne,'” Mr. Obama said. “With all due respect to John Wayne, he couldn’t do what Chuck Kettles did.”

“To the dozens of American Soldiers that he saved in Vietnam half a century ago, Chuck is the reason they lived and came home and had children and grandchildren. Entire family trees, made possible by the actions of this one man,” the President concluded.

Kettles, 86, was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Anne. They will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in March. With them were eight of their 10 children and three grandchildren.

When the ceremony concluded, America’s newest national hero said, “We got the 44 out. None of those names appear on the wall in Washington. There’s nothing more important than that.”

Also attending were some of the Soldiers Kettles served with that day, including Scheck, Dewey Smith, who was among the last eight Soldiers rescued that day, and a number of other Soldiers who fought in that battle. Past Medal of Honor recipients attended as well.

16
Dec

Capt Douglas Fairbanks Jr US Navy (Served 1941-1946)

View the service history of actor:

fairbanksCapt Douglas Fairbanks Jr

US Navy

(Served 1941-1946)

View his Service Profile on TogetherWeServed.com at http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/93575

Short Bio: Having witnessed (and participated in) British training and cross-channel harassment operations emphasizing the military art of deception, Fairbanks attained a depth of understanding and appreciation of military deception then unheard of in the United States Navy. Lt Fairbanks was subsequently transferred to Virginia Beach where he came under the command of Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, who was preparing U.S. Naval forces for the invasion of North Africa.

Fairbanks was able to convince Hewitt of the advantages of such a unit, and Admiral Hewitt soon took Fairbanks to Washington, D.C. to sell the idea to the Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Ernest King. Fairbanks succeeded and ADM King issued a secret letter on 5 March 1943 charging the Vice Chief of Naval Operations with the recruitment of 180 officers and 300 enlisted men for the Beach Jumper program.

14
Dec

MK2 Bill Cote U.S. Coast Guard (1979-1988)

Read the service reflections of U.S. Coast Guardman

coteMK2 Bill Cote

U.S. Coast Guard

(1979-1988)

Shadow Box: http://coastguard.togetherweserved.com/profile/41

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

My dad and step-dad were both WWII vets. My dad joined the Army Air Corps in 1941 for service in the Philippines and Guadalcanal. My step-dad was in the US Army with the 964th Field Artillery. He was in the Battle of the Bulge, Omaha Beach, and 3 other major
cote21978 battles. I had 3 uncles and an older brother in the US Navy.

I joined the Maine Army National Guard in 1978 my junior year in high school. I went to Army Basic Training in August 1978 at Fort Dix NJ. Then I graduated from high school 5 months early in Jan. of 1979. I went back to Ft. Dix for my AIT Power Generator and Wheel Vehicle Mechanic school in Jan of 1979. Then back to my Guard unit in Belfast, Me. I became an M-60 Machine Gunner at 17.

My assistant Gunner was a Nam vet Marine who taught me very well in the use of the 60. We had our summer training in North Dakota in June of 1979. I asked a friend when he thought they would put me in the motor pool and he said probably when my 6 years were up.

I was offered OCS school, but I gave it some thought and decided I wanted a change. Since I grew up on the coast of Maine and most of my friends and their dads were fishermen, I decided that I would join the US Coast Guard.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

After attending prior service Boot Camp at Cape May NJ. I was assigned as an SA, aboard the CGC Gallatin from August of 1979- December of 1980. I worked in the engine room for MK1 Steve Brown, Mk1 Clark and MKCS Defrancisco. I switched to FA, made FN, then off to MK-A school in lovely Yorktown Virginia. I graduated as an MKFN.

I was then stationed at the 378 MAT in Boston, MA from 1980-1983. I worked for MKCS Calvin Smith. He was awesome to work with, he taught me alot about rebuilding Fairbanks Morse engines, and Gas turbines.

Our shop was next door to the assist team so I got to work with some great folks there also. Two of my favorites were MKCM Stanley Hiller, and MKCM Gerry Poliskey.

left the Mat team as an MK3, to serve aboard the CGC Duane WHEC 33. I worked in the engine room for MKCM Duke (Gary) Snyder. I worked my way from Oiler up to Second Throttles. I loved working on that ship, I was always proud every time I walked down the pier to get aboard her.

I received the Commandants Letter of Commendation while on board the Duane. Probably one of my biggest achievements, beside’s jumping on a forklift and putting boulders on the base of the LORAN tower in Lampedusa Italy during a 60+ mph wind storm and helped keep her from blowing over!! That was from 1984-1985. I worked with a great crew there also. From the Skipper Dave Mogan on down!!!

I made MK2 and after a year in Italy I was told I would get choice of duty, I wanted Alaska, but that never happened. I was stationed back in Boston at the 270′ Mat. I then transferred to the CGC Spar WLB 403 which I enjoyed. I was in A gang.

In 1986 I transferred to Rockland station which was in my home turf. I love working SAR. Anytime I heard the alarm go off I was running for the boats.

While in Boston I had dislocated my right shoulder twice. I had surgery and they gave me 45 days to heal up then I was back turning wrenches. It eventually got bad enough that I sadly had to get out in Jan of 1988.

It definitely was an adventure I wouldn’t trade for anything. My only regret is not staying in long enough to retire!!!

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

While on board CGC Gallatin, we were at GQ for 3 days straight chasing a submarine off of Cuba keeping her from surfacing, while waiting for the USN for an assist!! That was pretty awesome.

I also remember doing Haitians ops while on board the CGC Duane. All those poor women and children. Pretty sad duty.

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

I loved all my duty stations.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

I remember how proud I was every time I went aboard a ship.

Seeing floaters in NYC, and Boston is something that’s kinda hard to forget.

While living in Hyde Park just outside of Boston, my friend and shipmate Bob Wilson and I saw an accident where a drunk driver t-boned a 16 year old boy and his girlfriend. She got out okay but he was trapped. We got there the same time as the 1st responders. We helped rip the door off, then got him out and we started performing CPR. He was vomiting up blood and I knew it wasn’t good. The ambulance got there and took over. I read in the paper a few days later that he had died!!!

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

Commandants letter of Commendation!!! I helped save the USCG alot of money by just doing what I had been trained to do!!!!

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

In August of 1979 MK1 Steve Brown handed me Louis L’amours “Fair Blow’s the Wind” and I’ve been reading and collecting Louis’ books ever since. I even have an autographed one. I worked for some great people and with some great people. They all had an impact on me. MKCM Calvin Smith had an positive impact on me. Captain Arthur Solvang, CO of Base Boston, MKCM Gerry Poliskey, MKCM Stan Hiller, MKCM Harvey Fenton, MKCM Duke Snyder, Lt. Commander Lawrence Murphy, my last CO on the CGC Duane, CWO4 Nim Gray. I could go on for days!!!

I only met a few Coasties I didn’t like!

PLEASE RECOUNT THE NAMES OF FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH, AT WHICH LOCATION, AND WHAT YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THEM. INDICATE THOSE YOU ARE ALREADY IN TOUCH WITH AND THOSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE CONTACT WITH.

USCGC Gallatin. I’m in touch with several shipmates from my days aboard the old gal.

Fran Dietrich my engine room soogie partner getting her cleaned up for New Yorker magazine to come take pics lol.

EM3 Bob Howe Bob signed a lot of my engine room quals.,

EM3 Peggy O’Neill, I remember breaking in on 4-8 oiler rounds with Peggy she was an awesome shipmate.

Just got in touch with MK3 Mark Sullivan from my Gallatin days!!!!!

378′ Mat I stayed in touch with quite a few folks from my days in Boston, many have crossed the bar, fair winds to them. I stay in touch with Gerry Poliskey, Mark Powell, Paul Holmes.

I would like to get in touch with MKCM Calvin Smith, I’ve tried getting a hold of him. Last I knew he retired and was living in Plymouth, MA.!!!

CGC Duane, CWO4 Nim Gray was our Main Prop advisor and I still call him Mr Gray. He’s a great person.

Duke crossed over.

I still hunt with MK1 Charles Dean.

The Hamilton twins crossed the bar.

Chris Mcgilvery and his Coastie wife Jeannie are still in touch.

Paul Ludden, Pat Mccauley, Thomas Porter, XO Chuck Hill, Doug Harvey, Dave Hutchinson, Mike Snopko, Marvin Dunmeyer, Wayne Jarvis just to name a few!

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?

I worked in the ship yards and construction after I got out. I have asbestosis and several other service connected disabilities. My wife is an artist, author, and illustrator of a children’s books. I have 2 beautiful daughters, Lauren age 11 and Hannah age 8. They are both very artistic

I cut gemstones, make jewelry, and Native American flutes for fun.

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

American Legion, and lifetime member DAV. they have helped with my VA claims! I was doing some service officer work with the Legion for a few years.

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

I still like to help people in trouble. I always kept good work ethics and a positive attitude, I worked on quite a few Coast Guard Cutters even after I got out.

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

Hang in there, and thanks for your service. Don’t ask people to do anything your not willing to do yourself!

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

I’ve gotten in touch with some of my old shipmates. Thanks to TWS, Fred’s Place and Facebook.

12
Dec

Heroic Pilots of Pearl Harbor

At the beginning of December, 1941, Army Air Forces pilots Second Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth Taylor had moved their P-40s away from the main airfield at Wheeler to a nearby auxiliary field at Haleiwa as part of a gunnery exercise. The vast majority of Army Air Forces fighters at Wheeler were parked in neat rows on the main flight-line; although war with Japan appeared imminent, it was decided that the possibility of sabotage from the ground presented a greater threat than a potential air attack, and it was easier to guard them while parked in neat rows than dispersed on the airfield perimeter. When the Japanese carrier-based sneak attack against Pearl Harbor and Wheeler and Hickam Fields came on the morning of December 7, 1941, the majority of the U.S. Army Air Forces fighters were easily destroyed on the ground, several of them when the first P-40 pilot attempting to take off to fight was hit and killed on his takeoff roll and his fighter went crashing down the flight-line at Wheeler.

Welch and Taylor had spent the evening of Saturday, Dec. 6, at a dance at the Wheeler Field officers club, followed by an all-night card game some distance away from their home base at Haleiwa. That fateful Sunday morning, as they discussed the merits of taking an early morning swim, they heard distant gunfire. Suddenly the Japanese swooped down on Wheeler Field, which was a center for fighter operations in Hawaii. Dive bombers seemed to appear out of nowhere. Violent explosions upended the parked planes, and buildings began to burn. Welch ran for a telephone and called Haleiwa as bullets sprayed around him.

“Get two P-40s ready!” he yelled. “It’s not a gag. The Japs are here.” The two hopped into Taylor’s car with machine-gun bullets from planes of the attacking Japanese aircraft kicking up dust around them. They reached speeds of 100 mph during the 16-mile dash to Haleiwa. Japanese Zeros strafed their car three times. When the two fliers careened onto the airfield nine minutes later, their fighter planes were already armed and the propellers were turning over. Without waiting for orders they took off.

As they climbed for altitude they ran into twelve Japanese Val dive bombers over the Marine air base at Ewa. Welch and Taylor began their attack immediately. On their first pass, machine guns blazing, each shot down a bomber. As Taylor zoomed up and over in his Tomahawk, he saw an enemy bomber heading out to sea. He gave his P-40 full throttle and roared after it. Again his aim was good and the Val broke up before his eyes, tumbling into the sea. In the meantime Welch’s plane had been hit and he dived into a protective cloud bank. The damage didn’t seem too serious so he flew out again – only to find himself on the tail of another Val. With only one gun now working he nevertheless managed to send the bomber flaming into a watery grave.

Both pilots now vectored toward burning Wheeler Field for more ammunition and gas. Welch later recalled: “We had to argue with some of the ground crew. They wanted us to disperse the airplanes and we wanted to fight.” Unfortunately the extra cartridge belts for the P-40s were in a hangar which was on fire. Two mechanics ran bravely into the dangerous inferno and returned with the ammunition.

They headed directly into the enemy planes, all guns firing. This time Ken Taylor was hit in the arm, and then a Val closed in behind him. Welch kicked his rudder and the Tomahawk whipped around and blasted the Val, though his own plane had been hit once more. Taylor had to land, but George Welch shot down still another bomber near Ewa before he returned.

In the aftermath, the single American airfield to emerge from the battle unscathed was Haleiwa. Some speculated that this was because the Japanese did not know of its existence. More likely, it was because Welch and Taylor aggressively and continually drove off the attackers. One group of Japanese planes, their bomb cargoes expended, turned to strafe Hickam and Ewa airfields and the naval installations at Ford Island. One of those Japanese pilots saw an aerial melee in the distance that very likely included Welch and Taylor. The Japanese flier reported seeing several of his comrades’ planes falling from the sky in flames.

Taylor later recalled: “We went down and got in the traffic pattern and shot down several planes there. I know for certain I shot down two planes or perhaps more; I don’t know.” A total of 29 Japanese planes were shot down during the attack, and Welch and Taylor were officially credited with seven of them, four in their first sortie and three in the second.

In all, a total of five U.S. Army Air Forces pilots managed to get their planes off the ground and give battle that morning. One of them, a lieutenant named Sanders, led a group of planes through overcast skies at 6,000 feet. When a formation of six Japanese bombers was spotted attacking an airfield, the group chased them off. Sanders picked out the Japanese leader and sent the smoking enemy plane spiraling into the sea.

Sanders then spotted a comrade in trouble. Lieutenant James Sterling had closed with an enemy bomber, but another Japanese plane had gotten on his tail and was pouring fire into him. Sanders pulled in behind Sterling’s attacker, and all four planes went into a steep dive. Sanders was the only one to come out. Sterling lost his life, and both Japanese aircraft went down.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, Taylor was assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron, and went to the South Pacific at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. He was able to record two additional aerial kills: the first on January 27 and the other on December 7, 1943, two years after Pearl Harbor. This brought his total number of career kills to six, making him a flying ace. After 27 years of active duty, he retired as a colonel in 1967, and became the Assistant Adjutant General for the Alaska Air National Guard, retiring as a Brigadier General in 1971.

After contracting an illness from a hip surgery two years prior, Taylor died on November 25, 2006 of a strangulated hernia at an assisted living residence in Tucson, Arizona. He was cremated and later buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in June 2007 with full military honors.

Welch remained in the Pacific Theater of Operations and went on to score 12 more kills against Japanese aircraft (16 in total), making him a triple ace.

In the spring of 1944, Welch was approached by North American Aviation to become a test pilot for the P-51 Mustang. He went on to fly the prototypes of the FJ Fury, and when the F-86 Sabre was proposed, Welch was chosen as the chief test pilot.

In September, 1947, the F-86 project moved to the Muroc test facility (now Edwards AFB, California), the same base at which the Bell X-1 was being developed. North American was instructed by Secretary of the Air Force Stuart Symington that they were not, under any circumstances, to break the sound barrier before the X-1 achieved this milestone. However, Welch disregarded this order, and during a test flight on October 1, 1947, he entered a steep dive from 35,000 ft. During the dive, Welch observed symptoms compatible with Mach jump. However, due to problems with the landing gear, further full-speed flights were delayed. On October 14, the same day that Chuck Yeager was to attempt supersonic flight, Welch reputedly performed a second supersonic dive. This time he started from 37,000 ft., and executed a full-power 4g pullout, greatly increasing the power of his apparent sonic boom. Yeager broke the sound barrier approximately 30 minutes later.

To justify the investment in the X-1 program, the Pentagon allegedly ordered the results of Welch’s flights classified and did not allow North American to publicly announce that the XP-86 had gone supersonic until almost a year later. The Air Force still officially denies that Welch broke the sound barrier first. Welch had achieved supersonic flight only in a dive, not in level flight, and his flights were unofficial and not tracked by NACA measuring equipment, making verification impossible.

Welch went on to work with North American Aviation in the Korean War as Chief Test Pilot, engineer and instructor, where he reportedly downed several enemy MiG-15s while “supervising” his students.

After the war, Welch returned to flight testing – this time in the F-100 Super Sabre – with Yeager flying the chase plane. Welch became the first man to break the sound barrier in level flight with this type of aircraft, the first USAF fighter to achieve level supersonic flight, on May 25, 1953. However, stability problems with the aircraft arose, and on Columbus Day, October 12, 1954, Welch’s F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre disintegrated during a 7g pullout at Mach 1.55. When found, Welch was still in the ejection seat, mortally injured. He was evacuated by helicopter, but was pronounced dead on arrival at the Army hospital. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Welch and Taylor were both nominated for the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions on Pearl Harbor Day, and the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces, General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, was reportedly anxious to receive the nominations. Unfortunately for the two heroes, the intermediate Chain of Command, whose pride was evidently smarting from having been caught off guard and suffering the devastation they did, reasoned absurdly that they had taken off without proper authorization and therefore could not be awarded the United States’ highest military award. As a result, the awards were downgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross for both men.

9
Dec

Sgt Dan Blocker US Army (Served 1950-1952)

View the service history of actor:

blockerSgt Dan Blocker

US Army

(Served 1950-1952)

View his Service Profile on TogetherWeServed.com at http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/339487

Short Bio: He is best remembered for his role of ‘Hoss Cartwright’ in the TV series, “Bonanza,” which ran from 1959 to 1972. Blocker served during the Korean War.

%d bloggers like this: