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27
Feb

TWS: Basic Training Photos

Do you still have your Basic Training photos? Many of us have lost ours along the way. That is one of the reasons that TWS has started reaching out to find as many Basic Training Photos as we can.

In the last few weeks TWS has added over 6000 photos to our database. This now allows you to display your basic training photo above your listing on your profile. If we have found yours, you will see it there.

If you have your basic training info on your profile, great! When we find your photo, you’ll be notified. If you have your photo, you can email them to us at admin@togetherweserved.com along with where it was, Platoon, Company, Division, Flight or Battalion, along with the year and we will get it added for you.

24
Feb

CPL Conrad Hilton US Army (Served 1917-1918)

View the service history of entrepreneur:

conrad-hiltonCPL Conrad Hilton

US Army

(Served 1917-1918)

View his service shadow box on TogetherWeServed.com
http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/372674

Short Bio: He purchased his first hotel in Cisco, Texas in 1919 after returning from service in World War I. He quickly acquired other hotels, and formed Hilton Corporation in 1946. His first luxury Hilton Hotel was built in 1925 in Dallas Texas, and his empire has expanded to include over 2000 hotels and properties around the world.

22
Feb

FTCM Lonnie Jones U.S. Coast Guard (Ret) (1956-1977)

Read the service reflections of Coast Guardsman:

13496_medFTCM Lonnie Jones

U.S. Coast Guard (Ret)

(1956-1977)

Shadow box: http://coastguard.togetherweserved.com/profile/12150

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
I graduated high school and was hanging out at the park and playing baseball for a church. One Saturday morning, I think it was the 16th of July 1956, I went into the kitchen for breakfast. Mother met me with a quarter and the want ads making the statement “Get a job or join the service TODAY.” I opened the want ad and there was the big advertisement: “Be a Life Saver”, “Join the U.S. Coast Guard”. Mobile recruiting unit in from of the post office today. God said to me, “Here you go. That’s where I want you.” I caught the bus went to the mobile recruiting trailer and took the test. The Recruiter told me I qualified and if I joined I would go to “A” school from Boot Camp. I called my mother, she came up signed the papers.

Monday I received a physical. Tuesday I was sworn in and put on a plane for Boot Camp.

I don’t ever remember hearing it was for just four years.

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?

In Boot Camp I made the Coast Guard football team and played that season. The Coach, Ltjg Hinds, got me assigned to Fire Control “A” School, Groton CT. in hopes I would be assigned to the Unimack and be available for 1957 season. I was shocked when I
arrived at FT School and found out I would not be a fire fighter but a Fire Control Technician operating the Ordnance equipment and controlling the fire power of the ship. I started the school, eight graduated and I was #7 of the 8. I received orders to the CGC Absecon in Norfolk.

I arrived at the Absecon as a SNFT. Promoted to FT3, 1 September, 1957, FT2 1 May 1958.

Transferred to the CGC Unimack Dec 1959 where I was promoted to FT1(E6) on 1 January 1960.

Transferred to the CGC Westwind 2 FEB 1963 and advanced to FTC(E7) 1 October 1964.

I was assigned to CG District 3, 5/11/64 till 10/1967, CG Eastern Area Inspectors 10/67 to 7/1/1969,

CG TRACEN, Governors Island, NY 7/1/1969 where I was advanced to FTCS(E8) on 1/1/1970 and FTCM(E9) 12/1/1970.the same year.

7/1/1972 I transferred to CG Institute.

7/1/71975 transferred to CGHQ-OMR and retired 10/1/1977. SR(E1) to FTCM(E9) in 14 years 6 months and 12 days.

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.

In 1957 the Absecon was on Ocean Station Echo, just north of Bermuda, Hurricane Carrie sunk the German Naval Academy training ship Pamir. We had to go in one side, through the eye and out the other side of the hurricane to reach the rescue area. There were only 6 survivors. I was in the CGC Absecon Life Boat crew that recovered one of them.

The next day the sea was like a sheet of glass, not a ripple on it. Like it had swallowed it’s fill and was now satisfied.

I can’t really say how it makes you feel, but it does change your life.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I never had a bad assignment. I guess I enjoyed the Eastern Area evaluator job the most. I got to travel from Maine to Brownsville, Texas evaluating operations on every type of Coast Guard unit ashore and at sea including aviation units.

I do not have a least favorite.

The Cadet Cruise’s to Europe on the Absecon, The port’s of call on the Unimack, The trip on the Westwind to Thule and the Arctic, Instructing students at the TRACEN,

How could you choose one over the other?

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

With the Pamir rescue, we had to go in one side thru the eye and out the other side of hurricane Carrie, which enforced the slogan “You have to go out, You do not have to return”. Training and supervising 6×8 reserves on the Unimack, my first FT3’s on the West Wind, all shipboard FT’s in the 3rd district, and FT “C” school students at the training center were the most rewarding.

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

I was transferred from the CG Institute to CGHQ-OMR for the main purpose of rewriting CG272, The Ordnance manual.I received the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for Superior Performance of Duty from June 1975 to March 1976. It reads:

“Master Chief Petty Officer Jones is cited for outstanding achievement and superior
performance of duty while serving as Chief, Technical Publications Section, Military Capabilities Branch, Military Readiness Division, Office of Operations, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters from June 1975 to March 1976. Demonstrating exceptional administrative ability, Master Chief Petty Officer Jones was the primary editor, organizer,and expediter of the rewriting of the Coast Guard Ordnance manual (CG-272) which went to press in March 1976. Displaying excellent foresight and a clear understanding of the needs of the Coast Guard, Master Chief Petty Officer Jones applied himself to the task of updating this ten-year-old 590 page technical and administrative manual and successfully insured the the correctness of information and references and the deletion of outdated portions.

Working long hours organizing the material, he coordinated and cleared the project through numerous branches, divisions and offices in an effort that produced an efficient and useful document of 384 pages which will result in improved administration of the Military Readiness Program throughout the Coast Guard. Master Chief Petty Officer Jones’ diligence, initiative and unwavering devotion to duty in this assignment are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard. ”

I not only researched, assembled and laid out the material, I taught myself the 3M Word Processor and typed the whole manual with tables, charts and pictures properly inserted in the text which was dual column, I proofread the material and cleared the manual through all concerned divisions of Headquarters getting approval to go to print in record time.

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?

U. S. Coast Guard Achievement Medal described before. I am equally proud of my 21 years with Good Conduct Medals and the gold stripes I wore.

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

GMC Hugh Brady, my first Chief on my first ship. He instilled the sense of duty to be where I was suppose to be, do what I was suppose to do, and complete the task to the best of my ability.

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?
Swimming off the side of the CGC Unimack while berthed at Cape May I swung out on a life boat line which slipped, I froze and swung back into the side of the ship hitting an angle iron sticking out of the side of the ship with my right foot. Because this was against orders to swim off the ship in port we called our shipboard Corpsman back to sew up the hole in my foot instead of going to the base dispensary. Jerry came back a little under the influence and sewed up the toughest skin on the body.

The comments made by him while forcing a large needle thru the tough skin of the sole of the foot are not repeatable. We remain friends and have several more unrepeatable stories.

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 teaching myself the 3M word processor while writing the Ordnance Manual I became an expert on the word processing capabilities. I was sent to 3M to learn Assembler programming language to develop programs for the Coast Guard. While in school at 3M, they offered me a joband I immediately retired and started work for 3M Business Communications products. This lasted for 11 years with changes from Word Processing to Facsimile to “Whisper Writer” Electronic Mail Products.

In 1986 I was trained as a Service Technician and moved from VA to FL to service corporate units and expand the base by selling more units when not servicing existing units. 1987 3M dropped the product line and we ended up with Harris Lanier with a guaranteed employment for 90 days. After 9 months as a Service/Sale Representative for Lanier I was let go.

January 1989 I was hired by U.S. Navy Aviation Depot Pensacola as an Aviation Electrician. The depot was closed by congress and I went on the road for Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, L3 and Crestview Aviation as a contract field team Aviation Electrician This lasted about 25 years.

My last job from 2011 to 2013 was with GE Wind Energy as an Assembler. I am now unemployed/retired.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association(Charter and Silver Life Member )
Fleet Reserve Association
American Legion
Sons of the American Revolution (Life member)
Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge
Society of the War of 1812
Sons of Confederate Veterans
Society of the American Colonist
National Rifle Association

Mostly a little life insurance, car and home insurance availability, health and accident offers and fellowship with members and the show of patriotism.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
It has provided me with the security to do things I want to do with out worrying about money and health concerns. The commitment to fulfill the obligations to my employers, organizations, family and friends to the best of my ability were instilled by my military service.

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

Stay with it. Be in the right place at the right time and BE READY. You volunteered to serve and made the commitment to do you best. Keep the flexibility to go where and when the Coast Guard needs you without regrets. Follow orders to the best of your ability. Remember, You made the commitment to the Coast Guard and you need to bend with the needs of the service.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
Immensely! Going through my pictures, books, certificates, and records brings back many memories. Remembering the Places, People, Activities, Stories and Accomplishments help restore my feeling of self worth. Cures some depression and restores passion for the future.

20
Feb

Crypto Duty at Rocket City

By William B. Leppert
When one hears the name, Rocket City, places like Titusville, Florida or Houston, Texas may come to mind due to their association with the NASA space program. Rocket City, however, had nothing to do with America’s space program. It was the rocket attacks name that was given to the U.S. Airbase at Da Nang during the Vietnam War in what was then, South Vietnam. Da Nang was one of the largest U.S. bases in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. During the years of 1965-1973, there were 87 rocket attacks with a total of 996 rockets fired against the Da Nang airbase by enemy forces. These 996 rockets inflicted injuries to 586 Americans and killed an additional 45 more. In addition to the number of casualties inflicted on U.S. personnel, a total of 256 aircraft were damaged and an additional 30 more had been totally destroyed.It was in February of 1967 when I was assigned to Naval Communications Station Philippines (NCSP), Det Bravo, at Da Nang, Vietnam for a six months of temporary assigned duty (TAD). NCSP, located at San Miguel, Zambales, Philippines, was one of the largest and busiest naval communications stations in the world during the Vietnam War.

My duties as a communications (cryptologic) technician would include flying missions, as one of 30 crewmembers, with VQ-1 that was headquartered in Atsugi, Japan. VQ-1 was a naval air reconnaissance squadron that flew in support of Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign against North Vietnam from March 2, 1965 to October 31, 1968. Rolling Thunder was the longest bombing campaign ever implemented by the U.S. Air Force and Navy during the Vietnam War. The aircraft used by VQ-1 during Operation Rolling Thunder was the EC-121M, a converted Lockheed Super Constellation passenger plane that was commonly used in the 1940’s and 50’s. We referred to this aircraft as the ‘Connie’. It consisted of a crew of 18 to 30 personnel depending on the electronic tasks involved in our missions. During the time that I served with Det Bravo, I flew 38 missions with VQ-1.

Our flights were usually eight or more hours in length flying over the Gulf of Tonkin near and around the North Vietnamese port city of Haiphong. Our crews consisted of specialists in Morse code intercept along with Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese linguists who monitored voice intercept from the surface to air missile (SAM) sites in North Vietnam. Our plane also had the capability of establishing the coordinates of our downed pilots who were shot down during their bombing missions and relaying this information to the U.S. 7th Fleet in the South China Sea below. This information was vital to determine if a rescue attempt could be made.

During the six months that I served at Da Nang, there were three rocket attacks made against the airbase by enemy forces. The most severe rocket attack at Da Nang during the Vietnam War had occurred on July 15, 1967 when the enemy forces fired 83 rounds of 122mm and 140mm Russian manufactured rockets on to the airbase. There were 175 casualties during that attack and 44 of them were personnel of Det Bravo and VQ-1. Our barracks happened to be located about 50 yards from a bomb storage area that was ignited by one the rockets that had exploded there. The bunkers that we had constructed did not have roofs on them at the time, so the shrapnel from the exploding bombs rained down into our bunkers. Fortunately, no one was killed but our barracks was totally destroyed. After the attack, the personnel of Det Bravo were transferred to another area located near Da Nang Harbor called Camp Tien Sha. It was near the R & R area at China Beach. China Beach was a favorite place for many G.I.s, especially when the pretty American nurses were there. We referred to them as round eyes.

I was only at Da Nang for six months of my life but it was six months that I will never forget. Compared to the Vietnam combat veterans, I had easy duty while I was in Vietnam but I served with honor and felt that both Det Bravo and VQ-1 had performed their assignments with exemplary dedication in support of the U. S. war effort.

In conclusion, I would like to pay a special tribute to all of the Vietnam veterans and also to the VQ-1 crew that was shot down by North Korea over the Sea of Japan on April 15, 1969. I had flown with some of that same crew while I was at Da Nang, including the plane commander, Lt. Cdr. James Overstreet.

To view video of rocket attacks on Da Nang airfield https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDdIdT9pd3s

17
Feb

PFC Hugh Brannum US Marine Corps (Served 1944-1945)

View the service history of actor:

greenjeans

PFC Hugh Brannum

US Marine Corps

(Served 1944-1945)

View his Service Profile on TogetherWeServed.com at http://marines.togetherweserved.com/profile/175756

Short Bio: Best remembered as Mr Green Jeans on “Captain Kangaroo”, While in college at Redlands University, he became interested in jazz, and after graduation, played bass in various bands on the West Coast and occasionally at a local radio station. During World War II, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and joined a Marine band led by Bob Crosby, brother of famed singer Bing Crosby.

15
Feb

1stSgt Jack Moritz U.S. Air Force (Ret) (1954-1975)

Read the service reflections of Airman:

profile1stSgt Jack Moritz

U.S. Air Force (Ret)

(1954-1975)

Shadow Box: http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/profile/166178

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

This from my perspective, being Jacks son, I found out a lot about my dad mostly from family and friends who served with him not from him. He was a very private man about his service. My dad joined the Marines in 1950, mostly to get off of the farm. He was 17 and didn’t want to miss out on going to Korea as he missed out on WWII. Well he went. From what I’ve heard, he was a wild man back then. Did a little whiskey running out of Kentucky. Got shot at by the law several times. He told me many times though how scared he was in Korea.

When it came time for reenlistment he was ready. He loved military life, but the Marines refused to allow him to reenlist because his teeth were so bad it would cost a mint to get them in shape. Ah peace time Marines.

The Air Force was really just getting started and was changing from the Army Air Corps. He decided to go there. They didn’t even have their own Good Conduct Medal yet, that is why he has an Army Good Conduct Medal is on his profile. He hung with the Air Force until he retired in 1975. He achieved the rank of 1stSgt.

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?

USAF 1954-1975, he became a flight engineer. He loved flying. He gave up several promotions to keep flying. You’d think it being the Air Force they would like it if you were flying, but he couldn’t make E-9 because he continued to fly up until 1973. He was made a 1stSgt at McGuire AFB. He really didn’t like it much. Admin was not his thing. He did his first tour in Vietnam early in the war, from 1963 to 1964. He was stationed at Norton AFB for the next 3 years with an interruption of 6 months back in Vietnam.

Had a choice to go to Panama or Alaska. Asked the family which one. If Panama we would have to get rid of all of our pets, so it was Alaska. Great duty there.

Went to Vietnam on short TDY’s, Temporary Assigned Duty. Left Alaska in early 1973.

I joined the Marines a year earlier. I took after the ole man.

He transferred to McGuire AFB NJ. Worst duty station of his career he told me. They wouldn’t let him fly anymore. That was alwasy his first love.

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.

Yes several operations in Korea several operations in Vietnam. He received 19 Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his aerial shenanigans in Vietnam. He was a real war hero. That’s me saying that not him.

I have all of the citations but as most of these missions were covert they don’t give many details. Most of them or I should say all of them just list the award and date. Nothing about what happened.

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

Probably Elmendorf Air Force Base. Good duty. as the flight engineer for the Dall Sheep squadron on board with a general flying a C-123. Flew all over the world on this bird. The general would want to go somewhere and Jack would be ready to go at a moments notice. He flew with this general in Vietnam when the general was a Lt Col. in 1964. The general had box seats at arrow head stadium and would go to every home game. Jack went along with him. Why not, free beer. misappropriation of funds I would say but hey, maybe he had legitimate business there. Jack was given a clothing allowance to buy civilian clothes when on outings with the general.

I remember as a kid he’d bring my mother something from wherever he went. On occasion he’d bring us kids a little something. He brought me a florescent switchblade knife he said he got off a Coastie. It was really cool. After I went in the Marines, I left it at home. I think my little sister got it but won’t admit it. He also brought me a piggy bank after his first trip to ‘Nam. Not sure why but I still have it today. Man, I miss him.

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

This is a story my Brother in law, Bob, told me recently about my father. Dad really liked Bob as he was there around the family when I was not and dad thought of Bob as a son. Dad would have never told me this story. I’m not hurt that my dad wouldn’t tell me, I’m just glad that he felt comfortable enough with someone to tell it. I’m just glad he had the proper training and where with all to come home.

I’ve heard several stories about my dad and other strange occurrences in his life like this.

October 22, 2012

Dear Scott,

This story is the account of the C-123 Provider military airplane that crashed in Vietnam as told to me by your Dad shortly before his death in 1997. What had started as a simple conversation in the back yard turned into note taking because I was so interested in the story he told me. Now, years later at your request I am looking over these aging notes and I will attempt to give a reasonable account of the events as told to me. I will tell you the story as best I can remember. I will leave further research of facts and actualities to you or anyone else who wants to delve deeper into the incident.

As you know, your Dad was an Air Force Tech Sergeant serving as a Flight Engineer aboard a C-123 in Vietnam. During this time the U.S. military attachment to South Vietnam, as Jack remembered, was about 15,000 troops. They were designated as advisers. It was January or February of 1964 which would have made Jack a 31 year old 13 year military veteran. There were covert operations taking place in Vietnam at this time and the mission that Jack was on was to deliver food and supplies from Saigon to a French owned rubber plantation (probably Michelin). On board were four men; the pilot who was a Captain, the co-pilot who was a First Lieutenant, the flight engineer (Jack), and a buck Sergeant who was the loadmaster. The names of these men I do not know. It was the rainy season so the pilot was flying at 2500 feet due to the weather.

This was a night flight about 9:30 PM. The mountains they were flying over reminded Jack of the Alleghenies. At an air speed of 200 mph and not long into the flight the right engine went out and the plane descended quickly and went down in the jungle. They may have taken a hit because your Dad said there were North Vietnamese in the jungle with 50 caliber or maybe even 20 millimeter guns. There was radio communication up until the crash. The pilot and co-pilot were killed on impact. Jack and the loadmaster survived the crash. I have no details of the wreckage nor of what, if anything, was done or even could be done for the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot.

As Jack told the next part of this story he emphasized the disorientation and haste the two survivors were dealing with along with the feelings of being pumped with adrenaline. That, combined with the intensity of the situation left certain details sketchy. He said he believed it was within minutes that the two of them were separated as they left the crash scene knowing that possible enemy combatants could find the twisted wreckage first. He remembered running through the jungle stopping occasionally to try to get his bearings. He guessed that the loadmaster surrendered. After several bearing checks and trying to think through his heavy breathing and extreme emotions Jack reckoned a course that would hopefully take him near the rubber plantation which was the only place he was sure there were Americans. He proceeded through the jungle to near exhaustion. Jack said at one point he could hear people faintly jabbering in Vietnamese and so took cover in some underbrush and hunkered down there to assess the situation. No sleep came that night and he didn’t dare light a cigarette in the darkness as it could easily give away his position. So he stayed put. Thinking. Breathing. Wanting a smoke. Thinking again. Thinking of survival training. Thinking of mother and the kids. Catching his breath, he listened. He could see shanty lights. At least he thought they were shanty lights. He couldn’t chance contact because he didn’t know who was being friendly toward Americans. His adrenalin pumped again. Fear again. No sleep.

Morning came. Jack wondered what to do next. He tried to reestablish his bearings. He could still faintly hear Vietnamese. He would continue toward the rubber plantation.

Scott, this next part is strange but I’m telling you it’s real close to how your Dad told it to me. At this point Jack heard a voice in English and saw what he called a human-like image. It was dressed in a black kind of jump suit, I think he said. It said to him something like, If you have your passport we can get out of here. Jack didn’t know if he was hallucinating or not but he did tell me he did not like the thing as he called it. He drank some rain water and started moving from his night spot. He would move and hide and would see the thing again. The thing was smoking a cigarette and was luring Jack to have a smoke. Jack told the thing to put the cigarette out or they would find him. At one point as Jack was hiding he said that a few Vietnamese (he didn’t say if they were soldiers or not) came within a few feet of him as the “thing”, the image, stood nearby. He said the Vietnamese could not see the thing. Throughout this first day of moving and hiding the thing appeared to Jack four or five times, once or twice offering cigarettes and food. Whether there was real food and cigarettes Jack did not know. He did tell me he felt that it was an evil presence whether real, imagined, or conjured up by hallucination. I will tell you that it gave me chills on the back of my neck as your Dad talked of it. He told me he never told anyone else about this part of the story.

Night two came and Jack hunkered down as best he could. He did not know how many miles he had come but he had made some progress. He ate nothing; only drank rain water. The temperature was chilly and damp in the low to mid-fifties so he sought some slight comfort under the brush. He was chilled to the bone. In the distance a dog barked endlessly and there was some sound of Vietnamese music. No sleep came. A nod maybe, but no sleep. Jack wondered if the creepy image from the day before was lurking and if it was going to appear again. It did not. Then some miles off there was the rat-tat-tat of fire-fights and the sound of aircraft delivering rounds of ammunition. Through the jungle brush Jack could see ground to air tracers piercing the night sky. He stayed put. Another night. Hiding from the unknown. Alone. Again.

Daylight came again and Jack continued his weary path and as he told me the story of this second day I sensed that he had gained a determination to exit this predicament. Concerning this second day Jack did not talk of his fear or of lost comrades. He did not talk of jungle noises or shanties in the distance and there was no mention of strange images. He said he walked and hid and walked again and made more progress. He heard voices and hid again. But these voices were American and Vietnamese mixed. Considering his condition he carefully peered through the brush toward a rough road and saw a patrol of four U.S. Marines with about forty South Vietnamese. Your Dad decided to emerge. As tattered as he must have looked he stood in plain view of those combat ready ground troops. With his hands up as if to surrender and to avoid being shot by friendly fire he identified himself as Technical Sergeant Jack P. Moritz; flight Engineer from the C-123.

We crashed! he told them in his exhaustion.

He heard a Marine say, We know. You’re okay now. The troops lowered their rifles.
The patrol took care of your Dad’s initial needs and then transported him to the rubber plantation which was about thirty five miles away. He washed, was given clean fatigues, ate, smoked, was debriefed, smoked again, and slept. That night he slept again on the relative comfort of a cot within the confines of a well-guarded business interest.

As your Dad waited for the next air supply shuttle back to Saigon the officer in charge asked him if he needed anything else. Jack said, Sir, I’d like a cold beer and I’d like to have that American flag flying over this compound. The officer accommodated him. Such was the story as told to me. It was certainly an adventure revisiting this memoir and I am happy to have finally written it for you and, I guess, for your Dad also. May God be always in your heart. These are things my dad confided in me over the years My wife’s fear of flying.

We drove from every duty station to the next even though we could have flown for free. She saw me crash land at Griffith Air Force base early in my career and it scared her so much that she refused to fly ever. We drove the car hauling a trailer, 5 kids, 2 dogs, and a cat from Norton Air force base in Southern California to Elmendorf in Alaska. Took about a month. I was there. Lost the cat. We drove the Alcan (Alaskan highway) in the dead of winter. Very few hotels or restaurants where open during the winter. I remember cooking cans of beans on top of the warm engine of the car. Also Canadians pour vinegar on their potatoes to keep them fresh in the winter. Gives them a disgusting flavor though. At least for kids it does. The trip from Otis AFB in MA to Norton AFB Calif was a long one but welcomed as it was right after my first tour of Vietnam. It was great to see the country. My wife lost her fear of flying when we were stationed at McQuire AFB in NJ, our oldest daughter was pregnant and had our first grandchild. She flew back to Alaska to see him.

My wife never drank but we poured her onto the plane full of liquor and tranquilizers. I know they won’t let you fly any longer in this condition but this was in 1974.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? 

Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medals. I was there at the ceremony at Norton when he received the awards. There was a major also receiving awards but my dad got so many I was getting tired of hearing his name. It took several hours. It made the local paper. I have the citations. Also the Airman’s Medal for flying where he had no business flying as I was told. I always figured it was for missions flown over China. He neither confirmed or denied my assumption.

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?

Distinguished Flying Cross. I asked him that same question once. His response was, ” Damn boy, I’m in the Air Force. That’s top dog right there don’t you know.” What a dumb ass. That’s how he talked.

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

Several Generals come to mind. I don’t have their names yet. I do however have several pictures from the early years I will post. I know Jack and MSgt Dick Braun where very close. Dick always was a very serious man or so it seemed to me. Dick had a wife that he’d met in Germany named Inge. She was quite a beauty.

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?

These are things my dad confided in me over the years. In Alaska at Elmendorf AFB. Good friend Ssgt John Rollins his wife and mine went out in town. (Anchorage). Now the entertainment at the time was slim but they were advertising a 500lbs stripper at some joint downtown. Jack had to see this so he brought along John his wife and Jacks wife. Well when they got to the place, John who drank pretty heavily anyway opened the door and we followed him in. The place was filled with nothing but black people as the jumbo lady happened to be black. John says in a loud booming voice” where in the hell did all of theses n(word)s come from. Jack laughed and they felt obliged to leave immediately. Never saw the stripper.

John use to get so drunk he’d call my son who was only 12 or 13 at the time with no drivers license to come drive him home from the club. We lived in walking distance from the club. Good thing his mother never found out. She’d have killed me and John. Scottie drove better than John even when John was sober. I didn’t have much to teach him about driving when it came his time other than slowing down. Boy that man was crazy. Good times though.

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?

He got out in 1975. The economy sucked so bad Jack could not find employment so he went to college and studied electronics. He graduated with an Associates degree and went to work for Hobart brothers as an electrical tech in 1978. Retired from there in 1993. He loved working there but really missed the military life and being in charge. He still rarely told me of his exploits other than a few drunks he was on.

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

VFW; AMVETS; Eagles; Benifits: camaraderie with fellow service men and of course cheap beer; Loved his beer.

Every time Jack would visit the Vietnam memorial in Washington DC he would come back and not be worth a damn for about 3 or 4 weeks. I’d beg him not to go back but him and his buddies from the AMVETs or VFW would plan a trip to go see it He lost many friends there. When he saw the Korean memorial, I was told he cried. I’d only seen my father cry once and that was when his father died in 1966.

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

My dad was a very serious man when it came to his career. He loved the military and this country more than his life. He would have given it up for the asking for his country I’m sure of that. Be better than I was he always told me. While I was in the Marines, I must have forgotten that. In civilian life I’ve always striven to be as good or better than he. In many areas I have fallen short of this goal.

During the Gulf War when we were attacking, at the age of almost 62, he wanted to go back and join the military. He said he’d go in any capacity that he still could do things and had a lot to offer. I believed him. They told him, let the young ‘uns handle this one Jack. He was crushed though.

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

Always do better than what you think you can and expect more from your children than you do of yourself. At least make them want to be better and have better than you did. Jack was a tough act to follow.

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

Thanks for allowing me to post this tribute to my dad. Most of these stories I’m handing down as they were told to me. His accomplishments were many. He died at home and got to say goodbye to all of his children and his wife Darlyn who would go anywhere he went. I remember the last time I saw him I shook his hand and hugged him. I said I’d see him. He said not too soon I hope. Always lighthearted to the end. Tough ole bird. The world is less interesting without him in it.

Note from Admin: If you have a veteran in your life and you would like to assist them in telling their story, please join us at our new website http://sos.togetherweserved.org.

13
Feb

The Sound That Binds

By Keith Nightingale U.S. Army (Ret.)

Unique to all that served in Vietnam is the UH-1H helicopter. It was both devil and angel and it served as both extremely well. Whether a LRRP, U.S. or RVN soldier or civilian, whether, NVA, VC, Allied or Civilian, it provided a sound and sense that lives with us all today. It is the one sound that immediately clears the clouds of time and freshens the images of our mind. It will be the sound track of our last moments on earth. It was a simple machine – a single engine, a single blade and four man crew – yet like the Model T, it transformed us all and performed tasks the engineers never imagined. For soldiers, it was the worst and best of friends but it was the one binding material in a tapestry of a war of many pieces.

The smell was always hot, filled with diesel fumes, sharp drafts accentuated by gritty sand, laterite and anxious vibrations. It always held the spell of the unknown and the anxiety of learning what was next and what might be. It was an unavoidable magnet for the heavily laden soldier who donkey-trotted to its squat shaking shape through the haze and blast of dirt, stepped on the OD skid, turned and dropped his ruck on the cool aluminum deck. Reaching inside with his rifle or machine gun, a soldier would grasp a floor ring with a finger as an extra precaution of physics for those moments when the now airborne bird would break into a sharp turn revealing all ground or all sky to the helpless riders all very mindful of the impeding weight on their backs. The relentless weight of the ruck combined with the stress of varying motion caused fingers and floor rings to bind almost as one. Constant was the vibration, smell of hydraulic fluid, flashes of visionary images and the occasional burst of a ground-fed odor – rotting fish, dank swampy heat, cordite or simply the continuous sinuous currents of Vietnam’s weather – cold and driven mist in the Northern monsoon or the wall of heated humidity in the southern dry season. Blotting it out and shading the effect was the constant sound of the single rotating blade as it ate a piece of the air, struggling to overcome the momentary physics of the weather.

To divert anxiety, a soldier/piece of freight, might reflect on his home away from home. The door gunners were usually calm which was emotionally helpful. Each gun had a C-ration fruit can at the ammo box clip entrance to the feed mechanism of the machine gun. The gun had a large circular aiming sight unlike the ground-pounder version. That had the advantage of being able to fix on targets from the air considerably further than normal ground acquisition. Pears, Apricots, Apple Sauce or Fruit Cocktail, it all worked. Fruit cans had just the right width to smoothly feed the belt into the gun which was always a good thing. Some gunners carried a large oil can much like old locomotive engineers to squeeze on the barrel to keep it cool. Usually this was accompanied by a large OD towel or a khaki wound-pack bandage to allow a rubdown without a burned hand. Under the gunner’s seat was usually a small dairy-box filled with extra ammo boxes, smoke grenades, water, flare pistol, C-rats and a couple of well-worn paperbacks. The gun itself might be attached to the roof of the helicopter with a bungee cord and harness. This allowed the adventurous gunners to unattach the gun from the pintle and fire it manually while standing on the skid with only the thinnest of connectivity to the bird. These were people you wanted near you – particularly on extractions.

The pilots were more mysterious. You only saw parts of them as they labored behind the armored seats. An arm, a helmeted head and the occasional fingered hand as it moved across the dials and switches on the ceiling above. The armored side panels covered their outside legs – an advantage the passenger did not enjoy. Sometimes, a face, shielded behind helmeted sunshades, would turn around to impart a question with a glance or display a sense of anxiety with large white-circled eyes – this was not a welcoming look as the sounds of external issues fought to override the sounds of mechanics in flight. Yet, as a whole, the pilots got you there, took you back and kept you maintained. You never remembered names, if at all you knew them, but you always remembered the ride and the sound.

Behind each pilot seat usually ran a stretch of wire or silk attaching belt. It would have arrayed a variety of handy items for immediate use. Smoke grenades were the bulk of the attachment inventory – most colors and a couple of white phosphorous if a dramatic marking was needed. Sometimes, trip flares or hand grenades would be included depending on the location and mission. Hand grenades were a rare exception as even pilots knew they exploded – not always where intended. It was just a short arm motion for a door gunner to pluck an inventory item off the string, pull the pin and pitch it which was the point of the arrangement. You didn’t want to be in a helicopter when such an act occurred as that usually meant there was an issue. Soldiers don’t like issues that involve them. It usually means a long day or a very short one – neither of which is a good thing.

The bird lifts off in a slow, struggling and shaking manner. Dust clouds obscure any view a soldier may have. Quickly, with a few subtle swings, the bird is above the dust and a cool encompassing wind blows through. Sweat is quickly dried, eyes clear and a thousand feet of altitude show the world below. Colors are muted but objects clear. The rows of wooden hooches, the airfield, local villages, an old B52 strike, the mottled trail left by a Ranch hand spray mission and the open reflective water of a river or lake are crisp in sight. The initial anxiety of the flight or mission recede as the constantly moving and soothing motion picture and soundtrack unfolds. In time, one is aware of the mass of UH1Hs coalescing in a line in front of and behind you. Other strings of birds may be left or right of you – all surging toward some small speck in the front, lost to your view. Each is a mirror image of the other – two to three laden soldiers sitting on the edge looking at you and your accompanying passengers all going to the same place with the same sense of anxiety and uncertainty but borne on a similar steed and sound.

In time, one senses the birds coalescing as they approach the objective. Perhaps a furtive glance or sweeping arc of flight reveals the landing zone. Smoke erupts in columns – initially visible as blue grey against the sky. The location is clearly discernible as a trembling spot surrounded by a vast green carpet of flat jungle or a sharp point of a jutting ridge, as the bird gets closer, a soldier can now see the small FAC aircraft working well-below, the sudden sweeping curve of the bombing runs and the small puffs as artillery impacts. A sense of immense loneliness can begin to obscure one’s mind as the world’s greatest theatre raises its curtain. Even closer now, with anxious eyes and short breath, a soldier can make out his destination. The smoke is now the dirty grey black of munitions with only the slightest hint of orange upon ignition. No Hollywood effect is at work. Here, the physics of explosions are clearly evident as pressure and mass over light.

The pilot turns around to give a thumbs up or simply ignores his load as he struggles to maintain position with multiple birds dropping power through smoke swirls, uplifting newly created debris, sparks and flaming ash. The soldiers instinctively grasp their weapons tighter, look furtively between the upcoming ground and the pilot and mentally strain to find some anchor point for the next few seconds of life. If this is the first lift in, the door gunners will be firing rapidly in sweeping motions of the gun but this will be largely unknown and unfelt to the soldiers. They will now be focused on the quickly approaching ground and the point where they might safely exit. Getting out is now very important. Suddenly, the gunners may rapidly point to the ground and shout “GO” or there may just be the jolt of the skids hitting the ground and the soldiers instinctively lurch out of the bird, slam into the ground and focus on the very small part of the world they now can see. The empty birds, under full power, squeeze massive amounts of air and debris down on the exited soldiers, blinding them to the smallest view. Very quickly, there is a sudden shroud of silence as the birds retreat into the distance and the soldiers begin their recovery into a cohesive organization, losing that sound.

On various occasions and weather dependent, the birds return. Some to provide necessary logistics, some command visits and some medevacs. On the rarest and best of occasions, they arrive to take you home. Always they have the same sweet sound which resonates with every soldier who ever heard it. It is the sound of life, hope for life and what may be. It is a sound that never will be forgotten. It is your and our sound.

Logistics is always a trial. Pilots don’t like it, field soldiers need it and weather is indiscriminate. Log flights also mean mail and a connection to home and where real people live and live real lives. Here is an aberrant aspect of life that only that sound can relieve. Often there is no landing zone or the area is so hot that a pilot’s sense of purpose may become blurred. Ground commanders beg and plead on the radio for support that is met with equivocations or insoluble issues. Rations are stretched from four to six days, cigarettes become serious barter items and soldiers begin to turn inward. In some cases, perhaps only minutes after landing, fire fights break out. The machine guns begin their carnivorous song. Rifle ammunition and grenades are expended with gargantuan appetites. The air is filled with an all-encompassing sound that shuts each soldier into his own small world — shooting, loading, shooting, loading, shooting, loading until he has to quickly reach into the depth of his ruck, past the extra rations, past the extra rain poncho, past the spare paperback, to the eight M16 magazines forming the bottom of the load – never thought he would need them. A resupply is desperately needed. In some time, a sound is heard over the din of battle. A steady whomp whomp whomp that says: The World is here. Help is on the way. Hang in there. The soldier turns back to the business at hand with a renewed confidence. Wind parts the canopy and things begin to crash through the tree tops. Some cases have smoke grenades attached – these are the really important stuff – medical supplies, codes and maybe mail. The sound drifts off in the distance and things are better for the moment. The sound brings both a psychological and a material relief.

Wounds are hard to manage. The body is all soft flesh, integrated parts and an emotional burden for those that have to watch its deterioration. If the body is an engine, blood is the gasoline – when it runs out, so does life. It’s important the parts get quickly fixed and the blood is restored to a useful level. If not, the soldier becomes another piece of battlefield detritus. A field medic has the ability to stop external blood flow – less internal. He can replace blood with fluid but it’s not blood. He can treat for shock but he can’t always stop it. He is at the mercy of his ability and the nature of the wound. Bright red is surface bleeding he can manage but dark red, almost tar-colored, is deep, visceral and beyond his ability to manage. Dark is the essence of the casualty’s interior. He needs the help that only that sound can bring. If an LZ exists, it’s wonderful and easy. If not, difficult options remain. The bird weaves back and forth above the canopy as the pilot struggles to find the location of the casualty. He begins a steady hover as he lowers the litter on a cable. The gunner or helo medic looks down at the small figures below and tries to wiggle the litter and cable through the tall canopy to the small up-reaching figures below. In time, the litter is filled and the cable retreats – the helo crew still carefully managing the cable as it wends skyward. The cable hits its anchor, the litter is pulled in, and the pilot pulls pitch and quickly disappears – but the retreating sound is heard by all and the silent universal thought – There but for the Grace of God go I – and it will be to that sound.

Cutting a landing zone is a standard soldier task. Often, to hear the helicopter’s song, the impossible becomes a requirement and miracles abound. Sweat-filled eyes, blood blistered hands, energy-expended and with a breath of desperation and desire, soldiers attack a small space to carve out sufficient open air for the helicopter to land. Land to bring in what’s needed, take out what’s not, and to remind them that someone out there cares. Perhaps some explosives are used – usually for the bigger trees but most often it is soldiers and machetes or the side of an e-tool. Done under the pressure of an encroaching enemy, it’s a combination of high adrenalin rush and simple dumb luck – small bullet, big space. In time, an opening is made and the sky revealed. A sound encroaches before a vision. Eyes turn toward the newly created void and the bird appears. The blade tips seem so much larger than the newly-columned sky. Volumes of dirt, grass, leaves and twigs sweep upward and are then driven fiercely downward through the blades as the pilot struggles to do a completely vertical descent through the narrow column he has been provided. Below, the soldiers both cower and revel in the free-flowing air. The trash is blinding but the moving air feels so great. Somehow, the pilot lands in a space that seems smaller than his blade radius. In reverse, the sound builds and then recedes into the distance – always that sound. Bringing and taking away.

Extraction is an emotional highlight of any soldier’s journey. Regardless of the austerity and issues of the home base, for that moment, it is a highly desired location and the focus of thought. It will be provided by that familiar vehicle of sound. The Pickup Zone in the bush is relatively open, or if on an established firebase or hilltop position, a marked fixed location. The soldiers awaiting extraction close to the location undertake their assigned duties – security, formation alignment, or LZ marking. Each is focused on the task at hand and tends to blot out other issues. As each soldier senses his moment of removal is about to arrive, his auditory sense becomes keen and his visceral instinct searches for that single sweet song that only one instrument can play. When registered, his eyes look up and he sees what his mind has imaged. He focuses on the sound and the sight and both become larger as they fill his body. He quickly steps unto the skid and up into the aluminum cocoon. Turning outward now, he grasps his weapon with one hand and with the other holds the cargo ring on the floor – as he did when he first arrived at this location. Reversing the flow of travel, he approaches what he temporarily calls home. Landing again in a swirl of dust, diesel and grinding sand, he offloads and trudges toward his assembly point. The sounds retreat in his ears but he knows he will hear them again. He always will.

Keith Nightingale is a retired Army Colonel who served two tours in Vietnam with Airborne and Ranger (American and Vietnamese) units. He commanded two airborne battalions and both the 1/75th Rangers and the 1st Ranger Training Brigade. He was a member of the Iran rescue attempt in 1981 (Operation Eagle Claw, better known to many as “Desert One”) and was the assault force commander in both Grenada and Panama.

10
Feb

Capt Henry Gibson US Air Force (Served 1957-1960)

henry_gibson_1969The military service of actor

Capt Henry Gibson

US Air Force

(Served 1957-1960)

View his Service Profile on TogetherWeServed.com at http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/profile/174780

Short Bio: Gibson was born James Bateman in Germantown, Pennsylvania. His love of acting began when he joined the Mae Desmond theater company, in Philadelphia, at eight years old, and continued into his time at the Catholic University of America, Washington, where he studied drama. He would later pick up this passion again when, after serving as an intelligence officer in the US Air Force between 1957 and 1960, he enrolled at Rada in London.

8
Feb

QM3 Robert Zinn U.S. Navy (1967-1970)

Read the service reflections of US Navy Sailor

zinn2QM3 Robert Zinn

U.S. Navy

(1967-1970)

Shadow Box on TogetherWeServed.com

http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/525307

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

My father was with the 6th Marines on Eniwetok and Kwajalein Atolls during WWII. He came back with what was then described as battle fatigue and is now post traumatic stress disorder. My parents insisted I go to college after high school but I quickly realized after one semester itwasn’t for me. I remember coming home telling my father I was joining the Marines as some kids want to follow in their fathers footsteps. It was the first time I could remember he talking to me as an adult when he said to me “You’re 18 now I can’t tell you what to do but if you want to join the military join the Navy as it will keep you out of Vietnam.” Wanting to follow him and trusting his wisdom I joined the Navy and off to Recruit Training Great Lakes, Illinois in January 1967 I went. I can’t begin to explain nor will I ever forget the look on his face when he found out I’d been assigned to Mobile Riverine Force, Mekong Delta. My father was and always will be my hero and I will always be proud of following in his foot steps as part of the military.

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 graduation from high school I was pressed by my parents to attend college. After one semester I knew it wasn’t for me. I informed my parents of my decision to quit college and join the Marines as my father was. It was the first time my father really talked
to me as a man and asked me if I was going to enlist to join the Navy. He was devastated when I told him I was going to Vietnam. I started aboard the USS Ajax AR-6, home ported in Sasebo, Japan but making trips to Vung Tao as a support mission. After six months, I volunteered for service in South Vietnam assigned to the USS Benewah APB-35, Mekong Delta Mobile Riverine Force, River Assault Flotilla One. Once in-country I found it unpleasant to say the least. I figured I was there, nothing I could do about it so I made the most of it becoming diverse and being assigned to various units. Leaving was a thoughtless process. Upon separation from active duty I was offered $10,000 to re-up for another six years. Asking where I would be assigned I was told another tour in country. Again a no brainer.

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.

Rung Sat Special Zone Cambodia and Trung Hao XI. One night in 1968 I was awoken by one of the on-watch staff telling me the XO wanted me on the bridge on the double. On the bridge I was summoned to the chart room. At the time I was the
lead Quartermaster. The XO asked me to pull all the charts we had from our position up to Phenom Pem Cambodia. He wanted me to chart a course from where we were up the Mekong and into Cambodia. In looking at the charts, there were no depth markings into Cambodia as these were uncharted waters. With my XO and OPS Officer LT. Paul Ferguson we came to the decision to put four River Patrol Boats. “PBR’S” a couple of hundred yards ahead and relay depth soundings.

I took position behind the wheel of the lead PBR calling soundings back to the fleet. Coming to the position the orders we were given, I had the fleet anchor in approximately 21 feet of water all seemed to be well. At approximately 0500 the following morning I was summoned to the bridge of the Benewah by a very upset sailor. Upon my arrival on the bridge I was met by my CO, LCDR. D.L. SOLOMON, the XO LT. KMETZ, and LT. FERGUSON. Much to my dismay and theirs the fleet was aground, the tide ebbing by more than 20 feet overnight obviously unanticipated. There weren’t too many suits pleased with me. After all was said and done, and no one pointing the finger at me or anyone else, the tide came in, once afloat I had found a large area of deep water about five miles ahead of us where we found safe anchor. We were not supposed to be that far north. Thankfully we took no significant damage and sustained no casualties.

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

Aboard the USS Ajax AR-6 I requested and was granted to go to Quartermaster school in Yokosuka, Japan. Upon successfully completing the course I decided life aboard the Ajax wasn’t for me and wanted to navigate the rivers of the Mekong. I put in for transfer and was assigned to Mobile Riverine Force USS Benewah APB-35, a self propelled barracks ship joining it in Dong Tam, South Vietnam. I found a happy medium between love and hate in my new assignment being given a lot of flexibility as to what I could do. I became part of the Helicopter flight crew which in the end recorded a record number of landings. I was able to fly door gunner on an Army UH-1, fly in the co-pilots seat on a light observation Helicopter (LOH), patrol with PBR’S doing insertion and extractions and laying fire in designated free fire zones, and able to be the shooter on the forward quad 40mm mount.

This diversity kept me occupied and made the time go a little faster. My fondest memory I had is when the Commanding Officer came to me and asked if I would like to take Benewah and reposition her. We would have to move every night even if it were 50 to 100 feet in case “CHARLIE” set up on us during the day. B-40 rockets could be set up and when night fell all the enemy would have to do is come back, fire and run, thus moving everyday became a necessity. It was a thrill to have Command, even for the brief period of the fleet movement.

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

Clearly the horrors of war is something no man or woman who has experienced it will ever forget. The vision of a body bag with someone you served with whether you knew that person or not is a vision which can be unrelenting. When the body of our Radarman, a good friend, who went missing one night was found floating in the Mekong is a vision I will never forget.

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

Upon my separation from active duty I was awarded The Navy Commendation with Combat Distinguishing Device “V” authorized for Meritorious Service. I remember being asked to attend a ceremony at the Third Naval District in Brooklyn, New York to receive the award. I discussed it with my father explaining I had no desire to put my uniform back on, he didn’t persuade me to do it as I think he understood my decision having served. Thinking back on it now it was a bad decision and probably selfish on my part not having my family be part of it. The award was sent in the mail. I regret it to this day.

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?

The Presidential unit citation and two Naval Unit Citations were probably the most significant as it shows the great team I was privileged to be a part of. No one person in and of himself could achieve the missions and goals we were tasked with. Mobile Riverine Force, “The Brown Water Navy” was unique and one of the most successful units to have served in the Vietnam war. To have been a very small part of it was and always will be an honor and privilege.

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

LCDR D. L. Solomon, as my Commanding Officer, he always led by example. Being a mustang and becoming the CO, he always had everyone’s respect for his authority and leadership. Also LT. Paul Ferguson our Operations Officer put his faith and trust in me, probably more times than he should have, always having my back. For that I am forever grateful.

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?

As told previously coming up to the bridge after putting my boats aground in Cambodia seeing my outfit playing football in the muddy bottom around my boat. Certainly not laughing on the outside at the time and after having thoughts of my short lived military career coming to an end I found the event to be hysterical after all was said and done and everyone was safe.

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

I always challenged myself to succeed by putting my entrepreneurial visions to work. The work ethic my father and the military instilled in me drove me then as it does now. After building and selling several business’s I moved to Las Vegas to join my two boys in a consulting business. Leaving them to tend to the business on their own. I now am a Security Supervisor at a Las Vegas Strip Casino leading a young group of Officers and trying to instill upon them the work ethics which were taught to me. I am very fortunate to have the staff I work with. At my age of 66 they all keep me going. I can retire if I choose, but I love what I do. If you love your work you’ve never worked a day rings so true.

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

Mobile Riverine Force Association. The benefit I receive from them is that I am always reminded that, even though it was an unpopular time in our nations history, that

I did not question when we were in conflict, and our freedom’s may be in jeopardy. I am still proud of myself and all of the men and women with whom I had the extreme privilege of being a part of.

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

To respect authority, and to be as responsible of a person as I can be. I have to this day maintained a routine. I’ve been reminded by my superiors at times I’m no longer in the military. I have learned to back down and accept those for who they are not what I want them to be.

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

No matter what the situation of your assignment, no matter what the civilian world thinks of the duties you are assigned to, you are still a part of the GREATEST and most POWERFUL military in the world and defending the GREATEST nation on earth. Always remember we may all not support the actions our nation takes, however, those of us at home will always support, and honor you that are serving. The wrong things happened years ago, we’ll not let that happen again. My son served in the Submarine Service of which I am extremely proud of. He is fifth generation generation Navy from our family and served his nation proudly.

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

It enabled me to contact some of those I served with, and whom I have not had contact with for over 35 years. The pictures in this section and those in my profile were provided to me by QM3 Bruce Holdsworth who I the pleasure of seeing again a few years ago in Vegas, and our Operations Officer Paul Ferguson whom I’ve had contact with for more than several years now.

6
Feb

Battlefield Chronicles: The Battle of Tarawa

By LtCol Mike Christy Together We Served Dispatches

Following the December 1941 Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Wake Island and other Pacific islands, the U.S. began to halt Japan’s aggression expansion with important battle victories at Midway Island in June 1942 and Guadalcanal from Aug. 1942 to Feb. 1943. To continue the progress against the Japanese occupying scattered island chains, Allied commanders launched counter-offensive strikes known as “island-hopping.” The idea was to capture certain key islands, one after another, until Japan came within range of American bombers. Rather than engage sizable Japanese garrisons, these operations were designed to cut them off and let them “whither on the vine.”

By themselves, the islands held little value to the Japanese or the Americans. They were situated about halfway between Pearl Harbor and the Philippines and were barely large enough to hold an airfield. But they served as an essential steppingstone across the Pacific: If American bombers wanted to reach Japan, they would need an air base in the Mariana Islands; to capture the Marianas, they would first need the Marshall Islands; and for the Marshalls, they needed Tarawa Atoll, a series of small islands in the Gilberts. The major Japanese outposts were on Betio, a bird-shaped island in the southern part of the chain; and Makin, which was raided early in 1942 by U.S. Marines.

Tarawa turned out to be the most fortified atoll America would invade during the Pacific Campaign. The leader of the Japanese garrison, Rear Adm. Keiji Shibazaki, and 2,500 Imperial Naval Marines with 2,300 Korean and Japanese laborers transformed Betio into a fortress of unparalleled intricacy, with coconut log bunkers cemented with crushed coral and intersecting zones of fire supported by coastal guns, antiaircraft guns, heavy and light machine guns and light tanks. Betio’s beaches were naturally ringed with shallow reefs, which were covered with barbed wire and mines. Shibazaki reportedly bragged that the U.S. “couldn’t take Tarawa with a million men in 100 years.” American forces proved him wrong.

On Nov. 20, 1943, after a three-hour bombardment by naval gunfire and bombing runs by carried-based aircraft, the 2nd Marine Division landed on Betio. It would take 35,000 men three days to conquer Tarawa. At the end of the battle, neither side would look at the war the same way.

The attack was a monumental effort of combined arms coordination in a new war tactic which relied upon heavy pre-invasion bombardment by battleships and carrier planes. Marines were to approach the shore in new amphibious tractor vehicles dubbed amphtracs. These landing crafts, armed with machine guns and carrying 20 troops each, were able to crawl over shallow reefs and other barriers.

The highly coordinated U.S. battle plan at Betio relied on the precise timing of several key elements to succeed, but almost from the beginning there were problems. Heavy sea turbulence slowed transfer operations of the U.S. Marines to the ship-side landing crafts. A pre-invasion air raid was delayed, upsetting the timetable for other parts of the assault. Holding for the air raids, support ships ready to launch massive pre-invasion bombardments lingered in position longer than expected. They were forced to dodge increasingly accurate fire from the island where Japanese defenders were dug in.

Compounding these problems was a lower-than-anticipated tide level around the island that morning. Most amphtracs in the first assault wave were able to reach the beach as planned, but nearly all the larger, heavier landing crafts behind them jammed into coral reefs exposed by the shallow tide. Japanese coastal guns pounded the snagged vessels and desperate Marines gave up on freeing the boats and instead waded toward shore €“hundreds of yards away through chest-deep water under intense enemy fire, and within the first hour the first wave had suffered almost total casualties.

Precious gear, especially radios, became soaked and useless. Many Marines were hit in the open water, and those who made it to shore arrived exhausted or wounded, ill-equipped and unable to communicate with supporting forces.

Making matters worse, the assault path through the lagoon to the shore became congested with disabled landing crafts and bloodied corpses, which hindered the dispatching of reinforcements. Marines on the beach crawled forward, inch by inch, knowing that to stand or even rise slightly made them easy targets. By the end of the first day, 5,000 Marines had landed at Betio; 500 had perished in the process. By the end of the first night, it was not definite that the Americans were here to stay.

Like the Japanese Navy in the Solomon’s, Americans were losing their junior officers and non-commissioned officers rapidly. Advance was only due to a Sergeant or a Lieutenant leading their squad or platoon over the seawall and moving inland. The Japanese would not give up. They would fire until they had one bullet and kill themselves with their big toe in the trigger of their rifle.

On the morning of November 21, the second day of fighting, unexpectedly low tides continued to plague the U.S. assault. Again, assault troops had to leave their crafts short of the shore and wade in through enemy fire. In addition to being fired upon from shore, Marines were also assaulted from their sides and rear by enemy snipers who had entered the lagoon under the cover of night to position themselves on crafts that had been wrecked and abandoned the day before.

By noon, however, the tide finally began to rise, and U.S. destroyers were able to maneuver closer to shore to lend accurate supporting fire. Reserve combat teams and support craft transporting tanks and weapons raced to shore, and the ground assault finally took orderly form. The Marines moved inland, blasting surviving enemy emplacements with grenades, demolition packs and flamethrowers.

On day three of the battle, November 22, the Marines fought on, destroying several Japanese pillboxes and fortifications. Dead and wounded were mounted on both sides and even the division reserve could not turn the tide. At dusk the Americans had occupied enough ground to ensure that Tarawa would be taken; the only question was the amount of blood. Shibasaki and his entire command staff died sometime on the third day, committing suicide rather than face capture.

That night, the remaining 300 Japanese and Korean laborers came out of their last positions and attacked in a desperate attempt to inflict as many casualties as possible. If these men had died in their pillboxes, certainly more Americans would have died.

At morning light on November 23, the island defenders lay in tangled heaps: All but 17 Japanese soldiers had died defending Betio. Seventy-six hours after the invasion began, Betio was finally declared secure.

It was a fight that lasted only three days, but it was among the bloodiest in 20th-century American history. By the time the battle ended, 1,084 U.S. Marines lay dead on the sandy earth and churning water. Some 2,101 were wounded. In the 76-hour Battle of Tarawa, U.S. Marines suffered almost as many killed-in-action casualties as U.S. troops suffered in the six-month campaign at Guadalcanal Island.

Legendary war correspondent Robert Sherrod wrote, “No one who has not been there, can imagine the overwhelming, inhuman smell of 5,000 dead who are piled and scattered in an area of less than one square mile.”

Offices of government and military offices were flooded with angry letters over the number of Americans dead on Tarawa. The number of dead and wounded on both sides would only get larger as the war in the Pacific progressed. However, according to “The Pacific War” by John Costello, U.S. commanders learned important lessons from the Battle of Tarawa that would be applied to future island wars, including the need for better reconnaissance, more precise and sustained pre-landing bombardments, additional amphibious landing vehicle and improved equipment.

After the battle, Marines who died were wrapped in ponchos and folded into shallow graves in several areas around Tarawa. But there were so many bodies, including the thousands of Japanese soldiers, that the U.S. Navy eventually bulldozed the site and expanded the airfield and built a network of roads and offices. By the time an excavation team arrived in 1946 to exhume and identify the dead, no one could remember where they were. Investigators spent three months searching, but they found only half the Marines in five of eight known impromptu burial sites.

One of the unfound sites was Cemetery 27, presumed to contain the bodies of 33-year-old Medal of Honor recipient 1st Lt. Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman, Jr. and approximately 40 other Marines killed in action. Its occupants were officially declared “unrecoverable” by the U.S. government which issued a letter stating that most of the Tarawa war dead were presumed lost at sea near the island.

But without conclusive proof that Bonnyman was among them, his family began a decades-long campaign to procure information about their beloved soldier’s final resting place.

In 2008, working with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Mark Noah’s History Flight funded and conducted two six-week long searches in the Marshall, Caroline and Gilbert Islands hunting for remains previously believed to be unrecoverable. History Flight also hired a geophysical inspection firm and brought a geophysicist to the island of Tarawa to search for “lost” Marine graves with a ground penetrating radar. In the six weeks the team spent on Tarawa – interviewing local residents who had accidentally unearthed 20 American skeletons during construction activity on the island – they were able to locate, identify and survey five large American burial sites and three individual sites that contained over 200 U.S. Marines left behind after WWII. Cemetery 27 was not among the burial sites found.

Over the years, letters and calls went unanswered as Bonnyman’s family sought answers, and the details of the soldier’s death and burial became even further muddied in the memories of his loved ones.

A glimmer of hope came in 2010, when a joint team from the Defense POW and MIA Accounting Agency began a recovery mission on the Gilbert Islands in hopes of locating the mass graves in which U.S. and Japanese soldiers were said to have been buried.

That was the first time members of Bonnyman’s family – some of whom were unaware the remains were still missing – heard that there might be chance of recovery.

In 2011, JPAC discovered Cemetery 27, the site where Bonnyman and 35 others were buried underneath a parking lot. Excavation began in March 2015 and continued through the end of June.

When History Flight began calling families to obtain DNA samples of the Marines unaccounted for at Tarawa, Bonnyman’s grandson Clay Bonnyman Evans jumped at the opportunity to volunteer with the group and flew to Betio to assist in excavations.

“I spent my childhood idolizing him, even though he died 18 years before I was born,” said Evans, who made the long trip from his home in Boulder, Colorado, to Tarawa to be here while JPAC is digging for remains. Evans traveled at his own to observe the team’s work, hoping they might find his grandfather’s remains.

“I have felt a very strong connection to this man that I never knew. He loomed large for me as a kid …,” Evans said. “I have wanted to come here for a long time.”

He retraced his grandfather’s steps at Tarawa, wading through the water onshore, then climbing to the top of a bunker referred to as “Bonnyman’s Bunker.” Now overgrown and filled with trash, the bunker was a Japanese stronghold during the battle.

It was at this bunker that assault troops were pinned down by heavy enemy artillery fire at the seaward end of the long Betio Pier, on his own initiative Bonnyman organized and led five men over the open pier to the beach. There he voluntarily obtained flame throwers and demolitions and directed the blowing up of several hostile installations.

On the second day of the struggle, Bonnyman, determined to breach the enemy’s strong defensive line, led his demolitions teams in an assault on the entrance to a huge bombproof shelter which contained approximately 150 Japanese soldiers. The enemy position was about forty yards forward of the Marine lines. Bonnyman advanced his team to the mouth of the position and killed many of the defenders. His team was forced to withdraw to replenish its supply of ammunition and grenades. Bonnyman again pressed his attack and gained the top of the structure, thereby flushing more than one hundred of its occupants into the open where they were shot down. When the Japanese fought back, the Lieutenant stood at the forward edge of the position and killed several attackers before he fell mortally wounded.

For his actions during the battle, Bonnyman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The medal was formally presented to his family by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal in 1947. His 12-year-old daughter, Frances, accepted the medal on behalf of the Bonnyman family.

Evans knew that his grandfather had distinctive dental work, including gold teeth. He said he was breathless when Kristin Baker, the History Flight Recovery Team leader, called him over to examine the teeth on an exposed cranium.

“It is gold,” Baker told him. Evans said it’s very likely that the remains are those of the Medal of Honor recipient, but legal verification was still required.

On July 26, 2015, the remains of the three dozen Marines arrived at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu Hawaii where a team of specially trained dentists and other experts work to authenticate their identities.

On August 27, 2015 Bonnyman’s remains were identified and on September 28, 2015, he was returned to his childhood home town of Knoxville, Tennessee and interred with his family, with full military honors at West Knoxville’s Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery.

For nearly 73 years, Bonnyman’s family – members of which now live in Boulder County – remembered the handsome, adventurous man they had lost with what few artifacts they had left: his Medal of Honor, awarded posthumously for his efforts to hold back a Japanese counterattack; a large portrait, commissioned from an Italian oil painter; and a few black-and-white photographs taken during the assault on Betio.

“It feels great,” Clay Evans said of the culmination of his family’s generation-spanning quest. “My great-grandparents really worked hard to get his remains back. They wrote letters, and they just sort of got every story in the book from the military; they thought they would never have his remains.”

“I actually grabbed my stomach and thought, ‘Good grief. Is it really going to happen?’ I never thought it would,” said Bonnyman’s oldest daughter, Frances Evans, now 83.

Bonnyman was the last of four Medal of Honor recipients from the Battle of Tarawa to be located.

With the discovery of Bonnyman’s remains, there are only 30 Medal of Honor recipients killed in World War II whose final resting places are still unknown, according to Laura Joyey of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3ce-hreP-w

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