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29
May

Military Myths and Legends: Women of the Vietnam War

By LtCol Mike Christy-Together We Served Dispatches

It has been estimated that as many as 11,000 women served in Vietnam or in other locations, but over 90% served as nurses. Some served as nurses in evacuation hospitals, MASH units and aboard hospital ships. Others worked in support roles in military information offices, headquarters, service clubs, and various other clerical, medical, and personnel positions. Servicewomen in Vietnam experienced many of the same hardships as their male counterparts and served bravely in dangerous situations. Many were awarded personal citations.

Non-military women also served important roles. They provided entertainment and support to the troops through the USO, the American Red Cross, and other humanitarian organizations. Women working as civilian nurses for USAID (US Agency for International Development) participated in one of the most famous humanitarian operations of the war, Operation Babylift, which brought thousands of Vietnamese orphans to the U.S. for adoption. Additionally, many women reported the war for news and media agencies.

Combat Nurses
Combat nurses worked twelve-hour shifts six days a week and when a mass casualty incident occurred, like a major battle, those twelve-hour shifts could easily turn into twenty-four to thirty-six-hour shifts. Nurses also volunteered their time in the communities around them, often going to the local orphanages or hospitals to offer the civilians their medical services or to teach classes on basic hygiene, first aid or even English. Nurses also had to deal with numerous emotions: stress from a number of patients they had to serve, anger at seeing young men so horribly wounded and guilt at not being able to save all of the wounded men or make them whole again.

Despite the long hours and sometimes horrifying wounds these women had to face, many nurses found their service rewarding. They were able to serve their country and save and comfort the wounded men in their facilities. During the Vietnam War 98% of the men who were wounded and made it to the hospital survived. Nurses witnessed some truly miraculous events such as men recovering from their wounds or acts of true selflessness that are common during combat situations, and many nurses made close friends with their fellow co-workers some of whom still keep in contact into the present day.

Eight U.S. of these heroic nurses died in Vietnam; six were killed, two died of illnesses. Each dedicated themselves to taking care of the wounded and dying.

See their faces and remember their names. These are their stories.

Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Graham, Chief Nurse at 91st Evacuation Hospital in Tuy Hoa. A native of Efland N.C., she suffered a stroke in August 1968 and was evacuated to Japan where she died four days later. She was a veteran of both WW II and Korea. She was 52.

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/argraham.htm
View her shadow box on TogetherWeServed: LtCol Annie Ruth Graham

First Lieutenant Sharon Anne Lane died from shrapnel wounds when the 312th Evacuation Hospital at Chu Lai was hit by rockets on June 8, 1969. From Canton, OH, she was a month short of her 26th birthday. She was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Bronze Star for Heroism. In 1970, the recovery room at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, where Lt. Lane had been assigned before going to Vietnam, was dedicated in her honor. She was 26 years old.

In 1973, Aultman Hospital in Canton, OH, where Lane had attended nursing school, erected a bronze statue of Lane. The names of 110 local servicemen killed in Vietnam are on the base of the statue.

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/nurse-sharon-lane-paid-the-highest-price-in-vietnam/
View here service shadow box on TogetherWeServed: 1stLt Sharon Ann Lane

2nd Lt. Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba (L) of Dunmore, Pennsylvania, and 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Ann Jones of Allendale, South Carolina. Both were the first military women killed in the Vietnam War. Both were assigned to the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon. On February 18, 1966, they were on an administrative flight to Dalat aboard a helicopter from the 197th Assault Helicopter Company, 145th Combat Aviation Battalion, when the aircraft struck a high-tension transmission line over a river in the vicinity of Bien Hoa. They died along with five other passengers in a helicopter crash including Jones’ fiance. Both were 22 years old.

They are honored on Panel 5E, Row 46 and Panel 5E, Row 47 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

View their shadow boxes on TogetherWeServed: 2nd Lt.Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba
2nd Lt Elizabeth Ann Jones
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Ann_Drazba
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=107659173 Read more »

26
May

VA to Begin Processing Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Claims

VA to Begin Processing Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Claims
The Department of Veterans Affairs expects a surge of compensation claims totaling more than $2.2 billion from veterans exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., but nothing compared to the “tidal wave” of cases that came out of the Agent Orange class-action suit.

After years of lawsuits and appeals, acts of Congress and amendments since the contaminated water at the Marine Corps base was confirmed in the 1980s, the VA will begin accepting claims March 14 for disabilities stemming from eight presumptive conditions.

A final hurdle to the compensation process emerged with the inauguration of President Donald Trump and his order blocking new federal regulations, which appeared to override rules approved in the last days of President Barack Obama’s administration.

However, the office of Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said last week, “The White House has granted an exemption. This means the Camp Lejeune regulation will go into effect on March 14, 2017, as scheduled.”

All of the Lejeune claims initially will be handled by the VA’s Louisville, Ky., Regional Office (RO), Thomas Murphy, VA’s acting undersecretary for benefits, said at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC) subcommittee hearing last week.

“Ideally, we want to keep them in the one RO” in Louisville, where a Center of Excellence has been set up to deal with presumptive claims, Murphy said. “But if they can’t handle the volume, we’re going to have to train another and expand it, so we’ll have to keep a very close eye on that.”

The full article can be found at:
http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/02/25/va-to-begin-processing-camp-lejeune-toxic-water-claims.html

22
May

Profile in Courage – Dakota Meyer

By LtCol Mike Christy-Together We Served Dispatches

Sergeant Dakota L. Meyer is a United States Marine Corps veteran, the recipient of the Medal of Honor and the New York Times best-selling co-author of ‘Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War.’ He is also an entrepreneur, having founded a successful construction company in Kentucky.

Meyer earned his Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He is the first living Marine to have received the medal in 38 years and one of the youngest. Humble and soft-spoken, Meyer insists that he is not a hero and that any Marine would have done the same thing he did in battle.

Born June 26, 1988, and raised in Columbia, Kentucky, he is the son of Felicia Gilliam and Michael Meyer. In 2006, after graduation from Green County High School, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at a recruiting station in Louisville, Kentucky and completed basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

Meyer deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007 as a scout sniper with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. On his second deployment to Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine/U.S. Army ETT (Embedded Training Team) 2-8, he gained national attention for his heroic actions.

On September 8, 2009, ETT 2-8 led TF (Task Force) Chosin, a combined group of Afghan Army and National Police forces led by a

small team of American advisors and trainers, on a patrol operation near Ganjgal village on their way to meet with village elders. TF Chosin had only 3 months earlier closed down a mountainous border smuggling route between Pakistan and Afghanistan, earning additional ire from the Taliban, who controlled the smuggling routes.

During TF Chosin’ s mission planning, it was made clear that no dedicated close air support would be available for the mission but commanders promised artillery support from nearby forward bases. They were promised, however, that helicopter support could be redirected from an operation in a neighboring valley within five minutes. Available intelligence indicated that Taliban fighters were aware of the mission and were setting up ambush positions within Ganjgal village with a forward force of at least 20 fighters.

Just after dawn, after inserting into the valley and approaching Ganjgal, TF Chosin came under heavy machine gun, small arms and RPG fire from at least 100 entrenched Taliban fighters, far more than indicated by intelligence reports. Coalition forces soon found itself pinned down in a deadly three-sided ambush. Initial calls for artillery support were rejected by the command post due to new rules of engagement put in place by Gen. Stanley McChrystal in an effort to reduce civilian casualties. Both an Army artillery NCO and an Air Force Joint terminal attack controller took immediate action to provide the ambushed coalition forces with fire support but were overruled by the command post. ETT 2-8 informed the command post that they were not near the village but were again denied fire support. Calls for emergency helicopter support were also denied because adjacent helicopter assets were tied up and taking fire in support of another operation.

The coalition forces were taking increasing fire and could observe women and children shuttling fresh ammunition to Taliban fighting positions. Within 30 minutes of making contact, the ETT request the command post to provide an artillery barrage of smoke canisters to cover their withdraw. Told that no standard smoke was available, the team requested white phosphorus rounds be used instead to screen their retreat.Nearly an hour later, the white phosphorus rounds landed and the coalition forces retreated under heavy fire a short distance before being pinned once again. By this time, three U.S. Marines, their Navy Corpsman, their Afghan interpreter and several Afghan soldiers had been killed. Taliban snipers were moving into flanking positions when helicopter support finally arrived and began to attack Taliban positions. This arrival allowed the wounded to be pulled out and for three Marines to fight their way back up the hill to retrieve fallen comrades. It was nearly nine hours, including 6 continuous hours of fighting, from initial contact until coalition forces were able to totally disengage from the firefight.

 

The position occupied by the three dead Marines and the Navy Corpsman had been overrun by the enemy, who stripped the bodies of their gear and weapons. The bodies were recovered after their comrades, including Meyer, braved enemy fire to return to the location.

 

Read more »

19
May

Captain William Conrad US Army Air Corps (Served 1943-1946)

View the service history of actor:

william conradCaptain William Conrad

US Army Air Corps

(Served 1943-1946)

View his service history on TogetherWeServed.com

http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/profile/171481

Short Bio: Best remembered as Det. Frank Cannon on the TV series “Cannon” in the 70s, Conrad began his career as an announcer, writer and director for the Los Angeles radio station KMPC, before becoming a Second World War fighter-pilot in 1943. Two years later, he left the US Air Force with the rank of captain, having finished his time in it as producer-director of the Armed Forces Radio Service.

17
May

CMSgt Katherine Burcio-Marple US Air Force (Ret) (Served 1969-1995)

Katherine

RECORD YOUR OWN SERVICE MEMORIES

By Completing Your Reflections!
 Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Profile Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

Start Today

Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Air Force?

2017-05-14_15-50-52As Memorial Day approaches I can’t help but reflect on why I joined the Air Force. My father was my hero, he serviced in the Army Air Force during World War II. I grew-up listening to his “war stories” and seeing how proud he was to service his country. He taught me that there was no greater honor than to defend and even give your life for our country. I decided that I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and service my country. Little did I realize what an adventure it would be!

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?

2017-05-14_15-51-58When I joined I wanted to fight and defend my country. I wanted to go to Vietnam to do this, but that never happened. I would go to CBPO once a week and try to volunteer to go. Week after week they would tell me I was wasting their time and mine and to stop coming over. I felt that I needed to fight side by side with the guys to feel like I truly contributed to defending my country.

My chance came 21 years later. I was deployed to Desert Storm. I was so excited to think I would finally be able to actually serve my country just like the men. That excitement quickly turned to sadness once I met the brave B-52 crew members that I would be sending off on missions. I suddenly realized that they may not all come back! I watched and listened to them joke and brag about who was the better pilot or how they were looking forward to getting into the fight. I envied them, they were so brave. But when the time came and they were off to war I didn’t want any of them to go.

I had so many mixed feelings that I had a hard time functioning in my job. I questioned why we were fighting and after 21 years did I make a huge mistake! I knew I had to get a reality check or I would fall apart even more. So I called the one person I knew who fought in a war, lost close friends and survived! I called my dad. He listened to me talk about my feelings, fears, and doubts than in his soft matter-of-fact way said, “There is nothing good about war, but someone has to fight, someone has to die, someone gets to come home, but no one really wins. You chose to be one of them, now do your job.” That was my dad’s way of telling me to stop whining and get my butt in gear. That was all I needed to get my act together and realize I had a job to do. I got through it, along with my crews and we all came home safe and sound.

This was one of the many memories that I had in my long and wonderful Air Force career.

From your entire service, including combat, describe the personal memories which have impacted you most?

The one memory that stood out throughout my career was when I reported in to my first duty station.

I arrived at Travis AFB feeling like I finally made it. I finally can do a job that meant something for my country. I will be treated equal and like an adult. I was dressed in my blues and ready to face the challenges. But the challenges I had to face that day totally took me by surprise. When I reported in at the orderly room, the Sergeant told me I needed to go to the WAF Squadron first.

I got to the WAF squadron and I was told I needed to go to CBPO first.

When I got to CBPO they told me to sit and wait until my name got called. Everyone seemed to be treating me like I was a bother to them all! I sat for two hours and waited. Finally an Airman called me in and took some information, then sent me to the Wing Administration office to get assigned a job.

Luckily the Wing building was across the street. When I reported to the Sergeant in the Admin office the Sergeant told me that he called around and no one wanted a WAF! He said there were two more offices he could try, but he wasn’t sure if they would take me either.

He took me to the first office and asked a Major if he wanted me. The Major took a long look and asked me my age. He commented that I looked like I was 12 years old! He then reached in his pocket, took out some money, and handed it to me. He patted me on the head, told me to go to the bowling alley and get an ice cream. He asked me to come back in an hour and they would figure out what to do with me. I left feeling like a reject.

It was true, no one wanted a WAF because all we do is find a guy, get married, and get out. They felt like they were wasting their time training us!

When I got to the bowling alley I called my mom. I asked her to come get me because no one wanted me. I explained what happened and I wanted to come home! My mom told me to get tough, go back to that office and tell that Major I was there to work and serve my country. I was not to leave until they gave me a job!

So I when back to the office, found the Major and said, “My mother told me to tell you to give me a job and I am not to leave until you do!” Everyone in that office busted out laughing and the Major said he thought he had the perfect job for me. He took me down to the training office and handed me over to them. He wished them luck and left. I wondered what he meant by that!

The Colonel took me into his office and told me he would give me a chance to prove myself. For the next three years, I had to prove myself over and over again, but I did!

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 one badge that stood out the most to me was my Marksman badge. I am an anti-gun person and always have been. When I got orders for Korea I had to qualify on the M16. At first I refused to take the training but was told I could not go to Korea without the training. I wanted the assignment, so I decided to take the training under protest!

When I got to the training I felt completely out of place. I knew the instructor could tell I knew nothing about guns. The first thing they asked us to do is to take the magazine out of the desk we were sitting at. I opened the desk and was looking for a Field and Stream magazine or something like that. I pulled out a big metal object and told the instructor there was no magazine in the desk, just some metal thing. He asked me why I was there at the training and if this was a joke! I told him I had to qualify on the gun to go to Korea. He quickly corrected me on the term “gun”; he told me it was a rifle! He also informed me that the metal thing I was holding is the magazine. He asked me if I was afraid of messing up my manicure! After that, it was downhill!

He continued to make jokes about me to the other students and gave me a hard time. By the time we got out to the firing range, I was angry and determined to prove him wrong about me. I fired expert the first time and the instructor did not think I did it. For some reason he thought someone else fired into my target. This was impossible to do, but he could not believe I could fire that well. He made me do it again with him standing by me. I fired expert again. After that he eased off me and changed his attitude. I left there feeling like I really accomplished something. Not that I fired expert, but I proved women, even petite ones, could do as well as men in one more area.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

There are so many individuals that stood out and made a big impact on me. But there was only one that gave me the challenge to continue past my first enlistment, CMSgt Sizemore.

2017-05-14_15-55-44My career started at Travis AFB and 26 years later ended there! I will never forget CMSgt Sizemore at 22 AF. As an Airman, I worked in the Flight Training at the 60th MAW. One of my duties was to compile the Aircrew data from the squadrons and send it to the Chief every Friday. On one of those Fridays, I was having a very bad day and was not sure if I wanted to stay in the Air Force. I went over to the Chief’s office to give him the Aircrew Training Report and he noticed I was upset. He sat me down and said, “I am sure that one day you will be sitting in my chair, at this desk, doing my job..” I left his office knowing that I had to accomplish this goal that he set for me. And I did!!! My last assignment in the Air Force was with 15AF. The unit got reassigned to Travis AFB from March AFB. I was assigned to the Director of Training office and one of my duties was to collect Aircrew Training information on the units and build a briefing for the General. The same type of job CMSgt Sizemore had. When we arrived at Travis I went into my new office, which was the same office the Chief was in 23 years earlier. In fact, I think it was the same chair and desk he sat in!

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?

One incident that I often think about and it still makes me laugh happened during my first enlistment. My roommate and I entered our dorm room in the “Best Dorm Room” contest. My mother made red, white and blue bedding for our bunks, and curtains for our windows. We painted our walls red, white and blue and put little American Flags on our lockers. But we had our one big wall that we painted blue that looked empty. It needed something to dress it up. We couldn’t figure out what to do with it.

2017-05-14_15-57-12On Sunday we went to Mass on base, all of the sudden it came to us, we can “borrow” the big American Flag in the Chapel and hang it on our wall! We decided to pray and ask if it would be alright. We both decided since the idea came to us in church, it must be OK! Later that day we “borrowed” the flag.

On the day of the judging, we were so excited. We figured we had to win because of how patriotic our room was. We got 2nd place! Another room, that was painted and decorated in black and red, beat us! We were in shock!

We both got called into our WAF Commanders office the next day. We thought it was to get our award for our room. But that wasn’t why! The First Sergeant and the Base Chaplin were with the Commander in her office. When we saw all three of them, we knew what it was about. We were asked where we got the American Flag. I calmly replied that we “borrowed” it from the Chapel and that we asked God and He gave us permission.

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?

2017-05-14_15-59-12My last year in the Air Force I had to decide what to do with the rest of my life. I decided I wanted to be a Correctional Officer or a teacher. I applied for both. I went through the hiring process for both and waited. My dad told me to take the first one that offered me a job. I knew he did not want me to be a Correctional Officer. That was the job I really wanted. The teaching job came through first, so I took it. I became an AFJROTC Instructor at Hemet High School in California. It was as if I never left the Air Force. I still wore my uniform, had to answer to an Officer and taught young people.

I taught at Hemet for 1 year, then transferred to Canyon Springs High School. I was there for 5 years. After 6 years of teaching in a High School setting, I decided I needed a change. I got my multiple subjects teaching credentials, and I changed to teaching Elementary students. I was hired to teach 2nd grade at Monterey Elementary in San Bernardino, California. I have been there ever since. I also taught 4th, 5th, and now I am teaching 6th grade there. I enjoy teaching and I’m glad I took my dad’s advice.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career?

My life had been influenced by the military long before I joined the Air Force. My father filled my head with all his stories about the Army Air Corps, and I dreamed of following in his footsteps. I decided at an early age I would prepare myself for the military. I read all I could find about the military services. I went to sleep dreaming about being in the military. Plus I went to a Catholic School, which is almost like being in the military!

After joining the Air Force I learned more about self-discipline, respect for life, ethics, and the importance of camaraderie. I try to live my life governed by these four acts. Without them, I would not have reached my goals to date. Without them, I would not be the person I am.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Air Force?

The advice I would give to those that are still serving is to never lose focus on the MISSION. The MISSION is to protect and defend our country and all that it stands for. This is a huge responsibility for anyone to do, but only a chosen few can do it well. Be one of those few and stay focused. There is no greater honor than to serve your country by dedicating yourself to the MISSION.

In what ways has TogetherWeServed.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

2017-05-14_16-00-57Togetherweserved.com has allowed me to find old “war buddies” that I thought I’d never hear from again. It has given me the opportunity to reconnect and share my life with dear friends that were a big part of my life in the military. This may not have happened if not for Togetherweserved.com.

15
May

The Bizarre Battle of Los Angeles

In the early morning hours of February 25, 1942, the city of Los Angeles found itself in the grip of a mass panic. Spurred on by reports of a Japanese air raid, local military units sounded warning sirens, ordered a mass blackout and lit up the sky with machine gun fire and over 1,400 anti-aircraft shells. The so-called “Battle of Los Angeles” would eventually drag on for several terrifying hours, yet when the guns finally fell silent, no evidence of an enemy attack was found. Military brass chalked the false alarm up to “jittery nerves” caused by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but it remains one of the most mysterious chapters of World War II.

b1In the frantic weeks that followed the Pearl Harbor attack, many Americans believed that enemy raids on the continental United States were imminent. On December 9, 1941, unsubstantiated reports of approaching aircraft had caused a minor invasion panic in New York City and sent stock prices tumbling. On the West Coast, inexperienced pilots, and radar men had mistaken fishing boats, logs and even whales for Japanese warships and submarines. Tensions were high, and they only grew after U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson warned that American cities should be prepared to accept “occasional blows” from enemy forces. Just a few days later on February 23, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, and hurled over a dozen artillery shells at an oil field and refinery. While the attack inflicted no casualties and caused only minor damage, it marked the first time that the mainland United States had been bombed during World War II.

The day after the oil field raid, paranoia and itchy trigger fingers combined to produce one of the most unusual home front incidents of the war. It began on the evening of February 24, 1942, when naval intelligence instructed units on the California coast to steel themselves for a potential Japanese attack. All remained calm for the next few hours, but shortly after 2 a.m. on February 25, military radar picked up what appeared to be an enemy contact some 120 miles west of Los Angeles. Air raid sirens sounded and a citywide blackout was put into effect. Within minutes, troops had manned anti-aircraft guns and begun sweeping the skies with searchlights.

b2It was just after 3 a.m. when the shooting started. Following reports of an unidentified object in the skies, troops in Santa Monica unleashed a barrage of anti-aircraft and .50 caliber machine gun fire. Before long, many of the city’s other coastal defense weapons had joined in. “Powerful searchlights from countless stations stabbed the sky with brilliant probing fingers,” the Los Angeles Times wrote, “while anti-aircraft batteries dotted the heavens with beautiful if sinister, orange bursts of shrapnel.” Chaos reigned over the next several minutes. It appeared that Los Angeles was under attack, yet many of those who looked skyward saw nothing but smoke and the glare of the ack-ack fire. “Imagination could have easily disclosed many shapes in the sky in the midst of that weird symphony of noise and color,” Coastal Artillery Corps Colonel John G. Murphy later wrote. “But cold detachment disclosed no planes of any type in the sky – friendly or enemy.”

b3For others, however, the threat appeared to be very real. Reports poured in from across the city describing Japanese aircraft flying in formation, bombs falling and enemy paratroopers. There was even a claim of a Japanese plane crash landing in the streets of Hollywood. “I could barely see the planes, but they were up there all right,” a coastal artilleryman named Charles Patrick later wrote in a letter. “I could see six planes, and shells were bursting all around them. Naturally, all of us fellows were anxious to get our two cents’ worth in and, when the command came, everybody cheered like a son of a gun.” The barrage eventually continued for over an hour. By the time a final “all-clear” order was given later that morning, Los Angeles’ artillery batteries had pumped over 1,400 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition into the sky.

It was only in the light of day that the American military units made a puzzling discovery: there appeared to have been no enemy attack. “Although reports were conflicting and every effort is being made to ascertain the facts, it is clear that no bombs were dropped and no planes were shot down,” read a statement from the Army’s Western Defense Command.

Ironically, the only damage during the “battle” had come from friendly fire. Anti-aircraft shrapnel rained down across the city, shattering windows and ripping through buildings. One dud careened into a Long Beach golf course, and several residents had their homes partially destroyed by 3-inch artillery shells. While there were no serious injuries from the shootout, it was reported that at least five people had died as a result of heart attacks and car accidents that occurred during the extended blackout. In a preview of the hysteria that would soon accompany the Japanese internment, authorities also arrested some 20 Japanese-Americans for allegedly trying to signal the nonexistent aircraft.

b4Over the next few days, government and media outlets issued contradictory reports on what later became known as the “Battle of Los Angeles.” Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox dismissed the firefight as a false alarm brought on by “jittery nerves,” but Secretary of War Henry Stimson echoed Army brass in saying that at least 15 planes had buzzed the city. He even advanced the provocative theory that the phantom fighters might have been commercial aircraft “operated by enemy agents” hoping to strike fear into the public. Stimson later backpedaled his claims, but there was still the matter of the thousands of military personnel and civilians who claimed to have seen aircraft in the skies over L.A. According to an editorial in the New York Times, some eyewitnesses had spied “a big floating object resembling a balloon,” while others had spotted anywhere from one plane to several dozen. “The more the whole incident of the early morning of Feb. 25 in the Los Angeles district is examined,” the article read, “the more incredible it becomes.”

b5What caused the shootout over Los Angeles? The Japanese military later claimed it had never flown aircraft over the city during World War II, providing fuel for a host of bizarre theories involving government conspiracies and visits by flying saucers and extraterrestrials.Still, the most logical explanation for the firefight is that trigger-happy servicemen and rudimentary radar systems combined to produce a false alarm. In 1983, the Office of Air Force History outlined the events of the L.A. air raid and noted that meteorological balloons had been released prior to the barrage to help determine wind conditions. Their lights and silver color could have been what first triggered the alerts. Once the shooting began, the disorienting combination of searchlights, smoke and anti-aircraft flak might have led gunners to believe they were firing on enemy planes even though none were actually present.

While it’s likely that the Battle of Los Angeles was only a mirage, it was still a chilling reminder of the vulnerability that many Americans felt at the beginning of World War II. The Japanese would later hatch several schemes to attack the American mainland – including launching over 9,000 explosives-laden “fire balloons” – yet none of them ever produced the level of mass hysteria that accompanied the phantom shootout over Los Angeles. Even at the time, many journalists noted that it was fitting that the incident had taken place in the home of the film industry. In an article from March 1942, the New York Times wrote that as the “world’s preeminent fabricator of make-believe,” Hollywood appeared to have played host to a battle that was “just another illusion.”

Newsreel of the incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m7736RMBEg

12
May

Remains of Marine shot down during Vietnam War heading home after 48 years

A Marine radar intercept officer missing nearly 48 years after he was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War has been accounted for after his remains were found last year, the Bergen Record reports.

The remains of Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. William (Billy) Ryan, of Bogota, N.J. (left in photo) were identified through DNA tests conducted by the Defense Pow/MIA Accounting Agency at the Pentagon, the paper reported Friday.

Ryan’s plane crashed on a combat mission in southern Laos near the Vietnam border on May 11, 1969, the day before his son’s first birthday.

“I always knew my dad died in the crash, and that’s what my mom told me,” Michael Ryan, 48 told the paper. “What she didn’t tell me is that part of her held out hope that maybe she’d see his face again.”

His aircraft was pulling out of a bombing run when it was hit by enemy fire. The pilot bailed out and was rescued.

Ryan was also shot down in 1968 over the Gulf of Tonkin but he survived that crash.

According to the Record, military investigators went to the Laos crash site in 1990 and found his plane seat.

Investigators visited the site on six other occasions from May 2012 to January 2016 to look for remains.

A lab identified the remains as Ryan’s and notified Michael last month.
The next day Ryan’s widow Judith was diagnosed with stage-4 stomach cancer.

“I don’t know, it’s strange to me,” Michael told the paper. “We’ve waited 48 years for this. And now I’m looking up at God and saying, ‘Can you give this woman a week to celebrate?'”

Billy Ryan will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on May 10, the eve of the crash anniversary.

Much more about Ryan and his family can be found at the site below: http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/2017/02/24/garden-state-mind-missing-action-nearly-50-years-bogota-marine-comes-home/97424752/

10
May

MSCS Steven Karoly US Navy (Ret) (Served 1970-1999)

Karoly

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Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Navy?

2017-05-14_14-44-16As long as I can remember I wanted to join the Navy upon graduation from high school. Both my father and his older brother served in World War II. Dad enlisted in 1943 as an Apprentice Seaman in the Navy V-12a program. After graduation from Navy college, he entered aviator training as an Aviation Cadet in the V-5 program and earned his wings and commission as an Ensign, USNR, in December 1945. My uncle deployed to Africa and Italy with the 329th Bomb Squadron, 485th Bomb Group, as a waist gunner in the B-24 bomber. My uncle’s aircraft went down over Bulgaria in June 1944 and he spent 90 days as a POW. And during junior high school, my mother’s sister’s husband deployed to Vietnam as an advisor in Vietnamese river gunboats.

While neither family had long traditions of military service to the country, the quiet influence of those that served motivated me to enlist in the Navy delayed entry program in April 1970. Foothill High School, Bakersfield, California, buddy Jim Anderson enlisted at the same time (though not in the buddy program). We signed our respective yearbooks as “(Name), SR, USNR”! Jim ultimately asked to go to boot camp early, while I waited until Labor Day weekend 1970. (As an aside, never report to boot camp on a holiday weekend. You learn firsthand of the Navy’s “hurry up and wait” culture!)

Company 369, under the capable leadership of MMC Barr, was a great boot camp company. Chief Barr appointed me as a Recruit Petty Officer Second Class and Second Squad Leader in the first week of boot camp. I was one of three squad leaders that retained his position for the 11-week boot camp. (The other three were replaced at one point or another.)

My early goal was to join the US Navy Seabees. However, the Navy had different plans. As the Vietnam War was winding down under President Nixon’s Vietnamization program, the Navy needed a smaller construction force. With battalions being decommissioned and the resulting overmanning in Seabee ratings, the boot camp classifier said that I couldn’t request Engineering Aid (EA) Class A School. EA seemed to be a worthwhile course as my father was a civil engineer and I had worked the summer of 1969 on a survey crew pulling rear chain.

The classifier would only let me volunteer for general duty in the Seabees. I also requested the following Class A Schools on my dream sheet: Commissaryman (CS), Quartermaster (QM), Aerographer’s Mate (AG) and Photographic Intelligenceman (PT). The Navy obliged by sending me to Commissaryman/Steward Class A School in January 1971. Since I already had an interest in cooking, I accepted the Navy’s wisdom and never looked back. The culinary arts have been my life’s work on active duty, in the reserves and in my civilian career.

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 have never seen my active duty career and subsequent reserve career as spectacular or impressive. I answered the call by enlisting in the Navy during one our country’s most unpopular wars. Even th2017-05-14_14-46-12ough she signed for me as a 17-year-old, I knew that my mother had reservations about my enlistment during a period of war. I later learned that I first walked while dad was performing his two weeks active duty at NAS Oakland with VS-873 in the summer of 1953. This with the fact that I was the oldest and first to leave home added to her trepidation. I think this motivated dad to cut his Naval Reserve career short in 1956.

Despite rumors that CS/SD “A” School Class 7124 was being shipped en-masse to Vietnam upon graduation, American involvement in the war was winding down. There was little chance (for the moment) that I would deploy to a war zone. I later comforted mom in this regard, at least until my battalion, NMCB-17, was being trained for mobilization to Operation Desert Storm in the winter of 1991.

I served eight and one-half years on active duty, from September 1970 to February 1979. Looking back, I should’ve remained on active duty to complete my 20 years. I did enlist in the US Naval Reserve and served until May 1999, retiring a Senior Chief Mess Management Specialist (MSCS). Looking back at my twentieth year, my enlistment would’ve been extended due to Operations Dessert Shield and Dessert Storm had I remained on active duty. Of course, my life would’ve taken a different track and I wouldn’t have met my lovely wife, Debbie, in 1979.

Attack Squadron 127 at NAS Lemoore was my first duty station out of Class A school. For someone who’d “joined the Navy to see the world,” I’d landed on shore duty in the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley–sandwiched between my boyhood homes of Fresno and Bakersfield. It took a special request chit to get me to sea. I figured why be in the Navy if you don’t go to sea? After all, that’s what makes the Navy stand out from the Army and the Air Force.

The Navy obliged in May 1972 and ordered me to the USS Cocopa (ATF-101). I met the fleet tug at NAVSTA Guam after 10 days in transit (I flew over the ship one-hour west of Hawaii). The next three years were spent cruising between Da Nang, Subic Bay and San Diego on the Cocopa and the USS Stein (DE-1065). A brief visit to the Indian Ocean in the winter of 1975 convinced me that world politics was shifting fleet operations to less exotic ports of call. So, I shipped over for foreign duty.

My reward for shipping over was a tour in the Philippines at the sprawling Seabee-built air base at Cubi Point. Then sixteen short months later, I again landed at a state-side naval air station, this time NAS Kingsville, Texas. Two years and a few college classes later, I was back in San Diego on the USS Robison (DDG-12). By this time, my experience at Georgia Military College (they had a contract with the Navy in Texas) and the quiet influence of my parents convinced me to get out and return to school.

Six days before my discharge, the Navy advanced me to MS1, a move that surprised me. Previously in 1974, I had to extend my enlistment to accept the rate of CS2 on the USS Stein. (The Commissaryman (CS) rating was merged with the Steward (SD) rating to form the Mess Management Specialist (MS) rating in January 1975.) As it turned out, the Navy had relaxed the requirement that you have one year remaining on your enlistment to accept advancement to PO2 or PO1.

The day after my discharge in late February 1979, I enlisted in the Naval Reserve at the Naval Reserve Center, Bakersfield, California, and was assigned to Detachment 0717, Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 17. As a Headquarters Company Seabee, I frequently drilled at the battalion Permanent Drill Site at NCBC Port Hueneme.

I count two duty stations as my favorite, one for active duty and other in the reserves. The first was the USS Cocopa. As a shall ship, I prepared the whole meal each day. Unlike the NAS Lemoore operations galley, where I grilled endless quantities of chicken fried steak on the flat top griddle, you got to know all 70 members of the fleet tug’s crew. Among those were the tall, lanky EM3 that only ate scrambled eggs. Or the EN2, complete with biker beard, that consumed massive quantities of food during storms, when the rest of the crew avoided the chow line.

NMCB-17 was my favorite reserve duty station. I had never experienced a unit with such great morale and dedication to the mission as I did during our three-week pre-mobilization active duty for Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. The Seabees of “The Desert Battalion” were pumped, ready to accept deployment orders to anywhere the Navy needed us. Battalion leadership was listening to returning active and reserve S4 (Supply Officer), S4A (Assistant SupO), S4C (Supply LCPO) and S4G (Galley LCPO).

As the second senior Seabee in the Supply Department (The S3C, SKCS Bill Tinsley, was senior to me), I prepared the General Mess for duty in the desert sands of Saudi Arabia. Had we been deployed, I would have had many challenges. Foremost was the fact that my Assistant Leading Chief MS, MSC Bob Voigt, was also the Battalion Mortar Platoon Commander. And the General Mess was undermanned in junior MS3s and MSSNs. Thankfully, my galley leadership was in place (MS1s and MS2s). I would’ve been able to absorb SNs and SAs and train then to be Seabee cooks and bakers. In the end, NMCB-17’s deployment orders to the Seabee deployment camp, Camp Covington, Guam, were canceled after the ground war ended.

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.

I have never involved in any direct combat during my eight and one-half years active duty and twenty years reserve duty. My first WestPac cruise on the USS Cocopa (AFT-12017-05-14_14-48-0101) was the closest that I came. In the summer of 1972, the Cocopa deployed the Subic Bay Naval Base and the Seventh Fleet area of operations. During the eight-month cruise, the tug only served some 40 days in the territorial waters of Vietnam, including one three-week period as “duty tow and salvage” in Da Nang Harbor and off China Beach. The closest we came to “combat” was the observation of tracers and star shells along the coast as the Cocopa cruised out to sea each evening at dusk.

The Cocopa was a working ship. I’ve told my kids and grandkids, “We went to war to work.” Our task was to tow disabled ships, craft, and barges. With divers on board, the ship could assist with minor repair and salvage operation. The Cocopa spent 10 days in June 1972 searching for the wreckage of a C-130E from the 374th Tactical Airlift Wing off Makung P’eng-hu Island, Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Strait of Formosa. Our divers located the wreckage on June 8. During this mission, I savored some of the best watermelons I’ve ever tasted, brought to the ship by Chinese UDT sailors.

Several years later, while assigned as the Night Galley Watch Captain at the NAS Cubi Point General Mess, I had the opportunity to feed the Marines (possibly of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines) that boarded the SS Mayaguez, which had been seized by the Khmer Rouge in the wake of the Vietnam War. As I supervised midrats, a large group of Marines entered the mess decks to eat. I asked a Marine with his right arm in a sling where they were from. The Marine explained their role in the rescue of the Mayaguez. He then reached into the sling and pulled out his Purple Heart.

I realize this event pales in comparison to the experiences of those of others. Yet it came at the moment when NavSta Subic Bay and NAS Cubi Point were ramping up to care for the Vietnamese escaping the country as the NVA overran Saigon. For the next several months, the cooks of the NAS galley shifted into working 12 on/12 off to feed the refugees. The NavSta galley prepared the daily meal for the refugee camp on Grande Island while we cooked tons of rice and assembled flight meals for their transit to camps on Guam.

From your entire service, including combat, describe the personal memories which have impacted you most?

I’ve often wondered if our collective memories of our time in the services sweeten with age. In2017-05-14_14-49-23 July 1972, the USS Cocopa departed Naval Station Subic Bay and slammed directly into Typhoon Susan as she entered the South China Sea. The ensuing ride was one of the roughest I’ve ever encountered on any of my three the ships. At one point I honestly thought it would’ve been easier to jump into the sea than to endure the storm. I never want to experience a typhoon of that magnitude again.

Yet, I look back on the Cocopa with much fondness. I now talk about the typhoon as if it was a rite of passage, one that every fleet tug sailor had to endure, much like crossing the Equator or going through CPO initiation. If I have any regret of my time on the ship, it’s that I sought orders to the USS Stein so I could return to the Philippines. Of course, had I not returned to the Western Pacific in the spring and summer of 1973, my life would’ve taken a much different course.

This experience, and many, many others, have taught me how to endure the trials and tribulations in life. While they are unpleasant at the moment (and that may be an understatement when talking about typhoons), these events teach you to patiently endure to the conclusion of the matter. The help you develop a steady character, one that prompts you to place your faith in God.

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?

Since I don’t have any combat awards, the most meaningful would have to be my Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, three Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medals and the Air Force Achievement Medal. The remainder qualifies as 2017-05-14_14-50-50“gedunk” medals, meaning you were in the right place at the right time to earn them. Heck, one was awarded the National Defense Service Medal upon graduation from boot camp. I guess it’s DOD’s “participation award.” We always honor those awards that were righteously earned above the others.

The most interesting award was the Air Force Achievement Medal. While I never served in the U.S. Air Force, the medal was awarded to myself and 47 other Seabees of Detachment 0402, NMCB-2, for the construction of a 880′ railroad spur and 240′ loading dock on McClellan Air Force Base in 1982 and 1983. I was assigned as the Detachment Career Counselor at the time. In order to complete my task, I held tailgate counseling sessions at the job site during drill weekends. I helped with the project when time allowed and drove a number of railroad spikes. Today, I’m a Maintenance of Way volunteer for the El Dorado Western Railroad in my home county.

The most memorable is a Certificate of Appreciation from Cmdr. M.D. Langohor, SC, USNR, Logistics Officer of the Third Naval Construction Brigade Headquarters Det. in NCBC Port Hueneme, Calif. I was the Logistics Training Chief and Food Service Chief for the brigade at the time. My file contains many letters of achievement and commendation, too many to mention. Many were for recognition of one accomplishment or another, including the field exercise when I was Acting Supply Officer in 1993. But this one stands out because it represents hundreds of hours of hard work to develop and lead the Seabee Field Messing Course in Port Hueneme in 1995.

Seabee field messing was my passion in the Seabees. As the senior Pacific Fleet Seabee MS, it was my responsibility to train the cooks in the operation of the M-59 Field Range and the General Mess when deployed to the field. The certificate reads: “MSCS Steven C. Karoly, USNR, who successfully participated in providing a course of instruction on ‘Seabee Field Messing’ covering operation and maintenance of the M59 Field Range, immersion heaters, menu planning and food production, field rations, site selection, mess layout, tent setup and field sanitation to Mess Management Specialists of the THIRD Naval Construction Brigade.” The shining moment of this accomplishment was bringing the Navy Food Management Team, San Diego, on board as an active participant in the training.

I later received my Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal from Rear Admiral Thomas A. Dames, CEC, USN, Commander, Third NCB, for my assignment as the Brigade Logistics Training Chief, which included work on the Seabee Field Messing Course. But it’s that simple recognition from my supply officer that means the most to me today.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

With 29 years of service to my credit, it’s difficult to pinpoint more than couple individuals and their respective impact on my life. When I think about it, those in a l2017-05-14_14-52-12eadership position over me had the most impact on my life. Several come to mind:

**Chief Barr, my boot camp Company Commander, who took a chance and elevated me to Recruit Petty Officer Second Class and Second Squad Leader of Company 369.

**The HT1 on the USS Cocopa who convinced me to take the CS3 exam when I wanted to skip it. Yes, you could describe his tactics as “strong arm,” but that’s what this hard-headed Seaman needed at the time.

**CS1 George Rooney, Leading CS of the Cocopa, for his hands-on approach to leadership in the galley.

**MSC Oscar Ray, Leading Chief MS of the USS Stein for his dedication to excellence and hands-on approach to leadership in the galley. We thought Chief Ray was over the top when he wanted to make sandwiches with shaved meat for battle feeding! Yet, it’s these examples that stick in your mind and help direct your career.

**PNCM Jimmy Garcia, Detachment OIC of NMCB-2 Det. 0402 in Sacramento, Calif., for showing me that a non-Seabee rating can lead a bunch of Seabees.

**MSC Bob Voigt, Leading Chief MS of NMCB-17 in 1986-87, for his leadership in General Mess operations at Camp Shelby, Miss., when I was his Training and Records Chief. I’ve never seemed more grace from one man when I put on my star in 1989 and became the Leading Chief MS.

What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? 

After my honorable discharge from active duty in February 1979, I continued my Navy career as a reservist with three Seabee units (NMCB-2, NMCB-17 and Third NCB). I entered Bakersfield College in September of that year (where I met2017-05-14_14-53-57 my lovely wife Debbie), married and transferred to University of California, Davis, where I completed a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics in June 1984.

A short career in hospital food service led to a 22-year career with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. I retired in August 2008 after working in three prisons and at headquarters. My last leadership position was the Food Manager for Folsom State Prison. (My desk was located 20 feet from Dining Room One, where Johnny Cash performed on January 13, 1968.) I closed my career with the State of California as an Associate Budget Analyst with Correctional Health Care Services in Sacramento.

Following my career, I realized a lifelong dream to work in summer camps. In the summer of 2009, I was the head cook for Deer Crossing Camp at Loon Lake in Eldorado National Forest. My service in the Seabee certainly helped me with this short job (the season was only 10-weeks long). In addition to cooking for 65 campers and staff, I was responsible for testing water quality, lighting off the generators and teaching English to my Mongolian assistant cook. My only regret was that the need for year-round work precluded my return in 2010.

After a very short job with a local casino (just 50 shifts), I landed a position as the House Chef for the Female Residential Multi-Service Center in Sacramento, California. It was the perfect job for this retired Senior Chief and correctional food manager. I was able to help mold the lives of several women in the program. As the only male on staff (other than the maintenance guy, who came in and of the house), I built a reputation as the “house dad.” I assisted the women with work skills as they rotated through the kitchen for their weekly chores.

Unfortunately, I was once again on the job market when the facility closed in March 2013. However, with two retirements (my Navy Reserve retirement started in 2012), I was able to focus on summer work and devote the rest of the year to volunteer work with the El Dorado Western Railroad, a program of the El Dorado County Historical Museum in Placerville, California.

Since April 2013 I have been the Executive Chef and Food Service Manager for Oakland Feather River Camp in Quincy, California (more about this job below). Except for a couple short periods, I have continuously worked as a cook and chef for the last 45 years. Looking back, I would have it no other way. It seems every time I tried to leave the galley, I missed it so much that I did everything to return. I can see no other career, both in the Navy and outside, for me.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career?

As the chef at Oakland Feather River Camp, Quincy, California, I practice deckplate leadership. One aspect of leadership that differentiates a chef (or Chief Petty Officer) from a Food Service Manager (m2017-05-14_14-55-10y official title at the camp!) is the chef is constantly moving about the kitchen, leading the cooks and ensuring meal quality for campers. Following my practice as a Chief Petty Officer, “visible leaders who set the tone, know the mission, know their people and develop their people beyond their own expectations as a team and as individuals” (https://deckplateleader.wordpress.com/faq/).

The stereotypical FSM “leads” from the office, where his day is relegated to paperwork, orders, and schedules. I do all those things and cook and lead my crew into excellence six days per week (yes, I do take one day off to recharge and rest!).

Many of these skills were learned in the Navy, both from active duty, where I served as Galley Watch Captain at every ship and shore command until advancement to Chief, and reserve duty, where I honed my leadership ability as the Leading Chief MS of NMCB-17 and later as Logistics Training Chief and Food Service Chief for N4, Third Naval Construction Brigade in Port Hueneme.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Navy?

To those that desire a career in Navy food service as a Culinary Specialist (CS), I’d say learn, learn, learn. Take every opportunity to learn everything you can about your chosen rating, even beyond the scope of Navy food service. Today I would seek assignment to the CPO Mess or the Wardroom Mess, in addition to2017-05-14_14-56-48 working the General Mess. This will not only enhance your career but will give you an opportunity to expand your culinary skills, especially in terms of plate presentation, sauces (beyond the five mother sauces) and upscale cuisine.

At the time, many pre-1975 CSs (including myself) saw the Wardroom Mess as degrading work that was relegated to the Stewards. Many of us avoided such assignment. I changed my mind after my advancement to Chief Petty Officer. As the Leading Chief MS of NMCB-17, I was responsible for the General Mess, CPO Mess, Wardroom Mess and the BEQ. I slowly realized that officers “put their pants on one leg at a time” just as I do. I accepted my assignment with pride and served the Chiefs and Officers, in the same manner, I had served enlisted Sailors. Only now, I was performing that role in a position of leadership. It was my duty to pass this enthusiasm on to my cooks.

My other advice is to accept increasing responsibility, especially leadership roles. The goal for every enlisted sailor, especially those with a career (active or reserve) in mind, should always be the advancement to Chief Petty Officer. As the most effective leaders in all of the services, being “The Chief” teaches you a lot about humility, motivation, and leadership. You’re the man in the trenches who gets the job done (and trains your Division Officer!).

And seek leadership roles beyond the galley. While Leading Chief CS is a worthwhile goal (and necessary goal for a career CS), extra military leadership roles expand your career. During my 20 years in the Seabee reserve, I served as Fire Team Leader, Squad Leader, 80mm Mortar Team Leader, Headquarters Company Chief, Platoon Chief for crew-served weapons school and career counselor, among many other assignments. This was in addition to fleet assignments as Division Damage Control Petty Officer, sight-setter on a 3″ 50 cal. gun. and 1JV fantail photo talker during Sea and Anchor Detail.

In what ways has TogetherWeServed.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

Since my retirement in 1999, I’ve maintained the connection with several Navy shipmates on my own. Among those are MSC Bob Voigt, my Assistant Leading Chief MS from NMCB-17, and CS3 Dave Staken, fellow ship’s cook from the USS2017-05-14_14-58-09 Cocopa. I had dabbled in several other military Internet sites.

Together We Served has helped me locate a number of shipmates from a long career, especially those from my shipboard days in the 1970s. I have since become the unit historian for the USS Cocopa (ATF-101).

8
May

It’s Only a Movie

By Al Bell

As a small boy I was terrified by Bud Abbot and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, a comedy which featured Lou Costello in constant danger of being attacked by such horror film villains asabbott Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man. Each time Lou was in peril, I would hide my eyes, while my dad would comfort me with the words, “Don’t worry. It’s only a movie.” I soon relaxed. No one was really hurt.

In 1969, I became the senior advisor to a South Vietnamese River Assault and Interdiction Division (RAID), consisting of 21 river boats which had been transferred from the U.S. Navy’s “Brown Water Navy.” I was a Navy lieutenant, and I was assisted by about six enlisted men. We provided technical support and advice in the maintenance and operation of the heavily armed boats. We liaised with U.S. units when the Vietnamese needed air or artillery support. We also helped with logistics in obtaining fuel and ammunition.

My position as an advisor gave me a sense that I was sort of an observer of the passing scene, only becoming involved when help was needed. While I had been to school to learn riverine tactics, the Vietnamese had actually been at war for decades. I had more to learn than to teach.

RAID 72 had the job of transporting a battalion of Vietnamese marines into combat in the U-Minh Forest of the Mekong Delta. We would typically put the marines ashore at a point determined by intelligence to have a concentration of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. Our boats would then move into blocking positions, while the marines with air and artillery support would attempt to drive the enemy into our ambush. More commonly, the enemy would fade into the jungle while the marines gave futile chase, leaving the boats to sit and wait for the marines to return.

tet2During Tet of 1968 the enemy had suffered so many casualties that they withdrew into the U-Minh Forest to lick their wounds and to regroup. Both the U.S. and South Vietnamese believed we had the enemy on the run. The South Vietnamese launched a “Dark Forest” Campaign to destroy the remaining enemy in that area.

Our boats carried the marines down a long, narrow canal, the Song Cai Lon. We had to fight our way down. Ahead of my boat, a monitor (a boat bristling with guns) was sunk by an IED made from a U.S. 500 lb. bomb, killing all five sailors on board.

Ever the dispassionate observer, I photographed the boat as it was sinking. After all, this seemed just a movie. There was nothing for me to do but to send a report.

Farther down the canal we bivouacked at a place on the canal shown as the village of Dong Hung. It had been destroyed years before, the villagers had been relocated to a government area, and the jungle had closed in. Still there were the 273rd North Vietnamese Regiment and thousands of VC.

The marines established a small command post (CP) at Dong Hung and the main force went out into the jungle to find the enemy. Our boats moored on both banks of the canal near the CP. My Vietnamese counterpart, Lieutenant Commander Binh, the commanding officer of RAID 72, explained to me that the plan for defending ourselves if attacked was to move the boats to the outside ends of the stretch of the canal bounding our encampment. The boats could then have interlocking fields of fire. I had been concerned that no defensive barrier had been established, nono barbed wire had been strung, nor had trees been felled to provide those fields of fire. They assured me that this would have to do since they did not know how long we would be there. I just thought about Roman Legions on the march who erected timber palisades wherever they stopped, even if it were only for the night.

I don’t recall how many days we were there while the marines were away looking for the enemy. Reports generated by me tracked Vietnamese marine movements, engagements, casualties, and the status of boats. In addition to the 110 Vietnamese sailors, there was one of my enlisted advisors, Radioman 3rd class Bruce McIver, and two enlisted advisors from RAID 74, which provided some of the boats in our group of twenty-one. At night, I would lie under mosquito netting on an air mattress and listen to the chatter on my AN/PRC-25 short range (VHF FM) radio. There were just brief communications between the U.S. Marine advisor, Maj. Mike Cerreta, and the pilot of an Army single-engine forward air control (FAC) aircraft which coordinated air support.

At about 1 a.m. on November 6, I was listening to the Marine advisor and the FAC pilot when the FAC signed off and headed for his base. That meant that there would be no further communication, so I drifted off to sleep. Thirty minutes later, I was jarred awake by explosions all around me. was2Was this just a movie? Mortar rounds were impacting throughout the CP and among the boats. Soon, it became apparent that we were under attack by a large force, perhaps two battalions (500-600 men each) armed with 82 mm mortars, 60 mm mortars, 57 mm recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades (RPG), Chinese machine guns, and AK-47 assault rifles. Swarming from the jungle, they quickly overran the CP, destroying tents, huts, bunkers, and communication equipment. The small contingent of Vietnamese marines and their U.S. advisors were forced to retreat onto the boats.

Plans to move the boats to the edges of the CP evaporated under the speed of the attack. Soon the enemy was among us, climbing on some boats with hand grenades and satchel charges. Most boats got underway from the west bank of the canal and moved to the east bank, for, although we were completely surrounded, the main force of the attack was from the west.

Maj. Cerreta retreated to my Command and Control Boat (CCB) with many Vietnamese marines, some of whom were badly wounded. The CCB tried to back off the west bank but it was tied with nylon lines to a bush on the bank. The CCB backed at full power, but it could only fishtail helplessly three feet from the bank while the enemy on the bank was raking us with rockets and small arms fire. Maj. Cerreta and I crawled to the bow trying to free the line, but it was hopeless. The major even tried unsuccessfully to shoot the line in half with his military issue 1911 Colt.45 Cal pistol.

I jumped below, fetched my Buck knife, and ran back up to the deck. We had been hit by four B40 RPGs, and the boat was on fire from burning fuel. I told Maj. Cerreta that I was going to crawl up and cut the line. Reinforcing my feeling that this was only a movie, he held up his pistol and said, “I’ll cover you!” I crawled exposed up to the bow and found a Vietnamese marine still trying fruitlessly to free the line; I shoved him aside and cut it loose. The CCB quickly moved to the east bank, only 20 yards from the enemy who pounded us with crew manned weapons from the west bank. We fired back with every weapon we had.

The fierce fighting continued until dawn. A medevac helicopter relayed a request for air support. This turned out to be Shadow and Spooky gunships, cargo planes fitted with high speed Vulcan guns. Those Gatling type guns fired so many rounds that it appeared they were pouring liquid metal on the enemy.

In the morning, I organized the evacuation of the many wounded. A man pressing a battle dressing against his belly to hold his intestines in place was begging me to get the helicopters there fast. Each time the helos approached, the VC would fire mortars at us.

After it was all over, I had fired every one of the 500 rounds of M-16 ammunition that I had. A quick survey revealed that all of the boats were out of ammunition, too. I urgently requested helo delivery of all types of ammunition. It did not arrive until the following day. Had we been attacked that night, we would have been wiped out.

Searing my soul for life is a scene from the morning after the fight. Lacking body bags, the Vietnamese had wrapped one of our sailors in a plastic rain poncho. I remember thinking irrationally as I looked at the face limned against the plastic, “He can’t breathe!” Then it came home to me — he would never breathe again! We suffered 44 killed and 151 wounded. Seventy-five enemy bodies were found.

The night of November 8, the enemy attacked again, this time sinking two boats, but we held them off again, but with more casualties on both sides. My realization at this point that this was not a movie and that I had nearly five more months of this affected me deeply. Clearly, this was serious business.

The week in March 1970 that I left Vietnam, we killed a VC whose possessions included a citation for his role in the November 6, 1969 attack on us. Unfortunately, the same firefight which killed that VC resulted in the death of a U.S. Army advisor to Regional and Popular Forces we were transporting.

Al Bell is a writer and publisher who just released his second book “Sea Story!” and Other Sketches: Memories and musings from a life of adventure. Available from Amazon.com/books (search term; “CDR BELL”). My first book, “Sea Story!” & Other Sketches, is still available there.

The book is a collection of previously published stories, essays, rants, and musings by ‘Skipper Al’ Bell, whose adventurous life has given him a unique perspective on the world. The writings range from interesting accounts of real events to humorous lampoons and fiction. Some are inspiring, while others are ironic. The gentle reader may not agree with the author on some issues, in which case the reader is almost certainly wrong. His writings are part Mark Twain, part Jonathan Swift, and a large dose of Mad Magazine. Some stories are serious and uplifting. Others reflect brooding depression. All are entertaining.

5
May

Cpl Steve McQueen US Marine Corps (Served 1947-1950)

View the service history of actor:

mcqueenCpl Steve McQueen

US Marine Corps

(Served 1947-1950)

View his service profile on TogetherWeServed.com
http://marines.togetherweserved.com/profile/65207

Short Bio: Known as the King of Cool, McQueen enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became a tank driver. Showing his rebellious streak, he ended up in the brig for extending a weekend pass into a two-week holiday. McQueen was far from the model soldier. “I was busted back down to private about seven times. The only way I could have been made corporal was if all the other privates in the Marines dropped dead,” he said, according to Marshall Terrill’s Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel.

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