Profiles in Courage

The Crew of the Mi Amigo

The Crew of the Mi Amigo

Visitors to Endcliffe Park, a small green space on the west side of the UK city of Sheffield, might come across a curious monument. It begins with a large, permanent American flag. Then, they'll notice several trees surrounding a large boulder. Flags representing the United States Air Force, small wooden crosses, and other tokens of appreciation flanking that boulder, which bears plaques and, often, ten photos of World War II-era airmen.  Those airmen, 1st Lt. John Kriegshauser, 2nd Lt. Lyle Curtis, 2nd Lt. John Humphrey, 2nd Lt. Melchor Hernandez, Staff Sgt. Harry Estabrooks, Staff Sgt. Bob Mayfield, Sgt. Charles Tuttle, Tech. Sgt. Malcolm Williams, Sgt. Vito Ambrosio and Sgt. Maurice Robbins fought to die on that spot in 1944 because the alternative was much, much worse.  The Tragic Flight of Mi Amigo On February 22, 1944, the B-17 Flying Fortress, dubbed "Mi Amigo," was sent on a bombing mission on an airfield in Nazi-occupied Denmark. The target air base was obscured by fog when...

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WW2 – The Heroes Of Eager Beavers

WW2 – The Heroes Of Eager Beavers

In 1943, several U.S. airmen went on a suicide mission. Two men, who were part of Eager Beavers, on the mission were awarded a Medal of Honor - the only time in WWII that two men received the same award for the same engagement. Interestingly, their careers didn't start out well. Biography of Lt Col Jay Zeamer Jr. Jay Zeamer, Jr. got his wings in 1941 at Langley Field. All his classmates became pilots and got their own planes and crews, but not Zeamer. Although he could fly and had a passion for it, he just didn't have what it took to be a pilot. Still, he could fly, so when America entered the war, they made him a co-pilot. In March 1942, they sent him to Australia where he again tried to become a pilot but again failed. They sent him to the Solomon Islands - the same thing. Zeamer was to spend WWII as a co-pilot, navigator, gunner, and anything else; just not a pilot. Biography of 2nd Lt Joseph Raymond Sarnoski Joseph Raymond Sarnoski met Zeamer at Langley. Sarnoski got his wings,...

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B-17 Bomber Crews of World War II

B-17 Bomber Crews of World War II

Even at the time, the idea was kind of crazy. Untold numbers of heavy bombers, flying in massive formations without any kind of fighter escort, would fly to heavily-defended targets inside Nazi Germany to drop a 6,000-pound bomb load and come home – all during broad daylight.  If that sounds like an incredibly dangerous mission to you, you're correct. "Masters of the Air," a new limited series from Executive Producers Tom Hanks and Steven Speilberg, will debut on January 26, 2024, on Apple TV+ and will show viewers just how devastating air combat over Nazi Germany really was. Masters of the Air — Official Teaser | Apple TV+ The Harsh Realities of B-17 Bomber Crews A B-17 Flying Fortress crew had a 50-50 chance of coming home alive during a bombing mission. The average age of a bomber crew was just 25 years old, and they were expected to fly over a target 25 times before they could go home. Needless to say, there were a lot of airmen (and aircraft) that never made it to 25 missions....

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SFC Fred Willam Zabitosky, U.S. Army (1959-1989) – MOH Recipient

SFC Fred Willam Zabitosky, U.S. Army (1959-1989) – MOH Recipient

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. SFC Fred Zabitosky, US Army, distinguished himself while serving as an assistant team leader of a nine-man Special Forces long-range reconnaissance patrol. SFC Zabitosky's patrol was operating deep within the enemy-controlled territory in Laos when they were attacked by a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army unit.  SFC Fred Zabitosky Repeatedly Exposed Himself to North Vietnamese Attackts SFC Fred Zabitosky rallied his team members, deployed them into defensive positions, and, exposing himself to concentrated enemy automatic weapons fire, directed their return fire. Realizing the gravity of the situation, SFC Zabitosky ordered his patrol to move to a landing zone for helicopter extraction while he covered their withdrawal with rifle fire and grenades. Rejoining the patrol under increasing enemy pressure, he positioned each man in tight perimeter defense and...

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Maj Kurt Chew-Een Lee, U.S. Marine Corps (1945-1968)

Maj Kurt Chew-Een Lee, U.S. Marine Corps (1945-1968)

Kurt Chew-Een Lee is believed to have been the first Asian-American officer in the Marine Corps, rising through the ranks beginning his career from World War II to the Vietnam War.  Lee was born in 1926 in San Francisco and grew up in Sacramento, California. Lee's father was M. Young Lee, born in Guangzhou (Canton), emigrating in the 1920s to the Territory of Hawaii and then California. Once established in America, M. Young Lee returned to China to honor an arranged marriage. He brought his bride to California and worked as a distributor of fruits and vegetables to hotels and restaurants. Two of his brothers, Chew-Fan and Chew-Mon, became Army officers who also served in the Korean War. Chew-Mon received the Distinguished Service Cross and Chew-Fan the Bronze Star. Kurt Chew-Een Lee Joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1944 Eager to fight in World War II, Kurt Chew-Een Lee joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1944. Instead, he was based at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego as a...

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Col. Robert Lewis Howard, U.S. Army (1956-1992)

Col. Robert Lewis Howard, U.S. Army (1956-1992)

The last time someone received a second Medal of Honor was in World War I, and it's unlikely we'll ever see another two-time recipient in our lifetime. But if anyone were going to come close to receiving multiple Medals of Honor, it would have been U.S. Army Col. Robert Lewis Howard. During his 54 months of active combat service in Vietnam, he was wounded an astonishing 14 times and received eight Purple Hearts and four Bronze Stars. He was also nominated for the Medal of Honor three times in 13 months, the only soldier ever to receive three nominations. Two of those were downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star because his actions took place in Cambodia, where the United States wasn't technically at war. He would be awarded the medal on his third nomination, forever changing his life and career.  Robert L. Howard's Service in Vietnam Alabama-born Howard enlisted in the Army in 1956 and would spend the rest of his working life serving his country. Some 36 of...

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Col Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, U.S. Marine Corps (1934-1947)

Col Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, U.S. Marine Corps (1934-1947)

Stories of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington are legion, many founded in fact, including how he led the legendary Black Sheep squadron, and how he served in China as a member of the American Volunteer Group, the famed Flying Tigers. He spent a year and a half as a Japanese POW, was awarded the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross, and was recognized as a Marine Corps top ace. Always hard-drinking and hard-living, Pappy's post-war life was as turbulent as his wartime experiences. Biography of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington Born on Dec.4, 1912, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, young Boyington had a rough childhood, as divorced parents, an alcoholic step-father, and lots of moves withheld much-needed parental guidance. He got his first ride in an airplane at the ripe young age of six, when the famous barnstormer, Clyde Pangborn (who later flew the Pacific non-stop), flew his Jenny into town, and young Gregory wangled a ride. What a thrill for a little kid! In 1926, at the age of 13, his family moved to Tacoma,...

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SFC Leigh Ann Hester, U.S. Army (2001-Present)

SFC Leigh Ann Hester, U.S. Army (2001-Present)

On the morning of March 20, 2005, then-Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester was tasked with assisting a supply convoy moving east of Baghdad, a job that meant scanning and clearing the route of any improvised explosive devices. She'd done this job countless times before, getting shot at on almost a daily basis and seeing vehicles blown up more times than anyone would like to remember. Leigh Ann Hester Was Cited for Valor in Close Quarter Combat Executing daily patrols as a member of the National Guard's Kentucky-based 617th Military Police Company meant guaranteed exposure to combat, something the Pentagon, until an order was signed in 2013, was not even allowing women to officially engage in as an occupational specialty. "It was that one job where you can get out there and get dirty and be in an infantry-type environment," she told the Tennessean in 2015. "I guess it was one of the more exciting jobs in the military for women when I enlisted, and it still is now." As such, Hester's resolve in the...

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Heroes of The Coast Guard: Munro and Evans

Heroes of The Coast Guard: Munro and Evans

Within days of their Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Imperial Navy occupied scores of islands throughout the western Pacific Ocean. Japan's goal was to create a defensive buffer against attack from the United States and its Allies - one that would ensure their mastery over East Asia and the Pacific. It wasn't until the United States' strategic victories at the Battles of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) and Midway (June 4-7, 1942) finally halted the Japanese Empire's expansion that the Allies were free to unleash an offensive. The strategically-located Solomon Island chain, lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and critical to protecting the supply lines between the U.S. and Australia, was selected as the place to begin the island-hopping offensive campaign to take the Pacific back from the Japanese. The Solomon Island operation, America's first amphibious operation since 1898, lasted six months and consisted of a number of major battles - on land, at sea, and...

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LtCol Gene Hambleton, U.S. Air Force (1943-1972)

LtCol Gene Hambleton, U.S. Air Force (1943-1972)

On April 2, 1972, the third day of the Easter Offensive, the largest combined arms operation of the entire Vietnam War, 53-year-old Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal 'Gene' Hambleton was a navigator aboard one of two United States Air Force EB-66 aircraft escorting three B-52s. Bat 21, the call sign for Hambleton's aircraft, was configured to gather signals intelligence, including identifying North Vietnamese anti-aircraft radar installations to enable jamming. (Photo is Bat 21 in Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.) During Bat 21 Gene Hambleton was the Only Survivor Midway through the operation, Bat 21 was destroyed by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile, and Hambleton was the only survivor, parachuting behind the front lines into a battlefield filled with thousands of North Vietnamese Army soldiers. The bodies of the aircrew were never found. Because of Hambleton's knowledge of Top Secret Strategic Air Command operations and an expert in surface-to-air missile countermeasures, his rescue...

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Alexander Sandy Bonnyman, U.S. Marine Corps (1942-1943)

Alexander Sandy Bonnyman, U.S. Marine Corps (1942-1943)

Alexander Sandy Bonnyman was as American as a young man in the 1940s could possibly get. He was born in Atlanta in 1910, but his father moved the family to Knoxville, Tennessee, to take the presidency of the Blue Diamond Coal Company. Young Alex graduated from public schools in his youth and attended Princeton University, where he became a star athlete on the football team.  Alexander Sandy Bonnyman Answered the Call to Service When his grades slipped at Princeton in 1932, Bonnyman decided he had a higher calling than engineering and football. He dropped out of college and joined the Army Air Corps. But although he was an excellent airman, the stick of a fighter plane wasn't where he belonged. He left the Air Corps to follow in his dad's footsteps. His lasting legacy, however, came when his country needed him. He answered the call to service, even though he didn't have to, and would receive the Medal of Honor for leading his outnumbered Marines to victory at Tarawa.  Being...

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Brig Gen James Robinson Risner, U.S. Air Force (1943 – 1976)

Brig Gen James Robinson Risner, U.S. Air Force (1943 – 1976)

James Robinson Risner was a man of humble origins, son of an Arkansas sharecropper, educated at secondary school level, not particularly ambitious, a common man save for two things: He could fly the hell out of an airplane; and, under terribly difficult circumstances as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam, he rose to a level of heroic leadership matched by few men in American military history. Born in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas on Jan. 16, 1925 and raised in a religious family, Robinson Risner made his first critical life choice between attending Bible College or joining the Army Air Forces during World War II. When he passed the tough entrance exam for pilot training by one point, his future aloft was set. Flying came easily to the gifted trainee, which led to a coveted assignment flying fighters after graduation. But Robbie's repeated requests for combat duty were ignored by the Army's personnel system, and he spent the rest of the war defending the Panama Canal. Postwar peace and...

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