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Posts from the ‘military history’ Category

26
Mar

Places, Bases, and Memories: From Spanish Mission to Defender of Freedom

Of all the Marine Corps bases throughout the world, Camp Pendleton has one of the most intriguing pasts, filled with historical charm and vibrancy. Spanish explorers, colorful politicians, herds of thundering cattle, skillful vaqueros and tough Marines have all contributed to the history of this land.

Sept. 25 marks the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the camp by President Franklin Roosevelt as a Marine Corps installation. What started as a Spanish missionary installation is now one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the world – and a much-needed break between the urban expanse of San Diego and Orange counties.

In 1769, a Spaniard by the name of Capt. Gaspar de Portola led an expeditionary force northward from southern California, seeking to establish Franciscan missions throughout California. On July 20 of that same year, the expedition arrived at a location now known as Camp Pendleton, and as it was the holy day St. Margaret, they baptized the land in the name of Santa Margarita.

During the next 30 years, 21 missions were established, the most productive one being Mission San Luis Rey, just south of the present-day Camp Pendleton. At that time, San Luis Rey Mission had control over the Santa Margarita area.

In 1821, following Mexico’s independence from Spain, the Californios became the new ruling class of California, and many were the first generation descendants of the Portola expedition. The Mexican governor was awarding land grants and ranchos to prominent businessmen, officials, and military leaders. In 1841, two brothers by the name of Pio and Andres Pico became the first private owners of Rancho Santa Margarita. More land was later added to the grant, making the name Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, and that name stayed with the ranch until the Marine Corps acquired it in 1942.

In 1863, a dashing Englishman named John Forster (Pio Pico’s brother-in-law) paid off Pico’s gambling debts in return for the deed to the ranch. During his tenure as owner of the ranch, he expanded the ranch house, which was begun by the Picos in 1841, and developed the rancho into a thriving cattle industry.

Forster’s heirs, however, were forced to sell the ranch in 1882 because of a string of bad luck, which included a series of droughts and a fence law that forced Forster to construct fencing around the extensive rancho lands. It was purchased by wealthy cattleman James Flood and managed by Irishman Richard O’Neill who was eventually rewarded for his faithful service with half ownership. Under the guidance of O’Neill’s son, Jerome, the ranch began to net a profit of nearly half a million dollars annually, and the house was modernized and furnished to its present form.

In the early 1940s, both the Army and the Marine Corps were looking for land for a large training base. The Army lost interest in the project, but in April of 1942 it was announced that the rancho was about to be transformed into the largest Marine Corps base in the country. The Marine Corps paid $4.2 million for the rancho.

On the eve of World War II, the Marine training bases were limited to Quantico, VA, Parris Island, SC, and San Diego. When the expansion of all U.S. armed forces was authorized by President Roosevelt’s proclamation of an unlimited national emergency on May 27, 1941, an immediate need for additional amphibious force training facilities led to the construction of Camp Pendleton.

After five months of construction, the Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, which included San Onofre, became the West Coast’s largest military camp. The first troops to occupy the new Base were the 9th Marine Regiment with the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, who marched for three days from Camp Elliott in San Diego to Camp Pendleton. President Roosevelt dedicated the Base on Sept. 25, 1942, in honor of World War I Major General Joseph H. Pendleton who had long advocated the establishment of a West Coast training base.

By 1943, the first women Marine reservists arrived to help keep base administration running smoothly. The O’Neill’s blacksmith shop became the Ranch House Chapel and opened primarily for their use.

By October 1944, Camp Pendleton was declared a “permanent installation” and by 1946, became the home of the 1st Marine Division.

During the Korean War, $20 million helped expand and upgrade existing facilities, including the construction of Camp Horno. When Camp Pendleton trained the country’s fighting force for the Korean and Vietnam Wars, approximately 200,000 Marines passed through the Base on their way to the Far East.

The Corps broadened its capabilities during the 1980s from “amphibious” to “expeditionary” by combining infantry, armor, supply and air power. Troops and equipment could now be deployed halfway around the world in only days as part of a self-sustaining air-ground team. This successful use of military power has been demonstrated through Marine Corps operations in Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti Afghanistan and Iraq.

Camp Pendleton has continued to grow through renovations, replacing its original tent camps with more than 2,600 buildings and 500 miles of roads.

15
Jan

Places, Bases, and Memories – Vietnam

By Darryl Elmore, U.S. Army (Ret)

In June 1964, I was part of an operation designed to intercept a VC propaganda team reported to be parading a small group of U.S. Prisoners of War along the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. The purpose was to show the locals and the VC units that the Americans were easily beaten in combat. In charge of this operation was Saigon based, Maj. LaMar and the 1st SFG A-Team at Trang Sup, a camp about 12 kilometers north of Tay Ninh.

The operational plan LaMar designed was to employ the classic military hammer and anvil tactics used successfully by Alexander the Great in his conquest of the known world. The first element of his plan was a superior infantry force setting up a blocking position. The second element was an airmobile cavalry using armed helicopters to drive the enemy out of hiding into a clearing into the waiting friendly infantry units ready to blow them away.

Several American Special Forces personnel with a company of Vietnamese CIDG moved to the northwest with the mission of establishing a blocking position. During the planning, the intelligence and terrain dictated that a river crossing was going to be unavoidable. What was missing was a rope long enough span the river. The only possible source to get such a rope was in Saigon. So Maj. LaMar, having no transportation and being a man of personal drive, went to Tay Ninh where he obtained a ride on a local civilian truck. Unfortunately, it was dark and he started the wrong way; he was 20 kilometers into Cambodia before he discovered the mistake. He quickly turned around and made it to Saigon that night.

A day later we were still planning for the operation when a C-47 transport arrived overhead and started circling the camp where the forces involved in the mission were staging. We had no ground to air communications but we figured something was up. The cargo door was open and we could see people standing in it.

So the team sent a jeep with some smoke grenades to the fields a kilometer or so from camp. They got there and popped a couple of white smoke grenades. They had guessed right because the plane made another pass and out popped a man who had a duffle bag dangling from his parachute leg straps. It was Maj. LaMar with the rope we needed for the operation in the duffle bag.

The overland element departed camp and patrolled for two days until they reached the river they had to cross in order to reach the blocking positions. The river spanned over 100 meters and it had a fast current, offering real obstacles.

One of the Special Forces NCOs swam the river to take a line across so they could drag the heavier rope across. Others covered him with fire and several swam to join him and help establish a position on the far bank. Shortly they established a single rope bridge and the entire force crossed to continue the mission.

The same morning the blocking force crossed the river, an H-21 helicopter arrived and parked along the road leading into the camp. Shortly after the Command & Control element flew in from Saigon with a colonel and some staff. Their arrival was almost tragic.

As the Command & Control ship approached, we popped a smoke grenade and I was directed to provide guidance. As is common, the pilot decided that he would land where he wanted to land so he over flew us and landed in the old French mine field left over from 1954. The chopper landed and the colonel and some of his staff started to walk over. We started yelling and finally, I fired a few round over their head with my carbine. That got their attention and finally, they stopped and did their best to retrace their steps back to the Huey. Once on board, the chopper lifted off and the rotor wash detonated two anti-personnel mines. Fortunately, the aircraft did not suffer much damage and was able to continue the operation.

During the days prior to the operation all of us not designated to go on the operation were fully employed in support. We had several missions besides this one and sleep had been mostly absent. I was not scheduled to go but at the last minute, I was detailed to replace a guy who was sick. Otherwise, I would not have been part of the heliborne element.

Finally, we loaded the H-21 helicopters and launched. Shortly after we inserted, my first real combat assault and only one I ever made in an H-21. I was glad I never made another in one. That model was designed for operations in Alaska and did poorly in the heat and humidity of Vietnam. It just performed poorly in high-density altitudes. That poor performance made the pilots fly a long slow approach and shallow glide angles for landing. Take offs were equally poor, slow lift off and flight to climb out from an LZ.

Anyway, we acted as the maneuver element or hammer, our mission to push the enemy until they ran up against our blocking force or the anvil. As it turned out we only encountered small delaying elements; contacts were short lived and designed to make us deploy while small enemy elements evaded us. We would reform, and continued to sweep the area until linking up with the blocking force. We had not found the POWs.

The main target, the VC and the U.S. POWs had left the area. (A decade later I learned that the operation had been compromised in Saigon days before we deployed our forces).

So after linking up, the entire force reformed and began a search mission. We moved parallel to the river and moved down river towards Tay Ninh.

We continued to move down river on foot but late in the day, some Vietnamese Higgins boats arrived to pick us up. We had three Higgins boats but we had over two hundred troops. To accommodate the entire force, the Vietnamese had brought some smaller civilian craft, big sampans actually, which we ended up securing alongside the Higgins boats for the ride back down river.

We loaded the Higgens boats and sampans just as dark settled in and started slowly down river. I was in the lead Higgins boat with the other two following at about 100-meter intervals.

It was a very dark moonless night, visibility was limited which also dictated slow movement. The move was slow and with nothing to do, I stretched out on the deck for a bit. For some reason, I decided to get up and leaned against the starboard bulwark. Sgt. Snyder and I just stood there staring off into the dark.

Shortly after, the VC set off a mine in the river. It was pretty powerful. The mine detonated just off the port bow, the plume of water shot up and the boat heeled over a bit from the shock. Immediately the VC opened up with automatic weapons fire from the shore to our right. The enemy troops were located only a few meters away.

When I went to basic training we learned night fire. They explained that most people shoot high in the dark unless trained otherwise. After the night fire class; another class in night vision and some exercises how to successfully apply the newly learned techniques, we went to the range with our trusty M-1s. We were to engage man sized silhouette targets at about 30 meters distance.

We went on line, assumed the prone position and on the command to commence to an 8 round clip, reloaded and fired a second clip. I was amazed at the results. I got 16 hits on my target just by doing what I had just been taught! All the bullets had hit in the lower chest or lower.

So when the Vietnam Cong opened up on us, Sgt. Snyder, attached to the team for the A-Camp at Go Dau Ha, we were the only guys on that side capable of firing. We immediately opened fire on the enemy as they fired back. I estimated the range to be about 10-15 meters: muzzle flashes and noise!

All their fire went high, every round they fired went above the boat. Not one round struck the boats or personnel. Snyder and I went through several magazines and we were so close we even heard someone on shore cry out followed by a lot of yelling. About the time we heard all the yelling, the enemy fire stopped. Either we had hit some of them or they ran out of ammunition.

When we had a chance to check on possible casualties, I was amazed that we had not suffered any. Later, I figured the reason none of our people were hit was the VC had missed that class on night firing.

While the enemy ceased fire, our boat moved on and as the boat navigated a bend in the river, the Vietnamese boat commander ordered cease fire. If we had continued to fire we would have been created a crossfire situation creating a condition of us firing at our own boats before they made the turn. He knew his business and kept everything under control.

After that excitement, it was a quiet trip to a Regional Forces/Popular Forces (RF/PF) outpost where we disembarked and cooled our heels until sunup when trucks arrived to take us back to our base.

That was my first close range exchange of fire with the enemy. My last close range exchange was in the summer of 1993. Good training works day and night.

8
Jan

Military Myths & Legends: Russian Sniper Roza Shanina

By LtCol Mike Christy

Together We Served Dispatches

 

x-defaultIn the deep silence of the vast Russian pine forest, a small, lonesome figure was walking. It was just a few years before the outbreak of the Second World War. She had set out alone, without the permission of her parents, carrying only enough food to keep her on her feet for the long march. She was used to walking. Every day for years she had walked eight miles to and from her school in the little village closest to her home; she knew she could do it. Her self-belief and determined spirit drove her steadily on. She was fourteen years old.

This was Roza Shanina. She walked one hundred and twenty miles all alone, at last reaching a train station. From the station, she took the train to the city of Arkhangelsk, where she enrolled in the city’s college.

She loved the city. The cinemas, the lights, the people and the bustle were worlds away from the isolation of her early years. She was friendly, quick, talkative, and highly intelligent, and so she made many friends. Often, she would return to her college dormitory after the doors had been locked, entering with the help of a rope of tied bed sheets let down by her friends inside.

When tuition fees were introduced she had to find a job to support her studies. The job was at a Kindergarten in the city, where she was well liked by the children, the parents, and the other staff. The job came with a little apartment, and for the first time, she had a place of her own. She worked during the day and studied at night, and the days were full and happy.

It was in 1943 that she enrolled in the military. Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, launching the colossal Operation Barbarossa. By 1943, Roza Shanina had lost two brothers to the war, and she would lose a third before it was over.

She joined the Central Female Sniper Academy, where she excelled. In April of 1944, she was given command of an all-female sniper platoon and was deployed to the front.

In the aftermath of the hard-won Soviet victory at the battle of Stalingrad, the Russians launched a series of counterattacks against the German army. It was during these actions, in early April of 1944, that Roza took a human life for the first time. She was shaken, but her comrades congratulated her.

As the months passed she became battle-hardened and cold. Seven months after that first kill, her wartime diary recalls her feeling that she had found the true purpose of her life. She writes that, given the chance to go back, she would not change a thing.

It takes a steady hand and a resolute will to kill at range, and these elite soldiers were indeed resolute. Roza Shanina’s unit screened the advancing infantry, hunting enemy snipers. then picked off enemy officers when committed to open battle.

The Soviet commanders were of a mind to keep the sniper units, including the women of Roza’s command, back from the perils of the front in a pitched battle. Despite this policy, the women went where they were needed, and more than once this meant going into action against direct orders. Roza Shanina was sanctioned for disobeying orders, but her actions in combat and the actions of her unit made the commanders relent from pursuing harsh punishment.

Roza Shanina was sanctioned for disobeying orders, but her actions in combat and the actions of her unit made the commanders relent. She was soon back in the fight.

The women fought in battle after battle. In one action, their position was stormed by the enemy, and they fought hand to hand with bayonets and even shovels, killing many of the enemy and capturing the survivors.

In another action, Roza hunted an enemy sniper who was camouflaged in a tree. When dusk fell, the sky behind his tree was lit by the last light of the setting sun, and his sniper’s nest was clearly silhouetted against the wide sky. She fired her trademark, two shots in very quick succession. His body slid silently from the tree and thudded to the ground.

By September of 1944, the Soviet army had crossed into German-controlled East Prussia. The German army, embattled though it was, resisted strongly, and fighting intensified as winter deepened. The Soviets began their full-scale East Prussian Offensive in January of 1945, and the women’s sniper platoon was engaged in heavy fighting. The German army positions held out fiercely against the huge Russian advance.

The East Prussian Offensive involved more than two million soldiers. The Russians advanced steadily toward the city of Konigsberg, and in the freezing winter of 1945, the Germans fought hard for every kilometer of ground. Casualties on both sides were terrible, but always the Germans were pushed back under the weight of the Soviet army.

Everywhere along the front heavy shelling preceded assaults by tanks, field artillery, and infantry. One by one, the fortified positions still held by the Wehrmacht fell. In villages and towns, ridges, valleys, forests and open plains, vicious fighting took place, and always the Russians crept forward.

The Snipers had been committed to the front of the offensive, and it was at the end of January, after ten months of active service, that the war finally claimed the life of Roza Shanina.

Under heavy shelling and machine-gun fire, two Russian officers found her broken body slumped over that of a wounded artillery officer. She had been standing over him with her rifle in her hand and she still clutched it with one hand when they found her. A shell had burst right next to her, and she was mortally wounded. Though they tried to save her life, there was little that could be done, and she died the next day, on January 28th, 1945. She was 20 years old.

Roza Shanina was a prolific writer, and her diaries – kept against army regulations – were published many years after the war. They give a profound insight into the determined mentality of this young woman. Before she died, she told a nurse that her only regret was that she had not done more in the war effort. Talented and utterly committed, she gave up everything she had to resist the advance of Fascism against her people. Her story, just one among the stories of the millions who died in the Second World War, resonates to this day.

25
Dec

Battlefield Chronicles: Great Raid on Cabanatuan

By LtCol Mike Christy

Together We Served Dispatches

Within weeks of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Imperial Army pushed American and Filipino troops out of Manila. They were forced into the jungles of the Bataan Peninsula and the Island of Corregidor where they were cut off from supplies. Hungry and suffering from tropical disease, the troops were promised by the commanding Gen. Douglas MacArthur that “thousands of planes” with food, medicine, and reinforcements were on their way. But no help had arrived by March when MacArthur was ordered to leave and set up a command in Australia.

By April, Allied losses and the lack of supplies in Bataan were so bad that Maj. Gen. Edward King, the local commander, ordered the surrender of 70,000 troops (Filipinos and Americans); the largest American army in history to surrender. Having made plans to accept the surrender of about 25,000 soldiers, the Japanese were overwhelmed with POWs.

Food, water, and housing for all the unexpected prisoners were never supplied. Less fortunate than the men on Corregidor who surrendered a few months later, the exhausted, sick men pouring out of the Bataan jungles were force-marched through the heat on what survivors called “the Hike.” History named it the Bataan Death March after thousands of United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) soldiers died from deprivation, disease, or simple execution; all stragglers were killed. Prisoners who reached the squalid prison camps alive realized that hunger, thirst, sickness, and brutal treatment would now be routine.

Imperial Army soldiers had been trained to commit suicide to save their families from the “dishonor” of surrender. Ready to take their own lives, they had little concern for the lives of a dishonored enemy. Still, deadly as they were, Philippines POW camps weren’t extermination camps – not until December 1944.

By then, the Allies were winning battle after battle and MacArthur was making good on his promise to “return.” Japanese commanders of POW camps were given the option of killing their prisoners rather than return them to the Allies. On December 14, guards at the Palawan prison camp, fearing defeat, herded nearly 150 prisoners into bunkers and set the bunkers on fire.

MacArthur’s forces invaded the Philippines in January. As they advanced, word reached Lt. Gen. Walter Kreuger of the Sixth Army about the Cabanatuan POW camp north of Manila, where 516 British and American Soldiers still survived. Many of them were survivors of the Hike. Kreuger ordered a rescue mission.

But how to do it? Cabanatuan was 30 miles (48 km) inside enemy lines and heavily guarded. Surprise was essential: the Americans had to take control before the guards had time to kill the prisoners. But the prison was on open ground, and Caucasian U.S. Soldiers didn’t exactly blend in with the Filipino community. And if the raid was successful, how could they move the prisoners out of enemy territory? The survivors in Cabanatuan were living skeletons who could barely walk.

But after all those soldiers had suffered, Kreuger refused to let the men of Cabanatuan die. To accomplish his mission impossible, the general called on the Rangers.

The Sixth Army Rangers started out as “mule skinners,” leading mules that packed heavy artillery through the mountains of New Guinea. The army decided pack mules were obsolete, but they kept the guys- sending them to train under Lt Col. Henry Mucci. Under Mucci’s tough regime, homegrown farm boys became experts at hand-to-hand combat, bayonet and knife fighting, and marksmanship -elite fighters.

Mucci asked for volunteers who would “die fighting rather than let harm come to those prisoners.” Every single Ranger volunteered. And on January 28, 1945, they set out on their liberation mission. Guiding them secretly through rice paddies and cogon weeds were the Alamo Scouts (a Sixth Army outfit that gathered intelligence behind enemy lines) and Captain Eduardo Joson’s group of Filipino guerrillas. The Scouts would provide information on the prison layout and the numbers and positions of the guards. Joson’s guerrillas would cover the Rangers during the attack and -if all went well- on the return to base camp, too.

After close calls with enemy patrols and acquiring plenty of blisters, 120 Rangers and their guides ended their march successfully five miles from Cabanatuan. But Scouts brought bad news of heavy Japanese activity in and around the prison. A surprise attack and safe escape seemed more impossible than ever.

Then salvation appeared in the form of Captain Juan Pajota. The United States Army Forces in the Far East guerrilla captain had heard that the Rangers planned the surprise break that night. Pajota and his men had arrived to help, but the Captain warned the Rangers to wait 24 hours, since many of the Japanese would be moving on. Mucci didn’t like the delay, but he eventually agreed to it -and to some of Pajota’s more unusual ideas, too.

On the evening of January 30, Filipino guerrillas cut the phone lines to Manila. Captain Joson and Captain Pajota’s combined forces of about 300 Filipino guerrillas blocked the east and west ends of the road that passed the POW camp, isolating the camp from enemy forces. But as the Rangers crawled the last mile through an open field, they knew the guards would spot them.

Suddenly, a P-61 night fighter or “black widow” buzzed Cabanatuan POW camp. The plane (Pajota’s idea) had been requested by Mucci. While the Japanese guards stared up at the sky, wondering if the plane would crash, the Rangers crawled into position.

They divided up, some going to the main front gate and hiding until the others reached the back entrance, where signaling shots were fired. Then locks were shot off and the Americans moved inside the prison, guns blazing. They quickly overwhelmed the guards and the raid went like clockwork -until the evacuation.

Hearing gunfire and sure they’d be murdered, many POWs hid. Others, out of touch for years and nearly blinded from starvation, didn’t recognize the Rangers uniforms or weapons. Some POWs fled at the sight of their saviors; a few believed it was a trick and refused to go anywhere.

Pushing some prisoners toward freedom and carrying others, the Rangers hustled them to a site where Filipino civilians waited with Pajota’s final gift -ox carts pulled by tamed carabao (water buffalo) for the prisoners to ride in. As Filipino guerrillas bravely held off the Japanese, and the Scouts stayed behind to fend off any retaliating Japanese, a strange band of prisoners, carabao, and former mule skinners traveled all night to the safety of the Allied front lines. About 1,000 people, including the U.S. Army, Filipino guerrillas, and unnamed Filipino civilians, had worked to set them free, resulting in the most spectacular and successful rescues in military history.

Allies
Liberation of 552 Allied prisoners of war
2 killed
4 wounded
2 prisoners died

Japanese
530 – 1,000+ killed

Eventually 272 American survivors of Cabanatuan sailed into the San Francisco Bay. Greeting them were crowds massed on the Golden Gate Bridge. As the former POWs sailed underneath the bridge, the cheering crowds threw gifts (coins, show tickets, and even lingerie) down to the deck of their ship. These heroes of the Philippines hadn’t been forgotten after all.

In late 1945, the bodies of the American troops who died at the camp were exhumed, and the men moved to other cemeteries. Land was donated in the late 1990s by the Filipino government to create a memorial. The site of the Cabanatuan camp is now a park that includes a memorial wall listing the 2,656 American prisoners who died there.

Lt. Col. Henry Mucci and Capt. Robert Prince received the Distinguished Service Cross for their part in great raid on Cabanatuan – the most successful rescues in military history

Short film on survivors following their liberation.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63Fzw6_b7qA

18
Dec

The Civil War’s Bloodiest Battle

By LtCol Mike Christy

Together We Served Dispatches

 

On July 3, 1863, the three-day Battle of Gettysburg ended, leaving behind an estimated 51,000 total casualties – the highest number of any battle in the Civil War.

Following a series of military successes in Virginia, Confederate general Robert E. Lee took his troops north in June 1863 into south-central Pennsylvania. Lee was unaware until late June that the Union’s Army of the Potomac, under General George G. Meade, had followed his army north, as Lee’s cavalry, under JEB Stuart, was separated from the main body of the army and was thus unable to provide intel on the enemy’s movements.

On July 1, elements of Lee’s army came up against Union cavalry by chance outside the town of Gettysburg and fighting broke out. Both sides received reinforcements, and the Confederates were eventually able to push back the Federals to the south of Gettysburg. During the evening and the following morning, both sides gathered the rest of their armies, for a total of 83,000 Union troops and 75,000 Confederate.

At the commencement of fighting the following afternoon, July 2, the Union army was arranged like a fishhook, with the Confederates surrounding them to the north and west in roughly the same shape. The 2nd saw bloody fighting on the Union left and center, but despite high casualties, the Union was generally able to repulse the Confederates. Fighting also occurred on the Union right later that evening and continued after dark in a rare night battle.

On the 3rd, the Confederates once again launched an attack on the Union right, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Then, following a massive artillery bombardment, Lee attacked the Union center in what is commonly known as Pickett’s Charge. During this attack, approximately 12,000 Confederate troops crossed nearly a mile of open ground to attack Union positions but were decimated by Union fire. The Confederates who made it to the enemy lines managed to briefly break through, but they were eventually repulsed. Also on this day, the Confederate cavalry – which had arrived on the afternoon of the 2nd – was put into action off the Union right flank, but with little result.

On the 4th, Lee waited for Meade’s counterattack on his position, but it never came, so Lee’s army withdrew back over the Potomac. Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the war, with 23,000 Union casualties and 28,000 Confederate. It is often considered the turning point in the war and commonly referred to as the “high tide” of the Confederacy.

4
Dec

Bases, Places and Memories: Memorable Flights

By GySgt Paul Moore, USMC (Ret)
WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veteran
I had several memorable flights in the 50 years of flights in both Helicopters and before them the old stiff wings. My first attention getter was in the old Bi-Wing UPF 7 in Primary Flight Training. We had 12 of them parked on an old dirt field located outside Fort Worth Texas in early 1944. We arrived there each day on a bus and then pre-flight our assigned aircraft for our daily flight. This was all a one man operation.

After the preflight, we’d climbed up on the wing left side and with a crank wound up the old inertial starter. We threw the crank down on the ground, jumped in the cockpit, moved the mixture to full rich, cranked the throttle just over Idle, turned the primer to the top cylinders then pulled the toggle to engage the starter motor. Then hope it would fire up or go through that routine again!

After the start, I’d run up to full power check and reached that point then fluctuated. I thought well, that’s not good but if I down the aircraft meant I wouldn’t fly that day. With that unwise decision, I taxied out & took off for our training area which carried me over the outskirts of Fort Worth. Regulations required an altitude not lower than 500 ft over those areas. I went to about 800 ft and the engine dropped back to idle!! I started rapidly moving both the mixture & the throttle FW and Aft and it caught up momentarily then back to idle which required me to drop the nose & start a downward descent to avoid stalling out.

I looked in all directions and it was city streets and houses. I could do nothing but continue my descent without a clue in or on what I was going to land! I had the old seat parachute but altitude and where the aircraft would hit precluded any use of the chute. I was at about 200-foot altitude when I saw the high tension wires in front of me. I pulled the nose up and cleared the wires but lost my forward airspeed and did the only thing left in that mode; lowered the nose and prepared to make a 3 point stall landing!!

To my complete surprise, I was over the railroad tracks that went from Fort Worth to Dallas. I landed alongside the rails in some very tall weeds and came to a stop almost against a building. Would you believe it was a small beer joint on the outskirts named “Blondies.” As I was landing, I noticed cars pulling over along the street and folks looking up at me. I went inside and called the field trying to tell them where I was. At first, they thought it was a caller pulling a joke.

They later took the aircraft on a flat boy trailer back to the field and found that a restriction in the fuel system had caused the problem. It was complete luck that I ended up there without hitting a structure. I received high marks for making the safe landing since I only had been flying solo for 8 hours.

The other one that really got my attention happened at the foot of the mountains in Vietnam near Cam Ranh Bay Jan 17, 1967while flying out of Nha Trang in my old CH34C 543045. I had auto rotated down alongside the mountain to observe an assault by gunships on a mountain site. Suddenly, I went into a very violent spin which made it impossible to move as I was pasted against the seat by the spinning force. I knew that I had lost tail drive and the only possible emergency procedure was to release torque from the main rotors. This happened when I had applied throttle to flare and stop the autorotation. The throttle was on the collective stick and I managed to rotate it to idle and the spin momentarily stopped that was when I saw I was headed nose down to the trees and ground.

Figured that fire was the most likely thing when you crashed so I turned off the battery switch and hit the Mag switch and threw the cyclic stick full left. Wanted to stop the main blades when we hit so they would not chop off our heads. We took down some small trees and the main blades hit the ground on the left side and wound around the top of the cockpit just inches above my head. I was with my left leg outside the side window and the ground. The Vietnamese captain in the right seat climbed up and out the right side window and me trying to get my leg free. I remember hearing the fuel, “gloop, gloop,” running out from the fuel tanks under the troop compartment floor and praying that a fire didn’t start as I could hear the inverters & electrical components running down.

I finally got free and climbed up through the right side window. There in the middle of all that spilled fuel was that dumb Vietnamese officer firing those finger flares we carried into the air. I grabbed him and pushed him away from the helicopter and asked him if he was trying to get the Viet Cong to rescue us!! He wanted to start walking towards the Nha Trang Air Base. I said go ahead if you know where all the minefields and VC might be located. I was going to stay by the crash and see if something flew over then I would fire some flares.

After about 20 minutes some of the Army Hueys flew over and after some time they finally came down with the door gun trained on us to be sure who we were.

I was a very happy camper when we got back to the Nha Trang base. I had some broken ribs, banged-up left leg and numerous bruises but in one piece! When that violent spin started I was sure that was going to be my last flight and my last day on earth.

Anyway, that is two of several flights in my times that I remember every minute of!!

23
Oct

Profile in Courage: The Most Decorated Enlisted Sailor in Navy History

By LtCol Mike Christy-Together We Served Dispatches

In the history of the United States Navy, only seven men have earned all of the big three valor awards: Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, and Silver Star. Six were World War II officers, including one aviator. The seventh was James Elliott “Willy” Williams – considered the most decorated enlisted man in the history of the Navy.

 

Williams, a Cherokee Indian, was born November 13, 1930, in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Two months later he moved with his parents to Darlington, South Carolina where he spent his early childhood and youth. He attended the local schools and graduated from St. John’s High School.
In August 1947, at the age of 16, Williams enlisted in the United States Navy with a fraudulent birth certificate. He completed basic training at Naval Training Center San Diego. He served for almost twenty years, retiring on April 26, 1967, as a Boatswain’s Mate First Class (BM1). During those years, he served in both the Korean War and Vietnam War.
During the Korean War, was stationed aboard the Destroyer USS Douglas H Fox (DD-779) from November 1950 to June 1952. He was detached off the Destroyer and operated off the coast of Korea by taking raiding parties into North Korea on small boats. From 1953 to 1965 he served tours on a variety of naval vessels.
In 1966, with only a year before he was to retire from the Navy, the burly man, 5-foot-8 and 210 pounds Williams volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam.
Williams arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 as a BM1. He was assigned in May to the River Patrol Force, River Squadron Five, in command of River Patrol Boat 105 (PBR-105). The force’s mission was to intercept Viet Cong and North Vietnamese arms shipments, supplies, and personnel on the waterways of South Vietnam’s swampy Mekong Delta and to keep innocent boat traffic on the river and canals safe.
On July 1, 1966, Williams led a patrol that came under fire from the Vietcong sampan. His deft maneuvers and accurate fire killed five VC and resulted in the capture of the enemy boat, earning Williams a Bronze Star Medal with a V for Valor. Twenty-two days later his crew captured another sampan, earning Williams a second Bronze Star Medal for Valor. Less than a month later, he received his Silver Star and the first of three Purple Hearts he would eventually receive.
On the night of October 31, 1966, Williams was commanding PBR 105 alongside another PBR searching for Viet Cong guerrillas operating in an isolated area of the Mekong Delta. Suddenly, Viet Cong manning two sampans opened fire on the Americans. While Williams and his men neutralized one sampan, the other one escaped into a nearby canal. The PBRs gave chase and soon found themselves in a beehive of enemy activity as the VC opened fire on them with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms from fortified river bank positions.
Williams, who knew the area well from months of patrols, directed his two boats in a high-speed detour to a spot he knew the fleeing sampan would eventually emerge. Both threaded an alternative channel too narrow for the boats to reverse course. At nearly 35 knots they roared up the twisting passage, the heavily jungled bank passing in a green blur. Then as they rounded a bend to an area of more open water, to the surprise of all aboard, they stumbled into a major staging area for the North Vietnamese Army. Thirty to forty sampans were crossing the channel, each loaded to the gunwales with NVA troops and supplies. The enemy was equally surprised and sprang to their guns. Along the shore, the familiar “thonk” of mortars could be heard. Williams had no choice but to gun his engines straight at the enemy! Tracers streaked across the water. Williams ran his boat directly at several sampans, splitting them in half under the sharp bow of his rocketing speedboat. The PBR’s twisted and jinked blazed their weapons and spilled hundreds of dead and dying NVA troops into the water. The speed and maneuverability of the Americans kept them ahead of the enemy return fire. They blasted through the enemy formation and back into the narrow channel beyond.
Momentarily safe, the PBR’s sped onward. Williams called in heavily armed UH-1B Huey helicopters from the Navy Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron 3 “Seawolves” for air support, but as his speedboats rounded another bend they found themselves smack in the middle of a second staging area as big as the first. Again, the narrow channel determined their fate, and both PBR’s sped boldly at the enemy. For a second time, their machine guns blazed and splinters flew from enemy sampans and NVA soldiers spilled into the water. And for a second time, the two American gunboats sliced through the enemy, blasting and ramming as they went. Secondary explosions from several of the larger junks confirmed Williams’ suspicion that they were ammunition and supply vessels.
Despite three hours of intense combat, Williams’ crew received only two casualties–one gunner was shot through the wrist, and Williams himself was wounded by shrapnel. For his conspicuous bravery above and beyond the call of duty he was put in for the Medal of Honor – which he received from President Lyndon B. Johnson on May 14, 1968, during the dedication ceremony of the Pentagon’s “Hall of Heroes.”
On January 9, 1967, the Navy dredge Jamaica Bay was blown up by mines and PVR-105 arrived to pick up seven of the survivor. Another man was wrapped in the rapidly sinking dredge. Williams dove into the water and, with a rope attached to a nearby tree, pulled clear and obstruction, then swim through a hatch to recover the Sailor. For this, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.
Six days later Williams was wounded while leading a three-boat patrol that interdicted a crossing attempt by three VC heavy weapons companies and 400 fighters. He and his boat accounted for 16 VC killed, 20 wounded in the destruction of nine sampans and junks. Williams was awarded the Navy Cross and his third Purple Heart.
Williams transferred to the Fleet Reserve in April 1967 and returned to his native South Carolina with a list of awards unmatched by any enlisted man in Navy history. His awards included the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars and the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars, and the Navy Commendation Medal. He also received three Purple Hearts and was twice awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for rescue operations under fire.
He retired after 20 years of service and was appointed in 1969 by President Richard M. Nixon as United States Marshal, serving more than a decade in the Marshals Service. His initial assignment was U.S. Marshal for the District of South Carolina where he served until May 1977. He then transferred to Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia as an instructor and National Armorer. He was called back to South Carolina in July 1979 to resume his appointment as U.S. Marshal and functioned in that position until April 1980. His next assignment was with the U.S. Marshal service Headquarters, Washington, D.C. as Program Manager, Health and Safety and In-District Training Officer where he performed his assigned duties until his retirement from the U.S. Marshal Service.
In the fall of 1999, he was in Florence, South Carolina where he suffered a heart attack and died on the Navy’s birthday, October 13th. He was buried with full military honors at the Florence National Cemetery in Florence, South Carolina. The procession of dignitaries at his funeral included seven Medal of Honor recipients and state and national legislators.
In addition to his wife Elaine, he was survived by three sons, James Jr., of Darlington, S.C.; Steven, of Dorchester, S.C., and Charles, of Charlotte, N.C.; two daughters, Debbie Clark of Palm Coast and Gail Patterson of Florence, and seven grandchildren.
Navy Guided Missile Destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG-95) was named and christened in his honor on June 28, 2003, at Pascagoula, Mississippi. His widow Elaine was present at the ceremony.
21
Aug

Korean War Wall of Remembrance

The Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA) and the Korean War Memorial Foundation (KWMFB) have been trying for some time to get Congress to enact legislation that would allow The Wall of Remembrance (WOR) to be constructed at the site of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D. C. The Wall of Remembrance (WOR) would have the names of the 37,000 plus Korean War KIA’s/MIA’s engraved in it, much like the Viet Nam Wall

The enacted legislation states that “no federal funds can be used in the construction of The Wall of Remembrance. The Foothills Chapter #301 of The Korean War Veterans Association located in Greenville, SC passed a resolution and named a “Fund-Raising” committee to raise the money for the 547 plus South Carolinians who paid the ultimate price to stop the spread of communism in Asia and to keep South Korea a free nation. South Korea, in a relatively short time, became one of the largest economies in the world, and instead of being a receiver of foreign aid became a provider of foreign aid.

The Korean War was first dubbed a “Police Action.” It was not covered very much by the news media and became known as “The Forgotten War.” But since the founding of the Korean War Veterans Association in the mid-1980’s, it has been working hard to make America knowledgeable of the Korean War, and they are having much success.

Instead of being thought of as “The Forgotten War,” it is now being billed as “The Forgotten Victory.” Just contrast North Korea to South Korea today and it’s easy to understand why it should be billed as “The Forgotten Victory.” While South Korea is wildly successful, North Korea can’t feed their own people or even keep their lights on.

For that, and many other reasons, we not only need to but we “MUST” build this wall to honor America’s the 37,000 plus heroes who sacrificed their lives in this now “The Forgotten Victory.” And we MUST do it now if we want any Korean War Veterans to be around to attend the dedication of the Wall.

The average age of Korean War Veterans today is eighty- five years. The average of men (a few women) fighting in the “Korean War” was nineteen (19) years. If the average age was nineteen (19), there must have been many sixteen (16), seventeen (17), and eighteen (18) year olds on the frontline. The draft had ended after WW II so all of the military in the first few months of the hostilities were volunteers. And yes, they were heroes, every single one of them. All who served in Korea, in my view, were heroes.

As I said, we are raising money for the South Carolina KIA’s/POW’s. But let me hasten to say, every name will be on the Wall, no matter where the money comes from. We are requesting that contributors from South Carolina make checks payable to: KWVA Foothills Chapter #301. In the “FOR” area write “Wall of Remembrance.”

Mail them to: Lewis Vaughn, 623 Ashley Commons Ct., Greer, SC 29651.

If the contributor is not from South Carolina, go to the KWVMF website to make a contribution. Of course, we in South Carolina will accept and appreciate contributions originating anywhere in or outside the U.S.

Thank you!

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

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/

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