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Posts from the ‘U.S. Army Soldier’ Category

11
Aug

About Together We Served

 

ABOUT TOGETHER WE SERVED

If you or a loved one has served our country as a member of the United States Armed Forces, then you’ve come to the right place.

Together We Served (TWS) is the online community connecting and honoring every American who has worn the uniform of the United States military. This is where you reconnect with old friends and share your service story as a lasting legacy for generations to come.

More Than A Decade & Growing

TWS launched in 2003 with a website specifically for Marine Corps veterans. Since then, we’ve expanded to five websites, welcoming members from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Coastguard. Our vision: to create a unique place for all service members, run by service members, sharing real-life history IN THEIR OWN WORDS. TWS is detailed, honest, and real: an authentic recounting of history as-it-happens.

Today, TWS has more than 1.4 million members and has reconnected more service men and women than any other website or organization. Reunions happen every day. Some veterans haven’t seen each other in 40 years. Some are healed through the reconnections made here. Still others find old friends they thought lost forever. These miraculous stories are inspirational.

A Larger Purpose

On the surface, TWS is a social networking site. However, there is a much larger purpose, one we hope you’ll participate in. TWS is a living, breathing national archive of the most important events in our nations’ history.

Each story and profile here takes its rightful, permanent place in our collective consciousness. In this new, virtual world, every time you log on, share a photograph, recall an experience, or find a comrade, you are contributing to what will be the most intriguing, comprehensive and expandable military archive available.

Our Roll of Honor is a gift to every family who has lost a loved one in service – a personalized online memorial they can contribute to, preserve, and share for posterity. More than 100,000 profiles of Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen who died while serving in all major U.S. conflicts since WWII already exist here.

Our work is hardly complete. There are currently just over 21 million veterans; nearly 60% are from the Vietnam, Korean and WWII era. We are in a race against time to capture their stories now, while we still can.

What Is Your Story

If you have served this country, you are already a part of this community. And your friends are waiting for you. Welcome to the most important online presentation of our nations’ military history available.
Welcome to Together We Served.

 

Very Respectfully

Brian A. Foster
President and Founder
Together We Served

12
Apr

1LT Victor Lawe U.S. Army (1987-1997)

profile4Read the service reflections of

1LT Victor Lawe

U.S. Army

(1987-1997)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/135985

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

My Uncle Stanley Shelton (1SG, Retuncle stan) influenced me to join the Army. I was frustrated after graduating college and not finding a job in my major of Journalism in the Washington, DC area. I visited the Navy recruiter who gave me an aviator test that “wasn’t even competitive.” Code for I flunked. I visited the Air Force recruiter who could not offer me any military jobs that I liked. My cousin Jan and my Uncle Stanley advised me against joining the Marines. I went into the Army recruiter’s office and was told that 81E illustrator job was closed, 33J journalist job was closed, and 33R combat photographer job was closed. All of those jobs were under the Signal Corps so he showed me every laser disk they had for the Signal Corps. I settled on three jobs, 31C Single Channel Radio Operator, 72E and 72M multi-channel radio operator. After some closed doors discussion among the recruiter and his commander I was told the 72-series were closed but there was an opening for 31C Single Channel Radio Operator.

I took the ASVAB, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and scored very high. The commander noticed I had a college degree and asked if I was interested in Officer Candidate School. I said yes. He advised me of the process. I was an Option 19, delayed entry enlistee. Option 19 meant I had station of choice after graduating AIT (Advanced Individual Training). [Untrue] During my last 90 days of civilian life, I became addicted to crack cocaine and my life became unmanageable. I didn’t want to dishonor my commitment to the Army, so I checked into a rehab facility in Baltimore, MD. Two weeks after a 28-day program I boarded a bus to the MEP station in Baltimore. Many of my fellow enlistees were busted for drugs and alcohol consumption after being briefed that these substances were not allowed.

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 completed basic training at Ft. Dix, NJ. That coincidentally was the last duty station for my Uncle Stanley who retired as a Company First Sergeant. I boarded another bus for AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at Ft. Gordon, GA. It was different being “off the choke chain” and having certainfreedoms that were denied to me before in basic training. I was fortunate to be in a roomful of experienced and squared away soldiers. We had E4’s in our room who had signed up for IMC (International Morse Code) and they knew the drill on how to prepare for a room inspection. Our rooms always passed with flying marks until one day a drill sergeant gave us a block of instruction on humility. It involved push-ups and some insider tips we knew nothing about. He showed us how to make a challenge coin or quarter bounce or fall flat on a bunk. He made us all take a half step backward and wiped his hand across the floor where we were just standing at parade rest to prove that if he really wanted us he could get us.

My first duty assignment was with the 532nd Signal Company, 39th SIG BN (Signal Battalion), 2nd SIG BDE (Signal Brigade) in Geilenkirchen (GUY-lin-kur-chin) Germany at a NATO Air Base. Our unit provided unsecured (redundant) AM comms to NATO forces, and the 85th USAFAD (Pershing Missiles) in support of the German Defense Plan. This was during the Cold War when Germany was split in half. I resisted the assignment tooth and nail. As an Option 19 I chose Italy, Australia or France for my assignments, my recruiter had told me I would have my choice of assignments, I found out that these were not options for me and was assigned to Germany. I was on foreign soil with too much time on my clean and sober hands. We had a Coke machine in our barracks that sold Bitburger beer. “Lead me not to temptation, it is right down the hall next to the day room.” I continued the paperwork process for applying for OCS (Officer Candidate School). It was painful as the upper echelons of my chains of command were far, far away. My company HQ was located 40 miles away in Rheinberg, Germany. My battalion HQ was located in Chevres, Belgium. My brigade HQ was located in Manheim, Germany. After one unsuccessful attempt where my packet got lost between HQ, I simply gave up.

In January 1989 we were playing a touch football game between the barracks and I was recruited to play contact football with the Dortmund Giants of the bundesliga [German-American Football League]. It was the best thing that happened to me it gave me a sense of purpose outside of being a soldier. I got to see more of Germany than I would have as a barracks rat.

I completed the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) board as an E4 in the secondary zone just before I transferred to my next duty assignment at Ft. Bliss, TX. I was assigned to A Btry, 5/62 ADA (Air Defense Artillery), 11th ADA BDE as a radio operator for a Vulcan platoon. I completed PLDC (Primary Leadership Development Course) and restarted the OCS application process where all of my commanders were co-located on the same post. I wrote the essay “Why Do I Want To Become an Army Officer?” and went through the interview and received high marks.

My assignment changed as I transferred from the Vulcan platoon to HQ platoon as a maintenance clerk. Our assigned clerk tested positive on a drug test prior to deployment as our unit was alerted for Operation Desert Shield. We started deploying advance parties on 15 August 1990. We painted our vehicles sand color, drew desert combat fatigues, went through intense aircraft friend-foe recognition training, rules of engagement, physical training in full MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) gear and weapons, combat lifesaver training, SEER (Survival, Escape, Evasion, Resistance) training, handling of POW’s in addition to normal skill level training. Our unit closed on Saudi Arabia on 30 September 1990. It was a lot of hurry up and waiting. We convoyed to our tactical assembly area 15 km away from the Kuwaiti border. We trained with different units as our attachment orders were always changing. First we were attached to 75th FA BDE (Field Artillery Brigade) from Ft. Sill, OK, then a FA unit from the WV NG West Virginia National Guard), then 3rd Sqdrn/3rd ACR (Armored Cavalry Regiment), then 17th Cavalry with XVIII ABN Corps. We became part of the left hook during the Desert Storm phase of the operation.

After the war, the parades and the awards I finally got promoted to SGT. Shortly afterwards I received my orders to report to OCS at Ft. Benning, GA. Our class was the first class that was top heavy in every category: most drill sergeants, most recruiters, most warrant officers, most college options, most E-7’s, most Rangers, most Special Forces soldiers, and the biggie: most combat experience. We had folks whose combat experience stretched back to Urgent Fury in Grenada to Just Cause in Panama and a busload of us fresh from Desert Storm. 151 in-processed and I was among the 74 graduated. I received a commission in Armor.

I completed Armor Officer Basic Course at Ft. Knox, KY. I volunteered for Battalion Maintenance Officer course, Dismounted Armor Scout Course (the Armor Center’s version of RIP), Ranger school and Airborne school. I disqualified myself for Ranger school after getting dehydrated twice in the same day for the day and night land navigation courses.

I reported to Airborne training back at Ft. Benning, GA. My orders for my next duty station changed about every 2-3 weeks as I was being assigned a different unit that was going through or completed a post-war draw-down. By the time I made it to Airborne school I received two sets of orders: one for BNCOC (Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course) for 31C20 Single channel Radio Operator NCO, (obviously the left hand of the Army didn’t know that the right hand had given me a commission) and another set cancelling my orders for 72nd Armor Bn, 82nd ABN DIV. I saw my former AIT drill sergeant in my Airborne class. I asked him what would happen if I showed up at BNCOC as a 2LT? “The Commandant would congratulate you on your commission and he would politely show you the door, sir.”

I was finally assigned to A Co. 2/67 AR BN, 1st BDE, 1AD in Friedberg, Germany. The former home to Elvis. I know this because a lock of his hair still exists in the barber shop at the kaserne. As the 3rd platoon leader, I had the fortune of inheriting the best platoon in all of VII Corps. They had a five foot trophy to attest to their gunnery and maneuvering skills. Here I had the opportunity to make some unoriginal mistakes and at the same time hone my craft. By the time I got really good at tanking, I was branch detailed (reassigned) to the Signal Corps.

I went to Signal Officer Branch Qualification Course in Ft. Gordon, GA. It was a homecoming for me as I saw a lot of my former NCO’s that I served with in Geilenkirchen, Germany. I was reassigned as the node center 74 platoon leader of C Company, 141st SIG BN, 1AD in Bad Kreuznach, Germany home to 1st Armored Division HQ. Again I inherited the best signal platoon in the battalion for Signal Stakes. Again I had to learn my craft. I had ample opportunity to do so as signal is very inexpensive to deploy and we deployed in support of anybody and everybody in the division and in the corps that had a need for our comms. I was fortunate to have a platoon full of professional NCO’s who knew their craft.

A year later I was promoted to company executive officer and we received notice from the Pentagon to downsize our battalion and my unit was chosen for its strength. “Tis better to divide the strength than the weaknesses.” I was given a $100,000 budget and a six month timeline to get our equipment to direct support unit (DSU) level maintenance readiness. Our equipment went to the four winds. Our secure communications went to CECOM in Tobyhanna, PA. Our tactical vehicles and comm shelters went to Ft. Riley, KS. Our excess durable items went to Pirmasens depot in Germany. Our recovery vehicles and cargo HEMTT’s (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks) were dispersed throughout V corps.

Our personnel stayed within the battalion as we received orders to deploy an advanced party to Hungary in support of Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia. I transferred to HHC (headquarters and headquarters company) as their first XO (Executive Officer) in a l-o-n-g time. I was sent to Observer-Controller school in Hohenfels, Germany to support 7th ATC during Exercise Mountain Guard. This was our capstone exercise to help us train for Bosnia and peacekeeping operations. We deployed January 1996. I served my last year as the Battalion Maintenance Officer under two commanders. In support of this operation we fielded new M40-series masks, new mine detecting equipment, XM1107 armored Hummers, and Windows 95.

As the BMO (Battalion Maintenance Officer) I was responsible for every piece of equipment within the Task Force South sector spanning 13,000 sq. km. Communications were key to find out the unit’s maintenance readiness. The down-sizing came at the wrong time as we were under-strength to handle the communications support mission. As a result we were tasked organize to 22nd SIG BDE to fill in the blanks to make the network more robust from Germany to Hungary to Croatia to the southern tip of Bosnia. It was a rough mission to transition from combat operations to peacekeeping. We were rewriting doctrine and sending in lessons learned every day. After that 1 year peacekeeping tour I left the Army on 1 February 1997.

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 participated in Operation Desert Shield and Storm. My unit deployed a month after the initial invasion of Kuwait. Up until 1 January 1990. War was a distant concept. It had no real meaning to me. It was the stuff of legends and movies. During the Shield phase, I activelysought out every Vietnam and Panama vet in our units to mentally prepare myself for the worse situations possible. Our senior NCO’s spoke to us informally and formally to break us in to the horrors or war. It bonded us in ways I cannot really describe. All of the petty BS went away and it became all for one. Us or them. Victory or death. At the same time we remembered our training: MOPP4 (Mission Oriented Protective Posture level 4) training, NBC training (Nuclear Biological Chemical), SEER (Survival, Escape, Evasion, Resistance) training, EPW (Enemy Prisoner of War) procedures, mine clearing, rules of engagement, proper SITREPs (Situation Reports), battle drills, change of formation drills, it all came together. All of the different units we were cross-attached to forced us to learn how a field artillery unit shoots, moves and communicates. We applied that principle to armor units, and cavalry units.

During the war  I saw the devastating affects of gunfire on the human body up close and personal. Seeing Iraqi tanks with their turrets blown off and the charred remains of enemy soldiers. Being coated in oily mist after the oil fields were set on fire. Seeing the innocents who were caught in the crossfire. Seeing nomads wandering the desert not knowing where there next meal was coming from. Processing three Iraqi militia who seemingly materialized out of the morning fog as EPWs made me realize how close to dying we were.

After the war, it was difficult dealing with the nationwide accolades, the parades, the speeches and the multiple awards.It changed the fact I can wear my BDU’s or my Class As in public. I can get discounts that were previously unavailable to me. The strangers who waited for us to touch down at Biggs Army Air Field at Ft. Bliss, TX, at oh-dark-thirty to shake our hands and pat us on the back for a job well done was awesome and bewildering. As a soldier, my mindset was that I did my job. I did what I was trained to do. I didn’t do anything heroic or special. To the civilian the contrary was true. I didn’t see the big picture that I was a part of an armed force that helped free the oppressed and liberate a country from the tyranny or a dictator.

My last tour was in Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia. As soon as we crossed the border experiencing the tomb like silence and seeing all of the war torn homes and burned farms. Seeing children rush towards our convoys because we represented a mobile food source. It hurt my heart to see it.

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

My signal assignments were the best. During my first signal assignment I had the opportunity to go skiing at Garmisch, design a unit t-shirt, design a company certificate of achievement, and play football with and against German nationals.

My second signal assignment it was homecoming of sorts. I had been away from the signal community for 4 years. I was married, and had achieved my goal of being a commissioned officer. Though I didn’t meet anyone from my enlisted past, I was able to apply many combat arms experiences with my troops. I knew the principles. I knew the jargon. I worked with my soldiers and they worked for me. Both were more family oriented and more comradeship between ranks. Everyone looked out for one another.

Least favorite: Both of these units I will highlight were bad at first until a change in both leadership and philosophy helped turned sagging morale and performance around.

At first Ft. Bliss was a mess. Soldier morale and discipline was at an all time low when I arrived. The barracks were shooting galleries when I arrived. The barracks air conditioning was ignored. Outside it was 100 degrees inside it was 18 degrees hotter. It took several Sergeants Major and an engineering Colonel to get that situated. After a change of command and leadership philosophy things started to get better and then we were deployed which in my opinion united us into an “all for one” attitude. My last company commander CPT Anthony English worked with the soldiers to make the unit better than it was by focusing on the basics.

67th Armor BN in Friedberg, Germany started out a cannibalistic environment wherein fellow lieutenants would turn on each other in an effort to gain favor with the battalion commander rather than perfect their craft and learn from the soldiers they led. It took a transferred company commander and a courageous 1SG to turn that around in our company. Esprit de corps began to improve as I was leaving as our unit got its swagger back through tough, realistic training and teamwork.

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

Exercise Protect the Force 1994 at Darmstadt Training Area. I was given free reign to formulate a program of instruction to support training a battalion objective of Occupy and Defend a Signal Site. I was allowed to hand-pick my cadre, my OPFOR (Opposing Forces), my ROE (Rules of Engagement), and
my pick of the training ammo and explosives I needed to achieve it. My OPFOR and I trained in the rain, heat and cold to prepare prior to the battalion closing on the training area. We had so much fun providing tough, realistic training.

We trained our units to standard. If you failed a critical task on our lane, your unit was recycled until you learned the lesson. Our BN S-3 supported that objective. We learned so much about each other and our co-workers in the battalion. That situational training exercise was a success due to the planning, personnel and execution that is still talked about decades later.

One scenario that is still talked about was when one unit frustrated my OPFOR. My OPFOR could not take the site away from the unit, so as the officer in charge called a “drive by” audible. We loaded up all the soldiers from the far side of the objective into a Hummer and drove into their site and unloaded our soldiers from the rear of the Hummer into their perimeter. Shock, awe and confusion ensued, fun was had by all, mostly by me and my OPFOR.

Another scenario was the “air assault scenario.” The BLUFOR unit set up their headquarters next to a tree with a purple rope hanging down from it, they did not put the rope there nor did they question why it was there, more about the rope to follow. They did not have complete control their site security, on top of that I had an OPFOR soldier buried under leaves ten feet away from them. We unloaded an artillery simulator, for those who don’t know, this makes a big badda boom, to the near side. While they were distracted, the soldier under the leaves killed everyone in their headquarters that was set up by the tree. The soldier that I had in the tree came down the purple rope upside down and killed everyone who was still standing, from the rear.

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

Volunteering to create Operation Talk To Santa that was born out of boredom in the site radio room with my old squad leader SGT Tonora Butler. It started with a what if? conversation and ended with my unit providing two radio shelters. One for the kids and one for Santa(me). It was such a hit that the following year I was in demand for two military communities mine and Rheinberg where the company HQ was located. These radio broadcasts lasted for one week, from the 11th of December to the 18th of December, for 2 hours twice a day. The broadcasts went out from the Geilenkirchen School. There was a teacher present to make sure that the children were all allowed a chance to talk to Santa. I received a letter of appreciation from the principle of the school and one year a chaplain got on the air to thank all of us involved for doing what we were doing. He stated that it meant a lot not only to the American children but to the rest of the children as well as it exposed them to a bit of American culture and an idea of what Santa in America is like.

As the newly minted NBC officer going from worst to first in a short amount of time. My assigned NBC NCO committed suicide before the BDE Command Inspection. Even with battalion NCO’s to help my unit bolo’ed the inspection and my unit was placed on the needs improvement list. I received an excess tanker who was not NBC NCO certified to help me organize the mess I had and get our NBC room up to standard and beyond. Within a year our unit became the sterling example for others to follow for best practices. I simply employed a visual tracking system for everything NBC related. This system was implemented by the BN CHEMO (Battalion Chemical Officer) to help B Company win the Draper Award (for excellence in leadership).

Being cross-attached to D Trp, 3/5 CAV during maneuver exercises in Hohenfels, Germany. We had so much fun and learned more about cavalry tactics and strategies. We stopped being concerned about what people thought and focused on basic performance. Our team commander, CPT Farquhar, kept everything simple and stupid. He taught me how to quickly write OPORDERs so that they had SMART (Specific Measurable, Realistic Timely) goals within. Doing the simple things correctly delighted the TF Commander from 3/5 CAV. He loved that we were precise on the radio and could navigate mounted between objectives. We got our swagger back by being bold and audacious.

Being selected by the S-3 SGM to represent our unit to travel to Orleans, France to help that town celebrate their 51st liberation anniversary. Our honor guard cadre and I had the opportunity to see our sister unit the 28th Signal Regiment and participate in parades and enjoy a seven course dinner. The townspeople of Orleans treated us like gods. We met a WWII Medal of Honor recipient. We received a tour of the town and saw the ancient church that Joan of Arc worshiped in.

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?

My first challenge coin for winning the Soldier of the Month Board at Ft. Gordon, GA. I was pulled from formation after class one day and placed in a room full of senior NCO’s with no prior study time as they asked me soldier of the month board questions in rapid succession. Out of all of the random soldiers they pulled I performed the best and received a 361st SIG BN challenge coin.

A certificate of achievement for “The Run to Belgium”. That was my first gut check. I had run a 10k before, but never a 14k. It was 8.8 mile run from the Germany-Netherlands border to the Netherlands-Belgium border. It was confusing as we didn’t really know where we were going. There were no guides along the route. There were no water points. We just followed the herd as thin as it got along the way to where we thought we were supposed to go. We were lucky no one got hurt or lost.

As an acrophobic soldier, this was another one of the manhood tests that I felt I had to overcome while I had the opportunity. I had to recycle after a jammed neck injury during ground week working on PLFs. I left C Company, 507th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment) and transferred to the next cycle with D Company. I locked up in fear on the 40 foot tower and was consequently “skinned up” and reminded to have faith in the equipment by the Black Hat. I had to let go of my fear. I had to commit to a leap of faith as it were. After successfully negotiating the 40-foot tower I later learned that I was not the only scaredy-cat. There were a lot of aviation warrant officers who were scared of heights now that they were separated from their metal wings. My first jump was disastrous as my right leg was hung in the risers due to a weak exit through the prop blast. I figured out how to undo the mishap and landed safely. My successive jumps were uneventful and safe.

A TOP GUN hat for getting the best Table XII gunnery score in the battalion. It was my last gunnery and the BN CDR (Battalion Commander) flexed us all over the range in MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture). Every target that popped up got laid down in and out of sector. My platoon outscored 11 other platoons in the battalion to earn that honor.

A letter of commendation from General Cherry for my outstanding support of Exercise Proud Lion. I was assigned as the liaison officer from my unit to brief the simulated and actual deployment of my units in support of the exercise. I was the lowest ranking officer on deck. I was nervous in the service when the chief of staff COL Ryan announced OPBRIEFs were due in 24 hours. I consulted with every captain I could find and consulted with my S-3 MAJ Neil about what to do and what not to do. I rehearsed numerous times before I was ready to brief. I was the last one to brief the ADC-M (GEN Cherry) and his G-3 LTC Kostich (my former BN commander from 2/67 AR) on my OPPLAN. After the brief, the room was silent and GEN Cherry thanked me for my time and effort and asked if anyone had any further questions for me. None came, I was dismissed. He came to me and asked how long I had been doing this in front of a group of senior officers. “This was the first time sir.” I wish I had a coin, but I don’t, so I will have to get creative, have a good Iron Soldier Day Lieutenant.” Weeks later I received a letter of commendation from him that made me the envy of all of my peers and superiors.

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

SSG Anthony Dokes my second squad leader at 532nd SIG CO. He believed in me and realized the untapped talent he had in me and allowed me to use that talent to be creative and do things to improve morale. He supported my application to OCS. He knew how tomanage me. He got ME! He allowed me to create my own additional duties like site photographer, site illustrator, and unit supply specialist. He supported me playing football and doing things a normal E4 should not be doing. My extra-curricular activities benefited the unit and myself.

SGT Jerome Taylor my squad leader at Ft. Bliss, TX. He was a combat vet from the 509th PIR (Parachute infantry Regiment), Operation Just Cause in Panama. He was instrumental in training us on the do’s and don’ts in combat. You would have thought he was an infantryman but he wasn’t, he was a 63B (Light wheeled mechanic). He and three other NCO’s were from my hometown of Washington, DC. He put the fun in functional training. When I was getting in shape for OCS he led a bunch of volunteers on Sunday runs through the Franklin Mountains. The higher elevation and consistency paid off! When I got to OCS I was running like an Olympic grade turbo-charged cheetah.

Captain Miciotto “Bear” Johnson was my last tank company commander in Friedberg, Germany. He said something to me that hearkened back to my enlisted days, “I take care of all my Soldiers, that includes officers. You need to do the same. If a fellow officer needs help, give it. Don’t do things with a favor attached. Just do it and move on to the next objective. If you do it for one, do it for all of us. We are on the same team and we need all the help we can get when we need it.” He gave us our tanker swagger back by asking every tanker who the best loader was, who the best driver was, who the best gunner was, who the best master gunner was, who the best TC was. It was a test to see if the soldier mentioned someone else or were bold enough to say themselves. It forced soldiers to acknowledge there was someone better than they were. He would follow up if they mentioned another tanker, “So what are you going to do about it?” This forced soldiers to create their own solutions to move up in talent if not rank. It worked. It tore down the platoon fiefdoms and implemented more intra-unit collaboration.

Major Hruska the best BN S-3 I had ever witnessed. It wasn’t that he knew his training and doctrine. He knew everyone else’s too. He was a history buff. He studied tactics and strategy. He was a Jedi among men. He could manage or lead a battle blindfolded. He knew the precise moment to deploy task force reserves and where. He knew enemy capabilities before they deployed. He was THAT guy.

Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Strong saw something in me that I hadn’t recognized in myself. I had not been in the unit very long. I am still in transition from tank platoon leader mode when he walked in on an NCOPD session I was having with platoon’s NCO’s in the mess tent during an exercise. This was a rare if not unheard of event in his battalion. From that point on he made it a point to keep tabs on me and my accomplishments. During my OPPLAN brief for Exercise Protect The Force he stopped me before I finished and announced he had heard enough and left me with the S-3 and his staff. I thought I did something wrong. MAJ Neil and the assistant S-3 assured me everything was fine. “LT Lawe you just watched the colonel get his mind blown with your level of detail and contingency planning. We saved you for last for a reason. He has made all of your peer OIC’s rewrite their plans because they failed to consider all of the what if’s you covered in the second paragraph.” He who takes more than his fair share of objective shall receive more than his fair share of objectives to take. I don’t who said it first but that was my career under LTC Strong and I was okay with it.

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

SPC Robert Boyles-a native from Oregon, a fellow comic book geek with a great sense of humor. We traveled together from AIT to first duty station in Germany.

SFC Don Fulton-Excellent platoon sergeant. We were both long time Redskin fans, we were both Geminis, and we were both from the AtlanticEast Coast. Me from DC and him from SE Virginia.We were finishing each other’s sentences within a week. He helped me through the transition from NCO to officer.

SFC Louis Imbrogno-excellent platoon sergeant He was a member of a motorcycle club and owned a boss Harley. He helped me weather the constant turnover of gunners I had on my crew.

SFC Bowie-he was my acting 1SG while I was the acting commander. We kept each other honest and ensured we were prepared to do the extra work to ensure the in boxes remained empty.

SPC Cornelius “Boosie” Davis, a native of Alabama who had a great sense of humor. He was a superb all around athlete. I wished we could have played football together at Dortmund.

SPC “Wild Bill” Massey. We became closer after I left the unit. I was the photographer at his wedding in Germany. When I returned to Germany as a 2LT, SGT and his wife were there to pick me up from the airport and ferry me to brigade headquarters.

CPT Ronald Woodman we were OCS classmates and we linked up again at 14st SIG. Both us were former combat arms platoon leaders relearned our craft in the world of communications. We maintained a constant buddy watch over one another.

CPT Stephen Cichocki- he was my OCS classmate and a former master gunner who was my sounding board throughout my commissioned career.

SPC Verburg-he was my go to guy in the platoon if I needed something done right now! He would assess the hey you mission and would enlist his buddies to make sure it was done in a timely and stealthy manner. I loved playing dirty hearts or spades with him. Lots of mutual respect.

SGT Rosamund, SGT Wrzenski, SGT Danielson, CPL Pena, CPL Raymond, among others- all were high speed low drag NCO’s. They were masters of their craft. I learned so much from them during my transition from armor to signal.

SGT Turner- he was my first motor pool NCO who kept me honest on so many occasions with the BN XO.

SSG Cole-he was my go to NCO in the platoon. He was the NCO version of Verburg. Another great card player.

CPT Ian “Frenchie” Forbes-it was his signal platoon I inherited at 141st SIG BN. He provided me with wise counsel on the tribal customs of my new home.

CPT Stephen Bates-we were the noisy outlaws of the battalion who got shit done. We were peer XO’s in different companies who sought each other out just to vent if nothing else. I think we were the founding members of the LPA in the unit.

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?

My tank crew pranked the platoon sergeant’s tank driver who was from Brooklyn, NY. he was deathly afraid of the VW-sized boars in Germany. He fell asleep on guard duty at night, so we poured garbage all around his tank to attract the boars so he would stay awake on duty. If there were no boars we would make hog noises to spur his alertness levels.

My section in Armor Officer Basic Course pranked a certain cadre officer who used to zeroize our SINGCAR radios (Single Channel Air-born Radio system) on every break or AAR (After Action Review). Our section has some former tankers who had ties to the training NCO’s. We convinced one to let us have a smoke grenade. One of our classmates rigged it to the half shaft under his Hummer with communications wire. The more the half shaft rotated it tightened the wire connected to the quick release pin and the spoon and broke. His Hummer quickly filled with emerald smoke. We saw him through our binoculars coughing and gagging several hundred meters away. No retaliation came our way.

I pranked the BN S4 CPT Jonathon Long at a Hail & Farewell into thinking he had left his Vinson KY-57 unsecured in the motor pool and I found it as such during a routine staff duty inspection. I produced an extra one from my CVC (Combat Vehicle Crew-member) helmet bag as proof. It was an extra one I signed out from the communications shop.

I pranked the BN S-3 into believing that such a thing as snow snake repellent existed. I took a can of WD-40 and covered it with a piece of paper that generically said snow snake repellent and made up a stock number to go with it. I referenced the newly issued field manual that referenced snow adders indigenous to Bosnia. He took it and ran with it to the division commander’s weekly readiness briefing. The commander added it to the list of things units needed to order and would be briefed as red, amber or green status. Confession may be good for the soul yet my body paid for that one in the form of push-ups, a one-sided ass chewing and a week’s worth of convoy commander detail downrange in Bosnia.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
I have been in manufacturing management ever since. I have been in the metals industry twice as a shift supervisor.

I was in the automotive industry as a shift supervisor. That was fun believe it or not giving back to the armed services. I worked for Oshkosh Defense making trucks like the PLS , HEMTTs, HETs, LVSRs and the newly designed MATVs for the Marines and the Army. It was eye-opening to read the laudatory e-mails from congressmen and service members remarking how our product helped saved lives down range. Also meeting service members who arranged to visit the plant and shake everyone’s hand who helped build these amazing mine resistant vehicles. That organization was the most top heavy with veterans from white collar to blue collar.

I have been in the plastics industry two times-once as a supervisor and currently I am a production manager.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I have let my memberships lapse for the Signal Corps Regimental Association, the US Armor Association and the NCO Association.

When I lived in Indiana, I became a mentor at Handley Elementary and was invited to their Veteran’s Day celebrations. When I lived in Wisconsin, I would march in the Memorial Day parades as an ad-hoc flag bearer in full BDU’s.

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

It has influenced how I am as a leader in charge of personnel, resources and time. No matter where I worked I employed the same techniques that made me a successful NCO and officer. I was a fit, firm and fair leader. I made it a point to learn the process and implement change to streamline the process and eliminate waste for the better not just change’s sake. Over the years I have had to soften the sharp combat edges I had developed to negotiate more win-win scenarios. I have implemented recognizing individuals and teams who have exceeded performance expectations at the various organizations where I have worked.

Having qualified on numerous weapon systems, I don’t own nor care to own any firearms. I am of the mindset that firepower attracts more firepower. I do not feel the need to conceal and carry. I learned through my military training and as a former range safety officer to respect guns, bullets, weapons of any kind and what they are designed to do. I do not hunt. As long as there are Piggly Wiggly supermarkets I don’t see the need. I have seen up close and personal the effects of small arms fire on the human body. I have witnessed the carnage of large caliber weapons. It would take a lot to motivate me to fire a bullet in anger outside of a high intensity combat environment, and even then (?). My relatives have reluctantly asked “have you killed anyone in combat?” My answer is no. A few will follow-up with “Did you want to kill anyone in combat?” My answer is yes. Does that make me a bad person? Those situations where that was a possibility have long since moved on and so have I.

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

Get your mind right and the body will execute each and every time. I have done it and I have witnessed it in others. The synergy between the two is awesome. Tap into it. If you declare it, it will become reality. This is a rare environment where you
are getting paid to find out your potential. Numerous soldiers sign up for one MOS and later transfer to something more of their liking. Numerous more soldiers make a career out of the service because it fills their needs and they are good at what they do. Remember “Good gold will not net you good soldiers. It will get you mercenaries until the gold runs out. Good soldiers will get you good gold.”

Join with some goals in mind. At the end of your tour, what do you want to be? My goals were to improve myself as a leader, graduate OCS and to overcome my fear of heights and graduate Airborne school. The last two I accomplished. The first one was a constant work in progress. I was continually learning and sharpening the saw. I read numerous books, field manuals, Army Regulations and had lots of training which were a good base for starting out. To be a good leader, you have to be in a leadership position and learn from your mistakes. The more your do certain things, the more comfortable you will become with your particular leadership style.

If and when you deploy to combat, pay strict attention to your training. Study and ask lots of “what if?” questions. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. No one likes it, but it pays dividends tenfold when the scenario is upon you. Learn from every subject matter expert you come in contact with from drill sergeants to platform instructors to squad leaders to officers. The knowledge is free and it is power. Volunteer for whatever training is available and give it your all.

When you are deployed overseas remember you are an ambassador for your country in whatever role you are assigned. Make the Army values (Loyalty, courage, selfless service, respect, honor and integrity) your values not just buzz words you recall during evaluation time. If you live it, walk it, your soldiers will reflect it.

Volunteer for every training class available, you never know where it will take you. At the very least you will learn something that is benefiting you, the unit and you may be able to apply as a civilian. Seek out the best soldiers, the best NCO leaders (informal and formal) and make them your mentors. Learn by reading the regulations, the field manuals, and the technical manuals. Learn through correspondence courses. Learn through hands-on training, classroom training, cross-training and hip-pocket training. Education is the one promotion no one can take away from you. The positive example you set is the one most will follow. Have a goal and do what it takes to achieve it. If you fail, it’s your goal, no one else’s, the goal police will not drag you away to jail. Dry your tears and try it again. Or simply pick a more achievable goal and pursue that. Specialized qualifications like Ranger and Special Forces are NOT made for everyone that is why it is an elite specialization. The standards are higher to attract the best of the best and even some of them fail.

When people ask me if I miss the Army, I tell them I miss the people more than anything. The soldiers, NCOs, and the officers I served with made up the difference. They made “embracing the suck” missions bearable. We buoyed each other’s spirits to get it done. We did what we had to so we could get back to doing what we wanted to do. The down time spent with each other was worth it. The war stories told around the fire barrel, the pranks, the lies and alibis bonded an unlikely band of brothers and sisters when things were at the worst yet it brought our best.

When people ask me if I would go back, my answer is no. My Army has changed. I would be perceived as a man out of time like Captain America. My old school habits would not blend well with today’s leadership climate.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
In beginning it helped me network with former soldiers, NCO’s that I hadn’t been in contact with in years. I later networked with them over Facebook, e-mails and phone calls. The stories I had read about other soldiers some were intimidating reading all of their accomplishments, then I read others that were seemingly uneventful yet the soldier got something out of their service if it was nothing more than interacting with different people on foreign soil. I connected with that.

8
Mar

Sgt James Hastings U.S. Army (1951-1953)

Read the service reflections of TogetherWeServed.com member:

profile2Sgt James Hastings

U.S. Army

(1951-1953)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/348999

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

I had saved my money from the time I started working at 14 in food preparation in a Mexican deli in East Los Angeles and later as a warehouse worker for Western Electric in Los Angeles. I had learned to speak French and German and intended to travel to Europe,
buy a bicycle, and tour several countries for a year or so after I graduated high school. Unfortunately the Korean War started just after I graduated in 1950. I realized that I was going to be drafted sooner or later and didn’t want to have my life disrupted before it really began, so I visited all the recruiting stations and finally decided that the Army was for me and enlisted.

My father had served in the peacetime Army from 1930-1932. mainly because of the Depression and lack of other jobs. He was drafted and served again from 1942-1945, fighting in the Aleutian Islands against the invading Japanese Army. He was wounded on Aku Island. My great grandfather had been an Officer in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He had been wounded and after some basic medical treatment, walked home on crutches until he healed enough to rejoin his Company at Appromattox.

It seems that Army has been in our family for several generations and I continued that tradition.

My son also served. He joined the US Air Force and was assigned to the Pentagon as a computer programmer for most of his 6 years.

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

I intended to try for Officer Candidate School but during Basic Training I made some stupid decisions, so that was out. I had worked for the Telephone Company before enlisting so I went to Wire School to increase my knowledge so that when I returned to civilian life aftermy 3 years I might be able to get a better job with the Telephone Company.

After getting out of the hospital, recovering from combat wounds I was assigned to the 8001st Transportation Depot in Yokohama, Japan. I met, dated and later, married a Japanese lady while serving in Japan. I took my discharge in Japan and went to work for the Department of the Army as a Civilian. Part of the next 5 years I worked for 8th Army HQ supervising the printing of all classified materials. As such, I had to proofread all the classified correspondence from the front as well as from agencies that were not supposed to exist (Black Ops). That made my life difficult since I no longer could talk to anyone about anything except weather, sports and art since I couldn’t take the chance that I would say something not in agreement with the “news” about the various wars in the Far East. I also was a part of FECTAC: the war room to run WWIII if the stateside war room was destroyed.

I later asked for a transfer and was assigned to the Signal Corps in charge of inventorying and negotiating the return of telephone exchanges that the US Army had confiscated during the occupation of Japan. I spoke Japanese fluently enough to act as an interpreter during some of these negotiations with the Japanese Government since, at that time, the Telephone company was run by the government.

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.

Well, as a “green soldier” I just arrived at the front, I was assigned to the Second Division, 38th Regiment, Charlie Company to replace the Wire Chief at the front lines. The next day, he took me out to lay a new telephone line to our troops who were engaged in
combat with the enemy. We were in part of North Korea at the time. As we walked along a pathway it appeared that he tripped a booby trap wire and the homemade explosive device blew up right next to me. My right arm was sprayed with shrapnel and a piece went through my belt very close to my spine. I also had shrapnel in the joint of my little finger and couldn’t move it. The roll of wire on my back was full of shrapnel, which made it unusable.

So, we walked in the center of the river until we reached an aid station. I was transported to a MASH unit where I was X-rayed and from there to the Army Hospital in Pusan and later to the Jutlandia (Danish hospital ship), docked in Pusan harbor, for surgery to my hand. When I was in recovery stage, my Doctor sent me to Japan to recover, and from there I was reassigned to the 8001st Transportation Corps Depot in Yokohama, Japan where I served until discharge December of 1953.

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

Of course the least favorite was at the front lines because of my injuries. That leaves only my time at 8001st TC Depot in Yokohama. I was progressively promoted from E-2 to E-5 within a year and was put in charge of an Accounting Section where I served until my
discharge. One of my employees had been a Japanese Army Officer who was trained in English with the intent to serve in the United States, after it was conquered, as a liaison officer. I studied Japanese with him and then took 2 years of Japanese from the local University of Maryland school in Yokohama. I was able to become proficient in the spoken language and learned to read some also.

Off duty I was asked to teach English at a local Japanese Business College which I did for several years. This gave me a love of learning and teaching. I learned to brush write Japanese characters from a Japanese college professor which gave me an appreciation for Japanese brush painting which I used to make my own paintings. I also studied Kamakura style wood carving and carved some plates as well as some bookends with the Japanese name that I was known as by my closest Japanese friends.

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

Yokohama was fire bombed prior to the end of the war so when I served there, some 5 years after the war ended, it was still a very struggling economy. I walked all over Yokohama on my days off, taking pictures, many of which I still have. As I learned
to speak Japanese better, I talked to shop keepers and everyone that I could. I ate at a restaurant for day laborers. At that time the going rate for day labor was the equivalent of around 56 cents a day! (200 yen). The yen was 360 to $1.00. A dinner at this restaurant cost the equivalent of $0.20, so, I frequently ate with these men even though my salary as a Sgt at that time was close to $500 a month. I did this to get to know people.

As soon as I spoke to them in Japanese their attitude towards me changed from one of being an outsider to being someone that at least liked their country enough to learn their language. They were very open and I felt, honest with me about their struggles. I learned that the beggars we saw on the street had banded together, pooled their money and rented rooms together so they had somewhere to sleep. I saw grey haired old ladies carrying telephone poles on their shoulders for the US Army and others sitting on the ground using a sledge hammer and chisel to break off chips to create gravel for road construction.

It was a humbling experience for me.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? 
Our Unit was given a Citation for the accounting work that we did of highly classified work. That of course was for the Unit and not individuals, but as someone involved, I felt honored.

Much later, I received a medal from the Korean Government for my service in helping South Korea be free. It was awesome to be among the others receiving this honor. This medal was presented by a member of Washington State legislation. He had been adopted by some GI’s and brought back to the United States, where he completed his College education and later was elected to the legislature.

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?

I’m proud of my qualifications on the rifle. My mother was a crack shot and I had learned how to shoot and clean a rifle as a small child of 7 or so in Kansas. I was only sad that I couldn’t qualify with the machine gun since it was hooked to a board, which had sunk into the mud so I couldn’t change the elevation so it fired into the ground and no one could qualify with it.

My Honorable Discharge was my most cherished possession from the Army.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
Major Oakley, who was the officer to which I reported for the Accounting Department, taught me how to do my best and encourage those under me to do their best. He went on to teach at the War College I was told. He had a speech impediment so I was encouraged to see that the Army gave him a chance to do his best and serve rather than rejecting him and not allow him to serve his country. Before entering the Army, he had been a tugboat Captain and I learned a lot from him about that kind of work also, something that I never would have learned otherwise.

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?

We learned that we had a Criminal Investigations Division person in our midst for a short time. He talked to me about his past and I thought it was strange that he confided that to me. His objective, he said, was to blend in and investigate and keep this a secret from anyone except the Commanding Officer, to my knowledge. He told me stories of his first assignment. He was to go to prison impersonating a criminal in order to befriend a man known to be a Nazi spy. The man had been caught but was imprisoned by the government on a different charge so that they could find out what his mission really was. He didn’t share that with me.

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

I was employed by the Department of the Army as a Civilian employee and started off in charge of coordinating military air traffic movements in Japan. From there I was recruited to supervise the printing section for the Japan Procurement Agency that bought off shore supplies for the Korean wareffort. I was recruited from there to work at Eighth Army HQ to supervise classified printing. As part of those duties I supervised the U2 spy photo library as well as worked on second strike information in case of nuclear attack on the US. I also was a part of the War Room in case the Pentagon was destroyed by nuclear attack. This was too stressful for me and I began to have ulcers so I asked for and was later transferred to the Signal Corps where I inventoried all the US telephone stations in Japan and negotiated the return of them to the Japanese government after a base was closed.

I was then recruited to go to Inchon, Korea to establish a supply depot to repair spy boat engines, as that is part of what I did in Yokohama. After it was up and running in 8 months, I resigned from the Department of the Army and returned with my son and wife to the US.

I was trained at the Bank of America to be a Manager and after a few years, left that to become HR Director for a small bank chain for a few years. All this time I was going to school on the GI bill and finally after getting a Master’s degree I left banking and became the Director of Employment and Training for Goodwill Industries of Los Angeles, CA. I worked at various Goodwill Industries as Executive Director and then spent the rest of my working life as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor serving those with barriers to employment until I retired in 2010.

I also served as an AmeriCorps volunteer in 1999 and again in 2012.

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

I visited the VFW hall but couldn’t relate to the members there so never joined any military related organizations Likewise, by the time I visited the American Legion I was way older than most of the members and again, couldn’t relate to their lives. I was a member of the Rotary Club and Toastmasters in several cities and usually deeply involved in Community relations where I lived and worked but seldom lived and worked in the same towns. I also served on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce in charge of environmental relations at one time.

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

The military didn’t ask me what I could do or was interested in doing. It gave me an assignment and expected me to learn how to do it to the best of my ability. This trust in me helped me to grow and become someone that I might never have
become without that trust. Most employers hire you based on your known and proven ability to do something. That is completely different from my military experience. I don’t think I would have accomplished whatever I did in my civilian life if that start in the military hadn’t taught me to strive to do my best. I learned to make decisions and how to supervise others in the military. I learned to accept responsibility for my actions: good and bad.

I was taught time and motions studies; work simplification and forms design. I have utilized these skills in many different occupations. I have worked as: College Teacher of ESL, CEO of statewide Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, State Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor, Certified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for Worker’s compensation and VA referrals, Purchasing Agent for School District, Commercial Bank Manager, Accounting Supervisor for Savings Bank, Employment and Training Supervisor for Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, President of the Board of Local Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies as well as Merchandise Manager for Hallmark and Glass Artist selling through a gallery.

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

Follow the motto “be all you can be” and ask for advice even if you feel you don’t need it. Seek out responsibility and do more than asked (being careful that what you do has consequences). When in doubt, ask. One solution may create another problem unless you know the whole process involved.

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

I haven’t ever forgotten the chances to grow that the Army gave me and appreciate that but I was discharged 61 years ago and since there was no reserve, at least at that time in Japan, I didn’t continue my service in the Reserves for the last 5 years overseas.

When I returned to the US I had a hard time finding a job since I had in essence, grown up and worked overseas and unless I went to work for the Department of the Army immediately in the US, I had little work experience that anyone would give me credit for having.

The only assignment I was offered by the Department of the Army after I returned was as Supply Officer for a Ammunition Depot out in the desert where my family wouldn’t have the conveniences that they would in the city. When I finally looked for those with whom I had served, I have been out of touch for so long that I gave up looking. This is one connection that may help me, if they are still alive. Just recently, a person I served with in the 8001st Transportation Depot in Yokohama contacted me through another military organization and at last I am in touch again with an important part of my life.

1
Feb

SGT Earl Watters U.S. Army (1965-1967)

Read the service reflections of US Army Veteran

profile3SGT Earl Watters

U.S. Army

(Served 1965-1967)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/265930>

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

What influenced me to join the Army was that the Vietnam War was going on and I knew that my Draft number was coming up. I also came from a rather large family with many veterans that served during the time of War. I felt it was my duty to following the footsteps of my family members that served, so I volunteered for the 2 year draft. I thought it was the smart thing to do at the moment. I would soon learn a hard lesson.

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 served my two year stint, my father was in World War II, my brother served in the 11th Airborne in the Cold War, my grandfather’s brother served with the 5th Cavalry during the Civil War. Most of my uncles served in World War II, so if you love your country,you serve if asked, or not asked.

Why I left the Military? It’s because I knew that if I went to Viet Nam one more time, I wouldn’t make it back a second time. I was the only one from my platoon who didn’t go to the hospital from WIA or Malaria or KIA. It was life changing for me. Sometimes I’m still fighting some of those battles.

I had my fill of danger and combat while in Viet Nam: I was in these operations from 1965 to 1966: Combat Operations #1: 1965-1966; Operation Scrimmage, Binh Khe, Quick Kick, Matador, White Wing, Lincoln 1, Mosby 1, Crazy Horse, Nathan Hale, and Henry Clay.

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

Yes, I was in combat several times. I knew that when we went to Ia Drang Valley we would lose a few buddies. I’ll tell you one thing, I found God in Ia Drang on Dec 19th, 1965 and Nov 2nd and 3rd 1965. I got to the point where I knew I wasn’t going to make it home alive. One night I laid out my .45 in the dirt next to me and my M-60 machine gun. All my buddies were hooking up their bayonets. I didn’t have a bayonet for my machine gun, but I had my .45. At 0300 the Viet Cong tried to overrun us. We fought back like hell and beat them back. We chased them back to the Chu Pong Massif. The division called us back and told us not to go any further. We didn’t know but there was 2.800 Viet Cong on that mountain and only 100 of us from Alpha Company. It was our lucky day on Nov 3rd, 1965.

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

My most favorite was Fort Campbell, Kentucky as we had clean sheets, hot showers and hot food. My least favorite of course, was Viet Nam.

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

Nov 2-Nov 3rd 1965. Alpha Company made the 1st night air assault in Viet Nam into a landing zone under attack by NRVN Forces to reinforce a unit from the 1st Squadron of the 9th Cavalry in the Ia Drang Valley. We had 17 men shot while landing. We lost Sgt Ross, lost Sgt Platt. Landed from 12pm to 0100. Lt John Hanlon was shot up really bad. We hooked up bayonets as they tried to overrun us at 0300. We held our position until 0600. Combat Operations #2: Vic Thuan Hahn, Dec 1965. Lost my Lt Stuart Tweedy, Sgt James Thompson, Lost Sgt Dale Fugate. Had two of my good buddies, Gary Schavers and Nathan Villagomez wounded. Combat Operations: #3: White Horse (LZ Horse Bonson). May 1966. Lost good buddy David Canales, Had several more men shot up and my 4th Lt John Doubet took one through the arm. I go to Benson, AZ every year to David Canales’s gravesite to talk or leave a US flag at his grave.

On May 15th, 1966, we were going to move next to the Mekong Delta on an early morning air assault. I landed first to lay down fire with my M-60, if needed. One of the Hueys with 12 men from my Platoon crashed while coming in for a landing. It was bad seeing it roll end over end tumbling down the mountain with bodies flying out, legs cut off, broken backs and you name it. I was the only one from my squad left that day. Half my platoon was lost. I still see it when I close my eyes every day.

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

You know, I wasn’t looking for any medals. My buddies who died should have gotten the medals. The one who stands out is Capt Ted Danielsen, my Company Commander. He took care of his men. He wouldn’t have us do anything he wouldn’t do. If we didn’t have enough food to go around, he would do without. He received Two Bronze Stars with ‘V’ Device and a Silver Star for Valor. We all loved him and Lt Hanlon. He was shot up real bad. A bullet went through his spine and he couldn’t move but was still giving orders to us men before he passed out from pain.

Our medic, Raymond Ortiz who was shot 6 times, was still helping the wounded before he passed out from loss of blood. I could go on and on but those men from Fort Benning were heroes to me. Damn they were great.

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?

Of all the medals I received, I think the Presidential Unit Citation for Extraordinary Heroism under Fire from President Lyndon B. Johnson. I have it hanging on my front room wall. Why? Because a lot of my buddies gave up their lives for this Citation.

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

LTC Mertel, he was my Battalion Commander. He would fly over every mission we where going on a few days in advance to make sure he would know the area in case something would happen. He checked danger zones for the landings and or air assaults. He was an old WWll man. I hated to hear that he was deceased. We had talked online for many years. When he died, his daughter sent me his banner books and some pictures and plaques. He was a great leader.

And, there was LT John Hanlon who took us into the first night combat landing on Nov 2nd and 3rd at 1200 hrs to O100, 1965. He wouldn’t give up after being shot three times. What can I say?

LT Stewart Tweedy was another great man. The day he was killed, he was leading us up front, not from behind.

These men I have all the respect in the world for. Only GOD knows how great they really were.

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?

My squad was going out on ambush. It was about 0100 in the morning. We came to this small creek. We had only moonlight to see by as we stopped to see where we would cross. This big python slid off the bank into the river. It made abig splash. Now, I looked around at my squad. I could see all those eyes lighting up thinking, “Damn, if we get into this creek, this damned python is going to get one of us”. It was too wide to jump across, so we found this tree that had fallen down and threw or let it fall from one side to the other.

So, Sammy Daniels gets on this tree and starts moving across this creek with his M-16, frags, 20 twenty round clips and all his gear when he gets right in the middle of this tree. It starts to break and he falls into this creek and goes under water and we can’t see him. Then all of a sudden he shoots out of the water climbing the river bank. We started laughing, I mean really loud, all of us. We couldn’t stop and even our Sarge was laughing. We could have all been killed that night. Sammy thought that snake was going to get him.

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

I worked at a lot of jobs when I first got out. First at Suzuki Motorcycles in La Marinda, CA as a mail clerk. Then as a meat cutter at George A. Hormel and Company. Then a welder for a while. Then went to plumbing, heating and welding school. I started my own business for many years. Then worked for Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys in Apple Valley, CA.

I was lost for many years as you can see. I had a bad accident, woke up in the hospital with two broken arms and a concussion. I thought I was in Saigon in an Army Hospital, that’s when my life changed.

Some of my buddies found me through the White Pages on the internet for a reunion at Fort Bragg in 1995. I went to it. It was one of the greatest moments of my life seeing these men who I fought with 30 plus years earlier. We were having beers, hugging one another. When it was over, I cried myself to sleep.

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

I belong to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Together We Served website. I am assisting two WWII Veterans in capturing their military legacy and posting it to this website.

I meet with Rio Rancho Coffee Club every Friday with all the Vets. Each branch of the service is represented. I try and help any Veteran who needs help getting on with their lives.

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

I try to live every day to the fullest. When I was in Viet Nam, it was a bad day every day. My buddy was shot laying next to me. I said, “No matter how bad things get, it can always get worse”. I could have been laying there myself. So, I live every day thinking of one of them and call the ones who made it home as often as I can.

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

Follow orders, keep your head down and leave no man behind. By all means, love, honor and respect your county and the leaders that you are to follow.

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

It brought back a lot of old memories and a few more tears. We had 331 KIA’s and one MIA, Ellis S Randall, from 1st Battalion, Eight Cavalry in Viet Nam. One day I hope that they find him. God Bless him and the USA and TogetherWeServed which helped me tell my story.

28
Dec

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

Read the service reflections of US Army veteran:

howard1SG Carl E. Howard

U.S. Army (Ret)

(1986-2007)

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

WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

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

WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

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

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

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

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

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

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I decided to become a Defense Contractor after the service.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23
Nov

Pfc Frank A. Plebanek US Army (1943-1945)

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plebanek1Pfc Frank A. Plebanek

US Army

(1943-1945)

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WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

Having just turned 18 years of age I knew I was eligible to be drafted, but didn’t know when that time would come. My buddy and I went to the Naval Recruiting office and told them we would

like to become pilots on an aircraft carrier. He arranged for us to go to Kansas City, MO for testing and physicals on Dec 31, 1942 and Jan. 1, 1943. We both passed the tests and physicals and were told to return home and that we would receive a letter within 30 days to report to Pensacola, Florida for induction into the US Navy.

We did receive a letter about three weeks later that informed us that enlistments for 18 year olds had been canceled and we could wait to be drafted and then transfer into Naval Aviation. We didn’t like that idea, so went to the Army Air Corp and then the US Marines and they told us the same thing. We had both quit our jobs and decided to go to the local draft board and tell them we wanted to enlist and would like to go out on the next draft call from our city.

We were told to report for induction on Mar 19, 1943.

BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

I volunteered to be drafted March 1943. Trained with 78th Lightning Division, in D Co of 309th Regiment. I was trained in Use and Tactics of Heavy Water Cooled 30. Cal. Machine Gun.

I was sent as POR to England and Joined the 82nd Airborne Division about ten days before D-Day. I was being held as Reserve Status and assigned to 325th Glider Regiment. I was placed in E Co. in a Mortar Squad when the Unit was returned from combat in July of 1944.

I participated in Operation Market Garden as Second Gunner on 60mm Mortars. I was wounded on Oct 1, 1944 near Mook, Holland and sent to England to recuperate.

I was then returned to duty in Feb 1945 to rejoin my Unit which was near Schmidthof, Germany. I was assigned as a Gunner on a 30 Cal. Light Machine Gun.

While holding the West Bank of the Rhine river in Cologne, the CO said needed a jeep driver so I became his driver until the hostilities ceased in May of 1945.

We then were sent to Berlin, Germany for Occupational Duty until Nov of 1945, when I had acquired enough points to be able to return to the States to be demobilized on Dec 23, 1945, returning to my family about 6:30 p.m on Christmas Eve!

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

We landed by glider in Holland and spent 8 days on the Front Line. I came so close to being killed so many times.

A German soldier had my head in his sights when he fired his rifle. If his aim would have been 2 inches higher he would have shot me right between the eyes. The bullet landed in the dirt, right in front of my nose and about 2 inches below the top of the dirt around my foxhole. The dirt the bullet kicked up filled my eyes and I was unable to see anything for over an hour, while I tried to clean the dirt from my eyes, with water from my canteen.

While trying to awaken a man to relieve me on guard duty one night, a sniper tried to shoot me while I was looking for the man in his hole. He must have fired three or four times at me until the firing woke another solier who fired back at the sniper. I believe the sniper was in the attic of the nearby farmhouse. He was just firing at the sounds I was making. I believe he was the same sniper that killed Verl Miller earlier that afternoon.

On a later occasion, as I looked around the corner of a fireplace protruding from the rear of a house, a German stood there with a flame thrower about 25 feet from me. He immediately fired the flame thrower and as the ball of flame was coming toward me, I dodged around the corner of the house and dove into an empty foxhole.

One of our Sergeants, along with five other men and I were trying to recover the mortar we had lost the day before, when we’d been attacked and didn’t have time to bring it with us. We were proceeding in single file as we were walking along the dirt road and the man (Closen), directly in front of me, was hit with machine pistol fire from a German gunner. Closen was riddled across his lower chest and fell forward to the ground and squirmed his way into the hedgerow trying to take more cover. He only got about half way into the hedges when he stopped, lying perfectly still. We all knew that he was killed in action. He had been through Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy without being injured and it seemed such a shame that he had to die in Holland.

Late afternoon on the third day, while Payne and I were in our foxhole, the Germans made a small counter-attack with a half-track and a few troops following it. We heard it coming, but couldn’t see it, and when it came into view, the gunner on top, with a machine gun, opened fire at Payne and I. We dropped to the bottom of our foxhole, without being hit. The gunner kept us pinned down, until some of our troops fired a bazooka round at it. It was hit in the radiator and backed away toward their own lines. When all the firing stopped we raised up out of our hole and found that all the dirt around our foxhole had been scooped away by the machine gunners bullets.

Another day, while it was raining, I tried to have a cigarette, but couldn’t keep it lit. I decided to go into a small shed about 30 yards away. As I entered the shed I found it dry inside, so sat down and had a cigarette and candy bar. It wasn’t long before a few guys decided to join me in theshed for a smoke. When the fifth man arrived, I thought to myself, ‘this is not good, too many people in one spot. I explained this to the men in the shed. When the sixth man arrived, I decided to leave and mentioned that they should too. Then four of them left and there was only one man in the shed. The Germans had spotted all the men gathering at the shed and probably had it zeroed in for their mortars. Before the last man left, a mortar round landed about five feet from the shed and blew it all apart. They then placed machine gun fire on the spot where the shed had been. The last man didn’t make it out and was killed.

On another occasion, I was digging a foxhole and had it about knee deep, when I noticed some leaves move near my hole while I was standing in it. I immediately dropped into the hole as a mortar shell exploded not two feet from me. I wasn’t wounded as all the fragments went over me. I couldn’t hear anything for about two hours, until my hearing returned from the concussion of the blast.

After we lost the mortar I was assigned to be first gunner on a light machine gun. One time, a German machine gunner was returning my fire but he couldn’t lower his fire enough to hit me. I was concentrating on firing my own weapon and didn’t realize how close I’d come to being hit until I discovered the severed leaves he’d shot from the trees about six inches above my head.

I was really ticked off at the Germans for shelling our bivouac area. Our Company was pulled off the line to go to the rear to get some R & R for two days. My Buddy and I dug a slit trench to sleep in or take cover if we were shelled. We covered it with logs and dirt because it was raining. We’d left just enough room to get into and out of the hole. While we slept, at about 10:30 p.m. we were shelled and an artillery shell exploded in the tree just above us and the entire top of the tree trapped us in the slit trench. We were both wounded in the lower legs and were trapped inside until the medics could remove the tree and help us from the slit trench. It just didn’t seem right that I was wounded while in a two foot deep slit trench, below ground level and protected by dirt and logs over 2/3rds of the hole. Of course if it hadn’t been for the logs and dirt over our bodies, we both may both have been killed. We were taken by ambulance to a field hospital in Nijmegen in the morning. Then the next day to a hospital in Brussels. The next day I was airlifted back to England in a C-47 ambulance plane. After being airlifted back to England, I spent about four months in the hospital before being returned to my Unit, which had already moved into Germany near Aachen.

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

Berlin, Germany, the 82nd Airborne Division was assigned as occupational duty forces, after the German forces surrendered. It was nice to know we wouldn’t have to do any more fighting on this side of the world. We didn’t know if we would be sent to help the Pacific forces invade Japan. Seeing Berlin almost completely demolished from the bombing and shelling, was an awesome sight. Being the CO’s jeep driver we had to travel in the British and French zones. Trying to get around we sometimes had to travel 3 or 4 miles to find routes to get to where we wanted to go that was only a mile away. Our Company was quartered in Mariendorf, which is a small section of the southern area of Berlin. We were due south from the Brandenberg Gate and the Templehof Airport. Spandau was west of downtown Berlin.

A group of about 10 from our company, a Lieutenant, myself and 8 others were assigned to assist the British, in Spandau, to help get all the DP’s (Displaced Persons) and German Soldiers back to their home locations. This took about six weeks before all the holding pens were emptied. I met many British soldiers and German girls (typists) while doing the sorting of thousands of German soldiers and civilians.

I think we spent more time in Berlin than any of the places we were stationed and while in combat. We were constantly moving from one place to another through England, Holland, France, Belgium and Germany. Seemed we were constantly going back and forth from France to Germany.

As troops were being sent back to the US to be demobilized, we were given points to accumulate, the men with the highest number of points were being sent home first. My number group was called about the middle of November and we left Berlin, returned to France and left Marseille to go through the Mediterranean, past Gibraltar and on to New York.

So to me, my whole oversees adventure was to leave Boston, land in England, go to Holland, go to Belgium, return to England (in hospital), back to France, then to Germany, back to France, back to Germany, back to France, back to Germany, back to France, then leave France to go by ship to New York. I was able to visit all the Capitals, London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

I was in the hospital near Whitney, England when I learned that my Unit was called to duty to help halt the German counter-attack in Dec. 1944 at the Huertgen Forest. I regretted that I was not able to be with my Unit when it really needed the most able bodied men. They had advanced on into Germany by the time I was able to return to duty.

WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?

I was awarded the Bronze Star for service during the Rhineland Campaign in Feb. 1944. I was unaware that I’d received the medal until Sept 1963.

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

Earned the following Medals and awards:

European,African, Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one invasion spear- head and four campaign stars
Army of Occupation WW II Medal
Presidential Unit Citation Badge
Combat Infantryman Badge
American Campaign Medal
Victory WW II Medal
Good Conduct Medal
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart Medal
French Fouragere Lanyard
Belgian Fouragere Lanyard
Netherlands Orange Lanyard

All equally important to me.

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

While training in the States with the 78th Div, I had training on driving and maintaining motor vehicles. I had no idea that I would eventually become a driver.

Later I was with E Company, of the 325 Glider Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. When the Company Commander needed a driver they looked through the records of all the company personnel and found that I had been qualified as a driver. We were in Cologne, Germany, holding the west bank of the Rhine, while they were clearing out the Ruhr Pocket which they had encircled on the east bank. My CO asked me if I would like to be relieved from being a gunner on the 30. Cal Light Machine gun and become his regular Jeep Driver. Without too much consideration, I agreed and continued as his driver until I was sent home on points.

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

On the eve of my 21st. birthday we had a Company party while we were occupying Berlin. I was the CO’s jeep driver at the time. I went to the Company party with intentions of drinking enough until I passed out. After we had dinner I took 7 double shots of Cognac, a wine glass full of Gin, a bottle of Champagne and 3 and a half glasses of beer. All this in about a 4 hour period.

My buddy Tom Graves from Service Company hauled me up three flights of stairs and put me to bed. I was supposed to take the CO to Regimental HQ at 9AM. I never got up after three times being awakened and told to go get my jeep. They had someone bring the jeep to the Company area and finally got me up so I could drive him to HQ.

The Captain got in the jeep and asked me if I thought I could make it. I told him I thought I could. When we got to the corner and I had to make a right turn, I almost fell out of the jeep. He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back. When I had to make a left turn I fell over into his lap and he helped me straighten out again. We made it to HQ and I stayed in the jeep and slept until he came out about two hours later.

I felt much better after getting more sleep, and we made it back to our Company area with no further incidents. He then told me to get my Assistant Driver to take over the driving duties until the next day. I was lucky not to have been written up. It was certainly a milestone birthday to remember.

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

I was a Automobile Service Station Manager for about 20 years. I then operated my own Service Station for 5 years. I finally gave up my lease during the first gas shortage because the government was telling me how much gas I could sell and how much money I could make. It all became too much because I had to cut my operating hours and couldn’t make enough money to support my family.

I then went to work for another dealer for about five years as an Auto Mechanic. Then gave that up and started working at General Dynamics as a Maintenance Mechanic, then transferred to Machine Tool Rebuilder.

After 12 and a half years I retired from there in Jan 1990. Still retired after 21 years.

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

82nd Airborne Division Association
325 th Glider Infantry Association
American Airborne Association
Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Disabled American Veterans
Combat Infantryman’s Association

Derived no specific benefits from any of them.
Went to reunions of the 325th and the 82nd.

I am mentioned in the following three books:
‘LET’S GO’ by Wayne Pierce 1997- The story of the men of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment.
‘GLIDE TO GLORY’ by Jerry Richlak, Sr.-Unedited personal stories of Airborne Glidermen of WWII.
‘ALL AMERICAN ALL THE WAY’ By Phil Nordyke-The Combat History of The 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.

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

Personally experiencing the daily life of a Soldier gave me a greater base of knowledge of how to deal with problems, organize and determine what’s truly important. I developed the realization that I had to rely on my own resourcefulness to succeed. I had to literally grow up in the trenches.

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

Stay with the rules and behave. Do your job.

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

I have found lost friends after 50 years. It’s another vehicle to document history of service.

19
Oct

SP 4 Tom Hirst U.S. Army (1969-1971)

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profile3SP 4 Tom Hirst

U.S. Army

(1969-1971)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Tom.Hirst

(Veterans, if you would like to share your story and leave a lasting legacy of your time in the service, join us at  http://togetherweserved.com

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

After graduating from high school in 1967, I did what my parents wanted me to do: Stay in school. So I went on to college for one year and maintained my II-S student deferment. I left college and took a job at the local Dodge dealership in Washington D.C.  My life was work and fast cars, a girlfriend and spending most every weekend at the local drag strips. Life was good! The realities of the “my world” were measured in a quarter mile at a time. Not that I wasn’t aware of the escalation of the Vietnam War. I watched footage of it on the evening news but I didn’t really pay too much attention. It never occurred to me that I might be in those news reels myself someday. I guess I was a little naive about what was happening in the “real world” and what losing my student deferment would really mean.

I got my first reality check in December 1968, when I received word that one of my high school friends had been killed in Vietnam. Nolan Byrd had been “In-Country” for a short time when he was killed in a fire fight. Nolan became a “Medic, which was unusually for a couple of reasons. At my high school, everyone was trained to be a Medic. We even had a pseudo military organization called the Medical Cadet Corps. Also, because of our religious beliefs and family upbringing, we considered ourselves “Consciences Objectors” (COs). All us guys knew we might eventually be called upon to fulfill our military obligation but because we were assigned a draft rating of IA-O, we knew it would be in a noncombatant position.

Returning home from work during the first week of August 1969, I found a letter in my mailbox from the Selective Service System. Printed at the top of the letter were the words ‘ORDER TO REPORT FOR INDUCTION.’ The body of the letter began with the word “Greetings…” As it turned out, this was the last draft call before the lottery system took effect. My induction was postponed until October 1, 1969 because of my job, but they got me after all. If I had been fortunate enough to skate by for two more months, I would not have been drafted. My lottery number was 322.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.

I don’t know think “career path” applies to me as I was a two-year draftee and a conscientious objector with limited possibilities. As it turns out and what I had already figured, the only MOS for me was Medic 91A10 . I was sent to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas to attend a 10-week Combat Medic Course.

One night in early December 1969, a sergeant with a clip board greeted us outside the mess hall one evening and said, “Listen Up! If your last name falls between the letter “A” through “M”, you are going to Vietnam!” My “career path” just got a little clearer. Of the 150-200 medics in training at Ft. Sam. half of us went to ‘Nam and the others went to Germany.

As the plane descended into Bien Hoa AFB in the early morning hours of March 5, 1970, I wondered where I was going to end up. As we taxied to the terminal, the stewardess’ attitude changed from “Fly the friendly skies” to “In the case of a rocket attack……” When we boarded a bus taking me to my next adventure, I was starting to realize that things could get a little hairy. I asked the soldier next to me, who was on his second tour, if it was this hot all the time and what the metal screen was for over the bus windows was for? He looked at me and said, “Well, FNG, this here heat is cool ’cause it still early. The ass kicking heat begins a little before noon and lasts until nightfall. Now that mesh there, it’s to keep grenades from being thrown into the bus!” I rode silently for the rest of the bus ride.

I was dropped off at the First Team Academy which I found out was the “Orientation Center” for the First Cavalry Division. Up until this time, I didn’t actually know where I had been assigned or where I was going. After a few days there, I watched as some of my fellow Medics were sent to their respective duty stations. I figured that they must be saving a really good assignment for me.

A couple of days later I got my assignment and took my first helicopter ride to a place called “Song Be” where I was to report to the 12th Cavalry Regiment’s Battalion Aid Station. It was hot when we took off but as we climbed higher, cool air blew through the open side doors. It was a refreshing surprise. Below the countryside was becoming more rural, some farms but mostly rice paddies and green jungle as far as the eye could see. But mostly my attention was on the two gunners on each side of the helicopter. Both looked to be seasoned warriors ready to immediately swing their M60 machine guns into action. That’s when the realization hit me: I was heading into a real war where people are trying to kill each other.

Arriving at the Aid Station, I spent a few days handing out pills at Sick Call. This wouldn’t be too bad. It was more like a dispensary with no badly wounded to take care or bed pans to empty. A week went by and finally I was told that I was going to replace one of the field medics in the 3rd Platoon of Charlie Company 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment. More reality set in when they offered me a .45 caliber pistol and said, “You might need this!” and that I would probably spend the next 6 months with an infantry company in “the bush.” I thought about the impending journey and opted for an M-16, rationalizing it would be a much better “patient protector” than a .45 caliber pistol.

Landing Zone (LZ) Snuffy was at the end of my next chopper ride. Wasn’t much there other than mud, sandbags, bunkers and 105mm artillery pieces. I was told that “log day” (resupply) was the next day and it was time for me to get ready to meet Charlie Company’s third platoon already in the field. There seemed to be a lot of excitement that day since the company had been in “contact” that morning and there was one KIA and one WIA. When the chopper landed, I jumped off as a “body bag” was loaded on. One hell of a way to spend Easter Sunday!

For the next 7.5 months, my career path would be humping the jungles and hard packed, slick trails with 75 pounds on my back.

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

When I flew out to join Charlie Company for the first time, I’d been told we may be landing in a “hot LZ,” meaning there had been a firefight in the area earlier. The LZ itself was small, just big enough for one helicopter and surrounded with thick jungle on all sides. When it set down, I jumped off and Ken Garski, the soldier that had been killed, was placed inside and the helicopter took off.

That evening as we set up our NDP (night defensive position), I found out what an “ARC Light” felt like when 500 pound bombs dropped by B52s thousands of feet overhead exploded a few clicks (kilometers) from our position, shaking the earth like a 6-point earthquake.

For the next few weeks Charlie Company conducted “search and destroy” missions along the Cambodia border. I spent most of my time treating minor injuries and jungle rot as well as dispenses anti-malaria pills. In fact, malaria was so bad, the company had to report to battalion every morning that all men had been seen taking their pills. I also had my first Medevac when Greg Egan got a bad reaction to a bee sting.

After I had been with 3rd platoon for about a month, we were called back to Fire Support Base (FSB) Buttons near the village of Song Be for a “secret mission.” We were issued a lot of replacements and new equipment, some we normally didn’t carry such as handheld M-72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapons) and 90mm Recoilless Rifles. On the minds of all of us was, where are we going? We found out that night.

The next day, May 5, 1970, we made a combat assault into Cambodia where we spent the better part of the next two months before returning to Vietnam June 29, 1970. It didn’t take too long to find the enemy. We had many encounters with Vietcong and North Vietnamese Regulars during this operation. [See VIETNAM MAGAZINE, AUG 2010 issue]

One night, as we sat in our NDP, we saw flashlights and the sound of a small group speaking Vietnamese coming toward us. What they didn’t know is we had put out a number of automatic ambushes (AA) along the trails leading into our NDP. Automatic ambushes were claymores daisy chained together by electricity that would go off when a trip wire was engaged. Anyone caught in the killing zone would be a goner. We heard one explosion go off. A few minutes later, another went off. We heard moaning for a few hours and then a single gunshot. In the morning we found 9 NVA bodies, one who had killed himself with his rifle by his pulling the trigger with his toe. We also found one wounded who had survived the blast. He was put on a helicopter but we heard later he too had died.

We found many bunker complexes of significant size during our patrols. As odd as it may seem, while the NVA higher command knew we had invaded their sanctuary , many field units didn’t know we were in the area. On one patrol we walked right up on soldiers playing cards after dinner. The platoon sniper started the firefight by doing his job and the rest of us chimed in to help. We called air support and the Cobras showed up and did their work for the rest of the day. The next day we returned to recon the area. It was a huge complex and we were only platoon size. There was a brief firefight before the few enemy withdrew. We were lucky that the rest of the NVA were not at home that day.

For a month and a half, we had suffered a few minor wounds but no deaths while eliminating dozens enemy. But our luck changed on June 14th.

While following a very well-used trail with signs of recent movement, we ran into the proverbial “hornet’s nest.” First Platoon was on point and my 3rd Platoon was on drag. Second platoon was in the middle. Moving slowly and looking in all directions, the point element spotted NVA in the processes of setting up a hasty ambush. They signaled their sighting and then let loose with their M-16’s on full automatic. The enemy fired back with everything they had and because they were in bunkers and semi-set up, they had the advantage. The first platoon and my platoons moved against the bunkers under heavy fire. Second platoon became the center of our hastily drawn perimeter. Within a few minutes, we suffered our first casualty while in Cambodia. Sgt. Mickey Wright was killed and Tom “TJ” Johnson was badly wounded. Making things worse we were in an area that hampered our radio contact with any support elements. Eventually with the heroics of one of the forward observers, Spec. 4 Tom Thon, who held the radio up over his head while hiding behind a tree, we were able to get air and fire support. We found numerous blood trails and the next day found 10 freshly dug graves.

The next morning we evacuate Mickey’s body and stayed in the same LZ for a resupply. As food and ammunition was coming in, we heard a loud explosion coming from the bunker complex were we had the firefight the day before. We figured it was the automatic ambushes our company commander, Capt. Michael Christy, wanted left in place until after we were resupplied. When we checked it out, we found three dead enemy; one was carrying an RPG with many rounds and other two carrying AK-47s with hundreds of rounds ammunition. They ‘d plan to hurt us bad but never got the chance.

Our tour in Cambodia turned out to be pretty devastating for the enemy. We found many caches with tons of rice, 55 gallon drums of gasoline that were destroyed and a large motor pool with 25 trucks. Drawing from my old “drag racing” days and tinkering with cars in general, I was able to “hot wire” many of the trucks and jeeps that we found. Using the captured trucks, we loaded up all of the usable supplies that we found in that “motor pool cache.” Tires, tools, bicycles, spare parts and even a diesel powered arc welder were “convoyed” back to LZ Evans with the 1/9th Pink Teams flying “cover” for us and telling us which way to go. At LZ Evans the equipment was airlifted back to the rear area in Bien Hoa. Chinooks with deuce and half’s underneath them made for a pretty strange picture! The unserviceable trucks we destroyed. We keep two trucks to carry our heavy packs marking Charlie Company a kind of a quasi-mechanized unit. It only lasted a couple of day until we got back into thicker jungle but those two days were like heaven.

On June 28th we were told that we had to be back in Vietnam by noon on the 29th, the next day. Although Nixon’s “incursion” was to end June 30, he had ordered us out one day earlier. We had a pretty good distance to travel but in the open fields of Cambodia, the “humping” was easy. Midway between the river we were to cross into Vietnam, a dozen print and television journalists were flown in to accompany us the rest of the way out of Cambodia. It seemed we were the last rifle company to leave Cambodia. With movie cameras and note pads in hand, they interviewed people from their own hometown areas and we got our 15 minutes of fame.

We made it out by the deadline only to be caught up in another unfortunate circumstance later that night. In the early morning hours of June 30, 1970, three mortar rounds from our own fire base smashed into our perimeter. The intent was to fire at suspected enemy positions. Only two of the rounds exploded, but those two rounds killed Denny Dentino and Michael Waters and wounded more than 25 others from our company. Forty decades later we are all still trying to come to grips with that tragic incident.

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

According to my DD Form 214, I spent 13 months and 5 days in ‘Nam which was my only duty station other than basic training and AIT. After my 7 months “in the bush” with Charlie Company’s 3rd platoon, I got a really “cushy job” as the Colonel’s driver at the Division Surgeon’s Office, 15th Medical Battalion at Phouc Vinh.

I was truly a R.E.M.F.! Every day I “broke starch” and wore jungle boots shined by mama-san and every night, I went to sleep in a bed. I also had a 24 hour dispatch on the Colonel’s jeep! After I drove the Colonel to the Tactical Operation Center (TOC) around 6:45 am each day, I was off for the rest of the day unless somebody needed a jeep to go do an inspection or to the PX or just take a ride around Phouc Vinh on a “photo op”. [See my profile photo section for scenes around Phouc Vinh and Song be and many “BUSH” pictures]

One day the Colonel said he wanted to go to Vung Tau and do some in country R&R. He added that he would like to have the jeep down there as well. The Colonel took one of our choppers and flew down while I grabbed one of the other guys from 15th Med and a couple of M-16s along with the .45 caliber “grease gun” that I brought back from Cambodia and drove down to Vung Tau from Phouc Vinh. This was a distance of 150 miles or so. Everybody thought I was NUTS! A single jeep with two people all the way down through Bien Hoa/ Long Binh to Vung Tau and back. No big deal. Maybe that R.E.M.F. mentality of invincibility had actually taken effect.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

Sadly, the things that made the biggest impression on me were the men killed in my company. The things that I saw being a combat medic were pretty horrific. I suppose it can be rationalized that combat deaths are inevitable in war, but the stupid mistakes that kill and wound people, like “friendly fire” is an OXYMORON!

The company was supposed to be airlifted by Chinook for an in-country R&R in Bien Hoa once we arrived at FSB Thor. Unfortunately for us, there were not enough helicopters available that afternoon. This forced us into an NDP outside FSB Thor until the next day. During that night of 29/30 June, our mortar platoon, “E” Company 1/12th, fired mortar rounds at a “suspected enemy” trying to get back across the border into Cambodia. Three rounds fell short of the objective and landed directly on top of Charlie Company’s NDP, killing two and wounding twenty five. This horrible incident is the one memory that stands out the most and it is the one that can never be erased from my memory.

A better memory stems from the recent visit to the Vietnam Memorial where Danny Long, Al Wall, Keith Forry and Mickey Wright’s little sister Anita Rosenberg and her husband joined us in honoring our fallen brothers. “Operation Wall to Wall” was originally spawned one day when I realized that I still had four T-Shirts that were not “claimed” after the reunion in Myrtle Beach. I figured these are the T-Shirts I that would have been worn by Mickey Wright, Denny Dentino, Michael Waters and David Osborne.

Unfortunately these were the four brothers in arms that were killed while I was with Charlie Company. Using the T-Shirts as the back drop in a shadow box worked out well.

Danny Long made DVD’s of photographs that plays a slide show with music. Name plates were donated by the local trophy company and Vietnam magazine donated copies of the August 2010 issue that we put in the back of the shadow box. Each soldier’s medal board from The Wall was also printed out and placed in the shadowbox. It was my first trip to The Wall and it felt pretty good. I tried to visit the Moving Wall back in the 80’s when it came to town, but I couldn’t finish the visit. I got as far as the directory for panel numbers but could not make it down to The Wall itself.

Two more donated T-Shirts made up shadow boxes for Larry Downs and Ken Garski. All total, we left six shadow boxes to honor Charlie Company Brothers. I also left tributes to two high school and college friends who died in Vietnam. Both were medics: Nolan Byrd and Jay T. Diller.

IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

The other two Medics, “Doc” [Steve] Willey and “Doc” [Larry] Stansberry and me were all awarded the Army Commendation Medal for our actions on June 30, 1970. We had dead and wounded troopers all over the place. It was a pretty hectic/chaotic morning. I guess this medal is the most important to me. I realize that it is below the Bronze Star that I received, but I think it is the most important one in my collection. My Combat Medics Badge ranks right up there as well.

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

Of the awards I received, my Combat Medics Badge is one of my more prized possessions. It is the single greatest recognition for all combat medics. It tell the world that I served as a combat medic while serving the infantryman “out in the bush.”

The other medal that I was presented was the Army Commendation Medal with Valor device for the not so “friendly fire incident” on 30 June 1970. Our head medic, “Doc Johnson” was severely wounded by the mortar rounds that hit us. This left us one medic short to treat all of the wounded and we did the best we could. Captain Christy nominated the three remaining medics, “Doc Willey”, “Doc Stansberry, and me, to honor our efforts that early morning. I think if you ask the other two “Doc’s”, they would have the same response.

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

To say any “ONE” individual had the biggest influence on me would be negating my respect for all of the people that helped me during these days. My first day, 3rd platoon RTO (Radio Operator) Gene Tetzlaff took me under his wing and helped the “FNG” get squared away.

As I became more aware of my surroundings, I realized just how lucky I had been being assigned to a very competent bunch of INDIAN FIGHTERS! Capt. Michael Christy led Charlie Company; 1st Lt. Rick Friedrich was my platoon leader in 3rd platoon (photo is Lt. Rick on left and me)and other enlisted NCO’s like “Pappy” and “Oz” kept us all inline.

The simple fact that I AM HERE to report on the days that I spent with Charlie Company is what makes the biggest impact on me!

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?

We lived in miserably hot, humid weather most of the time and because we were out humping the jungle 30-days at a time, we went weeks without bathing. That’s why I spent a lot of time dealing with hygiene problems. And the two most common problems were ringworm and crotch rot, both made worse by a lack of clean clothes.

The subject of ringworm came up at our 40th reunion in Myrtle Beach 2010. Jim Wilson, one of the guys in my platoon came up to me and said, “Doc, I think about you every time my ass itches!” That made me laugh and reminded me of the antifungal medication treatment I used on ringworm that the guys called “liquid fire.” It never seemed to fail that Jim or somebody else would show up for “treatment” just when I was ready to eat my dinner. Thinking about it now, I did take some perverse pleasure in watching them run around the NDP wanting to shout out just how much this stuff burned, but they COULDN’T MAKE ANY NOISE for fear it might be heard by the enemy.

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

After Nam, I went back to the Chrysler/Plymouth Dealership in Washington D.C. before I got drafted. Things in the “postwar era” were pretty dull considering where I had spent the previous year or so. I worked for a year and then decided to quit working and take advantage of the GI Bill. Seven to eight years later, having exhausted the government dole, I opened my own auto repair business. During this time period, I discovered the marine industry.

Using my mechanical abilities to repair boats seemed like more fun than working on greasy old cars. Besides, people that owned boats were more “appreciative” than people that only owned cars. During this time period, I worked for Zodiac of North America in a support role for the Government Sales Division. In 1980, we developed the “prototype” of the F470 Assault boat which the SEALS and Rangers still use today. You probably have seen the ARMY STRONG commercial where they drive the inflatable boat up into the back of the hovering Chinook and take off….this is the boat that I got to develop and play with. I spent time with the Army Rangers at Eglin AFB, Florida and the Navy Seals at Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia and the Forward Air Control at Pope AFB in the middle of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. All these guys are pretty crazy!

After my move to Florida in 1984, I went back to the “civilian” boating business where I still work in today. I have worked with all of the marine manufacturers from Johnson/Evinrude to Volvo. Currently, I am still working in the marine industry with the Cummins/Mercury/Suzuki companies. I run the parts department here at the Cummins Dealership in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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

I joined the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) because I think that this is the best forum for people of our time period. I enjoy their newsletters every month and like reading how other people were affected by their tour of duty.

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

I am convinced the biggest impact the military had on my life was that it “cut the apron strings” and made me survive on my own. It also opened my eyes to all the possibilities that exists for those who spend a couple of years within a disciplined structure where following the rules creates good order. It also makes a person grow in self-esteem, giving them the confidence to take risks in order to achieve great results. Frankly, I think a couple of years of mandatory military/civil service would work wonders for today’s youth. It may also reveal a talent they didn’t know they had.

If nothing else, a couple of years in the military makes a person grow tenfold over most entry-level civilian jobs.

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

For the active duty folks, I advise them to learn their jobs and the job of the person above them. I also recommend that you consider your time in the military as a valuable learning experience on how to get along with others who have nothing or very little in common with yourself. It’s a skill you can use in your community and in your chosen work field. It will also keep you out of trouble.

I also have some advice for those who got out of military service recently or for old guys like me: Take advantage of the GI Bill, especially the college benefits. I did and I am forever grateful. However, there was one huge benefit I ignored for years: The many program offered by the VA. I just didn’t realize or didn’t want to accept how things I experienced in Vietnam affected me emotionally and physically. Not wanting to come to grips with this reality intensified as the years crept up. A few years ago I finally enrolled in the VA and now use it on a regular basis. My advice to you? Don’t wait like I did.

Fortunately for me, I had developed a skill I could return to in the automobile business where I was employed before I was drafted. Hopefully you active duty types and veterans acquired a skill set that can be employed in today’s work place. If not, use the tools at the VA and get some specialized training in a field that interests you. There’s nothing wrong with working with your hands building or repairing something. This ability is fast becoming a “lost art” in America today.

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

Seventeen of my company met at Myrtle Beach for our 40th reunion. I had not seen 16 of them since I left ‘Nam. I even found out one of them from my platoon, Danny Long, live within an hour of my home. I discovered Danny and I had the same email provider which led to our reunion after 38-39 years. (Danny is second row, last person of left. I am just below him in green shirt.)

ATWS also helped us locate many of the other members of Charlie Company that attended the reunion. Danny and I also made a trip to the Vietnam Memorial where we were joined by Al Wall, Keith Forry and the adopted “little sister” of Charlie Company Anita Wright-Rosenberg, sister of Mickey Wright who was KIA in Cambodia.

Hear Tom tell his story in his own words:

14
Sep

Sgt Richard B Martin U.S. Army (1940-1944)

Read the service story of US Army Soldier:

profile1Sgt Richard B Martin

U.S. Army

(1940-1944)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/375009

TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR REMEMBERED PERSON’S DECISION TO SIGN UP FOR MILITARY SERVICE?

In 1940 the Depression was still adversely affecting the American economy. Employment was hard to find and pay was low, especially for a teenager who had not yet completed high school. So at the age of 16 years and 4 months our father managed to enlist in the 51st Pioneer Infantry, a non-divisional regiment of the New York National Guard. He obfuscated about his age so that he could join the military and begin his transition to adulthood.

TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH THEY TOOK.

On Feb 16, 1940 our father enlisted as a Private in Company “E” of the 51st Pioneer Infantry. The personnel of Company “E” were recruited almost exclusively from our father’s hometown of Binghamton, NY. Since he was only 16 years-old at the time, our father wasn’t completely forthcoming about his

age, because he didn’t want to have to wait another 8 months for his 17th birthday. On Oct 15, 1940, one day before he turned 17 years-old, the 51st was mobilized for federal service and by Oct 23rd the entire unit had been relocated to Fort McClellan, AL. During the following month the 51st was re-designated as the 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division in which our father was still assigned to Company “E” as a rifleman (MOS 745). On Jun 3, 1941, he was promoted to Cpl, and later that year on Dec 9th, two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor, he was honorably discharged from 106th so that he could join the Regular Army.

On Dec 10, 1941, our father reenlisted for a period of three years in the Regular Army and was assigned to “F” Company, 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division. The 1st Division was nicknamed the “Big Red One” because its distinctive unit insignia has a large red numeral “1” on a forest green background. At the time of his reenlistment, the 1st Division was in the process of relocating from Fort Devens, MA to Camp Blanding, FL. His new unit completed its move to Camp Blanding on Feb 21, 1942 and underwent a program of reorganization and refurbishment with new equipment. On May 15th, the division’s reconfiguration was completed and it was immediately re-designated as the 1st Infantry Division (1ID). By the following week the 1ID was temporarily moved to Fort Benning, GA for one month and then relocated again on Jun 21st to Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA where it underwent final preparations for overseas deployment. On Jul 1, 1942, “F” Company boarded the SS Duchess of Bedford for transport to southern England. Our father’s unit was part of the Advance Party for 1ID and it disembarked in Liverpool on Jul 12th. One month later on Aug 1st, the entire Division boarded the HMS Queen Mary at the New York Port of Embarkation and after a week of transiting the Atlantic Ocean, it disembarked on Aug 8th in southern England. Regiments were billeted at various staging camps located in the vicinity of Beaminster, Dorset County. The 16th Infantry Regiment HQ was assigned to Camp Parnham while “F” Company was billeted at Tidworth Barracks located about 15 miles northeast of Salisbury in Wiltshire County. For three months the Division remained in southern England to conduct unit training and staging preparations for Operation Torch, the invasion of north Africa.

For Operation Torch, the 1ID was assigned to Center Task Force (CTF) which also included the 1st Armored Division (1AD) and the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. CTF had the mission of conducting an amphibious and airborne assault of Oran, Algeria to seize its port facilities and airfields. The commander of CTF was MGen Lloyd Ralston Fredendall. This operation began on Nov 9, 1942 and “F” Co landed unopposed on “White Beach” near the town of Arzew which is approximately 25 miles northeast of Oran. It wasn’t until the second and third day of the operation that “F” Co encountered stiff resistance from the Vichy French forces before the defenders stood down and CTF was able to occupy Oran without further delay.

Soon after Operation Torch was concluded, CTF was re-designated as II Corps and it consisted of 1ID, 1AD, and the 34th Infantry Division. Our father participated in the American Army’s first battle against Rommel’s Afrika Corps at the Battle of Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia which began on Feb 14, 1943. This encounter with Axis forces was an embarrassment for the US Army since several of II Corps’ forward units were overrun and dispersed. A few days later, the Battle of Kasserine Pass turned into an even greater disaster for the Americans because elements of II Corps were forced to withdraw 50 miles west into the Pass with a significant loss of armor, artillery, and transport vehicles. Despite the chaos of being overrun by German panzers, our father managed to avoid capture, although he became separated from his unit for about 1 1/2 months. He apparently took shelter with a friendly Algerian family until he was able to rejoin “F” Co on Apr 5th. Following this humiliation of US forces by Rommel’s Afrika Korps, MGen Fredendall was relieved of duty as II Corps commander and replaced with MGen George S. Patton.

Subsequently, our father participated in the Allies’ more successful third engagement with the Germans on Apr 21, 1943 at the Battle of Mateur, Tunisia which significantly contributed to the eventual defeat of the Afrika Korps and the expulsion of all German and Italian forces from north Africa.

After the Battle of Mateur our father was promoted to Sgt on Jun 6, 1943 and assumed the duties of an infantry squad leader (MOS 653). Notably, our father turned-in his M1 Garand rifle for a Thompson submachine gun which was the standard issued weapon for a squad leader. Soon after he saw more combat with the 1ID when Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, began on July 10, 1943. US forces in this operation consisted of VII Army which was designated Western Task Force (WTF) and its commander was newly promoted LtGen Patton while II Corps was now commanded by MGen Omar Bradley. The operation began at approximately 0200 with an amphibious and airborne assault to seize the port facilities and airfields of Gela, Sicily. The amphibious phase of Husky was soon followed by a slugfest with German and Italian troops across Sicily’s interior mountainous region. It was at the town of Nicosia where our father was wounded in the right hip by German machinegun fire on Aug 3, 1943. This leg wound probably classified our father as an Echelon IV casualty which entailed initial treatment at a Field Hospital in the battle zone followed by evacuation by ship to a Station Hospital in north Africa, possibly in Oran or Algiers.

Recovering in a Station Hospital in north Africa apparently didn’t appeal to our father because while there he went AWOL on two occasions. The first unauthorized absence was Sep 11 to Oct 1, 1943. It’s unknown if he incurred any punishment for taking off for those three weeks, but nevertheless, he went AWOL again for 74 days on Oct 11 to Dec 23, 1943. After he came back the second time he found out that he had been demoted to the rank of Private effective Oct 28th. Where he went and what he did during these periods of AWOL are unknown, but presumably he got tired of laying on a hospital bed in a recovery ward surrounded by other wounded Soldiers. So once he was able to walk on his wounded leg, he probably went to stay with some buddies in a rear echelon unit, or else he was the house guest of some Algerian friends again.

By Nov 5, 1943, the campaign in Sicily had ended and 1ID was redeployed to England to begin training for the invasion of Normandy, France while our father was still hospitalized in north Africa to continue recovering from his leg wound, battle fatigue, and trench foot. He was finally evacuated to England on Feb 8, 1944 whereupon he was apparently assigned to another Station Hospital. By this time his leg wound had probably healed sufficiently so that he could be returned to duty with his unit, but it appears he was reclassified as an Echelon V casualty because he was eventually evacuated to the US on Apr 27th for treatment of his “battle fatigue.” His enlisted record shows that he arrived in the US on May 9, 1944 and was assigned to the Detachment of Patients, 1263rd SCSU, Mason General Hospital, Brentwood, NY. During WWII, this hospital was primarily dedicated for the rehabilitation of Soldiers who were suffering from “battle fatigue” and our father recalled that part of his “state-of-the-art” recovery process included sessions of electric shock. After almost three months of treatment at this hospital he was deemed sufficiently recovered, both physically and mentally, that he could be released from active duty with the annotation of “CDD” on his discharge certificate which was the WWII acronym for “Certificate of Disability for Discharge.” This innocuous term entitled him to long-term medical treatment at VA hospitals for his service related injuries. Subsequently, our father was honorably discharged on Aug 5, 1944 with the rank of Private, approximately four months before the end of his reenlistment contract in the Regular Army.

Our father was 20 years-old at the time of his discharge, and despite his young age, he had accumulated 4 1/2 years of military service which included 4 years of active duty. Even more impressive is the fact that he was only 19 years-old during the year he served in a war zone and the combat he participated in consisted of two full-scale amphibious assaults against an entrenched enemy; three major land campaigns; service as an infantry squad leader; and injuries including a gunshot wound to the right hip; debilitating battle fatigue; trench foot; and undocumented shrapnel wounds. At such a young age, he had done more than his fair share for his country.

IF HE PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE THOSE YOU FEEL WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO HIM AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

On Jul 1, 1942 our father embarked on the troopship, SS Duchess of Bedford, with the advance elements of the 1st Infantry Division (1ID) for transport by convoy to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). On Jul 12th he arrived at their point of debarkation which was Liverpool, England.

From there they were transferred to Tidworth Barracks near the small town of Salisbury, Wiltshire County which is close to England’s southern coast. This part of southern England had been reserved as a training and staging area for US forces as they prepared for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. 1ID was assigned to Center Task Force (CTF) with Major General Fredenhall as CTF Commander. CTF was given the mission of conducting amphibious and airborne landings to seize the port facilities and airfields at Oran, Algeria. The landings at Oran began on Nov 9, 1942, and our father said they had been hoping that the Vichy French forces would not resist, but unfortunately, the French put up a stiff defense on the 2nd and 3rd day of the operation and inflicted several US casualties before they stood down.

Our father’s next combat operation was during Feb 1943 at the Battles of Sidi Bou Zid and Kasserine Pass, Tunisia. 1ID was now assigned to the newly created II Corps with Major General Fredenhall in command again. These two battles were the US Army’s first ground engagements with Axis forces and the over the period of a week it resulted in a disastrous route of the Americans by Rommel’s Afrika Korps. The poor performance of II Corps resulted in the replacement of Major General Fredenhall on Mar 6th with Major General George S. Patton as the Commander of II Corps. Our father’s unit was apparently overrun by the Germans during the early stages of these battles, and he recounted how he had climbed a tall hill overlooking Kasserine Pass as the day was approaching sunset. He said he could see for miles toward the horizon, and below him in the Pass were dozens of burning tanks, trucks, and jeeps, and hundreds of American Soldiers in retreat. From his vantage point it probably looked like the US Army had been decisively defeated by the Germans and that he was in danger of being captured by the enemy. What he couldn’t know at the time was that the remaining elements of II Corps would eventually regroup 50 miles to the west at the exits of Kasserine Pass and receive British reinforcements to reestablish the Allied line of defense. By the end of Feb this new defensive line would halt the German advance and force the enemy to retreat eastward. While our father was separated from his unit a friendly Algerian family helped hide him, and there is evidence that he also had contact with a unit of the French Foreign Legion before he was able to make his way back to friendly lines.

Our father’s service record shows that he rejoined “F” Co on Apr 5, 1943 which was just in time for him to participate in II Corps’ more successful combat action against the Afrika Korps at the Battle of Mateur, Tunisia on Apr 21st. This battle was one of the final combat actions in Tunisia which led to the decisive defeat of all German and Italian forces in north Africa. Soon after this victory over the Axis, our father was promoted to Sgt on Jun 6, 1943 and made an infantry squad leader which put him in a demanding leadership position for a person who was only 19 years-old and in a unit that was about to undertake another major combat operation.

The next combat action our father participated in was Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. 1ID was still assigned to II Corps, but Patton was now promoted to Lieutenant General and given command of 7th Army while Major General Omar Bradley became the II Corps Commander. During Operation Husky the American forces were designated Western Task Force which included all of 7th Army as the landing force. Their mission was to conduct a nighttime amphibious and airborne assault of the southern coastal town of Gela, Sicily to seize its port facility and airfield. Our father’s regiment, the 16th Infantry, was in the first wave of this nighttime assault which landed at 0200 hours on Jul 10, 1943. Despite stiff resistance by the Italian defenders and frequent air raids by Axis aircraft, the town of Gela fell to Allied control by 0800, although the Italians had managed to destroy Gela’s pier facilities before being overwhelmed by the American landing force. Without pausing, the 16th Infantry began moving inland to seize the high ground which surrounded Gela and the nearby airfield.For this outstanding performance of duty during the first few days of Operation Husky, the our father’s Battalion was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation a year later. During the following 3 weeks the 16th Infantry Regiment continued to battle German and Italian forces across the difficult terrain of Sicily’s mountainous interior, until on Aug 3, 1943 our father was wounded in the right hip by German machinegun fire near the town of Nicosia. At this point in the Sicilian campaign, our father was also suffering from battle fatigue, trench foot and some undocumented shrapnel wounds. Subsequently, he was evacuated to a Station Hospital in northern Africa which was most likely located in Oran, Algeria.

While recuperating in north Africa, our father went AWOL from the hospital on two occasions and was eventually demoted to the rank of Private on Oct 28, 1943. He was then transferred to England on Jan 30, 1944 and arrived there on Feb 8th for more medical treatment. He stayed in England until Apr 27th when he embarked on a troop ship for transport back to the US whereupon he debarked at the port of NYC on May 9,1944. He was assigned to a detachment of patients at Mason General Hospital in Brentwood, NY until his medical rehabilitation was completed upon which he was honorably discharged from the Army as a Private on Aug 5, 1944.

OF ALL THEIR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY HE OR SHE HAD FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS THEIR LEAST FAVORITE?

Our father never spoke of a favorite duty station, but upon his return to England from north Africa, an English newspaper published the gist of one of his letters to a friend which extolled the virtues of returning to England after spending 15 months in north Africa.

FROM THEIR ENTIRE MILITARY SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT OPERATIONS, PLEASE RECOUNT ANY PERSONAL MEMORIES YOU MAY BE AWARE OF WHICH HAD IMPACTED HIM OR HER THE MOST.

Our father related that during the rainy season of one operation he had to spend days at a time in a foxhole that was full of water and mud. No one could safely leave their fighting position to dry their feet because the Germans would immediately start shelling their location.

Consequently, our father developed a severe case of trench foot that plagued him for the rest of his life. He only wore white socks because the dye in dress socks would irritate his feet. It was very common to see him suffer sudden and extreme bouts of itching feet which he relieved by vigorously scratching and then doused with hefty amounts of foot powder.

During one operation our father’s squad was moving down a road when they heard a tank approaching from their front. They quickly hid in the bushes by the roadside and watched as a single German Panzer passed by. One of the squad members had a rifle grenade attached to his M1 Garand rifle and after the tank went by the Soldier fired the grenade into the tank’s engine compartment which immediately disabled it. The German crew promptly bailed out of their tank and were taken prisoner by my father’s squad.

On another occasion our father recounted one instance when his squad was on patrol and they came upon a lone German soldier taking a bath in a pond. Before they could take him prisoner, one of the Soldiers in our father’s squad threw a grenade in the pond that landed right next to the German. The resultant explosion literally blew the German to pieces, and his flesh and blood was splattered all over the bushes and trees that surrounded the pond. I don’t recall in what country this happened or if my father was the squad leader at the time, but I’m sure it was one of many horrific encounters he witnessed during the war. I believe this was the last story he told of his combat in WWII.

When our father finally had orders to return to the US, he turned in his duffel bag for storage in the troop ship’s hold. This duffel bag contained two German Lugers which he had captured as war trophies. Unfortunately, that was the last time he saw his duffel. He figured it was either stolen or lost sometime during the transit of the Atlantic or debarkation at NYC.

IF HE RECEIVED ANY MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS OR QUALIFICATION BADGES FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT OR VALOR, PLEASE DESCRIBE WHAT THESE ARE AND, IF KNOWN, HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

On Aug 3, 1943 our father earned the Purple Heart after getting shot in the right hip by a German machine gun at Nicosia, Sicily during Operation Husky. He had other wounds from shrapnel and a severe case of trench foot, plus he was suffering from “battle fatigue.” These injuries occurred during the heaviest fighting that the Big Red One experienced as it progressed up the mountainous interior of Sicily. At this stage of the battle some American units had lost more than half of their personnel strength.

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

In 1944 the 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry received the Distinguished Unit Citation for its “outstanding performance of duty in action” during Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. This was in recognition of the valiant effort put forth by the 2d Battalion during the period of Jul 10 to Jul 12, 1943 when it successfully conducted a nighttime amphibious assault against entrenched Italian forces; repulsed numerous German counterattacks; and broke through encirclement by enemy tank forces, despite suffering heavy casualties including the wounding of the Battalion Commander. By the late morning of Jul 13th, the 2d Battalion secured the town of Niscemi which was the 16th Infantry’s primary objective for that stage of the operation. Our father served as an infantry squad leader during this battle, and undoubtedly, he and his men were in the thick of the fighting.

IF YOU ARE AWARE, PLEASE DESCRIBE ANY INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM HIS TIME IN THE MILITARY WHO WERE CLOSE FRIENDS OR STOOD OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON THEM AND WHY?

Our father never spoke of any specific individual in his unit that he was close to. However, he did have a low regard for General Patton who he thought was too eager to put them in hazardous situations. In contrast, our father had a very high regard for General Douglas MacArthur who he thought was a “great man,” and consequently, our youngest brother was named after him.

ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM HIS OR HER SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME BUT STILL MADE THEM LAUGH LATER ON?

Our father never recounted any particular moment of his Army service that he found to be especially humorous. However, he must have had some fun times, because many of the pictures we have of him posing with his buddies invariably show them as young men having a grand time.

IF HE OR SHE SURVIVED MILITARY SERVICE, WHAT PROFESSION(S) DID HE OR SHE FOLLOW AFTER DISCHARGE?

Following his discharge in 1944, our father eventually found employment for several years as an analytical reporter for Dun & Bradstreet in Arkansas. During the mid 1950s, he went to work for the US Postal Service as a mail carrier in El Dorado, AR and later as a front desk mail clerk in Shreveport, LA until his retirement from the Post Office in the 1980s.

IF KNOWN, WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS WAS HE OR SHE A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY SPECIFIC BENEFITS THEY DERIVED FROM THEIR MEMBERSHIPS?

In 1952 our father joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 2413 in El Dorado, AR.. After moving to Louisiana he joined VFW, Post 4588 in Bossier City, LA during Nov 1956. The following year he joined the American Legion, Post 191 in the same town. He was apparently a regular member of both organizations, and besides enjoying the company of other veterans,

IF HE SURVIVED MILITARY SERVICE, IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU BELIEVE HIS OR HER SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY THEY APPROACHED THEIR PERSONAL LIFE, FAMILY LIFE AND CAREER?

Our father frequently stated that he had given the best years of his life to the Army. He entered military service as a young, healthy 16 year-old and left active service as a 20 year-old man who needed a full year of medical treatment and rehabilitation before being able to return to civilian life. Despite the hardships, battle scars, and lingering physical ailments, our father was very proud of his military service and even somewhat amazed that at the age of 19 years-old he had successfully led men in some of the worst combat that WWII could inflict on a Soldier. The only time he talked about his wartime experiences was when he was asked, and even then he didn’t elaborate beyond a short story unless he was prodded for more information. He was probably more forthcoming about his Army service with other WWII veterans, but that is to be expected. Only his fellow veterans could truly appreciate what he had endured as a young Soldier.

IF THEY WERE HERE TODAY, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU THINK HE OR SHE WOULD GIVE TO THOSE WHO FOLLOWED IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS AND RECENTLY ENTERED MILITARY SERVICE?

Our father never encouraged anyone to enter military service because of the horrors he witnessed on the front lines as an infantryman. He also refused to have anything to do with firearms in his post-war years, despite his familiarity with all of the infantry weaponry of WWII.

HOW EFFECTIVE HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM BEEN IN HELPING YOU RECORD YOUR REMEMBERED PERSONS MILITARY SERVICE? DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL COMMENTS OR SUGGESTIONS YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE?

It has provided a very organized structure for my family to piece together our father’s service during WWII. Instead of a bunch of miscellaneous pictures and documents of his time in the Army, we now have a coherent record of his military service and how it fit within the historical context of the war.

 

5
Aug

CSM Laurence E Williams U.S. Army (Ret) (1966-1989)

Read the service story of US Army Veteran:

profile2CSM Laurence E Williams

U.S. Army (Ret)

(1966-1989)

View his service profile on TogetherWeServed.com

http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Laurence.Williams
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

My Father, Uncle and 1st Cousin served or were still active in the Army throughout my adolescent and teen years. My Uncle was still active while I served until I made E-6. I originally joined to qualify for the GI Bill, so I could return to college. I wanted to be a JAG lawyer.

WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

My service career path was Combat Arms. My primary MOS was Infantry, but I served in every Combat Arms branch. Infantry in Korea (2 tours). Armor and Infantry in Germany (2 tours), and Air Defense Artillery in Vietnam. I performed duties as a Basic Rifle Marksmanship Instructor and Drill Sergeant at Fort Knox, KY.

Following DS status, I volunteered for Airborne and Ranger training and duty with the 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, GA as a Platoon Sergeant, Operations Sergeant and Intelligence Sergeant. I served 1 year as the Operations Sergeant of a Brigade sized unit at Hunter AAF after being promoted to E-8 and then back to Korea as 1SG of Joint Security Force Company at the JSA. I also had a Combat Support secondary MOS of Ground Surveillance Radar and performed duties on the Korean DMZ, Czechoslovakia and East German borders on guard posts, observation posts and even combat patrols.

I retired as the Command Sergeant Major of a Mechanized Field Artillery Battalion with the 24th Infantry Division.

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

I participated in combat operations during my 1st tour to Korea from February 1967 through March 1968. My battalion had 12 soldiers killed during “CONTACTS” with North Korean soldiers. I was very proud of my unit and bragged that we had sustained less losses then any other Battalion that was stationed north of the Imjin River during that period – but I swore that if I ever returned and had any rank, that would never occur again.

My next tour of duty was on the Czech and East German borders and while I did not participate in combat operations, I witnessed, reported and called for medical assistance for a Czech Border Guard who was shot by his comrade. He died in the snow awaiting verification by the West German border patrol of the action.

I was levied from Germany to Vietnam where I spent all but 4 weeks of my tour on Fire Support Bases or Lai Khe Base Camp, which was called “Rocket City” by it’s occupants. I only lost one soldier to combat operations and my Battalion only lost 9 during that year. I finally stopped bragging about my Korean tour of duty!! I have never forgot the one soldier who was killed as I escorted his patrol to set up an ambush.

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

Hunter Army Airfield and Savannah, Georgia holds the fondest memories for me. My service with the 1st Ranger Battalion and the lifelong friends that I met and still hold dear were there. The pure dedication of the officers, NCOs and the men of the unit was (and is) the best that the military has to offer. The support shown to the unit by the citizens and elected officials of Savannah made the deployments more bearable due to the treatment we received when we came home. I brought my first home in Savannah and became really active in the community and our church. My wife and I lived in that community longer then we had anywhere else in our lives – both of us having left our hometown as teens. We lived in Savannah from August 1979 until January 2003. Having a hard time trying to decide if we will spend our retired lives in Petersburg, VA or Savannah, GA.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

The camaraderie shared by soldiers in combat or combat situations. I am in daily contact with soldiers who I served with on the Korean DMZ (both tours) and with those who I served with in the Ranger Battalion. While I did not participate in direct combat operations with the Rangers, actual combat operations were conducted during my service with them and we lost good men training for those operations. I also have lost some of those friends who continued to serve with Special Ops since I retired. It is as if you have lost a close family member.

While my diagnosis for PTSD was caused by my combat service in Vietnam, it was the Ranger Battalion that ensured that I received the mental counseling that saved both my family life and my military career. The stresses of that assignment brought it all to bear and my Chain of Command immediately took the action required to get me and my family the care we needed.

To directly answer the question – the memory that stands out the most is still the loss of one sergeant E-5 who only had 3 days left in country (VN) and a wife and the new born baby daughter who he never got to see.

WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?

I received the Bronze Star for Valor while escorting an infantry squad from FSB Thunder I to set up an ambush overlooking a two lane road that had just been cleared by the combat engineers. The road had not been used for years because of Viet Cong heavy activity in the area. It was believed that the enemy would return during the hours of darkness and attempt to place mines or other explosive devices in the roadway.

My Trail Duster (M42A1) was destroyed by a command detonated 155 mm American artillery shell as we ferried the infantry squad to their ambush site. When I heard the explosion and saw my trail vehicle disappear in a fireball, I directed my vehicle to perform a 180 degree turn and cover the wood-line to our immediate right. I jumped from my vehicle and ran to the trail vehicle to help the soldiers who were attempting to clear the burning vehicle, some of them in flames. I shouted instructions for the men who were fleeing for their safety to move to the opposite side of the road and knocked two of them to the ground and beat the flames out from their flak jackets. I then attempted to pull one soldier from under a burning vehicle when it suddenly exploded, sending me airborne backwards and engulfing him in flames. My only combat loss. His foot was pinned under the vehicles track – 12 tons of steel. My platoon leader recommended me for the Bronze Star with V for rescuing the soldiers who were in flames and directing the others to safety.

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

I would guess the Ranger tab. It represents the most demanding course that I have ever undertaken and the most proficient unit that I have served with. The leadership and professionalism of the Officers, NCOs and soldiers are superior to any unit in the armed forces. Rangers Lead the Way!!!

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

1SG Lloyd Price, HHC, 3rd Bn, 23rd Infantry, 3rd Bde, 2nd Infantry Division. I had just been promoted to Sergeant E-5. His advice on leadership was to ALWAYS remember 3 things when making decisions: Mission, Men and Me.

MISSION – The military mission is always FIRST – complete the mission, when you do this, your superiors will look out for your welfare.

MEN – Look out for the welfare of your MEN, don’t ask (or tell) them to do anything that you wouldn’t do. Lead them by example. When you do this, the MEN will look out for your welfare – always covering your back and your A_S.

ME – Your career, you will never have to worry about ME, because your superiors and your MEN will always take care of you because you always completed the MISSION and took care of your MEN.

After 1 SG Lloyd Price told me this, it worked for me for 22 years while in the Army, 13 plus years as a City Police Officer, Patrol Sergeant and Vice Squad Supervisor and now as a Federal Police Officer with 9+ years of service.

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

Being in the RADAR section maintenance hutch charging the batteries for our “pack portable” radar sets when one of the new replacements stepped in the door and asked what he should do with the old hand grenade he had just found. There were three of us inside and we all yelled for him to step back outside and just throw the thing into the mine field behind our hutch. He was fumbling with the safety pin, which was hanging dangerously 3/4 of the way out of only one side of the safety clip. As he backed towards the door, he stumbled on the door ledge and pulled the pin. He let out a LOUD “OOPS”. We all yelled, just throw the damn thing outside. He turned and threw it and it hit the door sill and bounced back into the hutch. He ran out and the three of us charged the door – all reaching it at the same time and we became wedged in the door – no one giving quarter to the others. One of us, don’t know who, turned side ways and we all fell out the door and crawled like the devil was on our tail away from the hutch. Standing outside was one of our Sergeants – laughing and holding his sides. The “new guy” was rolling in the dirt laughing!! Realizing that we were the butt of a joke, we all laughed until we cried – I’m chuckling now just remembering the incident.

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

Trying to figure out what to wear to work each day was a constant bother for my wife, so I decided to make my transition to civilian life easier by REMAINING IN UNIFORM. I still had an intense desire to continue serving my country, or at least my community – so I entered law enforcement. I became a Police Officer with the Savannah, GA police department. I served as a beat Patrol Officer, a Crime Prevention Specialist, Patrol Watch Supervisor, Bicycle Squad Supervisor for our 2nd Precinct’s Crime Suppression Unit (CSU). I was selected to serve as the Patrol Staff Sergeant in the office of the 1st Deputy Chief of Police/Patrol Bureau Commander, for two Deputy Chiefs. My final assignment was as the Supervisor of the Tactical Reaction and Prevention Unit (TRAP), which was the city’s Vice Squad.

After September 9, 2001, I applied for and was accepted for a federal law enforcement position with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency’s Pentagon Police Directorate. While waiting for a school slot at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, I served as the midnight patrol supervisor for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Department of the Army Police Department. I am currently the 3rd shift Lead Officer for the Pentagon Police’s Security Detachment at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

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

I am a Life Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Life Member of the U.S. Army Ranger Association, Life Member of the 75th Ranger Regiment Association and a member of the American Legion.

The main benefit that I derive from my memberships is being associated with men and women who share a common bond of having served our country and sharing “war stories” that most civilians would think were just dreams and lies, though we know to be real life experiences. Even our spouses can share experiences that everyday civilian spouses could not or would not tolerate. So camaraderie is the most important benefit of memberships for me. Plus we get to march in a lot of parades!!!

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

Military service provides you with leadership skills, instructional skills, and communication skills that are highly prized in all aspects of life and certainly in any career path you could choose. Your ability to make decisions in stressful situations, maintain a calm demeanor and keep others calm by your actions are assets to day to day life and career progression. I have not been in any job where my leadership abilities gained in the service have not been recognized by my supervisors and managers.

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

Enjoy your service and make the most of it that you can. Take on as much responsibility that you can handle. Train your replacements. Never ask your subordinates to do any job that you wouldn’t do – even in combat. Get all the service schools that you can – cross train and cross train your people in the many tasks that are inherent in your particular unit. My Ranger platoon medic earned the EIB and won the Special Forces Medical Rodeo at Ft. Bragg. I served in the same division with one of my E-4s as a CSM after he completed college and returned to the Army as an officer. I had never been in an artillery unit until I made E-9, but I had my soldiers train me in every gunnery task and I taught them navigation and patrolling skills. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY OFFERED TO YOU, be it Service Schools, Foreign Assignments, Administrative Details and especially Joint Forces assignments. USE YOUR IN-SERVICE CIVILIAN EDUCATION BENEFITS.

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

I have re-connected with people who I served with in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. We have Unit reunions and email and phone conversations with Soldiers who I served with in Korea on the DMZ in 1967 -1968 and at the JSA in 1983 – 1984. I have found some of my Commanders and Supervisors and was surprised that we live in the same area. I was invited by my Brother-In-Law, who was in the Air Force before I entered the service because he had found some of his long lost comrades. I have connected with soldiers who served in or are still serving with units that I served. You can keep up with your favorite unit and you could also contribute to the history of the units that you served.

6
Jun

SSG Robert L Tate U.S. Army (1949-1952)

An up close and personal interview with U.S. Army Veteran and Togetherweserved.com Member:

tateSSG Robert L Tate

U.S. Army

(1949-1952)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/287713

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

In 1949 I was 16 years old and had just started my junior year in high school and worked part time for a national food store chain called the California Markets in my hometown of Evansville, Indiana. They offered me a produce manager’s job if I would go full-time. Being raised in a father-missing family, I thought it was a good idea so I quit high school. About a month later the chain went bankrupt.

I looked up an Army recruiter early named Tech Sgt. Vickery in December 1949 who always came by the schoolyard trying to get new recruits. I told him I wanted to join the Army but wouldn’t be 17 until February. He said just lie about my birth date and to say I was born in another state. He added they probably wouldn’t check it out. My 16-year buddy Don Bullock also decided to give it a try. We joined a week later and were bused to Indianapolis for physicals. Don passed without any problems but I was sent home to get some teeth fixed and told to come back once that was done. A few days after getting my teeth fixed, I returned for my physical. The minimum requirement for joining was 5′ 2″ and 112 lbs. I was exactly 5 feet, 2 inches tall but I weighed slightly less than 112 pounds. To make sure I would tip the scales at the minimum weight I ate a whole sack of bananas before weighing in. I stepped on the scale and came in at exactly 112 pounds.

My friend Don had been sent to basic with Company B, 13th Armored Infantry Battalion, Combat Command A, 3rd Armored Division, in Fort Knox. I was also sent to the 13th for training, but Company B had already filled so I was put in Company C. Both of our company commanders found out we were underage. His commander gave him a hard time and got him a minority discharge. Mine didn’t care, so I got to stay.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.

My orders out basic training were for occupation duty in Japan. I was also given a 30-leave to go home to Evansville before heading to Seattle for shipment overseas.

When my leave was up, I reported to the Evansville train station where I ran into two other young soldiers also on their way to Seattle for shipment overseas. One was Bob Willett a buddy of mine from Evansville and the other was Ralph Jenkins who was came from Oakland City just up the road. When we changed trains in St. Louis, we were joined by another trainee from Fort Jackson South Carolina. Our new train was a relatively new Streamliner named ‘City of St. Louis’ which would take us partway to Seattle. Once we jumped aboard, however, we found the only thing available was a four person suite and the Military Vouchers we were travelling under did not include such ‘luxury.’ But the kindly conductor let us have it anyway. WOW!!! We had a steward in the car that we called back to order ham sandwiches. When we gave him a tip of $5 (back in those days great tip) he really took care of us for the entire trip.

We arrived two days early and since we didn’t want to go to the base until we had to we decided to look around Seattle. But we also were pretty well broke so we scrapped our pennies together and had enough for me to call home and have my mom wire us some money through Western Union. For two days after the money arrived we had some fun and still reported to base on time.

I shipped out on the USS General M. M. Patrick and landed in Yokohama. Since I had been trained for the cavalry I was certain I would be assigned to occupation duty with the 1st Cavalry Division. But at the reception station I learned I was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division, which was spread all over Japan with garrisons on Honshu and on Hokkaido, the northernmost island. My duty station was the division headquarters in Sendai, 231 miles north of Tokyo where I would be on the staff of the Division’s G-3 (Operations). A couple of days later I was on a train to Sendai.

I remember pulling into the Sendai train station and seeing men urinating in outside urinals and wondering what kind of world had I entered? When I stepped off the train, I was then hit with an awful smell. Part of the smell was fish markets and open drain ditches but the worst smell came from what I would learned later were called ‘honey buckets.’ The Japanese at the time used open latrines and the waste was collected in buckets below. Workers would go around every morning, collect the waste buckets and empty them into ‘honey wagons.’ The waste was then used to fertilize crops. I never really got used to that smell.

When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, we were moved to Gotemba and into a tent city at the base of Mount Fuji and put through a rigorous training schedule, including amphibious landing training. I remember everyone was anxious to get over to Korea and get into the fight.

The 7th Division was understrength since many of our officers and NCOs were sent to Army Divisions already in combat in Korea. To bring us up to strength thousands of Republic of Korea (ROK) troops were integrated into our ranks. At this stage in their training, the ROK soldiers were not worth much. There was also a language barrier that constantly got in the way. Later when we got in combat most of the ROKs proved to be brave fighters.

When we boarded the crowded troop ship for Korea we were assigned three men to a bunk. When I got down to my rack there were two ROK soldiers sitting on it eating dried squid with kimchee, which stunk to high heaven. I managed to get it over to them that they were not going to use my rack and they had to sleep on deck. I noticed later that one of them left his Japanese made Kodak camera on the bunk. I never did find him and still have the camera to this day.

Soon after arriving in Korea in early September 1950, we made an amphibious landing with the 1st Marine Division at Inchon. Days later we engaged North Korean soldiers in the First Battle of Seoul. The Division then marched 25 miles east to Suwon to capture the important rail juncture of Inchon. A few weeks later we made an amphibious landing at Iwon and made a rush to the Yalu River separating North Korea from China and when the Chinese entered the war we ended up at the bitter fight at the Chosen Reservoir.

After leaving Korea, I was assigned to US Army Forces Command and was discharged in 1952 as a Staff Sgt. From 1955 to 1968 I was a member of the 71st Troop Carrier Squadron, US Air Force Reserves.

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

On the morning of June 25, 1950 we awoke to the news that Communist North Korea had smashed across the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea. South Korea’s army, smaller and not as well trained and equipped was unable to halt the onslaught. By June 28, Seoul had fallen, andacross the peninsula the shattered remnants of South Korea’s army were in full retreat. Three United States divisions sent to its aid were committed in small units. They too were driven into retreat. We all knew it would be a matter of time before our division would be going to war. In late August or early September we sailed across the Sea of Japan and landed at Pusan. A week or so later we were on ships going to Inchon.

On September 15, 1950 the 1st Marine Division swarmed ashore after preparatory bombardment by aircraft and naval guns. Our 7th Infantry Division followed. Taken by complete surprise the North Koreans put up a light resistance and most quickly fled the city.

I remember the sporadic sniper fire that first night in Inchon and remember wondering to myself what the heck I was doing there and thinking I should be home in school instead of where I was. The next day we headed for what would be the first of five battles for Seoul.

The division’s first objective was to take the heavily defended North Koreans holding the high ground immediately northwest of Seoul. It was a brutal battle with many casualties on both sides. Once our frontline troops defeated the enemy, elements of the division entered Seoul. After a couple days of vicious house-to-house fighting,any enemy that had not retreated was either dead or captured. With Seoul firmly in our hands, the division was ordered to take two vital hills southeast of Seoul. It took 12-hour of fierce battle to take the two hills. Later my commander, Lt. Col. Hampton G-3, was killed in a tank ambush around the 4th or 5th day while we were trying to hook up with our tank task near Suwon just south of Seoul.

After our division and the 1st Marine Division secured Inchon, Kimpo Air base, Seoul and Suwon our division started a long overland truck march to the east coast of Pusan where we renewed training and added replacements for our combat-thinned ranks. Orders came down in October to advance to the Yalu so again we loaded sea transport and headed north along the east coast of Korea to Iwon. As a part of the G-3 shop I knew in advance that the push to the Yalu, which separated North Korea from Manchuria (China), was to stop the flow of supplies coming across the river. Our amphibious landing on the last day of October, 1950 was unopposed. We set off north toward the Yalu wearing our newly issued insulated shoe packs for the extreme cold.

We slogged through the cold into Pukchong late at night. We were all cold and pretty tired. I took off my shoe packs, didn’t notice my sweaty socks and jumped into my sleeping bag trying to get warm. When I woke up, my left toes were frozen white with ice between them. It scared the heck out of me, but I managed to massage them and they were okay. It sure taught me not to leave sweaty socks on when you go to sleep.

As the division moved north we met a sharp skirmish at Pungsan and a harsh firefight at Kapsan. The push continued in arctic-like cold weather, and on November 20, the 17th Infantry slogged into Hyesanjin-on-the-Yalu–the first U.S. unit to reach the Manchurian border. It was the northernmost point of advance by the United Nations’ command in three years of bitter warfare.

When the Chinese came across the border on November 27, 1950, we were totally unprepared. The enemy attack caught our division strung out, with some elements as far as 250 miles apart. I remember trying to make it down the MSR (main supply route). I hitched a ride in an Air Force Forward Observer van before they could cut it off and catch us in the Chosin Reservoir trap. Elements of the 7th Infantry (31st Regiment, 32nd Regiment, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, and other support units) were caught in the Chosin Reservoir and suffered tremendous casualties and unspeakable hardships. Thank God I was not caught in that trap. I made it down the MSR before the Chinese cut it off and encircled the troops at Chosen Reservoir.

If I remember correctly (it’s been over 50 years), our Assistant Division Commander, Brig. Gen. Henry Hodes put together a tank task force and broke through at Hagaru-ri to get some of the troops out. Just a couple days ago (after 54 years) not very far from my hometown, they buried the remains of a member of the 7th Infantry Division whose body was recently found in a shallow grave at the Chosin Reservoir.

I remember making it to Hungnam and while waiting to be evacuated I tried to get some sleep in what I think was a bombed out school. But the Navy was bombarding the enemy from the harbor and it seemed like every shell was going right over the building I was trying to sleep in. Finally we boarded the craft to be taken to the ship. It was dark and I remember our craft being challenged for our identity by the heavy cruiser USS St Paul. We were to be aboard ship for three days, but ended up being on it for over a week before we got to Pusan. Everyone on board was sick with dysentery and the whole ship was pretty messy. I don’t ever remember (before or since) being as cold and discouraged as I was that December in 1950.

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

My fondest memories come from the five month I was stationed at Camp Sendai, Japan. I like learning about the Japanese culture and seeing things that were new and sometimes strange to me. I hated to leave when the 7th Infantry Division reassembled its scattered units throughout Japan to train in preparation for going to Korea to join other American divisions already fighting.

On March 11, 2011, memories of Sendai came flashing back when I saw that a major tsunami hit the city following a magnitude 9.0 Earthquake off the coast. I understand the center of the city was barely damaged but the areas closest to the coastline received major damage resulting in hundreds dying. It was the largest earthquake recorded in Japan’s history.

The memories I dislike the most are those dealing with the many casualties, “American and Korean” I saw during the Korea War.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

The particular memory that stands out for me was experiencing the bitter, subzero temperature I experienced during our push to the Yalu and at the Chosin Reservoir. Both battles were fought over some of the roughest terrain during some of the harshest winter weather conditions of the Korean War. The worst was the cold front from Siberia that engulfed the Chosin Reservoir with temperature plunging to as low as −35 °F (−37 °C). The cold weather was accompanied by frozen ground, creating frostbite casualties, icy roads, and weapon malfunctions. I had never been so cold in my life.

IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

My buddy Scotty and I were recommended for the Bronze Star Medal but through some unexplained policy in place at the time, they could only give one. Scotty won out and they gave me the one just below, the Army Commendation Medal w/Pendulum. The medal was presented by Maj. Gen. Goodwin Barr, the 7th Infantry Division Commanding General.

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

While in the Korean War with the 7th Infantry Division, I participated in 5 major battles and 2 amphibious landings resulting in having five Battle Stars and two Arrowheads on my Korean Campaign Medal.

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

Col. Joe T. Pound, from Sullivan, Indiana was truly a great leader of men. I met Col. Pond while I was the First Sgt. of the 71st Troop Carrier Squadron from 1955-1968. There were two others commanders before him and another one who followed. All were fine men and great squadron commanders and since each was required to put in their flying time in order to maintain their proficiency they placed a lot of responsibility on me saying I would have to take care of most of the other functions in the Squadron. They were true to their word and backed me 100 percent.

Of the four Col. Joe Pond was the one who most led by example. He was stern but fair. He became my mentor in many ways. When the Squadron was activated and sent to Vietnam in 1968, Col. Pond stayed on active duty and finished out his distinguished career at the Pentagon. He was the finest Commander I ever served under both in the Air Force and the Army. He was not only my commander but a good friend as well. He has since passed away.

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?

When I returned from Korea, I was stationed at Camp Atterbury, Indiana just south of Indianapolis. While I didn’t go to Indianapolis that often, one Friday night I decided to go there just to get off the base, find a place to relax and maybe have a couple of drinks. Apparently I must have had a lot more than just a couple of drinks because all I remembered was waking up in my bunk Saturday morning with a hangover. My roommate asked me if I remember anything earlier that morning. As hard as I tried, I could not remember a thing. He told me he was awakened around 2 am by some commotion in the company street and looked out the window to see what was going on. The racket was two burly MPs holding up a drunk under his arms and carrying him down the street. He said the drunk was so short his feet were not even touching the ground. As they carried the drunk closer he realized it was me, all 5 feet 2 inches of me. That was the only time in my life I couldn’t remember where I had been and what I had done. However, I cannot help smiling to myself on those rare occasions when I think of my ‘lost weekend.’ But I see it more as a cautionary tale since it taught me a valuable lesson that I have lived up to even now: ‘Always drink in moderation.’

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

After being discharged in December 1952 I got married and started having kids (seven of them). I joined the Air Force Reserve in 1955 and was First Sergeant of the 71st Troop Carrier Squadron for 13 years. My unit was activated during the Cuban Missile Crisis but with the Russians backing down at the last minute. We were on active duty for a short time. We were again activated in 1968 for the Vietnam War and during our preparation the 71st TCS was converted to gunships and re-designated as the 71st Air Commando Squadron, (Later designated as 71st Special Operations Squadron). Because of my situation at home (seven kids, one severely handicapped, the rest school age or under)I was discharged for hardship reasons.Watching my squadron go to Vietnam without me was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I have always felt a little guilt about not being able to go with them. The 71st was the only Reserve Unit to serve in Vietnam.

I made my living in the construction business for 50 years building primarily homes and apartment buildings. I have been retired since 2003 along with “The Light of my Life” (my wife of 58 years). I spend a great deal of my time working around my house and yard.

My Kids kept telling to get a computer but I said I lived without a computer for almost 70 years. But I finally gave in and bought one. WOW!!! I wish I had bought one year’s ago. I am on it a good deal of time each day (especially in the winter). I am getting involved in a lot of things going on in the world, Government, and Ancient Roman and Greek history, EBay, etc. It has sure been a way of keeping my mind active.

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

Am a member of the 7th Infantry Division Association. I derive a lot of satisfaction in keeping in touch with some of my comrades in arms. I attended their convention in July, 2004 in Las Vegas.

I belonged to the American Legion for years, but had to drop it because of personal reasons.

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

I learned a sense of responsibility and discipline while in the military that I have carried with me all my life and in the workplace. Having been in combat I have also realized not to sweat the little thing. Finally, I found out I could accomplish almost anything regardless how hard or difficult if I set my mind to it.

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

My simple advice is to take your service seriously and consider it as a career. But the best advice I can pass on to new soldiers was something I heard when I was discharging from the Army in 1952. I was Camp Atterbury and attending an orientation lecture about adjusting to civilian life. At the end of his lecture the crusty major spoke these words: ‘You can leave the military but it will never leave you.’ He then made us a bet that in in the years to come if we were to go into a bar we would more than likely notice some guys sitting around and talking. He said if we got close enough to hear the conversation, chances are they would be talking about their military service. I found out more often than not, he was right.

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

Setting up my profile page was like taking a trip down memory lane. Browsing other profile has the same effect. The feature I cherish the most is that my profile page can be viewed by my six living kids, 15 grand-kids, 15 great-grand-kids and so far two great, great, grand-kid. Here they can get a glimpse at what I did in the military service to include some of the ways in which I felt about things. It’s a good feeling. As a life member who knows how long people will be able to read of my experiences.

I would like to add that these pages are dedicated to all those men and women who for over the last few centuries have answered our country’s call to defend the freedoms and the way of life we all now enjoy. Their efforts and sacrifices have made this great country the model to all freedom loving people in the world. God grant that we will always have enough of those individuals that put these beliefs above all else. We must always extend the hand of friendship to all people everywhere. By freely giving to others our greatest possessions of freedom, justice, and the basic principles of human rights, we will insure that we will always have them ourselves. I pray God will continue to shed his grace on this great country.

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