View the service history of actor
PFC Robert Duvall
View his Service Profile on TogetherWeServed.com
Short Bio: One of Hollywood’s most distinguished, popular, and versatile actors, Robert Duvall possesses a rare gift for totally immersing himself in his roles. Born January 5, 1931 and raised by an admiral, Duvall served in the army for two years after graduating from Principia College.
Photo is of his role in “Apocalypse Now”.
By LtCol Mike Christy-Together We Served Dispatches
On March 31, 2004, a private contractor’s convoy was traveling through Fallujah when it was ambushed by heavily armed insurgents. Safeguarding the convoy were four Blackwater USA employees – Scott Helvenston, Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona, and Michael Teague. The four were killed by machine gunfire and a grenade thrown through a window of their SUVs. Their charred bodies were dragged from the burning wreckage of their vehicles by a mob, mutilated, dragged through the streets, and two were hung on display from a bridge over the Euphrates river as the crowd celebrated below.
The public display of the beaten and burned bodies of the four security contractors triggered worldwide outrage. In response to the gruesome slaughter of the private security guards, a U.S.-led operation to retake Fallujah began on April 4, 2004 – only four days after the macabre incident.
Within a week, a third of the city had been retaken, but due to the considerable destruction of the city and heavy civilian deaths by U.S. airstrikes, the interim Iraqi government pressured the American forces to withdraw from the city on May 1, 2004. The U.S. then turned over military operations to 1,100-man Fallujah Brigade, led by Muhammed Latif, a former Ba’athist general, but when the brigade folded in September, American weapons and equipment fell into the hand of the insurgents, foreign fighters, and criminals. The Marine command vowed to return and establish some semblance of peacefulness in Fallujah.
The U.S. suffered 27 deaths in the campaign; some 200 insurgents were killed and approximate 600 Iraqi civilians; 300 of them believed to be women and children.
By the early fall of 2004, the chief objective of the American campaign was to eliminate burgeoning insurgency in safe havens in advance of Iraq’s first parliamentary elections after the American invasion. The legitimacy of the interim government, and the upcoming elections appeared to hang in the balance. Fallujah, a city of 250,000 less than an hour’s drive from Baghdad, was the mother of all safe havens and was among the cities to be retaken.
This metropolis on the edge of the desert had a well-earned reputation as a home for former Ba’athist party enforcers and other criminal elements. It was a squalid, unattractive place, unfriendly to strangers – a city, writes military historian Bing West, “comprised of two thousand blocks of courtyard walls, tenements, two-story concrete houses, and squalid alleyways. Half-completed houses, garbage heaps, and wrecks of old cars cluttered every neighborhood.”
The Corps couldn’t wait to assault the city and mix it up with a colorful mÃ©lange of al Qaeda, freelance Islamist extremists from across the Middle East, and several Sunni militia groups.
That chance came in November and December 2004 with the Second Battle of Fallujah – code-named Operation Al-Fajr and Operation Phantom Fury – as part of a joint American, Iraqi, and British offensive. It turned out to be the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War and is notable for being the first major engagement of the war fought solely against insurgents rather than the force of the former Ba’athist Iraqi government, which was toppled in 2003.
Unlike the recent struggle to take the city back from ISIS, the outcome of the fall 2004 encounter was never really in doubt. Superior numbers, training, and an immense advantage in firepower ensured that the Fallujah would fall to the Americans. The critical questions were, how much blood and treasure would it take to wrest the city from the enemy? Would the city have to be destroyed to be saved? And most importantly, would victory in Fallujah reverse the momentum of an insurgency steadily growing in both numbers and intensity across much of the country?
Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the top commander of Marines in Iraq, had the luxury of several months to prepare their plan of attack, which proved to be a very successful plan. A preliminary feint from the southwest 24 hours before the main assault would draw off considerable numbers of jihadists from the northern sector of the city, the direction from which the main attack would proceed. A U.S. Army armored brigade had thrown a tight cordon around the entire city, preventing reinforcements or resupplies from reaching the enemy.
Crucially, the Iraqi government and the Americans had managed to persuade/cajole well over 90 percent of the city’s populace to evacuate their homes, so if the American infantry ran into exceedingly tough resistance, they could employ the full range of their lethal supporting arms – Abrams tanks, the steel rain of 105-mm shells from circling C-130 gunships, jet fighter-bombers, and of course, artillery fire – without fear of causing large numbers of civilian casualties.
During this time, it was clear that an assault on the city was imminent and the insurgents prepared a variety of defenses and strong points. The attack on the city was assigned to Lt. Gen. Sattler’s I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MED).
With the city cordoned off, efforts were made to suggest that the Coalition attack would come from the south and southeast as had occurred in April during the Firsts Battle of Fallujah. Instead, I MEF intended to assault the city from the north across its entire breadth. On November 6, Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1), consisting of the 3rd Battalion/1st Marines, 3rd Battalion/5th Marines, and the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion/7th Cavalry, moved into position to assault the western half of Fallujah from the north.
They were joined by Regimental Combat Team 7 (RCT-7), made up of the 1st Battalion/8th Marines, 1st Battalion/3rd Marines and the U.S. Army 2nd Battalion/2nd Infantry which would attack the eastern part of the city. These units were joined by Iraqi as well.
With Fallujah sealed, operations began at 7 pm, November 7, when Task Force Wolfpack moved to take objectives on the west bank of the Euphrates River opposite Fallujah. While Iraqi commandoes captured Fallujah General Hospital, Marines secured the two bridges over the river to cut off any enemy retreat from the city.
A similar blocking mission was undertaken by the British Black Watch Regiment south and east of Fallujah.
During the cold, rainy evening of November 8, the northern rim of the city came under a thunderous and sustained bombardment from artillery and warplanes. Hundreds of 155-mm shells and 500-pound high-explosive bombs shook the earth across a three-mile front, obliterating a train station and a large apartment complex on the outskirts of the city.
An eerie silence followed. Suddenly the two Regimental Combat Teams of Marine infantry and Army armored battalions, about 8,000 men in all, crossed a railroad embankment and began to push south into the city proper. Within seconds, the American advance was met with an avalanche of small arms and mortar fire. Over the earsplitting din of simultaneous fire from thousands of weapons, loudspeakers on Marine Humvees blared Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” and insurgent commanders barked orders in Arabic over their own loudspeakers, ensconced in the minarets of several of the city’s 200 mosques.
Thus, began ten straight days of brutal, close-in fighting to sweep through this labyrinth of a city, north to south, and wrest it from the insurgents’ grasp. The jihadists had spent the better part of half a year constructing bunkers, strong points, and laying out avenues of retreat, and ambush sites. Hundreds of rooms and entire houses had been expertly booby-trapped, and IEDs had been liberally planted in the streets and alleys. Road blocks of Jersey barriers and junk cars designed to funnel the attackers down lethal avenues of approach seemed to be around every other corner. As the insurgents came under fire from the advancing American battalions, they tended to react in one of two ways: they either held their ground and fought to the death, or they rapidly retreated down side streets or into alleys, hoping to lure the Marines and soldiers into prepared kill zones.
Dexter Filkins, a New York Times war correspondent who had covered half a dozen wars and was embedded with a Marine rifle company in Fallujah, described the combat there as “a qualitatively different experience, a leap into a different kind of battle.” He was hardly the only veteran reporter to register that reaction. Filkins himself narrowly escaped death at least once in the fighting and saw several of the men with whom he was embedded die as well.
Later Gen. Sattler recalled the battle “was intense, close, and personal, the likes of which have been experienced by U.S. forces on just a few occasions since the battle of Hue City in the Vietnam War. There were no real front lines, because the insurgents would get behind you constantly.”
On November 9, after 16 straight hours of fighting to take a fortified mosque being used as a command post, men in B Company, 8th Marines, saw a car pull up behind them. Out poured six insurgents wielding rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s. The Marines sprung in action, killing four in a matter of seconds before the insurgents could get off a single round of fire. The two remaining insurgents dashed for a courtyard, where they were rapidly cornered by several Marines. Suddenly, one of the insurgents pulled a cord on his suicide vest, sending himself and his brother fighter to instant martyrdom. Virtually every infantry company in Fallujah could report at least one such encounter.
Forty-eight hours into the fight, the Marines had advanced methodically through about one-third of the city, and seized the government center, having leveled several hundred enemy strongpoints to rubble with air strikes, tank fire, and armored bulldozers that proved critical in keeping the advance moving. The insurgents were so entrenched that by the end of the fight, the Marines had been forced to level some 10,000 of 50,000 residences – most were rebuilt at American expense.
On the fourth day of the battle, November 12, both Regimental Combat Teams crossed Highway 10, the six-lane, east-west artery that divided the northern half of the city from the grimy industrial southern half. Southern Falluja had been far more heavily fortified than the north. Here the Marines came up against dozens of unyielding defensive pockets and had to fend off a series of suicidal counterattacks that left the streets littered with bloated, stinking corpses. “Almost as soon as the insurgents were dead, the dogs started gnawing on their bones,” recalled a Marine officer. Heavy rains prevented the authorities from burying these bodies for several days.
It sometimes became necessary to slip small units of Marines in behind the enemy-held pockets to clear them out. Marine Capt. Elliot Ackerman’s platoon slipped behind insurgent lines in the middle of the night, and took up residence in a four-story building.
Author Bing West, who was embedded with a company of Marines in the battle, gives this vivid account of what followed in ‘No True Glory’: “At first light, on both sides of their building, insurgents were slipping forward in bands of four and six unaware of the Marines until the M16s opened up, hitting three or four before the others ducked into the surrounding buildings.”
The insurgents scattered for cover, then converged on the platoon. Within minutes the fighting fell into a pattern. The platoon held a stout building with open ground on all sides, which made a frontal assault suicidal. Instead, enemy snipers, RPG teams, and machine-gunners were running from floor to floor and across the roofs of the adjoining buildings looking for angles to shoot down.
The Marines tried to pick out a window or a corner of a building where an insurgent was hiding and smother it with fire. The shooters on both sides were like experienced boxers, jabbing and weaving and never leaving themselves open. The Marines punched mouse holes in the walls and threw up barricades in front of their machine guns, shifting from room to room every ten minutes.
A particularly effective method for reducing stubborn enemy positions within apartment buildings or other large structures was for the American artillery to fire a “shake and bake” mission: First, a battery of cannons fired incendiary white phosphorus smoke rounds into a building to flush the insurgents outside, and then, after a short delay, they bracketed the building with high explosive rounds to kill them as they exited.
After ten days of grinding, close combat, the Americans, supported by two elite Iraqi Army battalions, had captured the city.
The heavy fighting continued for the next several days as Coalition forces went house-to-house eliminating insurgent resistance. The fighting was not as intense as it had been during the clearing phase, but it was still dangerous, exhausting work. More than 20,000 structures were searched and cleared – some as many as three times, as insurgent hangers-on re-infiltrated previously cleared dwellings. If the Marines were forced to withdraw from a house due to heavy fire from inside, they would reduce it to rubble by attaching a patch of C-4 explosive to two propane canisters and throwing them through a window.
By the time it was all over on December 23, U.S. forces had uncovered more than 450 weapons caches, three torture chambers, one of which contained a live prisoner who’d had his leg sawed off, and 24 bomb-making factories. According to a log cited in Bing West’s book, one Marine platoon cleared 70 or more buildings a day for more than a week, during which time they engaged in an average of three firefights a day, and killed 60 insurgents.
The outcome for taking Fallujah was 95 Americans killed in action, and 450 seriously wounded. According to a report from Gen. George Casey Jr., commander of all coalition forces in Iraq, of the 8,400 insurgents killed in 2004, 2,175 had fallen in the Second Battle of Fallujah. Unfortunately, hundreds of Islamist insurgents had either left Fallujah before the battle or slipped through the cordon in small groups and went on to join their brothers to spark new uprisings in Mosul, Ramadi, and East Baghdad.
Even though Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi – the mastermind behind hundreds of bombings, kidnappings and video beheadings in Iraq – was not captured during the operation, the battle severely damaged the momentum of the insurgency. Tactics that were developed in the battles of Fallujah were used on larger scales to capture Ramadi and other surrounding areas afterward. After the Second Battle of Fallujah, the insurgents avoided open battles, but the number of attacks on coalition troops began to rise more. Four years after the bitter fighting, the city was turned over to Iraqi Forces and the Iraqi Provincial Authority.
The Second Battle of Fallujah joins the ranks of Tarawa, the Chosin Reservoir, and the Battle for Hue as one of the Marine Corps’ bitter, hard-won triumphs that unfortunately had little strategic impact on the war of which it was a part.
One veteran of the battle, Col. John Toolan, was hardly the only thoughtful officer to question whether the kind of fighting that had gone on in Fallujah was counterproductive in the long run. “What’s the impact on a ten-year-old kid when he goes back and sees his neighborhood destroyed? And what is he going to do when he is 18 years old?”
Hearts and minds are not won by leveling cities, and by late 2004, the American military was finally waking up to the fact that it was in the middle of a protracted insurgency war, and hearts and minds were what it was all about.
Twelve years later, the Marines have left Iraq, the insurgents remain, and the country finds itself deeply mired in civil war. But Fallujah has at last been retaken, and the Islamic State is clearly on the defensive – at least in Iraq. And that’s good news for Iraq, for the United States, and for the American Marines and soldiers who fought the good fight for Fallujah in 2004.
Unfortunately, even today, more than a decade later, much of Iraq and the Middle East is still beset by violence.
By LtCol Mike Christy-Together We Served Dispatches
Alvin Cullum York was one of the most decorated United States Army soldiers of World War I. He received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nests, killing at least 25 enemy soldiers, and capturing 132 during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. He was also a conscientious objector.
York was born on December 13, 1887 to William and Mary York of Pall Mall, Tennessee and raised in a two-room log cabin in a rural backwater in the northern section of Fentress County. He was the third oldest of a family of eleven children. Like many families in the county, the York family eked out a hardscrabble existence of subsistence farming supplemented by hunting. York’s father, also acted as a part time blacksmith to provide some extra income for the family.
In the wake of his father’s death in 1911, York, as the eldest still living in the area, was forced to aid his mother in raising his younger siblings. To support the family, he began working in railroad constructions and as a logger in Harriman, Tennessee.
As York came of age he earned a reputation as a deadly accurate marksman and a hell raiser. Drinking and gambling in borderline bars, York was generally considered a nuisance and someone who “would never amount to anything.” That reputation underwent a serious overhaul when York experienced a religious conversion in 1914. In that year two significant events occurred: his best friend, Everett Delk, was beaten to death in a bar fight in Static, Kentucky; and he attended a revival conducted by H.H. Russell of the Church of Christ in Christian Union. Delk’s senseless death convinced York that he needed to change his ways or suffer a fate similar to his fallen comrade, which prompted him to attend prayer meetings.
A strict fundamentalist sect with a following limited to three states – Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee – the Church of Christ in Christian Union embraced a strict moral code which forbade drinking, dancing, movies, swimming, swearing, popular literature, and moral injunctions against violence and war. Though raised Methodist, York joined the Church of Christ in Christian Union and in the process convinced one of his best friends, Rosier Pile, to join as well. Blessed with a melodious singing voice, York became the song leader and a Sunday school teacher at the local church. Rosier Pile went on to become the church’s pastor. The church also brought York in contact with the girl who would become his wife, Gracie Williams.
By most accounts, York’s conversion was sincere and complete. He quit drinking, gambling, and fighting. When the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, York’s new found faith would be tested. He received his draft notice from his friend, the postmaster and pastor, Rosier Pile, on June 5, 1917, just six months prior to his thirtieth birthday. Because of the Church of Christ in Christian Union’s proscriptions against war, Pile encouraged York to seek conscientious objector status. York wrote on his draft card: “Don’t want to fight.” When his case came up for review it was denied at both the local and the state level because the Church of Christ in Christian Union was not recognized as a legitimate Christian sect.
York was assigned to Company G, 328th Infantry Regiment 82nd Infantry Division known as “The All American Division” and posted to Camp Gordon in Georgia. The 82nd lives today as the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division.
York proved his skill as a crack shot but was seen as an oddity because he did not wish to fight. This led him to have extensive conversations with his company commander, Capt. Edward C.B. Danforth, and his battalion commander, Maj. G. Edward Buxton, relating to the Biblical justification for war. A devout Christian, Buxton cited a variety of Biblical sources to counter his subordinate’s concerns.
Challenging York’s pacifist stance, the two officers were able to convince the reluctant soldier that war could be justified. Following a ten-day leave to visit home, York returned with a firm belief that God meant for him to fight.
Traveling to Boston, York’s unit sailed for Le Havre, France in May 1918 and arrived later that month after a stop in Britain. Reaching the Continent, York’s division spent time along the Somme as well as at Toul, Lagney, and Marbache where it underwent a variety of training to prepare it for combat operations along the Western Front. Promoted to corporal, York took part in the St. Mihiel offensive that September as the 82nd sought to protect the U.S First Army’s right flank. With the successful conclusion of fighting in that sector, the 82nd was shifted north to take part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a battle that cost 28,000 German lives and 26,277 American lives, making it the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).
Entering the fighting on October 7 as it relieved units of the 28th Infantry Division, York’s unit received orders that night to advance the next morning to take Hill 223 and press on to sever the Decauville Railroad north of Chatel-Chehery. Advancing around 6 am the next morning, the Americans succeeded in taking the hill.
Moving forward from the hill, York’s unit was forced to attack through a triangular valley and quickly came under German machine gun fire on several sides from the adjacent hills. This stalled the attack as the Americans began taking heavy casualties. In an effort to eliminate the machine guns, 17 men led by Sgt. Bernard Early, including York, were ordered to work around into the German rear. Taking advantage of the brush and hilly nature of the terrain, these troops succeeded in slipping behind the German lines and advanced up one of the hills opposite the American advance.
In doing so, they overran and captured a German headquarters area and secured a large number of prisoners including a major. While Early’s men began securing the prisoners, the German machine gunners up the slope turned several of their guns and opened fire on the Americans. This killed six and wounded three, including Sgt. Early, leaving York in command of the remaining seven men. With his men behind cover guarding the prisoners, York moved to deal with the machine guns. Beginning in a prone position, he utilized the shooting skills he had honed as a boy.
Picking off the German gunners, York was able to move to a standing position as he evaded enemy fire. During the course of the fight, six German soldiers emerged from their trenches and charged at York with bayonets. Running low on rifle ammunition, he drew his pistol and dropped all six before they reached him. Switching back to his rifle, he returned to sniping at the German machine guns. Believing he had killed around 20 Germans, and not wishing to kill more than necessary, he began calling for them to them to surrender.
This resulted in German First Lieutenant Paul Jurgen Vollmer – a highly decorated officer who had recently assumed command of the 120th Wurttemberg Landwehr Regiment’s 1st Battalion – emptying his pistol trying to kill York while he was contending with the machine guns. Failing to injure York, and seeing his mounting losses, he offered in English to surrender the unit to York, who accepted. Rounding up the prisoners in the immediate area, York and his men had captured around 100 Germans. With Vollmer’s assistance, York began moving the men back towards the American lines. In the process, another thirty Germans were captured. Advancing through artillery fire, York succeeded in delivering 132 prisoners to his battalion headquarters. This done, he and his men rejoined their unit and fought through to the Decauville Railroad. In the course of the fight, 28 Germans were killed and 35 machine guns captured. York’s actions clearing the machine guns reinvigorated the 328th’s assault and the regiment advanced to secure a position on the Decauville Railroad.
Upon returning to his unit, York reported to his Brigade Commander, Gen. Julian R. Lindsey, who remarked “Well York, I hear you have captured the whole damn German army.” York replied “No sir. I got only 132.”
For his achievements, York was promoted to sergeant and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Remaining with his unit for the final weeks of the war, his decoration was upgraded to the Medal of Honor which he received on April 18, 1919. The award was presented to York by American Expeditionary Forces commander. In addition to the Medal of Honor, York received the French Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor, as well as the Italian Croce al Merito di Guerra. When given his French decorations by Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the supreme allied commander commented, “What you did was the greatest thing ever accomplished by any soldier by any of the armies of Europe.” Arriving back in the United States in late May, York was hailed as a hero and received a ticker tape parade in New York City.
That York deserves credit for his heroism is without question. Unfortunately, however, his exploit has been blown out of proportion with some accounts claiming that he silenced thirty-five machine guns and captured 132 prisoners single-handedly. York never claimed that he acted alone, nor was he proud of what he did. Twenty-five Germans lay dead, and by his accounting, York was responsible for at least nine of the deaths. Only two of the seven survivors were acknowledged for their participation in the event; Sgt. Early and Cpl. Cutting were finally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1927.
York’s life caught fire in the American imagination not because of who he was, but what he symbolized: a humble, self-reliant, God-fearing, taciturn patriot who slowly moved to action only when sufficiently provoked and then adamantly refused to capitalize on his fame. George Pattullo, the Saturday Evening Post reporter who broke the story, focused on the religion-patriotic nature of York’s feat. He titled his piece “The Second Elder Gives Battle,” referring to York’s status in his home congregation in Pall Mall, Tennessee.
York turned his back on quick and certain fortune in 1919, and went home to Tennessee to resume peacetime life and married the love of his life, Gracie Williams. Over the next several years, the couple had seven children.
Largely unknown to most Americans was the fact that Alvin York returned to America with a single vision: he wanted to provide a practical educational opportunity for the mountain boys and girls of Tennessee. Understanding that to prosper in the modern world an education was necessary, York sought to bring Fentress County into the twentieth century. Thousands of like-minded veterans returned from France with similar sentiments and as a result college enrollments shot up immediately after the war.
A celebrity, York took part in several speaking tours and eagerly sought to improve educational opportunities for area children. This culminated with the opening of the Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute in 1926. Though he possessed some political ambitions, these largely proved fruitless. Throughout the 1920s York went on speaking tours to endorse his hopes for education and raise money for York Institute. He also became interested in state and national politics. A Democrat in a staunchly Republican county, York’s endorsement carried a degree of clout for pols. York also used his celebrity to improve roads, employment, and education in his home county.
York withdrew from the national spotlight during the 1930s, and focused his waning political aspirations on the state rather than the local level. He considered running for the U.S. Senate against the freshman senator, Albert Gore (father of Vice President Al Gore). In the 1932 election, he changed his party affiliation and supported Herbert Hoover over Franklin D. Roosevelt because FDR promised to repeal Prohibition. Once the New Deal got underway, however, York returned to the Democratic Party and endorsed the president’s public work relief programs, especially the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
In 1939, York was appointed superintendent of the Cumberland Homesteads near Crossville. The community was envisioned by federal planners as a model of cooperative living for the region’s distressed farmers, coal miners, and factory workers. While the cooperative experiment failed and the federal government withdrew from the project in the 1940s, the Homesteads community nevertheless survived.
In 1935 York delivered a sermon entitled, Christian Cure for Strife, which argued that the vigilant Christian should ignore current world events, because Europe stood poised on the brink of another war and Americans should avoid it at all costs. Recalling his career as a soldier, York renounced America’s involvement in World War I. He said, “In order to achieve world peace, Americans must first secure it at home beginning with their own families. The church and the home, therefore, represented the cornerstones of world peace.”
At the same time, the threat of war had rekindled the interest of some filmmakers, most notably Jesse L. Lasky, into reviving the story of York’s exploits during World War I. Lasky, having witnessed the famous New York reception of the hero from his eighth floor office window in May of 1919 had wanted then to tell York’s story.
Because the Church of Christ in Christian Union condemned movies as sinful, Lasky had a tough time convincing York that a film based on his life was justified. York finally agreed when he decided that the money made from the film could be used to create an interdenominational Bible school.
Through York’s association with Lasky and Warner Brothers, he became convinced that Hitler represented the personification of evil in the world and turned belligerent. York’s conversion to interventionism was so complete that he wholeheartedly agreed with Gen. George C. Marshall that the U.S. should institute its first peacetime draft. Governor Prentice Cooper approved York’s endorsement by naming him chief executive of the Fentress County Draft Board, and appointed him to the Tennessee Preparedness Committee to help prepare for wartime.
In 1937, York not only condemned war but also questioned America’s involvement in the First World War. In that same year, York joined the Emergency Peace Campaign which lobbied against any U.S. involvement in the growing tensions in Europe. A pious peaceful man, York had fought his country’s enemy only after great deliberation and had to be convinced that war was sometimes necessary. His personal struggle in World War I found new resonance in an America at odds over the recent European war, for York personified isolationist Christian America wrestling with its conscience over whether or not to engage in the current war abroad.
In 1940-41, York joined the Fight for Freedom Committee which combated the isolationist stance of America First, and York became one of its most vocal members. Up until Pearl Harbor, York battled another legendary American hero, the man who symbolized America First to the general public, Charles Lindbergh. Meantime, the film “Sergeant York” starring Gary Cooper, became one of the top grossing Warner Brothers films of the entire war era and earned Cooper the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1942.
During the war, York attempted to reenlist in the infantry but could not do so due to age and obesity. Instead, through an affiliation with the Signal Corps, York traveled the country on bond tours, recruitment drives, and camp inspections. Ironically, the Bible school that was built with the proceeds from the movie opened in 1942, but the very people the school was intended for had either enlisted in the armed services or moved north to work in defense related industries. The school closed in 1943 never to reopen.
York’s health began to deteriorate after the war and in 1954 he suffered from a stroke that would leave him bedridden for the remainder of his life. In 1951, the Internal Revenue Service accused York of tax evasion regarding profits earned from the movie. Unfortunately, York was practically destitute in 1951. He spent the next ten years wrangling with the IRS, which led Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn and Congressman Joe L. Evins to establish the York Relief Fund to help cancel the debt.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy ordered that the matter be resolved and considered the IRS’s actions in the case to be a national disgrace. The relief fund paid the IRS $100,000 and placed $30,000 in trust to be used in the family’s best interest.
York died on September 2, 1964 and was buried with full military honors in the Pall Mall cemetery. His funeral was attended by Governor Frank G. Clement and Gen. Matthew Ridgway as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s official representative. He was survived by seven children and his widow.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, the old sergeant said he wanted people to remember how he tried to improve basic education in Tennessee because he considered a solid education the true key to success. It saddened him somewhat that only one of his children went on to college, but he was proud of the fact that they all had received high school diplomas from York Institute. Most people, of course, do not remember him as a proponent for public education. York’s memory is forever tied to Gary Cooper’s laconic screen portrayal of the mountain hero and the myth surrounding his military exploits in the Argonne in 1918.
Battle scene from Sergeant York starring Gary Cooper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtk488k1-yM
During the early morning hours of May 15, 1967, personnel of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were ambushed in the Song Tra Cau riverbed near the Duc Pho District in the South Central Coast of Vietnam by an estimated battalion-sized force of the North Vietnamese Army. The NVA attacked with numerous automatic weapons, machine guns, mortars, and recoilless rifles from a fortified complex of deeply embedded tunnels and bunkers that were effectively shielded from counter fire. Upon learning that the 1st Brigade had suffered casualties during an intense firefight with the enemy, then-Maj. Charles S. Kettles volunteered to lead a flight of six UH-1D helicopters to carry reinforcements to the embattled forces and to evacuate wounded personnel. As the flight approached the landing zone, it came under witheringly deadly enemy fire from multiple directions, with reinforcements hit and killed before they could even leave the helicopters.
Jets dropped napalm and bombs on the enemy machine guns on the ridges overlooking the landing zone, with minimal effect. Small arms and automatic weapons fire continued to rake the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters. However, Kettles refused to depart until all reinforcements and supplies were off-loaded and the helicopters were loaded to capacity with wounded personnel. Kettles led the flight out of the battle area and back to the staging area to deliver the casualties and pick up additional reinforcements.
Kettles then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival. Bringing reinforcements, he landed in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft. Upon departing, Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base.
Later that day, the infantry battalion commander requested immediate, emergency extraction of the remaining 40 troops, and four members of Kettles’ unit who were stranded when their helicopter was destroyed by enemy fire. With only one flyable UH-1 helicopter remaining, Kettles volunteered to return to the deadly landing zone for a third time, leading a flight of six evacuation helicopters, five of which were from the 161st Aviation Company. During the extraction, Kettles was informed by the last helicopter that all personnel were aboard, and departed the landing zone accordingly. Army gunships supporting the evacuation also departed the area.
When they were airborne, Kettles learned eight men had been unable to reach the evacuation helicopters due to the intense enemy fire and had been left on the ground.
With one of the rescued Soldiers on board in addition to his crew of four, Kettles immediately turned his unarmed Huey around and headed back to the landing zone to rescue the remaining troops. Without gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft, which was immediately damaged by a mortar round that damaged the tail boom, a main rotor blade, shattered both front windshields and the chin bubble and was further raked by small arms and machine gun fire.
Coming in low over the treetops, he skillfully guided his helicopter onto the ground where the eight Soldiers dove into the helicopter, but there was another problem: it was now about three men, or 600 pounds, too heavy. “I didn’t know if we were going to get out of there,” Kettles remembered, “but I was just going to give it my best try.”
In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, Kettles repeatedly adjusted the revolutions per minute until the heavily damaged aircraft lurched upward, stayed close to the tree tops and limped home to Duc Pho. Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of Soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield.
For his heroic efforts, Kettles was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the nation’s second highest medal for gallantry.
Charles S. Kettles was born in Ypsilanti, Mich., Jan. 9, 1930. The son of a World War I Royal Air Force (Canadian) and World War II Air Transport Command (U.S. Army Air Corps) pilot, Kettles had aviation in his blood. While attending the Edison Institute High School in Dearborn, Michigan, Kettles honed his love of flying on the Ford Motor Company Flight Department simulator.
Following high school graduation, Kettles enrolled in Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University), where he studied engineering. Two years later, Kettles was drafted into the Army at age 21. Upon completion of basic training he attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and earned his commission as an armor officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, Feb. 28, 1953. Kettles graduated from the Army Aviation School in 1953, before serving active duty tours in Korea, Japan and Thailand.
Kettles returned in 1956 and established a Ford Dealership in Dewitt, Mich., with his brother, and continued his service with the Army Reserve as a member of the 4th Battalion, 20th Field Artillery.
He answered the call to serve again in 1963, when the United States was engaged in the Vietnam War and needed pilots. Fixed-wing-qualified, Kettles volunteered for Active Duty and attended Helicopter Transition Training at Fort Wolters, Texas in 1964. During a tour in France the following year, Kettles was cross-trained to fly the famed UH-1D “Huey.”
Kettles reported to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1966 to join a new helicopter unit. He was assigned as a flight commander with the 176th Assault Helicopter Company, 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, and deployed to Vietnam from February through November 1967. His second tour of duty in Vietnam lasted from October 1969 through October 1970.
In 1970, Kettles went to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where he served as an aviation team chief and readiness coordinator supporting the Army Reserve. He remained in San Antonio until his retirement from the Army in 1978.
Kettles completed his bachelor’s degree at Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas, and earned his master’s degree at Eastern Michigan University, College of Technology, in commercial construction. He went on to develop the Aviation Management Program at the College of Technology and taught both disciplines. He later worked for Chrysler Pentastar Aviation until his retirement in 1993. Kettles currently resides in Ypsilanti, Mich., with his wife Ann.
Many who were present for or had heard of Kettles remarkable act of heroism wondered why he never received the Medal of Honor instead of the Distinguished Service Cross. Numerous attempts to get his DSC upgraded to a Medal of Honor were made, but all such efforts failed. Eventually, the tenuous efforts paid off, and his DSC was upgraded to a Medal of Honor.
On Monday, July 18, 2016, President Barack Obama awarded retired Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles the Medal of Honor during a White House Ceremony.
“You couldn’t make this up. It’s like a bad Rambo movie,” Obama said, describing the harrowing exploits of then-Major Kettles on that fateful day, May 15, 1967, in “Chump Valley,” South Vietnam.
As commander of the 176th Aviation Company, Kettles’ mission was to fly in reinforcements and evacuate wounded Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, who were outgunned and outnumbered by the North Vietnamese in a rural riverbed near Duc Pho. “They needed support fast,” the President said.
Towering above Chump Valley was a 1,500-foot-high hill where the enemy was entrenched in an extensive series of tunnels and bunkers. It was “the ideal spot for an ambush,” Obama said.
Despite the dangers that they all were aware of, Kettles and his fellow company of Soldiers took off in their Hueys. As they approached the landing zone, they met a “solid wall of enemy tracers coming right at them,” Obama said. “None of them had ever seen fire that intense. Soldiers in the helos were hit and killed before they could even leap off.”
Despite the withering fire, Kettles landed his helicopter and kept it there exposed so the wounded could board.
“Once more, machine-gun bullets and mortar rounds came screaming after them. Rounds pierced the arm and leg of Chuck’s door gunner, Roland Scheck,” Obama said. His Huey was hit. Fuel was pouring out as he flew away. His helicopter was so badly damaged that he couldn’t make it to the field hospital so Kettles found another helicopter and took them to safety, the President said.
By then it was near evening. Back in the riverbed, 44 American Soldiers were still pinned down. “The air was thick with gunpowder, the smell of burning metal,” the President described. “Then they heard a faint sound. As the sun started to set, they saw something rise over the horizon – six American helicopters, one of them said, “as beautiful as could be.'”
For a third time, Chuck and his unit “headed into that hell on earth,” Obama said. “Death or injury was all but certain,” a fellow pilot had said, “and a lesser person would not return,” the President related.
Once again, the enemy unloaded everything they had on Kettles as he landed: small arms, automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, Obama said. Soldiers ran to the helicopters as they had before. When Kettles was told all were accounted for, he took off, the President said.
On the return flight, Kettles received a radio call informing him that eight men had not made it aboard. “They’d been providing cover for the others,” the President said. They “could only watch as the helicopters floated away. “We all figured we were done for,'” one later said. Kettles came to the same conclusion, the commander in chief said, conveying his words: “If we’d left them for 10 minutes, they’d become POWs or dead.”
Kettles couldn’t shake from his mind the idea of leaving the eight behind, so “he broke off from formation, took a steep, sharp descending turn back toward the valley, this time with no aerial or artillery support, a lone helicopter heading back in,” Obama said.
“Chuck’s Huey was the only target for the enemy to attack. And they did,” he continued. “Tracers lit up the sky once more. Chuck came in so hot his chopper bounced for several hundred feet before coming to a stop,” the President said.
As soon as he landed, a mortar round shattered his windshield. Another hit the main rotor blade. Shrapnel tore through the cockpit and Kettles’ chair. Yet, Obama said, those eight Soldiers sprinted to the Huey through the firestorm.
The President described what happened next: “Chuck’s helo, now badly damaged, was carrying 13 souls and was 600 pounds over the weight limit. He said “it felt like flying a two-and-a-half-ton truck.” He couldn’t hover long enough to take off, but the cool customer that he is, he saw his shattered windshield and thought, ‘that’s pretty good air conditioning.’
“The cabin filled with black smoke as Chuck hopped and skipped the helo across the ground to pick up enough speed to take off, ‘like a jackrabbit bouncing across the riverbed,'” the President said, relating Kettle’s analogy.
The instant he got airborne, another mortar ripped into the tail and the Huey fishtailed violently. A Soldier was tossed from the helicopter, but managed to grab a skid, hanging on as Kettles flew them to safety,” Obama said.
“The Army’s Warrior Ethos is based on a simple principle: A Soldier never leaves his comrades behind,” Obama said. “Chuck Kettles honored that creed. Not with a single act of heroism, but over and over and over and over. And, because of that heroism, 44 American Soldiers made it out that day.”
The most gratifying part of this whole story “is that Dewey’s name and Roland’s name and the names of 42 other Americans he saved are not etched in the solemn granite wall not far from here that memorializes the fallen in the Vietnam War,” the President remarked.
“A Soldier who was there said, ‘That day, Major Kettles became our John Wayne,'” Mr. Obama said. “With all due respect to John Wayne, he couldn’t do what Chuck Kettles did.”
“To the dozens of American Soldiers that he saved in Vietnam half a century ago, Chuck is the reason they lived and came home and had children and grandchildren. Entire family trees, made possible by the actions of this one man,” the President concluded.
Kettles, 86, was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Anne. They will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in March. With them were eight of their 10 children and three grandchildren.
When the ceremony concluded, America’s newest national hero said, “We got the 44 out. None of those names appear on the wall in Washington. There’s nothing more important than that.”
Also attending were some of the Soldiers Kettles served with that day, including Scheck, Dewey Smith, who was among the last eight Soldiers rescued that day, and a number of other Soldiers who fought in that battle. Past Medal of Honor recipients attended as well.
Georgia Walk to School Day, with members of D Company,
369th Battalion providing the hospitality.
SP 4 Daniel Long
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/13602
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
Like hundreds of thousands of young men in America during the Vietnam War, I was drafted. It really came as no surprise. Beginning in the 9th grade I heard of young men right out of high school being drafted. I had no plans for college so I figured the same thing was going to happen to me and my friends as well. We also knew the war was not going to end anytime soon.
Every night, the television news had reporters broadcasting on the war from battlefields in the mountains near the DMZ to the streets of Saigon to the water soaked Mekong Delta. The news was always the same: the war is unwinnable, casualties are rising, the war is turning into a quagmire with no end in site. Daily newspapers and magazines were reporting the same thing but in much greater detail.
As soon as my friends and I graduated from high school, we began receiving draft letters. One by one, my friends were ordered to active duty. My draft letter arrived just days after my 19th birthday.
Throughout basic and advanced training, we were constantly reminded we would all go to Vietnam. But the harsh reality of it finally hit me sitting on the commercial jetliner taking me to California where I would later take a military flight to Vietnam. The plane was in a climb and as I looked out the window, the ground below grew further and further away. I knew my family were probably still looking at the plane disappearing into the heavy cloud cover. To reconnect in some kind of way, I took out a photo taken of the family before I left home in Tampa.
Sitting on the couch is me in uniform, my older brother, who was in the Air Force, my younger brother and sister and my mother. While I had seen the photo a few times, I studied it a little closer and saw two things I hadn’t really noticed. My mother had the look of dread and foreboding. I had had the look of uncertainty. Continuing to look into her eyes and mine, I think for the first time I realized that if I survived the war, I was about to experience things that would influence the rest of my life in a very profound way.
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
Following two days at the induction center in Jacksonville, Florida, I and other inductees were loaded on a bus and taken to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina for basic training. The bus entered the main gate, drove along a remote road to rows and rows of old World War II wooden barracks where our “welcoming” committee of Drill Instructors were waiting. As soon as the bus stopped, the senior DI jumped on the bus and began screaming for us to hurry off the bus. We moved off like frightened animals. The DI kept yelling, “hurry, hurry” while calling us all kinds of contemptible names and barking out orders: “Move, move” then “don’t move.” If any of us called him sir, he would verbally attack us saying, “Don’t call me sir. I work for a living.” I thought I had arrived in hell–and I wasn’t too far off.
Basic training was not easy. It was a totally foreign, sometime bizarre, world where we were pushed physically and mentally from individuals into members of a close-net team. After weeks of hard training we were proud of our accomplishment of having been molded from “green” civilians to novice soldiers. Then came graduation day, but I didn’t get to go. Someone up the line decided it would be okay for those of us who would not have family attending the ceremony to perform KP (kitchen police). I was more than a little disappointed. I so wanted to proudly stand on the parade field with my platoon in a graduation ceremony we had worked so hard to reach and for which we had thought of nothing else for weeks.
My next stop was AIT (Advance Individual Training) at Ft. Knox, Kentucky where I learned how to drive and maintain APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers). While we were still treated like recruits, it was not nearly as dehumanizing as basic training. I also enjoyed learning about mechanized infantry. I did get homesick, though. I’d never been away from home that long in my entire life.
After we passed our final graduation test, we were told all of us were being assigned to Germany. This was a relief since we figured we’d be going to Vietnam. A week before graduation, we were told an additional week had been added to our training schedule. We were going to take a course on how to fight in Vietnam. It seems our orders for Germany had been changed. The Army had done it again. I couldn’t go to my basic training graduation and now, my wonderful, peaceful assignment to Germany was changed to the war in Vietnam.
That night we all got drunk at a bar off post. I got into a hell of a fist fight with another intoxicated soldier. I got my ass whipped but the guy I fought was twice my size so I didn’t feel too bad.
The next morning at muster, the DI walked up and down the formation. When he got to me he hesitated when he saw one of my eyes closed, black and blue marks on my face and lips swollen like an overdose of Botox. He never said a word. He just gave me a knowing smile and moved on.
When I got to Vietnam, the heat and humidity didn’t bother me. I felt like I was home in Florida, but I was taken aback by the smells. There was the stench of aviation fuel, pungent food odors, and the reeking scent of open latrines and burning feces.
I was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). I would was now a ‘grunt.’ All I learned about tracked vehicles went out the window.
Charlie Company was getting ready to go to the field when I arrived at LZ Buttons near Song Be. My duffle bag and clothes were stored and I was issued jungle fatigues, jungle boots,socks and a backpack in which I was told to quickly throw in everything. I was then given a poncho, mosquito net, ‘bug’ juice, an M-16, four hand-grenades and ammo and taken to the 3rd Platoon, 3rd Squad. A couple of hours later we were on helicopters and combat assaulted (CA) into a landing zone in the middle of the jungle.
I made it through my one year tour in Vietnam managing to get wounded once but otherwise in pretty good shape physically, but I knew I had changed a great deal. War does that to people.
In the division rear where I was preparing to take a “freedom bird” flight back to the United States, I was approached by an NCO and asked if I’d like to reenlist for an extra year and take a promotion to sergeant. It was the easiest no I’ve ever said. I also knew if I stayed in Vietnam any longer, I wouldn’t survive.
My final duty station was at Ft. Benning, Georgia where I was assigned to a training unit. After a year as a ‘grunt’ in a combat zone, I was finally assigned to drive an APC and nearly every day, I drove it downrange demonstrating to infantry students the lethality of a huge flame thrower mounted on a track vehicle.
MSgt Jackson (Jack) Otis
US Air Force
WHAT PERSUADED YOU TO JOIN THE AIR FORCE?
I first enlisted in the Army National Guard while in high school and attended summer camp at Fort Hood. I graduated from New Diana High School, Diana, Texas in May 1957. About the end of June my cousin talked me into joining the Air Force with him because we did not want to be drafted into the Army. We enlisted and went through two phases of basic training at Lackland together. We were both given the same career field as Postal Clerks but he was assigned to Sidi Slimane, Morocco and I was assigned to the Aerial Mail Terminal in Paris, France. He got out of the Air Force after four years but after getting married, extending my assignment, and having our first son in Paris I could see no good reason to return to civilian life.
BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH IN THE SERVICE?
Following that Paris tour we went to Chennault AFB, LA until 1962 and returned to the same job in Paris until France dropped out of NATO and asked us to leave in 1965. I then applied for and became a BMT Instructor at Lackland until going to Vietnam as a postal clerk in 1969. I returned to the AF Armament Lab at Eglin in 1970 as an Administrator. I was then offered an assignment back to Southeast Asia but had no idea of what or where I would be assigned until arriving there. I was an Airborne Interpreter (French of course) flying with the Forward Air Controllers from Vietnam in what was then a Top Secret air war over Cambodia. After that I returned to Langley AFB as a photo type-setter. We again returned to Paris in 1972, I was an Administrator with the MAAG. They closed the Paris office in 1975 and we went to the same job at Rabat, Morocco. I was eventually re-trained into the Security Police field and retired at Myrtle Beach AFB, SC in 1980. We lived in French speaking countries for 14 years with only 9 of my service years being spent in the US. I served in a total of 5 different career fields and I can honestly say that I never had a bad assignment.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS?
My first tour in Vietnam was with the Postal and Courier Service and although we were in harms way I did not actually participate in combat. When I was asked to volunteer for the second tour I was told that I would be on flying status, but that was all they would tell me, everything else was classified – they didn’t even tell me what type of aircraft, where, how or why! I was one of very few enlisted personnel qualified for this duty since I was fluent in French, I had a TS clearance, I was able to pass a flight physical and I “volunteered” for the assignment. They of course had me hooked when they said the words “flying status.” Following physiological training, Basic, Special and Jungle Survival Schools and abbreviated parachute training, I arrived at a processing unit in Nam and after a few days was sent to join the Rustic FACs at Bien Hoa, flying in the OV-10 Bronco back seat. Shortly after earning my wings and first Air Medal, I was sent to join the Sundog FACs at TSN in the O-2A Skymaster. All 116 of my combat missions were flown over Cambodia. Not only were the other back/right-seaters my true friends but every maintenance, Intel, pilot, commander, etc, were our true friends and on a first name basis – they made us feel as an equal member of the team. Three of my pilots went on to become General officers.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
On a late night mission with the Sundog FAC’s we were about to return to Tan Son Nhut and were over the Chup Rubber Plantation in central Cambodia. We had put in several air strikes for the Cambodain Army and had one log flare remaining. When you drop a log flare, it ignites upon hitting the surface and burns for about 30 minutes and we use it to direct fighters to targets. The Chup was a notorious Khmer Rouge/Viet Cong hangout. We decided to give them a half hour of anxiety so we dropped it and watched as it ignited. Suddenly it was as if the world exploded and we immediately realized we were in the middle of an Arc Light. B-52s were dropping full loads of bombs from far above us and had no idea we were directly in the path. The pilot and I both started reciting the Lord’s Prayer and never deviated course. We could both see bombs passing by until it was over. Back at TSN, we both went to Blue Chip/7thAF and received “apologies” that it had been left out of the pre-flight briefing. It taught me the true meaning of Winston Churchill’s quote “There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at without result.”
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU…AND WHY?
Colonel Walter M. Pickard who was my OIC at the Embassy (MAAG) in Paris, we were the only USAF personnel assigned there. On duty we were very military but after work, along with our wives, we would often dine and have some drinks together. We wore civilian clothing on duty and I must admit that sometimes I would forget to abide by AFR 35-10. One time he asked me to call his barber and make us an appointment, I got the hint. He stopped here at Myrtle Beach a few years ago and so we were able to get together again before he passed away. He was truly a compassionate professional and a true friend.
DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULARLY FUNNY STORY FROM YOUR SERVICE YEARS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
In the winter of 1975, while stationed at the MAAG in Paris, we took a vacation to a resort in Germany. There were four of us, my wife Chris, our two sons, Alan and Patrick and myself. On the first morning of the trip, many of the guests were going to Winklemoose mountain to ski. We decided to join them, although none of us had any skiing experience. We rented skis, boots, gloves, etc and got on the bus. Upon arrival at the slopes, we followed the others up the steps about 50 yards and when we looked down we found that we were on the advanced slopes and the first stop was hundreds of yards below. Rather than lose face by going down the steps, Chris sat down on her skis and slid down to a great fall. My sons and I then did the same. We then proceeded to the novice slope and finally had a great time. While we were on the advance slopes, however, Chris fell off the T-Bar lift, Alan skied over a house, Patrick was fortunate and never fell again but I left most of my gear on the mountainside. The last day there I didn’t even bother, I just rubbed snow on my face and then stood at the bar looking fast – it was a super vacation but a very funny experience.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?
After retiring as Security Police Superintendent at Myrtle Beach AFB I went with the MB Police Department for a while but decided that was not the career I wanted to pursue. I bounced around a bit and then landed a position as Provider Technician with PGBA, a Tricare claims processing contractor. I certified providers in a few states and worked with a lot of great people doing a job I thoroughly enjoyed, not many people can say the same. Following my second retirement in 2004 we traveled quite a bit throughout Europe and I finally got my dream job working at a golf course as bag drop/starter and ranger one day a week. One of the perks of this job is that I get free golf and play as a member of the Men’s Association. Right now I’m also working as an Enumerator for the 2010 Census.
ARE YOU A MEMBER OF ANY MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS? IF SO, WHICH DO YOU BELONG TO AND WHICH ONE ARE YOU MOST ACTIVE WITH? WHY DO YOU PREFER THE ONE?
I’m currently a member of the Rustic Forward Air Controllers Association and the American Legion. I like to stay connected to old buddies as much as possible.
HOW HAS SERVING THE ARMED FORCES INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
I have learned that I could not simply sit back and hope that ‘opportunity’ would drop in for a visit. I believe we have to create our own luck and fortune but never at the expense of another person. I had a great Air Force career that allowed my family and I to travel more than most. I also believe that had it not been for my faith in God I would have died over the Chup Plantation in Southeast Asia.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE WHO ARE CURRENTLY STILL SERVING IN THE MILITARY?
I would remind those who are still serving that they belong to the best nation on earth. As a GI, you are Government Issue and an Ambassador for the US no matter where you are. Be Proud of who and what you are and take the opportunity to learn something every day.
HOW HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU TO MAINTAIN A BOND WITH THE SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
I had kept in touch with several friends in all the service branches over the years as best I could but I could not believe how many of my former comrades were members of TogetherWeServed.Com I actually found four airmen that I went through Basic Training with in 1957 and one of them recently visited and we played golf together. One of my pilots in Nam, I found lives 4 miles from me and we also played golf recently. I have also met many new friends as well and I’m proud to administer the TWS Memorial pages for all three pilots lost in Nam with the Sundog FACs, that is very special to me.
Captain George Kennedy
Short Bio: He made his acting debut two years before in a touring production of “Bringing Up Father;” he would continue to perform as a radio actor until the outbreak of World War II. The service would occupy the next 16 years of his life, during which he was instrumental in establishing the Army Information Office, which provided technical service to the film and television industries, and spun records as a disk jockey on Armed Forces Radio.
(Veterans – view more military profiles of famous people on www.togetherweserved.com)