Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘veterans stories’

15
Mar

CAPT James Garrett U.S. Navy (Ret) (1966-2008)

Read the service reflections of

profileCAPT James Garrett

U.S. Navy (Ret)

(1966-2008)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/390043

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

I was graduating from Westminster High School in a few months (1966) and knowing that I would not be able to afford college, I thought enlisting in the military would be a good thing, especially if it was possible to get college paid for afterwards. Being landlocked and with Lowery Air Force Base across town, the recruiting ads I thought the Air Force might be a good place to go. The Air Force recruiter came to my house to talk with me but to my amazement the recruiter told me there was a waiting list, imagine that with the Vietnam War going on.

I couldn’t wait so I talked with the recruiter for the Navy and a month or so later I enlisted as a Seaman Apprentice in the Naval Reserve until after graduation from high school. I enlisted at the age of 17 in what was called at the time a minority enlistment since I would not turn 18 until after I entered Boot Camp in San Diego.

After watching Victory at Sea and Silent Service episodes on TV, I thought that I would be a sailor in submarines. After Boot Camp, the Navy had the same but different idea, I was assigned to a Submarine Rescue Ship (ASR) in SubPac (Pearl Harbor).

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 went to Boot Camp in San Diego in August 1966 and tested well for the ratings of Sonarman or Radioman. Upon completion of Boot Camp I was assigned to the USS Greenlet ASR-10 in Pearl Harbor, HI. Later I was told that I could be accepted for Sonar School on the STAR program which would have sent me to Class “A” School, promotion to Petty Officer Third Class with a requirement to reenlist up to six years. I was already focusing on the rate requirements for Signalman so I declined the “A” School for Sonarman.

With my mother being really ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease I got out of the Navy and went home. When her illness became terminal I tried different things, went to college and subsequently applied for and was accepted by the Denver Police Department. A couple of my police buddies were in the Army National Guard and wanted me to join as well, particularly with the Military Police. I checked it out, was even offered an opportunity as a Warrant Officer, but declined and decided to re-affiliate with the Navy. A sharp recruiter obtained my Second Class Crow even with time served and I signed on the dotted line and stayed for the next 30 plus years.

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.

While on-board the USS Greenlet ASR-10, we participated in operations off the coast and in some coastal ports in Vietnam especially assisting the Air Force in salvaging equipment from aircraft that went down off the coast of Cam Ranh Bay. (There’s that Air Force connection again)

In 1968, a few months after the Pueblo capture, we met with the USS Banner, Pueblo’s sister ship, refueled her, provided stores to assist in her return to Japan. ASR’s normally don’t underway replenish other ships as a rule. I was the main helmsman for submarine rescue ops (four point moor) and this underway replenishment operation.

While aboard the USS Dale DLG-19 and part of the USS Enterprise task group we conducted SAR OPS as she conducted flight ops and sorties into Vietnam. Later we were called to assist with a task group to search for the wreckage of the EC-121 aircraft that was shot down by the North Koreans in April 1969. Those were tense, edge of your seat times. We were already heavily involved in the Vietnam War, now with a second incident with the North Koreans (the first being the capture of the USS Pueblo a year earlier) was it going to escalate with the North Koreans? The Soviet Navy was ever present which was an experience in itself.

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

I enjoyed duty on both the USS Greenlet and USS Dale.The Greenlet was a smaller ship therefore I got to know all of the crew. The Dale was much larger but allowed me to practice my Signalman rate in a more operational way. The Greenlet even though a Navy ship was part of SubPac so we got to enjoy some of the perks like great chow, we ate off of plates instead of steam trays and didn’t have to be as spit and polish. The CO liked to take cruises that took us to Lahaina, Maui with skeet shooting and fishing on the way and great liberty. We had to play target and torpedo retriever for the subs while there, but that was fun and hard work as well.

The Dale involved operations with task groups but the liberty ports of Chinhae (South Korea), Nagasaki, Sasebo, Yokosuka, Japan, Keelung, Taiwan, Subic Bay, and Auckland New Zealand, were the best. You couldn’t script a busier schedule of “steaming”, port calls, crisis events, and an ASW exercise of four countries (US, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand) participated. I think the sailors of navy of the host country, New Zealand, weren’t very thrilled.

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

Recovery operations after the EC121 was shot down by the North Koreans in Jan 1969 and subsequent interactions with the Soviet Navy. This was the cold war, with the Soviets trailing us around, the unpredictable North Koreans (the capture of the USS Pueblo was only a year before) and the Vietnam War in full swing. It was cold and scary at times. We looked for survivors but only found debris and a couple of bodies. Reminds you of your mortality, especially so far from home.

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

Promotions as a Signalman to First Class, then with great mentoring from my Reserve Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, CAPT Donald Monroe and CDR Lynn Albi respectively, I was given the opportunity to test and interview for a Direct Commission as an Ensign in the Intelligence Program. I was commissioned as an Ensign in 1984 and through the years and the ranks I enjoyed numerous assignments and was given increasing levels of responsibility which culminated in being selected for Commanding Officer a Naval Reserve unit and final promotion to Captain. From E2 to O6 I enjoyed a career that was fulfilling and rewarding. I gave 100 percent to the Navy and the Navy reciprocated with great mentors and service members to work with and work for.

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 received the typical commendation awards, marksmen badges and ribbon devices but the two most meaningful accomplishments were my crows and rating as a signalman (E4-E6) and later my selection and promotion to Ensign with subsequent leadership positions and final promotion to Captain. I enjoyed working with outstanding shipmates, enlisted and officer. I achieved a very successful career from E2 to O6 because of outstanding shipmates and mentors.

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

I worked for some great people Officer and Enlisted who mentored me to work hard, volunteer for hard jobs and inspired me to do great things for the Navy and myself, even when things may not have going so well. When I was a signalman striker, SM1 Charlie Yates was a great mentor in helping me to achieve rate and move away from deck division which was not my favorite assignment. I still do not like painting!

I had great Senior Officers who mentored me to achieve the memorable milestones in my career. CDR Donald Monroe and CDR Lynn Albi were instrumental in my applying for a commission. CDR Monroe worked tirelessly to find out what the barriers were in the selection process. I can’t thank him enough.

As I progressed through the ranks in my Navy Reserve career, I experienced great counsel when personal problems could have derailed me as I contemplated retiring many times. They provided wisdom and kept me going through thick and thin. As a result of their commitment and leadership when I needed it most, I was able to return that same advice to junior officers as a Commanding Officer and a Senior Officer. It is a great feeling of satisfaction when the one you mentor does well and is successful.

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?
Still get a chuckle about this. I was a Signalman aboard the USS Dale DLG-19 and we made a port call in Taiwan. One afternoon the signal gang went on liberty to one of the bars in town. A group of bar hostesses came to our table and sat with us but they also began conversing with each other in Chinese and laughing among themselves. That has occurred to many of us, right? After a period of time this became annoying to us as a group and we began to converse among ourselves too, only using semaphore with our hands (no flags)!! No vocal conversation at all. We did this for awhile, totally ignoring the girls in the process, and by the way we were laughing our butts off as well.

The bar hostesses eventually caught on to our game and their conversations changed to English. It was fun, it was humorous, and great rate practice.

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 was hired by the Denver Police Department as a Law Enforcement career I had been thinking about while on active duty. I stayed in the Navy Reserve during my entire career and I always had to be careful which uniform or parts of uniforms I put on when reporting to police roll call at 2am. Cops like military members like to have fun at your expense especially when it is self-inflicted. I retired from the DPD after 32 years of service.

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

Naval Institute, American Legion, and MOAA. I am also a volunteer with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). We work with employers and Reserve Component members in all aspects of educating and mentoring them about employment rights as well supporting employment initiatives. Being a Reserve member for many years it is gratifying to do whatever can be done to help our Guard and Reserve members in whatever capacity is necessary.

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

I enjoyed my service with the Navy, the Navy was good to me as well. The Navy taught me Duty, Honor, and Commitment, traits the served me well with my Police Service. As I tell a lot of young people, the military will instill in them a strong work ethic and pride in who they are. By listening and hopefully emulating those who were in leadership positions both formal and informal, I gained confidence in my abilities and always sought after worthwhile assignments that tested me and looked forward to gaining positions of responsibility. This led to experiences that were stressful at times, but for the most part were fun and rewarding.

My experience and discipline gained from the military assisted me in all aspects of my civilian career in the Denver Police Department. Being a police officer and serving in Navy Reserve for just as many years was very special. I served my community and my country, it doesn’t get any better than that.

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

Duty, honor and commitment. Be the best you can be and always try to achieve your goals. I learned that if you do the best you can, volunteer for the hard jobs and commit 100%, promotions, recognition and job satisfaction will come two-fold. The Navy was good to me inthat I got to do and see things that I would have not been able to do without those three ethical standards. Most of all, don’t think of naval service as a chore, but as an adventure, a life experience others will never get to have in their lifetime. I went from Seaman Apprentice to Captain in my career, something the recruiter did not tell me could be possible, nor did I ever think while chipping paint in deck division on my first ship that I would accomplish all that I have. I learned to watch and listen to those around me, especially the great First Class and Chiefs that I worked for and later as a Commissioned Officer those Chiefs who made me look good and provided sage advice.

As a young Junior Officer I was seeking an assignment in a particular unit, I told the CO I would take whatever assignment he had. Without pause he selected me because as he said, I volunteered for a hard job, something not many were willing to do. You have to put yourself out there, accept the responsibility in order to gain more responsibility. During my retirement from the Navy and answering questions, I had young enlisted Sailors come up and look at my brag book and memorabilia and heard them remark about my career path and promotions. They asked if E2 to O6 was possible for them and I said, yes it is, work hard for it!

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

I have been able to touch base with some of my shipmates that I have not communicated with in years. This has been a great website that is secure that I can place items, photos and remembrances of my military career. More importantly, it is fun and also humbling to see what others have done in the service of their country. Thanks to all who have served and continue to serve.

21
Oct

The Importance of Preserving Military Memories

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, every day, more than 300 Vietnam veterans, more than 450 Korean War veterans, and more than 850 WWII veterans pass away due to old age, complications from exposure to Agent Orange, and other lasting consequences of war.

If we don’t capture their stories now, most of these veteran’s military service will go unrecorded, resulting in a tragic loss of our military history and the records of the sacrifices made by so many. Fortunately some members are doing something about it.

In the past couple of years a number of members have written about relatives who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. One was made into a Navy VOICES; the other an Army VOICES. Both were written by their sons who are themselves TWS members.

Army member Stephen Curlee wrote about his father, Navy officer LtJG Jack Curlee, who served aboard an LST during the invasion of Okinawa. Another was written by Air Force member Brad Crooks whose father Army 1st Sgt. Leonidas M Crooks served during many of the most important battles in Europe during World War II. Both recalled stories told them by their dads through the years and both did detailed interviews over the past few years knowing there wasn’t much time left.

http://navy.togetherweserved.com/usn/voices/2013/61/Curlee_voices.html

http://army.togetherweserved.com/army/voices/2014/83/Crooks_voices.html

Following the posting of Brad Crook detailed tribute to his father’s WW II service, Army TWS member, Tom Thompson send us an email on what it meant for him and wrote about his late Uncle Michael Strazanac who served in the Army during WW II.

Here is the insightful piece written by Tom Thompson to Brad Crooks

Thank you for sharing your dad’s experiences in your heartfelt tribute to his wartime memory. A nation of younger people who have never served, may not appreciate the sacrifices of our brave, patriotic “citizen soldiers” who answered our nation’s call of duty in the darkest days of World War II.

One only has to read what happened to nations that the Nazi’s and Imperial Japanese conquered to appreciate what could, would have happened here. Your dad, along with millions of others, quite literally saved the world for us. When they came home, many did not speak of what they saw or what they did, especially out here in the stolid, rural Midwest. You are privileged to have had him share his experiences with you. I too feel fortunate to have had Uncle Michael Strazanac share with me some of his war history before passing on.

Uncle Mike served as a sergeant under General George S. Patton from France in June 1944 to May 1945 when Nazi Germany surrendered and it was only a few years before he died in 2001 that he shared a few memories with me, also an Army veteran (1970-79).

I had assumed he was a ‘rah, rah parody’ of what most Vietnam-era vets assumed WW II vets to be. He was anything but and 50 plus years later he still remembered events vividly. He was also bitter about what he considered senseless death and what he felt were screw-ups “the brass made” trying to look good.

As I read what you wrote about your father coupled with my own experience listening to Uncle Mike, I realize they, and millions of combat veterans like them, shared a common untreated wound. I heard it best described in a color WW II documentary on PBS of troops coming home: elated to make it home they nevertheless brought with them “a well of bottomless sorrow” along with their victory over the Axis. The majority of returnees suffered this sorrow in silence.

Not surprising when one considers that the Army divisions Uncle Mike served in sometimes suffered 125% casualties from D-Day (June 6, 1944) to VE day (May 8, 1945). Since combat divisions are mostly made up of support troops not actually on the front lines, you get an idea of how deadly it was for the line companies and how traumatic such heavy losses were to witness. My uncle’s was hardly impervious from the experience.

My aunt said he suffered nightmares and depression for years. PTSD had not yet been discovered or labeled as such nor would he have admitted he had emotional issues. I suspect he would not have tolerated any treatment or being set out as being unusual or different – a Slavic trait my cousin has said.

I do know he considered the loss of the many American lives he witnessed as inexplicable and senseless. To appreciate the horrors and brutality of the European battlefields, I recommend the non-fiction book “Citizen Soldier” by Stephen Ambrose in which he describes the costly and fierce combat fought by the U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany – June 7, 1944 to May 7, 1945.

Uncle Mike had been in England for months in preparation for the D-Day invasion of Normandy when he got into serious trouble. As I understand it, he was a very smart aleck 18-year-old kid and had angry words with an officer in his unit. Tensions were so high between the officer and my uncle, the possibility of his being sent to the stockade over trumped up charges was likely. Luckily another more level headed officer intervened and had Uncle Mike transferred to the 728th AFA (Armored Field Artillery) Battalion of self-propelled 105 howitzers. So he missed the Normandy landing, or most of it, and the horrors that followed when our inferior armor was chopped to pieces by Panzers and 88mm AT guns in the enclosed hedge groves and shooting galleries on the tight roads leading into France’s interior.

Toward the end of the war Uncle Mike was delighted to find his old unit was just down the road from where he was and excitedly hurried over to visit “the guys.” Imagine his shock and anguish when less than a year after he had transferred out from the unit he had spent a year training with, he discovered only one survivor in the unit who remembered him. The entire unit was virtually wiped out in a week or so in the hedgerows of Normandy shortly after the Normandy invasion. Imagine being that one survivor.

Unfortunately, his children, gifted, sensitive, educated professionals and academics, do not seem to understand the underlying nature of this often angry, driven, prickly man who not physically violent, just explosive and biting in hiscomments. (Photo is Uncle Mike with his oldest granddaughter Samantha less than a week before he died.)

When his disturbed daughter died by her own hand in the late 1970s, the tragedy tore at the heart of this devote Catholic that had already witnessed so much tragedy and devastation as a youngster. He could be very abrupt and rough. He was not a warm and fuzzy individual but I respected him and knew his heart was filled with kindness, just not milk and honey. Neither did I appreciate how deeply scared he was until shortly before he died.

I sometimes wonder if Uncle Mike considered the chance moments that let him survive the war, when the friends he trained with all died or were wounded and evacuated. He mentioned his fondness and bond with the men of his original unit. He described the training as a specialized armored commando as very rugged, “kill or be killed” and physically demanding. I suspect he really did appreciate the moment of serendipity that allowed him the opportunity to survive.

I know he was sickened by all the loss of life, but bore a strong dislike and mistrust of the German people for the rest of his life due to the things he witnessed. He also kept a strongly embedded distrust of the military brass and politicians.

During one of our sessions of hand digging his ponds in the middle 1990s, he gave a vivid account of how toward the end of the war an infantry regiment of war tested veterans was chopped to pieces on a worthless hill occupied by fanatical SS diehards.

Since his Self-Propelled Battery of 105s was in close support at the base of the hill, he witness much of the carnage.

By then everyone knew the war was over and the focus was on making it home. A new colonel (or general) had just been transferred in after spending the entire war in a cushy office at the War Department in D.C. The green armchair colonel/general had this regiment charge with fixed bayonets repeatedly up the open hill. The infantry was charging in lines over open ground and getting chopped up by well emplaced machine gun fire. The smart SS gunners fired low deliberately, horribly wounding and maiming the legs and groin area of exposed veterans who had already survived much of the fierce fighting across Europe. Then they would shoot up the medics and buddies that went out to retrieve them. There were many cycles of this. This hill could have easily been bypassed or reduced by airpower.

He did not tell me how it ended, just that the cycles of death, maiming, and charging the hill in Civil War style bloodbath seemed endless at the time. The senior officer was trying to make a name for himself as an aggressive commander before the war ended so his former stateside role would not impact his future promotions. In Uncle Mike’s way of thinking, the experienced infantry soldiers had survived much of the war just to die or be permanently maimed for a hill no one needed so close to the end.

He told me how he was just talking to one of his friends, an older man, who was shot between the eyes during the battle. As he was gathering his dead friend’s effects, he read a letter from the 10-yr-old daughter of this man. Mike was 19 or just 20 then. He looked at me with haunted eyes, “That letter really bothered me.”  He was not a crier or emotional man at all. He carried this well of sorrow with him always.

I tried to find out more about this “minor skirmish” on WW II vet sites or from members of his unit with no success. Just another nameless hill and Army screw up that did not scratch the sheet of history unless you were there. I wonder if that senior officer got his promotion. This type of idiocy was not confined to this campaign or battle. It is a common thread in the American military. Lives traded for promotions.

Read more »

3
Aug

SP4 Richard “Tunnel Rat” Bradley, US Army (1963-1970)

bradley4Read the Service Memories of US Army Soldier

SP4 Richard “Tunnel Rat” Bradley

US Army

(1963-1970)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Richard.Bradley

(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining www.togetherweserved.com. This is a free service)

WHAT PERSUADED YOU TO JOIN THE SERVICE?

Until August of 1963, I was planning on going into the Navy and make a career out of it. My Father was in the Merchant Marines and then the Navy during World War II. I had read his Blue Jacket’s Manuel 1944 completely and was determined to become a good sailor. Then, my older brother came home on leave from Fort Bragg Special Forces Training. He was wearing a tailored uniform with French Fourragere and Jump Wings. The 82nd Airborne Patch complemented his high gloss Jump Boots. His stories about jump school enamored me. He left on August 9, 1963 back to Fort Bragg and on August 12, 1963 I got on a bus headed for Fort Leonard Wood for my Basic Combat Training. I had gotten my parents signatures for entrance since I had just turned 17 two months prior to this. I had changed my career path and now wanted to make the Army my career.

BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH IN THE SERVICE?

I had enlisted for the Infantry. My immediate plans were BCT graduation, AIT Training and graduation and Jump School. I took the Airborne PT test while I was in Basic Training and took it again while I was in AIT at Fort Polk. In fact, my whole Platoon (about 31 guys) was going to Jump School after our AIT. After my graduation from AIT, I received orders for Korea instead of Jump School. Another guy got orders for Germany while the rest of my platoon went to Jump School. My first duty assignment was HHC 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division near the DMZ (38th Parallel) in Korea. I arrived in January 1964 and left about February 1965. While there, I became the Battalion Executive Officer’s Driver. This was after having been an Imjim Scout driver. I transferred my driving skills from a Truck, Utility, ¼ Ton, 4×4, M38A1C to a Truck, Utility, ¼ Ton, 4×4, M151.

The Executive Officer, Major Guy H. McCarey, was a big influence on my chosen career path. He was a real soldier and also Airborne qualified! I loved seeing his Glider Patch worn on the opposite side of his Garrison Cap (that’s not the name we called it). He encouraged me all the time to pursue bigger and better things. Because of him, I took the EIB Course and was later awarded my EIB. Because of him, I took a short discharge and reenlisted for six years. I re-enlisted for Europe for two reasons. First, because I always wanted to go to Europe and secondly, because I heard there was an Airborne School in Europe and I thought I could kill two birds with one stone by seeing Europe and going to the Jump School. I was assigned to A Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Infantry of Berlin Brigade. I soon found out that the Airborne School in Europe was just a refresher course for guys that were already Airborne qualified.

As the rest of my Army career will show, I never got the chance to go to Jump School. The closest I got was in Hohenfels, Germany when a group of Germans had an old T-10 Parachute hooked up to about 400 feet of rope and an Army ¾ Ton Truck. We were in a very large field and they allowed me to hook up. I probably made about 400 feet or so and even exercised a PLF upon landing which I felt a bit foolish about as I could have just landed straight up on my feet. The landing was soft. But I only had this opportunity to demonstrate all my brother taught me about jumping. While in the 6th Infantry, I was selected to do a training film done by a real Hollywood Director about US Army personnel who had defected to the East. I wish that I could find a copy of that as I did some fine acting in it! From the 6th Infantry, I went to HHC 4th Battalion, 18th Infantry, AMU. I guess my expertise with the M14 AR E2 came to somebody’s attention. I was also an Expert with the M60 Machine-gun. I was involved in a number of matches in AMU and received a number of badges, trophies and medallions. After a little over a year in Berlin, I decided I needed to put my training to a better use, so I volunteered for Vietnam. The Army accommodated me quickly and they sent me to A Troop, 3rd Squadron 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi, South Vietnam.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS?

Yes, all from 24 April 1966 to 24 April 1967. We were a Mechanized Cavalry Unit where I served with my Infantry MOS. My Cavalry horse was an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). My Track hit five mines while I was there. I was injured on the first hit in June of 1966 and on the last hit in early April of 1967. I received two Purple Hearts for these injuries. The second one was pinned on my pillow by Colonel Webb while I was in the Base Camp Hospital in Cu Chi. I had 17 days left. They wanted to evacuate me to another, bigger hospital to heal. I told them I could heal up just fine and went home at my scheduled time, although I did look like a spotted leopard with new skin and still healing skin in some areas. Sure ruined my tan I’d been working on for a year! I did take R&R in Taipei, Taiwan late in my Vietnam tour.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT AS BEING THE ONE WHICH HAS HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU?

When the Army sent me back to the United States and stationed me at Fort Hood, Texas with C Co. 2nd Bn 50th Inf 2nd Armored Division. They issued me an M14 Rifle with a Blank Adapter and sent me out into the field to play war games again! This was the turning point in my Army career.

All the rest of my buddies, who lived through Nam, went to units as trainers and instructors. One went to Fort Benning as an instructor in mines and booby traps teaching Officers. I, on the other hand, went to a unit to train for combat. I still had three years left on my re-enlistment of six years. So I asked to go back to Germany as I had always loved it and still hadn’t seen all I wanted of it. They accommodated me and sent me to 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division stationed at Kitzegen, Germany. This was Audie Murphy’s former unit.

Part of the units training was the regiment would march down to the post theater once a year and watch “To Hell and Back.”!!! This was the time period were the Sgt. Major of the Army went before a Congressional Subcommittee on EM Club Scamming in Europe. I was stationed there and I saw first-hand what was going on while the rest of the world was embroiled in the Vietnam War.

Read more »

11
May

CMSgt Richard Hardesty U.S. Air Force (Ret) (1952-1976)

hardestyPersonal Service Reflections of USAF Airman:

CMSgt Richard Hardesty

U.S. Air Force (Ret)

(1952-1976)

Shadow Box: http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/bio/Richard.Hardesty

(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining www.togetherweserved.com. This is a free service)

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

I graduated from high school at 17 and enrolled in college the following fall of 1951. I also joined ROTC program at the school and two fraternities–ah, the marvels of college life. By the end of the first semester and getting several D grades I decided college wasn’t for me and joined the Air Force in February of 1952.

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

My basic training was at Lackland AFB, Texas followed by nearly 10 months going through the Electronics School at Scott AFB, Illinois. Getting there was a bit of a thrill. I wasn’t sure why or how but I ended up on my first airplane ride aboard a C-46 from San Antonio to Scott AFB, Illinois.

I graduated from the school in November 1952 with orders to Japan. I went on a 30-day leave to my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa where I enjoyed time away from military life. When it ended I made my way to Chicago where I’d be taking a train to the west coast and hopping a ship to Japan. In Chicago I met up with several buddies right after the New Year. Having them along as company on the trip made the journey a lot more fun. Since we were travelling in uniform every old soldier on board the train insisted on buying us drinks and regaling us with their stories of how they helped win the war…World War II that is.

Several days after arriving at Camp Pendleton we were taken to where our ship, the USS General W. H. Gordon (AP-117), was docked. The day we left port–January 19, 1953–is a date I will never forget: My idol Hank Williams died on that date.

The highlight of the voyage was crossing the Equator on the International Date Line. In this ancient tradition Sailors and Marines crossing the Equator for the first time are subject to all kinds of weird rituals. This rite of passage is a daylong affair where pollywogs–those being initiated–are put through many embarrassing obstacles such as being locked in a salt-water coffin, hair chopping, digging through rotting garbage, locked in the stocks while shellbacks–the initiators–throw mushy fruit at them, and other degrading behavior. It was a lot of fun to watch.

We arrived at the port of Yokohama 28 days later and took a 4 hour train ride to the Replacement Depot. On the ride there a sergeant came through the car and read off a list of names and where those called would be assigned. He then bellows out, “Anyone whose name I did not call…you guys will be heading to Korea tomorrow morning.” Welcome to the war!!

I was sent to Chinhae AFB (called K-10) to the 102nd Comm Squadron. Less than a month later, the 75th ADW Air Police Squadron got their first mobile communications, and a buddy of mine and me were transferred to the AP Squadron. We lived in a pretty secure environment since he North Korean army had been pushed out the area years ago so the actual shooting war was far off. We had some A-26 twin-engine small bombers based at Chinhae and they made quite a racket on take-off and landing–mainly because we had a PSP (Pierced Steel Planking) runway. We slept in tents on canvas cots and in the winter used sleeping bags. We were always envious of the Army guys based not too far from us. We figured they probably had it better since they had steel cots, sheets and blankets.

Of significance in that tour, my buddy and I were called down to Chinhae port to work on some HF radio gear located on a boat belonging to Sigmund Rhee, the President of South Korea. We did an excellent job of repairs and had him out of the port in under an hour. The gear we worked on was a Collins Radio manufactured in my home town of Cedar Rapids.

One funny story was when our main switchboard reported an outage with the Navy unit in town and asked us to investigate. We got about halfway to town and found a ROK Army unit calmly cutting loose the tie-downs and rolling up our telephone cable connecting us to the Navy base. We never understood why.

And who could ever forget the “Twelve-Holer” at the bottom of the hill from our tents. It was a wonderful experience in the winter time, as we wore the old one-piece fatigue uniform and had to half undress to go to the bathroom.

Then there were the steel canteen cups we used for everything drinkable including cereal soaked in that wonderful reconstituted milk. It worked well for cool water and orange juice too but not hot liquids. Every time I tried drinking hot coffee my mouth would burn and when the cup finally cooled enough for my lips to touch the metal, the coffee was too cold to enjoy. Oh the joys of Korea!

The final armistice agreement was signed on July 27, 1953 and when it was announced there was wild jubilation throughout our base. I rotated out in December 1953 and was the third ship to dock in Seattle, Washington on December 24th. When I and many other returnees tried to get home we found that all ground transportation and air was booked solid. Somehow the military found a train going to Chicago so most of us got out. I remember the one conductor playing cards with a large group of us. As we arrived near Minneapolis we caught him cheating. After the train starting moving we threw him off the train as it left town. The Air Police was waiting for us in Chicago but didn’t take any action. My parents met me and we made the long drive to Iowa, celebrating Christmas on the 30th of December!!

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

In Vietnam I was stationed at Tan Son Nhut AB near Saigon. I remember the medic almost taking pleasure in showing us the 3 and 5/8 inches long needle used to administer the Hepatitis shot. He then jabbed me in the left cheek of my buttocks. The pain of the serum flowing into my system hurt more than anything I can remember. That shot disabled me for two or three days making it hard to sit or lay down.

In December 1966 and again in early 1967 we came under several attacks by Communist Vietnam Peoples’ Army (VPA aka NVA). I was the communications superintendent in charge of a transmitter site and receiver site located on the north perimeter fence. When the enemy made a second assault the .50 caliber machine we had set up on the roof kept them at bay as they tried to breech the fence-line. I was taken aback a day or two later when I saw some of the bodies laid out on the flight line and among them all of the barbers from the base. They were the guys that snapped our necks and gave us a razor cut haircut!! They could have taken us out at any time. It was the only determined enemy attack on the base while I was in-country. I do recall the VPA threw a bomb under our work bus two days after I rotated back to CONUS and several guys were either killed or severely injured.

This is what a “crazy and wild” guy does on R&R in Thailand. The snake was 17 foot long and very heavy.

Read more »

4
May

Capt Leonard R Shifflette U.S. Marine Corps (Ret) (1948-1970)

shiftyPersonal Service Reflections of US Marine:

Capt Leonard R Shifflette

U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)

(1948-1970)

Shadow Box: http://marines.togetherweserved.com/bio/Leonard.Shifflette

(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining www.togetherweserved.com. This is a free service)

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

I was born on January 15, 1930, in Lebanon County, Pa. and grew up on a Virginia farm our family sharecropped for the owner. Life on a sharecropper farm was basically just a living. You had a house, a garden, and you worked the land. The family received half of the crops that are grown on the farm, such as hay, wheat, and corn (just a general farm). We had pigs, poultry (for food), cows for milk and butter, and a large garden. We had food to eat, a place live, some clothing, but very little money with no opportunity to attend a higher level of education (college).

There was our grandfather, grandmother, two uncles, one aunt, our parents, and seventeen grandchildren living on the farm. The boys helped work on the farm, of course without any pay; so one can see times were not very good during the depression years and during WW II. We didn’t have electricity or a telephone until 1947 and never had indoor plumbing!

I am the oldest of seven children and after graduating from Dayton High School, Dayton, Va., in June 1948, I decided farming wasn’t going to be my life and figured it was time for me to go on my own so my father and mother would have one less child to care for. On June 25, 1948, I joined the United States Marine Corps in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I was sworn in at DHRS Richmond, Virginia and sent to Parris Island, South Carolina, arriving there the following day. There weren’t enough recruits to form a platoon so we were billeted in a casual barracks until enough recruits arrived to form a full platoon. I was assigned to the Second Recruit Battalion Platoon 110. At that time boot camp was only eight weeks.

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

Boot camp wasn’t difficult for me. I was in great physical shape having worked on a farm every day Then there were the good things; I was issued two pairs of shoes, more clothing than I had ever seen, plus great food to eat–especially all the different varieties!  I gained 15 pounds as I only weighed 110 when I enlisted.

I graduated from basic on the September 15, 1948 and after a ten-day leave, I was assigned to the Casual Company at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, for further orders. I was also promoted to the rank of PFC. A couple of weeks later I was transferred to Headquarters Company, Service Battalion, MCS Quantico, Virginia for duty as a general clerk. I was assigned as a general clerk (administration). I was given that MOS because I had taken some business courses in high school. I didn’t really want to work in an office but all through my 20 plus years in the Corps I really didn’t have a choice. There were some great exceptions to office work, however.

At the end of December I was assigned TAD (temporary additional duty) to the Freedom Train as an extra guard while it was in Washington, D.C. The idea for the Freedom Train was to reawaken Americans to their taken-for-granted principles of liberty in the post-war years. Top Marines were selected to guard the train and its famous documents.

All of us who were TAD were given an opportunity to be reassigned for duty at Marine Barracks in Washington, DC (8th & I). I jumped at the chance and was assigned to a guard company December 30, 1948.

At that time many WW II veterans buried in foreign ground were brought back home to be re-interned at Arlington Cemetery. It was our duty to do the best we could for the loved ones of these fallen heroes! I was honored to be part of their burial! On Friday evenings I participated in “Sun Set Parade,” as well as standing guard duty at the barracks.

In May 1949 the barracks 1st.Sgt. informed me that since I enlisted for three years and had been in the states for one year, I was eligible for an overseas assignment. My choices were Guantanamo Bay Cuba or China. I chose China.

When I arrived in Pearl Harbor (Camp Catlin) in June 1949, I was told all Marines were leaving from China and would that I would be assigned to Marine Barracks Naval Operating Base Subic Bay, Philippines Islands. My only duties were as a security guard, something I preferred over office work. Then the Korean War started on June 25, 1950.

North Korean forces attacked all along the 38th parallel, pushing South Korean Forces and their American advisors all the way back to Seoul and eventually to Pusan, the most southern end of the Korans Peninsula. I expected to go but since I was an Admin Clerk and not infantry, I was told I wouldn’t be going. So began my campaign to get into the war.

Lt.Col. Robert M. Hannah, our CO and Navy Cross recipient, had been a Wake Island defender who spent all of WW II as a POW. I reported to him each week asking for a transfer to Korea and he told me he couldn’t since I wasn’t infantry (0311 MOS.) I informed him that I would be back each week asking for this transfer until he was tired of seeing me.

After many weeks of me showing up in his office, he told me if I would agree to change my MOS to 0311, he would approve my request for duty in Korea. There was one hitch, however: my enlistment ended on June 24, 1951 and even with President Truman extending all Marines for a one-year period, I decided to reenlisted on December 1, 1950 for six years. “How about that President Truman — you gave me one year and I raised you five more.” In April 1951, I was promoted to Corporal with the MOS 0311 and received orders to the 1st Marine Division in Korea.

After arriving in Korea in June of 1951, I was sent to the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division and assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion 7th Marines. I reported to A Company’s first sergeant, Tech Sgt James R. Skinner, just as the company was moving north to engage the enemy. He told me to report to the 3rd Platoon, 3rd Squad as the fire team leader. When I told him I had no combat experience and since there were two reserve corporals already assigned, I suggested the one currently filling the role of fire team leader was better suited. He blasted back, “You are the team leader. End of discussion.” The corporal that was the fire team leader wasn’t very pleased with this arrangement.

The area we operated in was called the Punchbowl where the Battle of Bloody Ridge took place from August-September 1951 followed by the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge from September-October 1951. .

In November I was ordered to report to the Battalion Adjutant because by MOS was changed back to 0141 Admin Clerk. I put up a fuss but was told that the “needs of the Marine Corps outweighs everything else.” I became the Battalion Adjutant’s clerk and was promoted to Sgt.

In December of 1951, I was ordered to depart Korea. I tried to extend my tour as a 0311, but was not allowed to, then I asked for duty in Japan and again was told no, so as the last resort I requested duty back to Subic Bay. The Personnel Officer told me there would be no other assignment except returning to the states as I had been overseas long enough.

My new assignment was to Retraining Command, Camp Allen Norfolk VA. This was a brig for Navy and Marine prisoners with less than four years confinement. I wasn’t really delighted about this assignment, but I had no choice but to carry out my orders. At first I was assigned to the guard company working inside the fence (compound) until I was promoted to the rank for Staff Sgt. in June 1952 and reassigned NCO of Administrative Section.

In May of 1953, I heard HQMC was looking for administrative personnel at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Richmond, VA. I applied, was accepted and was transferred in June. I stayed in Harrisonburg until July of 1954 and was reassigned to be the NCO in Charge of a two-man sub-station in Roanoke, VA. During my tour of duty in Roanoke, I met my wife. We married on December 3, 1955.

I was transferred to Camp Lejuene NC in June 1956 where I was assigned as Admin Clerk for the 2nd Service Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. Shortly after I arrived I requested an early discharge to attend college, completing over 8 years in the Corps. My request was approved and I was discharged on September 8,1956.

I attended Madison College (now James Madison University) in Harrisonburg, VA. Before long we discovered the GI Bill–our source of income–was not enough for my family. I left school and moved to Roanoke so I could find a job to support my wife and daughter. I also joined the 5th Engineer Company in the Marine Corps.

Occasionally I would have lunch with my old buddies from the Roanoke recruiting sub-station. The conversation would eventually end up with when I was going to reenlist. My answer was always the same: when I receive orders to be stationed back at the sub-station in Roanoke. I knew this would never happen and that it would also make them stop asking me to reenlist.

Defying my understanding of how the Marine Corps works, my request was approved to once again be a recruiter in Roanoke. I got a discharge from the USMCR and reenlisted for active duty May 21, 1958. Later I was reassigned as the Admin Chief at the Main Station in Richmond until June 1961 when I received orders to report to Force Troops, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic (FMFLant), Camp Lejeune, NC where, in December 1958, I was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. My new assignment was the Classification NCO until I assumed the duties as NCOIC of Force Troops Clerical School at Montford Point, CLNC.

In April 1963 I received orders to report to the I & I 3rd Comm Co Force Troops, FMF, USMCR Rochester, NY, as the Admin Chief. While stationed in Rochester, NY, I attended college (night school) and complete many college courses, plus any and all MCI (Marine Corps Institute) courses in my field.

With the Vietnam War warming up, the Marine Corps CMC requested SNCOs to submit applications for selection as a Warrant Officer or a Second Lieutenant. I submitted my request and in May 1966, I was selected for promotion to 2nd Lieutenant. There were approximately 2,500 Staff NCO’s selected for either 2nd Lt or WO.

A month later I received orders indicating I had been selected 2nd Lt. with a duty assignment of personnel officer at Camp Hansen, Okinawa. Since 3FSR was short of administrative personnel, I reported to Camp Sukiran as the Admin Chief of H&S Co Maintenance Battalion. Camp Sukiran was renamed to Camp Foster in the fall of 1966.

I was commissioned a 2nd Lt. on July 15, 1966 and became the Assistant Regimental Adjutant. I was sent TAD to Yokosuka, Japan, for the Registered Publications School. When I returned to Okinawa I was made the Regimental Personnel Officer and Registered Publications Officer with a Top Secret Clearance. I also received orders promoting me to GySgt (E-7) September 1966 even though I was an officer and also selected for WO1. On the same orders was my commission to 2nd Lt.

As the Regimental Personnel Officer I also traveled to Danang (Red Beach) and Chu Lai, Vietnam where we had units.

In July 1967, to Marine Barracks as the Liaison Officer of the U. S. Naval Hospital Philadelphia. This was a sub-unit that held the records for all personnel that were hospitalized and for assisting in the health and comfort of all the Marines that were there in the hospital. I was promoted to 1st Lt. in October 1967.

I was reassigned as the Barracks Adjutant in July 1968. Colonel Victor A. Kleber, Jr was the CO. I had a staff of over 25 Administrative Clerks to process the records of fewer than 2,000 Officers and Marines, many who were retired medically and/or transferred back to duty. I was promoted to the rank of Captain in October 1969.

In September 1969, I was the Platoon Commander for the commissioning of the USS John S. McCain, Jr. Guided Missile Destroyer (DDG-36).

In early 1970, since I had completed more than 20 years and was 40 years of age, my wife thought I should retire and look for a second career before I got too much older. I agreed and April 1, 1970, I retired from the Marine Corps. When asked if I wanted a retirement parade, I said no. I didn’t want Marines to stand in formation on a Saturday just to see me retire. Instead, I slipped off the base as a retired Marine.

Read more »

%d bloggers like this: