Monthly Archives: September 2019

Andrew Jackson Higgins – A Legacy

Andrew Jackson Higgins

Andrew Jackson Higgins, the man Dwight D. Eisenhower once credited with winning World War II, was a wild and wily genius.

At the New Orleans plant where his company built the boats that brought troops ashore at Normandy on June 6, 1944, Higgins hung a sign that said, “Anybody caught stealing tools out of this yard won’t get fired — he’ll go to the hospital.”

Whatever Higgins did, he did it a lot. “His profanity,” Life magazine said, was “famous for its opulence and volume.” So was his thirst for Old Taylor bourbon, though he curtailed his intake by limiting his sips to a specific location.

I only drink,” he told Life magazine, “while I’m working.”

It is Higgins himself who takes your breath away,” Raymond Moley, a former FDR adviser,  wrote in Newsweek in 1943. “Higgins is an authentic master builder, with the kind of will power, brains, drive and daring that characterized the American empire builders of an earlier generation.”

USNS Andrew J. Higgins, Sept. 1987

Higgins was not native to the South, despite his love of bourbon. He grew up in Nebraska, where, at various ages, he was expelled from school for fighting. Higgins’ temperament improved around boats. He built his first vessel in the basement when he was 12. It was so large that a wall had to be torn down to get it out.

He moved South in his early 20s, working in the lumber industry. He hadn’t thought much about boats again until a tract of timber in shallow waters required him to build a special vessel so he could remove the wood. Higgins signed up for a correspondence course in naval architecture, shifting his work from timber to boats.

In the late 1930s, he owned a small shipyard in New Orleans. By then, his special shallow-craft boat had become popular with loggers and oil drillers. They were “tunnel stern boats,” whose magic was in the way the “hull incorporated a recessed tunnel used to protect the propeller from grounding,” according to the Louisiana Historical Association.

Higgins ‘Eureka’ boat

Higgins called it the “Eureka” boat. The war brought interest by U.S. forces in a similar style vessel to attack unguarded beaches and avoid coming ashore at heavily defended ports. The Marines settled on the Higgins boat, transforming what had been a 50-employee company into one of the world’s largest manufacturers.

“To put Higgins’s accomplishment in perspective,” historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in a 2000 article in American Heritage magazine, consider this: “By September 1943, 12,964 of the American Navy’s 14,072 vessels had been designed by Higgins Industries. Put another way, 92 percent of the U.S. Navy was a Higgins navy.”

Though Eisenhower and even Hitler acknowledged the importance of the Higgins boat — military leaders came to call it “the bridge to the beach” — its builder went mostly unmentioned in histories of the war. That is, until 17 years ago, when the World War II Museum opened in New Orleans and recognized Higgins’ life, displaying a reproduction of his boat.

Still, there’s been just one biography written: “Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats that Won World War II” by historian Jerry Strahan.

“Without Higgins’s uniquely designed craft, there could not have been a mass landing of troops and matériel on European shores or the beaches of the Pacific islands, at least not without a tremendously higher rate of Allied casualties,” Strahan wrote.

Higgins Hotel, New Orleans

The WWII Museum in New Orleans officially broke ground on the Higgins Hotel directly across the street from the museum in 2017.

The one man in the South I want especially to see is Andrew Jackson Higgins.  I want to tell him, face to face, that Higgins’ landing boats such as we had at Guadalcanal are the best in the world.  They do everything but talk; honest they do.”  ___ Warrant Officer Machinist, James D. Fox, quoted in the Shreveport Times, 6 March 1943

AJ Higgins held 30 patents, mostly covering amphibious landing craft and vehicles.

Higgins died in New Orleans on 1 August 1952, and was buried in Metairie Cemetery.  He had been hospitalized for a week to treat stomach ulcers when he suffered a fatal stroke.

Article resources: The World War II Museum in New Orleans (2018 Annual Report), The Marine Corps & the Washington Post.

There will be more information on the boats in the upcoming post.

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Military Humor – Navy Style ……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Bill Balser – Anderson, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. A/127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Thomas Carney – Naples, FL; US Army, Vietnam, 173rd A/B Brigade / Cmdr. of 5th Infantry Div., Lt. Gen. (Ret. 35 y.)

Donald Davis – Orangeville, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Bill Hardin – Wheat Ridge, CO; US Navy, WWII, PTO, 72nd Sea Bees

John Johnson – Sanford, NC; US Army, WWII, 9th Infantry Medical Detachment, medic

Garry Massa – Pickney, MI; US Army, Vietnam, 82nd Airborne Division

Roger Patrick – Tabor, IA; US Army, WWII, Sgt.

Paul “Ken” Rash – Indianapolis, IN; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Roy Schwabe (100) – Park Ridge, IL; US Army, WWII

Carl Wheaton – Bar Harbor, ME; USMC, WWII, PTO, Lt. Colonel, pilot

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The Burma Jeep

 

Ford GTP, Burma Jeep

1943 Ford GTBA G622

The Ford GTB, called the “Burma Jeep”, was produced during WWII and was used primarily by the US Navy and Marine Corps and used exclusively in the Pacific Theater during World War II, many used on the “Burma Road”.  Its Ordinance Standard nomenclature number was G-622. Ford produced the low silhouette, short and maneuverable GTB in five models collectively called the G-622.

Total production of the 1-½ ton models was over 15,000 units, including these variants:

  • GTB truck, Cargo
  • GTBA truck, (US Navy)
  • GTBB truck, Wrecker, (Rare, only 50 produced)
  • GTBS truck, Bomb Service with crane (US Navy)
  • GTBC truck, Bomb Service with crane (USN, improved)

The Burma Jeeps were powered by a Ford 6-cylinder flathead gasoline engine producing 90 horsepower. They were 1-½ ton capacity, 4-wheel drive with a 4-speed transmission and a 2-speed transfer case. The Burma Jeep on display at Estrella WarBirds Museum has dual real wheels, 4-wheel drive, and a 10,000 lb Braden MU-6 winch.

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Ford records indicate the paint color specified by the US Navy was “Ocean Gray” for all Navy contracts. The G-622 GTB vehicles were produced with and without a 10,000 lb. Gar Wood or Braden front mounted winch. All models except the GTBS had dual rear wheels. The cowl covering the engine separated the cab area, and the passenger seat was a light metal frame, which faced the driver, and could be enclosed by raising the windshield and installing a canvas top. The cargo truck had troop seats and bows for a canvas cover.

This truck (GTBA model) was probably built in July 1943 at the Edgewater, NJ Ford Plant.  After the war, it was purchased by the MacGillivry Ranch from the US Navy at Pt. Magu, and used as a ranch truck.  In 1998 it was donated to the Estrella Warbird Museum, and in 2008-2009, it was restored with funds provided by the McGillivry Family.  Restoration included complete brake overhaul, new passenger seat, upholstery, tires , and a complete paint job.

Pictures are courtesy of Mecum Auctions & Estrella Warbirds Museum.

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Military Humor –

When you’re in a jeep and they’re in an armored vehicle with a gigantic robotic arm – you just may want to keep your mouth SHUT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

George Andrews – Norwich, CT; US Army, WWII, PTO, Graves Registration Unit

Daniel Benarcik Sr. – Wilmington, DE; US Army, WWII

Harold Costill – Clayton, NJ; US Navy, Pearl Harbor, fireman 3rd Class, USS West Virginia, KIA

Franklin Galloway – Rosman, NC; US Army, Korea, Co. E/187th RCT

John Kennedy – Lake Bluff, IL; US Army, WWII, Sgt.

Ernest Malone – Gloucester, LA; US Army, 101st Airborne Division, MSgt. (Ret. 25 y.)

Jack Reynolds – Chichester, ENG; Royal Army, WWII, ETO, Lt., 1st Airborne Division, POW

Jack Smith – Albuquerque, NM; US Navy, WWII, PTO, oil tanker navigator

Donald Steimel – Des Moines, IA; US Navy, WWII, PTO,troop carrier, USS Scout

Martin Vespo Sr. (100) – Peekskill, NY; US Navy, WWII, USS Carondelet

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The Weasel

The idea for the Weasel came from the British Inventor Geoffrey Pyke, a man famed for his unorthodox methods. His most famous invention was Pykrete, a material that would’ve been used for the Habbakuk iceberg aircraft carrier. Pyke had long planned for Commando assaults on German power plants and industrial areas in Norway and also planned actions to interrupt the Nazi atomic weapons program in Operation Plough. Operation Plough is very much the origin of the Weasel. Pike called for a small, lightweight and fast vehicle, able to transport small teams of men across deep snow to take them deep into enemy territory.

The United States used the vehicle extensively during World War Two.  It was used in Italy, the Western Front, and even in the Pacific. It saw action during the Normandy landings, St. Lo, and the Battle of the Bulge.  It proved its usefulness at the engagements on the Ruhr and Rhine, where it was able to cross the thick, sticky river mud.  In the Pacific, it was used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, where it proved capable of crossing loose sand, and the harsh tropical island terrain where the Marine Corps’ jeeps wouldn’t dare venture.

Weasel

The use of the M29 Weasel as a universal vehicle soon became clear to the Americans. They used it regularly as a light troop carrier and cargo hauler, and also as a mobile command center, ambulance, and to lay telegraph wires. One of its major attributes was its ability to cross minefields, as its low-ground pressure was often not enough to trigger the anti-tank mines. The ground pressure was still more than enough to trigger anti personnel mines which could easily split a rubber track.

Weasel

The M29 was operated by one driver and could carry three passengers. The driver was positioned in the front left with the engine compartment to his right and a row of three seats in the rear for the passengers. Though officially an unarmed vehicle, Browning M1919 .30 cal or .50 cal M2HB Machine Guns were often mounted for some form of offensive/defensive capability.

Weasel

The M29C was the main variant of the Weasel. The M29 was already partly amphibious, able to traverse shallow and calm waters such as rivers and streams, but could not operate in rough, sea like waters. The M29C amended this issue, with the addition of buoyancy aids in the rear of the hull as well as two rudders. Removable pontoons were also added to the front and rear and changes were made to the treads of the track links to allow it to propel itself in water, although it was very slow. This still didn’t make the M29 capable of seaborne amphibious landings, but allowed to be more stable in deeper or slightly inland waters.including Sweden, France and Norway. Many Weasels served in scientific Arctic explorations.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Elton Allen – Lubbock, TX; US Army, Vietnam, (Ret. 30 y.)

Carl Baumgaertner – St. Paul, MN; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star, Silver Star

Edward Demyanovich – Bethlehem, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 82nd Airborne Division

Warren Johnson – Glass Lake, NY; US Army, Korea, 101st Airborne Division

Nick Krysko – Toronto, CAN; RC Armed Forces, WWII

Norbert Mersman – Mesa, AZ; US Army, WWII & Korea

Melvin Smith – Sebring, FL; US Army, Korea, Co. E/187th RCT

Anna Snyder – Biloxi, MS; US Army Air Corps WAF, WWII

Estelle Valentine – San Diego, CA; Civilian, Goodyear, WWII / OSS, ETO

John Williamson – Anderson, IN; US Air Force, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, MSgt (Ret. 24 y.), flight engineer

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Current News – USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL is OPEN

USS Arizona Memorial, Pear Harbor, Hawaii

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — With the American flag billowing in the wind and “The Star-Spangled Banner” playing on the loudspeakers from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the first boatload of tourists and residents in nearly 16 months stepped onto the USS Arizona Memorial on Sunday morning.  (1 Sept.)

The 145 visitors on the Navy boat disembarked to spend a few solemn minutes within the white walls of the shrine at the same time, 8:10 a.m., that the Arizona was hit Dec. 7, 1941, also a Sunday, by an armor-piercing bomb that sank the ship and killed 1,177 men. The battleship suffered the greatest loss of life of all the ships and planes attacked that day. Among the dead were a father and son named Free and 23 sets of brothers.

“It was just terribly moving to be over there today,” said Minneapolis resident Patty Drake, 63, who was in Hawaii with her husband, Bob. “All the death and the pain.”

She saw the oil seeping from the sunken ship that she recalled seeing the last time she visited the memorial while living in Hawaii more than 50 years ago.

USS Arizona

“It was powerful,” Bob Drake said.  The oil the Drakes witnessed leaks from the million gallons of bunker fuel oil that was aboard the ship when it sank and is known as the “black tears of the Arizona.”

Visitors now can walk on the memorial and see the oil and the names of the dead etched into the marble wall as they reflect on the sacrifice of those who died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the U.S. into World War II.

The memorial was closed in May 2018 after park staff found major damage to the anchoring system for the boat dock at the memorial. The damage — possibly caused by king tides in 2017 that raised the concrete blocks out of the ground — allowed too much movement of the dock and created a risk that the bridge to the memorial could collapse.

Jay Blount, Pearl Harbor National Memorial’s chief of interpretation said, “The new anchoring system uses giant screws, some longer than 100 feet, that have been driven into the seafloor. Twelve anchors were installed and then were attached to the dock using synthetic rope as part of the $2.1 million repair.

USS Arizona Memorial, JESSICA O. BLACKWELL/U.S. NAVY

Steve Mietz, acting supervisor of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, said reopening the Arizona Memorial was the top priority of the National Parks Serv­ice.

“Reconnecting the American public to the USS Arizona Memorial is very meaningful to me,” Mietz said. “People need to be there at that shrine to pay their respects to those fallen heroes. It’s such a moving sight.”

Mietz said the repair project involved working with several partners, including the nonprofit Pacific Historic Parks and the Navy, which had the equipment to support the parks department and helped compete the project faster and at a lower cost.

Blount said the memorial, which opened on Memorial Day 1962, stands as the symbol of American sacrifice in the Pacific theater during WWII.

For history buff Camden Koukol, 13, of Dayton, Ohio, visiting the sunken battleship was a key reason for coming to Hawaii, said his mother, Dominique Koukol.

In Ohio, Dominique Koukol had heard the memorial might be reopening soon, and because her husband was going to be in Hawaii for business, the couple decided it would be a chance for them to travel to the islands affordably as a family, with the hope that the battleship would reopen in time for their son to visit.

Camden, who learns about military ships and planes while building models for national contests, visited the memorial Saturday with his parents to scope out the park and returned about 5:30 a.m. Sunday to get in line for the first boat. They were the second group in line.

Camden said he wanted to visit the sunken battleship because it was an impressive ship when it was built, and he wanted to “see what it was like after the attack.”

Brian Catron of Pearl City seized upon the idea of visiting the memorial after hearing it had reopened on the 6 o’clock news Sunday morning. He woke his two daughters and brought them and his wife down by about 6:30 a.m. It was a way to spend the day with family for free and finally gave his daughter, Kahea­lani, 10, a chance to visit the memorial, he said.

Crew of the USS Arizona

©2019 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

 

e-Quips would like anyone interested, to write a letter to one or all four of the remaining USS Arizona survivors. CLICK HERE!!

 

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Beetle Bailey

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Farewell Salutes –

Henry Allen – Dayton, KY; US Air Force, Korea & Vietnam, (Ret. 23 y.), Bronze Star

Thomas Burton – Middleburgh, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ Co./511/11th Airborne Division

Frank Checchi – Hooversville, PA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, radioman, USS Oliver Mitchell

Arizona Memorial

Fred Gans Jr. – Daytona, FL; US Navy, WWII & Vietnam, Lt. Commander (Ret.)

“Goodie” Lorentzen – Anacortes, WA; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Harold Lowry – Mollala, OR; USMC, WWII, PTO, PFC, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Gisela Murray – Milwaukee, WI; Civilian, 128th Airborne, logistics assistant

Jerry Pierce – Turlock, CA; US Navy, WWII, minesweeper USS Scout

Thomas Rostek – East Windsor, CT; US Navy, WWII, USS Yosemite

Roger Schlaak – Michigan City, IN; US Navy, WWII

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Occupation – Sub Clean-up

In a dry-dock at Kure Naval Base, Japan, 19 October 1945. There are at least four different types of midget submarines in this group of about eighty-four boats, though the great majority are of the standard “Koryu” type. The two boats at right in the second row appear to have an enlarged conning tower and shortened hull superstructure. The two boats at left in that row are of the earlier Type A or Type C design, as are a few others further back in the group

By definition, a midget submarine is less than 150 tons, has a crew of no more than eight, has no on-board living accommodation, and operates in conjunction with a mother ship to provide the living accommodations and other support. The Japanese Navy built at least 800 midgets in 7 classes, but only a fraction had any noticeable impact on the war. Their intended purpose initially was to be deployed in front of enemy fleets, but their actual use would be in harbor attacks and coastal defense.

The Japanese midget subs were not named but were numbered with “Ha” numbers (e.g., Ha-19). These numbers were not displayed on the exterior and operationally the midgets were referred to according to the numbers of their mother ships. Thus, when I-24 launched Ha-19, the midget was known as “I-24tou” (designated “M24” in some texts). The “Ha” numbers were not unique either; some Type D’s were numbered Ha-101 through Ha-109.

US officials overlooking captured Japanese submarines in Kure, Japan.

In mid-1944, with coastal defense requirements becoming urgent, the Japanese Navy developed the Koryu Tei Gata Type D. More than just another improved version of the Type A, this was a new design. They were the largest of Japan’s midgets, displacing about 60 tons, 86 feet (26 meters) in length, with a five-man crew, featuring a more powerful diesel engine, and had improved operating endurance. Koryu’s armament consisted of two muzzle-loaded 17.7-inch torpedoes. As with the earlier types, individual boats had alpha-numeric names in the “Ha” series beginning with Ha-101.

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Some 115 units had been completed when Japan capitulated in August 1945. At the end of the war, Allied Occupation forces found hundreds of midget submarines built and building in Japan, including large numbers of the “Koryu” type; nearly 500 more were under construction. Some of these submarines intended for training pilots for Kaiten type manned torpedoes, had an enlarged conning tower and two periscopes.

Kaiten aboard surface vessel

Kaiten submarines were designed to be launched from the deck of a submarine or surface ship, or from coastal installations as a coastal defence weapon. The cruiser, IJN Kitakami, was equipped to launch Kaiten and took part in sea launch trials of Type 1s. In addition, several destroyers of the Matsu class were also adapted to launch the weapon.
In practice, only the Type 1 craft, using the submarine delivery method, were ever used in combat. Specially equipped submarines carried two to six Kaiten, depending on their class.

Partially from: Rare Historical Photos.com

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Adams – Jena, LA; US Air Force, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division, Col. (Ret. 22 y.)

Gordon Bashaw (100) – Gardner, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star

Thomas Carney – Cleveland, OH; US Army, Vietnam, Lt. General (Ret.)

Joseph Giles – Louisville, KY; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Charles Hickman (101) – Leola, SD; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

James Loveall – Rockville, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/ 188/11th Airborne Division

Marshall Minton – Kouts, IN; US Army, WWII, ETO, Sgt., 44/157th Field Artillery

Weston Norman – TX; US Army, WWII, PTO

James Shanahan Jr. – Cedar Rapids, MI; US Navy, WWII, Pearl Harbor, KIA

Albert Zieg – Portland, OR; US Army Air Corps, WWII

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Post War Japan and Asia 1945-1951

Cold War map

In eastern Asia, the end of the war brought a long period of turmoil. In the European colonies occupied by Japan, liberation movements were established–some strongly Communist in outlook. In Indochina, Indonesia, and Malaya, wars were fought against the colonial powers as well as between rival factions.

The messy aftermath of war precipitated the final crisis of the old European imperialism; by the early 1950s, most of Southeast Asia was independent. In Burma and India, Britain could not maintain its presence. India was divided into two states in 1947, India (Hindu) and Pakistan (Muslim), and Burma was granted independence a year later.

San Francisco Treaty

Japan was not restored to full sovereignty until after the San Francisco Treaty was signed on September 8, 1951. The emperor was retained, but the military was emasculated and a parliamentary regime had been installed. Japanese prewar possessions were divided up. Manchuria was restored to China in 1946 (though only after the Soviet Union had removed more than half the industrial equipment left behind by the Japanese). Taiwan was returned to Chinese control. Korea was occupied jointly by the Soviet Union and the United States, and two independent states — one Communist, one democratic — were established there in 1948.

The most unstable area remained China, where the prewar conflict between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and the Chinese Communists led by Mao Zedong was resumed on a large scale in 1945.

After four years of warfare, the Nationalist forces were defeated and Chiang withdrew to the island of Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China was declared in 1949, and a long program of rural reform and industrialization was set in motion. The victory of Chinese communism encouraged Stalin to allow the Communist regime in North Korea to embark on war against the South in the belief that America lacked the commitment for another military conflict.

Korean War begins

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when the troops of Kim Il Sung crossed the 38th parallel, the agreed-upon border between the two states. By this stage, the international order had begun to solidify into two heavily armed camps.

In 1949 the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb. That same year, the U.S. helped organize a defensive pact, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to link the major Western states together for possible armed action against the Communist threat.

By 1951 Chinese forces were engaged in the Korean conflict, exacerbating concerns that another world war — this time with nuclear weapons — might become a reality. The optimism of 1945 had, in only half a decade, given way to renewed fears that international anarchy and violence might be the normal condition of the modern world.

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Military Humor – Saturday Evening Post style – 

“I HOPE YOU’RE NOT ANGRY WITH ME FOR TAKING YOU AWAY FROM YOUR FRIENDS.”

 

“WELL NO…. BUT I DO HELP RUN IT.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Dustin B. Ard – Idaho Falls, ID; US Army, Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class, 2nd Batt/1st Special Forces, KIA

Arthur Bruce – High Point, NC; US Army, WWII / US Navy, Korea

Glen Coup – Akron, OH; US Army, 101st Airborne Division

Luis Deleon-Figueroa – Chicopee, MA; US Army, Afghanistan, MSgt., 7th Special Forces Group, KIA

Roy Ellefson – Barnesville, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Sgt., 9T/8th Air Force

Henry Fager Jr. – Wichita, KS; US Army, WWII, 2nd Lt.

Jose Gonzalez – La Puente, CA; US Army, Afghanistan, MSgt., 7th Special Forces Group, KIA

Paul Manos – Laurel, MD; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

R. Patrick Stivers – St. Matthews, KY; US Army, WWII & Korea

Leonard Stokes – Nelson, NZ; RNZ Army # 4211953, WWII

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