Category Archives: Korean War

U.S. Army’s 242nd Birthday / Flag Day

THE U.S. ARMY

AMERICA’S FIRST NATIONAL INSTITUTION

U.S. Army uniforms through the years

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FLAG DAY 

Today is Flag Day, an annual observance of the Second Continental Congress’ official adoption of the stars and stripes in 1777. At the time, they “resolved that the flag of the 13 United States” be represented by 13 alternating red and white stripes and the union by 13 white stars in a blue field, “representing a new constellation.” Now, more than 200 years later and with an updated design, the flag is an American icon.  Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is the only state to recognize it as a legal holiday.

U.S. Army Sergeant Joey Odoms’ audition to sing the National Anthem from Afghanistan. On  10 November 2016, he performed in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Dillion Baldridge – Youngsville, NC; US Army, Afghanistan, 101st Airborne Division, Cpl., KIA

William Bays- Barstow, CA; US Army, Afghanistan, 101st Airborne Division, Sgt., KIA

Eric Houck – Baltimore, MD; US Army, Afghanistan, 101st Airborne Division, Sgt., KIA

R. Patrick McGinley – Plainville, CT; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Robert ‘Allen’ O’Berry – Kissimmee, FL; US Army, Sgt. (Ret. 20 yrs.)

Marcella Remery – W.Palm Beach, FL; US Army WAC

Harold Roland Jr. – Atlanta, GA; US Army, Korea, 82nd Airborne Division

Richard Stackhouse – Indianapolis, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Lt., B-24 bombardier

Robert Wilke Sr. – Owens Cross Roads, AL; US Army, Vietnam, Lt.Colonel, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Samuel Wilson – Rice, VA; WWII & Vietnam, ‘Merrill’s Marauders, Lt. General (Ret. 37 yrs.), Silver Star (2), Bronze Star (2)

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Memorial Day 2017

MEMORIAL DAY.

WHO DO YOU SAY THANK YOU TO?

Should you care to see Memorial Day posts from past years ____

Michael’s Tree – planted by Lavinia & Rick Ross in honor of my son, Michael USMC.

2016

2015(1) and 2015 (2)

2014

2013

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Farewell Salutes –

Jacob Baboian – Watertown, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO

Thomas Coughlin – Portland, OR; US Army, WWII, Corps of Engineers

Lamar Day – Salt Lake City, UT; US Navy, WWWII, PTO, USS John Pope

Edward Flora – Mishawaka, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, A/674th Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Earle Garlinger – Roswell, NM; US Army Air Corps, WWII, (Ret. 21 years)

Harold Kline – Charlotte, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 737th/454/15th Air Force

James O’Leary – Manchester, NH; USMC, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Cuban Missile Crisis

Michael Sadlo – Hollywood, FL; USMC, Pfc

Everett Smith – Broad Channel, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ/187th/11th Airborne Division

Vartan Torosian – Pleasant Hill, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 188th/11th Airborne Division

Albert Washington Jr. – Midland, TX; USMC, WWII, PTO

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Armed Forces Day 2017

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20 May 2017

The longest parade in the U.S. for Armed Forces Day is Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Here’s what’s planned for this year’s extravaganza…….

Hamilton County and the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council will sponsor the 68th annual Armed Forces Day parade and luncheon on Friday, May 5, at 10:30 a.m. in downtown Chattanooga.

The parade highlights a different branch of service every year, with the Air Force featured on Friday. The parade will begin with a flyover of two F-16s piloted by Lt. Col. Dave Snodgrass and Maj. Gen. Richard Scobee.

A small peek at 2016

Scobee, son of Chattanooga resident June Scobee Rodgers, is a command pilot with more than 3,800 flight hours, including 248 combat hours. He is the 10th Air Force commander, Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base.

His command includes all fighter, bomber, special operations, rescue, airborne warning and control, fighter and bomber flying-training missions, combat air operations battle staff, remotely piloted aircraft, space and cyber units in the Air Force Reserve CommaTwo Air Force veterans will serve as parade marshals: Jack Rolfson, a WWII B-17 pilot, and Eugene Parrott, a fighter pilot in the Korean War.

Another special guest will be Lt. General Arnold W. Bunch Jr., military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Air Force Secretary for Acquisition at the Defense Department.

Gen. Richard Scobee June 10, 2014.

Lt. General Bunch

For more information, visit the parade’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/chattafparade/ or the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council at http://chattareaveterans.com.

Do you or your area have plans for the day?

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Personal Note # 1 –

Branden Charters needs help with having flowers put on every veteran’s gravesite for Memorial Day.  Find ways to help HERE.

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Personal Note # 2 –

Our fellow blogger, Jacqui Murray, writer, teacher and mother of two currently active serving children in the military has now published her second novel, Twenty Four Days.  Check it out HERE with a sample chapter!

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Paul Adams – Lincoln, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 332nd Fighter Group, pilot (Ret.)

Robert Atwater – Elmira, NY; US Navy, WWII, SeaBees

Marino DiChiara – brn: ITL; US Army, WWII

Barbara Grooters – Grand Rapids, MI; US Navy WAVES, WWII

David Herrington – Baxley, GA; US Army, WWII

Kermit Miller – Lehighton, PA; US Navy, WWII, Radarman 3rd Class

Bob Price Sr. – St Louis, MO; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Dewey Stephenson – Waterboro, ME; US Navy, WWII / US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Daniel Stewart – Fort Wayne, IN; US Army, WWII

John Zilar – Denver, CO; US Air Force, machinist

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Current News – Military Appreciation Month

There is no need to wait until Memorial Day to put out your flag!!  May is Military appreciation Month and I take a break in our Pacific War story to have each and every one of you have this information.  I hope you enjoy this THANK YOU today for those that have served in the U.S. military, past and present, and to those of you who served in nations that have stood shoulder to shoulder with America

May is a special month for both those in and out of the military. For service members and veterans, it’s a chance to pay tribute to supportive families and spouses on Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and honor the memory of those who have sacrificed for this nation on Memorial Day. For the general public, the entire month provides an opportunity to say thanks to all those, past and present, who have contributed to the U.S. military.

What is Military Appreciation Month?

Congress designated May as National Military Appreciation Month in 1999 to ensure the nation was given the opportunity to publicly demonstrate their appreciation for the sacrifices and successes made by our service members — past and present. Each year the president makes a proclamation, reminding Americans of the important role the U.S. Armed Forces have played in the history and development of our country. May was selected because it has the most days set aside for celebrating and commemorating our military’s achievements. In addition to the special days already mentioned, important dates for the military in May include Loyalty Day, which was established in 1921, Victory in Europe (VE) Day commemorating the end of WWII in Europe in 1945 and Armed Forces Day.

Military Appreciation Day

Many locations also celebrate a specific Military Appreciation Day. Although not a nationally recognized holiday, areas use the day to hold parties and picnics in honor of their local active duty, Guard, Reserve and military veteran communities. Local businesses may offer discounts, while local sports teams may give free entrance to military families and veterans.

We honor you

Join Military.com this month in honoring, remembering, recognizing and appreciating those who have served and those now serving — read special features, and learn the history behind Military Appreciation Month. If you’re a service member, military family member and veteran, you can find out about major events taking place throughout the month, as well as important discounts being offered by companies in thanks for your military service

For more information please contact Military.com

Everett Smith; artwork courtesy of https://priorhouse,wordpress.com/

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Military Humor – 

Enlarge to read!

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Farewell Salutes – 

David Altop – Salt Lake City, UT; USMC, WWII, PTO, radio operator

Louis Contos – San Pedro, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Robert Fraser – Toronto, CAN; RC Army, WWII, 48th Highlanders

Weston Lee – Bluffton, GA; US Army, Iraq, 1st Lt., 82nd Airborne Division, KIA

Michael Mantenuto – Holliston, MA; US Army, 1st Special Forces Group

Clifford Oberlander – Bismark, ND; US Navy, Flight Officer

Joshua Rodgers – Bloomington, IL; US Army, Afghanistan, 3/75th Ranger Regiment, Sgt., KIA

Frank Streather – Sydney AUS; RA Air Force, WWII, 452nd Squadron

Cameron Thomas – Kettering, OH; US Army, Afghanistan, 3/75th Ranger Regiment, Sgt., KIA

Russell Turner – Houston, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Joseph Ventresca Sr. – Buffalo, NY; USMC, WWII, PTO

 

Working Dogs honored for their service

Sgt. Wes Brown & Isky

Sgt. Wes Brown & Isky

WASHINGTON — During a routine perimeter check in the desert of Afghanistan, Isky found a roadside bomb. He had come to a complete stop, sitting near the explosive device, patiently waiting for orders from his best friend, Army Sgt. Wess Brown.

The IED – buried two feet deep – was a 120-pound bomb. Isky, a German shepherd military working dog, had just saved countless lives.

For his service, he was honored on Capitol Hill – along with three other dogs – with the first-ever K-9 Medal of Courage. It is the nation’s highest honor for military dogs, acknowledging their extraordinary valor and service, awarded by the American Humane Association.

Isky found at least five deadly IEDs and 10 weapon caches as an explosive-detection dog deployed with Brown in July 2013. The two spent a year protecting U.S. political leaders, including President Barack Obama.

Isky and Brown were with 100th Military Working Dog Detachment and have been together since October 2011.

“After he came out of training from Lackland – he was about 18 months old – I was his first handler to certify with him,” Brown, now 27, said.

While most military working dogs can have two to seven handlers, Isky has only had one: Brown.

“I didn’t PCS,” Brown said. If he had, the dog would have gone to a new handler.

In May 2014, Isky’s military career came to an end.

“We were on a combat mission, one of many,” Brown said. “To avoid an ambush we had to get into the vehicles fairly quickly. While Isky was running up the stairs, I had a hold of him, but he fell off the side and broke his leg in six different spots.”

The leg had to be amputated.

“Once I knew he got injured and knew what was happening, as soon as his amputation was scheduled and his future with the Army was done,” Brown put in the paperwork to adopt him, he said.

Brown has been separated from Isky for only two weeks, and that was while Isky recovered. Even when Isky isn’t with him, Brown carries his picture.

These days, instead of searching for bombs, Isky suns himself on a porch in Virginia with Brown. He has become Brown’s PTSD service dog, and the two comfort each other.

“I have nightmares, I get night terrors stuff like that,” Brown said. “I’ll wake up, and he’s jumped up in bed with me. He kind of does the same thing. I’ll hear him have bad dreams and I’ll wake him up. For all I know he’s chasing a ball, but it sounds to me like he’s having a pretty rough time in some of these dreams. I’ll wake him up and he jumps right up in bed with me. And we both calm down.”

Brown has been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, and has three crushed discs in his neck. He is currently waiting to be medically retired from the Army.

Isky hasn’t been trained as a PTSD dog. But his bond with Brown is strong enough that when Brown has an anxiety attack, Isky knows.

“When I look at him, I feel safe because of everything we did together in Afghanistan. If it wasn’t for him and doing what we did, there would be a lot more people unable to go home,” Brown said.

More than 200 Congressional staffers and 19 members of Congress attended the event to honor military working dogs. The other dogs who earned the Medal of Courage:

  • Matty, a Czech German shepherd, was a bomb-detection dog in Afghanistan. Now retired Army Spc. Brent Grommet, his handler, says that Matty saved his life and the lives of everyone in his unit more than once. The two were wounded together, including being in a truck that was hit by two roadside bombs. They were flown back to the U.S. for treatment, and while Grommet was in surgery, Matty was wrongly given to someone else. The Humane Association helped reunite the two, and now Matty serves as a support dog for Grommet.
  • Fieldy, a black Labrador retriever, served four combat tours in Afghanistan, where he worked to detect explosives. Handler Marine Cpl. Nick Caceres spent seven months deployed with Fieldy in 2011 and adopted him three years later when the lab was discharged.
  • Bond, a Belgian Malinois, worked 50 combat missions and deployed to Afghanistan three times. He was a multipurpose dog with a special operations unit before he retired. Bond suffers from combat trauma and will be reunited with his handler, who will leave active duty in a few months.

From “Stars and Stripes.”

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Military Canine Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

  • Cairo, a Belgian Malinois used by U.S. Navy Seals in Operation Neptune Spear, in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
  • Gander –  a Newfoundland, was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medall for his feats during the Battle of Hong Kong in WWII.
    Civil War mascot memorial

    Civil War mascot memorial

    Gunner –  Canine air-raid early warning system during the bombing of Darwin in World War II.

  • Rags –  a Signal Corps mascot during World War I.
  • Rifleman Khan –  a German Shepherd that won the Dickin Medal for bravery.
  • Rip –  a Second World War search and rescue dog.
  • Sarbi –  an Australian special forces explosives detection dog, that spent almost 14 months missing in action (MIA) in Afghanistan before being recovered in 2009.
  • Sasha – bomb sniffing dog, posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal
  • Smoky –  hero war dog of World War II, was a Yorkshire Terrier that served with the 5th Air Force in the Pacific after she was adopted by Corporal William Wynne.  Smoky was credited with twelve combat missions and awarded eight battle stars.
    .Sgt. Stubby –  a Boston bull terrier, the most decorated war dog of WWI and the only dog to be nominated for rank and then promoted to sergeant through combat.
  • Tich –  Dickin Medal winner of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, WWII
  • Treo –  awarded Dickin Medal for work as a Arms and Explosives Search dog in Helmand Province, Afghanistan
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Purple Heart Day

"Wounded Warrior" painting by: US Marine Michael Fay

“Wounded Warrior” painting by: US Marine Michael Fay

On this date in 1782, in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington created the “Badge for Military Merit,” a decoration consisting of a purple, heart-shaped piece of silk, edged in silver, with the word Merit etched.  It was to be presented for any one meritorious action and it permitted the wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge.   The honoree’s name and regiment were to be inscribed in “The Book of Merit.”

Purple Heart certificate given during the Korean War

Purple Heart certificate given during the Korean War

Only three soldiers are known to have been awarded this medal during the Revolutionary War: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell Jr.  The Book of Merit was lost and the medal was virtually forgotten.  In 1927, General Charles Summerall  sent an unsuccessful draft bill to Congress to revive the Badge.

Patch for Afghanistan

Patch for Afghanistan

General Douglas MacArthur took up the cause, hoping to get the medal reinstated for the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday.  He succeeded – 22 February 1932 the US War Department announced the creation of the “Order of the Purple Heart.”

National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, New Windsor, NY

National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, New Windsor, NY

This medal is awarded to members of the US Armed Forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy.  It is also given to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.

The 'impersonal chaos of war' display in the Hall of Honor

The ‘impersonal chaos of war’ display in the Hall of Honor

The most Purple Hearts awarded to any individual soldier is nine (9) to USMC Sergeant Albert Luke Ireland; five (5) for World War II and four (4) for his action in the Korean War.

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http://partner.googleadservices.com/gpt/pubads_impl_92.jshttps://platform.twitter.com/js/button.1813ea3f78757294e1ba1cea21b068a0.js

Total Casualties as of May 27, 2013

Total Serving Battle Deaths Other Deaths Total Deaths Wounded  
Revolutionary War 4,435 4,435 6,188  
War of 1812 286,730 2,260 2,260 4,505  
Mexican War 78,718 1,733 11,550 13,283 4,152  
Civil War 2,213,363 140,414 224,097 364,511 281,881  
Spanish American 306,760 385 2,061 2,446 1,662  
World War I 4,734,991 53,202 63,114 116,316 204,002  
World War II 16,112,566 291,557 113,842 405,399 670,846  
Korean War 5,720,000 33,746 3,249 36,995 103,284  
Vietnam War 8,744,000 47,355 10,796 58,151 153,303  
Desert Storm 2,225,000 147 235 382 467  
Enduring Freedom 1784 318 2.286 9,675  
Iraqi Freedom 3483 890 4,422 31,935  
Totals 580,182 430,370 1,010,876 1,478,096
 
Click on images to enlarge.
 
 
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 Farewell Salutes – 

Charles Andres III – Harvey, LA; US Army, WWII, Lt.Col. (Ret.), Purple Heart

Anthony DiTommasso – Providence, RI; USMC, WWII, PTO, Purple Heartpurple-heart

Herbert Faulk – Alcatraz, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Purple Heart

Kenneth French – Charleston, MI; US Army, WWII, Purple Heart

Joseph Gallagher – Radcliff, KY; US Army, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Lt.Col. (Ret. 37 years), 2 Bronze Stars, 3 Purple Hearts

Keith James – Easley, SC; US Army, Vietnam, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

William Kiernan – Williamsburg, VA; US Army, WWII, Corps of Engineers, Purple Heart

Herdis McCrary – Green Bay, WI; US Army, Korea, 2 Purple Hearts

Albert Russo – Ambridge, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 2nd Ranger Batt., bronze Star, 2 Purple Hearts

Noel Seeburg Jr. – Chicago, IL, US Army, WWII, PTO, Capt., Bronze Star, Purple Heart

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March 1944 (3)

Admiral Raymond A. Spruance w/ his staff

Admiral Raymond A. Spruance w/ his staff

In other areas of the Pacific during this month_____

16 March – as the Japanese 12th Destroyer Group returned home. HIJMS Shirakumo and the cargo ship, Nichiren Maru, were sunk by the US submarine Tautog off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan.

18-19 March – a US task force group bombarded Mili Island in the Marshalls from air and sea.  The battleship, USS Missouri was hit by a shell from a coastal gun and was the only ship damaged.  A two-day bombardment at Wewak on enemy positions on the northern coast of New Guinea were carried out by US destroyers.

20 March –  the invasion of Emirau Island by the USMC 4th Division went without a hitch.  There were no Japanese on the island, and so the marines were able to make an unopposed landing and complete a circle of enemy-held Rabaul.  Work began on turning the island into a powerful base. The first airfield was ready by May, and was followed by a bomber base.

30-31 March – Under command of Adm. R. A. Spruance, Commander 5th Fleet, including carriers, fast battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, attacked the Western Carolines.  Carrier-based planes struck at the Palau group with shipping as primary target. They sank 3 destroyers, 17 freighters, 5 oilers and 3 small vessels, and damaged 17 additional ships. The planes also bombed the airfields, but they did not entirely stop Japanese air activity. At the same time, our aircraft mined the waters around Palau in order to immobilize enemy shipping in the area.

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Part of the force struck Yap and Ulithi on 31 March.  Although the carrier aircraft encountered active air opposition over the Palau area on both days, they quickly overcame it.  Enemy planes approached the task force on the evening of 29 March and 30 March, but were destroyed or driven off by the combat air patrols. During the 3-day operation US plane losses were 25 in combat, while the enemy had 114 planes destroyed in combat and 46 on the ground.  These attacks were successful in obtaining the desired effect, and the operation in New Guinea went forward without opposition from the Western Carolines.

31 March – Japanese Adm. Koga and Adm. Fukudome headed to Mindanao, P.I. in 2 separate seaplanes.  After encountering a storm, Koga’s aircraft disappeared and was never seen again.  Fukudome, with the plans for Operation Z in a briefcase, went down off the waters of Cebu.  He and most of the flying boat’s crew were rescued by guerrillas. [2 escaped and made it back to Japanese HQ].  The head of the local guerrillas, Lt.Col. James Cushing, radioes MacArthur via Col. Wendell Fertig.

Fukudome had convinced his captors that he was Koga and MacArthur ordered Cushing, “the enemy prisoners must be held at all costs.”  But Cushing exchanged Fukudome for a ‘truce’ between the local guerrillas and enemy Col. Onishi’s troops.  The briefcase, with TOP SECRET stamped on its contents, made its way back the Gen. Mac by way of a submarine.

Fukudome was returned to Japan in disgrace.  Adm. Soemu Toyoda replaced Koga as Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, with Adm. Ryunosuki Kusaka as his Chief-of-Staff.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current –  27 July 1953, Armistice is called in Korean War – 

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https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/national-korean-war-veterans-armistice-day/

 

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Military Humor – Sad Sack – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Tatsuo Asamen – Westmorland, CA; WWII Relocation Camp; US Army, Korea, 71st Mil. Gov’t. HQ

Dave Bald Eagle Jr. – Cheyenne River Rez, Sioux Falls, SD, US Army, WWIIflag-draped-american-caskets-on-national-mall

Tubencio Carpio – Moline, IL; US Army, WWII & Korea

Robert Cox – Hoover, AL; US Navy, WWII & Korea

John Jerome – Hanover, MA; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, (Ret. 25 yrs.)

Richard Kogut – Celoron, NY; US Air Force, WWII, Korea & Vietnam (Ret.)

Tony Lukasavge – Sweet Valley, PA; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Michael Palazzo – Wild Wood, FL; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Edward Roche Jr. – Chesapeake, VA; US Army, Korea, 64th Field Artillery Batt. Medical Corps, Bronze Stars

Harold Smith Jr. – Ithaca, NY; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT, Bronze Star

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CAPTAIN REG SAUNDERS OF THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY

An article by Lloyd Marken about a remarkable man. The Maori say it almost musically…
Kia kaha, kia maia, me te aroha.
(Be strong, be courageous and compassionate.)

lloydmarken

Two decades before he was recognised as a citizen of his country he fought for it in two wars. He couldn’t vote in his own country where his people had been for thousands of years. This was nothing new. His father Walter (Chris) Saunders and uncle William Reginald Rawlings MM had done so before him in the Great War, the uncle not returning home. His family would continue to pay a cost for serving the nation. His brother Harry Saunders would die at Kokoda and his first marriage would not withstand his time away in Korea. What did change was that he became the first Aboriginal to be commissioned into the Australian Army going on to command 100 men in combat.

He was born in Victoria of the Gunditjmara people and worked in a sawmill from a young age. In 1940 he joined the Australian Imperial Force immediately displaying natural leadership skill, in…

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Armed Forces Day

For ARMED FORCES DAY and MILITARY APPRECIATION MONTH, Jacqui Murray has done an outstanding job.
For my previous posts honoring the Armed Forces, click here and here.
For the British Armed Forces Day, click here.

USNA or Bust!

Many Americans celebrate Armed Forces Day annually on the third Saturday of May  (May 21st in 2016). It is a day to pay tribute to men and women who serve the United States’ armed forces. Armed Forces Day is also part of Armed Forces Week, which begins on the second Saturday of May.



Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, adjunct professor in technology-in-education, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

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A Korean War Christmas Story

Christmas 1950, Korea

Christmas 1950, Korea

“Home for Christmas” was the rallying cry as United Nations forces, spearheaded by American troops, were well on their way to clearing the entire Korean peninsula of Communist North Korean forces who had invaded South Korea in June, 1950. Then, in late November, in the dead of one of the coldest Korean winters on record, more than 300,000 troops from the Communist People’s Republic of China poured across the Yalu River and entered the war bent on the annihilation of U.N. forces and the installation of a Communist dictatorship for all of Korea. Within a few short days all hopes for a joyous Christmas were dashed. General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of all U.N. forces in Korea, said, “We face an entirely new war …”

Approximately 120,000 Chinese troops battered and besieged U.N. forces around the port city of Hungnam, in northeast Korea. When the U.N. command decided that the Hungnam area could not be held, a mass sea evacuation of troops, equipment and about 98,000 refugees began in mid-December.

At Taegu, South Korea, Norman Deptula, left, stands with two soldiers from the 581st Signal Radio Relay Company after they had been evacuated out of North Korea. COURTESY OF NORMAN DEPTULA

At Taegu, South Korea, Norman Deptula, left, stands with two soldiers from the 581st Signal Radio Relay Company after they had been evacuated out of North Korea.
COURTESY OF NORMAN DEPTULA

 

It was a bone-chilling, dark, dingy day, and amid the clamor, the confusion, and the dockside noises accompanying a forced evacuation, my company boarded a freighter and we began a cold, forbidding, four hundred-mile journey to South Korea’s southernmost port city of Pusan. Upon arriving in Pusan, we clambered aboard an unheated train, plunked ourselves and our gear onto hard wooden benches and tried, unsuccessfully, to cover the broken windows, through which howled icy blasts of air. Our train would take us north, to the town of Kyong-ju, a seventy mile trip.

When we finally arrived at our destination, we were a cold, tired, unkempt, dispirited group. Even though we recovered from our strep throats, our colds, and other assorted ills, the awful memories of the suffering, the violent deaths, the brutal unremitting cold, and the destruction which we had witnessed and endured left scars that would never heal.

The days flowed on, one into another, and soon Christmas would be upon us. “Home for Christmas” was a forlorn hope, but we still hoped to be able to observe, in some small way, the birth of the Prince of Peace, here, in the midst of war. Then, the tiniest of miracles occurred! Someone, possible an archangel disguised as a comrade in arms, said that the Catholic church in Kyong-ju would be holding a midnight Mass and transportation would be made available for anyone who wished to go. Our prayers were answered, and we would be privileged to help celebrate Christmas in a very special way.

Before boarding the trucks that would take us to the church on that Christmas eve, we exchanged holiday greetings with our comrades who had been assigned to guard duty patrolling the company perimeter. It was a clear, cold, starry night; someone began to quietly sing, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

The exterior walls of the small church were pockmarked and some of the windows were broken. We noted with surprise that there were separate entrances, one for men and the other for women and children. The men of the parish entered through the door on the left and we followed them to the left side of the church where we sat on tiny wooden chairs. As the women entered through their entrance on our right, they covered their heads with white shawls, took off their shoes, which they placed in neat rows at the rear of the church, and picked up straw kneeling mats from a large pile that was stacked near the door. Infants were carried on the backs of their mothers, supported there by wide bands of cloth which were tied above their mothers’ waists.

While waiting for the Mass to begin, I glanced around and saw that the ceiling had many shallow cavities, each one marking a spot where a chunk of plaster had come loose and fallen. The church was unheated, but no one really noticed. An inner warmth radiated from the few candles on the altar and also from small, colorful silk banners which were suspended from the craggy ceiling. The banners, on which were written Korean figures, carried, we assumed, Christmas greetings. However, in deference to the American guests in the congregation, one banner proclaimed, in bright letters, “Mahry Xmas!” The spelling may not have been perfect, but the sentiments of those wonderful people was obvious and I, for one, would not have wanted it any other way.

1950 Christmas, Korea

1950 Christmas, Korea

A complete Nativity scene filled the area to the left of the altar, which was draped in silk and decorated with flowers and candles; a “real” Christmas tree, completely trimmed with tinsel, ornaments, and garland, stood on the other side of the altar. The sight of that beautiful tree set off a whole train of memories of another Christmas tree occupying, at that very moment, a place of honor in a warn, loving, caring home 10,000 miles away which was “Untouched by the evil that is war …”

Schoolchildren from the parish, ably and lovingly shepherded by Korean nuns, occupied tiny chairs at the very front of the church. The large, heavily starched, snow-white headpieces of the sisters stood in sharp contrast to our wrinkled, stained, and torn trousers and parkas, but such was the love and gratitude that was showered upon us that we did not, even for a moment, feel ill at ease.

At the rear center of the church stood an old, rickety, out-of-tune organ which was played by one of the Korean nuns. She accompanied a choir of schoolgirls who sang Christmas carols. Even though the choir occasionally sang off key, we knew what carols were being sung because we could, with some difficulty, recognize the music that was played and, while the choir sang in Korean, we sang with them, but in English. It was a riot of sounds, but to our ears it was positively joyous and — almost — heavenly.

Father Kim, the celebrant, said the Mass in Korean, but when it ended, he turned to face the congregation and, in halting English, extended, to the Americans in particular, his personal holiday greetings and then, in a final emotional gesture, he gave us his blessing. “The Mass is ended; go in Peace.”

Many Christmases have come and gone, but when the approach of winter heralds the beginning of another Christmas season, my thoughts and memories traverse the many years and the thousands of miles and I recall a very special Christmas in a tiny jewel of a church in Kyong-ju, Korea, and for one brief shining moment, the war is forgotten. I’ll never know what happened to Father Kim and his devoted flock, but I sincerely hope and pray that they have a truly Blessed Christmas.

Published 24 December 2015, by Norman Deptula in Star and Stripes magazine

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Military Humor – 

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Always yield to a vehicle packing a Slammer!

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NOT always a good idea.

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Michael Beazley – Kalkohe, NZ; RNZ Army, Vietnam

Louis Bonacasa – Manorville, NY; US Air Force, Afghanistan, KIA

"Remembering Our Fallen", courtesy of: Cora Metz @ A Fresh Start

“Remembering Our Fallen”, courtesy of: Cora Metz @ A Fresh Start

Michael Cinco – Mercedes, TX; US Air Force; Afghanistan, SSgt., KIA

Dennis Condom – AUS; RAIF, Korea, POW

Willard Holmes – Dubois, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/187/11th Airborne

Scott Jamar – Sweetwater, TX; US Army, Iraq, Chief Warrant Officer, KIA

Joseph Lemm – W>Harrison, NY; US Air National Guard, Afghanistan, KIA

Meadow Lemon III – Wilmington, NC; US Army, (Harlem Globetrotter)

Chester McBride – Savannah, GA; US Air Force, Afghanistan, KIA

Peter Taub – Philadelphia, PA; US Air Force, Afghanistan, SSgt., KIA

Adrianna Vorderbruggen – Washington, D.C.; US Air Force, Major, KIA

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