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May 1943 (2)

4th Infantry, Massacre Bay

4th Infantry, Massacre Bay

11 May – the 11th Air Force flew missions to support US forces landing on Attu: 1 air-ground liaison sortie by 1 B-24; a B-24 supply sortie dropping supplies to ground forces; and 5 attack missions, flown by 11 B-24’s and 12 B-25’s. The first attack mission could not find the target and instrument-bombed targets which include the runway, radar, submarine base, and camp area. Because of the poor visibility the next two missions hit Kiska, where the runway and Main Camp were attacked. Two B-24’s then bombed the Chichagof Harbor area through fog while another dropped leaflets on Attu.

12-30 May – The submarines, Nautilius  and Narwhol, led  RAdm. Francis W, Rockwell’s 29-vessel fleet, including the battleship Idaho and the reconstructed Pennsylvania and Nevada, under concealment of a heavy mist.  Col. Yamazaki’s 2,400 men were well dug-in at their positions as the US 11,000 man 7th Infantry Division made an amphibious landing with the 17th Infantry Regiment spearheading.

5 Castner Cutthroats

5 Castner Cutthroats

The US also employed Alaskans to act as scouts; they were called Castner’s Cutthroats, after their commander.  An in-depth article on these commandos can be found here at History.net.

Poor beach equipment for the tundra territory, frostbite and some having been trained in the Mohave Desert for African combat all went to aide the enemy.  Both sides received heavy casualties and it would take 2 weeks to contain the resistance around Massacre Bay.

Attu, May 1943

Attu, May 1943

The US forces took the high ground overlooking Holtz Bay on the 17th.  Despite the Arctic weather, P-38 Lightening fighter-bombers supported the ground attack through the Sarana Pass and approached Chicagof Harbor where the remaining enemy was held up.  Attu Village was then wiped out and the P-38s shot down Japanese bombers.  On the 24th, after hand-to-hand combat, Chicagof Valley was cleared.

The last 1,000 enemy troops made a final banzai charge and initially overran 2 US command posts.  On their last charge, screaming, “Japanese drink blood wine!” the fire power proved to be too much for them.  What Japanese forces were not killed, committed suicide.  Only 28 surrendered.

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Current News – 

Remains of US soldier returned from North Korea.

Cpl. Robert V. Witt

Cpl. Robert V. Witt

BELLFLOWER, Calif. — The remains of a formerly missing U.S. soldier have been returned to California nearly 65 years after he is thought to have died, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.  Army Cpl. Robert V. Witt, a 20-year-old Bellflower man missing since the Korean War, was returned earlier this week to his sister Laverne Minnick, 82.  Witt will be buried with full military honors at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier on Friday.

 In late November 1950, Witt was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 31st Regimental Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in a statement.  They were attacked by Chinese forces at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. On Dec. 1, 1950, remnants of the 31st Regimental Combat Team tried moving to a position south of the reservoir, but the next day, Witt was reported missing in action, the statement said.

In 1953, during prisoner of war exchanges, repatriated U.S. soldiers told officials that Witt had been captured during the battle and died from malnutrition. It’s believed he died on Jan. 31, 1951.  This article was retrieved from the Stars & Stripes.

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COLD Humor – 36fac507dcd06672a6b3077f8e3ec4aa

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Clarence Amos – Columbus, MT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ/11th A/B

Maynard Dawson – Terre Haute, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 221st Medical

Aleutians, 1943

Aleutians, 1943

Leroy Ewing – Urice, MO; US Army, Korea, F Co/187th RCT

John France – Denver, CO; US Air Force, Vietnam, MajGen. (Ret.), 239 combat missions

Cecil ‘Gene’ Judy – Kansas City, KS; USMC, WWII

Richard Karrer – Chicago, IL; US Army, Korea

Edward McGowan – Jupiter, FL; US Army

Victor Oros – Aurora, IL; US Navy, WWII, USS Seminole

Bryan Rousseau – Woodsocket, RI; US Army

Taj Sareen – San Francisco, CA; USMC, Middle East, Major, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

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First Hand Account

 

Robert Larson

Robert Larson

 

Ensign Robert Larson, PBY Co-pilot and Navigator, from Monticello, Iowa – on the Aleutian War.

Dutch Harbor, 1942

Dutch Harbor, 1942

“When the Japanese came ashore at Attu and Kiska on 6 June, the original intent was never to hold the islands.  The operation was to be a side show to divert the US Navy and draw them into a final destructive battle at Midway.  Admiral Yamamoto had hoped that with the bulk of their fleet destroyed, the Americans would accept some sort of peace settlement that would let Japan consolidate her gains.

Japanese troops on Kiska

Japanese troops on Kiska

“After the landings on Attu and Kiska the only aircraft capable of reaching the islands from the US bases were the Navy PBY’s and the B-17s and B-24s of the Army Air Corps.  Commander Leslie E. Gehres was a 4-stripe regular Navy captain in command of Patrol Wing 4.

US Army in Alaska, 1942

US Army in Alaska, 1942

“The Army attempted to bomb the Japanese forces but with little success with the small amount of aircraft at their disposal.  Capt. Gehres notified CINCPAC of the landings and informed them that he had a seaplane tender at Nazan Bay, Atka Island, halfway to Kiska with 20+ PBY’s.  The USS Gillis was the tender.

USS Gillis

USS Gillis

“The captain had his hands full servicing many more aircraft with bombs and fuel than his ship was designed or supplied to support.  The crews took over part of an Aleut fishing village and were fed by a school teacher from her small kitchen with the help of some of the willing Aleut natives.  Off the bay, one of the PBY’s bombed a Japanese submarine near Tanga Island that had been on life guard duty for the enemy pilots.

William Thies, pilot

William Thies, pilot

“The PBY’s opened the campaign on 11 June, following up a bombing run by B-24s of the 11th Air Force.  The PBY’s came down through the overcast dive bomber fashion and the Japanese soon got the range with their 20-mm antiaircraft cannon and 13.2-mm heavy machine-guns.

“The air combat went on for 3 days and at the end, the exhausted crews suffered multiple dead and wounded.  The entire supply of pencils and rags of the Aleut village were used for patching holes in the aircraft as the planes continued a non-stop shuttle back and forth to Kiska.  The PBY was a dependable but slow lumbering aircraft (175 mph), not suited to sudden stressful evasive maneuvers.  Often they came back to the Gillis so riddled by AA fire that they almost sank.

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Engineers in action.

 

“The Japanese, now wise to the American tactics, brought out more heavy antiaircraft guns, pointed their AA batteries at holes in the low overcast and waited for the PBY’s to emerge.  Finally, with ammunition and fuel almost exhausted and men pushed to the brink of their endurance, the Gillis withdrew from Nazan Bay, urged on by the arrival of Japanese float recon planes from Kiska.

Koga's gravesite

Koga’s gravesite

“Japanese Commander Mukai later stated that the PBY’s interfered considerably with their efforts to develop Kiska into a support base.  Their attacks forced them to withdraw their ships from Kiska Harbor.  The Japanese had brought in their Mavis 4-engine recon planes, but the attacks had kept their supplies out their reach.  Bill, [William Thies, pilot], flew one other support mission at this time.  He returned to Kanga to pick up a weather team of 5 men, who after burning the station, climbed aboard.  When the Mavis’s got operational, they flew over the Aleut village at Atka, and even though it was burned out, they dropped their bombs anyway.  Bill and his crew would soon return to Nazan Bay [within a few weeks] with both the Gillis and Casco and find the fighting worse.  They would fly every day for 33 days.”

Robert Larson would later make Commander while in the reserves and he spent 33 years as Chief of Technical Staff of Boeing.  Cmdr. Larson passed away 21 December 2007.

Click on images to enlarge.

Judy Hardy had 2 relatives in Alaska during the war – try her site for the home front view…HERE!

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The future of the Navy is now…

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) expected to be commissioned later 2015

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) expected to be commissioned later 2015

Captain James Kirk

Captain James Kirk

 

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Cold Humor – still….

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Farewell Salutes – 

Dean Allgood – Rigby, ID; USMC, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

Brian Black – Henderson, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 429953, WWII

Raymond Delsart – Sturgeon Bay, WI; US Army, WWII

Aleutians, 1943

Aleutians, 1943

Alexander Dyce – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, 413th Squadron

Horace Finch – Griffin, GA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Kurt Landsburger – born: Prague, NJ & FL; US Army, WWII, ETO, translator

John Moingo – Marion, IL; US Navy, Korea, Vietnam, Captain (Ret. 30 years)

Ralph Nittolo – Jupiter, FL; US Navy (19 mos), US Air Force (Ret. 20 years), Korea & Vietnam, tech Sgt.

Joseph Pezzulo – Queensbury, NY; US Air Force, Korea

Anthony Tedeschi Sr. – Endicott, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO

John Wilders, JR. – Merrimack, NH; US Navy, Vietnam, radio operator

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Eye Witness Account (1)

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The following has been condensed from an article by author Jim Reardon.

In the raid of 4 June, 20 bombers blasted storage tanks, a warehouse, hospital, a hangar and a beached freighter, while 11 Zeros strafed at will.  Chief Petty Officer Makoto Endo led a 3-plane Zero group whose pilots were Flight Petty Officers Tsuguo Shikada and Tadayoshi Koga, 19 years old.  Koga’s Zero, serial number 4593, was light gray, with the Imperial Rising Sun insignia on its wings and fuselage.  It had left the Mitsubishi Nagoya aircraft factory on 19 February, only 3½ months earlier, so it was the latest design.

Tadayoshi Koga

Tadayoshi Koga

Earlier that day, soldiers at an US Army outpost had seen 3 Zeros shoot down a lumbering Catalina amphibian.  Most of the 7-member crew climbed into a rubber raft and began paddling to shore.  The soldiers watched in horror as the Zeros strafed the crew until all were killed.

Japanese pilot, Endo led his section to Dutch Harbor where it joined the other 8 Zeros in strafing.  It was then [according to Shikada, interviewed in 1984] that Koga’s Zero was hit by ground fire.  An Army intelligence team later reported, “Bullet holes entered the plane from both upper and lower sides.”  One of the bullets severed the return oil line.  A Navy photo taken during the raid shows a Zero trailing what appears to be smoke and there is little doubt that this is Zero 4593.

"Koga's Zero" by Jim Reardon

“Koga’s Zero” by Jim Reardon

After the raid, 8 American Curtiss Warhawk P-40s short down 4 Val [Aichi D3A] dive bombers 30 miles west of Dutch Harbor.  In the swirling, minutes-long dogfight, Lt. John J. Cape shot down a plane identified as a Zero.  Another Zero was almost instantly on its tail.  He climbed and rolled, trying to evade, but that was the wrong maneuver to escape a Zero.  The enemy fighter easily stayed with him, firing its 2 deadly 20-mm cannon and 2 7.7-mm machine-guns.  Cape and his plane plunged into the sea.

Another Zero shot up the P-40 of Lt. Winfield McIntyre, who survived a crash landing with a dead engine.  Endo and Shikada accompanied Koga as he flew his oil-spewing airplane to Akutan Island.  A Japanese submarine waited nearby to pickup downed pilots.  The 3 Zeros circled low over the green, treeless island.  At a level, grassy valley floor half a mile inland, Koga lowered his wheels and flaps and eased toward a 3-point landing.  As his main wheel touched, they dug in, and the Zero flipped onto its back, tossing water, grass and gobs of mud.  The valley floor was a bog.

The Thies PBY crew

The Thies PBY crew

Endo and Shikada circled.  There was no sign of life.  If Koga was dead, their duty was to destroy the downed fighter, but KOga was a friend and they couldn’t bring themselves to shoot.  Endo and Shikada abandoned the downed fighter and returned to the IJN Ryujo.

The wrecked Zero lay in the bog for more than a month, unseen by US patrol planes and offshore ships.  On 10 July a US Navy Catalina (PBY) amphibian with a gunner named Wall called, “Hey, there’s an airplane on the ground down there.  It has meatballs on the wings.”  The patrol plane’s pilot, Lt. William Thies, descended for a closer look.  Back at Dutch Harbor, Thies persuaded his squadron commander to let him take a party to the downed plane….

Ensign Larson on Koga's Zero

Ensign Larson on Koga’s Zero

To be continued…..

[The IJN Ryujo was sunk two months later in the eastern Solomons by carrier aircraft from the USS Saratoga.  Japanese Chief Petty Officer Makato Endo was killed in action at Rabaul on 12 October 1943.  Petty Officer Tsuguo Shikada survived the war and became a banker.]

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Cold Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Ambruso Sr. – Westbrook, CT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 1st & 9th Bomber Group

Lester Card – Calgary, CAN; RC Air Force (Ret. 28 years), WWII, ETO

Gerald DeBoer – Kalamazoo, MI; US Navy, WWII

Aleutians, 1943

Aleutians, 1943

Ed Freeman – Boise, ID; US Navy, WWII, USS Cacapon/ US Army, Korea, Sgt/ US Air Force, Vietnam, helicopter pilot, 1st Cavalry Division, Captain

Sherwood B. Griffith – Carver, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, bombardier

Donald Johnson Sr. – Endwell, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-24 navigator, 36 missions

Henry Koren Jr. – Colorado Springs, CO; US Army, Colonel (ret. 30 years), Ranger, Vietnam

Joseph Langdell (100) – Yuba City, CA; US Navy, WWII, USS Arizona survivor

Van Mayhall – Baton Rouge, LA; US Army, Capt.-Col., WWII, ETO, Bronze Star

Janet Moir – Warworth, NZ; British Navy WREN, WWII

Richard Powers – Portland, OR; US Army, Lt.Colonel(Ret. 24 years), WWII, Alaska 10th Mountain Division & ETO/ Korea, MP, Bronze Star

Dean Smith – Chapel Hill, NC; US Air Force, basketball coach

Hershel ‘Roy’ Womack, Sr. – Rolla, MO; US Army, Colonel (Ret. 39 years), WWII

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June 1942 (2)

VP-41 enroute to Kiska to support a fleet bombardment

Alaska

The Japanese Second Mobile Force retired to cruise a support area about 400 miles south of Kiska.  On the second day of attack on Dutch Harbor, two occupation forces moved up to positions from which they could run their objectives.  The first was the Adak-Attu Occupation Force and the second, the Kiska Occupation Force.  As a result of the defeat at Midway [to be dealt with after this preliminary Alaska situation], the Adak occupation was canceled and the Adak-Attu Force was directed to only seize Attu, where a battalion of Army troops went ashore about 0300 hours, 7 June.  The Kiska Force landed a battalion from their Navy at Reynard Cove at 1500 hours, 6 June.

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Due to the weather and the attention given to the attacks on Dutch Harbor, US air reconnaissance did not discover that the occupation of Kiska and Attu was taking place until 4 days later.  The PBYs led off the bombing of Kiska, followed by B-17s and the longer range B-24s as soon as they could be concentrated on at the strip on Umnak Island.  This airfield was expanded to suit the purpose being as ironically there was no airfield on Unalaska Island which had 2 harbors.

contributed by Pierre Lagace

contributed by Pierre Lagace

The initial Japanese landings were made with combat and labor troops totaling approximately 1,200 men at each location.  But, by the end of June, the Kiska garrison had doubled.  Antiaircraft and communication personnel were added as well as submarine base personnel and six midget submarines.

The US wanted to shift its aerial resources to protect bases and attack enemy ships, aircraft and installations.  They requested that a Canadian squadron take over the job of protecting the Alaskan coastline.  Canada responded by supplying two bomber squadrons and two fighter squadrons.  The 111(f) Squadron was one of the later.

RCAF 111 (f) Squadron in Alaska, 1942

RCAF 111 (f) Squadron in Alaska, 1942

The Canadian 111 Squadron hurriedly trained at Patricia Bay (present site of Victoria International Airport, Vancouver Island) and were soon operational.  They flew their Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks north, under Arthur Deane Nesbitt, DFC, and operated out Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska.  Nesbitt was then promoted to Wing Commander.  As the fighting increased, the 111 moved forward, their mission being to protect the US installations.  The Aleutian Campaign was now an Allied effort.

P-40E Kittyhawk, RCAF 11 Sq.

P-40E Kittyhawk, RCAF 111Sq.

The new Squadron Leader, J.W. Kerwin was killed weeks later, along with 4 other pilots who became caught up in the unusual weather created by the cold Bering Sea meeting up with the warm Japanese Pacific, causing dense fog and violent winds.  Flying conditions  were extremely difficult and casualties were high.  The RCAF 111th is credited with destroying a float-equipped Nakajima A6M2-N “Rufe”.

Japanese Nakajima A6MM2-N "Rufe"

Japanese Nakajima A6MM2-N “Rufe”

The 111 Squadron headquarters moved to Kodiak Island.  They also had temporary detachments at Umnak, Adak and Amchitka Islands where they served as reinforcements to the US Army Air Corps and were included in various other offensive operations on Kiska.  (The 111 would remain in Alaska for nearly 2 years and will be heard of in later operations as well, but then they would be deployed to Europe at the end of 1943 and receive the new squadron number 440.).

The Alaska Territorial Guard, more commonly known as the Eskimo Scouts, was a military reserve force component of the US Army organized in response to the attacks on American soil.  The ATG operated until 1947 and is said to have had 6,368 volunteers [from the official rosters – thousands more participated], from 107 communities.  These included a variety of ethnic groups which included: Aleut, Athabaskan, White, Inupiaq, Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Yupik.  Among their tasks: To safeguard the only source of platinum in the Western Hemisphere; secure the terrain around the Lend-Lease air route between the US and Russia; and they placed and maintained survival caches along the transportation routes and coastal areas.

Anne, Gallivanta,  has contributed the “Report From the Aleutians” newsreel which can be seen HERE!

Judy Hardy at Greatest Generation Lessons had her Uncles Ced and Dan in Alaska back then, check her out.

Click on images to enlarge.

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 Military Humor –   Out In The Coldmoose

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Farewell Salutes – 

Leonard Amico – Uttica, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Evelyn Brown – Jackson, MI; US Army WACS, WWII

Aloys Dosch Jr. – So.Auburn, WA; US Army (Ret. 23 years), Korea, Vietnamwwii-memorial-011me

Charles Garland – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, LtCol. (Ret.), Vietnam

Thomas Homan – Richfield, MN; US Army, Sgt., WWII, Purple Heart

Vernon Mountcastle – VA; US Army, battlefield surgeon, neuroscientist

Ernest Ronaldson – TeKuit, NZ; RAF # 4213929, WWII

Beatrice Rowe – Carbonear, New Foundland; British WAAF, ETO

Bruce Smith – Coffs Harbour, AUS, RA Army #VX67260/6460, Korea

Eugene Walsh – Boynton Bch, FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Ramon Ysursa – Boise, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

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June 1942 (1)

Dutch Harbor, Alaska, 4 June 1942 - shipping and oil storage ablaze

Dutch Harbor, Alaska, 4 June 1942 – shipping and oil storage ablaze

Aleutian Islands, Alaska

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As of 1 June 1942, American military strength in Alaska stood at 45,000 men, with about 13,000 at Cold Bay (Fort Randall), on the tip of the Alaskan Peninsula and at 2 Aleutian bases: the Naval facility at Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island and a recently built Army air base, (Fort Glenn), on Umnak Island.  Army strength, less air force personnel at those 3 bases totaled no more than 2,300, composed mainly of infantry, field and antiaircraft artillery troops and a large construction engineer contingent [rushed in for the construction of the bases].

Admiral Theobald

Admiral Theobald

On Admiral Robert Theobald’s arrival at Kodiak, he assumed control of the US Army Air Corps’ 11 Air Force, commanded by General Butler.  This force consisted of 10 heavy and 34 medium bombers and 95 fighters, divided between its main base, Elmendorf Airfield, in Anchorage and at airfields at Cold Bay and on Umnak.  Theobald ordered Butler to locate the Japanese fleet that was reported heading for Dutch Harbor and attack it with its bombers, concentrating on sinking Hosogaya’s 2 aircraft carriers.   Once they eliminate the enemy planes, Task Force-8 would engage the enemy fleet.

Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Dutch Harbor, Alaska

On the afternoon of 2 June, a naval patrol plane spotted the approaching enemy fleet and reported its location as 800 miles sw of Dutch Harbor.  Theobald placed his entire command on full alert.  Shortly thereafter, the bad weather rolled in and the enemy fleet could no longer be found.  The destroyers, USS King and Talbot, seaplane tender, Gillis, USCG cutter Onondaga, US Army transports President Fillmore and Morlen all weighed anchor and called battle stations.

206th Coast Artillery gun emplacement

206th Coast Artillery gun emplacement

For the Japanese, the Aleutian Campaign was initially intended as a reconnaissance in force.  Adak was to be occupied, any US installation there destroyed, its harbors mined and then the force would withdraw and land on Attu – all by the Japanese Army.  Kiska was to be occupied by their Naval force and held until fall, whereby they would evacuate before the severe winter weather moved in.  The reason for this, the Japanese flying boats could cover the northern half of the 1,400 miles between Adak and Midway.  The first blow on the Aleutians was to be one day before Midway to confuse the Americans and throw their timing.

The principle elements of the Japanese Second Mobile Force were the 2 carriers Ryujo and Junyo and launched their attack against Dutch Harbor 3 June.  Only 6 fighters and 13 carrier attack planes (all from the Ryujo reached the target due to the weather.  The next wave of 32 planes, with experienced pilots, reached their target and did considerable damage.  Upon returning from the attack, the Junyo planes chose a rendezvous point off Umnak Island which turned out to be almost directly over a US airfield that the enemy had had no previous knowledge of.  Here they lost 4 aircraft to the defending US fighters.

Click on images to enlarge.

To be continued….

Judy Hardy at Greatest Generation Lessons and I are coordinating the military and home front views of this period.  Judy had her Uncle Ced in Alaska on an Army base at this time and her family retained the letters of correspondence.  

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Military Humor – 

OLD SERVICEMEN

OLD SERVICEMEN

NEW SERVICEMEN

NEW SERVICEMEN

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Farewell Salutes – 

Jeff Brown – Dundee, NY; US Army, Captain (Ret. 20 years)

Jim Cameron – Juneau, AK; US Army, 82nd Airborne Infantryimg_96953714425802

Frank Duran – Tampa, FL; USMC, Shore party crane operator

Vic Ison – Covington, GA; USMC, WWII, PTO / US Army, Korea

Robert Murphy – Bedford, NH; US Army, Korea

Dale Noyes – Victor, IA; USMC; WWII, PTO

Try Reeves Jr. – Hokes Bluff, AL; US Air Force (Ret. 33 years), Vietnam 2 tours

John Swinkels – New Lynn, NZ; RNetherlands Army # 260816143, Prinses Irene Regiment

Allan Thompson – Beaufort, AUS; RA Air Force # 408936, WWII

Alexander Vraciu – W.Sacramento, CA; US Navy, ace pilot, PTO, Navy Cross

Johnny Workman – Talihina, OK; USMC, Vietnam

Lawrence Ziegler – Comox, CAN; RC Artillery, WWII, / RC Air Force (Ret.)

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