Blog Archives

A Christmas Tradition from the Pacific

Soldier in Japan delivers presents as ‘Father Christmas’

After 71 years, a yearly tradition continued with the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and 25th Infantry Division all joining forces on December 4 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, to wrap presents to ship to the Holy Family Home in Japan.

The 25th Infantry Division shared photos of soldiers taking part in the annual tradition, tweeting, “It’s a long standing tradition, and it just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what nation you’re from, in the bigger picture, people help people.”

4 Dec. 2020, presents for orphans, (pic by: SSgt. Thomas Calvert

On Christmas Day in 1949, the 27th Infantry Regiment “Wolfhounds” were overwhelmed by the sight of tiny, barefoot children living in the decaying Holy Family orphanage in Osaka, Japan. The soldiers accompanied a Red Cross representative to the crumbling home that was brimming with underfed children in ragged clothes.

Sgt. Hugh Francis Xavior O’Reilly was still raw from the battlefield in those cold winter months following the end of World War II, but the site of those Japanese orphans provided the soldier with a new, gentler perspective.

The following payday, O’Reilly led the Wolfhounds in collecting donations for the struggling orphanage and donated what they could on New Year’s morning.

But for the Wolfhounds, that just wasn’t enough.

Soldiers and their families wrapping presents

Over the next year, the 27th continued to collect funds for the orphaned Japanese children, and by the time Christmas 1950

Soldiers writing out cards to send to Japan

rolled around, the Wolfhounds dragged a sleigh filled with supplies and toys, along with “Father Christmas.”

Now 71 years later, the 27th is still at it.

While the coronavirus pandemic did prevent the soldiers from hand-delivering the gifts to the children at the orphanage, over 600 gifts were wrapped and shipped the roughly 4,000 miles from the soldiers’ base in Hawaii to the Holy Family home in Osaka.

MARINES ALSO DELIVER AN EARLY CHRISTMAS TO AN ORPHANAGE IN SOUTH KOREA!

A couple of children happily receive toys at Jacob’s House orphanage, Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Dec. 22, 2013. Over 300 toys were donated by U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea.
ARMANDO R. LIMON/STARS AND STRIPES

Pacific Paratrooper has also had their own tradition during Christmas…

TO ALL THOSE THAT BELIEVE IN FREEDOM AND PEACE: MERRY CHRISTMAS!!  FROM: PACIFIC PARATROOPER!!

PLEASE… REMEMBER THOSE THAT FOUGHT FOR US IN THE PAST…

[To see the pictures that accompany the past and present – CLICK HERE!]

AND THOSE WHO CONTINUE TO PROTECT US TODAY!!!

AND FOR THOSE SPECIAL PEOPLE WHO WAIT PATIENTLY AT HOME…

 

TO ALL THOSE WHO DO NOT CELEBRATE THIS HOLIDAY … I WISH YOU THE WARMTH AND PEACEFUL CONTENTMENT THAT ARE REPRESENTED BY THIS SEASON !!!

Click on still images to enlarge.

Military Christmas Humor –

Easton, MD–Dec. 22, 2011–This is a Christmas display at the home of Tom and Alice Blair, which includes an F 104 jet, Santa and his sleigh, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, etc. staff photo/Barbara Haddock Taylor} [Sun Photographer] #9306

 

Aboard the USS Nimitz

 

Yank mag. 24 Dec. 1943

 

 

 

Farewell Salutes – 

Francis Borgstrom – Forsythe, MT; USMC, WWII, PTO

Mamie (Weber) Cook – Deerfield, MO; Civilian, WWII, B-29 riveter

Robert Dutton – Niagara Falls, NY; US Army, WWII

 

Raymond Erickson – Orton Flat, SD; US Navy,   WWII, PBY communications crewman

Alfred T. Farrar (100) – Lynchburg, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII / FAA engineer

Wesley Grace – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, mine clearing

Paul T. Ichiuji – Pacific Grove, CA; US Army, WWII, MISer (Intelligence)

James Mackey – Windsor, CT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, aircraft mechanic

Alfred Shehab – Cape May, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO, 102nd Calvary, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Lt. Col. (Ret. 21 y.) / NASA

Lloyd Zett – Loretta, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ATO, aircraft mechanic (Nome)

Pre-Christmas post from Star and Stripes – 75th Anniversary

In The Past

1964, a Vietnam Christmas for Bob Hope

Bob Hope brings Christmas cheer to troops in Vietnam

1964 | BIEN HOA, South Vietnam — Bob Hope brought some laughter to a place of war Christmas Eve.

READ MORE

Residents of an outer island of Palau retrieve boxes from the U.S. Air Force’s 1999 Christmas drop.

Airmen prepare for annual Christmas gift drop to Pacific islanders

2005 | ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — Airmen geared up to deliver items to Pacific islanders who can only dream of department stores.

READ MORE

Santa Claus hands out presents to the men of Detachment 35, Company B, 5th Special Forces Group, in Vietnam at the end of 1968. The Air Force lent Santa six C7 Caribou cargo planes for his deliveries in Vietnam. The planes enabled him to visit some 50 isolated outposts – such as this Special Forces camp in Nahon Cho, 80 miles northeast of Saigon – from Dec. 24th until late in the afternoon Christmas day.
JAMES LINN/STARS AND STRIPES |

Eight deer traded in for 6 ‘Santabou’ in waning days of 1968

1968 | NHON CHO, Vietnam — Santa’s reindeer were constantly bogged down in mud and his sleigh broke on the bumpy, snowless airstrips. The Air Force lent Santa six C7 Caribou cargo planes for his deliveries in Vietnam.

READ MORE

In The Present

Staff Sgt. Hector Frietze, right, and Senior Airman John Allum, left, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmasters, wave to the people of the Island of Angaur, Republic of Palau, during the first bundle airdrops of Operation Christmas Drop 2020, Dec. 6. OCD is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, allowing the U.S. and its allies to deliver food, tools and clothing to the people who live on remote islands in the South-Eastern Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)

SE PACIFIC – OPERATION CHRISTMAS DROP

https://guam.stripes.com/community-news/until-next-year-operation-christmas-drop-2020-comes-close?fbclid=IwAR1yVLMkclH-_KP3NI3uW0A9hFwIZXBnKT4Wqr38MVxKHx9RVjxpM_0R3zA

Deployed

Service members serve on all seven continents — there is one service member in Antarctica — and on all the seas. Military personnel serve in more than 170 countries.

Service members deployed around the world during Christmas:

  • Afghanistan: 14,000
  • Bahrain: 7,000
  • Iraq: 5,200
  • Jordan: 2,795
  • Kuwait: 13,000
  • Oman: 300
  • Qatar: 13,000
  • Saudi Arabia: 3,000
  • Syria: Unknown
  • Turkey: Unknown
  • United Arab Emirates: 5,0000

Sailors will man their ships from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico.  Navy officials maintain that roughly a third of the Navy is deployed at any one time.

Air Force missileers and airmen are in the silos, by the planes and in the command centers ensuring the nuclear system is ready if needed.

And Please remember the military families !

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Military Christmas Humor – 

Humor from deployed Marines

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Farewell Salutes – 

Bennie Adkins – Waurika, OK; US Army, Vietnam, Sgt. (Ret. 22 y.), Green Beret, Silver Star, Purple Heart

Bon Nell Bentley – Russellville, AR; Civilian, riveter / US Navy WAVE, WWII / USN nurse / Civilian, nurse w/ Veterans Admin. (Ret. 30 y.)

Pedro ‘Pete’ Coronel – Hereford, AZ; US Army, WWII, PTO, 7th Cavalry, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Lee E. James (106) – Spearman, TX; US Army, WWII, CBI, Colonel (Ret. 27 y.)

William Kinney – Toledo, OH; US Navy, WWII

Levi A. Presley – Crestview, FL; US Army, Sgt. 1st Class

Louis Pugh – Courtdale, PA; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT, 2 Bronze Stars, Purple Heart

Jesse O. Sandlin – Granby, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot, 8th AF  /  Korea, Lt. Colonel (Ret. 28 y.)

Owen Tripp – Tacoma, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star

Donald Urquhart – New Orleans, LA; US Army, WWII, 81st Infantry Division, Purple Heart

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HAPPY HOLIDAY WISH FOR ALL !! Poems (2)

SANTA PARATROOPER

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everyone out there !!   May you all find the Peace and Happiness you deserve.

 

 

A 1944 Christmas

FromPacific Paratrooper to ALL !!!

Cherish His Christmas

by Roger J. Robicheau

Dedicated to our military…

Christmas brings such a time of love
Each tender heart holds so much of

Unselfishness thrives, trust is strong
The purpose to give, send love along

A time of pleasantries, patience too
Good wishes to all, all feelings true

Thankfulness follows each fine deed
Gifts from our God, never from greed

Great the rewards that joy does bring
Like the beauty in hearing angels sing

We pray for our loved, each so dear
Especially those who can’t be near

Many leave home to bravely serve
All freedoms we have, they preserve

Do pray for our troops, as we should
And their families too, if you would

Give thanks to our Lord, His only Son
And cherish His Christmas, everyone

©2004Roger J. Robicheau

Please do me one favor and click on last year’s post – Right Here !  

From Charly Priest to Smitty – CLICK HERE!!

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Military Humor – 

Easton, MD–Dec. 22, 2011–This is a Christmas display at the home of Tom and Alice Blair, which includes an F 104 jet, staff photo/Barbara Haddock Taylor} [Sun Photographer] #9306

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Thomas Anderson – Los Angeles, CA; US Army, WWII & Korea

Bill Bjorson – Canfield, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. A/511/11th Airborne Division

Roland Duffany – Pawtucket, RI; US Army, WWII, SSgt., Purple Heart

Robert Gibbons – Denver, CO; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Samuel Jones – London, ENG; Royal Navy, WWII, ETO, gunner, HMS Zulu

Shuso “Shoes” Kumata – IL; US Army, WWII, PTO, Occupation interpreter

Thomas Lovell – St. George, UT; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Tetsuo Matsumoto – Lodi, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO, SSgt., 100/442nd RCT

George A. Sakheim – Brn: GER; US Army, WWII, ETO, Military Intelligence & interpreter

Wiley Tanner – Radium, KS; US Army, WWII

 

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Christmas poems for our military (1)

Sailor Santa

“A Different Christmas Poem”

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

091202-N-5339S-693
GROTON, Conn. (Dec. 2, 2009) Santa Claus stands with Sailors aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755) during the submarineÕs return to Naval Submarine Base New London after an eight-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Electronics Technician John Sabados/Released)

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,

I’m out here by choice. I’m here every Night.”

“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at “Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of “Nam”,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I’ve not seen my own son
In more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures;
He’s sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..

Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”
“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”

“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,

“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
30th Naval Construction Regiment
OIC, Logistics Cell One
Al Taqqadum, Iraq

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – 

Easton, MD–Dec. 22, 2011–This is a Christmas display at the home of Tom and Alice Blair, which includes an F 104 jet, staff photo/Barbara Haddock Taylor} [Sun Photographer] #9306

Aboard the USS Nimitz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Arnold Arons – Vacaville, CA; US Navy, WWII / US Air Force, Korea & Vietnam, (Ret. 30 y.)

John Bayens – Louisville, KY; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc., Co B/1/6/2nd Marine Division, KIA (Tarawa)

Joseph Cuda – NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Glenn R, Goff III – Hardeesville, SC; US Army, Vietnam, specialist

Francis Jackson – Oak Mills, KS; USMC, WWII, PTO, Korea & Vietnam, MSgt. (Ret. 30 y.)

Richard Little – Mobile, AL; US Navy, WWII, USS Henry W. Tucker / US Air Force, Korea

Maurice Mounsdon (101) – Litchfield, ENG; RAF, WWII, Lt., pilot, 56th Squadron “The Few”

Michael Soares – New Bern, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, 2nd Lt., tank commander / US Navy (Ret. 25 y.)

Gordon Whitlow – Sioux Falls, SD; Merchant Marines, WWII / US Air Force, Korea

John Voogt – Newport, RI; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam

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Havoc on the Home Front Impacted Christmas

Female Santa of the 1940’s

From: “The Voice of the Angels”, 11th Airborne newspaper, vol. 201

Fewer men at home resulted in fewer men available to dress up and play Santa Claus.  Women served as substitute Santas at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City and at other department stores throughout the United States.

During WWII Christmas trees were in short supply because of lack of manpower to cut the tress down and a shortage of railroad space to ship the trees to market.  Americans rushed to buy American-made Visca artificial trees.  The electric lights that were designed in the 1940’s are still in use today.

Artificial tree in 1942 Sears catalog.

Travel during the holidays was limited for most families due to the rationing of tires and gasoline.  Americans saved up their food ration stamps to provide extra food for a fine holiday meal.

Vintage Christmas

Many ornaments were made with aluminum and tin, a highly rationed item.  As a result, families opted to make their own ornaments.  Magazines provided ideas and patterns especially designed for non-priority war materials, such as paper, string and things found in the backyard.

Popular hand-blown German-made ornaments, as well as exotic Japanese-made ornaments, were thrown away with the outbreak of the war in support of their soldiers.  The Corning Glass Company, out of New York, started to make ornaments in response to this occurrence.

Unsilvered Corning ornaments.

Not only did the population feel better about using American-made decorations, but also Corning could make more ornaments in a minute than it would take a German glass blower in one day.

Vintage tree turner

These 1940’s unsilvered glass Christmas ornaments were made for a less than 3 year period during WWII, when silvering agents were unavailable for consumer products.  The box itself is the earliest Shiny Brite red and tan version.  Many war ornaments had paper caps due to metal shortages.

Some people wanted a snowy look on their trees so their solution was to mix LUX soap powder with water and then brush the branches with the concoction.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Helicopter-reindeer season!

Barbara Haddock Taylor} [Sun Photographer] #9306

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Lemuel Apala – Wilson, OK; US Army, WWII, ETO, Sgt Major

William Bluhm – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII, Signal Corps, Bronze Star

“Man at the Wall”

James Bray – Huntsville, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co C/457 Artillery/11th Airborne Division

“Tony” Louviere Sr. – Norco, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 101st Airborne Division

Avis McCormick – Auckland, NZ; WRNZNS WREN # 511, WWII

Michael Norelli – Albany, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, SeaBee

Dillard Pierce – Louisville, KY; US Army, WWII, Tech 5, 313th Combat Engineer Battalion

Fulton Singleton – Parsonsburg, MD; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. F/127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Robb Travis – Peoria, AZ; US Navy, WWII, USS Hollandia

Jim Wilson – Corriganville, MD; US Air Force, Vietnam, MSgt., (The Man at the Wall)

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CHRISTMAS DAY

TO ALL THOSE THAT BELIEVE IN FREEDOM AND PEACEMERRY CHRISTMAS!!  FROM: PACIFIC PARATROOPER!!

PLEASE… REMEMBER THOSE THAT FOUGHT FOR US IN THE PAST

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AND THOSE WHO CONTINUE TO PROTECT US TODAY!!!

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AND FOR THOSE SPECIAL PEOPLE WHO WAIT PATIENTLY AT HOME

 

TO ALL THOSE WHO DO NOT CELEBRATE THIS HOLIDAY … I WISH YOU THE WARMTH AND PEACEFUL CONTENTMENT THAT IS REPRESENTED BY THIS SEASON !!!

Click on still images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

Humor from deployed Marines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Gerard Azemar – Lafayette, LA; US Army, WWII

Dick Bowersox – Tiffan, OH; US Merchant Marines, WWII

Darrell Dilks – Temple, OK; US Army, WWII, 2 Bronze Stars

Merlin Hicks – Iron Mountain, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Dwight “Bud” Hudson – Berry, AL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, gunner’s mate, USS Charrette

J.B. Jones Sr. – Miami, FL; US Army, Korea, Purple Heart

Albert Kane – Dallas, TX; US Navy, WWII, Fireman 1st Class, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Margaret McKillop – Port Austin, MI; US Army WAC, WWII

Karl Peterson – Warren, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 461st Antiaircraft Batt./69th Infantry Division, Communications Tech.

Jack Schultz – Laguna Hills, CA; USMC,Korea & Vietnam, Major (Ret. 21 y.)

John T. Williams – Windsor, VT; US Army, Korea

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Christmas Wishes for ALL

TO ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN PEACE  HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!

REMEMBER THOSE WHO HELPED TO GIVE YOU FREEDOM!!!

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AND THOSE WHO CONTINUE TO KEEP US SAFE!!!

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AND

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Albert Atkins – Belvidere, NJ; US Army, Korea, Co. E/2nd/187th RCT, KIA

Mary (Sweet) Brown (103) – Tauranga, NZ; WA Air Force # 2031332, WWII

Ronald Burditt – NV; US Army, Korea, communications

Jack Downhill – Rochester, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Lt.Col. (Ret. 28 y.)

Joseph Elliot – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, WWII, Korea, Lt.Commander (Ret. 23 y.)

Richard Grimm – Athens, GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187/11th Airborne Division

Andrew McGarry (100) – Milton, OK; US Navy, WWII

Robert Newcomb (100) – Honolulu, HI; US Navy, WWII, PTO / Korea, Cmdr. (Ret. 20 y.)

Kenneth Reth – Racine, WI; US Army, WWII, ETO, tank battalion

Maurice Ritter – Cockeysville, MD; US Navy, WWII, USS Naukesa

Lones Wigger Jr. – Carter, MT; Vietnam, Lt.Colonel (Ret. 27 y.), Olympic Gold winner

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CHRISTMAS

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TO ALL THOSE THAT BELIEVE IN FREEDOM AND PEACEMERRY CHRISTMAS, from THE PACIFIC PARATROOPER !!

christmas-military1

PLEASE REMEMBER THOSE THAT FOUGHT FOR US THEN….

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AND THOSE THAT PROTECT US TODAY….

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TO ALL MY FRIENDS AND NEW READERS – I WISH YOU ALL THE VERY BEST OF HOLIDAY SEASONS!!!

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MILITARY CHRISTMAS HUMOR – 

Humor from deployed Marines

Humor from deployed Marines

military_xmas__cecigian

Click on images to enlarge.

OOPS !!

OOPS !!

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FAREWELL SALUTES – 

Loren Abdulla – Fox Lake, IL; USMC, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart (Yankton Sioux)

Robert Boyd – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Army # 136394, WWII, driveroperation-enduring-freedom-afgahanistan-wilderness-holiday-greetings1

Alfred Chew – Giddings, TX; US Army, Korea, demolition / US Air Force, TSgt. (Ret. 24 yrs.)

Steven Erceg – W.AUS; 3rd & 4th RAR, Vietnam

William Fields – Birmingham, AL; US Army, WWII, PTO

Daniel Martin – Portland, OR; US Army, WWII

Bruce R. Linzy – Gay, FL; US Army, Korea, Co. C/1st Batt./187th RCT

Toby Ortiz – Nambe, NM; US Army, WWII, PTO, 25th Infantry

Fred Persinger – Dover, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, (Ret. 28 years)

Ralph Wetmore – Lodi, CA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Sgt., medic

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Personal Note – Please be patient, it’s been very busy around here and it may take me a while to get back to you.  I appreciate each and every one of you!!

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Electrical Section, 127 Wing, Christmas, 1943

From Pierre Lagacé, the gentleman who works tirelessly to bring our ancestors home to us!

RCAF No. 403 Squadron

Was your father, grandfather, uncle, granduncle, or someone you know was with Electrical Section, 127 Wing around Christmas time in 1943?

Well chances are that he is on this picture.

Electrician section

Lorne’s father is.

Electrician section Leonard Weston

This picture is probably not precious unless your father, grandfather, uncle, granduncle, or someone you know was with Electrical Section, 127 Wing around Christmas time in 1943.

If you find someone you know, please write a comment and I will get in touch.

View original post

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 – 

6a00d8341bfadb53ef0120a4d8ae67970b-500wi

Always yield to a vehicle packing a Slammer!

Funny Military With Quotes Pics (48)

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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