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Read an Eyewitness Account of the German Surrender in World War II

HERE IS A SNEAK PEEK INTO A NEW BOOK OF EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS.

Korean War – First Hand Story

 

The Skyraider

The Skyraider

It has been some time since a first hand story has been included here, therefore I planned one for #36.  Obviously on the same wave length as I, fellow blogger/Korean War correspondent Rafe Steinberg at: http://nightowlsnotebook.wordpress.com  sent me this story from the New York Times:

Kenneth A. Schechter, 83, Dies; With Help, He Flew Blind 

by Bruce Weber (condensed by gpcox)

On 22 March 1952, Navy pilot, Ensign Schechter, 22, a member of Fighter Squadron 194 (“Yellow Devils”), while flying over Wongsang-ni, North Korea in what was his 27th mission was at the heart of one of the most electrifying air rescues in American history.  An enemy antiaircraft shell exploded in the cockpit of his A-1 Skyraider.  “Instinctively, I pulled back on the stick to gain altitude.  Then I passed out.  When I came to a short time later, I couldn’t see a thing.  There was stinging agony in my face and throbbing in my head.  I felt for my upper lip.  It was almost severed from the rest of my face.  I called out over the radio through my lip mike, ‘I’m blind!  For God’s sake, help me!  I’m blind!”

Naval aviator wings

Naval aviator wings

He was headed for a cloud bank at 10,000 feet that would obscure him from view of his squadron.  By coincidence, his scream for help was heard by fellow pilot, Lt. Howard Thayer, Schechter’s roommate on the Valley Forge, “Put your nose down!  Put your nose down!  Push over.  I’m coming up,” Thayer yelled back.  Schechter, fading in and out of consciousness, refused to eject from the plane as Thayer flew alongside.  They were headed for the Marine airfield K-18 about 30 miles away.

Korean air fields

Korean air fields

“I continued to follow Thayer’s directions, but he could see that my head kept flopping down from time to time and he doubted that I could make it to K-18, so he decided to get me down right away.”  Thayer spotted a deserted airstrip not far beyond the battle line, but due to the ruggedness and brevity of the strip (or due to the blindness he was unable to locate the controls), he had to make a belly landing.

“From his plane, flying 25 feet away from mine and duplicating my maneuvers, Howard’s voice was cool and confident,” Schechter said.

“We’re heading straight.  Flaps down.  Hundred yards to the runway.  You’re 50 feet off the ground.  Pull back a little.  Easy.  Easy.  That’s good.  You’re level.  You’re O.K.  You’re O.K.  Thirty feet off the ground.  You’re O.K.  You’re over the runway.  Twenty feet.  Kill it a little.  You’re settling down.  O.K., O.K., O.K.  Cut!”  A short while late, “You’re on the ground, Ken.”

“No fire.  No pain.  No strain.  The best landing I ever made,” Schechter said.

Kenneth Schechter and Howard Thayer

Kenneth Schechter and Howard Thayer

Ken Schechter was taken to a Naval hospital and only regained sight in his left eye.  He went on to graduate from Stanford and Harvard Business School.

Howard Thayer made the Navy his career and was later killed in 1961, when on a night mission, he flew into the water returning to a carrier in the Mediterranean Sea.

Distinguished Flying Cross

Distinguished Flying Cross

In 1995, Mr. Schechter was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and addressed Mr. Thayer’s 3 children, by then adults, “I hope you will see this ceremony as your ceremony, because that’s exactly the way I feel about it.”  Fourteen years later, in 2009, Thayer received the same award, posthumously.

Click on images to enlarge.

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This event was reported in The Associated Press.  Later, an article by Cmdr. Harry Burns, in the Saturday Evening Post & an article written by James Michener were used as the basis for the 1954 movie “Men of the Fighting Lady” which starred Van Johnson as Lt. Thayer and Dewey Martin as Ensign Schechter.  Mr. Schechter recounted his story for the book “Chicken Soup for the Veteran’s Soul” and the Naval Aviation News nearly 50 years later.

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Thanks to the research of Kevin Brent, we have the legacy of the AK-47 for a WWII update; please follow the links –

http://jkbrent.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/kalaschnikov-russias-imprint-on-global-terror/

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Farewell Salutes – 

The Missing Man formation

The Missing Man formation

Desmond Andrewes – Mt. Eden, New Zealand; RNZAF, WWII Flight Lt. No. 427174

Raymond Beaulieu – Coral Springs, FL; US Navy, WWII

Albert “Bud” Campbell – Seattle, WA; US Army, WWII PTO, Capt. 33rd Infantry Div./Company H/123rd infantry Reg.

William Currier, Jr. – Delray Beach, FL; US Army Air Corps/Air Force, Lt. Colonel, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Cuban Missile Crisis

John Eddleman – Fairfax, VA & Missoula, Montana; US Air Force Colonel, (Ret.)

Vincent Faga – Warren, PA & W.Palm Beach, FL; US Air Force, Vietnam

Franklin Lewis – Rosebud, TX & WA; US Army, Sgt., WWII PTO,

Nick Soffos – Alexandria, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 11th A/B Div.

Glen Stalker – Bethesda, MD; US Air Force, pilot, WWII & Korea

Elston VabSlyke – Seattle, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Co. E/511th

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Correspondent’s View – 2

Heartbreak Ridge

Heartbreak Ridge

5 September 1951, the North Koreans moved from Bloody Ridge to the 7 mile long hill known to the Americans as Heartbreak Ridge, just 1,500 yards away. A month long battle that would cost the U.S. 2nd Division 3,700 men. Below are two more articles written by Korean War correspondent Rafael Steinberg as he witnesses some of the action involved.

‘DO PEOPLE BACK HOME KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?’

By, Rafael Steinberg

WITH THE SECOND U.S. INFANTRY DIVISION, Korea, Sept. 28. – (INS) – When it began, there were many men, and they all said they’d rather live than be heroes.  But when it was over, there were many heroes.  The heroes who didn’t live through it were carried to the road in trucks that were seldom too large for the load they were given.  Those who lived, staggered off “Heartbreak Ridge” like fugitives from a nightmare.

They had fired their guns until their ammunition was gone, charged the enemy until the moment the enemy died, battled with knuckles and sinew.  The men of one group told the story today.  For the past few days they had fought as a bobtailed outfit because there were not enough officers or noncoms or men left to fill out the whole unit.  This conversation took place:

“Say, listen, buddy.”
“Yes?”
“Do the people back home know what’s going on here?”
“Some of them might.”
“Yeah?  Well tell them about this damn mountain.  Tell them this ain’t no patrol contact.  If they knew about it they’d stop this stuff.  This here’s a war.  Tell them about this damn ridge.”
 

The ridge is steep and the peaks along it are high and the North Koreans have burrowed themselves into the mountain the same way termites eat their way into a log.  For two weeks, the 23rd Infantry Regiment battled for the highest peak.  The first battalion crawled and climbed and battled and died on one slope.  The second battalion crawled and climbed and died on another.  The third battalion crawled and climbed and died on the peak just above.

The North Koreans still hold the highest peak.  But the Communist army is missing four regiments as a result of the death-grip the Reds kept on their mountain, the Americans who were wounded and died took more than their share of enemy with them.

Men of the Second US Inf. Div. back down from Heartbreak Ridge

Men of the Second US Inf. Div. back down from Heartbreak Ridge

The Communists held because they had a mortar and artillery piece aimed at every piece of ground the 23rd held or took.  They held because their commander sent four regiments, one at a time, up to the peak from the west without regard for losses.  And they held for the elementary tactical reason that a defender of high ground almost always has the advantage over his attackers.

But the men of the 23rd kept at it.  Said one company commander:  “They were charging up the hill with bayonets…”

The captain, James Dick of Elizabeth, NJ, came off the hill today and told his fellow officers:  “There were individual acts of courage the like of which I’ve never seen.  There was one kid on his way to the top, got his foot blown off and got some machine-gun fire in his chest.  Then a mortar knocked his jaw off and still the ______ kept going.  Then he almost got to the top and just collapsed, just collapsed… and we we will never know who he was.”

No American dead were left on the hill, the captain said, but there is no time to look at a man’s dog tags and write down his name when the mortars are coming in.

“I had my radio,” said one officer, “and each time we had to fall back because of the machine-guns or mortars, I asked for instructions.  They said ‘you will take the hill by dawn.’  So we try a few more times and lose a dozen more men each time and I make the same call and ask the same question and get the same answer.  Finally I left my radio near a tree and a mortar blew it up and then I had to use my own judgement and that meant get back to the perimeter.  We got back just in time, too.  I’m telling you, you can’t take that hill.  There’s no place to maneuver.  There’s just one or two ways to get up and they’ve got them zeroed in.  And their bunkers are so deep that a big shell won’t get into them.”

But the men stayed on and fought.  By this time they were usually in a state of shock.  For two weeks no one of them slept more than an hour or two at a time.  For days whole companies stayed alert on guard all night with no sleep.  There was no hot food, no change of clothes, no outlet for the tension and fear and worry that built up day by day until some men fell apart and had to be led down the hill and other men fell apart and led screaming charges up the hill.

Said one officer:  “There were two wild idiots.  Men screaming in the bottoms of their foxholes – and they had good reason to be screaming but what good were they to me?”

One small group lost 15 killed and 70 wounded.  Another smaller group had only five men hut by this afternoon.

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Personal note – I believe stories such as these from men who were there more than cover the question as to whether these three years was a conflict or a war.

Resource:  http://nightowlsnotebook.wordpress.com

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ben Smith – Seattle, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Barbara Hooven – NJ; US Army nurse, WWII

His helmet, rifle and ammunition belt mark the spot where an unidentified soldier was killed on the Korean front

His helmet, rifle and ammunition belt mark the spot where an unidentified soldier was killed on the Korean front

Samual Brickman – Delray Bch, FL; US Army, WWII ETO, Forward Brigade

Edward Huth – Denver, CO & Phoenix, AZ; US Army, WWII

David Rechenbach – VA; US Army, Vietnam

Robert Hortie (83) – Salisbury, MD; USMC (Ret.) GySgt.

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Korean War (2)

A face of the war

A face of the war

General MacArthur flew to Korea for an inspection tour and witnessed fires eating through Seoul and the city about to be captured. His report was cabled to Washington, but would not be received until 29 June.

Four war correspondents, Keyes Beech of the “Chicago Daily News;” Frank Gibney of the “Time”;” Burton Crane from “The New York Times” and Marguerite Higgins, also of the “NY Herald-Tribune,” hitched a none-way ride on a transport plane going to Kimpo airfield. The pilot informed them that his orders from Tokyo said to swoop low enough to look for American evacuees, if no one was spotted, they would have to leave since the field was actually in enemy hands. As it turned out, thirty people stood there on the runway frantically waving at the C-47.

Maggie Higgins w/ MacArthur, June 1950

Maggie Higgins w/ MacArthur, June 1950

Once they were on the ground, the reporters located a car and drove to the KMAG Headquarters. General Chae told them, “We fightin’ hard now. Things gettin’ better.” But, as they saw nothing but chaos around them, none of the reporters were convinced. Maggie Higgins grabbed her typewriter and jumped into a jeep with Colonel Wright to head south. Boatmen had to be coaxed by gun point to ferry the correspondents and soldiers across the Han River where they picked up a dirt trail going over the hills to reach Suwon. At this site, Higgins met Brig. General John Church, head of the “survey group,” now known as the Advance Command Group. He knew little about Korea, but had been a division commander in Europe during WWII. (Korea would be a learning experience for soldiers and officers alike.)

It was the 27th in the U.S. when the United Nations Security Council met again at Lake Success on Long Island. Russia was still boycotting, but made a point to complain that Mao’s regime had not been allowed to replace Chiang’s delegate. Once again, the members were urged to assist South Korea in repelling the “armed attack.” The vote was 7-1 in favor; Yugoslavia voted no, while Egypt and India abstained.

The Pentagon authorized the 507th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion to protect the airfield and secure the docks at Pusan for men and supplies to land. President Rhee of South Korea fled Seoul and afterward, announced in a radio broadcast that the United States was to blame for his country’s plight. Meanwhile, the Navy started a blockade and the Air Force knocked out enemy communications.

General Church had been given command of an army in total disarray. He stated to Harold Noble, from the embassy, “I would rather have 100 New York City policemen than the whole Korean army.” (This is no reflection on the future ROKs who would receive combat training and proper equipment.) With so much of the war being fought up close and personal, all the troops needed to become combat experienced immediately.

RF-80A  Shooting Star, Korea

RF-80A Shooting Star, Korea

General George Stratemeyer, commander of the FEAF, temporarily grounded the C-54 Bataan due to weather conditions that produced a zero ceiling of visibility. Lt. Bryce Poe II took off in a RF-80A Shooting Star to find the leading edge of the NKPA forces; this was the first combat sortie by an American jet. F-80 pilots were ordered to bomb anything above the Han River and they proceeded to empty their napalm.

MacArthur w/ the "Bataan", a Lockheed C-121A Constellation in Korea.  Plane would later be used by Gen. Ridgeway.

MacArthur w/ the “Bataan”, a Lockheed C-121A Constellation in Korea. Plane would later be used by Gen. Ridgeway.

At a meeting in Taejon, MacArthur and Church assessed the deteriorating situation. General Chae was blamed for the premature destruction of the Han River bridges and four enemy planes (YAKS) circled over the Bataan as the generals watched the faster P-51s shoot down two of them; the other two escaped to the north. The “Life” photographer, David Douglas Duncan, said that MacArthur looked buoyant as he said, “Let’s get up to the front and have a look;” which he did. Upon his return to Suwon, he remarked, “Nobody is fighting.” MacArthur and four pressmen returned to Tokyo. The reports that the correspondents sent home were later described as ‘bordering on fiction.’

Click on photos to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes –

Roy Krieger – Springfield, VA; USMC (Ret.) Lt. Colonel, 3 wars w/ Purple Heart, Bronze Star w/ combat V, Navy Commendation Medal

Charles Van Winfree – Hopkinsville, KY & Longboat Key, FL; U.S. Army in Middle East during WWII

Wendell Martin Houston – Charleston, SC; Colonel U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, WWII & Korea

Martha Dee Campbell – Benton, AR & AZ; U.S. Air Force 21 years

Martin Dicken – Laurel, MD; USMC, Vietnam

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Personal note – I had Frank Gibney down as working for the incorrect publication, it is now re-edited as “Time.” I apologize to my readers for the mistake.

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