We were young, invincible, and we knew the awful things would happen to the other guy. The war in Vietnam was nothing more than a stumbling block, something our country needed us to do before we continued on with our lives, our educations, marriages, raising rug rats, growing old with a sweetheart. Our tools of war were lethal and high tech, the best bombs and bullets taxpayer money could buy. Turn us loose, let us do what we were trained to do, and we will win this war then bring us home to a grateful nation.
Their military uniforms are packed away in a storage bin somewhere in a dusty attic, or perhaps hanging in the back room closet protected by a sheet of plastic, yet still discolored from years of disuse. Row upon row of multi-hued service ribbons are still pinned over the left breast pocket. Few, if any, of the veterans attempt to squeeze into their old threads of service since age and one too many chocolate donuts have taken a toll, yet these senior warriors continue to serve most honorably in so many different ways.
Habitually identified as the Splinter Fleet, the tiny 110 foot wood-hulled Sub Chasers of WWII held the title as the smallest commissioned ship in the US Navy. A Sub Chaser cruised at around 12 knots with flank speed no more than 20 knots. The more popular PT-Boats of McHales's Navy renown were only 80 feet in length and commonly hit 40 knots, but PT-Boats were commissioned collectively in squadrons, not individually.
The B-24 Liberator was overdue. Ugly gray clouds and a misty overcast cut visibility to less than a mile. Hot and sticky, the crewmembers had been airborne most of the day and they were eager to land. Big sweat beads rolled off their faces and dripped onto the metal floor. The nose art on front of the B-24 identified her as Diamond Lil. Ground personnel were anxious, hoping Diamond Lil could make the airfield. Unattractive and ungraceful, the B-24 merited a reputation for difficult handling and unpredictable flight characteristics.
Aboard the battleship USS California, Dec. 7, 1941. The time: 7:55 a.m. Wayne Shelnut was nursing a hot cup of coffee after breakfast when someone screamed, "What is that airplane doing up there?" Wayne walked a few steps to the door and looked up. A plane with a big red ball painted on the fuselage passed over the California then dropped a bomb on Ford Island. General quarters sounded and startled sailors ran to their battle stations. 100 crewmembers would die and 62 others would be wounded. World War II had caught our Pacific Fleet sound asleep at ...
November 28, 1972 - Udorn AFB, Thailand: The F-4 Phantom jet lifts off with Captain Jack Harvey at the controls. Flight surgeon Major Bobby Jones rides in the backseat. Major Jones is on the non-combat 'hop' to Da Nang, Vietnam, for one reason, to log the needed hours to maintain his flight surgeon status. The flight is uneventful until about 18 miles out from Da Nang. Something has gone horribly wrong in the vicinity of cloud-covered Bach Ma Mountain.
Due to the ingenuity and can-do attitude of Yanks in World War II, the British witnessed their London Lorries remodeled into odd-looking clubmobiles that smelled of coffee and donuts. In July and August of 1944, brand-new clubmobiles crossed the stormy English Channel as remodeled two-and-a-half ton Army trucks. These vehicles also smacked of hot Joe and circular pastry. Eventually 80 clubmobiles and 320 females known as "clubmobile girls" braved the hazards of war to provide our soldiers with familiar tastes and a touch of home. Fifty-two of the ladies would die in the line of duty.
November, 1965 - the Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam.
The 750-horsepower Pratt and Whitney Hornet engines turned over four propellers sending a beautiful yet chaotic melody of mechanical jazz to those encased in the belly of the flying time capsule that is the Liberty Foundation's B-17 Memphis Belle at the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport Thursday.
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With administrative cauldrons overflowing with entrenched beliefs and colossal egos, politicians and military elites habitually consider military visionaries as nothing more than annoying burrs in expensive saddles. On today's technological battlefields adaptation arrives quicker due to the fast-paced changes in weapons and tactics. But things were quite different after World War One. Hyped as 'the war to end all wars,' the celebrated armistice actually set the stage for a dozen future conflicts, including World War Two. One persistent voice not only predicted the looming battle in the Pacific, but even specified the point in time at an anchorage called ...
August 7, 2012: Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank, Logar Province in Afghanistan. She remembers a 'thump' followed by the sensation of a big hand picking up her body then squeezing the breath from her lungs. Hurled through the air, her body smashes against a blast wall, called an Alaska Wall by the U.S. Military. A water truck packed with 3,000 lbs. of explosives had just detonated 'inside the wire.' Major Patty "Mama Bear" Justice lies wounded and motionless, another casualty of another suicidal terrorist attack. She is 49 years old.
"Then were there brought unto him little children; that he should put his hands on them and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus, said, 'Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'"
I've been asked many times by readers and friends to relate my military experiences for "A Veteran's Story." Well, perhaps at a later date, but for now I'm delighted and honored to represent and convey the stories of my brothers and sisters. I will grant one personal narrative, a report on the best Veterans Day this old 'Nam vet has ever experienced.
December, 1923, Atlanta: Jim Butler enters the world in an apartment house at the corner of Memorial Drive and Moreland Avenue. His dad maintained a job during the Great Depression so in Jim's words, "Our family did okay." Tech High School awarded Jim a diploma in the spring of '42. Hired by Rich's Department Store, he listened to the stories of a co-worker who had joined Navy aviation. Rather than be drafted as a ground-pounder, by September Jim had taken and passed his physical and mental tests for pilot training with the U.S. Navy.
This "Veteran's Story" is dedicated to all our veterans, to the men and women still in uniform, and to our fellow countrymen striving to grasp the true cost of freedom. Freedom never has been free, and the cost will be much higher for future generations.
According to Greek mythology, a skilled artist and craftsman, Daedalus, along with his son, Icarus, had become imprisoned on the isle of Crete without hope of escape. Using his substantial intellect, Daedalus used wooden frames, wax, and various sized feathers to fabricate wings. After man's first 'preflight', the two men took to the air, with a stern warning from Daedalus to his son not to fly too high because heat from the sun would melt the wax, nor too low, because sea foam may soak the feathers.
He served as a combat medic in Vietnam, picked up pieces of humanity; desperately struggled to save lives during the critical 60 minutes of the 'Golden Hour' in which the survival rate increased to 95%, and treaded through mine fields to recover the dead and wounded.
From the book "The Tunnels of Cu Chi" by Mangold and Penycate, a quote by highly decorated Army officer Jack Flowers, commander of 'Rat Six', the crack Tunnel Rat unit of the 1st Infantry Division. Jack Flowers personally survived 97 tunnel explorations.
The home city of record for Lance Corporal David Nipper is Atlanta. Perhaps the city of Atlanta was listed for convenience, but my theory is a bit more skeptical. This young marine was unintentionally overlooked due to careless record-keeping or the lack of clerical experience dealing with Georgia's first warrior listed as MIA (Missing in Action) during the war in Southeast Asia.
Arranging an interview quickly turns into something even more exciting when the veteran suggests, "Let's just fire up the old Stearman and fly down to Peach State Aerodrome for lunch at Barnstormer's Grill. Then we can fly back for an interview at my house." Needless to say, nobody had to twist my arm.
The word 'veteran' customarily represents an individual who served in the military. The keyword 'military' customarily represents a fighting alliance like the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines or the Navy. Arguably, two other groups could be classified as veterans: Merchant Mariners and members of the Home Front.
The "Forgotten War" of Korea is also referred to as the war "orphaned by history." The catchphrases 'forgotten' or 'orphaned' may appease intellectuals or the power-players of that era, but for the soldiers who suffered and sacrificed in the hell called Korea their war will never be 'forgotten.' As for being 'orphaned by history', Korean veterans knew from the outset that the diplomatic philosophy of the day guaranteed they would indeed feel orphaned if not blamed for America's first war without a victorious outcome.
Soldiers of color, be it white, black, red, brown or yellow, have one human characteristic in common: we all bleed the same color. The warrior covering your back most likely wears the same color uniform, yet his or her race, creed or color has no relevance on the value of training or their desire to simply do what is right.
Their aphorism, 'Dedicated Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces' was better known in Vietnam by its acronym 'Dustoff'. These were the medevac choppers. Unarmed and unwavering, the courageous crews of 'Dustoff' missions flew their Hueys into combat zones to bring out the wounded, the dying, and young soldiers covered with rain ponchos. 'Dustoffs' were clearly marked with the Red Cross insignia to signify a mercy flight, yet that distinctive Red Cross also became a prime target for Communist gunners.