Glenn Jenkins of Venice, Fla. first walked into my life sometime in 1986. He showed up at the Gondolier newspaper office and told me his incredible story about being used as a guinea pig by the U.S. Navy in a secret mustard gas experiment near the end of World War II.
Victor Brenk of Burnt Store Marina, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was 18 when he joined Gen. George S. Patton in Europe during World War II as a member of the 851st Ordinance Heavy Auto Maintenance Company. His primary job was to keep the trucks and machinery in “Old Blood and Guts’” army operating.
Hector Cafferata, a Korean War “Medal of Honor” recipient died Tuesday, April 12, 2016, of natural causes at his Venice, Fla. home. He was 86.
Jerry Enos of Port Charlotte, Fla. loved his time in the U.S. Navy. He signed up at 17 in 1955 when he was still in high school and spent almost 20 years on the decks of some of the Navy’s biggest and fastest ships as an aviation structural mechanic.
He was on his fourth mission over Germany in a B-17 bomber called “Sky Wolf” when his luck ran out. It was June 13, 1943, their target: the submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven, a major North Sea port.
The week before James Hawn of Port Charlotte, Fla. graduated from Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. in June 1950 the Korean War began. He and the other recruits in his company became part of the 1st Marine Division that played a major role in the Inchon Invasion and the historic march to…
Student unrest in Budapest, Hungary in 1956 launched a national uprising: The Hungarian Revolution against the Hungarian People’s Republic and dominance by the Soviet Union. It was the first people’s uprising since the Russians drove the Nazis out of the country in 1945 at the end of World War II.
Art Nicholas of Englewood received France’s highest military decoration, “Knight of the Legion of Honor,” at a ceremony held Saturday at Boca Royale Golf & Country in Englewood, Fla. He was honored for his service to France and its people a lifetime ago during World War II.
Roy Sannella of Port Charlotte feels like Sherlock Holmes. Truth is, I made that up. But I’m sure that’s the way he must feel now that he has the answer to a question that’s been nagging at him for 58 years.
Sgt. John Adams had a top secret security clearance in the Army Air Corps because he worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. He was in charge of keeping all of the electronic equipment operational aboard an all black B -24 “Liberator” four-engine bomber that delivered supplies and…
Stephen Worden of Port Charlotte. Fla. was a 1st Class Navigational Aids Technician aboard a couple of ballistic missile submarines —the USS James Monroe (SSBN-622) and the USS George Washingyon Carver (SSBN-656) — during the Vietnam War era.
Sometimes the stories I receive from readers are better than anything I can write. Here is a fine example of what I’m talking about: “Today marks the 41st anniversary, Oct. 27, 2003, of the end of the Cuban missile crisis.
“Beaver” Radebaugh of Eagle Point mobile home park south of Punta Gorda, Fla.. was a little guy, not much more than five feet tall. He was just the right height to be a Sherman tank driver, part of the 3rd Armored Division that spearheaded Gen. Omar Bradley’s 1st Army through Belgium, across the Rhine River…
The 85-year-old South Venice, Fla. man was a machine gunner who served as a sergeant during World War II in the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, a Canadian unit. He and 10 of his buddies from the old unit, wearing their red berets and blue blazers, went back to central Sicily to see the cliff…
1st Lt. Ralph Calef is undoubtedly the only soldier at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, who shot at Japanese fighters with a bow and arrow.
When 1st Lt. Ward Abbett arrived in Vietnam aboard a purple Braniff Airline he was a well-educated, seasoned soldier. He was a graduate of “The Citadel” in Charleston, S.C. He also spent his first year in the Army stateside as the executive officer of a headquarters company, but he wanted to see action in Vietnam.
Randy Smith of Venice, Fla. isn’t just any Marine. He’s a former Marine Guard, who on April 29, 1975, took down the American flag for the last time at the United States Embassy in Saigon then flew away in the next to last U.S. helicopter to leave that beleaguered capital at the close of the…
Dennis Poulakis of Port Charlotte, Fla. served in the U.S. Army’s North American Air Defense Command in the ’60s.
During the Battle for the Philippines in World War II, Lt. j.g. Harley Cox of North Port, Fla. was catapulted off the deck of the carrier USS Tulagi (CVE-72) at the instant the engine of his Wildcat fighter died. He and his plane plunged into the sea in the path of his oncoming flattop.
The high point of Phil Harris’ four-year naval career was the rescue of two Gemini 8 astronauts on March 16, 1966 in the Pacific by the crew of the destroyer USS Leonard F. Mason (DD-852). The 69 year-old Burnt Store Meadows,Fla. resident served as a machinist-mate aboard the ship.
Ed Stecher of Punta Gorda, Fla. joined the 101st Airborne Division in February 1942 when he was 19-years-old. He jumped as part of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France, 62 years ago today on June 6, 1944 (when first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper).
Harry Stapleton of Punta Gorda, Fla. drove an M-48 “Patton” tank in Vietnam in 1968-69 named “Crimson and Clover.” The 69-year-old local resident maintains “I was no hero,” but he found himself in some firefights with the enemy he distinctly recalls almost 50 years later.
Ed Crosby of Port Charlotte, Fla. served aboard a couple of destroyers, the USS John V. Powers (DD-839) and the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823), during the Korean War era. What he remembers best about his four years in the service is escorting the carrier USS Oriskany around Cape Horn abroad the Powers and making…
DuWayne Schoeneck was supposed to be the chief cook aboard a LCMR (Landing Craft Medium Rocket) Navy ship headed for Okinawa, the largest island battle in the Pacific during the Second World War. He never made it.
Walter Kaiser’s 26-year career in the Navy is divided into two parts. During his first decade he served in the Submarine Service searching for secret Soviet transmission cables on the sea floor off Russia. Then he became a Master Bomb Disposal Technician during his last 16 years and helped disarm an errant U.S. nuclear bomb…
Art Nicholas, of the Oak Forrest subdivision in Englewood, Fla., has been selected as a recipient of France’s highest distinction. He will be named a “Knight of the Legion of Honor” for the part he played in the Normandy Invasion of France during World War II.
At three years old, Philip Riddle of North Fort Myers. Fla. was a Pearl Harbor survivor. He was wounded by a stray .50-caliber machine -gun bullet when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 catapulting the United States into World War II.
Jim Knight went overseas as a BAR (Browning Automatic Weapons) man with Patton’s 3rd Army, 76th Infantry Division, 17th Regiment, Company L. Of all of the actions he took part in two are indelibly etched in his memory. The first is his assault across the Sauer River and the seconds the action which resulted in…
What Ed Jensen of Englewood, Fla. remembers most about his four year hitch in the Navy was the eight month cruise he took aboard the Fletcher class destroyer USS Caperton (DD-650) through the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
The 34-year-old reserve sergeant is a member of Headquarters Company, 800th MP Brigade. This is the outfit that took part in the infamous Abu Ghraib Prison debacle.
Sgt. John Sanderson of Heron Creek subdivision in North Port, Fla. was the leader of the first LRRP team attached to the 4th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War.
By the time World War II rolled around, Bill Richardson had just graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in industrial management. He had already been commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Joe Picerno of Port Charlotte, Fla. had seven brothers. He and four of them served in the U.S. Army in World War II. His three younger brothers were in the Army during the Korean War. Natal, who was born just before Joe, was a POW of the Germans, captured at the Battle of the Bulge.
Stuart Nord of North Port, Fla. was a member of the 1st Cavalry Division when he flew into Vietnam shortly before the Tet Offensive Jan. 30, 1968. Tet was the nationwide attack by North Vietnamese Army troops and Vietcong guerrillas on the major cities and military bases in the south.
John Henry Barrow II of Royal Palm Retirement Centre in Port Charlotte, Fla. served aboard a destroyer and a sub chaser in the Pacific during World War II. He took part in some of the major battles—Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa to name three. Saipan is the one the 90-year-old former local sailor remembers best.
Stanley Niemczura of Gardens of Gulf Cove south of Englewood, Fla. was a tail gunner in a B-24 “Liberator” in the 15th Air Force in Italy during World War II.
Doris Gaines of Port Charlotte, Fla. called me to let me know she had a Christmas story taken from the memoirs of her late brother, Petty Officer First Class Gordon McDaniel. He served aboard the submarine USS Threadfin during World War II.
When Billie Jo Forrester was a freshman in college she had to write a short paper for her English class. She entitled it: “My Grandparents’ Stories.”
“We were in the 3rd Army’s drive into Luxembourg as part of Gen. George S. Patton’s troops in Europe during World War II,” Sgt. Otto Brauer of Venice, Fla. said.
Jim Dewhirst was a radio operator aboard one of the many B-24 “Liberator” bombers comprising the 467th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force flying out of Rackheath, England that was turning Germany into rubble.
For Capt. Charles Schild (Ret.) of southwest Florida, World War II was divided into two parts — the uninteresting part and the interesting part.
Otis Nickerson kept the beat-up old brown leather wallet all these years. Even though it was cut in half, it was his most cherished memento of World War II.
Herb Francis of Punta Gorda, Fla. had been in the U.S. Air Force a few years when he got a chance to join the super secret Security Service. It was 1964, in the middle of the “Cold War,” when he became an airborne spy.
Ernie Rutherford of Sandlehaven in Cape Haze was aboard a Navy communication boat during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, one of the pivotal days of World War II.
When Pvt. Leslie Kendrick joined the Army shortly after graduating from Port Charlotte High School in Port Charlotte, Fla. in 2003. She thought she was going to be in an office shuffling papers and doing a little typing. It didn’t work out that way.
Bob Adams, like Henry Fonda in the hit 1955 Hollywood movie “Mr. Roberts,” was stuck in the backwater of the Korean War aboard an attack transport, the USS Libra, AKA-12. In the movie Fonda served aboard the USS Reluctant,’ a similar ship, going no where during World War II in the Pacific.
Sgt. Chuck Beaty was leading an advanced patrol of the 7th Infantry Regiment’s 3rd Division. It was part of Gen. George S. Patton’s 7th Army that invaded Sicily in July 1943 during World War II.
Ray Wiseman of Port Charlotte, Fla. served 27 years in the U.S. Army. He began his military career as a 17-year-old private from the hills of North Carolina in 1951 and retired as a chief master sergeant in 1979. He never fired a shot in anger during the Korean or Vietnam wars.
It was winter time in 1953 when Dave Evans’ Marine Ranger unit arrived on Pork Chop Hill, just north of the 38th Parallel that would separate North Korea from South Korea. He was an 18-year-old Leatherneck just out of boot camp experiencing his baptism of fire.
The pinnacle of Patrick Farino’s photographic career hangs on the wall in his home overlooking the Peace River in Punta Gorda, Fla. It’s a picture of Gen. Douglas MacArthur walking down a Boston street following a parade in his honor shortly after he was fired by President Harry Truman during the Korean War.
The Congressional Gold Medal and accompanying commendation on the living room wall of Marine Corps Pvt. John Newton’s apartment at Regency House in Port Charlotte, Fla. was presented to him and several hundred other black World War II Marines during a formal ceremony held on June 27, 2012 at the United States Capital Visitors Center…
Pvt. Bill Denton was on a troop train headed from the Marine training base at Parris Island, S.C., to San Diego, Calif., for shipment to the Pacific Theater of Operations when the young leathernecks got word the Japanese had surrendered unconditionally and World War II was over.
When Mary O’Neal of La Casa Mobile Home Park in North Port, Fla. went to Washington, D.C. in 1941, she was an 18-year-old civilian clerk typist who had just graduated from high school in Houston, Mo. her hometown.
By the time Tom Block arrived in Vietnam in 1967 he was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army with time spent learning to be an Army Ranger, Senior Parachutist and a Pathfinder. He graduated from college a decade earlier with a degree in accounting. He also received his ROTC 2nd lieutenant bars at the…
A couple of weeks after Ernie Pyle, the most famous war correspondent in World War II, was killed by a Japanese bullet on Ie Shima Island off Okinawa, Pfc. Jim Picard and his 90 mm antiaircraft gun crew arrived.
On most of his 35 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, Staff Sgt. Michael Tristano of Heron Creek subdivision in North Port, Fla. flew as a ball-turret gunner on a “Flying Fortress,” a B-17 bomber.
When he landed on the beach at Normandy, France a few days after the initial invasion of Europe by Allied forces during World War II, Pfc. Mike Vucic of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a 18-year-old rifleman in the 79th Infantry Division attached to Gen. Omar Bradley’s 1st Army. By V-E Day (Victory in Europe) eight…
Jarrod Wetherington came home from the Arabian Sea and the fighting in Afghanistan Friday evening. [June 28, 2002]
Bill Fields, an 85-year-old North Port, Fla. resident, signed up in 1947 for the New Jersey National Guard with a couple of high school buddies.
Hap Saams is still a showman at 98. The former big-band musician and star of a one-man nightclub act is still going strong these days at lunchtime at the Royal Palm Retirement Centre in Port Charlotte, Fla..
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Russell Howard of Port Charlotte, Fla. began his 22 year career in the military as a young ROTC 2nd lieutenant who became an electronics warfare officer. In the beginning he flew aboard a Strategic Air Command B-52 “Stratofortress” flying out of Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Ga. preparing…
Floyd Coffield underwent his baptism of fire on a bombing raid over Ploesti, Romania, flying a B-24 “Liberator” four-engine bomber on May 18, 1944. Some 600 B-24s and B-17 “Flying Fortresses” bombed Ploesti in an attempt to knock out the refineries. The German war machine derived one-third of its oil supply from Ploesti.
The graffiti on the wall of the 25th Infantry Division’s camp in Kharma, near Fallujah in Iraq, says it all: “Welcome to Out Post Delta — JESUS HATES YOU.”
It wasn’t long after Navy Medical Corpsman Steven Bizeur of North Port, Fla. came ashore on Kwajalein with the 4th Marine Division he became a casualty himself during the war in the Pacific.
Don Platt remembers May 15, 1941, like it was yesterday. That’s the day he signed up to join the U.S. Navy, shortly after receiving his charter boat captain’s license at 21.
The high point of Lt. Edwin Morgan’s 5 1/2 year Naval career was the six months he sailed throughout much of Europe and the Middle East aboard the destroyer escort USS Trippe in 1975 as the ship’s supply officer.
Ed Robins was in the Navy during the Korean War. He was an airman who never set foot in an airplane and never went to sea. He spent most of his four-year hitch painting murals om the wall of the mess hall at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station.
Former Marine Sgt. Jim Foster of Blue Heron Pines mobile home park south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was a member of George Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11 Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He marched to the Chosin Reservoir and back in the opening months of the Korean War.
“We were flying over Rangoon, Burma when we got shot up real bad by Japanese ground fire and the whole crew had to bail out,” Bill Cross of Holiday RV Park in Englewood, Fla. said. “I was a flight engineer on an American B-24 ‘Liberator’ bomber even thought I was in the 159th Bomb Squadron…
Robin Matthews was an Army medic aboard a hospital train dispatched to treat the wounded from the massacre at No Gun Ri during the early stages of the Korean War more than half a century ago.
Roland Hardt is one American soldier who made the D-Day invasion twice. He also received a bear hug from Gen. George Patton for being “one hell-of-a-good soldier.”
Mike Raymond, commander of Post 110 American Legion in Port Charlotte, Fla., contends, “I had the best job in the Air Force” during the “Cold War.” He was a boom operator on a Air Force 707 jet refueling tanker.
Pvt. Al Gaus was supposed to be an office worker in the 90th Infantry Division that landed on Utah Beach along the Normandy coast on D-Day plus two, June 8, 1944, with thousands of other soldiers.
Col. George E. French of Venice, Fla. Golf & Country Club retired from the Air Force in 1966 after serving in World War II as a B-24 “Liberator” bomber pilot in the Pacific. His final post in his 24-year military career may have been one of his most interesting.
George French piloted a B-24 “Liberator,” four-engine bomber in the Pacific during World War II. He was a member of the “Long Rangers,” the 370th Squadron, 307th Bomb Group, 13th Air Force flying most of the time from a base on Morati Island, southeast of the Philippines.
Time changes all things, three World War II soldiers learned when they revisited China with their wives last month. [May 2000] The senior warriors from Charlotte County, Fla. were part of a group of 330 Americans who recently spent a week or more in China as guests of the Beijing Aviators Association.
Twenty-year-old David Frey of Port Charlotte, Fla. is a Navy Seabee who just returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq.
There weren’t suppose to be any enemy surface-to-air missiles in South Vietnam, but they were there. Maj. Tom D’Andrea, executive officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211, got an up close and personal look at the telephone pole-size missiles one day in 1967 while flying his A-4 Skyhawk fighter-bomber on a mission.
The one-page “Unit Citation” summed up Pfc. Bill Muldoon ‘s service in World War II. The 91-year-old Maple Leaf Estates resident served in the 19th Infantry Regiment during the Leyte Invasion in World War II.
Even though Pfc. Dominic Socci of North Port, Fla. saw little of the enemy because he was part of a 155 mm Howitzer crew that sat back from the front lines five miles or more, there were times when the war and its aftermath caught up to him and drove home the horrors of battle.
At 6:06 a.m. Thursday, former Airman 1st. Class John Langley of Venice stood in front of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and read 30 servicemen’s names who appear on the memorial together with more than 58,000 others inscribed there forever.
The high point of Peter Rabczewski’s four years of service in the U.S. Air Force was helping complete the construction of the Trans-Pacific Telephone Cable in 1964 as a member of the 2875 Ground Electronic Information Agency. His job was to install telephone and microwave communications throughout the Pacific for the Air Force.
After a hitch in the Navy at the end of the Korean War, Don Bordenkircher, who lives in Maple Leaf Estates in Port Charlotte, Fla., went to work as a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison in 1957. In the vernacular of the penal system, he was a “screw.”
Maston Thomas of South Port Square in Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Navy six months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Robert Borboro of Cross Creek RV Park north of Acadia, Fla. served the better part of two years in Korea during the war. It’s been 60 years since he was a corporal in the 97th Engineering Battalion attached to the 1st Infantry Division based at Young Dong Po and his memory is not what it…
In 1947, the year before George Kalaf’s freshman year, at the University of Florida, the school’s Gator football team lost every game. Some 8,000 students attended the university in those days.
A week or 10 days after boarding a victory ship in New York Harbor Pfc. Lou Roth of Baltimore, Md. sailed into Le Havre, France together with thousands of other G.I.s. It was August 1945, a few months after the end of World War II in Europe, and the 19-year-old was part of the Allied…
Sgt. Sam Wenzel Jr. arrived home from Iraq the day after Hurricane Charley devastated much of Charlotte County, Fla. After 16 months of desert fighting in the Middle East the 20-year-old local soldier came home to a town that looked like it was part of a war zone, too.
During most of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, Marine Pfc. Silas Jessup was a stretcher bearer. He received a commendation from the commanding general of his division for carrying more than 100 dead and wounded U.S. Marines and a Japanese Imperial Marine off the most costly battlefield foot-for-foot in the Corps 231-year…
Eugene Schweiss of Arcadia, Fla. was a teenaged Air Force armorer who saw to it bullets and bombs were loaded into swept-wing F-84 Thunderjets and F-86 Sabrejets during the Korean War.
In 1944, Val Gerald was a petty officer second class serving aboard the USS Randolph, an Essex Class aircraft carrier in World War II. Today the 89-year-old former Navy man is a resident, along with his wife Olga, of The Courtyard, an assisted living facility in Port Charlotte. Fla.
Water Tender 2nd Class Charles Murdock of Holiday Park in Englewood, Fla. was 21-years-old when he went aboard the light cruiser USS Philadelphia in February 1942, during the early months of World War II. She was headed for convoy duty in the North Atlantic.
Former Sgt. Michael Hirsh of the Seminole Lakes subdivision, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was in the first public information detachment of Army reporters since World War II who went to Vietnam.
John O’Sullivan is one of two full-time helicopter pilots who fly for the Charlotte County, Fla. Sheriff’s Office. He learned to fly after serving a tour in Vietnam in 1965 with the 1st Infantry Division.
The target: A major bridge over the Po River near Pavia in northern Italy used by the Germans in World War II to move men and equipment south to the front line. The mission: 50 B-26 “Marauder,” twin-engine, attack bombers struck the span. Each carried four 1,000 pound high explosive bombs.
Vic Ciullo of Venice, Fla. was an amtrac driver in Vietnam with A-Company, 3rd Amphibious Tractor Battalion in 1966-67. His outfit was assigned to various Marine divisions in ‘Nam — the 4th, 5th, 7th and 9th.
Fred Paulsen heard the 20 mm guns on the carrier USS Saratoga firing at will as she cruised off Iwo Jima on Feb. 21, 1945. That’s when he knew they were in trouble.
Col. Bob Carroll never mentioned he was awarded a “Silver Star” in Vietnam “For Gallantry in Action.” The Manasota Key, Fla. resident also has an 8 X 10, black and white, framed photograph of President Lyndon Johnson pinning the medal on him at Fort Benning, Ga. The commendation accompanying the medal says it all.
Frank Miale made four combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II. He survived the war, came home and wrote a book called “Stragedy” about his war experiences.
It was All Souls Day, Nov. 2, 1944, Francis Murphy remembers most about his 26 combat missions as tail gunner in a “Flying Fortress,” over Germany late in World War II.
Don Miller was a Vietnam “Tunnel Rat.” It had to be the worst job an American soldier could have in the Southeast Asian war.
Jack McClinden was aboard the USS Jenks, one of the five destroyers in a hunter-killer pack that captured the German submarine U-505 off the African coast in June 1944. It was the first time a U.S. vessel had captured an enemy ship at sea since the 19th Century.
Glenn Meyers of North Port, Fla. decided to joint the war effort at the tail end of World War II when his older brother, Elmer, was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was a senior, and football star. at Elizabeth High School in Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh, at the time.
Russ Kyper of the Park Forest subdivision in Englewood, Fla. joined the U.S. Navy on Aug. 13, 1945, the day before V-J (Victory over Japan) Day that ended World War II. He eventually transferred to the Seabees.
Like millions of other servicemen in World War II, Jack Reynolds who lives in Grove City south of Englewood, Fla. on the way to Placida, never made it to the front lines and the fighting. He was a radio operator on a PBY airplane, at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station and aboard the troop transport…
What Gilbert Butson of Oak Forest Condominiums Port Charlotte, Fla. remembers most about the three years he served aboard the destroyer USS Cowell (DD-547) in the Pacific during World War II was the time his ‘tin can” rescued sailors from the ill-fated heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea during the “Great Mariana Turkey…
Gordon Gade of the Seminole Lakes subdivision, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. joined the U.S. Army shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1958 with a degree in business administration. He served in Germany during the Cold War as a guided missile soldier.
The old, white, steel Army helmet was chipped and battered. It didn’t look like much.
Ed Lyman who lives in the Jacaranda Trace Retirement Community in south Venice, Fla. wore a dark blue uniform much like the kind worn by Naval officers during World War II. He even had an anchor patch on one sleeve, however he had captain’s bars on his shoulders. Lyman spent the Second World War explaining…
Two dog tags — one worn by an American soldier, the other by a German soldier — were found in a Luxembourg woods near the German border more than half a century after hostilities ended. The men who wore them crossed paths during the closing months of World War II.
Every So often I receive an e-mail from a reader worth reprinting. This one from Jack Fournier of North Port, Fla. fell into that category. It’s better than anything I could write. As a U.S. Navy World War II vet I am a constant reader of your column. I was taken by a recent column…
Glen Johnson of Tropic Palm mobile-home park, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. went to war right out of high school in mid-July 1943. After boot camp he and a group of other sailors took a banana boat to Pearl Harbor. His destroyer hadn’t returned with the fleet from fighting the Japanese at Tarawa Atoll.
Bud Aronson , who lives on Manasota Key, Fla. has always favored the underdog, even when he served in the Marine Corps during World War II. Those days in the Corps there were no black officers, he explained. “A couple of buddies and me, from Springfield, Mass. enlisted in December 1942. We were put on…
World War II was the most segregated war the United States ever fought, according Dr. Yenwith Whitney, a former Tuskegee Airman from Sarasota, Fla. “Many commanders didn’t want blacks doing anything but menial labor in World War II. They didn’t think blacks were smart enough to do things like fly airplanes,” Whitney, who flew in…
Randy McConnell of Nokomis, Fla. received seven Purple Hearts, more than any other living American soldier, for six months of intensive fighting with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam during the “Tet Offensive” in 1968. He was also awarded two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star for valor together with an Army Commendation Medal with…
After his first mission over Germany as a navigator aboard a B-17 bomber during World War II, 1st Lt. Ray Griffith of Lake Suzy, Fla. wrote in a pocket notebook he carried during the war: ‘I’m not going to survive my tour.’”
“Barney” Jimerson of Gardens of Gulf Cove, south of Englewood, Fla., is a full blooded Seneca Indian, born in Elco, N.Y., He grew up, graduated from high school in the Jamestown, N.y. area and volunteered for the draft in 1955 when he was 21.
On Oct.22, 1942 Tony Di Gregorio of Rotonda, Fla. was drafted into the Army. He was 21. The South Philly soldier took his basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It took until the summer of 1944 to board a troop transport and sail in convoy for Scotland.
Pete Marlo of Holiday Estates in Englewood, Fla. served in the 62nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion from Totten, Long Island, N.Y. His unit was attached to Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army during part of World War II. They fought Field Marshal Irwin Rommel during the disaster at the Kasserine Pass shortly after the Invasion of North…
“Leading a formation of Havocs–A-20, twin-engine attack bombers–that dropped their bombs on a Nazi command headquarters in France and were on their way back to base when the German guns below got their range,” the five-page letter from Ninth Air Force Headquarters to Sgt. Ken Dvorak’s parents in Cleveland, Ohio explained.
Knowing how to type made former Seaman Duane Payne’s 22-months in the U.S. Navy during the late 50s a walk in the park. It was an outstanding tour of duty, or so he recalled with pleasure more than half a century later.
Frank Arcidiacono was the radio operation aboard a U.S. Navy seaplane assigned to find Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto’s armada. The huge Japanese fleet was steaming toward Midway Island in the North Pacific on its way to attack what was left of the much smaller American battle group during the pivotal days of June 1942.
After graduating with a double major in English and Psychology from Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. in 1961, Dominic Ruggerio joined the Army as a 2nd lieutenant. He went to basic at Fort Knox, Ky. the following year.
It was like old times when Sal Russotto of Port Charlotte, Fla. and Charles Wilson of Tampa, Fla. two Korean era vets, met for the first time in 43 years, at Russotto’s home.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1943, Clarence Tuma was drafted into the Army, went to basic at Fort Stuart, Ga. and traveled by ship to Europe as a member of the 789th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion.
In another war during an earlier time, the USS Gilligan would have been a frigate, one of the smallest fighting ships in the fleet. DE-508 was 306 feet in length with a couple of 5.8 inch main guns fore and aft and several 40mm and 20mm anti-aircraft guns to protect her from attack by enemy…
The USS Hocking, an attack transport, was a marked ship while still in port at Hilo, Hawaii, even before it sailed for the war zone in 1944. Stanley Fiorini of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a deckhand on one of its landing craft.
At 18 Jim Williams of Seminole Lakes subdivision south of Punta Gorda, Fla. became a Navy plane captain aboard four different aircraft carriers during his three years of service in the 1960s.
The last time Glenn Fackler saw Walter Anstey, his company commander, it was aboard a hospital ship on their way back to the States at the close of World War II. They were both recovering from war wounds.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, when tens of thousands of Allied troops were storming the beaches of Normandy, France, Staff Sgt. Wilbur Butler was flying as nose gunner aboard a B-24 bomber called “Boobie Trap” on a mission to bomb the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania.
Pete Peterson was lucky. He joined the Marine Corps at 17 in 1946, a few months after the end of World War II. Three years later he got out of the Corps in 1949, a few months before the start of the Korean War.
At 5-ft, 3-inches tall, Bobbie Caho was the shortest soldier in 106th Artillery Battalion attached to the 27th Infantry Division at the battles of Saipan and Okinawa in the Pacific during World War II. His foxhole buddies called him “Gremlin.”
Capt. Willard “Bill” Reddel of Paradise Park south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was captain of the satellite communication ship USNS Kingsport when it helped put the first worldwide communications satellite in orbit Dec. 8, 1963.
Willis Brumhall spent World War II in the Aleutians building emergency runways as a member of the 46th Seabee Battalion for Russian pilots ferrying American made planes from Canada across the Bering Sea to their homeland to use against the Germans.
The big, black, bold two-deck headline across the top of the front page of the Baltimore News-Post for Thursday, June 15,1944 read: U.S. B-29s BOMB JAPAN; GIANT PLANES’ 1st RAID WASHINGTON (AP)–The Army announced today that B-29 Superfortresses of the Army Air Fore bombed Japan today.
When Jim Julian flipped the switch, cranking up a small remote-controlled helicopter on the deck of a Navy destroyer, he became a part of history that stretches to the increasing use of drones in today’s military.
Pfc. Al Meersman was behind quad-fifty caliber machine guns mounted on a halftrack when it rolled out of an LST onto Omaha Beach on D-Day plus one, June 7, 1944. Eleven months later he and his four buddies were on their halftrack when they met the Russians, who were advancing westward fighting the last of…
In 1940, Ralph Bates, of Port Charlotte, Fla. was 18 when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Before he completed flight training in Canada, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The young aviator requested a transfer to the U.S. Air Force.
Henry Cwiklinski of Indigo Isles in Englewood, Fla. was in the second wave that attacked the Japanese-held island of Leyte in the Philippines on Oct. 20, 1944 during World War II. He was a member of the 106th Field Artillery Battalion, a National Guard unit, from Buffalo, N.Y.
Ray Richards’ latest battle is as tough as the one he fought more than 60 years ago, when, as an 18-year-old Marine in the 3rd Marine Division, he saw action and was wounded at the start of the Battle for Iwo Jima during the final months of World War II.
It was while Walter Tatko of Venice, Fla. was serving in Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in France during World War II he and a buddy, Pfc. Frank Zalewski, knocked out a couple of German halftracks loaded with enemy troops.
Everett W. Driggers was a quiet man whose friends and relatives say should be remembered for his devotion to God, country, family and work. He never did anything particularly important except fight in some of the major battles of World War II, help found Venice, Fla. American Legion No-Vel Post 159, be postmaster at Laurel…
NOTE: I received this story from Thelma Miller of Venice,Fla., widow of Al Miller Jr., who flew as a copilot aboard the B-24 “Liberator” bomber in the Pacific during World War II. He wrote the story before he died two years ago. Miller flew 30 combat missions including: the Marshall Islands, Maloelap Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Truk…
Bernard Knoll of Port Charlotte Village mobile home park flew 104 combat missions in a “P-47 Thunderbolt” fighter plane during World War II. On one mission, he shot down a German fighter in a quick but deadly dogfight. In another, he led a squadron of 16 P-47s that destroyed an enemy ammunition train.
“We caught it on our third trip. All three of our flights were over Berlin,” James Estrep of Englewood recalled.
For more than three decades Col. Jeff Ponkratz of Punta Gorda Isles, Fla. served as an Army Reservist in the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion based in Green Bay, Wis. His job in the military was one of rebuilding and preserving what was left of the half dozen war-torn countries he served in during the U.S.’s…
Elizabeth Adams of North Port was “Rosie the Riveter’s” English cousin during World War II.
During his freshman year at the University of Ohio in 1943 Cliff Birdsall of Punta Gorda Fla. was drafted into the U.S. Army in the middle of World War II. A few months later he found himself fighting in Europe as a 57 millimeter gunner in the 106th Infantry Division, part of Gen. Omar Bradley’s…
Staff Sgt. Jerry Meadows was in the 106th Infantry Division. He was in charge of a .30-caliber machine gun unit dug in on a hill along the German border on Dec. 19, 1944, during the opening days of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. That afternoon, he was wounded and captured in…
Rudy Raymond of Bay Isles Estates in Nokomis, Fla. like thousands of other guys, was called back into the service when the Korean War broke out. In World War II he served as a Marine in the 2nd Air Warning Squadron at Okinawa.