Don Moore’s War Tales reached a milestone this week. There are now 900 war stories up on this website from almost every war this country has been involved in beginning with the American War Between the States right on up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Almost all of the stories are about local veterans who live in three geographic areas: Charlotte, Sarasota and Desoto Counties.
Hector Cafferata of Venice received ‘Medal of Honor’ for his part in Chosin Reservoir fight
Hector Cafferata of Venice was a member of the 1st Marine Division who received the Medal of Honor during the march to the Chosln Reservoir in North Korea. It happened while he was fighting a tidal wave of Chinese troops in the barren hills of North Korea during the winter of 1950.
The 20-year-old, green Marine was a member of Fox Company, 2nd Platoon. He was at a listening post forward of the main body of troops guarding Toktong Pass in the middle of a bitterly cold night when bugles sounded and the enemy charged.
For five days and nights Cafferata and his fellow Marines held what became known as “Fox Hill” against a regiment or more of Chinese troops. When the shooting stopped and their company was reinforced the hill was covered with the bodies of hundreds of dead enemy soldiers.
The fight began about 1:30 a.m. when Cafferata and his foxhole buddy, Kenny Benson, were hunkered down in their sleeping bags. In no time they were almost overwhelmed by enemy soldiers firing their American-made Thompson submachine-guns from World War II and tossing hand grenades as they advanced.
In no time Cafferata said he had six dead Chinamen stacked up near the end of his M-1 rifle barrel, Benson was having trouble getting his BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) to fire. It was frozen from the 20 below zero weather and wouldn’t fire. As the two forward lookout-men fell back toward their lines they found a dry river bed that cut a depression in the ground they could hide behind.
Several other wounded Marines had ducked behind the same protective ledge to get out of the line of enemy fire. By this time Benson’s glasses had been shattered by an explosion from an enemy hand-grenade. He was nearsighted and could’t see much past the end of his rifle barrrel so he became a loader.
Cafferata had Benson collect all the rifles and ammo belts of the wounded “leathernecks.” Benson became Cafferata’s loader. As fast as he would squeeze off an eight-shot clip in his M-1 Benson handed him another loaded rifle.
This went on for hours—Benson loading and Cafferata shooting at the enemy onslaught. At one point during the fight Cafferata picked up an enemy grenade and toss it back. As it left his hand it exploded seriously damaging his fingers and arm.
His wounds didn’t slow him down much. Despite his injuries he kept on firing at the enemy until the sun came up and the enemy advance faded away. A body count in front of Cafferata’s portion on the line produced 125 dead enemy soldiers most of whom he had personally dispatched.
For his efforts that cold day so long ago in North Korea, Pvt. Hector A.Cafferata, Jr. U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman at the White House on Nov. 28 1950.
Capt. ‘Whitey’ Mack skippered atomic sub ‘Lapon’ on underwater spy mission against Soviets
Capt. “Whitey Mack” of Cape Haze was skipper of the atomic attack submarine USS Lapon during the “Cold War” of the 1960s. The Soviets had just finished building their newest atomic missile sub which they dubbed a “Yankee Class” boat.
The U.S. Navy was concerned because the new submarine was far superior and much quieter than anything the Soviets’s had built thus far. The Navy ordered all it’s attack subs in the Atlantic Fleet to spy on the Soviet’s newest submarine. They were to find and gather as much information as possible about the craft.
Mack and his crew was first to discovered one of the “Yankee Class” subs in the Barents Sea off Murmansk, Russia, headquarters of the Soviet’s fleet. For 47 days “Lapon’s” crew secretly followed the Soviet sub underwater spying on its every move and sending this information back to Norfolk, headquarters of the Atlantic Fleet, on a daily basis. Their findings were passed on to President Richard Nixon each day.
For his efforts Mack was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, one click under the Medal of Honor, for tracking down the sub and learning as much as possible about it . The crew received the Presidential Unit Citation for the part they played in the secret underwater sleuthing.
Lt. Charles Bailey of Punta Gorda was 1st Tuskegee Airman from Fla. during World War II
Lt. Charles P. Bailey Sr. was the last of their line. He was the last of the Punta Gorda, Fla. “Fighting Bailey Brothers.” The last of a family of seven sons and two daughters who distinguished themselves in war and in life during World War II, Korea and much of the 20th Century.
Charles was the first black aviator from Florida to become a Tuskegee Airman during the Second World War. He is credited with shooting down two Focke-Wulf-190 German fighters, in “Josephine,” a P-40 fighter named for his mother, and later in “My Buddy,” a P-51 Mustang named for his dad.
“At 1425 hours (2:25 p.m.) on the afternoon of Jan. 27, 1944, Lt. Bailey caught an FW-190 headed in the general direction of Rome with a 45-degree deflection shot (from his P40). The pilot was seen to bail out,” a 99th Squadron mission report notes.
On July 18, 1944, 10 days after Charles got his P-51 Mustang, the 99th Fighter Squadron flew its second combat mission as part of the 15th Air Force. During that flight, “Capt. Edward L. Toppins and Lt. Charles P. Bailey destroyed one FW-190 apiece,” the Air Force records indicate.
Charles was one of only 450 black fighter pilots who saw action during the war. The 99th Squadron was assigned to the U.S. Army’s 12th Air Force in North Africa and later to the 15th Air Force in Europe, together with the 100th, 301st and 302nd black fighter squadrons.
Charles’ fight with the Luftwaffe began in North Africa. He flew 133 combat missions over enemy territory. He and his squadron also saw action in Sicily, Naples, Anzio, Rome, Normandy, Northern France, Southern Rhineland, Central Europe the Po Valley and the EAME Theater in Germany.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, several Air Medals and the World War II Victory Medal for his service during the Second World War. After the war he became a school teacher and later owned a funeral home in Daytona Beach.
Story of 2 American flags that flown atop Mount Suribachi during World War II
Sgt. Lou Lowery, a Marine Corps photographer on Iwo Jima, shot the first flag raising atop Mount Suribachi most people in this country know nothing about. It wasn’t until some of his photographs appeared in “Leatherneck” magazine, the Marine Corps national publication, after the war the general public learned there were two flag raisings on Iwo Jima during the 36-day battle for the eight-square-mile island that cost so many American and Japanese lives.
Chuck Lindberg, was the sole survivor of the six-man squad that raised the first American flag over Suribachi. He was a member of the 3rd Platoon, Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division.
Now dead, Lindberg spent the rest of his life trying to convince people he was part of the first flag raising squad that put up the flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. Some times his story resulted in an argument because listeners didn’t believe him.
Asked some years ago, shortly before his death, how he felt about the rebuffs, Lindberg said, “It’s one of gone things. What can you do? I always tell people, ‘If it hadn’t been for us and the first flag, there wouldn’t have been a second flag raised on Iwo Jima.”
When Lindberg and his squad put up the first flag at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 23, 1945 all the ships along the shore sounded their whistles and bells to note the occasion. Some of the U.S. Marines dug in on the dark volcanic beach in foxholes started celebrating. They thought the war was over.
At that moment when the first flag went up, Secretary of the Navy James Forestall, was watching from a landing craft headed for the beach. With him was Gen. H.M. “Howling Mad” Smith, commander of the Marines on Iwo.
“‘That flag,’ he told the general, ‘ensures the Corps existence for the next 500 years.’ He added that he wanted the flag as a war memento.
Lt. Co. Charles Johnson, commander of the unit that raised the flag, had other ideas. He wanted to keep it for the 5th Marine Division his unit was part of. He ordered that a second larger flag be raised atop Suribachi.
He would take charge of the historic first flag and let Forestall have the second flag. Fate intervened: Before Johnson could get his hands on the first flag he was killed by a Japanese mortar round. Today both flags are on display at the National Marine Corps Museum Quantico, Va.
Death of a Marine
Lance Cpl. Brian Rory Buesing was killed in Iraq in 2003 and buried in a military funeral attended by scores of mourners who filled his Cedar Key high school gym in north Florida to overflowing.
The young Marine lost his life in a firefight outside Nasiriyah, Iraq while trying to supply three mortars he just set up with mortar rounds.
On a sandy knoll in a pine tree-shaded cemetery outside the historic village of Cedar Key, the 20-year-old Marine was laid to rest. Shortly before noon, a Marine Corps burial detail in full dress uniforms slowly lifted his steel-gray, flag-draped casket from an Army drab caisson drawn by two dark-brown horses and marched two-by-two in hesitation step to the waiting grave a few feet away.
The young Marine’s family sat grieving under a green canvas canopy in three rows of folding chairs while hundreds of townspeople, friends and members of the media jockeyed for position.
His family bid farewell to Brain as the chaplain spoke the last words to those assembled. Three volleys from a rifle squad in quick succession jolted the mourners at graveside. The mournful stains of “Taps” was sounded. People bowed their heads and wiped away tears.
Brian’s mother walked to the grave, put one arm over he son’s casket, placed her face against its cold metal side and wept.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016 and is republished with permission.
Click here to view the collections in alphabetical order in the Library of Congress. Unfortunately, none of these veteran’s stories will be in Don’s collections, as they were conducted many years before he started submitting to the Veterans History Project.
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