Bob Akers of Burnt Store Marine was learning to be a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force in 1956, between the Korean and the Vietnam War, when two airliners collided in midair over the Grand Canyon on June 30, 1956. All 128 passenger aboard both planes perished.
Emil Partak of Venice, Fla. went to Kwajalein Atoll during his early years in the Navy. He signed up in 1956, immediately after graduating from dental college at Loyola University in Chicago.
Warren Tuggle of Punta and his family were run out of Biloxi, Miss. 65 years ago by the Ku Klux Klan. The Tuggle family was black and Warren was a 17-year-old high school graduate in 1947 when they left town.
Francis Williams of Port Charlotte graduated from high school in 1954 in St. Clair, Mich. The following year he joined the Air Force and trained as a RADAR technician. He thought he would be repairing the RADAR units in F-100 “Super Sabre” jet fighters. Instead he and a small crew of workmen ended up loading…
In the 1980s Lt. Col. Gary Butson (Ret.) of North Port helped President Ronald Reagan develop “Star Wars.” This was this program that caused the Soviet Union to go broke trying to compete with the U.S. military might.
At 17 Earl LeBon of Riverside Oaks Mobile Home Park in Punta Gorda forged his mother’s name on his induction papers and joined the Navy at 17 in 1961.
Like tens-of-thousands of airmen before him and thousand more who served after him, it wasn’t the time Ralph Fitzner of Alameda Isles Mobile Home Park in Englewood served in the Air Force that made a big difference in his life. It was the G.I. Bill he signed up for when he got out of the…
In 1956 Eugene Maulding was the youngest sergeant in Company-B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. He was 18 at the time.
Keith Connors of Alameda Isles Mobile Home Park, Englewood was still in high school when he quit and joined the Marine Corps. He wanted to fight in Vietnam.
Just by chance Bill Hartstein of Alameda Isles mobile home park in Englewood joined the U.S. Army’s Security Service at the close of the Korean War In the 1953 and nailed down a career in electronics for life.
Lowell Garrett of El Jobean, Fla. had a front row seat for the final blast of “Dooms Day on Wheels”, the 280 millimeter atomic cannon fired at the government’s Nevada test site during the Korean War in 1953. He and the other 200 members of his 59th Field Artillery Battalion that operated the gun were…
Bill O’Brien of North Port, Fla. served aboard the destroyer USS Fred T. Berry (DD-858) from 1961 to ’63 as part of the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal’s battle group much of the time. He and his ship made a couple of cruises to the Mediterranean, another to Halifax, Nova Scotia, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and the Red Sea.
Former Pfc. Dave Rydberg of Venice was a 19-year-old Marine recruit who wound up at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo, Cuba in 1958 during the Cuban Revolution.
Duane Holmbeck of Englewood served aboard the USS Perry (DD-844), a Gearing class destroyer, shortly before the “Cuban Missile Crisis” of 1962. He was the ship’s barber.
Former Sgt. Bernie Shenal of Port Charlotte, Fla. spent the last month of his three-year tour in the U.S. Army soldiering with Elvis Presley at Fort Hood, Texas in 1958. Shenal was in the 2nd Armored Division and Presley was in the 3rd. Their barracks were side-by-side on the army post.
Jim Walker of Englewood, Fla. spent most of his 22 years of service in the U.S. Navy as a flight engineer on a P-3 four-engine reconnaissance plane searching for Soviet submarines or monitoring electronic signals from enemy missiles while flying in international waters just off the coast of aggressor countries.
Al Tracy of Nokomis was a spy working in East Germany in the ‘60s. He was a member of the U.S. Military Liaison Mission operating out of spy headquarters in 1966 located in a big house in Potsdam.
For two decades, from 1973 to 1993, Lt. Col. Ian Milne of Burnt Store Isles south of Punta Gorda, Fla. flew some of the U.S. Air Force’s most lethal fighter planes in this nation’s arsenal from air bases around the world.
Carter Archambeault of Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Navy just in time for the Cuban Missile Crisis that mesmerized the world for two weeks during October 1962. It was a period in world events where the U.S. and the Soviet Union came close to starting a nuclear war.
During the Korea War era—from 1951 to 1955—Arnold LeMoine of Deep Creek subdivision near Punta Gorda served as a machinist-mate 3rd Class aboard the escort aircraft carrier USS Cape Esperance (CVE-88).
With 16-hours of flight time under his belt in a North American F-100 “Super Sabre” during flight training at Craig Air Force Base in Selma, Ala. in 1966, Bob Hardy who was a 26-year-old Air Force captain at the time, got the scare of his life.
One might say aviation was in Bob Hardy’s blood. The 76-year-old Port Charlotte, Fla. resident was 16 when he soloed. By the time he was in his early twenties he had joined the Air Force. He saw action flying on secret spy missions along the Russian coast, flew combat missions in Vietnam and Korea before he…
Charles Grubbs of Port Charlotte, Fla. served as a structural airplane mechanic in Squadron VF-41 aboard the ill-fated aircraft carrier USS Bennington (CVA-20) in May of 1954 when she exploded killing 93 sailors and injuring an additional 113.
Dick Napolitano of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood, Fla. was a spy during most of his 20 years in the Air Force and for an additional 20 years he worked as a civilian spy for the National Security Agency.
Jim Koder of Port Charlotte, Fla. spent more than 20 years in the Navy. Much of the time he served aboard six aircraft carriers—the Ranger, Bennington, John F. Kennedy, Saratoga, Forrestal and the Lexington—as an Aviation Ordinance-man to begin with, then he became an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Expert starting with the Cuban Missile Crisis in…
I don’t normally write war stories about myself, but since this is “Black History Month” I thought it was appropriate to talk about my first time away from home in the integrated U.S. Army. This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun daily newspaper on Feb. 23, 2004.
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.
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.
Dennis Poulakis of Port Charlotte, Fla. served in the U.S. Army’s North American Air Defense Command in the ’60s.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For much of his five years in the Army James Lunn was within arms length of the firing button for ground to air guided missile. He was an Army’s fire control specialist for land-based “Hawk Missiles” in the U.S., South Korea and Germany.
Ed Hutcheson of Burnt Store Marina, south of Punta Gorda, was an airman first class working for Air Force Intelligence. His job was to intercept secret messages sent by his Soviet counterpart about the Soviet’s military operations.
John Ardolino of Burnt Store Marina, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. served a couple of years as a member of Company B, 25th Signal Battalion in Germany during the early 1960s. He and his buddies strung telephone lines from the command center to the front lines if war broke out.
Two friends who served in the submarine service before Jim Manning talked him into signing up for the Navy and going to sub school when the time came. He didn’t regret it.
Former Cpl. Al Beyer of Port Charlotte, Fla. ended up protecting Europe and the rest of the NATO countries from the Soviet troops along the German-Russian border in 1968 instead of going to Vietnam during the war. He served in a mechanized infantry unit attached to the 3rd Armored Division stationed during the “Cold War”…
Long before his squad slogged through the black volcanic beach on Iwo Jima in February 1945, Sgt. Paul Vnencak, who winters in Port Charlotte, had seen considerable action as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.
Pfc. Dave Lea of Englewood, Fla. spent much of his time in the service in the most boring place on the planet — Thule, Greenland.
“I knew things were getting serious when they issued us corpsmen morphine as we got off the C-130 transport at Guantanamo Bay,” Bob Pulver of Heritage Lake condominiums in Port Charlotte, a former Marine corpsman during the Cuban Missile Crisis said.
Because, today Friday, Nov. 22 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we thought it was appropriate to provide our readers something special they probably had not read before about the slain president. Former FBI Agent James Hosty told Don Moore, senior writer for the Charlotte Sun daily newspaper, Port…
During his 30 year Naval career Mike Clarity of Punta Gorda, Fla. was the skipper of a guided missile destroyer and the Port Commander at Pearl Harbor by the time he retired from the service.
Carter Endsley of Punta Gorda Isles kept the F-100 “Super Sabre” jet fighter planes of the 48th Tactical Fighter-Bomber Wing in the air during the “Cold War” in Europe in the 1950s and ’60s. For four years he served as a jet engine mechanic in the U.S. Air Force.
Jerry Bauer of Village of Holiday Lakes mobile home park, near Port Charlotte, Fla., spent 22 years in the military, most of it in the “Silent Service” during the “Cold War.”
Howard Dole joined the Navy in 1948 after graduating from high school in Philadelphia. He went aboard the minesweeper, USS Sprig, the first radarman assigned to a minesweeper in the Atlantic Fleet. She was based in Charleston, S.C.
Jim Heskett got his mother to sign him into the Air Force in 1958 when he was 17. It was the start of a military career that lasted more than two decades and took him across the country and around the world performing a variety of jobs for Uncle Sam.
Ray Jasica, who now lives in Punta Gorda, Fla. was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in Marine Corps Aviation after graduating from training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1954.
For most of his 24 years of service in the Air Force Sgt. Norman Page kept C-130 “Hercules,’ four-engine transport planes flying as a senior aviation mechanic and flight engineer or crew chief. After graduating from aviation mechanics training his first assignment, a Strategic Air Command mechanic at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa in the…
Radioman 3/C Wayne Mengel of Rotonda, Fla. played a small part in the history-making “Cuban Missile Crisis,” the high point in the “Cold War,” between the United States and the Soviet Union, in October 1962.
Don Schilke joined the Navy Reserves while still in high school in Oak Park, Ill. in 1947. After graduation he found himself in Composite Squadron 21 at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego training for a job as an anti-submarine warfare crewman aboard a Grumman “Avenger” torpedo bomber.
Andy Hawkinson is the last of a dying breed. He is one of the last of an estimated 400,000 American soldiers who took part in atomic bomb testing during World War II and throughout the Cold War up to 1992.
Bob Hemingway of Lake Suzy, near Port Charlotte, Fla. was a junior in high school in New Haven, Conn. when he dropped out of school and joined the Marine Corps. He ended up in the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division stationed at Camp Lajeune, N.C.
Ken Heitel was a “Cold War Warrior.” He flew an A-4E “Skyhawk,” jet fighter off the USS Independence, a Forrestal Class carrier, as a Marine Corps aviator serving in the Mediterranean during the early 1970s.
Norm Meissner attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y. in the 1960s. The “Cuban Missile Crisis” was erupting about the time he left the academy. The U. S. was on the verge of going to war with Russia over missiles the Soviets snuck into the island nation that were aimed our…
Maj. Robert Thompson was a citizen soldier and a “week-end warrior” — a member of the 141st Tactical Fighter Squadron of the New Jersey Air National Guard based at McGuire Air Force Base in central New Jersey.
A Canadian resident with an American father who met his mother while living in the Montreal area, Bob Werner of Bay Indies Mobile Home Park was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Force in 1946. He ended up in Sheppard Field, near Wichita Falls, Texas for basic which was the beginning of a series of…
John Flower of Oak Forrest subdivision Englewood, Fla. said facetiously, “I was a corporal in the U.S. Army’s ‘Fighting 69th, PX Detachment’ on Adak, in the Aleutian Islands in 1946”. He ran a bowling alley for the troops on the godforsaken atoll.
“Ferrets flights” are what they were called. They were aptly named because the super-secret missions in modified B-29 bombers immediately after World War II were made to ferret out information about the Soviet Union’s most sensitive military sites.
Earl Schworm, who lives in Boca View condominiums in Placida, Fla., served as a member of U.S. Air Force’s Control and Warning Battalion 932 in what became known as the “Intercept Capital of the World” during the “Cold War” of the 1950s. His job: tracking Soviet strategic bombers trying to penetrate U.S. air space.
George Burger of Rotonda, near Port Charlotte, Fla., was a radar operator aboard a four-engine Navy Super Constellation patrol plane flying out of Argentia Naval Air Station, Newfoundland in the mid 1950s during the “Cold War” searching for Soviet missiles and submarines as a member of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 13.
Donald Gatrell of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a crew chief on a B-47 “Stratojet” six- engine nuclear bomber during the early 1960s. One mission stands in his mind after more than half a century.
When James Johnson joined the 82nd Airborne Division, an elite fighting force, in the fall of 1955 as a 20-year-old soldier he took part in one of the largest ground maneuvers the Army ever staged in the United States.
Maj. Gen. James Andrews of Punta Gorda, Fla. graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1970. He spent most of his 30-plus years in the service flying Strategic Air Command tankers, commanding air wings and serving in various capacities from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense to Air Mobility Commander and Inspector General.
Long before he joined the 82nd Airborne Division as a peacetime warrior in the mid-1950s, Lou Drendel of Venice was fascinated with things military. It began when he was a kid and his father built balsa wood airplane models for him.
Ken Armstrong was a command sergeant major in the British Royal Marines when he retired from Her Majesty’s service after 22 years. He joined the “Bootnecks”–Marines– in Glasgow, Scotland shortly after graduating from high school in 1947.
Fred Holzweiss of Englewood, Fla. was a first lieutenant in the 1st Engineering Battalion attached to the 1st Marine Division in Korea in 1953.
Jim McKinney is a Navy man. So was his father and so is his son. Jim was a career naval officer who served during the Cold War as a commodore of a squadron of hydrofoil boats in Key West equipped with Harpoon, ship-to-ship guided missiles. His father, Adm. Eugene McKinney, was skipper of two World War II submarines: the USS Salmon and the USS Skate. He received three Navy Crosses and a Silver Star for Valor for the combat missions he made. Brad, Jim’s oldest son, is the commander of the Explosive Ordinance Department at the Navy’s facility at Panama Beach.
Former 1st Sgt. Ken Drew was a “Cold War” warrior. He spent most of his 23 years in the Army as a Spanish-speaking, military intelligence expert who served 14 of those years fighting South and Central American dictators and drug lords. Toward the end of his service he did a hitch in Iraq during the height of “The Surge,” interrogating high profile Iraqi detainees.
Bruce Owens of Burnt Store Marina was a lieutenant j.g. serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge (CVS-33) that plucked Astronaut Wally Schirra from the Pacific on Oct. 3, 1962 during America’s fifth manned space flight.
Bill Schwartz was a “River Rat.” He was a brown water sailor who skippered a PBR patrol boat in the Mekong Delta area of South Vietnam in 1968 during the Vietnam War.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Doug Gilchrist was waiting at the airport terminal in Tokyo in 1967 for a flight that would take him to the war in Vietnam when a chance encounter with a Japanese couple changed his life.
Lt. Col. Doug Gilchrist was flying a four-engine C-130 Hercules cargo plane, used as a command ship, from a base in Thailand over North Vietnam when he came as close to “buying the farm” as he did during any of his 102 combat missions over enemy territory during the Vietnam War.
Lt. Chuck Hofelich was a “Thud” driver and proud of it. He flew an F-105 “Thunderchief” supersonic fighter-bomber, he and his jet jockey buddies called “Thuds” on 79 combat missions over North Vietnam.
Joe Rex joined the U.S. Navy at 17 in February 1945 near the end of World War II. In 1970, twenty-five years later, he retired as a Master Chief Petty Officer. Although he was in the service during the Second World War, he served aboard the destroyer, USS Mole –DD-693—at the start of the Korean War and served as a Mobile Electronic Technician near then end of his quarter century in the Navy, Rex’s finest hour may have been during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Harvey Rapp’s job was to keep the biggest bomber this nation ever built in the air. The B-36 was an eight-engine Goliath that could fly non-stop from anywhere in the United States to Europe drop its bombs and return without refueling.
Lt. Col. John Dyer had no idea the planeload of .50-caliber machine-gun ammunition he flew to Tonsonnhute Airport in Saigon was part of a CIA plot to topple the Ngo Dinh Diem government in South Vietnam.
Chester M. “Whitey” Mack was skipper of the Lapon. It may have been the sharpest submarine in the U.S. Navy when he was at the helm.
Capt. William Ecker who flew a secret low-level photo-reconnaissance mission over Cuba in 1962 to capture Soviet nuclear missiles on film during the Cuban Missile Crisis died last Thursday (Nov. 5, 2009) at his home in Punta Gorda, FL. He was 85.