David Good of Port Charlotte joined the Marine Aviation Cadet Program a year out of high school in 1961. He went to basic training at the San Diego Recruit Depot and took advanced infantry training at Camp Pendleton, S.C.
Charles Hall of Sarasota was a Marine Corps helicopter pilot in 1967 during the war in Vietnam. He flew for Marine Helicopter Squadron 163 out of Phu Bai.
Pfc. Merritt Dayton of Venice was one of the lucky ones who escaped the SS Leopoldville disaster off the coast of France on Christmas Eve 1944. The Leopoldville was a Belgium troop transport crammed full of 2,223 soldiers from the U.S. 66th Infantry Division sailing from England to France to take part in the “Battle…
In May 1950 John Fanning of Warm Mineral Springs joined the Connecticut National Guard because it was where the socially-connected met to party. A month later, in June, the 21-year-old Army recruit learned his Guard unit provided more than good times. He marched off to war in Southeast Asia when his outfit was federalized shortly…
When he flew into Tan Son Nhut Airbase near Saigon, South Vietnam in 1968 Sp.-3 Jim Miele was 19 and thought he was invincible. He began his 14 months in country as a demolition expert, then volunteered to be a “tunnel rat,” and finally parachuted out of airplanes with Army Rangers on special operation missions.
Former 1st Lt. Ken Donihue of Hampshire House apartments in Port Charlotte arrived in Vietnam a few weeks after the “Tet Offensive.” He flew into the country in March of 1968, as a member of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division—”The Screaming Eagles.”
John Robson of Englewood, Fla. joined the Air Force at 18, in 1966. After basic he was trained to be a jet engine mechanic and was sent to an air force base in Tuy Hoa, South Vietnam in 1967. He worked on the engine of a squadron of F-100 Super Sabre fighter-bombers over there.
Airman 2nd Class John Langley of Venice was a member of the 377th Security Police (K-9) when he arrived at Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base outside Saigon South Vietnam in 1967. It was the 19-year-old airman and his guard-dog “Vogie” against the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong guerrillas.
When Warren Sharp went to Vietnam in 1965 the first time as a young captain serving as an advisor to a South Vietnam combat engineering battalion he quickly learned there was more to war than killing the enemy. There were in-country civilians who needed his help just as urgently.
Michael Kelley sailed for South Vietnam aboard the self-propelled barracks ship USS Nueces (APB-40) in 1968. He was the night baker aboard the strange craft that anchored at Vung Tau, near the Mekong River approach to Saigon from the south.
Marine Corps Pfc. Wayne King of Rotunda West was a “short-timer” in 1968 when he survived the worst of his nine-months tour during the Vietnam War. His company was sent into the jungle to protect an artillery unit at Fire Base Maxwell 80 miles south of An Hoa. They were surrounded by a North Vietnamese…
Two months ago, Ray Lynch lost his Zippo lighter in an Englewood Circle K. It meant a lot to him.
Carl Letterie was a 1965 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. After graduation his first assignment as a young second lieutenant was Fort Bliss, Texas to attend the Air Defense Officers Training School. From there he went to Fort Hancock, N.J. for a year as a member of a “Hawk Missile”…
Sgt. Gary Hoffman of Englewood, Fla. who spent time in the Marines half a lifetime ago, contacted me a while back. He’s a Sun reader who likes war stories. Consequently he looks at my column from time to time. More importantly the old Marine e-mailed me a story he liked. I liked it too, so…
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.”
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.
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 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.
Forty years after Marine Cpl. Randy Smith of Venice, Fla. lowered the flag for the last time at the American embassy in Saigon on April 29, 1975, he returned to Ho Chi Minh City on Nov. 10 to attend a Marine Corps Birthday Ball held in the South Vietnamese capital city for the first time…
The Tet Offensive, the largest enemy assault of the Vietnam War, was Spc. 4 Donald Hirkey’s introduction to Southeast Asia almost 40 years ago. The 65-year-old North Port man was a member of A-Company, 2nd-Battalion, 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment, part of “The Screaming Eagles,” the 101st Airborne Division.
Operation Allen Brook in May 1968 was the worst of the numerous combat operations Cpl. Neal Gettle of Gulf Cove participated in during his 14 months of service with the Marine Corps in Vietnam.
Tet was the big battle former Air Force Sgt. Jack Freeman of Port Charlotte, Fla recalls most vividly during his year-long deployment to Vietnam.
Fred Stuenkel graduated from Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla. in 1965. He continued his education at Manatee Junior College in Bradenton, a few miles north up Florida’s west coast, until his funds ran out. It was 1969, the year he received notice from the draft board, he had been selected to join the…
“Puff the Magic Dragon” was a big hit in the early ’60’s for Peter, Paul and Mary. It was also a big hit about the same time in a different sort of way for Airman 1st Class Bill Grant who now lives in Burnt Store Isles, south of Punta Gorda, Fla.
Before Brad Messick graduated from high school in 1966 at 19 he had already been notified by his draft board. He signed up with the Navy and was allowed to graduate before going to sea.
Three times Gene Kopec of North Port was wounded while fighting in Vietnam with the Marine Corps. He received three Purple Hearts and took part in the Battle at Khe Sanh. Here North Vietnam Army regular troops and Vietcong guerillas went head-to-head against American and South Vietnamese soldiers along the Demilitarized Zone in the biggest…
Shelly Berryman of North Port, Fla. started out not wanting anything to do with the Vietnam War. However, before the conflict was over he was in the thick of it flying 1st Infantry Division troops into battle in a Huey helicopter.
Jim Laurent’s 24 years of service in the U.S. Air Force was shrouded in secrecy. He was a high frequency radio communication expert who spied on the Russians, kept the radio equipment running in the SR-71 “Blackbird” spy plane and spent more than five years working in White House Communications for three presidents.
Geoffrey Morris of Venice. Fla. was a conscientious objector who volunteered to become a medic with the 237th Medical Detachment. He flew out of Quang Tri, Vietnam in 1970-71 aboard a DMZ Dust Off helicopter rescuing wounded soldiers and taking them to the 18th Surgical Hospital for emergency treatment.
After flunking out of Northern Michigan University in his sophomore year in 1968 Don Rudness of North Port, Fla. was classified 1-A by the draft board and sent to Vietnam by his friends and neighbors.
Col. Norm Mac Lellan of Venice had already served one tour in Vietnam and survived the 1968 Tet Offensive when he got in the firefight of his life with North Vietnamese Army troops during his second tour of duty along Highway 1, north of Saigon in the summer on 1972.
Warrant Officer 5th Class Jim Stivers of North Port flew Army Hueys, Sky Crane and Chinook helicopters starting in Vietnam and for the next three decades. He eventually became an instructor pilot who checked out helicopters pilots around the world.
Norm Holloway of Venice, Fla. had the best job in the Navy, he said. He was a cook aboard the carrier USS Independence (CV-62) during the Vietnam War era. He and 74 other cooks provided food for the ship ‘s crew of 5,000.
In January 1966 Pfc. Ron Heurlin of Punta Gorda, Fla. flew into Tan Son Nhat Airbase in Saigon, Vietnam. He was a member of Company B, 28th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division known as “The Black Lions.”
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.
It was the middle of the Korean War, August 1952, when Charles Dusek enlisted the U.S. Army. He was 19-years-old at the time living with his family in Chicago.
Before completing 21 years of service in the U.S. Army’s Dental Corps, Col. Carl Hansen of Punta Gorda, Fla. made five-star Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the 12th Army Group in Europe during World War II who also served as the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the war, a set of…
Ngoc-Ha was an 18-year-old South Vietnamese beauty when she first laid eyes on Lt. j.g. John Dickinson in September 1969. He was a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy flying with “The Seawolves,” an attack helicopter squadron based in Binh-Thuy, Vietnam.
When John Dickinson arrived at the airport in Saigon, Vietnam in 1969 aboard a commercial jet from the United States he was a recient graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who had just finished helicopter flight school in Pensacola.
After graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1963, Lt. Rich Entlich found himself in Vietnam working for MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) after completing Airborne and Ranger Schools.
After graduating from high school in Michigan in 1960, two days before he turned 18, James Dundas, who lives in the Burnt Store area, south of Punta Gorda, joined the Navy and took a “Kiddie Cruise.” The deal he made allowed him to serve three years and be out of the service shortly before his…
Until he sailed for Vietnam in 1967 aboard the USS Mathews, AKA-96, Richard Hartley of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a 21 year-old auto worker making Jeeps at Ford’s giant Rouge industrial complex in Dearborn, Mich.
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.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Noel Hyde graduated from pharmacy school. But he did his elders one better, Noel joined the U.S. Navy’s Service Corps in the pharmacy department and served 25 years retiring as a Navy captain.
Halfway through his senior year in high school Ron York, who grew up in Griffith, Ind., decided he had had enough education and joined the Army. In June 1969 he arrived in Vietnam, a member of the 34th Combat Engineers.
As a kid Hal Johnson wanted to be a fighter pilot. When he joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 they made him a B-24 “Liberator” bomber pilot.
It was the height of the Cold War in the 1960s. Maj. Nick Firda was flying a secret Strategic Air Command mission in a B-52 bomber loaded with atomic bombs across the Atlantic Ocean to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina when an oil pressure problem caused him to shut his first engine…
Everett Charles of Vizcaya Lakes mobile home park in El Jobean skippered a PBR (Patrol Boat River) that prowled the Upper Saigon River hunting for North Vietnam Army regulars and Vietcong irregulars moving enemy supplies into South Vietnam. He made 216 combat patrols as captain, plus an additional 89 patrols into enemy territory as an…
In his dark blue Marine dress uniform trimmed with red piping, wearing white gloves and a white hat, Ernie O’Brien of Port Charlotte, Fla. stands ramrod straight at 87. He looks as if he could hit the beach at Guadalcanal, as he did more than 65 years ago. His silver mustache adds a touch of…
Richard Cook looked the part with his short cropped hair, weathered face and ramrod-straight military gait. The old salt would fool no one. The real giveaway was the navy blue shirt with five rows of campaign ribbons complete with six battle stars on his chest. Underneath, embroidered in gold, it read: U.S. NAVY. Down the left arm of his long-sleeve shirt were the names of seven Vietnam cities. Even more interesting, also embroidered in gold, were four more lines of words in gold that read: “CAN’T TELL YOU.”
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.
Mick Johnson of Bird Bay subdivision in Venice, Fla. was “sluffing off” on a football scholarship at Philadelphia’s Villanova University in 1968. At the end of the school year he was drafted as a minor league pitcher by the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I played a half season with the Dodgers. In September ’68 I lost…
John Schoell of Port Charlotte, Fla. took part in the first combat jump involving American paratroopers since World War II. He was as a member of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, and jumped on Oct. 20, 1950, near Sunchon, North Korea — just over the 38th Parallel dividing the North from the South.
Retired Maj. Gen. Richard Carr of Burnt Store Isles was among the U.S. Air Force Academy’s first graduates in 1959. He spent much of his 35-year military career preparing to fight a war with the Soviet Union that never happened. In 1962, he was involved in the “Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Jean Carr was an Air Force nurse during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. “I wanted to be a history teacher, but my patents didn’t have the money to send me to college for four years. They decided my twin sister, Joan, and I could both become nurses. So we…
When Melitta Gay of Venice called me a while back and said she was going through all her late husband’s stuff from a 31-year military career that spanned World War II, Korea and Vietnam and wanted me to come check it out for possible inclusion in the Sun, I was perplexed. He had already gone…
From the end of World War II, through the Korean War of the 1950s and halfway into the Vietnam War, late in the 1960s, Granville Pennypacker of Englewood, Fla. served as a yeoman, a Navy administrator, in strategic hot spots around the world.
Charles Milam of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a freshman on a football scholarship playing for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks in 1944 when he decided to join the Marine Corps.
Staff Sgt. Raymond Jewett was a combat photographer in July 1964 attached to the U.S. military Assistance Command in Vietnam.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Ron Dudley of Waterford subdivision in Venice, Fla. flew a “Hercules,” C-130A, four-engine transport plane full of troops or supplies on hazards missions to the front lines during three Vietnam War tours.
With her wispy white hair, her frail body and her tiny voice, Harriette Moore is the epitome of someone’s grandmother. Looks can be deceiving.
Col. Al R. Clark of Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Oregon National Guard in 1935 at the age of 15. Before his 33-year regular Army career was over, he saw action on the front lines in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Dan Byrd lived an idyllic life growing up as a kid on Longboat Key off Sarasota, Fla. half a century ago. In those days, he hunted rabbits on the key with his .22-caliber rifle while his mom and dad ran the bait shop and hamburger stand on the south end of the New Pass Bridge…
Col. Ivar Svenson, United States Marine Corps, was in charge of plans and operations for the III Marine Amphibious Force headquarters unit stationed in Da Nang, South Vietnam in 1968. Ann Byerlein was head nurse of the intensive care unit at Da Nang Provincial Hospital in May of that year, during the height of the…
Paul Elliott was trained as a Russian linguist and military intelligence agent and when he went to Vietnam in 1966. He had to use those skills and more to ferret out saboteurs trying to sneak into Camp McDermott — the main supply base for the 1st Logistical Command that provided American forces with most of…
Rodger Craig had just graduated from high school in 1950 and signed up to be a Marine about the time the Korean War started. He was in boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. when war broke out.
After 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy, Eugene Maresca retired in 1983 as a full commander. He served three years in the regular Navy and the rest in the Naval Reserve.
Sgt. Ed Schuppenhouer was part of what was called, “McNamara’s Last Chance” when he served as a counter-insurgency specialist aboard an EC-121R four-engine Super Constellation in Vietnam in 1967-68.
Arthur Anderssen of Burnt Store Isles south of Punta Gorda, Fla. graduated from Auburn University in 1962 on a Navy ROTC scholarship and joined the Navy immediately to complete his four year obligation. Thus began his 26 year military career.
Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL) – Sunday, April 15, 2007 Capt. Luis Chirichigno was piloting an Army Cobra attack helicopter high above a couple of low-flying observation copters eight miles south of Duc Lap, South Vietnam, on Nov. 2, 1969. What happened next would make this Peruvian-born American chopper pilot a POW for the next…
Sam Harris of Punta Gorda Isles, Fla. began his military career as a cable-splicer in the Army National Guard in 1970 and ended up in 1979 as a captain in the Air Force. He flew giant C-141 “Starlifter,” four-engine, jet transport planes around the world. In between he has lived a life filled with exciting…
Walter Levasseur a former master sergeant in the U.S. Army, served two tours of duty in Vietnam in 1967 and 1970. By the time he was through, he had received the Purple Heart with an oak leaf cluster for being wounded a second time, the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars — one for valor the…
Fred Winterbottom has been a soldier for most of his 92 years. Winterbottom, who lives at the Village on the Isles retirement complex in Venice, Fla. with his wife, Gwen, saw service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Jim Mazy, who lives south of Englewood, Fla. was a radio operator in Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. He was wounded in “Operation Starlite,” the first major battle of the Vietnam War between American forces and the Viet Cong near Chu Lai, South Vietnam in 1965.
John Carlson has 30,000 plus hours of time flying Marine Corps fighter-bombers and transport planes around the country and throughout the world for 22 years and another 35 years piloting jets for Northwest Airlines.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Second of a two-part story. When the Korean War broke out in June 1950 George Hardy’s World War II service was long behind him. He flew a P-51 “Mustang” in the 99th Fighter Squadron as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black fighter group, during the Second World War.
1st Lt. Thelma Daida was a surgical nurse working in the only in-country U.S. Army Air Force Hospital in Vietnam in 1965 located on the giant airbase at Cam Rahn Bay. It was an exciting time to be a 20-year-old nurse serving in Southeast Asia.
Pat Farino of Port Charlotte, Fla. went to Vietnam in 1968 with the 101st Airborne Division. He was a 22-year-old airborne trooper who served with the ‘Screaming Eagles’.
Charles Myers was born and grew up in the Panama Canal Zone in Central America in 1933. At 21 he enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 17, 1954 under agreement between the U.S. and Panama.
Lt. Fred Buckingham flew his C-130 “Hercules,” four-engine transport plane to Vietnam just in time for the North Vietnamese Army’s siege of the Marine base at Khe Sanh, the biggest single battle of the war, and the enemy’s massive Tet Offensive, where every major city and many American military bases were attacked in a countrywide…
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.
1st Lt. Richard Burns almost “bought the farm” on his 95th combat mission over North Korea in his F-84 “Thunderjet.” His squadron’s objective: knock out an enemy bridge.
For the past year, in addition to writing war stories about local veterans, I’ve provided DVD interviews of these same veterans to the Library of Congress’ “Veterans History Project.” This week I reached a milestone in these interviews. A couple of days ago I sent 25 DVDs and supporting material on each disk to the…
John Zajdlik had a reason to dislike the Communists. He and his family escaped Communist rule when they took control of his Czechoslovakian homeland shortly after the end of World War II.
In September 1968, on his second tour of duty in Vietnam, Spc.-5 Bob Rogers’ squad walked into a Viet Cong ambush near Chu Lai in the Que Son Valley and was almost captured by the enemy.
POW Camp 101 is what it was called. The camp was a hell hole located 20 miles outside Hanoi, North Vietnam. It’s where 100 American MIAs languished during the Vietnam War and nobody in the United States knew they were there.
It made no difference that 23-year-old 2nd Lt. Stephen Leopold was a Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University who served as a member of the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces in Vietnam. Three weeks after arriving in country he was captured by the North Vietnam Army near Ben Het, in the jungles of Two Corps,…
Victor Craig of Harbor Heights near Port Charlotte, Fla. spent 21 years in the Air Force serving as a loadmaster. He was a sergeant in charge of loading giant cargo planes properly, flying with them to their destination and getting the planes quickly unloaded.
Bill McDermott of Lake Suzy, east of Port Charlotte on the way to Arcadia, Fla. wound up as a 1st lieutenant in the 11th Armored Cavalry Division based in Three Corps in the northern jungle of Vietnam. He was a graduate of DePaul University and a member of the school’s ROTC program.
Jim Surber was a dogface in Company D, 6th Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Division in Vietnam from March 1967 to March ’68. He rode to war in Huey helicopters.
The cheap, cerise-colored, aluminum bracelet on her right arm was battered and worn. Every day for the past 25 years, Vera Creed of Port Charlotte, Fla. has had it on.
Looking back on it all, Tom Gould of Venice says, “I was 17 and just out of high school. I was a rebel without a cause. My father told me I had three choices: ‘I could get a job, go in the service or go to reform school.’
Bill Lutgen of Venice, Fla. flew 378 combat missions in an A-37 fighter-bomber in Vietnam, received three Distinguish Flying Crosses and 19 Air Medals for his efforts and retired from the Air Force after 20 years in the service.
Kil Kilcauley of North Port has seen a lot of life in his 97 years of living. He’s fought in three of this country’s wars–World War II, Korea and Vietnam–and lived to tell about it.
Dale Tauer of Punta Gorda, Fla. was a member of the 1st. Battalion, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division–The Screaming Eagles. In July 1970 he fought on a hill top in The Battle of Ripcord, the last major battle involving Americans in Vietnam’s A-Shau Valley against the 324th Division of the North Vietnamese Army.
John Thomas Murphy was a Marine pilot who flew helicopters and observation planes in Vietnam during his two combat tours. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross on each deployment while piloting an H-34 helicopter and a OV-10 Bronco twin-engine spotter plane into withering North Vietnam Army fire.
Jim King and his buddy, Charley Carr, joined the Army right out of high school. The two 18-year-old California boys got an education about life long before they reached Vietnam and faced the enemy.
Jim Broom of Edgewater Manor, Port Charlotte, Fla. was no war hero. He was just a Specialist-5th class who drove a five-ton dump truck and got shot at by the enemy in Vietnam in 1967-68 while serving with the 815th Engineer Battalion for 11 months and 15 days.
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.
Joe Taylor was a black Marine who served three tours of duty in Vietnam. The death and devastation this grunt witnessed while serving in the Corps over there was almost too much for him to bear.
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.
“Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division was a black flag outfit. We were a skull and crossbones unit comprised of assault hunter-killer teams. We took no prisoners,” Charles Shaughnessy, who saw considerable action in 1968 in Vietnam as a 20-year-old Marine corporal and squad leader, said.
John Krusinski, Sr. was a 19-year-old draftee who grew up in the Chicago area and went to war in Vietnam in 1967. He was a member of the Army’s 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery, G-Battery station at a base camp in Dong Ha, along the DMZ separating North and South Vietnam. He spent a year being shot at or shooting at other people.
Charlie Householder served in Vietnam in 1969 as a Platoon Sergeant. with the 82nd Airborne Division at first and end up in the 25th Infantry Division in ‘Nam. He retired a decade later as a 1st Sergeant with the 82nd at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Lt. Col. Joann Bolitho was a flight nurse who served in Vietnam and spent the rest of her 20-year military career in hospitals in Europe, Alaska and around the country.
Rene Camps was an aircraft mechanic who kept a Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog forward air control spotter plane in the air during the Vietnam War. He graduated from high school in Miami in 1964 and served two tours in ‘Nam as a member of the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron from 1967 to ’69.
When Gerald Kelly went to war in Vietnam in 1968 he was a young Army 1st. lieutenant with little or no experience. By the time he retired from the service two decades later he was a light colonel, Latin American expert, Green Beret and an Airborne Ranger who served in Special Forces in the Americas.
Gordon Quick, who lives off Burnt Store Road south of Punta Gorda, Fla. near the county line, served in the 588th Combat Engineer Battalion in Vietnam in 1965-1966. His unit was under command control of the 1st Infantry Division—the “Big Red 1” with division headquarters and the support command located at Tây Ninh.
Capt. Neil Kennedy flew a KC-135 jet tanker in Vietnam War and continued to pilot the same flying gas station for the Strategic Air Command after the Southeast Asian war. He retired in 1991 as a brigadier general after 32 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force National Guard and moved to Calusa Lakes subdivision in Nokomis, Fla.
Master Gunny Sgt. Stan Smith of Venetian Lakes, south of Punta Gorda, hit the beach at Inchon with MacArthur early in the Korean War, marched up and back to the Chosin Reservoir with the 1st Marine Division and served with the 3rd Marine Division at Danang in 1965 as one of the first Marines units…
Dennis Wesley Clark volunteered for Vietnam in 1969. He ended up fighting the North Vietnamese Army along the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam.
Second Lt. Russell Ogan was returning from a fighter sweep over the Battle of the Bulge flying low and slow because of the weather, in “Gloria May,” his P-47 “Thunderbolt,” when his fighter took a direct hit from enemy ground fire.
John Rambo has nothing on Mark Bills. The Venice, Fla. dentist was once a member of an elite, secret Army Special Forces group dropped behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War.
A Ranger Born tells the story of a man of arms. Col. Robert Black, a highly decorated Korean and Vietnam War soldier wrote a book about his military adventures.
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.
The ”Black Lions” were looking for a fight. The battalion had been on a search-and-destroy mission for more than a week. Now the men of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division were exhausted from chasing the Viet Cong through the jungle 50 miles north of Saigon.
From the looks of him you’d never know Rufus Lazzell is a highly-decorated Airborne Ranger with two wars under his belt. He is a little guy with a matter-of-fact attitude who doesn’t spend much time talking about his military exploits in Korea or Vietnam decades ago.
Cpl. Randy Smith knew the war in South Vietnam was over when he was ordered to take down the American flag at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.
Lt.j.g. Clyde Lassen’s Medal of Honor commendation On 19 June 1968 Lt. j.g. Clyde Everett Lassen, a member of Helicopter Support Squadron 7, Detachment 104, Republic of Vietnam was serving aboard USS Preble (DLG-15).
She emerged slowly from the car with cane in hand and walked hunched over along a serpentine concrete path. At its end was The Wall.
When Staff Sgt.Chuck Walsh’s Green Beret unit jumped into Dak Pek, in the highlands of South Vietnam in 1962 to fight alongside the Montagnards, the indigenous people, they were trail blazers.