John Busse of Venice, Fla. celebrated his 101st birthday at Venice Post 8118 VFW a couple of days ago. He served with Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II. John was a member of the 16th Armored Division that began its march across the continent in France, went on through Belgium, Germany, Poland, and…
From World War II
Cpl. Robert Jones fought on Okinawa with the 1st Marine Division
Robert Jones of Florida Pines Mobile Home Court in Venice recalls the war years like they were yesterday. He saw action in the Pacific during World War II in New Guinea, Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Peleliu Island, Okinawa, and the Ryukyu Islands.
Master Chief Arthur Ortner saw world as Navy Seabee in WW II, Korea, and Vietnam
On Aug. 19, 1966 Master Chief Arthur Ortner retired from the Seabees. By then he had constructed buildings of all shapes and sizes all over the world for the Navy during his 20 years of service.
It wasn’t WW II, but the G.I. Bill that made the difference in Bob Schrock’s life
Bob Schrock missed the war in Europe and when he ended up in the Philippines the war in the Pacific Theatre of Operations was over too.
Hank Pruitt joined Seabees during WW II because of an old girlfriend
Hank Pruitt of Port Charlotte joined the Seabees during the closing days of World War II because of an old flame.
Lt. Col. Merritt Dayton was Army chaplain who survived Leopoldville sinking
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…
Hugo Riva of Mary Lou Mobile Home Park flew last 10 combat missions of WW II in B-17 bomber
Hugo Riva of Mary Lou Mobile Home Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. flew out of England as top turret gunner and engineer aboard a B-17 “Flying Fortress” bomber dubbed “Combined Operation” during the Second World War.
Basic training injury keep former Lt. Jim Brand out of ‘D-Day Invasion’
Jim Brand of Ventura Lakes mobile home park south of Punta Gorda, developed a hernia in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. during World War II and missed the “D-Day Invasion.”
Alf Weidner made 3 Pacific combat cruises aboard sub USS Bowfin during end of WWII
Motor Machinist Mate Alf Weidner of Venice, Fla. joined the crew of the submarine USS Bowfin (SS-287) in 1944. He was 18-years-old when he first went aboard. The Bowfin was a sub with a fighting reputation. She made nine combat cruises into Japanese held territory and sank 44 enemy ships. Weiner served aboard the boat…
Pfc. Ed Carr of Venice fought his way through Europe with Gen. Patton during WW II
Ed Carr was an 18-year-old rifle toter in L-Company, 303rd Infantry Regiment, 97th Division of Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II. He now lives in ‘Village on the Isle’ condominiums in Venice.
Pfc. John Coine was a rifleman with the 78th Infantry Division that fought across Europe during World War II
John Coine of Burnt Store Isles was a former private first class and a rifleman in the 78th Infantry Division that arrived in Europe just in time for the “Battle of the Bulge” in December 1944. It was the biggest battle on the Western Front that Americans took part in.
Air Corps sergeant Dick Ruppert kept U.S. bombers and fighters on target during war in the Pacific
Dick Ruppert of Venice, Fla. was a member of the 145th Army Airways Communication Squadron. His unit provided technical ground support for a directional flight system used by the Army Air Corp to vector bombers and fighters to Japanese targets in the Pacific in World War II.
Former Staff Sgt. Jim Hicks was tail-gunner on B-25 attack bomber in CBI during WW II
Former Staff Sgt. Jim Hicks of Emerald Lake Mobile Home Park in Punta Gorda, Fla. was the tail-gunner on a B-25, twin-engine attack bomber, part of 81st Squadron, 12th Bombardment Group, 10th Air Force in the China Burma and India Theatre (CBI) during World War II.
103-year-old Air Force nurse, Grace Chicken, served in WW II, Korea and “Cold War”
One-hundred-three-year-old retired Air Force Lt. Col. Grace Chicken, who lives at South Port Square in Port Charlotte, Fla., was already a registered nurse when she signed up for the Army Air Corps during the early part of World War II.
Charles Carter of Englewood served with the 69th Infantry Division in Europe during WW II
At 91 Charles Carter of Englewood, Fla. was old enough to enlist in the Army and serve with the 69th Infantry Division that fought its way across Europe during the closing months of World War II.
Angelo Yerace was motor machinist aboard Landing Craft Tank at Normandy Invasion in WW II
Former Motor Machinist 2nd Class Angelo Yerace’s first taste of war came when he and the other 11 members of the crew of the LCT, Landing Craft Tank, he served on reached the beach at Normandy, France on Day 1 the historic invasion of Europe by Allied forces on June 6, 1944.
Hans Wex served more than 21 years in the U.S. Army during WW II and afterwards
Born in Germany on Feb 5, 1921, Hans Wex of Port Charlotte, Fla. spent the early part of his life living in Europe then he moved to Hollywood, Calif. before ending up back in Germany in 1934, the year Adolph Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany.
Stuart Wagner of Port Charlotte became radio operator in Merchant Marines in 1944 and saw the world
When Stuart Wagner of Port Charlotte sailed out of New York Harbor in a convoy headed for parts unknown during World War II all he knew was he was a member of the Merchant Marine serving as one of three radio operators aboard the tanker “Esso Charleston” taking 10,000 tons of bunker-C oil to the…
Petty Officer John Denike of Venice helped keep Navy flying during WW II
Because John Denike worked as an aviation repair sheet metal worker for Schweitzer Aviation in the Elmira, Ny. area building glider planes before World II, he joined the Navy in 1941 and was immediately commissioned a 3rd class petty officer without attending boot camp.
Seaman Charles Dietterich served aboard the cruiser St. Paul in the South Pacific at end of WW II
Charles Dietterich of Deep Creek sailed out of San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate aboard the heavy cruiser USS St. Paul (CA-73) in June 1945 and headed for the war in the South Pacific. He arrived just in time to take part in the attack on the Japanese main islands. The 18-year-old seaman, from…
Pfc. Joe Steimel of Holiday Park North Port received 2 Purple Hearts fighting Germans in WW II
Pfc. Joe Steimel of Holiday Park in North Port was a twice-wounded mortar-man who served in the 29th Infantry Division that fought its way through France and Germany during the last year of the war in Europe in World War II.
George Bagley served 22 years in Army during WW II, Korean War and start of Vietnam War
George Bagley of Rotunda was in the U.S. Army for 22 years— from 1942, during the middle of World War II, through the Korean War and on until 1964 near the beginning of the Vietnam War.
Former Cpl. Leo Scaruffi was member of U. S. Constabulary Force in Germany at end of WW II
Leo Scaruffi, who lives in South Port Square Senior Living in Port Charlotte, Fla., was a member of the U.S. Constabulary forces in Bavaria after World War II ended. Their job was to help the German civilians take their country back from Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.
Pfc. Tom Moore of Port Charlotte, Fla. took part in Battle of Metz, France during World War II
The 3rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, the outfit Pfc. Tom Moore of Port Charlotte, Fla. served with during World War II, was called “Patton’s Ghost Troops.” They were the flamboyant 3rd Army tank commander’s eyes and ears.
Coast Guardsman LeRoy Zeedyk at ‘West Lock Disaster’ also Saipan, Guadalcanal & Philippines during WW II
Even before Watertender 1/C LeRoy Zeedyk of Venice sailed into the Southwest Pacific during World War II aboard amphibious landing ship, LST-169, as a member of Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur’s Allied task force he survived the “West Lock Disaster” at Pearl Harbor that killed and wounded scores of servicemen shortly before the invasion of Saipan.
Marine Cpl. George Briede had his face blown off while fighting on Mt. Suribachi during WW II
George Briede, a scout-sniper attached to Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment, 4th Marine Division, was fighting his way up Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific in World War II when his luck ran out.
Joe Parry served aboard USS Wrangell at Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Leyte in WW II
Joe Parry of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a radioman aboard an ammunition ship involved in three of the primary battles in the Pacific Theatre of Operation during World War II—Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Philippines.
Radioman Sandy Dunn served aboard USS Achilles in the S.W. Pacific at close of WW II
A couple of days before Radioman 1/C Sandy Dunn of Chestnut Creek Subdivision in Venice, Fla. joined the crew of the USS Achilles (ARL-41 repair ship) during the Philippine Invasion on Nov. 12, 1944 while anchored in San Pedro Bay the fleet was attacked by Japanese kamikazes.
Pfc. Joe Lukasek was cannoneer with 124th Anti-Aircraft Battalion that fought in World War II
Joe Lukasek of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a cannoneer in A-Company, 124th Anti-Aircraft Battalion attached to Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II. His anti-aircraft unit shot down German V-1 “Buzz Bombs” during the spring of 1944 as they flew over the White Cliffs of Dover. Later in the war they…
Punta Gorda man was in Patton’s famed unit
Former Sgt. Ed Strnad pulled a massive 8-inch artillery piece behind a modified Sherman tank through Europe during World War II as part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army.
Duane Waterman of Punta Gorda was on minesweeper in Pacific Theatre during World War II
Duane Waterman, who lives south of Punta Gorda, Fla. served aboard a minesweeper, USS YMS-200, at the end of World War II. He was a seaman 1st class and she was a wooden boat about 20 feet wide and 100-feet long.
Jacob Walker of Punta Gorda drove a Sherman tank during World War II
Jacob Walker of Punta Gorda, Fla. remembers, like it was yesterday, how he joined the service before the Second World War more than 75 years ago.
Joe Cigich was shot at only once in WWII
Only once during the whole time Joe Cigich fought his way through Europe with Gen. Omar Bradley’s 9th Army during World War II was he shot at by the enemy.
Sailor helped with top secret codes
Because he could type Ken Lubold of Englewood got a job shortly after the end of World War II transcribing Morris Code for the U.S. Navy and working the Navy’s top secret code machine while serving in Bremerhaven, Germany for a couple of years.
Richard Mikutis spent a year with 800th MP Battalion in Japan after war
Richard Mikutis of Port Charlotte was a teenaged military policeman who served with the U.S. 800th MP Battalion in Kyoto, Japan as part of our occupation troops immediately after the Second World War. It was an experience he never forgot.
Cpl. Wayne Hilton served in 11th Airborne Division during the occupation of Japan after WW II
Wayne Hilton of Deep Creek subdivision near Ponta Gorda, Fla. was a kid from Young County in northeast Texas when he joined the 11th Airborne Division in 1944 and shipped out to the Pacific during the closing days of the Second World War.
USS Quincy sunk by Japanese in battle off Guadalcanal
“When General Quarters sounded I went to my battle station,” 96-year-old Pete Cahill of Cape Haze, Fla. recalled a lifetime later. “I was one of six lookouts atop a 20-foot pole in the bow of the heavy cruiser USS Quincy off Guadalcanal. It was somewhere around 2 a.m.
Former Staff Sgt. Ken Bender served in 31st Coastal Artillery Battalion in WWII
For most of his three years in the Army during World War II Ken Bender of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood, Fla. was a sergeant in the 31st Coastal Artillery Battalion, 3rd Army in the South Pacific hopping from island to island.
Don Moore’s War Tales reach 900-story milestone on web after years of story telling
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.
Pfc. Bud Jaderholm acted his way through the occupation in Japan shortly after WW II
“I tried to enlist in the Army, Navy, Air Corps and the Coast Guard near the end of World War II, but they all turned me down because of my eyes,” Bud Jaderholm of Oyster Creek Subdivision in Englewood, Fla. recalled. “Then for some reason the Air Corps drafted me and sent me to Wichita…
Captain faced tough challenges during WWII
Capt. Herbert Peters (Ret.) of Punta Gorda, Fla. landed at Utah Beach during the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944, and continued fighting throughout Europe during the rest of the war. After the fighting was over, he became part of the occupation troops.
Lt. Jim Horner flew B-24 bomber on 46 combat missions in the Pacific during WW II
Jim Horner of Oyster Creek Subdivision in Englewood, Fla. was a second lieutenant and pilot of a B-24 “Liberator,” four-engine bomber who flew 46 combat missions in the Pacific during World War II as a member of the 320th Squadron, 90th Bomb Group, 5th Air Force.
Former Pfc. Lavern Hampton of Port Charlotte, Fla. served in 5 European campaigns during WW II
The European Theatre Ribbon on Pfc. Lavern Hampton’s chest had five bronze battle stars for five major campaigns he fought in during the Second World War —Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe.
His unit captured Der Füehrer’s sporty Mercedes convertible
Bob Granchi of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a “Screaming Eagle,” a member of the 101st Airborne Division that jumped behind German lines on D-Day. He was also surrounded by the enemy at Bastogne, Belgium, during “The Battle of the Bulge” in December 1944.
The unsinkable dive bomber Number 2106
Midway was the decisive battle in the Pacific during Wolrd War II. Cpl. Gasper Buffa who serve in the U.S. Marine Corps was in the thick of it.
Aboard LST-582 at Okinawa with Pharmacist’s Mate Joe Dixon during WW II
“I have not read ‘The Sacrificial Lambs’ by Bill Sholin. But I am a veteran of three Pacific invasions, Okinawa was one of them,” his letter read.
Sgt. Sigmund Sepanak was at Ie Shima when Japanese flew in – Colonel gives troops letter
I wrote a story in the Sunday, April 4, 2004 Charlotte Sun about Sgt. Giff Stowell of La Casa Mobile Home Park in North Port, Fla. who flew as a gunner/engineer aboard a B-24 “Liberator” bomber that ended up on Ie Shima Island off Okinawa when a Japanese surrender delegation flew in on Aug. 20,…
He was a ‘Carpetbagger’ – 2nd Lt. Jim Paton dropped saboteurs into Nazi occupied Europe in WW II
They called themselves the “Carpetbaggers,” the 801st Bomb Squadron, 492nd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force flying out of North Hampton England for the Office of Strategic Services. Their mission: to drop saboteurs and their equipment at night behind enemy lines during World War II.
Howard Bolin fell in love with a ‘beautiful German girl’ as part of the occupation force in ’47
For Howard Bolin of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood, Fla. being a member of the U.S. Occupation Force in Germany immediately after World War II meant good times: pretty girls, beer halls, dancing, riding the army’s Harley Davidson motorcycles and playing on the battalion’s baseball team.
He was lucky to survive ‘Battle of the Bulge’
Herb Brough of Bobcat Trail subdivision, North Port, Fla. is a medical miracle. Almost 60 years ago, while serving as a “foot-slogger” in the 3rd Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Army at “The Battle of the Bulge” in Europe, he took a blow to the head he will never forget.
Lt. Eldon Mengel built the phone line to ‘Burma Road’
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 Eldon Mengel of Venice, Fla. was about a week away from becoming a “90-Day Wonder.” The 89-year-old local man joined the Army almost a year earlier because he had a low draft number and he knew he would be called once war broke out.
Mack Mileski of Englewood survived kamikaze attack during Battle of Leyte Gulf in WW II
Mack Mileski of Englewoodk, Fla. was standing on the deck of the escort carrier USS Santee (CVE-29) during the Battle of Leyte Gulf off the Philippine coast in World War II when his carrier was attacked by a Japanese kamikaze. Minutes later the flat-top was also hit by an enemy sub’s torpedo.
Maj. Thomas McGuire, #2 air ace shot down in P-38 fighter in Philippines
Maj. Thomas McGuire, the number two fighter ace-of-aces in the U.S. Air Force with 38 kills during World War II, was searching the Philippine sky on Jan. 7, 1945 for three more Japanese plans to splash when he was shot down and killed in “Pudgy V” his P-38 “Lightning” twin-engine fighter.
The story of the two flag-raisings on Mt. Suribachi during Battle of Iwo Jima
During the historic Battle of Iwo Jima, near the close of World War II, two American flags were raised by Marines on Mt. Suribachi. The second flag raising is the one most people in this country know about, but it was only an afterthought.
At 16 John Decates joined the Dutch Underground during WW II – Captured by the Germans, he was to be shot
I received a phone call from Betty Decates, the widow of John Decates, of Port Charlotte, Fla. She wanted to know if I could write a little something about her husband who died in December.
USS Surprise only ship in Navy to run out of fuel on equator during World War II – Coxswain Horatio Waite of Arcadia, Fla. was aboard
Horatio Simmons Waite was a Coxswain 2C on the USS Surprise PG-63, a patrol gunboat escorting cargo ships from Trinidad to Recife, Brazil, in January 1943.
Radar Operator 3rd/C Fred Rieger served aboard minesweeper at close of World War II
By the time Fred Rieger of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood, Fla.. joined the Navy on April 2, 1945 three of his older brothers were already sailors serving in World War II.
Orville Roones’ complaint, Merchant Mariners get no recognition
Orville Roones of Port Charlotte, Fla. served in the Merchant Marines during World War II. It’s one of the few outfits where men risked their lives serving their country during the Second World War that isn’t recognized for what they did, and he isn’t happy about it.
Sgt. Vic Morman helped liberate Buchenwald Concentration Camp
Former 1st Sgt. Vic Morman, who lives in Lexington Manor Assisted Living Facility in Port Charlotte, Fla., served in the 89th Infantry Division that liberated Auflenlage, part of Buchenwald, the infamous Nazi concentration camp near Ohrdruf, Germany, during the closing days of the war in Europe.
Because of a book, 2 old swabbies met after more than 50 years – George Chatterton and Bud Lightweis served aboard USS Antietam
It was all because of a book, “History of the USS Antietam, CV-36,” that two Venice Fla. swabbies got togethe more than half a century after they went to sea during World War II.
Radioman Lowell Biderman of Englewood missed WW II, but served in Japan & China anyway
By the time Radioman 3rd/C Lowell Biderman of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood left California headed for Japan World War II was over. The Nazis had surrendered in May 1945 and the Japanese in August of the same year after Atomic Bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Cliff Hill recalls ‘Rebel Devil’ was a miracle fighter plane
Clifford Hill, a former resident of Englewood, who now lives in Venice, Fla, flew a P-47 Thunderbolt and later a P-51 Mustang fighter plane in Europe during World War II. He was a member of the 318th Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Group of the 15th Air Force in North Africa and Italy. This is his…
Marine recalls Iwo Jima years after WW II battle
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…
Pfc. Tom Cavanagh saw Guam, Pearl Harbor, Nagasaki & Hiroshima during occupation at end of WW II
Pfc. Tom Cavanagh, Jr. of Punt Gorda, Fla. arrived at Pearl Harbor aboard a troop transport with thousands of other Marines. World War II was 10 months from being over.
New Guinea cannibals eye Air Corps Sgt. Francis Drab for Sunday dinner
Sgt. Francis Drab of Venice, Fla. was a member of the 5th Air Force stationed in the Pacific during World War II. He has a war story that almost rivals James Mitchner’s “Tales of the South Pacific.”
Al Trombi finally hears rest of his war story – Englewood, Fla. man was 8 seconds from eternity
Al Trombi of Englewood, Fla. just returned from the first-ever Kamikaze Survivors Reunion held in Everett, Wash., last week. It was the trip of a lifetime for him.
Bud Whitney arrived at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard 6 days before Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941
When the Japanese bombed America’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor shortly before 8 a.m., Dec. 7, 1941 “Bud” Whitney was a 19-year-old electrician’s helper working at the Navy Yard in Pearl. He had dropped out of high school, taken a civil service exam and agreed to go to Hawaii to work as a civilian with…
He was off Omaha Beach on D-Day, Jim Kolka was aboard USS Ezra Cornell
Almost a week before D-Day, Seaman 1st Class Jim Kolka was waiting in the English Channel aboard a liberty ship, the USS Ezra Cornell off the coast of France, along with tens of thousands of other American servicemen, for the Invasion of Normandy to begin.
He kept the engines of war running – Sgt. Harold Wallace got gas and diesel to the front
Harold Wallace of Arcadia. Fla. was a sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 782nd Engineering Petroleum Distribution Company serving in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. It was his unit’s job to get gasoline and diesel fuel to the front line for the engines of war.
Nick Casertano of Venice, Fla. fought with Merrill’s Marauders during WW II
Nick Casertano of Venice, Fla. helped Merrill’s Marauders rid the Burma Road of Japanese soldiers during World War II. He was a mortar-man in the 475th Infantry Regiment.
Luck played big part in Jay Vredevoogd’s World War II experience in Italy
It’s all a bit fuzzy now for 87-year-old Jay Vredevoogd of Port Charlotte, Fla. who served as an engineer in Gen. Mark Clark’s 5th Army in North Africa, Sicily and Italy in World War II. He was in many of the major battles during the Italian Campaign.
Pfc. Bill Kilfeder was tanker in 2nd Armored Division — fought in North Africa, Sicily and Europe
Bill Kilfeder has a connection to the Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans Nursing Home in Port Charlotte. His daughter, Liz Barton, runs the place.
Lt. Col. Bill Richardson of Port Charlotte, Fla. served in WW II, Korea and Vietnam
Lt. Col. Bill Richardson (Ret) of Port Charlotte, Fla. fought in three of this country’s wars—World War II, Korea and Vietnam — during his 33 – years of military service.
Ozzie Nelson of Port Charlotte, Fla. was operating room Army nurse in WWII
2nd Lt. Ozzie Nelson, an ‘Army nurse attached to the 6th Field Hospital, sailed for Europe abroad the ocean liner SS Ile de France late in World War II. It was the experience of a lifetime.
Carl Cowin joins Marines shortly before Pearl Harbor attack more than 75-years ago
When Carl Cowin of Country Club Estates in Venice, Fla. sailed into Pearl Harbor he was a scared 17-year-old Marine. The Japanese had just bombed Pearl and almost all of the battleships in America’s Pacific Fleet were sunk in the harbor at dockside.
Tom Martorana of Venice served aboard LCT almost hit by kamikaze at Okinawa
Okinawa, the largest and most people-costly battle in the Pacific during World War II began Easter Sunday morning, Apr. 1, 1945. When it was over 82 days later on June 22 — 12,500 American Marines, Sailors, Solders and Airmen were dead and 55,000 were wounded on the 65-mile-long island.
He flew ‘The Hump’ 18 times – Cpl. Maurice Pouliot C-54 crew chief in WW II
When Cpl. Maurice Pouliot of Buttonwood Village mobile home park in Punta Gorda, Fla. reached the Army air base at Jorhat, India, in the Assan Valley at the base of the Himalayas the Germans were about to surrender and the war with Japan was within six months of being over.
Electrician’s-mate 1st Class Tony Faella made 5 combat cruises aboard sub USS Spearfish during Second World War
Tony Faella of Venice, Fla. made five combat tours in the Pacific aboard the submarine USS Spearfish (SS-190) during World War II — from 1942 until war’s end in ’45. He served as an electrician’s mate 1st class.
Jack Wright served in Royal Army Medical Corps in North Africa during WWII
Jack Wright became a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps shortly after World War II erupted in Europe in 1939. He was assigned to the 19th General Hospital after he was drafted on Sept. 18, 1940.
Sgt. Merle Branstetter of Burnt Store Marina served in 94th General Hospital unit in Europe during WW II
Because he could type Merle Branstetter of Burnt Store Marina south of Punta Gorda, Fla. got a job shortly after graduating from high school in 1939. He went to work for a small newspaper in his Iowa home town running a Linotype machine producing newspaper type. Two years later he received an athletic scholarship from…
Glenn Jenkins still fighting the VA over benefits after 18 years – All of his children have congenital defects
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 kept Patton’s 3rd Army moving during battle for Europe in WW 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.
Shot down over Germany – Ed Dostie of Englewood survived 690 days, mostly in Stalag-17
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.
Art Nicholas made ‘Knight of the Legion of Honor’ by France for service in WW 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.
It took him nearly 60 years to get the answer – Roy Sannella wondered what caused ships to explode at Pearl
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 kept secret electronics going aboard B-24 for Office of Strategic Services in WW II
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…
Former Sgt. ‘Beaver’ Radenbaugh of Eagle Point was tanker in 3rd Armored Division in Europe
“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…
Sgt. Alfred Mountenay returns to Assoro after 62 years – His unit took 1,100-foot mountain away from Herman Goering Regiment
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…
Did he shoot a Japanese Zero fighter plane down with bow and arrow?
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.
North Port man flew a Wildcat off USS Tulagi in WWII
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.
He jumped with 101st Airborne at D-Day invasion – Cpl. Ed Stecher fought from Normandy to Prague
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).
DuWayne Schoeneck was a Navy cook in WW II who almost sailed on Edmund Fitzgerald when she sank
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.
Local WWII veteran to get France’s highest award: ‘Legion of Honor’
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.
Jim Knight was a German POW in 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…
Military intelligence was his job in three wars – Lt. Col. Bill Richardson saw action in WW II, Korea and Vietnam
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 and his 7 brothers were in WW II and Korean War
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.
John Barrow saw Japanese women at Saipan throw babies off cliff then jump themselves
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.
He was tail gunner in B-24 “Liberator” that bombed Volkach, Germany Christmas Day
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.
Christmas for my men aboard sub USS Threadfin during WW 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.
Proud granddaughter writes about grandfather’s Christmas dinner
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.”
A Christmas dinner to remember during WW II
“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.
Sgt. Jim Dewhirst flew as B-24 radioman during WW II, part of 467th Bombardment Group
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.
Capt. Charles Schild shot down 2 Zeros & a bomber at Guadalcanal in Wildcat fighter plane during WW II
For Capt. Charles Schild (Ret.) of southwest Florida, World War II was divided into two parts — the uninteresting part and the interesting part.
His wallet was difference between life and death for Sgt. Otis Nickerson who survived Battle of Bulge
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.
Japan’s declaration of war and surrender starting and ending World War II
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.
Bob Adams unites with buddies from USS Libra who served with him during Korean War
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.
German cut loose with his machine gun – ‘I took 16 bullets in my stomach, side, arm & shoulder’
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.
MacArthur subject of Southwest Florida man’s favorite military photo
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.
Pvt. John Newton received Congressional Gold Medal for World War II service
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 showed up for World War II a bit too late
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.
Mary O’Neil of La Casa became 18-year-old clerk typist in Washington before WW II started
When Mary O’Neil 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.
Pfc. Jim Picard arrived on Ie Shima island after Ernie Pyle was shot by Japanese
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.
Staff Sgt. Michael Tristano flew 35 missions as gunner on B-17 bomber in WW II
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.
Former Sgt. Mike Vucic served with 1st, 3rd, 7th and 15th Armies during WW II in Europe
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…
Old showman had time of his life playing nightclubs in New York, Miami and Keys
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..
Navy Corpsman Steve Bizeur served with 4th Marine Division on Saipan & Iwo Jima
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 was engineman aboard cruiser USS Astoria in Pacific during WWII
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.
Roland Hardt stormed Utah Beach twice in WW II
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.”
Clerk became machine-gunner on D-Day plus 2
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 French of Venice, FL flew 45 B-24 bomber missions in Pacific in WW II
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.
Three WWII warriors return to China for memorial dedication in CBI Theatre
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.
Port Charlotte. Fla. man fought in Philippine Invasion during WWII
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.
Port Charlotte, Fla. man saw action in Sicily during World War II
Maston Thomas of South Port Square in Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Navy six months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Pfc. Lou Roth served in Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army at end of World War II
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…
Marine stretcher bearer tells Iwo Jima tales of life and death
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…
Val Gerald served aboard the USS Randolph at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in WW II
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.
Invasion of North Africa was Charles Murdock’s first military engagement in WW II
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.
Capt. Stanley Ackerman led “Marauder” bombers on mission to destroy Po River bridge in WW II
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.
The carrier USS Saratoga was Fred Paulsen’s ship in World War II
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.
He made 4 combat jumps with 82nd Airborne – Sgt. Miale jumped in Sicily, Italy, France & Holland
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.
An All Souls Day Sgt. Francis Murphy will never forget
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.
He helped capture the U-505 – Jack McClinden was in hunter-killer pack
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.
After his brother became German POW, Glenn Meyers joined Merchant Marines
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.
Park Forest resident served almost four years in Seabees at close of WWII
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 Jack Reynolds didn’t fight at the front
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…
USS Cowell helped rescue sailors from USS Indianapolis during WW II
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…
Pfc. Elmer Meyers captured by Germans at Battle of the Bulge
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.
Moms played big role supporting troops on home front during 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 served aboard USS John Rodgers throughout the Pacific in WW II
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.
He supported the cause of black Marines while serving in the Corps during WWII
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…
Tuskegee Airman tells his tale – Dr. Yenwith Whitney flew 34 missions over Nazi-occupied Europe
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…
Ray Griffith flew 35 B-17 missions over France & Germany in WW II
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.’”
Soldier fought Germans in Appian Mountains during World War II
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.
This picture was American soldier’s clue in WW II
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…
He bailed out of flaming A-20 Havoc bomber over English Channel in WW II
“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.
WWII Vet and crew pursued Japanese fleet at Battle of Midway Island
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.
Sgt. Clarence Tuma fought at ‘The Bulge’ & near ‘Malmedy Massacre’
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.
Kamikaze hits destroyer escort – 12 sailors killed, 12 sailors injured
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…
Seaman Stanley Fiorini served aboard landing craft at Iwo Jima, Okinawa
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.
Old soldier stories from WW II never die
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.
Staff Sgt. Wilbur Butler bombed Ploesti 9 times in B-24 ‘Liberator’ bomber
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.
Bobbie Caho called ‘Gremlin’ by his buddies in the 106th Artillery Battalion in WW II
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.”
Bill Reddel skippered ship that launched 1st U.S. communication satellite in ’63
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.
Seabee built airstrip in the Aleutians during World War II
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.
Sgt. Bill Langley was radio operator on B-29 bomber during WW II
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.
He landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus one
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…
He flew 66 combat missions in WW II in B-17 & B-25
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 shook hands with Gen. MacArthur at Leyte during WW II
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.
Marine who fought at Iwo Jima makes last trip home
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.
Pfc. Walter Tatko gets Distinguished Service Cross for destroying 2 German halftracks
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.
Venice, Fla. war hero dies – Everett Driggers earned Bronze Star, founded American Legion post
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…
‘Lil’ Hiawatha ‘ barely survived the mission – Capt. Al Miller flew shotgun on a B-24
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…
P-47 Thunderbolt pilot shot down ME-109, destroyed enemy ammo train
Bernard Knoll of Port Charlotte Village mobile home park in Port Charlotte, Fla. 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…
B-17 bomber shot down in flames – Sgt. Jim Estrep’s plane falls prey to ME-109
“We caught it on our third trip. All three of our flights were over Berlin,” James Estrep of Englewood recalled.
She was a WAAF – Elizabeth Adams was radar mechanic in the Royal Air Force in WW II
Elizabeth Adams of North Port was “Rosie the Riveter’s” English cousin during World War II.
Pfc. Cliff Birdsall becomes Führer’s ‘guest’ during ‘Battle of Bulge’ in WW 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…
Captured at the Battle of the Bulge – Jerry Meadows fought in the 106th Infantry Division
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 fought at Okinawa in WW II and was called back for the Korean War
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.
Seaman Francis Cynkar aboard heavy cruiser USS Vincennes sunk by Japanese
A couple of weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor launching the United States into World War II, Francis Cynkar of Maple Leaf Estates, Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Navy. He was 15.
Bob Erwin of North Port, Fla.made 5 combat cruises aboard sub in World War II
Bob Erwin of North Port Pines Retirement Center made five patrols aboard the USS Parche (SS-384) into Japanese-held waters during World War II. On one of these patrols his skipper, Cmdr. Lawson Ramage, received the Medal of Honor and Erwin was awarded the Silver Star for their exploits.
Lt. John Dexter served as mine operations officers in Pacific during WW II
John Dexter of Jacaranda Trace apartments in Venice, Fla. was already an electrical engineer working for Dow Chemical Co. when World War II broke out in 1941 for the United Sates.
Port Charlotte, Fla. man flew B-26 ‘Marauder’ in WWII
By D-Day, June 6, 1944, former 1st Lt. John Nemeth of Port Charlotte, Fla. had flown 40 combat mission over Nazi-occupied Europe in a Martin B-26 “Marauder” bomber named “Johnny Come Lately.” He would fly 27 more in his bomber dubbed “The Widowmaker” by some because of its propensity to crash during takeoffs and landings.
Bill Hallo was Adm. ‘Bull’ Halsey’s favorite sailor aboard USS South Dakota in WW II
Bill Hallo of North Port, Fla. fired the 16-inch main guns on the stern of the battleship USS South Dakota in some of the major battles in the Pacific during World War II. He was aboard ship firing away at the enemy at: Guam, Saipan, Tenian, New Guinea, Philippines, Luzon, Formosa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and…
American B-25 bombers sink 3 Japanese carriers in Sasabo Harbor
Their mission: Sasebo, the Japanese naval base in Nagasaki Harbor. Their target three Japanese aircraft carriers.
He served with the 104th Timberwolf Division in Europe during WW II
Ralph Cook of Venice, Fla. ended up a chaplain’s assistant serving with the 104th Timberwolf Division in Europe during World War II after flunking an eye exam to enter pilot training in the Army Air Corps.
Bombardier Wallace Spencer shot down in B-24 over Germany during WW II
1st Lt. Wallace Spencer of Tangerine Woods in Englewood, Fla. was on his 28th and last combat mission on March 24, 1945 when the B-24 “Liberator” four-engine bomber he served as bombardier in was shot out of the sky at 20,000 feet by anti-aircraft flak while bombing a railroad marshaling yard in Münster, Germany.
Bob Porter survived direct hit on landing craft at Iwo
Bob Porter of Venice, Fla. served as a sergeant with the 5th Marine Division in World War II. He was with the first U.S. Marines killed or wounded at the Battle of Iwo Jima during the closing days of the Second World War.
Seaman 1st Class Gene Roaf served aboard the carrier Bennington during WW II
Gene Roaf of Punta Gorda, Fla. was a plane captain who maintained a single Corsair fighter aboard the carrier USS Bennington during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in World War II. He served as a seaman 1st class and part of the Essex class carrier’s deck crew.
Cpl. George Eyster served in 254th Engineering Bn. all through Europe in Second World War
George Eyster started off driving a 2 1/2 ton army truck in the 254th Engineering Battalion attached to Gen. Omar Bradley’s 1st Army when it came ashore on Omaha Beach June 6, 1944. He saw the war from the vantage-point of a deuce-and-a-half starting with the invasion beach to the Battle of the Bulge, on…
Fred Davis of Englewood served in Europe during WW II and 2 tours in Vietnam
Fred Davis of Englewood, Fla. graduated from high school in 1942 and immediately signed up for the Army Air Corps during the middle of World War II.
World War II hero’s burial
A caisson flanked by an honor guard and drawn by six matching brown horses held Harold Sandler’s remains in a steel-gray casket draped with an American flag. The eight soldiers in impeccable Army dress were commanded by an equally resplendent captain. All waited in statue-like silence last Tuesday on a road in Arlington National Cemetery,…
Dick Trott worked with ‘Navajo Code Talkers’ during Battle of Iwo Jima in WW II
Dick Trott, who lives in the Jacaranda Trace Apartments in Venice, Fla., came ashore on Feb. 19, 1945 in the second wave with the 5th Marine Division during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was a corporal operating a radio working with Navajo Code Talkers providing U.S. Marines with an unbreakable language to communicate in…
Bud Gerow served with ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ in Burma during WW II
“Merrill’s Marauders” is what newspaper reporters who covered their exploits a lifetime ago during World War II called them. Officially they were the “5307th Composite Unit Provisional,” a long-range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit that fought the Japanese in the jungles of Burma.
Bob Weiler was waist-gunner on B-29 bomber shot down over Osaka in WW II
Bob Weiler was the left waist-gunner on a B-29 Superfortress dubbed “Sky Scrapper,” part of the 61th Bomb Squadron, 39th Bomb Group, 314h Bomb Wing of the 20th Air Force, based on Guam in the Mariana Islands bombing Japan late in World War II.
Cpl. George Walther was part of Eli Wallach’s play: ‘Is This The Army?’ during WW II
Cpl. George Walther of Englewood worked as part of Lt. Eli Wallach’s crew helping produce “Is This The Army?” during World War II in Europe. The yet-to-be-famous Hollywood actor appeared in the play poking fun at the leaders of the Axis enemy powers.
Les Thompson lost his destroyer during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944
Les Thompson says he’s no war hero. He was just a seaman 1st class who served aboard the USS Abner Read, a destroyer sunk by a Japanese kamikaze at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944 during the final months of World War II. The 76-year-old Englewood, Fla. man joined the Navy at 17…
Pfc. Keith Jones fought in ‘Battle of Bulge’ as 3rd Army’s advance across Europe
Keith Jones was too skinny to get in the Navy in 1942, but the Army took him anyway despite his lack of weight. He became a member of the 87th Infantry Division, part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during the Second World War.
Sgt. Rudy Raymond of Bay Isles Estates fought in Battle of Okinawa during WW II
Sgt. Rudy Raymond of Bay Lake Estates mobile home park in Nokomis, Fla. arrived just in time to take part in the biggest battle in the Pacific Theatre during World War II–Okinawa. He was a member of the Second Marine Wing, Air Squadron 8.
Cpl. Don Schmitt served in 47th Combat Engineers on Okinawa during WW II
Don Schmitt of Maple Leaf Estates, Port Charlotte, Fla. was trained as a combat engineer and sent to Okinawa during the final days of World War II. He was a corporal who served with the Army’s 47th Combat Engineers in the Pacific at the close of the war.
Pfc. Joe Falis served with the 718th Signal Air Warning Company in WWII
Joe Falis tried to sign up for the service the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Trouble was, he was only 17 and he had to have his parents’ permission.
2nd. Lt. Marie Sgriccia was 18 when she signed up in 1944 to be an Army Air Corps nurse
In 1939, the year Marie Sgriccia graduated from high school, the 17-year-old had to wait a year before attending college to become a registered nurse because they wouldn’t take her until she was at least 18.
Dale Davis got in Naval aviation 2 days after Hiroshima was bombed ending WW II
Dale Davis of Punta Gorda, Fla. got into Naval aviation on June 8, 1945. It was two days after Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan from a B-29, four-engine bomber named for his mother–Enola Gay–ending World War II.
40 Months at the Front
The inscription on the front of the white ball cap siting on the coffee tale says it all: “America’s most Decorated 34th Infantry Division.” Below the inscription was an irregular shaped patch showing the head of a bull in red on a solid black background the 34th Division’s insignia.
Earl Thompson joined the Navy in 1945 at 17, but pretty much missed all of WW II
It was July 22, 1945 when Earl Thompson, a Navy fireman who now lives in Port Charlotte, Fla. sailed into Buckner Bay aboard a transport ship that dropped anchor off Okinawa. The 17-year-old swabbie was one of the thousands of servicemen aboard these ships.
Mom smuggled Brownie camera to Machinist-Mate Warren Hope in cake
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1943 at 17 in Philadelphia, Pa., Warren Hope of Gulf Cove, in Charlotte County, Fla. joined the Seabees. His parents had to sign him into the service because of his age.
Sgt. John Spatharos’ bomber called ‘Steak & Eggs’ crashed in Coral Sea in WW II
When Sgt. John Spatharos of Tangerine Woods, Englewood, Fla. climbed aboard an A-20, twin-engine attack bomber dubbed “Steak and Eggs” at Kila Airstrip on the island of New Guinea during World War II he had no idea what fate had in store for him.
Bill Donaldson and all the seniors boys in his high school signed up to serve in WW II
When the Germans marched into Poland in 1939 starting World War II, Bill Donaldson and all the other young men in his senior class at Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pa. went down to the local military recruitment center and signed up.
Sgt. Bob Herres bailed out of his B-24 bomber over Ploesti in WW II
It was dark and eerie when he climbed out of the sack at 4 a.m, shaved and ate a breakfast of powdered eggs, Spam and coffee. Then he and the rest of the 10-man crew of “Shack Happy,” a B-24 bomber, headed to the briefing room with scores of other B-24 crews to get the…
Larry Rhodes of Venice was gunner on B-29 bomber flying over Tokyo during WW II
Larry Rhodes of Venice grew up in Far Rockaway, N.Y. Just out of high school in 1941 he went to work for Republic Aviation building P-47 “Thunderbolt” fighter planes on Long Island, N.Y. for World War II.
Guadalcanal was his first assignment, Okinawa his last – Oscar Hettema was a Seabee
By the time World War II ended, Oscar Hettema of Port Charlotte, Fla. had seen a lot of this world as a chief warrant officer in the Navy Seabees.