Gene Kopec of North Port received 3 Purple Hearts fighting in Vietnam

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…

Jim Laurent worked in spy business and White House 24 years

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.

He flew the longest bomber mission of WW II in a B-29 over Japan – Capt. Harold Keathley bombed Aomori in ‘Skookum’

It was Capt. Harold Keathley’s 33rd combat mission flying “Skookum,” a B-29 “Superfortress” over Japan loaded with incendiary bombs. The target: Aomori, located along the coast of Honshu, the northernmost main island. What made this bombing mission special was that the crew flew from Tinian Island in the Pacific to Aomori and back, a distance…

Dutch teenager put flowers on WWII soldier’s grave

Near the end of World War II, when Aggie Konings of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a 15-year-old teenager living in Limburg, Holland, she volunteered to put flowers on the grave of an American soldier who had fallen in battle while liberating her homeland from the Germans.

Revell fought the war with his typewriter

Former Master Sgt. J.R. Revell of Englewood, Fla. went to war with his typewriter. Although he was in some of the toughest battles in the Italian Campaign during World War II, he never fired his rifle or used his gas mask.

Area man flew Army planes, choppers for decades

Before he completed his 30-plus years in the Army, Bob Dickinson was a an artillery officer, a fixed-wing airplane pilot, a helicopter pilot, a military intelligence officer, a transportation officer and a colonel serving as an assistant commander of the New Jersey National Guard’s 50th Armored Division.

Marvin Aronow was wounded serving as a mortar-man in Korean War

The day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, 1951, Marvin Aronow from Bronx, N.Y. was drafted. He wound up in Korea as a member of I-Company, 31st Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. “It wasn’t my idea to get drafted. When I got put in the Army I told them, ‘My teeth were bad.’ They said, ‘Here’s a rifle.…

Port Charlotte, Fla. man survived Battle of Okinawa

Pfc. Harold Tyler of Crystal Bay Condominiums, Lake Suzy, Fla. was in Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Regiment, 6th Marine Division on Palm Sunday morning, April 1, 1945, when his unit charged ashore on Okinawa, the biggest Pacific island battle of World War II.

Sgt. Norman Page was a C-130 ‘Cold War’ mechanic and flight engineer

For most of his 24 years of service in the Air Force Sgt. Norman Page kept C-130 “Hercules,’ four-engine transport planes flying as a senior aviation mechanic and flight engineer or crew chief. After graduating from aviation mechanics training his first assignment, a Strategic Air Command mechanic at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa in the…

Everett Charles ‘had no peers’ as skipper of PBR gun boat in Vietnam

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…

Coin flip saved Val Peterson from watery death in Second World War

It was Christmas Eve 1944 when Staff Sgt. Val Peterson and the 66th “Black Panther Division” got their marching orders. “We had been stationed in Dorchester, England, since mid-October when orders swept the camp to be ready to get out in two hours. We were taken to Southampton by truck,” the 84-year-old Port Charlotte, Fla.…

Airman receives Distinguished Flying Cross for raid over oil fields

Almost 63 years after a bombing raid in a B-24 “Liberator” over German oil refineries in Romania, former Tech. Sgt. Jay T. Fish of Englewood, Fla. received the Distinguished Flying Cross in an elaborate award ceremony in Washington, D.C. on April 24, 2007 along with the other eight members of the bomber’s crew.

Englewood, Fla. man’s sub sank carrier that attacked Pearl Harbor

The USS Cavalla (SS-244) was considered by some to be the luckiest ship in the submarine service. She sank the Japanese carrier Shokaku that participated in the Pearl Harbor attack, made 570 dives and sank 34,180 tons of enemy shipping near the end of World War II without sustaining any serious injuries to the crew.

Al Bond helped liberate POW camp in the Philippines during WW II

Their objective: Los Banos Internment Camp, a prisoner-of-war stockade on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, where 2,147 Allied POWs were languishing. The 1st Cavalry Division and the 37th Infantry Division were fighting to take the northern part of the island. A couple of dozen 11th Airborne troops jumped behind enemy lines into the…

Englewood, Fla. resident crewed a Higgins Boat at Iwo Jima

Enemy artillery rounds and small-arms fire rained down in the water all around them as they came ashore on “Red Beach,” near the base of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, with U.S. Marines. Seaman/3rd Milt Alligood manned the steel ramp in the bow of the plywood Higgins Boat. He lowered it as the “Leathernecks” charged…

Chris Eaton, Marine’s Marine served at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

Chris Eaton was a spit and polish Marine. The lance corporal was a member of Alpha Company, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. His company was part of a special contingent of “Leathernecks” who presided at military funerals held in Arlington National Cemetery, at Tuesday evening Sunset Parade in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial in the…

Gunnery Sgt. Ernie O’Brien served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam

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 fought with the Seals in Vietnam

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.”

Rotonda, Fla. man fought in five major Pacific campaigns in WWII

Vincent Carvalho, second soldier from the left, is wearing a Smoky the Bear hat. The picture was taken in New Caledonia when the Americal Division first arrived in the Pacific in January 1942. Photo provided A year before the war started, in 1940, Cpl. Vincent Carvalho and the rest of the Massachusetts National Guard went…

He was a Marine doctor at Guadalcanal, New Briton in WW II

Lt. j.g. Vernon Martens United States Marine Corps was in the first wave of “Leathernecks” on the beach at Guadalcanal on Aug. 7, 1942. A doctor in the 3rd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division, he came ashore with his 1906 Springfield rifle in one hand and his medical supplies in the other.

Ed Jaworek flew bombers and transports in WW II, Berlin Airlift, Korea and Cuban Missile Crisis

Ed Jaworek was a co-pilot who flew a Mitchell B-25 twin-engine attack bomber on low-level combat missions for the 8th Air Force in Europe during World War II. He took part in the Berlin Air Lift, in 1949 and piloted a C-46 twin-engine “Commando” transport in and out of Berlin. When the Korean war rolled around, in the 1950s, he flew a medical air transport C-47 “Gooney Bird” during the last months of that war. A C-119 “Flying Boxcar” was his plane during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Man flew some of Merrill’s Marauders to safety

It wasn’t the brightest move on his part, former Sgt. Pete Chisholm admitted more than 60 years later in the comfort of his Southwest Fla. apartment. “I volunteered to help some of Merrill’s Marauders out. At the time I was an engineer on a C-47 (twin-engine transport) flying out of Dum-Dum Air Base just outside…