Richard Johnson of Circlewood, a south Venice subdivision, escaped with his life when a couple of Japanese kamikaze aircraft struck the Carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) within minutes of each other the afternoon of Jan. 21, 1945 off the coast of Formosa during World War II.
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…
Dick Hughes of Paradise Park RV Resort south of Punta Gorda, Fla. flew a B-25, “Mitchell,” twin-engine bomber on 30 combat missions while serving in the 12th Air Force in Europe during World War II. He ended up in a “Mitchell” because a B-24 “Liberator” bomber was too big for him.
Airman 1st Class John Perdue of Punta Gorda, Fla. spent most of his four years in the U.S. Air Force decoding secret messages from the North Korean Air Force during the Korean War of the 1950s.
Christ Nielsen of Punta Gorda, Fla. was a “Seadevil.” He was a member of U.S. Navy Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Seven that rescued downed pilots and seamen in trouble off the coast of Vietnam during the war.
It was their last mission aboard “Betty-J,” a B-24 four-engine bomber named for the pilot, Jack Bates’ wife, that Elbert Bishop of Paradise Park, east of Punta Gorda, remembers most. The crew was part of the 42nd Bomb Squadron, 11th Bomb Group, 7th Air Force.
“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.
It was late in the war. Petty Officer 3rd Class Don Alger was on his first combat patrol aboard the USS Billfish (SS-286) sailing into Japanese waters. He was scared.
Former Cpl. Al Beyer of Port Charlotte, Fla. ended up protecting Europe and the rest of the NATO countries from the Soviet troops along the German-Russian border in 1968 instead of going to Vietnam during the war. He served in a mechanized infantry unit attached to the 3rd Armored Division stationed during the “Cold War”…
In 1942 Dan Middleton joined the Army Air Corps instead of the Navy because he didn’t want to be sunk at sea.
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.
Master Chief and Valet Ricardo Sanvictores of North Port, Fla. had two jobs during his 44 year Naval career. He was Adm. John S. McCain Jr.’s steward for 14 years. After the admiral retired he was invited to join the White House staff as cook, butler and valet. He served seven presidents for 30 yeas…
2nd Lt. U.S. Cleveland was a key part of the most elaborate hoax ever attempted by Allied forces during World War II. This picture of him was taken in Fort Knox, Ky. in 1941. Photo provided
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.
By the time Paul Molnar was 14 he had survived the Holocaust. It would be two more years before he survived World War II.
By the time Capt. Bill Haase reached England and the 8th Air Force during the last half of World War II, he was an experienced aviator with 15 months under his belt flying new bombardiers on practice bombing missions stateside.
Leon Gumley died in John Wayne’s arms as they fought their way up Mount Suribachi in the closing minutes of the 1949 World War II movie “Sands of Iwo Jima.” He played Marine Pvt. Sid Stein and Wayne was Sgt. John Striker, the hero, who was also killed by a Japanese sniper’s bullet during the…
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.
Giff Stowell of La Casa mobile home park in North Port, Fla. was a gunner on an A-20 Havoc twin-engine bomber in the Pacific during his first nine months of combat in World War II. The rest of the war he flew as the nose gunner in “Lucky Strike,” a B-24 “Liberator” in the 380th…
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.
Dave Youngs turned mechanics into cooks when he wasn’t playing bridge, skiing and sightseeing around Europe on the weekends at the end of the Second World War.
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.
When he wasn’t being a pretty good two-finger clerk typist for the United States Maine Corps, Cpl. Kean Mc Gill was a better than average “Junior Welter Weight” boxer for the Corps.
When Bill Bingham bailed out of “Lemon Squirts,” his doomed B-24 “Liberator” bomber over northern Italy on Mar. 4, 1945, he never considered the possibility the silk parachute that saved his life would become a family heirloom.
Retired Staff Sgt. Buster Yates decided to volunteer for the U.S. Army Air Corps before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, launching the United States into World War II.
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.
1st Lt. Andy Carrico’s D-Company platoon, part of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, trained for five months on New Guinea in preparation for their assault on the Japanese-held island of Leyte. When his regiment landed on the beach at Leyte the enemy was nowhere to be found. But Carrico and the rest of his airborne…
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.”
Almost a year after four Japanese Imperial Navy aircraft carriers were sunk at the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942, the Japanese troops that went ashore at the same time on Attu Island in the Aleutians suffered a similar fate.
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.
Bill Jordan and Dick Boos were Marine Corps buddies. Jordan was a “DUKW,” landing craft, driver and Boos a medic. Jordan survived World War II. Boos didn’t. He fell in the black, volcanic sand of Iwo Jima, six months before the end of WWII. He was 19.
More than half a century after he was shot in the back and hand in two major World War II engagements, the 77-year-old Punta Gorda, Fla. retiree still has trouble talking about what he went through. “It was hell,” he said.
Until he was 18 and graduated from Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla. in 1974 Bill Gomes spent most of his time in the saddle punching cows on ranches in Charlotte and De Soto counties. He was a “Florida Cracker,” better known as a cowboy. He wasn’t much interested in his education.
Mary Chalifour of Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Air Force Nursing Corps on a whim for three years in 1958. She and a friend she graduated with from nursing college in North Carolina decided to give the service a try. Twenty years later she retired as a lieutenant colonel in charge of all the nurses…
Bill Cunningham of Viscaya Lakes Mobile Home Park in El Jobean, Fla. was in his early 20s when he signed up for the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in July 1942. He was sent to Siena College in Loudernville, N.Y. were he received 40 hours of civilian flight training.
Tippy Burgess of Viscaya Mobile Home Park in El Jobean, Fla. joined the Marine Corps right out of high school in 1939. His parents had passed away and his older brother was doing his best to keep what was left of his family–himself, two sisters and a younger brother together. Times were tough for this…
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…
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.
Jiggs Yeager was a sergeant in the 39th Signal Battalion attached to the 26th Yankee Division, part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II.
Pfc. Dave Lea of Englewood, Fla. spent much of his time in the service in the most boring place on the planet — Thule, Greenland.
For James Broner of Englewood, Fla., Dec. 7, 1942 is a day he will always remember. That was the day his older brother was killed by a Japanese machine gunner and he lost his left leg to a sniper’s bullet. Both incidents took place within hours of each other a few hundred feet apart at…
“I knew things were getting serious when they issued us corpsmen morphine as we got off the C-130 transport at Guantanamo Bay,” Bob Pulver of Heritage Lake condominiums in Port Charlotte, a former Marine corpsman during the Cuban Missile Crisis said.
Sgt. Bryan Coward is in an elite group. He’s part of a handful of local students attending one of the United States’ military academies. Coward is midway through his junior year at West Point. He is a 2003 graduate of Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla. His parents, Tony and Sandee Coward , live…
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.
Jean Clough graduated from high school in 1938 at 17, but she couldn’t get into nursing school at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. until she was 18. It was a long year’s wait.
The old man sitting on his purple electric scooter in his son’s Port Charlotte, Fla. home was once a sniper in the 10th Armored “Tiger” Division when it landed in France shortly after D-Day during World War II.
Because, today Friday, Nov. 22 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we thought it was appropriate to provide our readers something special they probably had not read before about the slain president. Former FBI Agent James Hosty told Don Moore, senior writer for the Charlotte Sun daily newspaper, Port…
Guadalcanal was where the Japanese were stopped in their westward advance by American air, land and sea power. Former Marine Pfc. John O’Donnell, 84, of Holiday Park in Englewood, Fla. was a tiny part of that historic Pacific invasion. The battle began on Aug. 6, 1942, and continued for seven months during the early part…
Spc. 4 Brian Nethery is headed back to Iraq after 15 days’ rest and relaxation following eight months in the thick of it with the “Big Red One,” the 1st Infantry Division, stationed at Balad, approximately 50 miles north of Baghdad.
During his 30 year Naval career Mike Clarity of Punta Gorda, Fla. was the skipper of a guided missile destroyer and the Port Commander at Pearl Harbor by the time he retired from the service.
Carter Endsley of Punta Gorda Isles kept the F-100 “Super Sabre” jet fighter planes of the 48th Tactical Fighter-Bomber Wing in the air during the “Cold War” in Europe in the 1950s and ’60s. For four years he served as a jet engine mechanic in the U.S. Air Force.
Tom Poole was a Green Beret, a member of the Special Forces, in Vietnam in 1964. Later he became a Central Intelligence operative in Laos commanding mercenaries along the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the “Secret War” in 1970.
Before he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, Jack Bohan of Englewood, Fla. began his second hitch in the Navy serving aboard a destroyer during the Korean War.
Jim Fraser already had two years of college behind him at the Missouri School of Mines when he got a chance to take a competitive exam in 1944, along with 360 other potential candidates, for the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Pvt. Richard Erdley was a member of the 35th Infantry Division, part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army, in World War II. He was wounded at the battle for Nancy, France shortly after the general’s 3rd Army began to push the Germans into Germany during the final assault of the Second World War.
Sgt. Richard Spearin is every bit the Multiple Launch Rocket System gunner as he stares out of a picture on a photo wall at Lemon Bay High School in Englewood, Fla. of former students now serving in the military around the world\
Jack Sanzalone of Port Charlotte, Fla. spent almost three decades under the sea in atomic attack submarines keeping an eye on America’s enemies as the boat combed the deep searching for adversaries.
Five days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, 2nd Lt. John Pickering graduated from the U.S. Army Aviation Cadet Program. He had his wings, but he wasn’t qualified to fly anything but an AT-6 trainer.
After graduating from the University of South Dakota in 1951 with a degree in math and an ROTC commission as a 2nd lieutenant, Jim Bowden was sent to Korea in ’52.
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…
Okinawa was the bad battle as far as John Wrublevski was concerned. He served as a 3rd Class fitter aboard a liberty ship converted to a mother ship for 150 mine cutters, not minesweepers, named the USS Mona Island (ARG-9).
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.
Marty Mestre of Port Charlotte, Fla. came to the United States from Puerto Rico when he was 20 years old in 1936. It was the depth of the Depression, so he lived with Frances, his older sister, in New York City and worked in a factory for 35 cents an hour.
The tiny black and white picture was only 1 1/4-by-2-inches and yellowed with age. The images of a group of World War II soldiers standing around a pile of burnt rubble staring at human remains were sharp but small.
Vern Greenwood of Punta Gorda, Fla. signed up for the Aviation Cadet Program on Dec. 1, 1942, almost a year after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor dragging the United States into World War II.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, Pvt. Stan Sherfick of Punta Gorda, Fla. was playing catch with a buddy at Haleiwa Field on the north side of Oahu Island, where the 47th Pursuit Squadron was based.
Jay Stuart had two years behind him at North Carolina State in engineering in 1960 when he ran out of money for school. He decided to join the Navy and see the world.
Times were tough for Robert Smith’s family when he was inducted into the Navy. “I sent 60 percent of my Navy pay home to my mother to help the family. My other three brothers did the same. I never played payday poker in the barracks,” he said.
Fleet Admiral William “Bull” Halsey sailed into the sea of Japan, between the Japanese home islands and the Chinese mainland, with Task Group 38.3 consisting of five aircraft carriers, two battleships, four light cruisers and a group of destroyers.
Max Jones’ life expectancy in World War II could be measured in minutes. He trained to be a back-seat gunner on twin .30 caliber machine-guns in a Grumman TBM “Avenger” Torpedo Bomber.
His unit dug in outside St. Vith, Belgium, in the snow and waited that cold December afternoon in 1944. They were lost, outgunned and about to become cannon fodder in the largest German offensive on the Western Front during World War II — the Battle of the Bulge.
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.
Helen Salins of Polynesian Village in north Englewood, Fla. joined the WAVES during World War II. She was 25 and already a talented artist and a graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in English.
The 14th Armored Division arrived in Marseille, France, on Oct. 29, 1944, and went into battle two weeks later at Maritime Alps along the French-Italian border under Maj. Gen. Vernon Pritchard as part of the 7th Army. Sgt. Paul Cearlock, who now lives in the Foxwood condominiums, Englewood, Fla., was the commander of a Sherman…
Tony Mercurio of Punta Gorda, Fla., who served in the 24th Infantry Division as a gun-toting, front line rifleman near the end of the Korean War, spent the remainder of his life fighting the Veterans Administration over his teeth or the lack of ’em.
Hugh Bennett of Englewood, Fla. was a radio operator on a B-24 “Liberator” bomber dubbed “The Hard Way.” They were part of the 854th Bomb Squadron, 491st Bomb Group, 14th Wing of the 8th Air Force flying out of a base 90 miles north of London at Metfield, England.
Jerry Bauer of Village of Holiday Lakes mobile home park, near Port Charlotte, Fla., spent 22 years in the military, most of it in the “Silent Service” during the “Cold War.”
Joe Medina and a buddy were shooting pool in a Tampa, Fla. pool hall in 1946 when the two of them got the idea to join the Navy. Both were 18.
Dan Avenancio joined the Navy in 1976 as a teenage seaman, part of the flight deck crew, sweeping the decks on the carrier USS John F. Kennedy, sailing off the Virginia coast as a training ship. He ended his 24-year Naval career in 2000 as lieutenant commander in charge of maintenance aboard the carrier USS…
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.
Herb Mc Cool of Port Charlotte, Fla. figures he was shot at by North Vietnamese Army regulars and Vietcong guerrillas at least 5,000 times during his three tours in Vietnam. He served in the 67th Maintenance Company from 1967 to ’69 at “Camp Eagle” near the convergence of the Ho Chi Min Trail and the…
Kay Mc Neil of Port Charlotte, Fla., who grew up in Boston and graduated from high school in 1941, went to work in a defense plant as an 18-year-old rivet-maker for “Rosie the Riveter.” Her second defense plant job was working for Bendix Corp. making airplane propellers.
Staff Sgt. Paul Grube’s puny M3 Lee tank, with its 37-millimeter gun, was no match for German Gen. Erwin Rommel’s Panzer IVs and Tiger tanks with their 88-millimeter main guns.
Margaret Hain is proud of her service in the military. “I was in the big one, WW II,” she said. “I served as a WAVE in the Medical Corps.”
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…
More than 60 years after a former B-17 bomber mechanic wrote a goodbye note to a 9-year-old English boy during a going-away party for Americans near the close of World War II, the two were once again united through a computer.
Howard Dole joined the Navy in 1948 after graduating from high school in Philadelphia. He went aboard the minesweeper, USS Sprig, the first radarman assigned to a minesweeper in the Atlantic Fleet. She was based in Charleston, S.C.
Charles Evans of Punta Gorda, Fla. graduated in 1962 from Colorado State University with a degree in Civil Engineering in one hand and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force in the other with a three year commitment.
When Japanese Imperial Army soldiers marched into Semarang, where Robert Rienstra lived, on the island of Java in what was then the Dutch East Indies, he was almost 10 years old. It was March 1942, and the Emperor’s forces were in their zenith, sweeping everything in the Far East before them.
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.
Ernest Erickson flew a “Flying Fortress,” four-engine bomber dubbed “Lili of the Lamplight,” from a base near Ipswich, England on 35 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe in 1943 and ’44 during World War II. It was one of thousands of B-17s flown by the 8th Air Force that devastated Germany.
It was called “Operation Castle.” Camillo Balsamo was a civilian technician working for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in September 1954. “Operation Castle” was the detonation of the world’s first hydrogen bomb at Enewetak Island, part of the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.
Joe Brower of Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Air Force to become a pilot, at the end of his senior year in high school late in World War II. Because they had more pilots than they needed, he ended up a staff sergeant and engineer aboard a “Flying Fortress” used for rescue in the Pacific…
Bruce Rohn served as fire control officer aboard the USS Tennessee after the World War I-era battleship, sunk by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was raised from the bottom, repaired and sent to war. The 95-year-old Venice, Fla. resident and the Tennessee (BB-43) saw action at the Battle of the Philippine…
Sharks, injuries and exposure killed many of the 883 sailors lost aboard the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea shortly before the of World Wr II.
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.
John Schiro sailed into battle aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CVL-22) shortly after she was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in August 1943 as a member of the engine room’s “Black Gang.” When he left the carrier at war’s end he was the chief machinist-mate in the forward engine-room.
It was Feb. 22, 1945 and 2nd Lt. Jack LeBoeuf was flying his Corsair fighter from the deck of the carrier USS Essex as a member of Marine Fighter Squadron 213. Destination, Tokyo!
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.
Billy Reid was born to be in the 101st Airborne, the “Screaming Eagles,” and an Army Ranger in Vietnam. He followed in the footsteps of Claude and Joe, his older brothers, who were paratroopers in the Korean War. Claude also saw action in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces.
I was interviewing Giff Stowell of La Casa mobile home park in North Port, Fla. about his service in a B-24 “Liberator” bomber in the Pacific during World War II. He had a handful of old war snapshots sitting on his dining room table.
Harold Power wasn’t physically fit enough to join any of the five military service branches during World War II. They turned him down because he had a bad back. At 18 he got in the U.S. Merchant Marines. He joined the outfit with the highest casualty rate, percentage-wise, in the second World War.
Randall Martin of Port Charlotte,Fla. joined the Marine Corps because he wanted to be part of the best. He went to Iraq on Super Bowl Sunday 2003 and served three tours there as a member of the 7th Engineering Support Battalion.
Dave Rockow has dedicated his entire adult life to the military, service personnel and veterans. He joined the 82nd Airborne as an 18-year-old, spent four years in the paratroopers, got out re-upped in the regular Army and spent almost 20 years as a National Guard recruiter, these past three years he has worked as an…
Andy Hackleman was a clerk typist attached to the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps. He had just graduated from jump school at Fort Benning, Ga., when his unit, together with a contingent of Marines, was deployed in October 1983 to Granada to quell a communist takeover of the country.
Able-bodied Seaman Felix De Rosa from Orange, N.J. spent most of his time in World War II in U.S. Army’s Floating Transportation. He sailed from ports along the east coast of the U.S. to ports in England. From the continent bringing supplies and soldiers to fight the war and returning wounded servicemen to the U.S.…
Chief Master Sgt. Terry Keene’s primary duty during his 30 years in the military was keeping some of the most deadly airplanes in the U.S. Air Force’s arsenal ready for war.
Les Barth was no soldier. He was a music man. Being a gunner in a tank destroyer in Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army during World War II was the furthest thing from his mind a lifetime ago. He was 19 years old when drafted in January 1943. Before Uncle Sam got a hold of…
Arthur Card of North Port, Fla. made 30 trips across the Atlantic during the closing months of World War II ferrying troops, equipment and supplies to the war front in North Africa and Europe as a member of the U.S. Merchant Marines.
After graduating from Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1951, Ensign Bob Thomas served as a navigator aboard a Navy P-2V, twin-engine “Neptune” bomber. He flew intelligence missions with the “Blue Goose Squadron,” VP-22, part of the “Formosa Straits Patrol Force” that surveilled the China coast.
When I wrote this column in 2004 for the Charlotte Sun daily newspaper I was trying to make the point: Don’t do what I did and fail to interview your father about his military service and what he did in life after his time in the military. Unfortunately, I didn’t wake up to the fact…
Ray Jasica, who now lives in Punta Gorda, Fla. was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in Marine Corps Aviation after graduating from training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1954.
A belt buckle from his cousin’s Army Airborne uniform is what helped launch Bob McDonald’s service career in the “Screaming Eagles,” the 101st Airborne, and propelled him into becoming an avid collector of military paraphernalia for life.
The commendation accompanying 1st. Lt. Charles Maloney’s Bronze Star and Purple Heart doesn’t tell the whole story about the terrible time he and his heavy-machine-gun outfit had in the Hürtgen Forest along the German-Belgium border during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
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.
The devastating German V-1 rockets that rained terror and death down on the inhabitants of London in World War II, during the ‘Blitz,’ had their birth in Arcadia, Fla.
When Roy Johnson of Port Charlotte went aboard the destroyer USS Wiltsie (DD-716) in December 1952, just before a shakedown crew, he was an 18-year-old apprentice fireman. Since the ship ran on steam turbine power Johnson was made a messenger aboard the Wiltsie.
Bud Lounsbury of North Port, Fla. may have had the cushiest job in he Navy! He served as a seaman aboard the fleet admiral’s barge in the Mediterranean during the Korean War.
For 38 years Joan Jacobson was the wife and then the widow of Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Douglas T. Jacobson USMC. It was a big responsibility. When she married her Marine officer husband she knew nothing about the Medal of Honor or what it represented.
About the time Corpsman Eddie Hrycaj landed on Guadalcanal in 1943 with the 101st Medical Regiment that took charge of the 52nd Field Hospital attached to the Army’s Americal Division the tide of war was starting to turn against the emperor’s troops.
Philip Merrill almost missed World World II. Two weeks before graduating from high school at 17 he was sworn into the Navy on May 17, 1943.
Frank Hochstetter’s grandfather shook Abraham Lincoln’s hand after the 1863 draft riots in New York City.
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.
Cornel Dolana is a survivor. As a child he survived the German occupation of his country on his parents’ family farm outside Ploesti, Romania during World War II. He survived the Communist takeover of his country as a teenager. He escaped Communism and fled to Yugoslavia, Italy, France and finally, in the early 1960s, the…
Before flying off to war in North African in the spring of 1942 during World War II, Bruno Virgili married Lulubelle Gaehner. It wasn’t easy. He was a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps stationed in Long Beach, Calif. She was working in a munitions plant in Connecticut.
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.
Since he was 13, almost a decade ago, Robin Gulikers of the Netherlands has placed flowers on the grave of Pfc. Robert Ramsdell buried in the American Military Cemetery at Margraten, Netherlands. It’s become a monthly ritual for the teenager, part of the Dutch “Fallen Not Forgotten” program honoring American servicemen killed in action whiled…
Cpl. Robert Robb was a sniper attached to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division in Korea during the war. His unit took Hill 749, a volcanic mound known as the ‘Punchbowl,’ away from a regiment of North Koreans holding the high ground in mid-September 1951.
George Sutherland of Port Charlotte, Fla. was in the vanguard of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army atop his light tank fighting his way into Germany during the closing months of World War II.
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.…
Harold Tyson was a teenage quartermaster 2nd class at the helm of the USS Sheridan (APA-51), an attack transport, in seven major Pacific battles during World War II. He and his ship took part in the Invasion of Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Guam, Leyte, Philippines and Okinawa, the largest island engagement during the Second World War.
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…
The American 8th Air Force saved the English from being invaded and defeated by Germany during World War II, according to Wes Belleson, who served as a tail gunner in a B-24 “Liberator” flying from a field near Norwich, England during the Second World War.
The hand-written note on the back of the framed 8 X 10-inch black and white photo on the wall of Earl Swillum’s Port Charlotte, Fla. home reads: “Iwo Jima, Day 3.” On the flip side it shows LST-121 on the beach with its bow in the island’s black volcanic sand two days before the Marines put an American flag atop Mount Suribachi.
The six missions Lt. Fred Hocker flew over Berlin with the crew of a B-17 bomber called “Fightin’-Bitin” were the very worst of the 23 combat missions he made as a navigator in the 306 Bomb Group, 8th Air Force during World War II.
1st Lt. Matt Williams of Englewood, Fla. flew his first combat mission piloting a B-24 “Liberator,” four-engine bomber over Nazi-occupied France during the D-Day Invasion, June 6, 1944, along the beaches of Normandy in World War II.
1st Lt. Rex Wilkinson flew a shiny, silver B-24 “Liberator” bomber he named “Alberta K,” for his wife, from a base at Stornara, Italy on 51 combat missions in 1944 as part of the 745th Squadron, 456 Bomb Group, 15th Air Force.
It was pitch dark 64 years ago this past week, when Seaman 1st Class James Friel of south Punta Gorda, Fla. jumped from the fantail of the USS Walke (DD-416) into Iron Bottom Sound at Guadalcanal after his destroyer was hit by a Japanese torpedo.
Ron Kocher of Arcadia, Fla. started out to join the Navy in 1951, but ended up in the Marines because the Navy recruiter wasn’t there when he showed to sign up.
Bill Lightfoot was in his fourth year in a small Presbyterian liberal arts college in South Carolina in 1941 when he got his civilian pilots license. He decided to quit school and become an aviation instructor for he United States Government.
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.
Former Sgt. Clyde Housel of Port Charlotte, Fla. found himself in the snow and cold huddled in a foxhole along the Siegfried Line searching for Germans to shoot with his 1903 Springfield sniper rifle and scope on Dec. 16, 1944. He was a 1st Army sniper.
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…
Wilbur Kinney of Port Charlotte, Fla. was aboard the carrier USS Yorktown when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the decisive Battle of Midway that began June 4, 1942.
Carl Driver of Alligator Mobile Home Park on Taylor Road south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was the tail gunner in a B-24 “Liberator” four-engine, heavy bomber dubbed “Passionate Witch.” They were part of the 13 Air Force, 50th Bomb Group, 23 Bomb Squadron that flew from captured island air bases built by the Japanese in…
Before Bill Ditto of Englewood, Fla. went aboard the battleship USS Missouri as a Marine guard in 1949, growing up in West Virginia, he had never seen the sea or a ship the size of the “Mighty Mo.”
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…
On an overcast April night in 1943 a lone B-17 bomber dubbed “Hotfoot Two” flew from Newfoundland to Greenland on its way to Scotland, Ireland, England and the war zone in Europe. The “Flying Fortress” was destined for the 8th Air Force to became one of the thousands of American, four-engine, heavy bombers to wield…
Their target: A road intersection near Schonberg, Germany, at the close of the Battle of the Bulge. It was Hitler’s last and largest offensive on the western front during World War II, aimed at blunting the allied advance into the “Fatherland.”
Radioman 3/C Wayne Mengel of Rotonda, Fla. played a small part in the history-making “Cuban Missile Crisis,” the high point in the “Cold War,” between the United States and the Soviet Union, in October 1962.
When Winifred Leiser joined the Women’s Army Corps during the early part of World War II, it never occurred to her that by the war’s end, she would have become a poster girl for the corps.
Tom Rebel of Burnt Store Isles, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. said, “I wanted to be a bomber pilot. I wanted to fly the biggest thing they had.” He ended up piloting a four-engine B-29 “Superfortress,” the largest bomber mass-produced in the United States during World War II.
After bootcamp at Great Lakes in 1958 and a stint in Aviation Electronics School in Patuxent River, Md., Radioman 3rd/Class Jim Spence wound up as a radio operator aboard a U.S. Navy four-engine, Super Constellation patrol plane flying out of Argentia, Newfoundland in Airborne Early Warning Squadron 13.
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.…
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.
A month before the armistice was signed in July 1953, putting the Korean War on hold, Sgt. Sandy Branzei was in a bunker with his .30 caliber machine-gun atop “Boomerang Hill” when his unit, King Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Division, was attacked and overrun by waves of Chinese soldiers.
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.
Glenn Jenkins is dead. In 1945 he was a 17-year-old sailor who grew up in Nokomis, Fla. and joined the Navy near the end of World War II. After graduation from boot camp in Bainbridge, Md. he volunteered for a secret Naval mustard gas experiment that made him the focal point of a headline-grabbing Congressional…
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…
Louis Basso of Venice, Fla. was a 155 mm gunner who served in Battery A, 258th Field Artillery Battalion attached to Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army that fought the Germans across France and into the “Fatherland” during World War II.
Cpl. Walter O’Malley was a 19-year-old Browning Automatic Rifleman in the first wave of Marines who came ashore on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945. His war ended six days later when he was struck in the leg and arm by two pieces of shrapnel from an enemy mortar.
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 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…
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…
Ken Budd has an obsession. For 25 years he’s been trying to locate the remains of his older brother who was killed on Guadalcanal during World War II.
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.”
Buried in a box of old pictures and military records tucked away in a chest of drawers in Vincent Durand’s Port Charlotte, Fla. home is a medal from long ago.
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…
Don Bunger was in “Class 45-B,” the last class of pursuit pilots to graduate from Carlstrom Field in Arcadia, Fla. at the end of World War II. He soloed and got his wings flying a Stearman PT-17 two cockpit biplane just days before the program closed for good.
Dick Brown thought he was going to be an 18-year-old naval aviator in 1944. He quickly found out the military had more young flyboys than it needed.
The faded, blue tattooed numbers on the old man’s left forearm bear witness to the hell on earth he endured as a young man during World War II.
Don Schilke joined the Navy Reserves while still in high school in Oak Park, Ill. in 1947. After graduation he found himself in Composite Squadron 21 at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego training for a job as an anti-submarine warfare crewman aboard a Grumman “Avenger” torpedo bomber.
Andy Hawkinson is the last of a dying breed. He is one of the last of an estimated 400,000 American soldiers who took part in atomic bomb testing during World War II and throughout the Cold War up to 1992.
George Phillips of North Port, Fla. was an 18-year-old soldier serving in Company G, 347th Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II.
It was Pfc. Bob Balch’s job to retrieve the spent brass shells as they ejected from the breach of a 105 millimeter Howitzer. He was a cannonier, a hot shell man, and a member of a six-man crew that serviced a cannon in the 85th Infantry Division, part of Gen. Mark Clark’s 5th Army fighting…
Second Lt. Art Folaros of Port Charlotte, Fla. went to Europe in 1944 and trained to fly a B-26 twin-engine Marauder attack-bomber nicknamed the “Widowmaker” to provide tactical air support for Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army.
Second Lt. Bryan Coward officially became an officer and a gentleman May 26, 2007 upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, together with 977 classmates — members all of the “Long Gray Line.”
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…
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.
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.
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.
Pfc. Hugo Filizetti was an “expert marksman” in World War II. That was his undoing.
First Lt. Adam Kubinciak was the pilot of a B-24 “Liberator” bomber named “Miss Liberty,” part of the 706th Bomb Squadron, 446 Bomb Group, 8th Air Force stationed at Bungay, in southwestern England, during World War II.
Joe McKenney of Arcadia, Fla. had just graduated from aviation training at Manhattan High School in New York City in 1943 when he enrolled in the Emergency Defense Training Program to become an aviation mechanic.
Don Smally was a sergeant in the 283rd Ordinance and Ballistic Technical Service Detachment, fighting in Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II.
Arturo Rodriguez-Martin recently returned from a three-month tour as a U.S. Army Reserve doctor.
Gunner’s Mate 2/C Luther Johnson was shot down in his TBM torpedo bomber during an attack on the Japanese fleet bottled up in Kure Bay, Japan in late July 1945. He was the back seat gunner on a ring-mounted .50-caliber machine-gun in an “Avenger,” part of Air Group VT-6 that flew from the deck of…
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…
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…
1st. Lt. Guice Johnson was the bombardier on the 12-man crew of the first B-29 to land on Tinian Island during the closing months of World War II. In fact, when Capt. Walter Schroder put down the wheels, the Seabees were still working to build the runway.
Seventy-one years ago today, at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, Seaman Joe Kleiss was aboard the USS Dobbin, an auxiliary destroyer docked in Hawaii, writing a letter home to his mother.
Bob Hemingway of Lake Suzy, near Port Charlotte, Fla. was a junior in high school in New Haven, Conn. when he dropped out of school and joined the Marine Corps. He ended up in the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division stationed at Camp Lajeune, N.C.
Twelve-year-old Slade Tully talked to his dad, Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Michael Joseph Tully, by phone from Baghdad for the last time Aug. 18, 2007. The sergeant was killed by a roadside bomb.
Old “Iron Pants” decreed that the B-29 bombers would fly firebomb raids over Tokyo at 7,000 feet after taking command of the 20th Air Force. The “Superfortress” crews had been flying raids at 25,000 feet, Bob Althoff, pilot of one of the bombers, recalled decades later.
Ken Heitel was a “Cold War Warrior.” He flew an A-4E “Skyhawk,” jet fighter off the USS Independence, a Forrestal Class carrier, as a Marine Corps aviator serving in the Mediterranean during the early 1970s.