Friday, October 12, 2012
Friday, December 2, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Buckles enlisted in World War I at 16 after lying about his age. He died Sunday on his farm in Charles Town, nearly a month after his 110th birthday. He had devoted the last years of his life to campaigning for greater recognition for his former comrades, prodding politicians to support a national memorial in Washington.
When asked in February 2008 how it felt to be the last survivor, Buckles said simply, "I realized that somebody had to be, and it was me."
Only two known veterans remain, according to the Order of the First World War, a Florida group whose members are descendants of WWI veterans and include Buckles' daughter. The survivors are Florence Green in Britain and Claude Choules in Australia, said Robert Carroon, the group's senior vice commander. Choules, who served in Britain's Royal Navy, was born in that country but now lives in Australia. Green turned 110 on Feb. 19, and Choules turns 110 in March, he said.
Born in Missouri in 1901 and raised in Oklahoma, Buckles visited a string of military recruiters after the United States in April 1917 entered what was called "the war to end all wars." He was repeatedly rejected before convincing an Army captain he was 18.
More than 4.7 million people joined the U.S. military from 1917-18. By 2007, only three survived. Buckles went to Washington that year to serve as grand marshal of the national Memorial Day parade.
Unlike Buckles, the other two survivors were still in basic training in the United States when the war ended, and they did not make it overseas. When they died in late 2007 and 2008, Buckles became the last so-called doughboy — and a soft-spoken celebrity.
Details for services and arrangements will be announced later this week, but the family is planning a burial in Arlington National Cemetery. In 2008, friends persuaded the federal government to make an exception to its rules for who can be interred there. President Barack Obama ordered that the day Buckles is buried that all U.S. flags on official buildings be lowered to half-staff.
Buckles had already been eligible to have his cremated remains housed at the cemetery. Burial, however, normally requires meeting several criteria, including earning one of five medals, such as a Purple Heart.
Buckles never saw combat but once joked, "Didn't I make every effort?"
U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and the rest of West Virginia's congressional delegation were also working Monday on a plan to allow Buckles to lie in repose in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. According to the Architect of the Capitol's website, the last person to do so was President Gerald Ford.
The honor is reserved mostly for elected and military officials, but others have included civil rights activist Rosa Parks and unknown soldiers from both World Wars and the Korean War.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller called Buckles "a wonderfully plainspoken man and an icon for the World War I generation" and said he will continue fighting for the memorial Buckles wanted.
"He lived a long and rich life as a true American patriot," said Sen. Joe Manchin, "and I hope that his family's loss is lightened with the knowledge that he was loved and will be missed by so many."
The family asked that donations be made to the National World War One Legacy Project. The project is managed by the nonprofit Survivor Quest and will educate students about Buckles and WWI through a documentary and traveling educational exhibition.
"We have lost a living link to an important era in our nation's history," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. "But we have also lost a man of quiet dignity, who dedicated his final years to ensuring the sacrifices of his fellow 'Doughboys' are appropriately commemorated."
In spring 2007, Buckles told The Associated Press of the trouble he went through to get into the military. "I went to the state fair up in Wichita, Kansas, and while there, went to the recruiting station for the Marine Corps," he said. "The nice Marine sergeant said I was too young when I gave my age as 18, said I had to be 21." Buckles returned a week later. "I went back to the recruiting sergeant, and this time I was 21," he said with a grin. "I passed the inspection ... but he told me I just wasn't heavy enough."Then he tried the Navy, whose recruiter told Buckles he was flat-footed. Buckles wouldn't quit. In Oklahoma City, an Army captain demanded a birth certificate. "I told him birth certificates were not made in Missouri when I was born, that the record was in a family Bible. I said, 'You don't want me to bring the family Bible down, do you?'" Buckles said with a laugh. "He said, 'OK, we'll take you.'"
Buckles served in England and France, working mainly as a driver and a warehouse clerk. An eager student of culture and language, he used his off-duty hours to learn German, visit cathedrals, museums and tombs, and bicycle in the French countryside.
After Armistice Day, Buckles helped return prisoners of war to Germany. He returned to the United States in January 1920.
After the war, he returned to Oklahoma, then moved to Canada, where he worked a series of jobs before heading for New York City. There, he landed jobs in banking and advertising. But it was the shipping industry that suited him best, and he worked around the world for the White Star Line Steamship Co. and W.R. Grace & Co.
In 1941, while on business in the Philippines, Buckles was captured by the Japanese. He spent more than three years in prison camps.
"I was never actually looking for adventure," he once said. "It just came to me."
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Battle of Soui Tre took place March 18 and 19, 1967. At the time I was the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 118th Attack Helicopter Company (AHC). The company was a part of the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion. For this operation out battalion was augmented with the 335th AHC on March 18 and the 68th AHC on March 18th.
Saturday, March 18, 1967
On the above date the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion had the mission to insert an Infantry unit into a landing zone (LZ) in War Zone C. The operation was staged from a pickup zone (PZ) located on the edge of Ap Trai Dan. The Infantry unit’s mission, with a direct support artillery unit, was to establish a fire base om the location of the LZ. The original plan called for an Armored Cavalry unit to go out and secure the LZ. Once secured the 145th Cbt Avn Bn was to airlift the Infantry unit from the PZ to the LZ. I believe it was to require six or seven lifts. En route to secure the LZ the Armored Cav unit was ambushed and stopped. Their efforts during the day were unsuccessful and they failed to complete their mission.
There were two Assault Helicopter companies participating in this battalion operation - the 118th AHC under my command and the 335th AHC, a company on loan to the 145th from the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The 335th was assigned as the direct support aviation company.
Around mid-afternoon a standard combat assault operation was considered but rejected. After waiting all day, the 145th mission was cancelled and the AHC’s were released to return to their respective home bases. The mission would be continued on March 19th.
Sunday (Palm Sunday), March 19, 1967
On this date the 145th Cbt Avn Bn had the mission to return and complete the mission from the previous day. This time it would be a combat assault insertion of the Infantry unit. The operation was again staged from the PZ on the edge of ApTrai Dan. The 118th AHC was a participating unit. The 68th AHC replaced the 335th AHC on Sunday. Our final briefings on the operation were conducted at the PZ. The 68th AHC was designated the lead company for the operation. The final briefing provided several facts - War Zone C had a limited number of LZ’s that could handle a battalion sized combat assault; no preparatory fires were planned; and our formation would have ten aircraft in each company. There would be a two-minute separation between the two companies.
The operation began around 0900. The 68th made its approach into the LZ, disembarked their troops; took off and reported the LZ “COLD”. It was a surprise and some relief to hear that transmission. The 118th made its approach to the LZ. The troops disembarked and I was just starting my takeoff when there was a horrendous explosion behind me. Radios became alive and reported that three aircraft near the middle of our formation had been damaged and were burning. The 118th aircraft managed to fly out of the LZ. One aircraft from the 118th reported control problems and had to quickly land just a short distance away from the LZ. A Bandit Gun Team put protective cap on them until help could arrive. Five aircraft got back to the LZ, still in flyable condition. A sixth aircraft got back to the PZ a little bit late despite moderate damage. It could not be used when the mission continued. At this point the 118th had only five operational aircraft.
The operation was temporarily stopped to assess the situation. In a span of a few minutes the operation was resumed. The troops on the ground from the first lift would secure an area in the LZ to accommodate flights of five aircraft.
In the second lift, the two flights of five ahead of me in the 68th went in and out with no problems. As directed, I came to a hover and the troops jumped out. Before I could start my takeoff, there was a strong explosion in front of my helicopter. Everything went black and the XO and I were both struck by debris The explosion blew out the chin bubbles, part of the windshield and bent the front doors. We had to exit the aircraft through the cargo doors. The major explosion to the 118th’s formation in the first lift was a rigged unexploded 250-pound bomb.
It was an assault that could have had fewer difficulties for our unit, but it was successful.
Monday, April 12, 2010
The closest I ever came to being in harm's way was during ports of call in Turkey and other Middle-Eastern countries. Because of the prevailing anti-American sentiments in that part of the world at the time, we were ordered to travel about in groups of six or more when we went ashore.
Our instructions were to "take whatever action necessary to protect ourselves and our shipmates" while off ship. Although we had to ignore profanities and had to dodge projectiles hurled at us a few times, there were no incidents.
Today I came across an interesting obituary in our local newspaper.
John 'Jack' Agnew, one of the original members of a U.S. Army unit that operated behind enemy lines in World War II and is often credited with having inspired the movie "The Dirty Dozen," has died at the age of 88.
The Filthy Thirteen was the name given to a sub-unit of the regimental headquarters of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Division, of the United States Army, which fought in the European campaign in World War II. This unit was selected and trained to demolish enemy targets behind the lines.
They were assigned to destroy a bridge over the Douve River during the Normandy Invasion of Europe in June 1944, a mission that cost the lives of most of these men. The group was airdropped for the mission by aircraft of the 440th Troop Carrier Group of the U.S. Army Air Force.
This unit was best known for the famous photo (above) which appeared in Stars and Stripes, showing two members wearing Indian-style mohawks and applying war paint to one another. The inspiration for this came from Jake McNiece, who was part Native-American.
After a disciplinary incident while on leave, McNiece joined the "Pathfinders". These were paratroopers sent in ahead of the main force to guide them in. Expected casualties were 80-90%. The pathfinders were dropped into the encircled city of Bastogne at the height of the Battle of the Bulge. Their equipment enabled them to guide in subsequent airdrops of supplies crucial to the continued resistance of the trapped 101st Airborne Division.
Many believe this unit was the inspiration for E.M. Nathanson's The Dirty Dozen a view supported by interviews with the daughter of a surviving member of the unit. Barbara Maloney, the daughter of John Agnew, a private in the Filthy Thirteen, told the American Valor Quarterly that her father felt that 30% of the movie's content was historically correct, including a scene where officers are captured during a training exercise.
Unlike the Dirty Dozen, the Filthy Thirteen were not convicts; however, they were men prone to drinking and fighting and often spent time in the stockade. While there were similarities between the Filthy Thirteen and the Dirty Dozen, there were also many differences. The name "Filthy 13" referred to the fact that while training in England, they washed and shaved once a week and never cleaned their uniforms.
R.I.P. John Agnew, a true American hero.