Saturday, October 27, 2012

TFH 10/27: Second Lieutenant George H. O'Brien, Jr., USMCR

George Herman O'Brien, Jr. was born in Fort Worth, Texas on September 10, 1926. He grew up in Big Spring, Texas, and after graduating from high school there in 1944, served our Nation during World War II as a seaman in the United States Merchant Marine. He returned to Texas after his wartime service in 1946.

O'Brien enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in July of 1949 while in college. On November 27, 1951 he was ordered to active duty and Officer Candidates' School. After being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and completing training, he was ordered to join the war in Korea with the 1st Marine Division's 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in September, 1952.

Only about one month after arriving in the combat zone, Lieutenant O'Brien courageously led his rifle platoon in a desperate charge against an entrenched Communist enemy position, and when they had seized their objective, organized the defense and made sure that no man was left behind - all while refusing aid for his own wounds. This was sixty years ago today: October 27, 1952.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bayonets? How About Some Bombers?

As my regular readers know, I'm big about chronicling the exploits of military heroes, particularly on "decade" anniversaries as I did earlier today for Mitchell Paige (Medal of Honor, 70 years, 10/26/1942) and Sherrod Skinner (Medal of Honor, 60 years, 10/26/1952). It turns out that there's a 50th anniversary to note today as well, but it's not one we should be proud of.

On October 26, 1962 - fifty years ago today - the United States Air Force took delivery of a Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bomber from the manufacturer, serial number 61-0040. That was the last B-52 to be manufactured.

That's right. The newest B-52 in our Air Force's inventory - the "H" model is the only left flying, 85 in the active force, 9 in the Air Force Reserve - is fifty years old today. Forget the President of the United States ridiculing bayonets or pooh-poohing cutbacks to the United States Navy; we have defense procurement issues across the board that jeopardize our Nation's defense.

TFH 10/26 Extra: Second Lieutenant Sherrod E. Skinner, Jr., USMCR

Sherrod E. Skinner, Jr. was born on October 28, 1929 in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a graduate of Harvard University and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on October 9, 1951. He was ordered to active duty the following day.

After completing training as an artillery officer, Lieutenant Skinner was sent to war in Korea and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines. While acting as an artillery forward observer sixty years ago today on October 26, 1952 - just two days before his 23rd birthday - he gave his life for our Nation while shielding his comrades from a grenade blast after having valiantly led the defense of his position against a massive Communist assault. He was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.

TFH 10/26: Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige, USMC

Mitchell Paige, born Mihajlo Pejić on August 31, 1918 to Serbian immigrants in Charleroi, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh), enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1936 after graduating from McKeesport High School

During the Guadalcanal Campaign, then-Platoon Sergeant Paige was commanding a machine gun section on October 26, 1942 (much as Sergeant John Basilone had the two previous days) against overwhelming enemy opposition. The best chronicle of his heroism with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment is simply his citation for the Medal of Honor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

TFH 10/24-25: Sergeant John Basilone, USMC

I blogged last year at this time about John Basilone, before it occurred to me that as a commemoration of the Second World War, I'd be blogging about every World War II Medal of Honor recipient on the 70th anniversaries of their heroic acts.

Basilone had served in the United States Army in the 1930s and returned to civilian life in 1939. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1940 in hopes of getting back to the Philippines, where he had spent much of his Army service. It wasn't to be.

On October 24-25, 1942 - 70 years ago - as a Sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal during the Battle of Henderson Field, then-Sergeant Basilone commanded two machine gun sections that held off the attack of an entire Japanese regiment during the two-day battle. At the end, only John Basilone and two other Marines were left, and Basilone was reportedly fighting with just his M1911 pistol able to fire.

Monday, October 22, 2012

TFH 10/22: PFC Milton L. Olive, III, USA

Milton Lee Olive, III was born on November 7, 1946 in Chicago, Illinois. He joined the United States Army from that city in 1964, and in 1965 was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment and the 173rd Airborne Brigade - one of the first units committed to fighting in Vietnam.

On October 22, 1965, about two weeks shy of his 19th birthday, Private First Class Olive sacrificed his own life while saving four of his comrades by smothering an enemy grenade. He became the first African-American recipient of the Medal of Honor for the Vietnam War.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

TFH 10/18: The Day a Mogadishu Operation Went Right

Most Americans properly associate Mogadishu, Somalia with the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu (October 3-4) that resulted in the deaths of 18 US servicemen and 74 other casualties - and the Medal of Honor worthy heroism of Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart.

People forget that on October 18, 1977 - thirty-five years ago - Mogadishu was the site of a great victory over the forces of tyranny.

On Tuesday, October 13, 1977, Lufthansa Flight 181, a Boeing 737, departed Palma de Mallorca, Spain en route to Frankfurt, West Germany with a crew of five and 86 passengers...and four terrorists. The terrorists - two men, two women; two Palestinians, two Lebanese - who identified themselves as "Commando Martyr Halime", but really hailed from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization, had smuggled pistols on board and hijacked the plane.

In the wake of the Munich Massacre in September, 1972 - during which the PLFP offshoot Black September murdered 11 Israelis during the Olympic Games - the Germans founded Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (GSG 9) within their Federal Police to prepare for the next attack. This would be their first test.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

TFH 10/17: 2LT Harold Bascom Durham, Jr., USA

Harold Bascom Durham, Jr. was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on October 12, 1942. He was living in Atlanta, Georgia when he joined the United States Army in 1964, and was eventually commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Artillery branch.

Lieutenant Durham was assigned to the 6th Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, then one of the artillery components of the 1st Infantry Division engaged in combat in Vietnam. Five days after his 25th birthday on October 17, 1967, he was attached to the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment as a forward observer for what became the Battle of Ong Thanh.

As the infantry ran up against and was ambushed by a heavily fortified enemy position and superior numbers in opposition, Durham placed himself in a leading position exposed to the enemy so as best to direct vital artillery fires onto the enemy positions. Even though he was wounded multiple times, his concern was solely for the soldiers surrounding him. He died with the radio still in his hand, calling in fires until his last breath, and was posthumously awarded our Nation's highest honor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TFH 10/16: Private Thomas C. Neibaur, USA

The United States Army's 42nd Infantry Division is known as the "Rainbow" Division. The unit was formed by combining selected Army National Guard formations from across the United States for combat service in World War I. Legend has it that the division's chief of staff, then-Major Douglas MacArthur, said it would "stretch over the country like a rainbow."

On this day in 1918, a twenty year-old private in the Rainbow Division from Sharon, Idaho took his French-made Chauchat automatic rifle and single-handedly held off an enemy counterattack. When the attack was halted, he captured eleven enemy soldiers with just his pistol, and though wounded, brought all his prisoners back to our own lines. His name was Thomas Croft Neibaur, and for his courage, he received the Medal of Honor.

Monday, October 15, 2012

TFH 10/15: PFC Ralph E. Pomeroy, USA

Ralph Eugene Pomeroy was born in Quinwood, West Virginia on March 26, 1930. During the Korean War on the second day of the Battle of Triangle Hill, Pomeroy, a machine gunner with the 7th Infantry Division's 31st Infantry Regiment, stood nearly alone against a determined Chinese Communist assault. When his gun mount was destroyed, he carried the heavy weapon forward, firing it from his arms. When he ran out of ammunition, he engaged the enemy hand-to-hand until he was cut down.

Private First Class Pomeroy posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his amazing courage on October 15, 1952 - exactly sixty years ago today.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

TFH 10/14: First Lieutenant Edward R. Schowalter, Jr., USA

Edward Rightor Schowalter, Jr. was born on Christmas Eve, 1927 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He came to earn a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army via ROTC at the Virginia Military Institute, from which he graduated with the class of 1951.

He quickly received a promotion to First Lieutenant, and was sent to fight in the Korean War with the 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment and the 7th Infantry Division. Sixty years ago today on October 14, 1952, Schowalter led his rifle platoon forward through intense enemy opposition, and repeatedly ignored his own wounds and safety to inspire his men to victory. He later received our Nation's highest honor for his gallantry in action.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

TFH 10/13: Captain Jeffrey S. Feinstein, USAF

Jeffrey S. Feinstein was born on January 29, 1945 in Chicago, Illinois. He enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1963 to attend the Air Force Academy Preparatory School. He was admitted to the United States Air Force Academy the following year and graduated with the class of 1968, receiving his commission as a Second Lieutenant.

Feinstein then went through both navigator and weapons system officer (WSO) training, reaching operational duty with McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II squadrons in February of 1970. In 1972, he was flying as part of the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron from Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in combat over Vietnam. Between April and July of 1972, he was credited as an F-4 WSO with four aerial victories against enemy aircraft.

On October 13, 1972 - exactly forty years ago today - then Captain Feinstein aimed and fired an AIM-7 Sparrow missile, got his fifth "kill", and became the last (thus far) "Ace" of the USAF. He received the second-highest award he could have for his skill and courage in the skies: the Air Force Cross.

Friday, October 12, 2012

TFH 10/12: Corporal William T. Perkins, Jr., USMC

William Thomas Perkins, Jr. was born on August 10, 1947 in Rochester, New York. He moved with his family as a child to California, and graduated from James Monroe High School in Sepulveda in 1965. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on April 27, 1966 and was transitioned to the regular Marine Corps in July of the same year.

After completing boot camp and individual combat training, Perkins was trained as a combat photographer, both on movie and still cameras. He received a promotion to Corporal on August 1, 1967 and was attached to the 1st Marine Division's 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment to record their combat actions during Operation Medina in Vietnam, which began October 10, 1967.

On October 12, 1967, Corporal Perkins showed that regardless of military specialty, all Marines are warriors first. When a grenade landed in his immediate area, he placed his body between the enemy missile and his comrades. He gave his life to save others, and a grateful nation recognized his courage and sacrifice with the Medal of Honor.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

TFH 10/11: Medals of Honor for Two Soldiers of the "Old Hickory" Division

The United States Army's 30th Infantry Division was formed for combat in World War I during October 1917 with members of the Army National Guard from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee forming its core. The division was nicknamed "Old Hickory" in honor of General and later President Andrew Jackson, who came from Tennessee.

Two soldiers from the division were both decorated with the Medal of Honor for their heroism on October 11, 1918. The first, Private Robert Lester Blackwell, hailed from Hurdle Mills, North Carolina and was born on October 4, 1895. The second, Sergeant Richmond Hobson Hilton, was born in Westville, South Carolina on October 8, 1898.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

TFH 10/10: YN3 Greg G. Gallagher, USN

The Vietnam War was the dawn of the United States Navy's SEALs. SEAL Team One was founded at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in California in 1961. During 1968, the SEALs were conducting riverine warfare on the Mekong Delta.

On October 10-11, 1968, one such SEAL operation was launched to capture enemy fighters. During the mission, the SEALs came under fire from a numerically superior force. The defense and extraction of the team was led by Yeoman 3rd Class Greg G. Gallagher, who received the Navy Cross for his heroism.

Monday, October 08, 2012

TFH 10/8-9: SFC Tony K. Burris, USA

Tony Kenneth Burris was born on May 30, 1929 in Blanchard, Oklahoma. Burris, a Native American and member of the Choctaw Tribe, graduated from high school in Blanchard in 1947. He volunteered for service and enlisted in the United States Army in 1950.

On October 8-9, 1951 in combat with the 38th Infantry Regiment (3rd Battalion, based on company letter), 2nd Infantry Division during the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in the Korean War, then Sergeant First Class Burris repeatedly charged enemy positions both alone and at the front of his fellow soldiers. His supreme courage and sacrifice was posthumously recognized by the award of the Medal of Honor.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

TFH 10/4: First Sergeant Benjamin Kaufman, USA

Benjamin Kaufman was born in Buffalo, New York on March 10, 1894 and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He was a student at Syracuse University in 1917 when he answered his Nation's call to service and enlisted in the United States Army.

The 77th Infantry Division was activated in France for World War I combat on August 1, 1918. As a member of the Division's 308th Infantry Regiment, then First Sergeant Kaufman was disabled by an enemy gas attack. He left a military hospital voluntarily to rejoin his unit.

On October 4, 1918, Benjamin Kaufman single handedly destroyed an enemy gun position after a bullet from the gun he took out shattered his right arm. He received the Medal of Honor for his courage.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

TFH 10/3: Private John Joseph Kelly, USMC

John Joseph Kelly was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 24, 1898. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in April of 1917 and went to fight in World War I in France as a member of the 78th Company (2nd Battalion), 6th Marine Regiment, which was then attached to the United States Army's 2nd Infantry Division.

On October 3, 1918 at the outset of the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge, Kelly charged far ahead of the front line under both enemy fire and a friendly artillery barrage to attack a machine gun position. His attack was successful, and he also captured eight of the enemy.

At the time, it was permissible for multiple Medals of Honor to be awarded to one individual for the same action. As he was a Marine, serving with an Army division, John Kelly was decorated with both the Army and Navy versions of our Nation's highest honor.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

TFH 10/1-31: Major Robert E. Galer, USMC

Robert Edward Galer was born on October 24, 1913 in Seattle, Washington. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1935 and began elimination flight training locally at a Naval Reserve base.  On July 1, 1936, he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and then reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida for completion of his training as a Naval Aviator.

During the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Galer was stationed with Marine Fighting Squadron 211 (VMF-211) on Oahu, Hawaii. In May 1942 then Major Galer took command of Marine Fighting Squadron 224 (VMF-224).

Galer's squadron flew during the Guadalcanal Campaign from Henderson Field on the island. In August and September 1942, the commander of another Marine squadron, Major John Lucian Smith, received the Medal of Honor for his courage, skill, and leadership in fending off the Japanese enemy in the skies.

For his own valor above and beyond the normal call of duty, including personally destroying eleven enemy aircraft, Major Galer was also decorated with our Nation's highest honor.