Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TFH 3/19: HM2 David R. Ray, USN

David Robert Ray, known familiarly as "Bobby", was born on February 14, 1945 in McMinnville, Tennessee. He graduated from City High School in his hometown in 1963, and also attended the University of Tennessee from 1963-1966. On March 28, 1966, Bobby Ray volunteered to enlist in the United States Navy. After recruit training in San Diego, he received further training as a hospital corpsman.

Through May of 1968, Ray served at Long Beach, California both aboard the hospital ship USS Haven (AH-12), moored as a static hospital platform, and at the Naval Hospital. In that month, he volunteered for corpsman duty with the United States Marine Corps and was sent to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for field medical training. After completing the course, he was deployed to Vietnam with a Marine unit at war.

Monday, March 18, 2013

TFH 3/18: 1st Lt. Jack W. Mathis, USAAF

Jack Warren Mathis was born on September 25, 1921 in San Angelo, Texas. He enlisted in the United States Army on June 12, 1940 and was trained and served as an artilleryman. He was serving in that capacity when he found out that his younger brother, Mark, had joined the United States Army Air Forces, forerunner of today's United States Air Force. Jack joined his brother in aviation cadet training, and both men became bombardiers.

The two brothers weren't assigned to the same unit, although both were stationed in the United Kingdom to fly combat missions over occupied Europe and Nazi Germany. Jack Mathis was posted to the 359th Bombardment Squadron of the 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), stationed at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom. They were one of the first units of the VIII Bomber Command (later becoming the famed Eighth Air Force) to arrive in Europe for daring, daylight precision bombing raids that would change the course of the war. They were equipped with the Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

TFH 3/13: LTJG Joseph Feeney, USNR

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, thousands of Americans answered their nation's call to arms and volunteered for military service. Many were too old to be drafted. A lot of them were assigned to stateside non-combat roles, to free up younger men for combat service. Some did see action overseas, or as in the case of today's honoree, on the seas.

Joseph Feeney was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on May 28, 1909. About all I know about him is that at some point, he wound up with an officer's commission in the United States Naval Reserve. I'm guessing he was one of the thousands of volunteers who decided the best way they could help the United States in war was with the United States Navy.

Many civilian transport ships were armed for self-defense from aircraft, and to a lesser extent submarines; the weapons themselves were manned by US Navy sailors. On March 13, 1943, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Joseph Feeney was the naval armed guard commander aboard the tanker SS Cities Service Missouri. They were en route to Curaçao, Venezuela through the Caribbean Sea in a convoy when the ship was hit by two torpedoes fired by a Nazi German U-Boat in the early morning hours.

Monday, March 11, 2013

TFH 3/11: Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger, USAF

In the 1960s, aerial navigation and accurate, conventional weapons-based, air attacks on enemy targets relied heavily on ground-based navigation aids like Tactical Air Navigation, or TACAN, systems. Today's Global Positioning System (GPS), on which most modern precision-guided munitions rely, was just a dream for the future.

Another such system was the AN/TSQ-81 ground-based bomb direction radar, a development of the AN/MSQ-77 bomb range scoring system. Instead of predicting where a bomb would land after being dropped in practice, the TSQ-81 would predict where an attacking aircraft should drop its ordnance to hit a particular target.

American attack and bombing missions over North Vietnam often faced foul weather and other problems we take for granted in combat today, like simple darkness. They needed additional ground-based TACAN and radar targeting assistance to hit their targets reliably. Their problem? The best location for such a site in 1966-67 was in neutral Laos.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

TFH 3/10: Three sailors on the USS Eberle

The USS Eberle (DD-430) was a Gleaves-class destroyer commissioned into the United States Navy on December 4, 1940. The ship served in the Atlantic Fleet and escorted convoys in the North Atlantic and also participated in the November 1942 invasion of North Africa. On December 26, 1942, Eberle sortied from Naval Station Norfolk for Recife, Brazil to assume patrol duties in the South Atlantic.

The South Atlantic may seem to have been "out of the action" for the war raging in Europe, but that wasn't the case. Nazi German ships attempted to run Allied blockades to get essential war materials. On March 10, 1943, Eberle on patrol encountered one such blockade runner, the Karin. After firing on the enemy ship and forcing her to stop, Eberle dispatched a boarding party. As the Americans boarded the German vessel, the enemy crew detonated demolition charges.

Three of the Americans on the boarding party were decorated with the Navy Cross for their heroism. They were Seaman First Class Alexander J. Bisheimer, Lieutenant Frederick L. Edwards, Jr., and Signalman Third Class William J. Pattison.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

TFH 3/9: CPT Jack H. Jacobs, USA

Jack Howard Jacobs was born just days before the end of World War II on August 2, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey and attended Rutgers University where he was a member of Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). After graduation in 1966, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.

Less than two years later, then First Lieutenant Jacobs was assigned as a military advisor to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). While assigned to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam's 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division on March 9, 1968, Jacobs took command of one Vietnamese company when its command group was devastated by casualties and even though he was wounded himself, single-handedly ventured repeatedly into the line of fire to evacuate casualties and counter-attack the enemy.

Afterwards, he was promoted to Captain, and then later he received our Nation's highest honor.

Friday, March 08, 2013

TFH 3/8: Private George Watson, USA

George Watson was born in 1915 in Birmingham, Alabama. He graduated from Colorado A&M, today Colorado State University, in 1942 and on September 1 of that year enlisted in the United States Army to serve his country during World War II.

African-American soldiers during World War II faced a segregated Army, just as they faced a segregated society. As was true with many African-American soldiers, Watson was assigned to a support unit, the 29th Quartermaster Regiment. Watson was aboard the requisitioned Dutch ship SS s'Jacob when the ship was bombed by the Japanese in Porloch Bay, New Guinea on March 8, 1943. He gave his life trying to save his fellow soldiers in the water and was, at the time, awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

In the late 1990s, the service records of minority DSC recipients from World War II were reviewed to determine if racial prejudice and discrimination had precluded the award of the Medal of Honor. On January 13, 1997, Watson's heroism received the recognition it truly deserved from President Clinton at the White House.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

TFH 3/5: PFC Robert H. Jenkins, Jr., USMC

Robert Henry Jenkins, Jr. was born on June 1, 1948 in Interlachen, Florida. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on February 2, 1968, about four months before his twentieth birthday. After completing recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, he received advanced training as an infantryman.

Jenkins arrived in Vietnam to enter combat with the 3rd Marine Division's 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion on July 17, 1968. On March 5, 1969, he was part of a 12-man recon team assigned to Fire Support Base Argonne near the Vietnam DMZ. The base came under attack, and when an enemy soldier threw a hand grenade into the fighting position Jenkins occupied with a fellow Marine, he made a singularly heroic decision that saw him posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Friday, March 01, 2013

TFH 3/1: PFC Dan L. Neely, USA

During the Vietnam War, the United States Army's 1st Cavalry Division was equipped for and tasked with airmobile combat using helicopters. One of their light infantry units, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, ran up against both North Vietnamese Army regulars and Viet Cong guerillias in fighting near Hue on March 1, 1968.

One trooper with 2-7 Cav's Company B, Private First Class Dan Lee Neely, a radioman from Alabama, rushed forward hurling grenades to cover and care for his wounded comrades after the company's medics themselves became casualties. His devotion to duty and extraordinary valor in attempting to save his comrades ultimately cost PFC Neely his life, and a grateful and admiring Army and nation bestowed upon him the second-highest honor they could have: the Distinguished Service Cross.