Monday, May 29, 2006

Remembering Memorial Day 2006

Searching through local papers, I found a number of veterans remembering friends and actions from their time in service from WWII to today and stories of local heroes going back to the Civil War. I wanted to bring these to you so you can remember, too; that men and women have always sacrificed, always done their duty and always, at the end, loved their brothers and sisters in arms.

The Chosin Few

Not many people can find North Korea on a map these days and even fewer could find the spot in that tiny nation where Albert Walton's life changed, but this time of year brings a lot of memories to the mind of the Carthage veteran.

Walton is a member of the Jasper County Chapter 821 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, based in Joplin.

He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in an epic battle that went in the books as a defeat for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, but will always be remembered for the heroic way soldiers handled themselves as they retreated from a frozen hell known as the Chosin Reservoir.

“It brings back a lot of memories, mostly sad memories, when ever you talk about Memorial Day,” Walton said. “I had a medic that was wounded the same time I was, and my staff sergeant, who was a World War II veteran, and squad leader, bled to death lying across my legs. The medic was captured by the North Koreans trying to walk out to get help for me. The last I saw him, he was marching up a hill at the point of a bayonet.

“You remember those guys and you think about them all the time, but especially on Memorial Day.”

Walton and the other soldiers who survived the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir are called then “Chosin Few.”

Please read the rest; it's a story only the survivors can tell and he tells many more about that battle.

Walton recalled the most traumatic experiences of his time in the 2nd Platoon, Company B, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division as the division helped cover the U.S. Marine Corps retreat from the reservoir.

All of these incidents happened between Dec. 3 and Dec. 15, 1950.

He survived the first uninjured as his platoon, acting as rearguard, was ambushed by Chinese soldiers at a roadblock.

Walton recalled that his unit was ordered to fix bayonets and charge a hill to clear the roadblock for the rest of his column, which was approaching.

“We got about up to where the Chinese were when a Chinese threw back a snow over it right in front of me and behind the other people in my squad,” Walton said. “He didn't see me, but was getting his rifle ready to shoot when I jumped at him, he swung the gun around and I had to knock it to one side, striking him in the throat with my bayonet. About this time, I realized that he wasn't over 15 years old. This was the closest I had been to a Chinese that I had killed. I have had many nightmares from seeing that young Chinese face pop up out of a snow bank, and even now it is quite vivid.

Someday, I expect we'll hear similar stories from our men and women serving today (sometimes we do on blogs).

Mutts Fly Boy Dream

GRAVOIS MILLS — Mutt Williams recalled he dreamed of being a fly-boy while growing up at the lake, which prompted him to enlist in the Air Force.

He was ordered to report Dec. 8, 1942, a year and a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

No one knew Mutt by his given name, Lige Williams. He had always been called Mutt from the Mutt and Jeff cartoon. After enlisting in the Air Force, he actually had to sign a disclaimer stating he was Lige (AKA “Mutt”) Williams because the Air Force background check revealed the “alias” from his school records.[snip]

Williams served as navigator in the 8th Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress, flying 35 missions from England over Europe.

“We flew over Germany and let them shoot at us,” Williams said. “We were 22 to 23 years old, young and foolish and didn’t know any better.”

Williams was the leader of 13 planes and he said it wasn’t unusual for 13 to go out and his plane might be the only one that returned to England.[snip]

“There were heroes in the war and there were other guys they wouldn’t let be heroes,” Williams said. “The Tuskegee, Ala., Air Force pilots were experts of getting those German fighters out of the sky. They were top-notch fighter pilots, and the Air Force wanted them out, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt kept them in the service... the Air Force finally gave them good planes and the Tuskegee pilots showed them they were the best.”

And it’s a good thing they did. Had it not been for one of those fighter pilots, Williams’ crew would not have been considered one of the lucky ones. They were taking heavy fire when they saw a red-tailed fighter drop out of the clouds. The German plane that had been attacking them disintegrated in front of them.

“He saved our lives. The German FW190 was going to take us out,” Williams said. “After he shot down the German plane, he flew nearby and waved his wings and saluted.

Although he never learned the name of the pilot, he will never forget what he did for them.

Read more about "Mutt" Williams, Member of the Lucky Bastard Club.

When he returned home by way of Liverpool, Williams was presented with a certificate naming him as a member of the Lucky Bastards Club for coming home uninjured throughout all his missions.

“There aren’t very many who have earned that,” he said.

For a while after the war, Williams took a variety of jobs before retiring. Memories of those days are seen on the walls of his room at Kidwell Home. Williams is the only surviving member of his crew, but the photographs hung in his room show a group of young, smiling men wearing bomber jackets, posing in front of their aircraft. It was a time when young men, like Williams, dreamed of being fly-boys and jumping into the fray.

An Army of One: One Family, One Father, One Soldier

In memory of "Butch":

Before you read his biography, I wanted to just say that the first time I met Butch was while the unit was in Ft. Benning during their homeland duty on their first deployment. The thing that stuck out about him was his youth and he was so polite to me. He showed me a lot of respect as Josh's wife and I never forgot that. I thought he was such a nice boy. At the time I had no idea that in seven short months they would be deployed to Afghanistan and that he and Josh would become so close. Josh misses Butch a great deal and his picture sits on our fireplace mantle.We visit his grave and Mo's grave every Memorial Day (this year I'll be going without him). I'll never forget the first one after Josh returned from Afghanistan. Butch's mom Donna took us to the gravesite. At the time Josh was still wearing his desert combat boots (it took about 3 months for him to shed those things) and I'll never forget the sight of my husband kneeling down at his grave and those boots sticking out behind him. I feel so bad for our troops who lose their friends. I know it happens every day but I don't think any of us comprehend how much they become family and how they are forever impacted by that loss.

St Francois Medal Of Honor Recipients

St. Francois County has two Medal of Honor recipients. Platt Pearsall, a veteran of the Civil War, and Darrell S. Cole, killed in World War II are both buried here.

Pearsall, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for the same storming party that Henry Frizzell fought in at Vicksburg, is buried in Pendleton Cemetery.

He served as a Corporal with Company C, 30th Ohio Infantry at Vicksburg and died June 18, 1931.

Cole received the Medal of Honor posthumously for action against the Japanese forces during the assault on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945.

His citation reads: “Assailed by a tremendous volume of small-arms, mortar and artillery fire as he advanced with one squad of his section in the initial assault wave, Sgt. Cole boldly led his men up the sloping beach toward Airfield No. 1 despite the blanketing curtain of flying shrapnel and, personally destroying with hand grenades two hostile emplacements which menaced the progress of his unit, continued to move forward until a merciless barrage of fire emanating from three Japanese pillboxes halted the advance. Instantly placing his one remaining machine gun in action, he delivered a shattering fusillade and succeeded in silencing the nearest and most threatening emplacement before his weapon jammed and the enemy, reopening fire with knee mortars and grenades, pinned down his unit for the second time.

Please read the rest of this fine soldier's citation. He represents "common men with uncommon valor".

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