William J. “Doc” Boatman

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Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class
Served with 3rd Bn. 7th Marines and Aboard USS Eldorado (AGC-11)

First of all I joined the Navy in Oklahoma, not in Texas, although my parents lived in Fredericksburg at the time, so technically I am a Texas Vet. In 1965 I was a Pharmacy Major at the University of Oklahoma fighting to keep my grades up and working to pay for college…a battle I eventually lost when I did not return to school after my freshman year. I dropped out for a semester….not a smart move in 1965 and ended up getting drafted just after Christmas. I was going back to school in January, I thought, but the draft board had a different kind of education in mind for me.I guess I considered myself a conscientious objector at the time – I knew that I couldn’t shoot someone, so I had to make a choice, go to Canada or become a Medic. I talked to the Army recruiter who told me that if I was drafted I could not be guaranteed a medic position. The Navy recruiter told me that if I wanted to go into the Navy, he would sign me up as a Hospital Corpsman Recruit. I liked the sound of that and the idea of sailing the seven seas was definitely appealing to me, so I signed on hoping to be a pharmacy technician, the field I was interested in the first place.It went well to start, I was a platoon leader in boot camp and after boot camp I got posted to Hospital Corps School at Great Lakes, Illinois. Upon graduating from that training in the top 10, I got a spot at the Pharmacy Tech School in Portsmouth Virginia, although the class did not start for 6 months. I was posted at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth to await the opening of next class at Tech School. After about three or four months working on the wards at the hospital, I told to report to the personnel officer. I went eagerly, thinking that I was soon to be reassigned to the Tech School. Instead, I was given two weeks leave and told to report to Camp Pendleton, California to start a different Tech School, Field Medical Service Technician School and assignment to the Fleet Marine For ce. I was going to combat in Vietnam with the Marines.I think I was more afraid of being trained by Marines….I had heard all the stories about Marine boot camp, than I was of going to Vietnam. Training went well, however, even though I called a Woman Marine Major a BAM thinking it was the same as the calling a woman in the Army a WAC. No one told me that BAM meant Broad Ass Marine. Needless to say she was not amused!Upon arrival in Vietnam, I was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines who were then located in the DMZ at Dong Ha. I stayed in the rear with H&S Company for the first week because 3/7 was moving to an area Southwest of Danang, which in later years would be known as the Arizona Territory. My first job was to work with the 7th Engineers making road sweeps for mines. I eventually was transferred to a line company; India Company whom I stayed with until I was medivaced six months later with what I was told was Dengue Fever. After spending a few weeks in the hospital in Japan recovering, I was expecting and wanted to go back to my unit. Again, the Navy’s plans and my plans ran afoul. I received orders to the USS Eldorado, AGC-11. I objected to no avail, and found myself back in the Navy, doing what I had initially signed up for, running the ship’s Pharmacy. I made two Westpac Cruises with the Eldorado, spending a little over two years aboard.

After my release from the Navy, I attended the University of Texas and graduated with a BBA in Management. In reflection on my military experience, I am able to justify my service in Vietnam… I kept to my personal conviction to not kill, and was able to assist many who were injured or sick. I was proud to be a Corpsman, and prouder still of my service with the Marine Corps, short though it was. The Marines made a man of me, and I was honored to be counted among them. I am glad that I went into the service instead of Canada, although I hold no grudge on those who chose that route. I am a proud member of the Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans of America. I have spent many years as a veteran’s advocate, especially concerning Post Traumatic Stress issues.

We honor you, William Boatman.

(#Repost @http://tcvvm.org/project/joe-boatman/)

AZ2 Frank Bodden

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From January to August of 1968 I served with the air wing on the USS Ticonderoga, CVA-14, with VFP-63. Our pilots flew the F-8 Crusader, a fighter jet that instead of being armed, had camera bays on each side of the fuselage and the nose cone. Our pilots flew unarmed, always accompanied by two fully armed F-8 Crusader escorts. The squadron pilots flew over enemy sites taking photographs. The film was then brought back to our ship, where our photo interpreters examined them for possible targets or to assess damage done by past raids.

In March of 1968 one of our pilots, Lt. Michael Wallace, was flying near Khe Shan when his aircraft was shot down by ground fire. His escorts and Ltjg. Larry Boline, another of our pilots, watched helplessly as his plane went down in flames, and Lt. Wallace never ejected and was killed. It wasn’t until maybe 20 years later that his aircraft was found in the jungles, and his remains were returned to his family.

While on this WestPac cruise I took many photographs of shipboard life on the Ticonderoga. I took two photographs of Lt. Wallace and other officers playing volleyball on the lowered forward elevator. I posted those pictures on Facebook and Flickr, a photo sharing site.

On Memorial Day of this year, 2013, while browsing through Facebook, I saw a posting by a person trying to locate me, telling his cousin that he stumbled across my pictures on Flilckr. The pictures were of Lt. Wallace playing volleyball. Lt. Wallace was the uncle of this man, Zach Wallace, Lt. Wallace’s brother, and he was sharing this information with his cousin, Kristin Wallace, one of Lt. Wallace’s two twin daughters who were about a year old when he was killed and never knew their father.

I immediately responded to Zach and Kris via Facebook. While Zack lives in Seattle, Kris lives about five miles south of where I live.

Zach, Kris and I corresponded via Facebook and email, exchanging information. They were both excited because, not having known her father and his uncle, they had never seen any photographs like this of Lt. Wallace, especially in the last week or so of his life.

Even more exciting to all of us than finding each other is the fact that Larry Boline, the young Lt. and fellow pilot of Lt. Wallace, who looked up to him as his mentor and who actually saw his plane crash in a ball of flames, was the fact that Lt. Boline, after getting back to the States, visited Mrs. Wallace, helping each other through this ordeal, and wound up getting married. Larry and his wife live in La Jolla, about 12 miles south of me.

Lt. Boline called me shortly after this all happened, and we made arrangements to have lunch together: me, my wife, Lt. Boline and Lt. Wallace’s twin daughters, who were raised by Lt. Boline and his wife, the former Mrs. Wallace.

We had a great reunion. I brought all the photographs I had taken on the cruise, and Lt. Boline brought his cruise book of that cruise, and we spent a couple hours over lunch talking about Lt. Wallace and memories of our WestPac cruise.

This was the most memorable Memorial Day of my life, and one I shall never forget.

We honor you, Frank Bodden.

Ed. Note: The author dedicates this story Lt. Michael W. Wallace, USN, Operations Officer, VFP-63, 1968. The photoghraphs include the author, Lt. Wallace, and the twin daughters of Lt. Wallace.

(#Repost @http://tcvvm.org/project/frank-bodden/)

LT Nathan G Gordon

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Nathan G. Gordon, a Navy pilot who received the Medal of Honor for rescuing aviators in World War II, and who later became Arkansas’ longest-serving lieutenant governor, died Sept. 8, 2008 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock. He was 92 and had pneumonia and other ailments.

Mr. Gordon was a small-town lawyer in Arkansas when he enlisted in the naval air corps in 1941. He flew a Consolidated PBY Catalina, a so-called flying boat that could land on water and had twin engines mounted on a wing above the fuselage.

Mr. Gordon, then a lieutenant junior grade, flew in the Caribbean early in the war, protecting convoys and searching for submarines. He was transferred to Midway Island in the Pacific in 1943 and later to a base in Australia.

He was part of the Black Cat squadron, so called because the airplanes were painted black and showed a cat’s jaws clamping down on a ship, and because the squadron often flew its patrol missions at night, sometimes dropping 1,000-pound bombs on Japanese ships from mast level.

On Feb. 15, 1944, Mr. Gordon and his crew received word that several B-25 bombers had been shot down while attacking Japanese positions near Kavieng harbor on the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea.

Piloting his aircraft, the Arkansas Traveler, in a driving rainstorm and under constant enemy fire, Mr. Gordon made three separate landings in rough seas to rescue nine crew members from rubber life rafts. He set his plane down with such force that rivets popped and welded seams began to come loose. He had to shut off both engines to keep the plane steady amid the 18-foot swells, as crew members pulled the fallen airmen out of the sea with ropes.

After the third rescue, Mr. Gordon had flown about 20 miles toward his base when the radio crackled with word that another B-25 crew had been downed. He turned the Arkansas Traveler back to Kavieng harbor to attempt his most difficult rescue of the day.

Because the crewmen were only 600 yards from shore, Mr. Gordon had to approach from overland, flying directly above entrenched Japanese positions at a mere 300 feet, braving artillery and small-arms fire all the way.

He set his plane down once more in the churning water, the swells shielding his bobbing plane from enemy guns. Six more U.S. aviators clambered aboard as Mr. Gordon restarted the engines. By then, his plane was badly waterlogged and dangerously overloaded, with 24 men, including the nine-man crew.

“The breakers could throw you 35 or 40 feet in the air,” Mr. Gordon told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2002. “You had to keep the nose up till you reached takeoff speed of 55 knots, or the aircraft would flip and everybody likely would be killed.”

With crewmen bailing water with buckets, Mr. Gordon got the plane airborne and flew to the safety of a U.S. base.

His Medal of Honor citation praised Mr. Gordon’s final rescue, as he “again risked his life to set his plane down under direct fire of the heaviest defenses of Kavieng and take aboard 6 more survivors, coolly making his fourth dexterous takeoff with 15 rescued officers and men.”

Nathan Green Gordon was born Sept. 4, 1916, in Morrilton, Ark., where his father was a lawyer. He attended a military school in Tennessee and Arkansas Tech University before graduating from the University of Arkansas law school in 1939.

Returning to Arkansas as a war hero in 1946, Mr. Gordon was elected lieutenant governor and was re-elected to nine more two-year terms as a Democrat. His political career had little turmoil, except during the racial confrontations surrounding the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957.

He retired from public office in 1967 and returned to his hometown to practice law. His wife of 49 years died in 1995. He had no children or other immediate survivors.

We honor you, Nathan Gordon.

(#Repost @The Mercury News)

CAPT Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.

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Thomas Hudner had no particular interest in airplanes when he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946. He wanted only to serve aboard a ship. But in 1948, after he had been at sea for several months and had worked as a communications officer at Pearl Harbor for a year, he was ready for a new challenge and volunteered for flight training. He was briefly stationed in Lebanon before being assigned to the carrier USS Leyte as an F4U Corsair pilot.

By the fall of 1950, Lieutenant Hudner was flying combat missions in Korea. On December 4, he was one of a flight of six fighters sent out on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Korea. Hudner was wingman for a Navy flier named Jesse Brown, the son of a Mississippi sharecropper who had attracted a good deal of attention—and some discrimination—as the Navy’s first black pilot.

While strafing enemy positions at a low altitude, Brown’s plane was hit by antiaircraft fire. Smoking badly and without power, the aircraft was too low for Brown to bail out or clear the snow-covered mountains. Hudner followed Brown down, calling off a checklist to help prepare him for the crash landing.

Brown put his plane down in a wheels-up landing in a clearing below. The impact buckled the fuselage at the cockpit, and Hudner was certain that Brown was dead. To his amazement, Brown opened the canopy and waved weakly, but he appeared to be unable to free himself. Knowing that rescue helicopters had a long distance to travel, Hudner decided to help Brown get out of the plane himself. He didn’t ask permission from the flight leader because he knew it would be denied.

Hudner radioed, “I’m going in,” then dumped his ordnance, dropped his flaps, and landed wheels up, hitting the hilly area hard. He got out and struggled through the snow to get to the downed plane. Hudner saw that Brown’s right leg was crushed by the damaged instrument panel, and he was unable to pull him out of the wreckage.

Hudner kept packing snow into the smoking engine and talking to Brown as he drifted in and out of consciousness. When a U.S. helicopter arrived, the pilot worked with Hudner for forty-five minutes trying to get Brown out. They hacked at the plane with an ax, and even considered amputating Brown’s trapped leg with a knife. The snow packed on the bottom of their boots prevented them from getting any firm footing on the plane’s wing. As nightfall approached, bringing temperatures as low as thirty degrees below zero, it was clear that Brown was dead. Hudner hated to leave the body behind, but the helicopter pilot couldn’t fly in the mountainous terrain after dark. Reluctantly, the two men returned to base camp.

The next morning, reconnaissance showed that Brown’s body, still in the cockpit, had been stripped of clothing during the night by enemy soldiers. Because of the hostile forces in the area, it was impossible to retrieve it. The following day, the commander of the Leyte ordered four Corsairs to napalm the downed plane so that Brown could have a warrior’s funeral.

By February 1951, the Leyte was back in port in the United States. In mid-March, Hudner found out that he was to be the first American serviceman in the Korean War to receive the Medal of Honor. Daisy Brown, the widow of Jesse Brown (who had been posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross), was present when President Harry Truman put the medal around Thomas Hudner’s neck on April 13, 1951.

We honor you, Thomas Hudner Jr.

(#Repost @Medal of Honor Speakout)

MM3 Doris Miller

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Doris Miller is credited with shooting down several Japanese planes with a machine gun from the deck of the U.S.S. West Virginia during the attack on Pearl Harbor. When news of his actions reached the public, the African-American community saw him as their symbol of patriotism and pride. They wanted him to give speeches, named Boys Clubs after him, and started a write-in campaign to have President Roosevelt admit him to the Naval Academy. Although he did not attend the Naval Academy, Miller was decorated for bravery and continued to serve on active duty. Miller lost his life in the explosions and subsequent sinking of the Liscome Bay early on the morning of November 24, 1943.

We honor you, Doris Miller.

(#Repost @A People at War)

YN3 Melissa Rose Barnes

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Melissa Rose Barnes was the family clown, no doubt about it. When her sister, Jennifer, was sick with lupus, for instance, she dressed up in disco clothes and jumped around the house doing John Travolta imitations — just like a kid, except that she was 25 at the time.

“She’d make her sister die laughing,” said Barnes’s mother, Linda Sheppard, from her Redlands, Calif., home. “She was really outgoing and bubbly, always up for a good time.”

Barnes, who was known as Mel, was scheduled to leave her posting at the Naval Command Center at the Pentagon in October for her first seaborne assignment. The 27-year-old was killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

“She was proud to serve her country and proud to wear her uniform,” Sheppard said. “If she had lived, she would have been a lifer.”

When Barnes wasn’t making her sister laugh or dressing up as a tarot card reader for Halloween, she was likely to be at the beach or dancing and having a little wine with friends, Sheppard said. Sitting still was not part of her repertoire.

Barnes counted many people on the East and West coasts as friends, including her stepfather, Jim.

“She was a person not easy to forget,” her mother said. “So beautiful, so vibrant. You could not ignore her.”

We honor you, Melissa Barnes.

(#Repost @The Washington Post – Sacred Ground: Remembering the Victims)

CAPT John McCain

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When John McCain made his first bid for public office in 1982, running for a House seat in Arizona, critics blasted him as a carpetbagger, pointing out that he’d only lived in the state for 18 months.

“Listen, pal, I spent 22 years in the Navy,” the exasperated candidate reportedly shot back at one event. Then, after explaining that career military people tend to move a lot, he delivered a retort that made the attacks against him seem ridiculously petty: “As a matter of fact… the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.”

McCain won the election, launching a political career that earned him two terms in the House, six in the Senate, and his party’s presidential nomination in 2008. But even after four decades in public life, McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam continued to define him in the minds of many Americans, admirers and detractors alike. While he ultimately made his name on the national political stage, the scion of two four-star admirals was, at his core, a lifelong military man. He followed into the family business, becoming a decorated, if at times reckless, fighter pilot who conducted nearly two dozen bombing runs in Vietnam before being shot down, captured and tortured.

In both his military and political careers, McCain earned a reputation for being feisty and combative. “A fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed,” he declared in his 2018 memoir The Restless Wave, written with his longtime collaborator Mark Salter, and published after he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that took his life on August 25, 2018.

Below, a timeline of his military life [selected segments, see History.com for the full account]:

John Sidney McCain III is born on August 29 at a U.S. Navy base in the Panama Canal Zone. His father, John S. McCain, Jr., is a submarine officer who will later rise to the rank of admiral and become commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific during much of the Vietnam War. His grandfather, John S. McCain, Sr., also an admiral, would come to command the Navy’s Fast Carrier Task Force in the Pacific during World War II. “They were my first heroes, and earning their respect has been the most lasting ambition of my life,” McCain would later write in a 1999 memoir, Faith of My Fathers.

John McCain enters the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1954 and graduates with the class of 1958. He’s the third generation in his family to attend the Academy; his father had been class of 1931; his grandfather, class of 1906.

By all accounts, especially his own, the young McCain is an indifferent and rambunctious student, prone to pranks and occasional disobedience to authority. He graduates fifth from the bottom of his class. “My four years here were not notable for individual academic achievement but, rather, for the impressive catalogue of demerits which I managed to accumulate,” he admitted to the graduating class of 1993 in a commencement speech.

After graduation, McCain goes on to flight school in Pensacola, Florida, and later Corpus Christi, Texas, to train as a pilot. “I enjoyed the off-duty life of a Navy flyer more than I enjoyed the actual flying,” he will remember. “I drove a Corvette, dated a lot, spent all my free hours at bars and beach parties, and generally misused my good health and youth.”

In late 1966, he joins a squadron of A-4E Skyhawk pilots that will deploy on the U.S.S. Forrestal, a carrier that soon heads to the Tonkin Gulf, off the coast of North Vietnam. They arrive at the peak of President Lyndon Johnson’s Operation Rolling Thunder campaign of massive sustained aerial bombardment.

On the morning of July 29, 1967, McCain has another brush with death. As he awaits his turn for takeoff from the USS Forrestal, for a bombing run over North Vietnam, another plane accidentally fires a missile. It strikes either his plane or the one next to him (accounts differ), igniting a raging fire on the ship’s deck. McCain manages to extricate himself from his plane, only to be hit in the legs and chest by hot shrapnel.

“All around me was mayhem,” he would recall years later. “Planes were burning. More bombs cooked off. Body parts, pieces of the ship, and scraps of planes were dropping onto the deck. Pilots strapped in their seats ejected into the firestorm. Men trapped by flames jumped overboard.” By the time it’s over, more than 130 crew members are dead.

Three months later, on October 26, McCain takes off on his 23rd bombing run over North Vietnam, reportedly on a mission to destroy Hanoi’s thermal power plant. Just as he releases his bombs over the target, a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, described as looking like “a flying telephone pole,” strikes his plane, ripping off its right wing. McCain ejects, breaking both arms and one knee, and parachutes into a shallow lake.

After briefly losing consciousness, he wakes up to find himself “being hauled ashore on two bamboo poles by a group of about 20 angry Vietnamese. A crowd of several hundred Vietnamese gathered around me as I lay dazed before them, shouting wildly at me, stripping my clothes off, spitting on me, kicking and striking me repeatedly…. Someone smashed a rifle butt into my shoulder, breaking it. Someone else stuck a bayonet in my ankle and groin.”

Soon, an army truck arrives, taking McCain as a prisoner of war. He will remain one for five and a half years.

McCain remains a prisoner until the U.S. and North Vietnam sign a peace accord in late January 1973, ending the conflict. He is released in March, along with 107 other POWs, and boards a U.S. transport plane headed to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.

After his return to the States, and while he’s still undergoing therapy for his injuries, McCain requests assignment to the National War College in Washington, D.C. “By the time my nine months at the War College ended, I had satisfied my curiosity about how Americans had entered and lost the Vietnam War,” he later wrote. “The experience did not cause me to conclude that the war was wrong, but it did help me understand how wrongly it had been fought and led.”

In late 1974, after he manages to pass the physical exam to qualify for flight status, he’s sent to Cecil Field, a naval air station in Jacksonville, Florida. A few months later, he’s promoted to commanding officer of a replacement air group, responsible for training carrier pilots.

McCain’s third and final assignment, however, may be the most influential in setting his future course. In 1977, he’s assigned to a liaison office in the United States Senate in Washington, where he serves as the Navy’s lobbyist and gets to see the workings of Congress from the inside. The job marked “my real entry into the world of politics and the beginning of my second career as a public servant,” he later recalls.

In 1981, McCain retires from the Navy with the rank of captain. His decorations include, among others, a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and a Distinguished Flying Cross.

We honor you, John McCain.

(#Repost excerpts @History.com)