CPL Edwin Steve Wilson

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Edwin Wilson served in the Korean War as part of Company A, 7th Cavalry Regiment. On March 17, 1951, he was injured. He writes of the experience: “Our unit was to secure a hill in the vicinity of the village of Chang-Ri. I was one of the lead troops and as we advanced up the hill I was caught in a cross fire by the Chinese and was wounded in the left leg and medavaced to aid station and then to Japan.”

We honor you, Edwin Wilson.

(#Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)

Grace Chicken

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Grace Chicken wanted to see the world.  As a young woman, her ambition was to be a nurse in the war, so she joined the Red Cross and was stationed in Joplin, Missouri.  When she heard that the Air Force was looking for nurses, she enlisted to train as an Army Air Force Specialized Flight Nurse, and was sent to Bowman Field Kentucky.  Her first posting was to Newfoundland, Canada, and from there she went on to be stationed in the Azores, a country that was neutral during WWII.  Injured US military personnel were flown to the Azores from other arenas, such as Europe, Asia and Africa.  From the Azores, the Aerovac teams would fly the patients back to the United States for treatment.  After VE Day, Chicken was sent to Hawaii and from there they flew to all the small Pacific Islands picking up wounded Americans along the way.  She was on the second US plane to arrive in Japan after the surrender.  After the war, Chicken went back to school on the GI Bill and then enlisted to serve in Korea.

We honor you, Grace Chicken.

(#Repost @http://wgcuvets.org)

CPL Joseph E. Tedesco

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Joseph Tedesco was awarded the silver star during the Korean War. His official citation reads as follows:

“The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Corporal Joseph E. Tedesco, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as a member of Company A, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division, in action on 14 October 1951 in the vicinity of Mundung-ni, Korea. On that date, during an attack on a well-fortified and strategic enemy-held hill, Corporal Tedesco displayed dauntless courage and cool behavior before the enemy. Despite the intense hostile small arms, automatic weapons and grenade fire, he led his men through the heavily wooded terrain and skillfully maneuvered them toward the enemy positions. In the course of this action, he was knocked down by an enemy grenade burst but immediately rose and continued in the assault, personally inflicting numerous casualties upon the enemy. His actions were an inspiration to the men of his unit and aided immeasurably in the success of the attack.”

We honor you, Joseph Tedesco.

(#Repost @Hall of Valor)

James Edwin Woods

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James Edwin Woods, son of Walter R. and Elizabeth [Cogar] Woods, was born on December 10, 1931, in Parkersburg, West Virginia. In 1949, James graduated from Buckhannon-Upshur High School in Buckhannon, West Virginia. He was very popular and well liked, and played forward on the basketball team.  In the fall of 1949, James enrolled at Potomac State College at Keyser, West Virginia, where he lettered in basketball, but he dropped out of college to enlist in the Air Force in February 1951.

After receiving his basic training at Sampson Air Base, New York, James transferred to Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado, where he trained as a gunner on the B-29. In October 1951, James was sent to Randolph Field in Texas for training in combat flying. Early in 1952 he was transferred to Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia, where he became part of a Strategic Air Command group as a right gunner on the B-50. James was sent to Ramey Air Base in Puerto Rico for eight months and then to Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas, for training to prepare him for duty in the Far East.

In March 1953, James arrived at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Now an Airman 2nd Class, he was a crew member of a US RB-50G with the 343rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, which was attached to the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron.

On July 29, 1953, James was a gunner of the 17-member crew on a US RB-50G, that was given a special assignment over the Sea of Japan. Another West Virginian, Captain Robert E. Stalnaker from Cabell County, was also a member of the crew. Six crew members were electronic specialists known as Ravens, and on that day one of their assignments was to investigate radar facilities along the Soviet border. The best way to do that was to provoke the Russians into turning on their search and control radar, which was usually done only when the early warning radar detected a potential threat. This risky maneuver was known as ferreting because the goal was to ferret out information about the capabilities of the Soviet equipment. The Russians understood the game and tried not to be lured into turning on their equipment, which would expose the capabilities of their system to the United States.

After completing the mission at about 6:15 AM, the US RB-50G was returning to the base at Yokota when it was intercepted and unexpectedly fired upon from the rear by two Russian MiG-17 fighter planes. The gunfire from the MiG-17 at the rear disabled the RB-50G’s No. 1 engine and set the No. 4 engine on fire. The attack also tore off part of the tail section and destroyed the wing. As the tail gunner, James Woods was able to return a brief burst of fire at the MiG-17, but to no avail, and commander Captain Stanley O’Kelley ordered the crew to bail out. The plane lost altitude quickly and crashed into the sea. The attack occurred two days after the armistice ending the Korean War was signed on July 27, 1953.

The US conducted a thorough search of the area by air and sea, and was assisted by an Australian ship near the crash site. Halted due to dense fog and approaching darkness, the search was resumed on the morning of July 30, 1953.  Captain John Roche, co-pilot of the plane, was wounded but survived the crash by holding onto pieces of the wreckage. He was picked up by the Navy ship USS Picking in the early morning hours of July 30, 1953 after floating in the Sea of Japan for about 22 hours. No other survivors were found. The bodies of Captain Stanley O’Kelley and Master Sergeant Francis Brown were later recovered along the coast of Japan. The remaining 14 members of the crew, which included James Woods, were never accounted for.

The United States State Department officially released information that the US RB-50G was the victim of an unprovoked attack by two Russian MiG-17 fighters while on a routine navigational training exercise in international airspace over the Sea of Japan. In fact, the US RB-50G was involved in a ferreting operation and, in order to provoke the Russians, had flown into the danger zone of the harbor at Vladivostok, which was home to the Soviet’s Pacific fleet.

The Soviet government maintained that about 6:00 AM on the morning of July 29, 1953, a US Air Force RB-50G aircraft violated the boundary of the USSR in the region of Cape Gamov and flew through their airspace to the area of Ajton Island near Vladivostok. The Soviets claimed that two Russian MiG-17 fighter aircraft approached the US RB-50G with the intention of showing the crew that they were within the boundaries of the USSR and urging them to leave Soviet airspace. The Soviets stated that the US RB-50G aircraft was last seen flying out to sea and they had no further knowledge of the fate of the plane or its crew. However, according to Captain Roche, several Russian boats were in the area immediately after the crash, and crew members of the rescue planes searching the site also reported sightings of Russian boats and planes in the area that may have picked up other possible survivors or remains.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s the US government made repeated requests to the Soviet Foreign Ministry for information regarding the July 29, 1953, attack on the US Air Force RB-50G plane but received little or no response. In June 1992 Russian President Boris Yeltsin admitted that the Soviets had shot down nine US planes during the 1950s and held twelve of the survivors prisoner. It is not known whether any of these prisoners were crew members aboard the US RB-50G which was shot down on July 29, 1953.

James’ parents found out about what happened to their son on the morning of July 31, 1953, when they heard a report about the incident on the radio. The telegraph office in Clarksburg happened to be closed that day, so they didn’t receive the official notification until it was too late.

In a letter to President Eisenhower, Elizabeth Woods spoke of her feelings about the fate of her son and other Cold War MIAs: “I write from the fullness of my heart and not with bitterness or resentment. I love my son as you do yours. I only pray that if he is dead that God will ease the pain and loss. But if he with his crew members are in a slave camp somewhere, God forbid our neglect of them.”

At the time his plane was shot down, James Woods was engaged to Helen Snow of Denver, Colorado, and they planned to be married in September 1953 after his tour of duty in the Far East was completed. A few years later, she married someone else, and later had a son whom she named after James.

In 1989, James’ mother Betty established a $1000 athletic scholarship in his name to be awarded to a worthy student at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. Although the body of James Woods was never recovered, his family and friends held a memorial service for him in Buckhannon in July 2001. A memorial plaque in his honor was hung in the Veteran’s Chapel of the Heavener Cemetery in Buckhannon.

James’ father Walter Woods died in 1988, and his mother Betty passed away in 1996. James is survived by his sisters Colleen [Woods] Einhorn and Kathryn [Woods] Chettle.

We honor you, James Woods.

(#Repost @wvculture.org)

Jack Delano Armentrout

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Jack Delano Armentrout was born on May 8, 1933, at Whitmer, Randolph County, West Virginia. His parents were Orma Rolly Armentrout and Dora Evelyn Bennett Armentrout, who were married at Harman in Randolph County on April 16, 1925. They were the parents of five sons: Devaux, Tracey Fay, Jack Delano, Neil Harold, and Donald Kay.

Jack’s father, Orma, was born in 1902 and worked variously as a farmer (Randolph County) and truck log loader in a lumber mill (Preston County). The U.S. Federal Census of 1930 shows the family living in Randolph County, where Jack was born. The 1940 Census indicates they were living in Union, Preston County, with an inferred residence of Pendleton County in 1935. Orma died in 1970. Dora, Jack’s mother, was born in 1906 and died in 1984. Both are buried in the Eglon Cemetery in Preston County, West Virginia.

Private Jack Delano Armentrout entered the U.S. Army on November 24, 1952, and was assigned to Company I, the 188th Airborne Infantry Regiment [known in WWII as the Glider Infantry Regiment, and later as the Parachute Infantry Regiment when gliders were eliminated] of the 11th Airborne Division. A Kentucky death record for Jack states he had been a tool dresser in civilian life.

Ironically, Jack’s brother Devaux had served in the 11th Airborne (“The Angels”) in World War II. The 11th Airborne saw service in the Pacific, was involved in the planning for the invasion of Japan, and was charged with the oversight of the occupation of that country.

The 11th Airborne Division was activated at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, in February 1943. Relieved of its occupation role in 1949, it relocated to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where by 1950 it became intensely immersed in the training of personnel for the looming involvement in Korea. The history of the 188th Regiment is inextricably linked to that of the 187th, with both now headquartered at Fort Campbell. In July 1950 the Army designated the 187th as an Airborne Regimental Combat Team and ordered the unit to Korea. That unit was extremely under strength and was supplemented by the 511th. Restored to the Division in August 1950, “the famous 188th Glider Infantry Regt. of the 11th Abn., in the Pacific in World War II., was re-designated a Parachute Infantry Regiment” (Source: Leo Kocher, “A Brief History of the 11th Airborne Division,” accessed 7 May 2015, http://users.owt.com/leodonna/History11th.htm) and remained at Fort Campbell backing up their brothers-in-arms of the 187th.

Entering the Army at the age of 19 and assigned to the 188th, Jack was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, located astride the Kentucky-Tennessee border. With the outbreak of conflict in Asia and the persistent tension remaining in Europe, the 11th Division was held in a state of combat readiness. Were it not for a strange quirk of fate less than six months after his enlistment, Jack would undoubtedly have been deployed to Korea and have been in harm’s way in that area of the globe.

On March 17, 1953, Jack and five other soldiers were killed when the truck in which they were riding plunged into a creek on the Fort Campbell reservation. Jack suffered fractures to his skull and several occipital lacerations, as well as compound fractures to his right femur. Death was instantaneous.

Jack Delano Armentrout was laid to rest on March 21, 1953, near his parents and other family members in the Eglon Cemetery in Preston County, West Virginia.

We honor you, Jack Armentrout.

(#Repost @wvculture.org)

John Cole

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John Cole was called to active duty from the Marine Reserve in 1950 and assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment in northeastern Korea. In November, Cole’s unit was hit at Yudam west of the Chosin Reservoir by a massive Chinese onslaught in unimaginable 40-below-zero weather. Cole was wounded but continued to fight as the Marines battled through a gauntlet of enemy fire over a tortuous road to temporary safety in the encircled town of Hagaru. Cole was on the last medical evacuation flight to leave. For its action at Chosin and subsequent breakout to Hungnam on the coast, Cole’s lst Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Cole was awarded with 3 purple hearts.

We honor you, John Cole.

(Submission photo by: Ninzel Rasmuson, #Repost @https://veteransday.utah.edu)