SPC Shoshana Johnson

2018-2-16 Johnson

Shoshana Johnson was an Army cook who was captured along with 5 other soldiers and held as a prisoner of war during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Johnson was shot in the ankles and held for 22 days before being rescued. Upon retirement from the Army, she went on to tell her experience and try to help others

Johnson was part of the 507th Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss that was ambushed on March 23, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Her convoy came under heavy attack from Fedayeen paramilitaries and Iraqi soldiers after the unit made a wrong turn into an enemy urban stronghold.

The now retired Army specialist had turned 30 on March 18, 2003, five days before her convoy was attacked. Johnson and her fellow soldiers had joined the march into Iraq for the U.S. ground offensive, and soon they found themselves in the middle of a fierce firefight they never expected. Johnson was a cook in the support unit. Neither she nor the others were combat soldiers.

The former Army specialist, who prefers to describe herself as Panamanian-American, is the first African-American woman POW. She suffered incapacitating injuries after a single shot from an Iraqi passed through both of her ankles. “I was bleeding and my boots filled up with blood,” she said. “After my boots were removed, I couldn’t believe that the raw wounds with all the gore were really mine.”

On April 13, 2003, the Marines arrived on a rescue mission. “They showed up like in those action movies. They broke down the door and busted inside with their weapons aimed,” Johnson said. “They had everyone get down on the floor. They asked us to stand up if we were Americans. I knew then that we were going home.”

We honor you, Shoshana Johnson.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson. #Repost @WomensMilitaryMemorial and Military.com)

SGT Robert “Bob” Teichgraeber

2018-1-26 Teichgraeber

Bob Teichgraeber was held as a prisoner of war for 421 days at various German prisons during World War II. Like many veterans of his era, Teichgraeber rarely spoke about his war experience.

Unlike his World War II comrades, however, Teichgraeber stashed an unusual photo in a drawer in his Collinsville, Ill., home for 72 years. “I thought there was a stigma about being a captive,” said Teichgraeber, 97, a longtime member of American Legion Post 365. “That’s the way it was. I wasn’t vocal about it.”

The photo depicts Teichgraeber in a British Army uniform after he was freed. While it was common for the British to provide whatever clothes were available to freed GIs, World War II historians say such photos are rare.

Teichgraeber was captured Feb 24, 1944, when his plane was hit while returning home from a bombing run. He fractured his right ankle when he parachuted out, landing in a farmer’s yard in Eppstein, Germany.

During captivity, the 5-foot-5 Teichgraeber went from 140 to 90 pounds. He survived the brutal 86-day hunger walk in the cold, snow, in addition to lice, fleas, dysentery and more. “We were young,” he says simply. “We endured it.”

One day while being held in an abandoned home surrounded by farmland, Teichgraeber and his friend, John Bulla were awakened suddenly. “About 5 o’clock in the morning, the door opened up — ‘You’re free!’” Teichgraeber recalls one British soldier yelling. “We went out and found some rifles and bayonets.”

Teichgraeber and Bulla shared some eggs and a single potato. As they relished their first hours of freedom, the war remained close by — at one point a German shell landed less than 100 meters away. They took refuge in an abandoned home. The Brits cleaned them up, giving them a shave, haircut and British uniform for clothing. Then they were flown to Belgium to reunite with American troops.

Since rediscovering the photo, Teichgraeber’s time as a POW has dominated his thoughts. “Every day I think about it,” he says, motioning to a table overflowing with documents, maps and more about his experience. “It’s prevalent now because of this stuff here. You can remember so much vividly, but yet you can’t remember a lot.”

We honor you, Robert Teichgraeber.

(#Repost @The American Legion)

Capt Alexander Rafalovich

2017-12-22 Rafalovich

Alex was from San Pedro, California. He was assigned to the 4th Fighter Group, 334th Squadron in February 1943 while they were still flying Spitfires. As they were converting to P-47 Thunderbolts the squadron was off operations for 45 days, so Alex took a short leave and got married, returning on 18 March.

Routine combat followed in the P-47s until Group Commander Don Blakeslee insisted, and was given the opportunity to trade the P-47s for the new long range P-51s. The pilots were delighted with the new aircraft in spite of the fact that it was more vulnerable to damage since the engine was liquid-cooled . The transition was made with most of the pilots having little more than a few hours flight time to familiarize themselves with the P-51s prior to flying them into combat.

On 21 March 1944 the 4th Fighter Group had no scheduled mission, and so initiated a “Rhubarb” to France, led by Colonel Jim Clark. As the 334th Squadron attacked an airfield in the Bordeaux area, Alex and his wingman were attacking a D0-217 which was trying to land, and as they were pulling up, they were bounced by a flight of Fw-190s. Alex suddenly discovered his oil pressure was falling. As he climbed up to 3,000 feet his glycol coolant was streaming out of his exhaust, so immediately bailed out. Faced with immediate action, thoughts raced through his mind.

He later wrote:
“The procedures run through your mind all of the time so you train yourself mentally. You’re like a robot. You just snap the canopy open and you bail out, you don’t think because there is only one option and that is to get out. It’s one. two, three, and out you go. You don’t think; you react. If you start thinking, it’s too late”.

The parachute ride was fast:
“Before I knew it, I was on the ground. I will never forget the tail of the flying underneath me. I had my legs spread and saw the tail of the plane pass right under me. After I landed I hid my chute and started walking. I met a few Frenchmen and showed them a little I.D. card. They thanked me and kept going”.
“Just before dark I went to a woman’s house. She had three kids and she took me in that night. The next morning she gave me civilian clothes, led me to the railroad station, and bought me a ticket. I was in a military zone that the Germans had. I wasn’t in the middle of France, I was on the coast. I found a map of the railroad system and just hopped from one station to the other. No one asked me any questions. I got all the way down to the Pyrenees and then some Frenchman turned me in. It might have been for the reward or for the fact that if the Germans caught anyone helping the Allies it was a very serious crime. Frenchmen are OK, they just fought a lousy war, that’s all”.

He speculated that since he did not feel any hits to his plane as he was approaching the airfield he was probably so low that he hit the top of a tree, damaging his air scoop and the oil-cooler plumbing inside it.

Alex spent the rest of the war as a POW. He had five planes destroyed to his credit and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, and the POW Medal.

He retired in California.

We honor you, Alexander Rafalovich.

(#Repost @American Air Museum in Britain)

Capt Warren H. Berg

2017-10-19 Berg

In 1941, Warren graduated from Mankato State Teachers’ College (now Minnesota State University-Mankato) with a bachelor’s degree in education, intending to become a college professor. He completed a year of graduate work at the University of Minnesota, but World War II then dramatically altered his career plans. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps (now U.S. Air Force) and was called to active duty in November 1942. Warren graduated at the top of his Navigator Training School class at Mather Field in Sacramento, CA, in 1943 and was assigned to the Eighth Air Force, 96th Bomb Group, at Snetterton Heath, England. After 30 bombing missions over Europe, the crew of his B-17, The Reluctant Dragon, developed a reputation for being lucky. The 11 other crews that had reported for combat duty at the same time had been shot down. Warren and his crewmates signed up for a second tour, eventually leading as many as 1,000 B-17s and B-24s to German targets. But their luck ran out on mission No. 36 on Jan. 13, 1945. They were shot down over Bischofsheim, Germany. Six of 10 crew members bailed out at 24,000 feet and survived, but they were taken prisoner. On April 29, 1945, Gen. George Patton and his Third Army liberated Stalag 7A near Moosburg, and soon 1st Lieutenant Berg was headed home. He was promoted to Captain and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak-Leaf Clusters. The experiences of his B-17 crew are among those recounted in the book ‘D-Day Bombers: The Veterans’ Story’ by Stephen Darlow.

Later that year, Warren began a 38- year career with Trans World Airlines in Kansas City when he was hired as a navigation instructor. He and Genevieve, who he had known since high school, married on April 27, 1946, and spent almost all their married life in Kansas City, North. Warren retired in 1983 as Director of Flight Operations Ground Training for all TWA pilots and flight engineers. He also had supervised the safety training of flight attendants. His various administrative positions over the years necessitated considerable world travel. He served on the training committee of the International Air Transport Association, wrote numerous training manuals used in the airline industry and audited training procedures for Ethiopian and Saudi Arabian airlines. Upon his retirement, he was honored as a leader in airline training by the Boeing Aircraft Flight Crew Training Center and Delta, American and United Airlines.

We honor you, Warren Berg.

(#Repost @Together We Served)

Maj Corbin B. Willis Jr.

2017-10-12 Willis

Corbin grew up in Colorado and with his best friend and sister Betty they had many fun adventures. He graduated from high school and enlisted in the Army Air Corp. He was trained as a fighter pilot and then transferred to the Air Force as a B-17 pilot when the need arose. During WWII while on his 22nd bombing mission over Germany they were shot down and he became a POW. He was liberated at the end of the war, served in the Korean war and in the military until he retired as a Major after 20 years.

He married the love of his life Margaret (Peggy) Taylor in 1949. They traveled all over the world while he served in the military. They are the parents of four children. After military retirement they settled in Alameda, California to raise their family. Corbin worked as the purchasing agent for Alameda Hospital until he retired from that position and they moved to Sandy, Oregon. Together they enjoyed traveling, playing bridge, and reading. Corbin had an continuous thirst for knowledge. He could not go within 200 miles of a museum or a point of interest without taking a detour to see it. He was an accomplished painter and spent many years teaching in schools about the war and his POW experience.

We honor you, Corbin Willis, Jr.

(#Repost @Myers Mortuary)

LT Gene J. Takahashi

2017-10-4 Takahashi

Gene Takahashi’s experiences in Korea began shortly after the end of the Second World War. He had enlisted in the Army late in that war, after spending most of it with his family in an Arizona internment camp for Japanese Americans. After the Japanese surrendered, Takahashi was sent to Korea for occupation duty for 18 months. Called up from the reserves to serve in Korea, Takahashi found that his language skills with both Japanese and Korean were highly prized. He was named platoon leader of an all-black unit, and he was captured by the Chinese in November 1950 when they entered the war. He escaped, made it back to Seoul, and rejoined the fighting. Wounded by enemy machine-gun fire in March 1951, Takahashi saw his wartime service come to an end while recuperating.

We honor you Gene Takahashi.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

CPL Norman Philip Swaney

2017-9-20 Swaney

Drafted just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Corporal Norman Swaney entered the Army Air Corps in January 1942, and volunteered for “the glory outfit”—the paratroopers. As a member of F Company of the 101st Airborne, although he lost a lot of buddies, he terms his experience in Normandy a “piece of cake” compared to what was to come. Wounded by shrapnel during Operation Market Garden, he recuperated in England before rejoining his unit in France, only to be taken prisoner by the Germans on January 3rd, 1945, during the Battle of Bastogne. Put through a series of work camps and eventually transferred to Stalag IX-B, he was liberated in early April 1945, and arrived stateside before his family had even been notified that he was a POW.

We honor you, Norman Swaney.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)