Sp4c John Philip Baca

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Baca was born on January 10, 1949, in Providence, Rhode Island. He was raised in San Diego, California. Baca was drafted into the United States Army on June 10, 1968.
By February 10, 1970, he was stationed in Vietnam as a Specialist Four with Company D of the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. On that day, in Phuoc Long Province, he was serving on a recoilless rifle team when the lead platoon of his company was ambushed. Baca led his team forward through intense fire to reach the besieged platoon. When a fragmentation grenade was tossed into their midst, he “unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his own safety,” covered it with his helmet and then laid his body over the helmet, smothering the blast and saving eight fellow soldiers from severe injury or death. Baca survived his wounds and was formally awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard M. Nixon on March 2, 1971. Two other soldiers in Company D, Allen J. Lynch and Rodney J. Evans, had previously earned the medal.

He says he should have died in Vietnam on Feb. 10, 1970. Baca, a 21-year-old soldier, found himself in the middle of a gunfight and watched a grenade land in the middle of his patrol. “I saw my whole life flash through me. What do I do? Do I pick it up? Do I throw it? Where did it come from? It’s not supposed to be here, and do I run from it? Somebody is going to get wounded,” Baca said. “All these thoughts went through my mind.”

He covered the grenade with his helmet and then covered his helmet with his body, saving the lives of the men around him. He remembers praying to Jesus and feeling as if an angelic presence was holding him as he lay bleeding on the battlefield.

In 1990, Baca returned to Vietnam with ten other soldiers of the Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project. The group spent eight weeks working alongside former North Vietnamese Army soldiers building a health clinic in a village north of Hanoi.
Baca rarely speaks publicly about the events for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. However, he prefers to recall an event that occurred on Christmas Day, 1969, when he was walking ahead of his unit, acting as “point,” and surprised a young North Vietnamese soldier sitting alone on top of an enemy bunker in the jungle. He saw that the soldier could not reach his rifle quickly and, not wanting to shoot him, yelled in Vietnamese for him to surrender. Not only was he able to take his “Christmas gift” alive and unharmed, the young man, twenty years later, was among the Vietnamese that Baca worked with building the clinic in 1990. Baca remains active in social causes, particularly related to Vietnam veterans issues and the plight of the homeless.

In 2002, a park was named in his honor in Huntington Beach, California. After living in Orange County, Baca moved to Julian, California, enjoying the relative solitude. Gaudette’s pie shop is a local favorite, and Baca is her best customer, sometimes ordering 10 pies a week. Baca says he doesn’t own a television anymore or a computer. Instead, he spends his days talking with people. He listens to their stories and occasionally he shares his.

44 years later, Baca continues to be a giver. The apple pies are proof. They aren’t for him, but for strangers all across the country: Wounded warriors who’ve lost limbs and families who’ve lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s just a delight doing this. Making some people happy, people we’ve forgotten about. But, pies…everybody likes pies,” Baca said.

“He is the most generous man I’ve ever met in my life. I don’t think he wants to own anything in this life. He wants to give it all away,” said Mike Murray, a friend and a veteran himself also living in Julian.

We honor you, John Baca.

(#Repost @Hawaii Reporter)

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)

Doyle I. Zirkle

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Doyle I. Zirkle was born at Mabie, Randolph County, West Virginia, to parents Eugene and Ella Margaret Wiseman Zirkle. Eugene and Ella’s busy household consisted of six children: Myrtle, Murrell, and Russell came before Doyle. Clarence (some records list him as Claudis; he died of croup at age six) and Maureen came along after Doyle, who was born on August 21, 1913. Another child, Burrel, died in infancy. Little is known of Doyle’s early life; an entry in Young American Patriots for S/Sgt. Doyle indicates he attended Harrison School and was a Methodist. The 1940 Federal Census states he had completed his first year of high school and his occupation was “coal loader,” while a death notice in the Elkins Inter-Mountain (August 2, 1944) notes he was associated with his father in the lumber business.

Doyle Zirkle was inducted into the U.S. Army June 15, 1942, at Elkins. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division. One of the original members of Company F when the unit was activated in June 1942, his first training was at Camp Pickett, Virginia. After almost two years of training at various camps throughout the states and in England, the unit was committed to action in Normandy, landing on Utah Beach on June 17, 1944. The 79th Division, along with the 4th and 9th Infantry Divisions, was part of the Army’s VII Corps with the main objective of capturing the strategic port city of Cherbourg on the Cotentin Peninsula. Company F had as its initial objective the capture of Fort du Roule, which was built into the cliffs overlooking Cherbourg along the southern route into the city. The action leading to the capture of Fort du Roule on June 26, 1944, resulted in the 2nd Battalion receiving a Presidential Unit Citation.

The July 27th edition of Stars and Stripes (Continental Edition), in a column entitled “Somewhere in France,” describes the action at Cherbourg thus:

An important factor in the fall of Cherbourg’s Fort du Roule was demolition of Nazi big guns which continued to fire from lower levels after the upper level had been seized. The men of the 79th Division regiment who braved heavy sniper fire to climb down the face of the cliffs and place dynamite charges in the gun openings have been cited. They were Staff Sgt. Paul Hurst, St. Joseph, Ma., who made the reconnaissance and led the demolition part; Tech Sgt. Walter Newman, Whitestone, N. Y., and Daniel F. Feojay, Plainfield, Conn.; Staff Sgt. Chester R. Walker, Baltimore, and Edward A. Hagedorn, Monett, Mo., and Sgt. Doyle Zirkle, Mabie, W. Va.

Individually, Doyle received a Silver Star for his role in the capture of Cherbourg; his citation for this action reads:

Sergeant Doyle Zirkle, 35383693, 314th Infantry, United States Army, for gallantry in action against the enemy on 25 June 1944 in France. When enemy artillery pieces were firing from well emplaced positions in a steep cliff and harassing friendly troops who were engaging the enemy in the streets of Cherbourg, below, Sergeant Zirkle volunteered to attempt the demolish the guns. He made his way down the face of the cliff, burdened with demolition charges and constantly exposed to enemy arms fire. The venture was made increasingly difficult and hazardous because a steady rain rendered the face of the cliff exceedingly precarious. Sergeant Zirkle unhesitatingly proceeded to place the explosive charges directly into the openings from which the enemy guns were firing and destroyed them. For his unflinching courage, initiative and devotion to duty, Sergeant Zirkle reflects highest credit on himself and the armed forces of the United States.

But the recognition received for their actions at Cherbourg did not permit the unit to rest on its laurels. After the capture of Cherbourg, the 79th participated in action in the hedgerow county with the objective of capturing the city of La Haye du Puits, a well-defensed German stronghold. Staff Sergeant Zirkle, along with many others, including Captain William Hooper, the Company Commander, and first Lieutenant Ed Geary, the Executive Officer, were killed in action on July 5. By the time La Haye du Puits was captured a few days later, Company F had lost more than half its members, either killed or wounded in action.

The battle for La Hay du Puits commenced on July 4, and by July 9, the town had been liberated, but at a heavy price. The 79th Division was largely responsible for its capture, aided by the 300th Engineers, who cleared the town of mines planted by the Germans. Along with La Haye du Puits, the 79th participated in battles for Montgardon and Montre Castre, bringing the number of casualties for these three actions to 5,000 killed or wounded. The fighting badly damaged the town, and the parish church lost one of its spires, which has never been replaced. The battle for La Haye du Puits was the last in Normandy for the 79th, which was drawn back to England. (Source: “La Haye-du-Puits, Rue de Barneville,” World War 2 Photofinder, 2014, accessed August 11, 2016, http://www.worldwar2-photofinder.com/city/basse-normandy/listing/la-haye-du-puits-rue-de-barneville/.)

The story of the 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, has been well documented in print, with Sgt. Zirkle named in a number of instances. The 314th’s own booklet (The 314th Infantry Regiment in World War II) speaks of his role at Cherbourg on page 12:

To the 2nd Battalion went the job of silencing the big guns, which covered every move the midget-sized patrols were making down in the streets of Cherbourg. Under the direction of the Regimental Commander they tried dropping TNT charges on the gun apertures. As COL Robinson stretched over the edge to observe the explosions one charge went off prematurely blowing off not only the Colonel’s helmet, but the helmet of the Assistant Division Commander of the 79th Division BG Greer who was still with the 2nd Battalion on the upper levels of the fort. The next try was to send four sergeants down the cliff to set more charges. This effort also failed. SSG, later CPT, Paul Hurst of E Company set out to locate the apertures. Heedless of the enemy snipers spattering his path with near misses, he worked out a route to the gun tunnels. Returning to the 2nd Battalion on top of the fort he secured explosives and a squad of five volunteer demolition men to blast in the tunnel mouths. The demolition team consisting of T/SGT Daniel T. Deojay, T/SGT Walker Newman, SSG Edward A. Hagedorn, SSG Chester R. Walker and SGT Doyle Zirkle all of F Company followed SSG Hurst back through increased enemy fire to the gun apertures. Once they had set the charges and detonated them the guns of the fort were silent.

And of his role at La Haye on page 5:

Next morning [July 5], the artillery opened up with a fifteen-minute preparation at 0545 hrs, plastering a sunken road about 800 yards to the front of the 2nd Battalion that was figured for an enemy strong point. The figures were correct, the 2nd, took six hours to cover the half-mile interval its advance was stopped cold short of the road by a combination of small arms, artillery, and mortar fire. During the attack F Company lost CPT hooper, LT Geary, T/SGT Newman, and SGT Zirkle among others. It was not till 2035 hrs when tank support came up was the road cleared.

The story of Doyle’s company is told in The History of “Fox” Company: 314th Infantry, 79th Division (Czechoslovakia: August 1, 1945). The capture of Cherbourg is described in great detail, further emphasizing the enormous obstacles against which Zirkle’s company faced in silencing the guns at the bottom of the cliffs. It is in the discussion of the Battle for La Haye du Puits (pp. 13-14) that once again Sgt. Zirkle is mentioned:

We dug in around midnight and got up bright and early the next morning and pushed off again…. We had met up with the Jerry main line of resistance, which was along a sunken road bed. Casualties were heavy and the going was tough. It was in this batle that we lost our first officers. On this same morning we lost Lt. Geary, Captain Hooper, T/Sgt. Newman, Sgt. Zirkle and numerous others killed and wounded…. The next day we were to push off at daylight, the 3rd Bn. having moved up on our right. During the day we had numerous casualties mostly from artillery, but by late afternon we had reached and cut the main road leading to La Haye du Puits…. At this time only one officer remained with the company. He was 2nd Lt. Walter Flint who was technically in charge of the outfit.

Various morning reports indicate Doyle’s quick rise through the ranks; on May 16, 1944, while stationed at Lancashire, England, he was promoted to sergeant. On June 28, presumably as the result of his action at Cherbourg, he received a battlefield promotion to staff sergeant. Thus, while details of his early life are sketchy, at best, his heroic actions in France have been documented with some detail.

As was the case with many World War II casualties, S/Sgt. Doyle Zirkle would have been buried initially in an American military cemetery near where he fell. Eventually, however, his remains were returned to the States, and he was reinterred in the Zirkle Cemetery at Cassity, West Virginia. A death notice in the Randolph Review (December 22, 1948) states: “Funeral services for Staff Sergeant Doyle Zirkle were held from the Cassity Church on Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock. The remains of the World War II soldier, who died in the service of his country, arrived last Thursday.” On December 23, 1948, his father applied for a military headstone for this brave son. While those who knew him best:his siblings:are deceased, he is now remembered and honored by nieces and nephews, one of whom bears his name.

Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure, who gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Jim Biggs, supplier of many documents on which this article is based. Jim’s father served in Company F with Doyle Zirkle.  August 2016

We honor you, Doyle Zirkle.

(#Repost @wvculture.org)

LCpl William “Billy” David Spencer

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When Lance Corporal William “Billy” D. Spencer saw his squad leader wounded in an Iraq shootout, he did the only thing he could do: He tried to save his commanding officer.

Spencer was killed in the process, hit by enemy fire on Dec. 28, 2006, in Al Anbar province. Nearly two years later, Spencer was awarded the Silver Star — the U.S. military’s third-highest honor — in a ceremony at Nashville State Community College on Sunday afternoon.

“I knew when he joined that he was going to give all he had to give,” said Julia Lockaby, Spencer’s mother. “My greatest fear came true.”

Spencer was born in Cincinnati but grew up in Paris, Tenn., where he played football at Henry County High School and enjoyed reading to schoolchildren, said father David Spencer.

After graduating in 2004, Billy Spencer trained with the Nashville-based I Company reserve unit of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. In late 2006, Spencer and 75 Nashville-based members of the 3rd Battalion went to Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment.

Killed during a firefight, Spencer, a rifleman, was three months into his Iraq tour when his squad went out on a mission to investigate a suspected enemy sniper. When his squad leader went down in an ensuing firefight, Spencer was shot trying to drag him to safety.

Both died from their injuries.

“I got a text message on what he had done, and when I read it … I made it a personal mission for him to be recognized,” said Maj. Sean M. Roche of the 3rd Battalion.

Spencer had previously been publicly recognized with three other fallen Marines in May 2007, before the Silver Star award. At Sunday’s ceremony, his parents were presented with the award in front of a theater packed with Spencer’s fellow Marines.

We honor you, William Spencer.

(#Repost @Fallen Heroes Project)

Lt. Col. Jimmy Kilbourne Sr.

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Retired Lt. Col. Jimmy Kilbourne Sr. (pictured bottom right), 84, received two Silver Stars and three Distinguished Flying Crosses as an A-1E Skyraider pilot with the 602nd Fighter Squadron and later the 602nd Special Operations Squadron, in Vietnam and Thailand. His 25-year career also included service in the Korean War.

In a November 1997 interview with the late Robert Noyer, Kilbourne said he was most proud of the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster awarded for valor in leading a large-scale effort to rescue the surviving crew members of three helicopters shot down by hostile ground fire Nov. 8, 1967, on a mountainside a few miles inside Laos.

The helicopters had been shot down during their attempts to extract a 12-man reconnaissance team of American and South Vietnamese soldiers that had been ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army battalion as they returned from a secret mission on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In his interview with Kilbourne, Noyer wrote that “excerpts from the citation … tell a story of a pilot who would not give up his rescue efforts in spite of enemy fire which severely damaged his A-1E Skyraider aircraft.”

“While flying at low altitude to locate the survivors, and to pinpoint enemy gun positions, he received several hits, damaging a gun pod and external fuel tank. With the enemy firing on the survivors, then-Major Kilbourne strafed the gun emplacements, receiving more hits, this time in vital areas ― generator, propeller, internal fuel tank, hydraulic system, and worst of all, the engine. He was able to escort a successful rescue helicopter from the scene in spite of his plane being almost unflyable, returning to his base with navigation equipment inoperative. The landing, almost anticlimactic, was successful in spite of the heavy damage to his aircraft.”

Kilbourne’s first Silver Star was awarded for actions in July 1967 supporting the rescue of a downed Navy pilot just 40 miles south of Hanoi.

All told, Kilbourne flew 160 combat missions during two tours of duty. Some of his decorations resulted from the many resupply missions he flew. These included “an emergency humanitarian flight to aid Father Hoa and his Swallows,” Noyer noted. “Father Hoa, a Catholic priest, operated an armed enclave in the Delta, resisting nightly Viet Cong forays.”

We honor you, Jimmy Kilbourne Sr.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson. #Repost @AirForce Times)

Maj Gen John L. Borling

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John L. Borling was born in Chicago, Illinois in March, 1940. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1963, and received his pilot’s wings in 1964. By 1966 then-Lieutenant Borling was flying combat missions from a base in Thailand over North Vietnam. His F-4 Phantom was shot down on June 1, 1966 while flying his 97th mission. Borling spent the next six and a half years in enemy prison camps, including the notorious Hanoi Hilton. During the first few years as a prisoner of war (POW) he was kept in solitary confinement, subjected to torture and barely survived on a Spartan diet. In order to keep his mind active, Borling wrote poetry and passed it along to his fellow POWs by tapping them on the walls using a code system they developed themselves. Treatment of the POWs improved in the early 1970s. He and the rest of fellow captives were released on February 12, 1973.

Following his release, Borling received pilot refresher training, then was selected to be a White House Fellow from August 1974 to August 1975, serving during the Gerald Ford administration. He then attended the Armed Forces Staff College and following that he was assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron, the famed Hat in the Ring squadron, which he soon commanded.  Borling attended the National War College, and he followed this with a tour at the Pentagon where he served as the chief of Checkmate Strategic Studies Group. In February of 1982, he was sent to Ramstein, West Germany where he commanded the 86th Fighter Group. He followed this assignment with a tour at the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers – Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium.

In June of 1986 then-Colonel Borling was assigned to Headquarters, Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska. By June, 1987, he was the commander of SAC’s 57th Air Division, based at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. He followed this with senior level assignments in SAC before returning to the Pentagon as a Major General, serving as the director of operational requirements from January 1991 to January 1992. Major General Borling finished his military career with a four-year tour at Allied Forces North (AFNORTH), NATO in Norway, first as the Deputy Chief of Staff-Air, and then as the Chief of Staff for AFNORTH-Europe in Stavanger, Norway. He retired on August 1, 1996 after thirty-three years of service.

We honor you, John Borling.

(#Repost @Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

LTC Rutherford “Jack” Brice, II

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Brice went to Korea as a commissioned officer after serving as an aviation machinist in World War II. Brice saw action in three of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War as a company commander and platoon leader. One of his starkest moments came during the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge, a fierce fight at the top of a ridge that served as a vantage point to a broad valley. The well-fortified hill saw much back-and-forth fighting between American forces and the enemy. Climbing up the ridge was nearly impossible with all of the artillery placements built by the Koreans and Chinese. Brice’s unit finally took care of the hill, but not until many of his fellow soldiers died trying to take the hill.

We honor you, Rutherford Brice.

(#Repost @The Veteran’s Site)