Skip to comments.The Greatest Generation - - A4th of July Tribute
Posted on 07/12/2010 9:48:05 AM PDT by Hulka
I post for your consideration the following email and 4th of July speech written and presented by a close personal friend. It is nice to know there are communities in the heartland that still honor our vets and respect this great nation.
Here at XXXXXX, the annual Independence Day celebration is a big deal. It has all the expected stuff, parades, speeches, games, fireworks, etc. This years theme was Honoring the Greatest Generation. There are still about 30 of the WW-II Vets living here, and it was decided that they should be honored for what they did. The planning committee tapped me to deliver the keynote speech, and so last Saturday morning I shoehorned myself into my mess dress uniform, and after the invocation by a three combat tour to Iraq young soldier; the presentation of the colors by a local Boy Scout Troop followed by The Pledge of Allegiance; the playing of the National Anthem by the high school band; and finally the singing of a medley of the US Military theme songs by the church choir I stood before the assembled crowd with the twenty-seven old vets seated to my immediate right and delivered my speech.
Of the numerous talks I have given over the years, absolutely none were more gratifying personally because of the genuine appreciation in the eyes of these honored heroes. After the ceremony, as they were all driven along the parade route in convertibles. The people lining the streets stood and applauded each of them as they passed. One of the drivers told me that at any time they stopped, the car was mobbed by young children thanking them for what they did. I was told that many of them, with tears in their eyes were overheard to remark that this was the most exciting day of their life.
The Greatest Generation 3 July 2010, Colonel XXXXXXX, USAF (Ret.)
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, families, and honored guests. Today on the eve of our nations 234th birthday, it is indeed a distinct honor and privilege for this old airman, to honor a group of even older men and one courageous woman.
But in the dark days of 1940 prior to Americas entry into WW-II, they were not old at all. They were young with rippling muscles, full heads of hair and flat stomachs their heads full of dreams and their whole lives ahead of them.
Coming on the heels of the Great Depression of the 1930s which they all endured; they watched the unfolding events across two oceans with justifiable concern.
To the east across the Atlantic Ocean, in mere months, the Germans Wehrmacht Blitzkrieg attack had crushed and occupied the low countries of Holland and Belgium totally defeated the vaunted French Army and literally driven the resolute British Army into the sea at Dunkirk.
Beyond our western shore, an increasingly hostile Imperial Japan had wreaked havoc in the Southwest Pacific Ocean and East Asia.
When on September 27th, 1940 Japan signed the Tripartite Pact in Berlin, The Axis was born. That pact was pledge between Germany, Italy and Japan, in which they all agreed to jointly oppose any country joining the Allies at war - by which they meant the United States. Although America was not prepared for war and sought to avoid her involvement. . .the die was cast.
But all conjecture and uncertainty changed forever on December 7th, 1941 when carrier based aircraft operating from the Japanese Imperial Fleet launched a sneak attack on our Pacific fleet anchored in the Hawaiian Islands. The raid dealt a devastating blow which left the majority of our capital warships at the bottom of Perl Harbor Bay. But by sheer luck and the grace of God, our fast carriers were at sea and escaped destruction.
Aboard the flag ship of the Imperial Japanese Fleet, there was jubilation at Japans apparent success except for one notable exception that being Admiral, Esoroku Yamomoto, the architect of attack. As young naval officer, Yamomoto had lived in the United States and earned a degree from Harvard University. When asked by his staff why he was not sharing in their celebration, he said words to the effect:
I can think of nothing that will infuriate the American people more that this attack. I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.
Truer words were never spoken, for across the fruited plain, patriots like those seated before us today stepped immediately forward without reservation.
In doing so, they effectively signed a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount up to and including their lives. Their term of enlistment was simply, the duration.
They served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Merchant Marines. I have not forgotten to include the US Air Force, for in World War II, it was proudly known as the US Army Air Corps.
As to how they were compensated, the salary of a corporal was all of $54/month thats $1.80/day.
Those who were not qualified to serve on active duty because of disabilities or age also did their part.
From a standing start, countless thousands of Rosy the Riveters manned Americas factories that once produced Fords, Chevrolets, refrigerators and the like, to crank out at an unbelievable rate. . .the ships, bombers, fighters, and countless other weapons of war that would lay waste to those enemies who dared challenge America to a fight. . .in which there would be no points for second place.
So it is most appropriate that we honor these remaining few who are among us today. For were this ceremony being held on this date in 1946, statistics tell us that within a community the size of XXXX, we would not be honoring 30, but 239.
War is by far the most brutal of all human endeavors. For those who have experienced its horrors first hand, certain events will remain indelibly seared into their memory banks for the remainder of their lives.
During the course of WW-II, 12M Americans served, of which over 500,000 were killed. To put that loss in perspective, it is perhaps instructive to recall the brutally direct words of General George S. Patton, Commander of U.S. 3rd Army in Europe, who said:
The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.
His words were obviously taken to heart by those who fought the war on our behalf. . .for in contrast to our tragic loss of a half million, the Axis Tripartite which had pledged to fight us to the death. . .lost 8.7 million men in combat.
Was it worth it? You bet it was, for it is only through their selfless sacrifices of those of the ilk we now honor, that you and I enjoy the freedoms and privileges afforded by our great nation today. This is precisely why these heroes have earned, and richly deserve to be known as The Greatest Generation.
When the planning for this event began some three and one half months ago, 32 were to be honored. Sadly, two have passed away in the interim.
They are Kirby Price and Grady Erwin, two military veterans who proudly served our country in uniform during World War II. They are gone, but by no means forgotten and we proudly salute them on this occasion for their selfless contributions on our behalf.
Additionally, three other honorees could not be with us today because of prior commitments. They are:
Earl Belford, US Army Air Corps Earl entered the Air Corps in 1944 and was trained as a radio man. He served at Scott Field, IL and Meeks Field, Iceland. Earl was honorably discharged in 1946.
Lonnie Blades, US Navy Lonnie entered the Navy in 1942. After completion of Marine boot camp at San Diego, he participated in the Pacific Campaigns at The Solomon and Marshal Islands, Guadalcanal, and New Caledonia in Borneo. Lonnie was honorably discharged in the grade of Corporal in 1946, precisely four years after his enlistment.
Horace McCain, US Army Born and raised in Gainesville, Horace entered the US Army in 1942. After completion of basic training at Ft. Belvoir, VA, he was trained as topographic map specialist in preparation of the maps for the invasion of North Africa.
But he was severely injured in a vehicle accident, and following his recovery, was honorably discharged in the grade of Corporal in 1943.
We shall now honor each of the remaining 27 World War II Veterans with the presentation of a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, as signed by Congressman Michael C. Burgess of Texas 26th District. I now read the text of the award that will be presented to Lonnie Blades:
In honor and appreciation of his faithful and dedicated service with the United States Armed Forces during World War II, while a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1942-1946. Presented on July 3, 2010 Signed Michael C. Burgess, M.D. Representing Texas 26th Congressional District
As I now introduce each honored veteran, I would ask that they raise their hand for identification. Please feel free to applaud each veteran at the conclusion of the presentation of their award.
Colonel B.W. Smoke Berthelot, US Army: Joining the Army one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he completed Officer Candidate School in 1944. He served in the American Theater and then saw combat during the Okinawa Campaign in the Pacific. He was a member of the Occupation Forces of Korea at the conclusion of the Korean War. Colonel Berthelot was honorably retired from active duty in 1984, following 41 years of faithful service to our country.
1. Dave Bowman, US Navy Dave entered the Navy in 1944. He served on the battle cruiser, The USS Alaska, where he operated the elevators that delivered the 90 pound sacks of gun powder for the ships 12-inch gun emplacements. These were the huge guns that provided saturation shelling of enemy positions, and air protection against Japanese Kamikaze attacks. Dave is among of the few remaining crewmembers of the great USS Alaska. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1944.
2. Ralph Burt, US Army Air Corps Ralph joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and was assigned to Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls for basic training. He then was selected to serve as Cadet Adjutant at Randolph Field in San Antonio. Ralph was honorably discharged from the Air Corps in 1945.
3. George Davis, US Navy George joined the Navy in 1943. He served with Fleet Air Wing III in the Panama Canal Zone and the Asian-Pacific Theater. He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1946.
4. Jack Dowman, US Army Air Corps Jack entered the Army Air Corps in1943, and completed basic training at Barksdale Field, in Shreveport, LA. He then underwent training as a navigator and joined a group specially formed for transition training into the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Jack was honorably discharged from active duty in 1945, but was recalled for infantry training for the Korean Conflict. However, when it was realized that he was already rated as a navigator, he was once again released from active duty.
5. John Fletcher, US Army Air Corps John entered the Army Air Corps in 1943 and completed his basic training at Hondo Army Air Base in Texas. He was then trained as a medic, and further qualified in the air-sea rescue field. John was honorably discharged from active duty in 1946.
6. Harold Greene, US Navy Harold joined the Navy in 1945 at the age of 17. After training at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA, and Southwestern University at Georgetown, TX, he entered the V-5 preflight training program at US Naval Air Station in Grand Prairie, TX. Harold was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1947.
7. Billy Hoagland, US Army Air Corps Billy joined the Army Air Corps in 1942, and was assigned to 3rd Airways Command to train airfield control tower operators. He served in that capacity in both the Mediterranean and Africa areas operations. His final assignment was to establish the approach control system at Natal in Brazil Billy was honorably discharged from the Air Corps as a Staff Sergeant in 1945.
8. Miriam Hogan, Womens Army Corps Miriam joined the Womens Army Corp in 1943 and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. after six weeks of training. She was then assigned to a location near Lubbock, Texas for the training and commissioning of glider pilots. Because of her booming voice, she was selected to issue all commands to WACs marching in the numerous parades of that time. Miriam was honorably discharged from active duty in The Womens Army Corps in 1945.
Don Howith, US Army Don was inducted into the US Army in 1943 at the age of 18. After basic training, his impressive size dictated his selection for the mule pack artillery, where he deployed with the 10th Mountain Division to Italy. Don fought in the bloody assault on the slopes of Riva Ridge (where former Senator Bob was so severely wounded). He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1946.
9. Cmdr. Roy Lynn Huddleston, US Navy Roy entered the US Navy in 1945. He underwent training in California where he became a Boat Coxswain, after which he saw extensive combat in the Southwest Pacific theater of operations. Following the war, he chose to make the Navy a career, where he served in the I-Corp sector of Vietnam, and Sas-e-bo, Japan. He honorably retired from the Navy in 1975 in the grade of Commander.
10. Joe Hudson, US Navy Joe joined the Navy in 1945 and was trained in San Diego as a gun pointer. He served as a part of the fire control team that controls a vessels 5 guns. Joe was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1946.
11. Ed Hughes, US Army Ed jointed the Army in 1943, and following basic training was assigned to a glider battalion. He was promoted through the enlisted ranks to the grade of Captain. Ed saw combat in Europe and was seriously injured when his jeep rolled over, and was also accidently shot while serving with the occupation forces in Hannover, Germany. He was onorably discharged for the Army in 1946.
12. Lt. Col. Bob Kalena, US Army Air Corps Bob entered the Air Corps in 1943 and took basic training at Jefferson Barracks at Fenn College, OH. He earned his silver wings of an Army Air Corps pilot in 1945 after which he flew in the Philippines, Australia and Japan. Following the war, he became the protocol officer at Air University in Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Lt. Col Kalina was honorably retired from the United States Air Force in 1967.
13. Lee Kilgore, US Navy Lee joined the Navy in 1942, where he was trained as an Aviation Ordnance man. He then underwent bombing and gunnery training, after which he served in the SW Pacific, HI, The Dutch East Indies, Leyte, and Luzon in the Philippines. While on patrol on Xmas Day, 1944, he was credited for shooting down a Japanese transport plane. Lee was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1945.
14. Monroe King, US Army Monroe entered the Army in 1944 and took basic training at Ft. Sam Houston, in San Antonio, TX. He completed advanced training at Ft. Hood, Killeen, TX and was selected for Officer Candidate School. He was seriously injured in training and after spending three months in the hospital, was assigned to the 38th Infantry Division where he performed administrative duties. Monroe was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946.
15. Bill Maddox, US Merchant Marines Bill joined the Merchant Marines in 1944 and trained as a Radioman. He served on the largest Merchant Marine Tanker of its day, the T-2. He saw duty in the Pacific in and around Manila Bay in Philippians. Following the war, Bill continued to serve on a Troop Transport Ship, shuttling service men to and from different locations.
16. Lt. Commander Bob Moberly, US Navy Bob entered the Navy in 1941 and received the golden wings of a Naval Aviator 1943. He became a fighter pilot and flew combat missions in the FM-2 Wildcat from the decks of the Pacific Fleet carriers against Japanese forces at Tinian, Saipan, the Marianas, the Caroline and Southern Palau Islands, the Philippines and Guam. He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1946, but was recalled during the Korean Conflict, where he flew combat missions from Japan in the famous Douglas AD-4N Sky Raider. Bob was once again honorably discharged from active duty in 1953 in the grade of Lt. Commander.
17. Ed Moody, US Army Air Corps Ed entered the Air Corps in 1943 and underwent basic training at Sheppard Field in Wichita Fall TX. Was assigned to Hammer Field in Fresno, California in motor transportation operations as a truck driver. He was honorably discharged as a corporal from the Air Corps in 1946.
18. Joe Morici, US Navy Joe entered the Navy in 1943, and upon completion of boot camp, was trained as a naval gunner. He served aboard the transport ships operating from Great Britain that took men and materiel to Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Joe made seven crossings of the Atlantic ocean, with his last cruise being to Africa and the Suez Canal, He was honorably discharged as a Gunnery Mate Second Class in 1946.
19. Pete Robinson, US Army Pete entered the Army in 1946 and completed basic training at Camp HOwze, in Gainesville, TX, where he rented a room from Don Howiths mother. He served all his active duty time Stateside and was honorably discharged in the grade of Staff Sergeant in 1946.
20. Col. Clarke Selmon, US Army Air Corps Clarke joined the US Army Air Corps in 1939, where he earned his wings of silver and became a fighter pilot. In the ensuing months prior to WW-II, he was stationed in Australia and New Guinea. Clarke serving in operations with 5th Air Force Advance Group in Florida when Pearl Harbor was struck. He subsequently became the Commanding Officer of the 49th Pursuit Group, flying the Curtis P-40 War Hawk, the Lockheed P-38 Lightening, and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. Following 29 years of dedicated service, Colonel Selman was honorably retired from the US Air Force in 1968.
21. Harlan Skaggs, US Navy Harlan entered the Navy in 1943. Following basic training, he instructed recruits in the operation of landing craft as part of what became the amphibious forces. He operated landing craft during Battle Okinawa, the largest amphibious invasion in the Pacific Campaign. He was honorably discharged from the Navy as Boatswain Mate Second Class in 1945.
22. Major Young Sloan, US Army Air Corps Young entered the Air Corps in 1941 and underwent basic training at Ellington Field in Houston, TX He was then transferred to a Weather Squadron, then to UCLA for to train cadets. He then stationed in the Far East Air Force in Australia and New Guinea. Young served with the Air Corps Weather Service until his honorable retirement in the grade of Major in 1946.
23. Bob Tribelhorn, US Navy Bob joined the Navy and took basic training at Sampson, NY, followed by advanced training in Florida and Kansas. He served in the Pacific Theater on Guam, Tinian, and Clark Field in The Philippines. On the tarmac of the ramp at Tinian Air Field, he witnessed the uploading of a very large bomb into the bomb bay of The Enola Gay the Boeing B-29 Super Fortress that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, which effectively ended World War II. Bob was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1945.
24. Clent Vandagriff, US Navy Clent entered the Navy in 1942 Following completion of basic training, he completed radio school and was assigned to Africa and the European Theater of Operations. He participated in the invasion of Sicily and the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Clent was honorably discharged from the Navy in the grade of Petty Officer First Class in 1945.
25. Billy Walling, US Navy Billy joined the Navy in 1943 and upon completion of boot camp training, graduated from radio school. He served in the Pacific Theater, with voyages covering 93,000 miles. He crossed the Equator four times and the International Date Line 12 times. His ship was active in operations at Kwajalein, Guadalcanal, Leyte, Saipan, Manila and Tokyo. Billy was honorably discharged from the Navy in the grade of Radioman Third Class in 1946.
Ladies and gentlemen, would you now join me in a standing ovation for Lake Kiowas own members of The Greatest Generation.
I now close my remarks with an old fighter pilot custom known as throwing a nickel on the grass. It is a time-honored tradition that is observed at occasions such as this to show admiration and respect for a life well lived by a fellow warrior.
So heres a nickel on the grass to you my friend; for your patriotism, loyalty, bravery and dedication; but most of all for your friendship; for yours is a dying breed and when you are gone, the world will be a lesser place.
On behalf of a grateful community and nation, it is my privilege and honor to salute you.
Granddad lived through D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge.
Grandma lived through occupied Europe with a YEAR in a NAZI workcamp.
As far as I’m concerned, I’m not even worthy of lacing their shoes while down on my knees.
Truly, a great generation.
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