Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

A real American hero
Personal conversation | August 23, 2003 | Self

Posted on 08/23/2003 9:47:30 PM PDT by WorkingClassFilth

Among my many occupations as an average working class guy, I sell honey at a local farmer's market.

Today, a tall gentleman came to my booth. His posture and bearing was military even through the withering effects of age. I noticed this immediately and looked him over to observe, rather than to see.

On the inside of his left forearm he bore a blurred tattoo. My father carries a tattoo from WWII that has become blurred and indistinct with time. The lettering on the tattoo was blurred like a jail-house tattoo, but the age of the man and the date (1941) of the tattoo told me that this was the real McCoy.

The inscription read: "Manila - 1941"

As we chatted about bees and honey, I asked the fellow if he had served with Wainwright. Yes, he said, how did you know? "Your tattoo," I replied. "Did you get out before the invasion?" He replied that he served until the end of WWII.

I knew immediately that this man had seen it all.

As we talked for the next 30 minutes or so, he related the most detailed information that only a man that had served in the hell that he had could. His skin was the deeply furrowed brown that only time under the tropical sun imparts.

He recounted his time defending Corrigidor, MacArthur, the fall, Battan and the internment and the transport vessels that the Japanese used to transport their troops and prisoners back to Japan.

I felt like shouting out to all of the patrons at the market: 'Look, a giant walks among us!'

After he bought his honey, he thanked me and melted back into the crowd.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; Philosophy; Unclassified; Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: army; battan; deathmarch; heroes; japan; marines; navy; phillipines; usaf; veterans; wainwright; wwii
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-6061 next last
To: WorkingClassFilth
Beautifully written.

I've had the honor of knowing quite a few war veterans, especially from WWII. My childhood neighbors were navy vets, and several neighbors since then have been veterans. When you ask about heroes, I realize that all of them were pretty quiet about their experiences in the service. Several of them served in the Pacific campaign, where they got tatoos (which impressed me greatly as a kid!) and probably alternated between being scared and bored half to death. They came home to raise families, pay mortgages and taxes, and continue to support their nation. Many unsung heroes among them.

My in-laws were both in the service. My mother-in-law served as a WAC in WWII, and was part of the support staff for Patton. She served in North Africa, Italy, and Germany before moving over to the State Dept. She was a disabled veteran, having developed multiple sclerosis during her service-related travels. Nobody knows too much about what she did in the State Dept. Despite writing a daily journal and many letters home, descriptions of what she did in the service and for the State Department were not included. She took those secrets to her grave. My father-in-law was the first of his poor Tennessee family to go to college, yet he left college to join the army. He helped with the Berlin Airlift. He would tell stories about his experiences in Germany, but never took any credit for lives he might have saved. Mostly they were tales about how he tricked the French customs agents and similar youthful hi-jinks. He came home, worked like a dog to support his family while going to school on the GI bill, and went on to become a mechanical engineer.

My parents were in Czechslovakia during the war. Dad was in the Czech army briefly before the Munich agreement forced them to lay down their arms. Mom and Dad lived their young years under Nazi occupation and Dad was actively involved in resistance activities. When they came to America in 1951, Dad wanted to go fight in Korea, but he was turned down. I don't recall whether it was because of age or lack of US citizenship. Mom and Dad went on to become naturalized citizens, and raised one future Freeper and one dedicated Vietnam war avoider. Since my brother doesn't have children, mom and dad can be assured that their grandsons are both being raised to honor the military and veterans who helped preserve our freedoms.

I'm continually impressed with how my parents' generation embraced service to one's country and defense of liberty. They stepped up to the challenge, despite personal hardship and long-term sacrifice. When the job was done, they quietly returned to their duties at home. Very inspiring.

21 posted on 08/23/2003 11:04:05 PM PDT by Think free or die
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
Had the privelege of meeting this gentleman a few months ago when he spoke at ATF Night.

EHLERS, WALTER D.

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Place and dare:
Near Goville, France, 9-10 June 1944. Entered service at: Manhattan, Kans. Birth: Junction City, Kans.
G.O. No.: 91, 19 December 1944.

Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 9-10
June 1944, near Goville, France. S/Sgt. Ehlers, always acting as the spearhead of the attack, repeatedly
led his men against heavily defended enemy strong points exposing himself to deadly hostile fire
whenever the situation required heroic and courageous leadership. Without waiting for an order, S/Sgt.
Ehlers, far ahead of his men, led his squad against a strongly defended enemy strong point, personally
killing 4 of an enemy patrol who attacked him en route. Then crawling forward under withering
machinegun fire, he pounced upon the guncrew and put it out of action. Turning his attention to 2
mortars protected by the crossfire of 2 machineguns, S/Sgt. Ehlers led his men through this hail of
bullets to kill or put to flight the enemy of the mortar section, killing 3 men himself. After mopping up
the mortar positions, he again advanced on a machinegun, his progress effectively covered by his squad.
When he was almost on top of the gun he leaped to his feet and, although greatly outnumbered, he
knocked out the position single-handed. The next day, having advanced deep into enemy territory, the
platoon of which S/Sgt. Ehlers was a member, finding itself in an untenable position as the enemy brought
increased mortar, machinegun, and small arms fire to bear on it, was ordered to withdraw. S/Sgt. Ehlers,
after his squad had covered the withdrawal of the remainder of the platoon, stood up and by continuous
fire at the semicircle of enemy placements, diverted the bulk of the heavy hostile fire on himself, thus
permitting the members of his own squad to withdraw. At this point, though wounded himself, he carried
his wounded automatic rifleman to safety and then returned fearlessly over the shell-swept field to
retrieve the automatic rifle which he was unable to carry previously. After having his wound treated, he
refused to be evacuated, and returned to lead his squad. The intrepid leadership, indomitable courage,
and fearless aggressiveness displayed by S/Sgt. Ehlers in the face of overwhelming enemy forces serve
as an inspiration to others.
22 posted on 08/23/2003 11:08:49 PM PDT by gc4nra ( this tag line protected by Kimber and the First Amendment)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
My grandfather was in the Army and fluent in German. In WWII, the allied forces always put him right up front so he could shout instructions to the Germans. He was captured along with a few of his friends, and taken to be used as human shields. Both he and his friends were strapped to the front of tanks, with the hopes that the Americans would not fire upon their own men. (Not the case.) Several of his friends were killed - my grandfather was one of the few lucky ones.

After escaping, he was able to rejoin his company. He wound up being at the front of the group that liberated the Dachau concentration camp. We have some pictures that he took from a camera looted from a German home. It was truly gruesome what was being done right up to the point when it was all over, around April, '45. The camp was still full of people.
23 posted on 08/23/2003 11:11:07 PM PDT by July 4th
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
Several years ago I went into a Peppermill Restaurant in Sacramento for a cup of coffee. I sat next to an old man who was jabbering away and flirting with a young waittress.

I noticed his Australian accent. We got to talking and it turned out he was a WWII vet, Australian air force. He had been shot down twice in North Africa, while flying Spitfires, and was once a prisoner for 10 days with a long range German commando unit operating behind British lines. He had come down in his chute near them, only to discover they were Germans behind British lines.

One night the Germans dug a hole and put him in, covered it with gear, and tarps and told him not to come out. The Jerries then ambushed a British armored column from both ends, and got the Brits to shoot at each other. The column got wiped out. The Jerries were outnumbered about 10 to 1.

A few days later the Germans gave him a map, water, and a gun and told him where his lines were. He made it home. He said these Germans, of the Africa Corps., were the bravest guys he ever met. And chivalrous as the desert is hot.

Later, in 1945, he was transferred to the South Pacific, to New Guinea. He and two other Aussie fighters were out scouting for Japanese troops to strafe. He said the word was there were no more Japanese fighters in New Guinea. He and his mates were flying low over the jungle looking to mop up some of His Majesty's leftovers.

It hit the fan. Three Zekes jumped them from above, and immediately the Zekes shot down the other two pilots. No chutes.

After a frantic chase and dog fight one of the Zekes finally nailed him, and he went down, crash landing in the jungle. He said that Japanese pilot who shot him down was the best he ever saw in action. Better than the Germans he fought.

Injured, he stumbled around and was eventually found by some native New Guinea men, who took him to their village. They healed him, and a few months later took him to an Australian outpost.

Three shoot downs, and he was still drinking beer and chasing skirts at his age.
24 posted on 08/23/2003 11:15:00 PM PDT by lostlegend (lostlegend)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: South40
That was in or around 1995. I wonder where Jack is now, if he's still in California, is he still homeless, or if he's even still alive.

Reminds me of a guy me and my friends hung out with around 1977. We were still underage, but we met this vet who lived in a converted stepvan. He took some massive shrapnel to the head, and ended up with a steel plate in his forehead. The doctors kindly told the fiancee and his parents that he might not be totally the same. Everyone promptly dumped him. Ok fine, his forehead looked kind of weird, but he was cool. He used to take us on nature walks and identify birds and plants and stuff, and you know stuff we couldn't give a shit about :) He needed to talk to somebody, anybody. He told us how it was; trying to do your job and getting fucked by your own brass. I learned a lot from him. When my mother found out, she threatened to put him in jail. I never saw him again. Hey, anyone here remember Rose and the 2 Diane's? Name the city....

25 posted on 08/23/2003 11:16:42 PM PDT by TheSpottedOwl (I need a new tag line)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
A real American hero ...GI JOE !

whoops...I saw the title and I thought this was about the cartoon

26 posted on 08/23/2003 11:18:47 PM PDT by stuck_in_new_orleans
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
Several weeks ago, I was attending water therapy after my second back surgery. A distinguished gentleman was working his feet in the pool near me and we started talking. Somehow WWII came up and he said, "I flew B-24s over the European Theater with the 455 Bomb Group." (He later gave me his card with B-24 logo and his name on it.)

He said, "Guess who one of my instructors in England was?" I had no idea. He smiled and said, "Jimmy Stewart." He went on to relate that he and Jimmy exchanged Christmas cards for awhile after the war and that Jimmy was just as neat as the public was led to believe.

27 posted on 08/23/2003 11:22:38 PM PDT by RiverDrifter
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
I met Joe Foss a once and had a short exchange about the war and growing up in South Dakota, he was soft spoken and humorous and it turns out he knew my dad. I was in awe of meeting an MOH recipient. I also had the privilege of shaking the hand of Leo K. Thorsness after listening to him speak at a Memorial Day event...most of the audience had teared up as he described his captivity and I noticed that he never mentioned the events around earning the MOH...shortly after he spoke he removed the MOH and slipped it in his pocket...when I thanked him for
his service he replied "it was just a different time".

My sister gave me the book "Ghost Soldiers" about the rescue of 500 American and Philippine POWs held captive by the Japanese on Luzon...it goes into great detail of the events leading up to the fall of Luzon and the march to the prison camps. Interesting enough, the participants in the "death march" referred to it as "The Hike"...the media coined it the "Battan
Death March".
28 posted on 08/23/2003 11:24:44 PM PDT by in the Arena
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Think free or die
I worked with a truck company in Texas, making 2.5 and 5 ton trucks for the Army (there, if you want you can look it up).

A contractor was working there, 78 years old, had been a manager for Detroit Diesel, AM General and General Motors.(AM General makes the military Humvee) and now due to his age was an independent contractor. He had done 7 amphibious landings during WWII as a landing craft operator. That means that at Tarawa he worked all 9 waves. ("Got to be brave when you go ashore, cause your the 9th wave and there isnt no mo').

My son visited for a weekend, age 10. We went out to a shooting range, and he shot a few magazines through my Colt Government model .45, till the range officer told my son that because the .45's disconnector could malfunction, it could go full automatic, he could only shoot one round at a time. This really pissed off my son, because he was only 10, and pissed me off because I had a Colt 1991, not a military 1911 which expressly did NOT have that failure mode. The range officer was wrong, but he was the range officer.

Anyways, Bill, my coworker/contractor told my son at a BBQ at my house that because he is also small (5 foot 5 and 1/2) and old looking the range officer had told him the same thing. So he shot one round at a time until the range officer turned his back, then let loose with a full magazine rapid fire, all in the kill zone. The range officer turned around and was about to say something.
Bill said, "You aren't going to change me at this time in my life." My son felt a lot better about his range experience after that. Some guys are just jerks, even if they are range officers.

Bill was a great worker, showed up early every day, stayed late every day, ran me into the ground (30 years younger than he). He would walk the assembly line at about 20 miles an hour, and still spot anything the slightest bit out of order. He was a major reason that we were able to get our truck reliability to jump by a factor of 8 while I was there. He had been saying the same things for 7 years, but I backed him (which hadn't happened in the past). We got a few changes in just before the deployment to Afghanistan, and I am sure that it got a few guys home in one piece. Thanks Bill, You gave us a lot more than ever I deserved.

(When you catch a bullet on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains, and go to your Gawd like a soldier. R. Kipling)
29 posted on 08/23/2003 11:29:27 PM PDT by donmeaker (Bigamy is one wife too many. So is monogamy, or is it monotony?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Living Stone
"My very own father was in the ASA- and still won't talk about it."

Most of what he did is probably still classified. They take forever to release that kind of information.
30 posted on 08/23/2003 11:30:02 PM PDT by PLMerite ("Unarmed, one can only flee from Evil. But Evil isn't overcome by fleeing from it." Jeff Cooper)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
When my son was in high school, he worked several jobs. One of them was bussing at a local diner. He made a friendship with an older gentleman who used to come in everyday at 4:00p.m. When that man found out that my son had signed up with the Marine Corp, he told him his story. He was a Marine pilot who flew with the mission of the Enola Gay. They became very close and because this man never had any children he told my son when you graduate boot camp I want you to have this ring. The ring had been given to him by the Marine's for his service. Well, about a week before my son left - he gave it to him early. My son felt very honored.

I guess I wanted to share that because I think it symbolizes kind of a passing down of heroes from one generation to another. With the war on terror that America has become engaged in - I know that more heroes are quietly being made.
31 posted on 08/23/2003 11:31:53 PM PDT by everyvotecounts
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: July 4th
Damn.
32 posted on 08/23/2003 11:33:29 PM PDT by TheSpottedOwl (I need a new tag line)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: Living Stone
I am such an unforgivable idiot...

How did I ever leave off the above list the husband of my father's sister?

He was shot down over France in a B-17 in (I think it was ) 1942 and spent the rest of the war in a German Stalag.

They beat him during intial interrogation, and then pretty much left him alone after that.

He lost a lot of weight during his incarceration, said they fed them nothing but thin turnip soup and thin bread the whole time.

He hated turnips.

It is easy to forget, I think, because he never spoke of it at all, unless he was well lubricated, and then only if questioned directly.
33 posted on 08/23/2003 11:36:12 PM PDT by Living Stone
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: July 4th
And remember, Dachau was a work camp, not an extermination camp like Auchwitz (according to Victor Frankel, who was at both as an inmate).


If you want to read a great book to get you through times of trouble, try "Man Searches for Meaning" by Victor Frankel. He developed the third school of Viennese psychiatry based in part on what he learned in the concentration camps. I know him only through his book. That is enough for me.
34 posted on 08/23/2003 11:38:06 PM PDT by donmeaker (Bigamy is one wife too many. So is monogamy, or is it monotony?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: Living Stone
" You do not have to look very far to find a true hero in this country. We are surrounded by them."

How very true. When I see my parents' neighbor planting petunias for his wife, I see a patriot, veteran, firefighter, loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and all-around American hero. One of many.

35 posted on 08/23/2003 11:43:10 PM PDT by Think free or die
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
My friend's grandfather was in the South Pacific. I'll always remember how he told us that they'd been in water for weeks and when they finally got out of it the callous on their heels just peeled off.
36 posted on 08/23/2003 11:43:46 PM PDT by tallhappy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
I know a man who went to work every day, made certain there was food on the table and clothes on his kids back.

There's multitudes of these men out there, some of them are fortunate to have jobs they sometimes enjoy, some of them don't but they do it anyway, day in and out, years on end.

Here's to the unsung heros, my dad was one.


37 posted on 08/23/2003 11:52:59 PM PDT by freedom9
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PLMerite
Well I know that, but it's not like I'm going to rat him out or anything.

He has made some very interesting comments throughout the years, and will never elaborate when questioned.

It is rather exasperating, as he is growing older, and I do not want valuable family history to die with him.

He was separated from active duty in 1962. What could still be so sensitive? I mean, technology has changed so much since then as to be basically unrecognizible.

The bottom line is this: they told him not to talk, and he wouldn't say S*** if he had a mouthful.
38 posted on 08/23/2003 11:55:03 PM PDT by Living Stone
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
O.V. Rainey must be included in this list. He is getting older now and slowed by numerous ailments of age but his wit , humor and intteligence are as sharp as ever. He fought in Europe during WW II. From the beach to Berlin. He was wounded in France, awarded the purple heart, patched up and continued after reassignment. He was captured by the Jerrys near the Ardenes and liberated 2 weeks later by American forces. (Long after the war we found out that the group of POWs he was with had already been scheduled to be included in the massacre of POWs that occured in the region. Exactly 3 days after he was liberated.)
He was a member of the first squad of US Army to enter the Wolfs Lair,where Hitler committed suicide.
Mr Rainey stayed on after the war in Nurhemburg to aid in the trials of Nazis. While on this duty he says it was his distict honor to use Himmlers captured staff car to go hunting (his lifes passion) with his buddies.
When the Korean war broke out his number was called again.
there he lost portions of 2 toes to frostbite. One particular night he awoke to gunfire and upon leaving his sack discovered there postion was being overrum by chinese. This he relates as the "Most scared a man gets, and lives to tell about". He says,"we shot 'em in front of us and behind us as we ran toward our own rear area. Ran out of ammo 100 yards from where our lines eventually held. Don't know why I didn't get it then and there." He firmly believes that prayers being sent up daily by his immediate and extended family stateside is the only reason for this.
After the Korean war he stayed in the Army . Served at to seperate posts for a few years and then came Nam. He was due to retire when his orders to Vietnam showed up. He pulled a full tour in the Highlands bordering Laos with the native tribsmen there. Saw a lot of action. When his wife found out his tour was going to be extended she FINALLY lost her composure and camped out on one (D) Senator Albert Gore SR.s doorstep demanding the return of her husband whom she felt had done his share. I think the only right thing Senator Gore ever did was bring this man home.
SSGT Rainey retired with a full pass in review ceremony in 1965 at Ft Cambell Kentucky when I was two years old.Even though I don't remember it I know I was there. You see SSGT O.V.Rainey is my grandfather. A man living out the twilight of his life with a humble and quiet nature born of seeing more death , dying and pain than a single life should have to bear. He is an always cheerful,father of three,grandfather of eight,greatgrandfather of five. Quick with sage advice and loved by all who know him. God bless all who serve as 27 members (Myself included) have.
39 posted on 08/24/2003 12:23:59 AM PDT by ping jockey (It only takes $.13 to do the job correctly.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: WorkingClassFilth
Thank you so much for your post. These are the people that give us the opportunity to be great. These are the humble servants of us all. How can anyone ever use the same word (Hero) to describe a Jordan , Bryant, Farve, Petty, or Ali, when that same word is used to describe the individuals in these posts and those like them is beyond me.This word (hero) should be held in reverant reserve for those that selflessly lost their lives or placed themselves in situations where loss of life and limb could occurr.Oh well I guess I am asking to much of the "Give it to me now , I have a right to Nintendo" , crowd.
40 posted on 08/24/2003 12:35:15 AM PDT by ping jockey (It only takes $.13 to do the job correctly.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-6061 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson