Category Archives: George Byers Jr

George Byers Jr 2-27-1924 to 6-11-1993 RIP

Sure, I like to brag about the USMC and I like to brag about dad as pilot for VLMB 611 and VMFA 312. But that is the least of my favorite memories of dad. I can’t get a picture of my most favorite memory, because everything about it has been destroyed. It was at the Communion Rail at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Saint Cloud, MN. That beautiful Communion Rail with all its granite and bronze and linins is all gone. Here’s part of a previous post:

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Dad’s the one with his back to you immediately to the left of the propeller. This is on the USS Bataan.

My favorite memory of dad was back in the Summer of 1962, when I was just 2 1/2 years old, ten years after the picture above was taken. I’d walk up in the Communion line next to him with the rest of the family behind us. The first time I had made brave to follow him the rest of the family threw a fit saying that I should be carried, but I insisted I could make the long trek from the back of the Cathedral up to the front, and dad backed me up. The Cathedral had a gorgeous altar rail with the linens flipped over the top. I was always impressed by the linens getting flipped over the top, just as I was with kneeling there beside my dad, reaching up as high as I could to put my hands under the linens like he was doing. I was pretty small. I was filled with such wonder and awe and reverence as the priest and altar boy with paten would make it over to us. They would start on the Epistle side. We were always on the Gospel side. Everything worked together to instill reverence.

It was good be on my knees with dad before the Lord Jesus. Very good. That’s not just reminiscence with commentary of someone older. No. I was thinking that thought as a tiny little kid. And I can still remember thinking it from my diminutive height, especially so small on my knees. I remember how cold the granite altar rail was below the linens – even in summer. Here I am, thought I, with my dad, before God. I was totally enthralled. For the repose of his soul, please: Hail Mary…

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Little kid then big kid trouble maker, goodness and kindness always

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George Byers Jr is the one with black curly hair wearing black with white shirt, just above center/center. Later in life from the Navy and USMC…

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Yes, that would be fully two Navy Distinguished Service Medals[!]. That would be two Distinguished Flying Crosses. Purple Heart, etc.

Other medals coming in from other countries and entities:

And then there are those coming in from the U.S. Army. They repeated the foreign and other medals (Korea and the at-that-time United Nations). However, there’s a third Distinguished Flying Cross. I like the number five for the Air Medal. That would be five in a very short period of time as he started out on being one of the craziest insane absolutely fearless get-it-done fighter-attack pilots in U.S. history. I’m guessing they lost track of numbers as time went on:

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I thank Beverly Elliot and (then) Congressman Mark Meadows (now Chief of Staff at the White House) for forcing the hand of both the Navy and then the Army for researching and providing this history of one of great American heroes, my dad.

What did I learn from dad? (1) Reverence before Jesus, whereby fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. (2) Fearlessness, whereby we are free to strive to follow good examples. (3) Zero political correctness (see both 1 and 2). (4) Service to others (see 1 and 2 and 3).

And then there’s dad’s rule number one, which he would instruct me by inserting my name in an oft repeated admonition and was pretty much his dying request of me:

“Goodness and kindness, George, Goodness and Kindness.”

I have the citation-accounts for the Navy issued Distinguished Flying Crosses. Wow. Wow. Wow. I like to know the citation-account for the Army issued DFC.

I don’t have the citation-accounts for the Navy issued Distinguished Service Medals. Those are issued by the President of the United States. Since Mark Meadows is now Chief of Staff at the White House, I should write a thanksgiving to him for having forced the DOD for the medals, but then go further and ask if he can get me the citations for the Distinguished Service Medals. There should be copies of the citations for those rarely given medals in the archives of the White House itself.

It’s good to honor one’s parents. It’s a commandment of Christ our God.

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Quite the Happy Birthday e-card for both me and my dad. Wow. Good one.

Happy Birthday ecard

That’s Shadow-dog, of course. And that’s dad’s training plane some 80 years ago. The idea is that he’s flying up in the heavens now, wishing me a Happy Birthday. Our birthdays are only two days apart.

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The Boeing Stearman was a military trainer introduced in 1934 when dad – George Byers Jr., was just 10 years old. They were dumped on the public after eleven more years, 1945, just after WWII. But I’m guessing that only after a half dozen years an early training model would have been run into the ground, as it were, and the military would have sold some of the more battered workhorses to some enterprising farmers wanting to utilize a bit of the new crop dusting technology and who knew a crazy enough young lad like my dad who would jump into such a wreck. That’s me in my immense naivete saying that. I’m sure it’s not really that way.

BOEING STEARMAN YELLOW BIPLANE

I’m betting that if the truth were told, with the preliminaries of WWII gearing up over in Europe, our own military, very short on pilots, dumped some of the planes early on with the farmers, not because the planes were worn out, but for ulterior motives. I bet the deal was that the farmers would only train in young, smart, but crazy would-be pilots who would be quietly assessed in their skills by the military. In other words, without knowing it, the kids self-select, the farmers confirm that, and then they are finally approached by the spotters. Dad was taken on in the early 1940s to a small military airstrip along the Mississippi river down in Iowa. He crashed before taking off the first time in a battered Corsair fighter attack plane they pointed him to. They forgave that crash and immediately had him try again. They knew he was better. Indeed. He quickly went on to become one of the most decorated fighter attack pilots in World War II.

This e-card took some research. I think I have the best parishioners in the world.

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Armistice Veterans Day: Integrity Honor

This is the recording of an F-4 dog-fight practice run in the North Sea when James Charles Evans (12-29-1942 – 4-13-11) had to eject with a damaged plane that was on fire. His son was given this recording by his mom after his dad’s death and he decided to put it up, having gotten a walk through the recording by another pilot, Capt. Daniel.

This caught me off guard, making for some intensely emotional listening, as it brought me back in time to when I was a little kid and my own dad was telling me about the times he had some rough times in his piloting. I don’t have recordings of such conversations myself but I wonder if I could get a hold of them. Anyone know how to go about doing that?

(1) Dad was heading up the Corsair Squadron known as the Checkerboarders, which is still commissioned today. His plane got pretty shot up in a real dog-fight and his engine was on fire, with oil covering the window cap of the plane. I asked him if he had a parachute and he said yes. I asked him if he used it. He asked me why he would jump out of a perfectly good airplane. “What did you do?” I asked. He described the landing amidst cliffs jutting out every couple of hundred yards across a beach in North Korea (you can find this on Google Maps. Going deadly slow, he popped the plane up just before a cliff and came down hard on the beach on the other side before smashing into the next cliff. I said that the prop is too big, and would do the egg-beater thing and the plane would flip. He admitted that that’s what happened. “But how did you get back to safety. The North Koreans would be sending people to capture you.” And then he said something with such matter-of-factness which told me everything I needed to know about him and the Marines and what trust and loyalty that had for each other. Totally inspiring:

“Well… (exasperated sigh at my unknowingness)… My own guys picked me up, of course.”

Absolute trust. I gotta well imagine that the conversation before crashing out was awesome, much like the recording above. I am inspired.

(2) The next downing a plane piloted by dad, also a corsair, was accomplished by a student of his, at what is now Andrews Joint Base just South of Washington DC, where dad was doing the TOP GUN thing before it became a thing, teaching guys how to fly while he also did up his JAG at the-back-in-the-day Georgetown University. The student came out of an overly too quick and wide barrel roll, trying to show off, right on top of my dad’s right wing, actually breaking about a quarter of his wing right off the plane. I asked him if he had a parachute. He indicated he did. I asked if he jumped out of the plane. He asked why he would jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Then he explained that he had hold the stick over with all his might, since if he didn’t, the plane, already flying at an extreme sideways angle, would immediately go into such a violent spin that if he tried to get out he would be instantly smacked into nothing by the then spinning wings. Every resource of the airport emergency services were dispatched, fire engines, ambulances, the lot, but they were amazed to watch this best ever pilot land first on the one wing tip, then the wing tip and it’s accompanying wheel, then both wheels and the back of the plane. I can only imagine the cursing and praising going on at the same time among all at that airport. Oh… And this goes to speak of how much my dad was looked up to by his students. The barrel-roll guy who knocked the wing off his plane asked him if he would be his own Judge Advocate General, but dad told me that he had to tell the guy that it would be a…. wait for it… a conflict of interest!

I wish I could get the recordings from the tower for this one too.

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Revisiting dad’s Hold-my-beer! medals: Expert needed. Redundant or more?!

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Congressman Mark Meadows and the great Ms Elliott were instrumental in getting these medals of my dad, George Byers Jr., sent to me after decades of impasse. I thank them for this kind gesture. Those above are from the Department of the Navy and more particularly the USMC. Dad flew bombers and then flew Fighter Attack for and was commander of the Checkerboarders.

The first one above is the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, above the Silver Star and one time just below the Medal of Honor. He got it twice.

I stand to be corrected, but I’m thinking that his stint in the Army got him a third Distinguished Flying Cross. See the star on the medal above and the third below.

I’m happy that he didn’t get any second or third battle-awarded Purple Heart. One is too much.

Then there are a few more from the infant U.N., from the Philippines and Korea:

I had thought that that was the whole of it. And then some months later a shipment came in from the U.S. Army. I’m finally only now realizing that it may be that none of these medals below are redundant. That would mean he got the Distinguished Flying Cross a third time plus the Air Medal five times over. He had told me way back in the mid 1970s that he had also been asked to do up the air campaign in Vietnam, though he later headed back to Andrews just outside of Washington, D.C. to do his JAG training at Georgetown and, meanwhile, train the guys how to fly.

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So, a stint in the Army after the Marines. When he got stateside he joined the National Guard until he was in his fifties. I mean, can you even fit those on a dress uniform?

I would love to get the backstory for this DFC. The other citation accounts are awesome.

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USMC VMB 611: Japan Surrenders. Minoru Wada & George Byers Jr

  • LITTLE BOY: On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a 13 kiloton uranium bomb on Hiroshima. The decision had been made on August 4. No surrender from Japan.
  • FAT MAN: On August 9, 1945, the United States dropped a 21 kiloton plutonium bomb on Nagasaki. The decision had been made August 7. No surrender from Japan.
  • The purpose of the second bomb was to get across the idea that there was an endless supply of bombs. The bombs were, however, vastly different one from the other. That’s weird… Since no other bomb followed a three day pattern, so, by the 12th, it might well have been hypothesized that there were only two bombs of such enormity. Japan was willing to call the bluff, as it were.

For scale, note the mountainous coastline at the bottom of the picture.

Sure, it was all entirely devastating. But however important Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, I wonder if they were necessarily decisive as everyone says they were. Whatever about any military industry that was there, those two cities were civilian soft targets. Japan could still congratulate itself as to somehow imagine that they were winning, or should be and could be winning in the bigger picture, say, in the Philippines, regardless of losing important battles in the past there as well. Japan did not surrender in the days following the second bomb, and the days would drag on. They would not surrender until August 14, 1945, fully five days after the second bomb with obviously no third bomb falling. I’m guessing there had to be something else to push the decision besides any taunting from the USA.

News would finally come of what might be called a third bomb, that is, what happened in the Philippines on August 10, just one day after the second bomb. This news of a “third bomb”, though nothing nuclear, would have been strategically the end of any hope of victory for the entire war. This “third bomb” did not involve any massive battle and was not hard fought. It was ridiculously insignificant compared to Little Boy and Fat Man. But what the USMC had done in the Philippines on August 10, 1945, heralded the end of Japanese aggression in the Philippines and decisively ended any possible hope of their continuing with their aggression. When they heard the news, they would have to surrender, and they did.

So, what is it that happened in the Philippines? Glad you asked. It’s a story in pictures. Here’s an original newspaper story that my dad had specially framed up. You can find others copies online. This is the actual newspaper:

Sometime before the dropping of Little Boy and Fat Man, the Imperial Japanese Army Officer Lieutenant Minoru Wada was captured by the USMC on Mindanao of the Philippines. He’s an American born Japanese fellow, who, as was the practice at the time, grew up and went to school in Japan. He was American, but was taken into the Japanese Army as the Japanese aggression began. He betrayed Japan, although with the best of intentions, so as to lower casualties in Japan by ending all hope for Japanese victory in the Philippines, and thus ending all hope for Japan to be victorious in their overall war of aggression, forcing their immediate surrender. Army General Douglas MacArthur had long stated that the Philippines were absolutely strategically necessary for Japan.

Minoru Wada might well have been told of the intransigence of Japan in the face of Little Boy and then, as the mission dependent on his betrayal was being readied, he might have well been told of the dropping of Fat Man without any reaction from Japan. The pressure must have set him to shaking quite literally. This betrayal, surely saving even millions of lives, would bring Japan to give up. This was not a betrayal then, at all. He did the right thing for humanity. There was zero loss of life on the American side. All they did was to take out the well hidden headquarters of the Imperial Japanese 100th Division and their communications center, ending effective Japanese military action. Four days later, Japan did indeed surrender.

Now, I suppose I’ll get blasted for saying such an outlandish thing. The events of Little Boy and Fat Man over against this little operation in Mindanao are incomparable. Yes, but the Japanese military machine seemed to be calling the “bluff”, if you will, of two bombs so different from each other and therefore likely being unique in production and not at all exemplars for an unlimited supply of similar nuclear bombs. The arguments among the top brass must have been intense, with anything else that might happen being that which would lead them to surrender. They were risking so very much. The loss of the effective control of the Philippines was simply too much to bear in the wake of Little Boy and Fat Man.

Odd thing about Minoru Wada, he had worked closely with my dad, George Byers Jr, who was flying for the USMC VMB 611 at the time in the Philippines, on Mindanao. My dad is to be seen in the upper left of the bottom group of four pictures in the newspaper story above. In that picture he is the one in the lower right (the back of his head, but unmistakable to me, his son!). Dad totally respected integrity and honesty, and what he saw in Minoru Wada would have captured his imagination. He put the original photos of Minoru Wada in frames and hung them up around the house, including the original newspaper story (the actual newspaper). Dad pointed out to me as a little kid the bomber with the “stick” of bombs falling. So, I gotta wonder who the pilot of that particular PBJ-1 seen out the window is. These pictures are from our family home back in the day…

Dad was just 21 years old in 1945. Here’s a picture of him with the typical aircraft of the VMB 611, that is, the North American PBJ-1 (either “D” or, probably “J”) medium bomber airplane which sported twelve to thirteen .50 caliber machine guns, and carried bombs, depth charges, 5-inch rockets, or an aerial torpedo:

Placing him in the Philippines at the time is a citation he received for an Air Medal. I only just happened to get this just the other day. Yikes!

And the Air Medal with the numeral 5 for that citation:

The Air Medal for numbers of missions surprises me. I’m guessing he’s done hundreds over the many years. Antiaircraft fire is nasty for sure. He’s becoming a decorated member of his squadron at the same time as Minoru Wada is captured and brought on side. I’m sure dad’s meeting up with Minoru Wada was very formative of his own character for the rest of his time in the military, which was to be a long time indeed. Minoru Wada’s name was changed for him. It is unknown if he is still alive. If he is, I would like to thank him for what he did.

One of the last things VMB 611 did was to accompany (for navigation purposes) F4U Corsairs to Shanghai, China. The VMB 611 was shutting down, and dad joined up with the occupying forces in China (getting another medal for that), and then went on to head up the Checkerboard squadron in Japan and Korea, with the medals piling up as he went along.

The abundance of medals, I’m told, is most extraordinary, as in those later years the flow of medals slowed down to almost nothing.

What have I learned from dad? Just be faithful to what you need to do in the circumstances right before you, step by step. Just do it. Do it fiercely. No apologies. No compromise. Ever.

This is never easy. But do it. Not everyone is given over to doing things right. The VMB 611 had an extremely rocky start. Horrible. Like hell. It seems with people doing what they shouldn’t be doing. Putting hundreds of our own at risk. Horrible. Horrible. I’m hoping my dad missed all that. I don’t know. Finally they got established, did what they needed to do – thanks Minoru – thanks dad – lots of great crew and pilots – and just that quick they were disbanded. Take the opportunity to be faithful while you have it. In this case, they were there to do a simple flight that would assist Japan to surrender forthwith, saving millions of lives. And I’m sure that was by far the easiest flight any of them had ever done in their careers. Easy or difficult doesn’t matter. Just be faithful. Always. Do it fiercely. No apologies. No compromise. Ever.

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George Byers Jr, USMC and Army

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I mentioned that I got a treasure trove of stuff about dad the other day, and this after Mark Meadows and Beverly Elliott were able to get the list of medals and the medals themselves (which I had been unable to do for decades) from the Navy’s Archives in Tennessee. That treasure trove I received just the other day instead included three of the four citations for the medals received above the Purple Heart, which he also received. More on those later. Just. Wow. One of the citations describes an action which may have helped bring a faster end to WWII in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, trying to take that in, today, out of the blue, FedEx dropped off another package full of medals, this time from what was known of his entire service, though from the perspective of what’s in the archives of the U.S. Army, which he made a career of after his career with the USMC. This is a lesson in archive work. The package came in from TACOM, but not in Detroit, instead in Philadelphia. The medals were personalized with his name inscribed. Very nice. Thank you to whoever is behind this. Very kind. There were extra bits I didn’t have about marksmanship and such. And there was another medal which I didn’t know he had, this time: Vietnam. There’s a remaining mystery in the theater of Europe-Africa-Middle East.

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Dad at SCOTUS

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The “Day Off” was a big day this past week. I can’t talk about almost any of it, but what I can say is that I came into rightful possession, finally, of some of my mom and dad’s stuff. The last I had seen of it was deep into the previous century.

There’s lot’s of framed documents still in their original framing and glass. The one above goes back to 1960. These include some of the actual citations for some of the higher military achievements. Those were framed up in the 1940s and 1950s. More on those later. I’ll have to talk to “The Hog” about those.

As far as the huge document above, this is dad’s accreditation as an Attorney to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. I think the embossed seal on the lower left might have been gilded back on June 6, 1960 when the document was signed (a few months after I was born). I remember this on the walls of his law offices as a little kid.

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  • I like how the 13 stars in the seal make up a certain star…
  • I like how the decree is dated unapologetically “in the year of our Lord…”

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