Tag Archives: George Byers Jr

Dad’s Citations: Distinguished Flying Crosses “Heroism and Extraordinary Achievement” x 2 (and Purple Heart)

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And then, three months later:

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The Distinguished Flying Cross, after 1942, is ranked two steps above the Bronze Star. The two Citations are for both “heroism” and “extraordinary achievement.” Sometimes ribboned medals have a “V” device for “Valor”, synonymous with heroism. I’ve seen military sites which distinguish separated reasons for receiving the DFC, so that one receives the DFC for either “extraordinary achievement” or for “heroism”. In that case, one would think that one would receive the “V” device for “Valor” if issued in the case of heroism, or, as in the two citations above, for both simultaneously. But that’s not the case. Instead, if I’m not mistaken, the DFC is always and only issued when heroism, valor, is indicated along with extraordinary achievement.

I gotta wonder if the reference in the first Citation on September 6, 1951 to “intense and accurate hostile ground fire which damaged his plane” is the occasion for the Purple Heart which dad also received. I’ve no citation for that (not yet found anyway), just a copy of the official listed record and the medals. I do remember him describing the extensive damage to his plane from getting shot at in a certain battle.

He said that he had to crash his plane. If this battle was the occasion, it means that “despite” having received that ground fire, he kept on flying and destroying tanks and strafing enemy troops, that is, after he sent the rest of his pilots onwards. His Checkerboard F4U Corsair would have had fully six fifty cals in the wings. I can only imagine that this a smallish version of “The Highway of Death”:

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I had asked dad how he escaped back to base after he crashed. Stupid me. His own Marines, he said, saved him. Of course. Not just a band of brothers, but they would have been particularly immediately thankful for his having singlehandedly saved their backsides. He might have been damaged in his own backside on that occasion, not only from the hostile guns aiming at him, but from the crash itself. In looking at the date for the second DFC, December 29 of the same year, it means he was back flying in no time.

  • Is it a Patriotic to make such reviews? Sure.
  • Is it a son who honors his father? Certainly.

Is it also me trying to understand better the decades I had with my father (33 years together)? Absolutely. Knowing some of the situations that he was in, and how very many he killed in battle, seeing those soldiers right in front of him being ripped in half by his fifty cal low pass strafings would take their toll regardless if they were they enemy shooting (successfully) at him. That’s something you carry.

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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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Patriotism: I’m overwhelmed

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The great Beverly Elliott at Congressman Mark Meadows field office in Murphy NC was able to nudge the Navy guys in Millington TN sufficiently that dad’s list of medals and then the medals themselves were provided. I had been unsuccessful for decades, but she was able to do this straightaway. Ms Elliott didn’t like just giving them to me, so she offered to get hold of a guy in Waynesville NC who makes shadow boxes for medals of decorated veterans pro-bono, and then said that she’ll try to get Mark over so that these could be presented a bit more officially. I love that. Dad, post-mortem, will be able to encourage a bit of patriotism in these USA. We need that always and especially today.

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I tried to place the medals in order of precedence. Note the double issuance of the first two medals as signified by the stars on the ribbons, and the triple issuance of the last medal as signified by the two stars on the ribbon of that medal. I’ve written of the first three medals in generalities:

Ms Elliott said that she’s going to try to get the stories of the particular circumstances for the issuance of the first number of medals as recommended by the POTUS of the day.

The above medals are issued by these USA. There are three other medals issued by the Philippines, Korea and even the United Nations – Hey! – the back-in-the-day-U.N.!

 

Patriotism is a virtue of the natural law and is blessed by God. Speaking of God, my best memory of dad is when I was only a few years old and was able to walk up the aisle of the Cathedral church to kneel at the linen-covered altar rail with him at Communion time. I’ve written of this before:

My favorite memory of him was back in the Autumn of 1962, when I was just 2 1/2 years old. I’d walk up in the Communion line next to him with the rest of the family behind us. This was at the Cathedral with its 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.

Why mention that in this post on the medals of a highly decorated war hero? Because here we have a warrior on his knees, in reverence, before The Warrior, Jesus, in the epic battle of good over evil, God over Satan. And dad is with Jesus. I love that.

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Dad’s medals Distinguished Flying Cross Fascinating title for the propeller

George Byers Jr Distinguished Flying Cross 1

And then the Gold Star, that is, for the USMC, a device indicating the second reception of the DFC:

George Byers Jr Distinguished Flying Cross 2

That’s all I have for this one, with the Navy Personnel Command in Millington TN only sending a box checked next to the title and noting the Gold Star. I wish I knew more about the particularities. As both notifications say at the Hall of Valor Project, “Citation Needed”. I’m thinking that the citations are classified, the reason for extra-effort to write a “synopsis.”

I remember that as a little boy, dad explained that this was the Distinguished Flying Cross, a propeller over a cross. To me, this was stunning, an intersection of society and religion, of military service and religion, the highest form of honor that could be given to a war-award, thought I, that which recalled the the epic battle of heaven over against hell, of Jesus over against the forces of evil, recalling that this battle was that of the greatest love, laying down one’s life for one’s friends, the greatest form of patriotism. “What’s the Gold Star?” I asked. “For receiving it twice,” he said. “Twice” thought I, in awe.

I would then grab a plastic model of the Corsair dad flew, and run about inside the house and out, pretending to be the pilot in battle, and inspired.

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Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312, the Checkerboarders, callsign “Check!” Note that the model above depicts the final, most powerful version of the plane that could out-fly all the early jets to follow.

Note the three holes on the front edge of both wings, making for fully six 50 cals that could run at the same time, a kind of precursor to the A-10 “Warthog” that, to date, still surpasses the rate of fire of the Warthog.

  • Today’s A-10 “Warthog” can belt out seventy rounds a second from its single 50 cal gatling gun.
  • The later, Korean war version of the Corsair, fitted with fully six AN/M2 Browning 50 cals could, in theory, put out a maximum of eighty five rounds a second.

Actually, anything faster than this simply is no longer useful and such a waste of ammo, which already weighs way too much.

The missiles, dad explained, were used for the usual sorties of taking out munitions trains and bridges.

During such excursions, he said that he would be flying in “North” Korea just above the ground, over rice paddies, and that the farmers would look up at him as he flew just overhead. He said he could see the faces of women and children, and that that’s what inspired him to serve and put himself at risk. It was all for them. They deserved better than horrific communism which was dragging them down and which threatened to drag us down. If you want to know what “down” is, try the hell-hole of Venezuela right now, or, still to this day, “North” Korea as opposed to “South” Korea.

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Dad’s medals: honor of circumstances – U.S. Navy Distinguished Service Medal

US Navy Distinguished Service Medal“The Navy Distinguished Service Medal was originally senior to the Navy Cross [just below the Medal of Honor], until August 1942 when the precedence of the two decorations was reversed. Currently [dad’s time], it is worn after the Defense Distinguished Service Medal [after the Navy Cross] and before the Silver Star Medal.”

“The Navy Distinguished Service Medal is bestowed upon members of the Navy or Marine Corps who distinguish themselves by exceptionally meritorious service to the United States government in a duty of great responsibility. To justify this decoration, exceptional performance of duty must be clearly above that normally expected, and contributes to the success of a major command or project. Generally, the Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to officers in principal commands at sea, or in the field, whose service is of a manner to justify the award. However, this does not preclude the award of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to any individual who meets the service requirements. The term “great responsibility” implies senior military responsibility, and the decoration is normally only bestowed to senior Navy flag officers and Marine Corps general officers, or extremely senior enlisted positions such as the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy or the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. In rare instances, it has also been awarded to Navy captains and Marine Corps colonels, typically those in positions of significant responsibility in direct support of senior flag and general officers, and then only by exception.”

This is “and only then by exception” presentation, twice.

Dad was USMC, but that’s still part of the Department of the Navy, and at this level, the award is from the Navy. I don’t have the citation for the description of the “great responsibility” in its particularities of circumstance – just the fact of it from the archives in Millington, TN.

Here’s the deal: Even though there are particularities of circumstance that point to the actions of one particular individual, any medal, this one in particular, is dependent on the the brotherhood in which one finds oneself, that brotherhood setting up the structure, the circumstances in which any one guy might well shine, just doing what he had to do in all those unrepeatable particularities. Thus, even for the Medal of Honor, the guy receiving it unfailingly says that he’s receiving the medal for everyone who was there, as they were all depending on one another, and if they happened to be singled out in a particular nanosecond to do the necessary, that’s where the always repeated statement comes in: “I only did what any one of the guys would do.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not reducing all medals to “participation awards” that dumb down competition and a striving for excellence among our youngsters in our now ultra-liberal NEA public schools. Just the opposite. For guys in battle, a medal like this, whoever wears it later, speaks for all, inviting one to be put before that which is much bigger than any individual, a common love of God and Country, Pro Deo et Patria.

And yet, an account of what actually took place in all the unrepeatable historical circumstances is inspiring. We’re not just souls, but we also have bodies in particular places. To see what someone else has gone through when put before a decision of honor is surely inspiring. I wish I could get my hands on the accounts for the medals…

 

 

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Dad the hero: I don’t know the half of it Thanks NC Rep Mark Meadows & Bev!

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I’ve never met the Honorable Mark Meadows or Beverly, but they are now family as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been trying to get something about dad’s wartime years for decades, it all having disappeared in the vicissitudes of life. No one could get anything, not even friends of friends working the archives. But Rep. Meadows and Bev were successful. The first notification, the listing of medals, came in just now. I hope there is more available. Obviously, I don’t know the half of it. My patriotism is confirmed again.

I am overwhelmed. This is all quite the revelation to me. I’d like to write some posts about those medals against the backdrop of the man I knew as dad. But below is just my first overall reaction to my dad, the hero. He didn’t get the Medal of Honor, but on multiple other occasions he almost did with another four medals just below the Medal of Honor a couple of which are exceedingly rare for field officers who are not Generals. He didn’t get a medal for a record number of planes shot down as a fighter-attack pilot, but some of the missions he was given were obviously freakishly important, with the success of some part of the war effort, in no small part, riding on whether he would be successful. He got a Battle-Wounded Purple Heart. And, I only find out now, he was also in the Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign. I had thought he was all Pacific based. What special mission did they spirit him away to do way outside of his normal theater of operations, and then back again?

Part I: the spirituality of integrity, of being a hero

  • On the one hand, my dad wasn’t perfect. I know that. I’ve seen him at his worst. I’m his son. Have any of us seen ourselves at our own worst, admitting that, dealing with it, coming around, being the best because of depending on our Lord, because of knowing we can’t depend on ourselves?
  • So, on the other hand, I’ve also seen dad at his best, when he learned, successfully, to depend only on our Lord. He’s always been the hero in my eyes because of victory in his personal life. In that way, he’s my example of integrity. I still remember going to the 1962 Mass with him in the early 1960s: he would smack his heart with his fist at the Confiteor: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Part II: The instruction about my dad, the hero

Top Brass and politicians were often over to my dad’s house, George Byers Jr. There I would be, the little boy naive to the warring ways of the world. More times than I can count, they would take me aside, have me sit down, and have “The Talk” with me. “The Talk” consisted of seriously looking me in the eye and then, when I was paying serious attention, they would instruct me about my dad being a great hero, that there were a lot of things which for a thousand reasons could not be told, but I had to know that my dad was a great, great hero, and that it was an honor for me to be his son.

This one or that would write a book. This one or that would recount war stories. But they would never ask my dad for the same. They already knew his story as these things get around by witnesses who survived to tell the tale. They knew he could never say a word with any non-combatant like me around, little boy that I was.

What I don’t have…

While the generic description of why any medal is what it is is widely available, there is also a story recounted for specific medals given to specific individuals for specific actions, especially ones which are recommended only by the President of these USA. I don’t have the stories. I wish I did…

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Nostalgia: VMFA 312 Checkerboarders

george-byers-jr-usmc-corsairI sometimes get nostalgic when I’m not feeling well. Yesterday, in the minutes it takes to get back from Graham County to Cherokee County, my right eye swelled shut for who knows what reason, although it looks like I was in a fight. If I had gone to the emergency room (I wouldn’t!) they might have been tempted to call the LEOs who would ask what really happened. I would just say, “I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, the face being what it was, I had a moment to be nostalgic and so looked up a phrase involving Pappy Boyington and my dad’s name just on a lark. Hah! Another picture of my dad perhaps in his early-twenties. A bit after this picture, he would end up in another USMC Fighter Attack squadron, the VMFA 312, the famed Checkerboarders, which was the squadron used to portray Pappy in the series Bah Bah Blacksheep, though my dad headed up the Checkerboarders and was later in command of one of the bases in Japan. Dad died back in 1993 with all the sacraments. So very important. I really have to wonder if he and Pappy ran into each other. Dad could put back some liquor at the time and be a bit boisterous and be a bit of a troublemaker, just like Pappy. Maybe they were too much like each other and so had to be in different squadrons as far apart in the Pacific as possible.

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