Tag Archives: USMC

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”:

purple heart

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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“I’ll get ‘The Hog,'” said I. Of Snipers and Fishermen.

One of our fishermen in the parish, who takes care of the fisheries, that is, gave me his pellet rifle the other day complaining that the scope was off a bit, and therefore he could no longer successfully shoo away, as it were, the kingfishers, who eat enormous quantities of fish, the crows, who only eat the eyes of the fish and leave the rest, and the blue heron, for which he has a special permit. He knows nothing about zeroing in scopes. Neither do it. I might know something about Glocks, but that’s it. “I’ll get ‘The Hog,'” said I.

“The Hog” wears a “Hog’s Tooth” on paracord around his neck. A “Hog’s Tooth” is a 7.62x 51mm NATO round usually shot out of the M40A6, he being a Marine Sniper with plenty of confirmed kills. He lives just down the street. He was happy to take the pellet rifle for such a good end to zero it in. He did it right away, and it works great says the fisherman.

Meanwhile, “The Hog” and I got to talking, and the conversation came around to my dad, as it does when speaking of all things USMC. Being a history buff, he wanted to have a look-see at dad’s medals list and the actual medals that Mark Meadows and the great Beverly were able to obtain for me (after decades of no success with just me trying).

And that brings me to today…

  • Today, June 11, is the anniversary of the slaying of Father Kenneth Walker. But, more on that later.
  • Today, June 11, is the anniversary of the death of my dad. But, more on that later.

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“You’re a ‘hotbox’, Father George!”

zero dark thirty hotbox torture

Enhanced interrogation can include the hotbox, which you can see pictured above on the right. The front side flips down and the person is crammed inside in a fetal position for a day or two. Really, really, really horrible. The hotbox itself doesn’t do anything, but certainly attracts the attention of the one inside of it, others having done that.

There are many definitions of hotbox, some related to growing cannabis, some to enhanced interrogation, some to solitary confinement, etc. However, in prison, a ‘hotbox’ is a prisoner who is constantly being surveilled, that is, more than others. For some reason or other or none, he’s got the attention of the powers that be, with the guards and administration always in his face. It’s not that he’s done anything wrong. It just is what it is. Entertainment. Perhaps a psychology module for continuing education.

Today I protested to Father Gordon that he might be more blacklisted than he already is if he’s associated with me, even though I’ve never met him, and only do some logistical things for him. He dismissed that, laughing, saying the worst of what he thought of me, which, he being good and kind, isn’t bad at all. He said: “You’re a ‘hotbox’, Father George!” After he explained what that meant, I protested: “I didn’t do anything!” He said, laughing again: “That’s what they all say!”

Ha ha ha.

If there’s supposed to be something annoying about being a ‘hotbox’ I haven’t noticed. I mean, if it’s not one thing then it’s another in life, right? If anything, it makes life interesting. Oh, that’s right. That’s some sort of Chinese curse, you know, to have an interesting life! I always thought it was fun. Make me the ‘hotbox’! Make me the ‘hotbox’! Me! Me!

I always did like extreme sports, doing things others avoid. It’s a No Fear! thing.

Be careful what you wish for.

How Kryptic can one be?

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Top Gun: The Rest of the Story

Live and learn, right? But maybe it’s taken all these years to learn a lesson about military funding. Trump’s got it right. Here’s why:

At the end of any war there is a push by politicians who have no military background to cut military funding down to just about nothing, as if no other war would ever take place.

What happens is that training goes to hell and no one knows how to do anything anymore. No more tactics. No more talent. An entirely vulnerable nation. But it’s like clockwork. Politicians play on the heresy of false optimism, that we’ve saved ourselves because we played out some fearfully effective strikes in the last war, yesterday. So, now it’s all good. We don’t need funding. Let’s spend money on pork projects for my constituents. Then, for just a few individuals, literally, the entire nation is put at risk.

After WW2, and then, “after” the Korean conflict (which Trump will hopefully now bring to an effective and formal close), back in the 1950s, pretty much the entire budget for pilot training was slashed to nothing, that is, just when the first jets were coming out.

My dad, commander of the famed Checkerboard fighter attack squadron out of the Marine Corps Air Station (Merritt Field) of Beaufort, SC, just up from Parris Island, came back from his ten years in the South and then North Pacific Corsair flying (VMFA-312) so as to teach the guys how to fly at Andrews just South of D.C. while he was put through JAG school at Georgetown University. After this, he went to Chicago to continue to teach a new generation of fighter pilots.

But that’s when the funding was cut. He knew how to fly by instinct and could handle the new jets, but his students couldn’t learn the instinct because there was no funding except for just a practice flight here, maybe again later, there. Nothing really. They had to think about flying the planes. Not good enough. They flew the planes literally straight into the ground.

My dad complained ferociously about the need for more funding for more flights. Denied. Again and again. More deaths of the best of the best.

And that was it for him. He wasn’t going to kill off an entire generation of pilots just because some self-congratulatory politicians thought they could please a few pork recipients.

So, dad took a cut in rank, left the Department of the Navy, moved to Minnesota to be a civil lawyer and politician himself, meanwhile joining the National Guard for something like another 20 years. But his heart was still with flying for the USMC. He would often bring me to airfields, and sometimes was able to commandeer a fighter to buzz over the rooftops of our local city where he was mayor. Why? Because his heart was still with the guys who were flying their planes straight into the ground because there was no funding for pilot training in the hippie days of the early-mid 1960s. Guys thought they could fly. They knew nothing. They were taken out with great ease by the enemy. We had now lost everything. Tactics. The whole lot. Gone.

Finally, with enough dead, people woke up. Top Gun school was created. Now, looking back, we all wish the Top Gun of Top Guns would have been heard. But at the time, all that could be heard was the ♬ kaching ♬ of greed. I, for one, am happy for the renewed military spending, and that, finally, finally, we are taking a look at the plight of our pilots.

Here’s dad, George Byers Jr, getting out of one of the planes he so loved to fly:

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AT: USMC and engineers are the worst

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This view, which I’ve often put up on this blog, is directly on the path of the AT (Appalachian Trail). Jesus and I pass this way frequently on Communion Calls.

At one stop at the Hike Inn, having a chat with the owner, I was told that Marines and engineers are the absolute worst for hiking the AT.

  • Engineers are persnickety and think they can make just one more nook or cranny in their massively huge backpacks so that they can actually carry the kitchen sink with them. You could never fit their backpacks into a small SUV. What are they thinking? Too smart for their own good. They make a few miles and are worn out. They don’t calculate the human factor.
  • Marines are, of course, stuck on 80 pound packs. As long as it is 80 pounds they’ll be just fine. Going 25 miles in one day with 80 pounds is one thing, for one day. But when you’re facing 2,200 miles, that’s another thing altogether. Again, they don’t calculate the human factor. Anything is easier than war, right? Even civilians do this trail thing, right? But then…

In the picture above, I count about 25 ridges over the space of about as many miles. This is not easy. But am I recommending to count the cost before you start? No, not at all. If you knew what it might just cost you before you start you might not even begin. Rather, the old saying about preparing for the worst fits well, but kind of in reverse. Instead of packing more, you pack as little as possible.

The analogy to the spiritual life is easy. Purity of heart and agility of soul, having as little baggage as possible, having one’s eyes on goal, taking up the cross but following Jesus, keeping one’s eyes on Him, that’s what makes it all possible. But maybe we think we can get away with carrying extra rubbish, like the USMC or engineer guys that the nice lady at the Hike Inn meets all the time, you know, because we know how to congratulate ourselves, allowing ourselves to get away with this and that and the other thing. But then the fatigue of the first day on the trail hits us, and then we fall by the way side.

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Shaw Air Force Base Air Expo 2016: LOL – “Just eat bananas!”

O.K. Wow. That’s just crazy insane. I love it. Great editing. Family memories and all. My neighbor in Transylvania county went to the air show the other day and sent me this video. Note that some of the planes have a bit of checkerboard in the tail. My dad headed did the Major thing for the Checkerboard squadron of the USMC in Korea. Glad to see even the corsairs are in the air. Very cool. This video set me to laughing out load for quite a while. These guys are crazy sick out of their minds, some of the best pilots in the world. Love to see it. Less editing here. Here’s an F-4U  like my dad’s (who flew the Pacific from 1943-1953). It’s the gullwing, you know, leading from behind. The Corsairs were the fastest plane around, including the first jets:

Precisely, he flew the F4U-5N for the VMFA-312 [Vaught Marine Fighter Attack Squadron], called the Checkerboarders. I asked dad what the tail code was: “Willey Roger” he said.

corsair vmfa 312 USMC Korea

More crazy wild from the air show in the video below. A close friend has been doing the avionics on these birds, besides his love for pyrotechnics and EOD insanity. I don’t know why, but this stuff makes me laugh out loud, raucously. I suppose for nostalgia.

The advice is to just eat bananas when you go along for a ride, the reason being that bananas are the only thing tasting the same going down as when they come right back up.

Perhaps this all made me laugh so hard because I’m taking it as a sign that perhaps things will change for the better come next January 19, 2017. Perhaps, perhaps. We pray.

I’m getting too nostalgic. In the picture below, I’m guessing that’s my dad to the immediately left of the prop standing on deck with his back to you, with his double-cowlick halfway up his head. This is on the USS Bataan in the Spring of 1952.

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Just a thought: Beaufort, SC, at Marine Corps Air Station (Fightertown [East]) home of today’s Checkerboarders with their F-18s, are only 5 hours, 43 minutes away from my parish. I never ever got a chance to be in a fighter piloted by my dad. I wonder, I just wonder if it would be possible for a son of a one time war-time commander of the checkerboarders to get a ride… That’s a far cry from me being any kind of VIP, but, you know, hey! It’s worth a try, right? Any ideas? I promise not to eat anything beforehand, not even bananas. Trouble is, the USMC only have the F-18C, which, unlike the B and D, has no VIP seat. Also, they have only a few which are flight worthy, as they been cannibalizing even the new planes for parts. Too sad, that…

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