WAR STORIES


   Open Arms*****Always wants to keep history alive in the stories that our vets bring home. Please share YOUR memories with us, and we will post them here. You can pass them to us at Open Arms History.


    Thanks to our Vets! as verified by Snopes

   Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Viet Nam, other than he had been shot by a sniper. However, he had a rather grainy, 8 x 10 black and white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann Margret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.
   A few years ago, Ann Margaret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to Sign the treasured photo so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o'clock for the 7:30 signing.
   When I got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot, and disappeared behind a parking garage. Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted.
   Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those shows meant to lonely GI's so far from home.. Ann Margaret came out looking as beautiful as ever and, as second in line, it was soon Richard's turn.
   He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo. When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she would not sign it. Richard said, "I understand. I just wanted her to see it."
   She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, "This is one of my gentlemen from Viet Nam and I most certainly will sign his photo. I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for 'my gentlemen.'' With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him. She then made quite a to-do about the bravery of the young men she met over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them. There weren't too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear. She then posed for pictures and acted as if he were the only one there.
   That night was a turning point for him. He walked a little straighter and, for the first time in years, was proud to have been a Vet. I'll never forget Ann Margaret for her graciousness and how much that small act of kindness meant to my husband.
    Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet. When I asked if he'd like to talk about it, my big, strong husband broke down in tears.. ''That's the first time anyone ever thanked me for my time in the Army,'' he said.
   I now make it a point to say 'Thank you' to every person I come across who served in our Armed Forces. Freedom does not come cheap and I am grateful for all those who have served their country.


"My dad was with the Army Corps of Engineers, and built airstrips in England and France during WWII. His favorite story comes from the D-Day campaign. He and his engineers group came ashore after it was taken and secured to get the runways established, and spent many weeks there. At one point, their cook (or quartermaster?) took a launch out to the supply ships off shore, and tried to get some better food for the engineers. “Look,” he told the guy in charge, “You are stuck out here offshore of the greatest battle of the war, possibly of all wars. You’ll have nothing to show your grandkids you were at Normandy.” Half an hour later, my dad’s group had a side of beef, and the supply chief had a footlocker of Normandy beach sand to take home when the war was over." ~ Andy Bartmess


   The story of Guadalcanal ......and one of our nation's finest!

On Nov. 15, 2003, an 85-year-old retired Marine Corps Colonel died of congestive heart failure at his home in La Quinta, Calif., southeast of Palm Springs. He was a combat veteran of World War II. Reason enough to honor him. But this Marine was a little different. This Marine was Mitchell Paige.
It's hard today to envision -- or, for the dwindling few, to remember -- what the world looked like on 26 Oct 1942.
   The U.S. Navy was not the most powerful fighting force in the Pacific. Not by a long shot. So the Navy basically dumped a few thousand Marines on the beach at Guadalcanal.
   As Platoon Sgt. Mitchell Paige and his 33 riflemen set about carefully emplacing their four water-cooled .30-caliber Browning machine guns, manning their section of the thin khaki line which was expected to defend Henderson Field against the assault of the night of 25 Oct 1942, it's unlikely anyone thought they were about to provide the definitive answer to that most desperate of questions: How many able-bodied U.S. Marines does it take to hold a hill against 2,000 desperate and motivated Japanese attackers?
    Nor did the commanders of the Japanese Army, who had swept everything before them for decades, expect their advance to be halted on some jungle ridge manned by one thin line of Marines in October of 1942. But by the time the night was over, The Japanese 29th Infantry Regiment has lost 553 killed or missing and 479 wounded among its 2,554 men, historian David Lippman reports. The Japanese 16th Regiment's losses are uncounted, but the [US] 164th's burial parties handled 975 Japanese bodies. ... The American estimate of 2,200 Japanese dead is probably too low.
   Among the 90 American dead and seriously wounded that night were all the men in Mitchell Paige's platoon; every one. As the night of endless attacks wore on, Paige moved up and down his line, pulling his dead and wounded comrades back into their foxholes and firing a few bursts from each of the four Brownings in turn, convincing the Japanese forces down the hill that the positions were still manned.
   The citation for Paige's Medal of Honor Citation defines the event: "When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machinegun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire."
    In the end, Sgt. Paige picked up the last of the 40-pound, belt-fed Brownings (the same design which John M. Browning fired for a continuous 25 minutes until it ran out of ammunition, glowing cherry red, at its first U.S. Army demonstration) and did something for which the weapon was never designed. Sgt. Paige walked down the hill toward the place where he could hear the last Japanese survivors rallying to move around his flank, the belt-fed gun cradled under his arm, firing as he went. The weapon did not fail.
    At dawn, battalion executive officer Major Odell M. Conoley was first to discover the answer to our question: How many able-bodied Marines does it take to hold a hill against two regiments of motivated, combat-hardened Japanese infantrymen who have never known defeat?
    On a hill where the bodies were piled like cordwood, Mitchell Paige alone at upright behind his 30-caliber Browning, waiting to see what the dawn would bring. But "In the early morning light, the enemy could be seen a few yards off, and vapor from the barrels of their machine guns was clearly visible," reports historian Lippman. "It was decided to try to rush the position."
    For the task, Major Conoley gathered together "three enlisted communication personnel, several riflemen, a few company runners who were at the point, together with a cook and a few messmen who had brought food to the position the evening before."
    Joined by Paige, this ad hoc force of 17 Marines counterattacked at 5:40 a.m., discovering that this extremely short range allowed the optimum use of grenades. They cleared the ridge. And that's where the previously unstoppable wave of Japanese conquests finally broke and began to recede. On an unnamed jungle ridge on an insignificant island no one had ever heard of, called Guadalcanal. But who remembers, today, how close-run a thing it was, the ridge held by a single Marine, in the autumn of 1942?
    Some time after, when the Hasbro Toy Co. telephoned asking permission to put the retired Colonel's face on some kid's doll, Mitchell Paige thought they must be joking. But they weren't. That's his face on the little Marine they call "G.I. Joe."


   The Story of the Iwo Jima Monument Reprinted from the Internet

   Each year I am hired to go to a Washington, DC, with the eighth grade class from Clinton, WI where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our Nation's Capital, and each year I take some special memories back with me. On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima Memorial. -- that of the six brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II. Over one hundred students and chaperons piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, 'Where are you guys from?' I told him that we were from Wisconsin. 'Hey, I'm a cheese head, too! Come gather around, Cheese heads, and I will tell you a story.' It was James Bradley who just happened to be in Washington, DC, to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good night to his dad, who had passed away. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up.
    “My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I wrote a book called ' Flags of Our Fathers'. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me. 'Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlan Block. Harlan was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game. A game called 'War.' But it didn't turn out to be a game. Harlan, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out, I say that because there are people who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years old - and it was so hard that the ones who did make it home never even would talk to their families about it.
    “You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph...a photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection because he was scared. He was 18 years old. It was just boys who won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys... Not old men.
    “The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the 'old man' because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let's go kill some Japanese' or 'Let's die for our country' He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers.
    “The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes was one of them who lived to walk off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, 'You're a hero'. He told reporters, 'How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?' So you take your class at school, 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes carried the pain home with him and eventually died dead drunk, face down, drowned in a very shallow puddle, at the age of 32 (ten years after this picture was taken).
    “The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky; A fun-loving hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, 'Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epsom salts. Those cows crapped all night. ' Yes, he was a fun-loving' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. Those neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.
    “The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley, from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite's producers or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say 'No, I'm sorry, sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back.' My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually, he was sitting there right at the table eating his Campbell's soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press. 'You see, like Ira Hayes, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and on a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a combat caregiver. On Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died on Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed, without any medication or help with the pain.
    “When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, 'I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come back.
    “So that's the story about six nice young boys... Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps.
    “My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time.”
    Suddenly, the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless. Let us never forget from the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terrorism and all the wars in-between that sacrifice was made for our freedom...please pray for our troops. Remember to pray praises for this great country of ours and also...please pray for our troops still in murderous places around the world.

    REMINDER: Every day that you can wake up free, it's going to be a great day.


    Three Things That Saved Us in WWII by Amy Rutherford of the Nimitz Foundation

Reprinted from the Internet

In the the gift shop near the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii, I once purchased a small book entitled, "Reflections on Pearl Harbor" by Admiral Chester Nimitz, and learned this meaningful war story:

    On Sunday, December 7th, 1941, Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet. Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat, you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war.
    On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere you looked. As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, "Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?" Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice.
    Admiral Nimitz said, "The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?"
    Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, "What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?" Nimitz explained:

Mistake Number One:
    The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk--we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake Number Two:
   When the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired.As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.

Mistake Number Three:
   Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.

    I've never forgotten what I read in that little book. It is still an inspiration as I reflect upon it. In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and reared in Fredericksburg, Texas -- he was a born optimist. But anyway you look at it--Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.
    President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat. There is a reason that our national motto is, “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

    Why have we forgotten?


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