Showing posts from June, 2018

A Soldier's Story: Lieutenant Colonel Nola Forrest

Born on June 6, 1900, in Minnesota, Lieutenant Colonel Nola Forrest attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and completed nurses training at Eitel Hospital, also in St. Paul.

She enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurses Corp on February 25, 1927, which eventually took her to the Philippines as the Director of Nurses in the South Pacific.

Lieutenant Colonel Nola Forrest led nurses from field hospitals into Leyte, setting up a field hospital in an old cathedral, under enemy fire, receiving more than 600 patients within the first three hours of the nurses' arrival.

Later, she led the detail of nurses into the liberation of Santo Thomas, taking over the care of the POW soldiers and nurses.

Afterward, when asked by Irving Berlin (who was entertaining troops with the USO) what she disliked the most about the Army, her response was her pants.

Lieutenant Colonel Nola Forrest retired from the army on September 30, 1946, and lived in the D.C. area until her death on July 30,1999, at the…

A Soldier's Story: Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Childers

Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Childers was born on February 1, 1918, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  A graduate of the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School (he was Muscogee), he enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard and was assigned to the 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division.

Deployed to Italy at the beginning of the U.S. entry into WWII, he earned a Congressional Medal of Honor for single-handedly attacking two machine gun nests, killing two snipers and capturing an artillery observer, with a broken foot.  Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Childers accomplished this task by throwing rocks into the nests, which were mistaken for grenades.

He was the first Native American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor since the Western Frontier wars of the 19th century.

Lieutenant Colonel Childers remained in the U.S. Army until 1965, teaching jungle training and winter training.

He died at the age of 87, on March 17, 2005, and rests at the Floral Haven Memorial Gardens in Broken Arrow, …

A Soldier's Story: Private First Class Garfield M. Langdon

Born on September 10, 1948, in Cumberland, Virginia. Private First Class Garfield Langdon moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York while he was young.

An accomplished mechanic, who loved working on his car, as well as play guitar, PFC Langhorn was drafted into the U.S. Army shortly after he graduated from Riverhead High School in 1967.

PFC Langhorn deployed to Vietnam as a radio operator with the 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Aviation Brigade.

On January 15, 1969, his unit was attempting to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter when they came under attack.  In defense of his squadmates, PFC Langhorn threw himself upon a live grenade and was killed.

He rests in the Riverhead Cemetery, in Riverhead, New York.

In his honor, the Pulaski Elementary School holds an annual "Garfield Langhorn Essay Contest" and the Riverhead Post Office also bears his name.

An Airman's Story: Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt

Born on November 19, 1897, in Washington D.C, Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of President Teddy Roosevelt was raised in the White House.

Known as an incurable "bad boy", Quentin, was known for pelting Secret Service members with snowballs, tossing spitballs at official portraits, and, once, created a baseball diamond in the White House Lawn.

Lieutenant Roosevelt was also a good student, with an incredible mechanical aptitude, and was accepted to Harvard University in 1915.

When WWI erupted, Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, thinking his mechanical skills and his fluency in French would be useful, enlisted in the 1st Reserve Aero Squadron, before moving to the 95th Aero Squadron.  In addition to learning to pilot, he also handled the supplies for his squadron.  While in France, he tussled with a higher ranking officer (Captain) about boots for his men, which he got, despite threats of physical violence and court marshall (a Major intervened).  Lieutenant Roosevelt was known…

An Airman's Story: Captain Eddie Rickenbacker

Edward Rickenbacker was born on October 8, 1890, in Columbus, Ohio.  Forced to leave school early after his father's death in order to help support his family, Captain Rickenbacker continued to learn and study on his own and enrolled in many correspondence courses.

Fascinated by cars (and machinery in general) he began working at the Columbus Buggy Company as a salesman. As a hobby, he golfed and raced cars, competing in the Indianapolis 500 four times prior to the beginning of WWI and set a world speed record in 1914 at Daytona.

Eager to support the war, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Service in 1917.  Wanting to fly, his lack of formal education, as well as his age, barred him from flight school.  He was assigned to work as a chauffeur and mechanic.  Undaunted, Captain Rickenbacker learned to fly on his own and was finally awarded his wings.  He had a stellar career, earning the 'Ace' designation with 26 victories and more than 300 combat flight hours.  Earning him a …

A Soldier's Story: Brigadier General James Leo Dalton II

Brigadier General James Leo Dalton II was born on January 20, 1910, in New Britain, Connecticut.  He was raised in Naugatuck, playing football and running track for Naugatuck High School.

After his high school graduation in 1927, James Dalton entered the Military Acadamy at West Point in 1929 and graduated in 1933.

Initially,  with the Calvary, General Dalton received a spinal injury playing polo. After a lengthy hospital stay, he was reassigned to infantry.

Assigned to the 161st Rifle Regiment, he was posted at Pearl Harbor during the attack in 1941 and in 1943, after the 161st was deployed to Guadalcanal, he received the command for the 161st and led the regiment through the New Georgia Island campaign.

During the Battle of Luzon, he was reassigned to the 25th Infantry Division as the assistant commander and was killed in action during the Battle of Balete Pass on May 16, 1945.  He had been promoted to Brigadier General only one month before his death.  Balete Pass was renamed Dalt…

A Soldier's Story: Sergeant Spottswood Poles

Born on December 27, 1887, in Winchester, Virginia, the baseball legend Spottswood Poles made his way to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he started playing with the Harrisburg Colored Giants in 1906.

Turning professional in 1909 with the Philidelphia Giants, Sergeant Spottswood Poles followed manager Sol White to New York where he spent the majority of his career with the New York Lincoln Giants.

Hearing the call of WWI, he took a break from his career to enlist in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the 369th Infantry Regiment, commonly known as the "Harlem Hellfighters". Sergeant Poles served honorably, earning five Battle Stars and a Purple Heart.

Returning to baseball after the war, Sergeant Poles continued to play professionally until 1923, when he retired to work as a taxi cab driver and also worked as a civilian at Olmstead Airforce Base.

He died on September 12, 1962,  in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and is buried at Arlington National Cemetary.

A Soldier's Story: Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers

Ruben Rivers was born on October 31, 1918, in Tecumseh, Oklahoma.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and was assigned to the 761st Tank Batallion, known as the "Black Panthers" (Sergeant Rivers was of African and Native American descent).

Assigned to George S. Patton's Third Army, the 761st, along with the 104th Infantry were picked to aid in the Saar Campaign.

During Staff Sergeant Reuben Rivers's military career, he distinguished himself several times.  The first, on November 8, 1944, he left his tank and moved an enemy roadblock, using only his sidearm for defense.  Later, on November 16, he received severe leg wounds after his tank activated a land mine.  Despite orders to evacuate, Staff Sergeant Rivers remained in the field, and on November 19, 1944, underfire, and in the defense of the rest of his unit, located and drew fire from an enemy anti-tank unit, he was killed in action. Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers is buried at the American Cemetery in Lorraine, Fra…

A Sailor's Story: Seaman Cesar Chavez

Cesar Estrada Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona.  During the Great Depression, his family lost their ranch, grocery store, and farm, forcing the family to move to California and become migrant farmworkers.

Cesar Chavez quit school in 1942, to help support the family, joining the U.S. Navy in 1946 with a two-year contract.  Seaman Chavez fulfilled his contract with an honorable discharge in 1948 and returned to farm work until 1952.

In 1952, Seaman Chavez began pursuing the cause of the Mexican American agricultural worker, organizing the Community Service Organization (CSO), and, in 1962 founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) (later called  United Farm Workers UFW) with Dolores Huerta.

Through the NFWA, he organized and supported strikes for farmworkers, winning concessions in wages and working conditions, including the California Agriculture Labor Relations Act and the ending of the Bracero Program.

Seaman Chavez was a lifelong supporter of equality a…

A Soldier's Story: Sergeant Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett was born on May 27, 1894,  he was raised in Baltimore and Philadelphia.  He left school at the age of 13, working at odd jobs before joining the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

Sergeant Hammett worked as a Pinkerton detective from 1915 to 1922, taking 1918 to enlist in the U.S. Army Ambulance Corps. 

During his enlistment, Sergeant Hammett contracted the Spanish Flu and then Tuberculosis, which would plague him for the rest of his life.

Unable to maintain his career as a detective, Sergeant Hammett began publishing detective novels, including The Maltese Falcon.

In addition to his writing, he was also a left-wing activist, and, during 1930, joined the Communist party.

Despite his political affiliations and tuberculosis, he managed to re-enlist in the U.S. Army in 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Sergeant Hammett was assigned as editor of the Army newspaper The Adakian.  He also co-authored, with Sergeant Robert Colodny, The Battle of the Aleutians, under…

An Airman's Story: Staff Sergeant Charlton Heston

Born on October 4, 1923, in the sleepy suburbs outside Chicago, Charlton Heston spent his childhood in the woods of Northern Michigan, returning to the Chicago area later, graduating from New Trier High School and Northwestern University on a drama scholarship.

Sergeant Charlton Heston joined the U.S. Army Air Force in 1944, spending his enlistment as a radio operator and machine gunner for the 77th Bombardment squadron's B-25 Mitchells in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

After his enlistment ended, Sergeant Heston worked as a highly prolific actor, starring in more than 80 productions, including The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Planet of the Apes (1968 version).  During his career, he was known for his support of the Civil Rights Movement, joining a picket line outside of a segregated Oklahoma City Theater showing El Cid. He was also spotted picketing segregated Oklahoma City restaurants during the same trip.  Sergeant Heston was also a vocal Second Amendment supporter.

He died…

A Marine's Story: Corporal Joseph N. Gifford

The Californian, Corporal Joseph N. Gifford was one of the Marine Raiders.

Created during WWII, they are considered to be one of the first "Special Operations" military units developed.

Assigned to the 2nd Raider Battalion, also known as "Carson's Raiders",  Corporal Gifford took part in the raid of Makin Island and was captured by the Japanese.  He was executed on October 16, 1942, and is memorialized in the Courts of the Missing, at the Honolulu Memorial.

*Also see Private Alden Curtis Mattison