Showing posts from July, 2018

A Soldier's Story: Private First Class Milton L. Olive III

Milton L Olive III, also known as "Skipper", was born on November 7, 1946, in Chicago, Illinois. He was raised in Chicago and Lexington, Mississippi, graduating from Lexington High School.

PFC Olive was a photographer before joining the Army, earning pocket money by taking pictures of newlyweds and church picnics, he also participated in the Civil Rights movement by aiding voter registration.

Private Milton Olive enlisted in 1964 and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade and sent to Vietnam.

Private Milton Olive earned a Congressional Medal of Honor for smothering a grenade with his body on October 21, 1966, while on patrol with his team in Phu Cuong.   He rests in the West Grove Cemetery in Lexington, Mississippi.

Chicago's Olive Park on Lake Michigan has been named in his honor.

A Soldier's Story: Private First Class William Henry Thompson

Private First Class William Henry Thompson was born on August 16, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York.  Raised in poverty, he enlisted in the US Army in October of 1945, spending a year and a half in Alaska before an honorable discharge.

Not happy with civilian life, he re-enlisted in the US Army in January of 1948.

PFC Thompson was known to be a good soldier, he was comfortable with the discipline and was an accurate marksman.

Shortly after the beginning of the Korean War, he was assigned to the 24th Infantry (one of the last remaining segregated units), as a machine gunner.  On August 6, 1950, PFC Thompson earned a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Battle of Pusan Perimeter., when, wounded by small arms fire and grenade fragments, he continued to maintain fire, despite orders to retreat and stayed behind providing cover fire for his units retreat. He was killed in action.

Private First Class William Henry Thompson rests in the Long Island Nation Cemetery in New York.

A Soldier's Story: Sergeant Dwight Hal Johnson

Born on May 7, 1947, in Detroit, Michigan, Sergeant Dwight Johnson entered the Vietnam War by the draft.  He was assigned to be a tank driver with the 69th Armor Division.

He earned a Congressional Medal of Honor, when, while under attack, his tank through a track. Sergeant Johnson left his tank, armed only with a 45, opened fire, and proceeded to pull wounded soldiers from tanks.  Although he did, for a short time have access to a larger weapon, the majority of the fight was fought (and won) with a 45.

Sergeant Johnson struggled after returning to civilian life, and on April 30, 1971, he was shot and killed during a convenience store robbery (there are doubts regarding his involvement) and rests in Arlington Cemetery.

Sergeant Johnson's story is immortalized in two plays. Strike Heaven on the Face by Richard Wesley and The Medal of Honor Ring by Tom Cole.

A Soldier's Story: Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton

Born on July 24, 1929,  in East Gulf, West Virginia. Sergeant Cornelius Charlton relocated with his family to Brooklyn, New York, where he graduated from James Monroe High School.

Always drawn to the U.S. Army, he enlisted immediately after his high school graduation, in 1946.  He was 17 (his parents had given permission).

Initially assigned to Allied-occupied Germany, then the Aberdeen Proving ground, then Okinawa, Japan.  Wanting to enter combat, he requested a transfer in 1950 and was assigned to the 24th Infantry Regiment and deployed to Korea.

During Operation Piledriver, on June 2, 1951, Sergeant Cornelius Charlton earned a Congressional Medal of Honor while capturing Hill 543.  After overcoming enemy fire, he spotted and attacked an enemy bunker, destroying it, while suffering from grenade shrapnel wounds that would prove fatal.

Sadly, he was interred three times.  The first, in the segregated Bryant Memorial Cemetery, then, the American Legion stepped in and reinterred him at…

A Soldier's Story: Sergeant Mickey Rooney

Born Joseph Yule Jr, on September 20, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York, Sergeant Mickey Rooney appeared in his first film, Not to be Trusted, shortly after he and his mother relocated to Hollywood, California in 1925.

Throughout his childhood and teenage years, Sergeant Mickey Rooney became well known for his role as "Mickey McGuire" and "Andy Hardy' and appeared on the cover of  Time Magazine in 1940.

In 1944 he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to troop entertainment, spending 21 months touring, and earning a Bronze Star for his performances in combat zones.

After the war, he began transitioning more toward T.V. and Broadway, creating the Mickey Rooney Show (also called Hey Mulligan), he even appeared in one of  Rod Serling's Twilight Zone episodes.

Sergeant Mickey Rooney was best friends with Judy Garland, who he met during the filming of Thoroughbreds Don't Cry.  He had an 86 year career in film and has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He …

A Soldier's Story: Sergeant Donald Russell Long

Sergeant Donald Russell Long was born on August 27, 1939, in Black Fork, Ohio, where he was raised and attended Decatur-Washington Hight School.

He joined the U.S. Army in 1963, and three years later, on June 30, 1966, Sergeant Donald Russell Long earned a Congressional Medal of Honor by smothering a grenade with his body to save the lives of his teammates during a reconnaissance mission with the 4th Cavalry.

He rests at the Union Baptist Church Cemetery in Black Fork, Ohio.

A Soldier's Story: Private Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin was born on Israel Beilin, on May 11, 1888, in Imperial Russia.  His family immigrated to New York in 1893 to escape the anti-Jewish pogroms.

To help support his family, Irving Berlin began working at the age of eight, selling newspapers and singing for extra coins.  He left home at fourteen and began singing for money full time, starting with street performances, working as a singing demonstrator and finally as a singing waiter.  Teaching himself the piano after closing.

Irving Berlin's hard work paid off and he began gaining a following in  Tin Pan Alley and fame through Alexander's Ragtime Band.

Drafted at age 30 at the beginning of WWI, the Army assigned Private Berlin to the 152nd Depot Brigade at Camp Upton, where his duty was to write patriotic songs and shows for troop entertainment.

After the war, he returned to Tin Pan Alley and, with Sam Haris opened the Music Box Theater, continuing to write musical scores for Zeigfried Follies and the Music Box Revie…

A Soldier's Story: Major Charles Leroy Thomas

Major Charles Leroy Thomas was born on April 17, 1920, in Birmingham, Alabama.  While he was growing up, he showed both an interest and an aptitude for machinery and electronics, and he was specifically drawn to aircraft.

He attended Wayne State University and worked as a molder for the Ford Motor Company before enlisting in the Army in January of 1942.  He was assigned to complete the Officer's Candidate School, and then assigned to the 614 Tank Destroyer Batallion.

December 14, 1944,  Major (then a Lieutenant) was to lead a storming of Climbach.  He was wounded, twice, while he directed the setup and placement of the anti-tank guns, maintaining return fire, and covered the task force during its maneuver before finally being evacuated from the field.  His actions earned him a Congressional Medal of Honor that was not awarded until 1997.

Major Charles Thomas remained with the U.S. Army as a career soldier before retiring to Detroit, Michigan.  He died on February 15, 1980.

An Airman's Story: Major Glenn Miller

Born on March 1, 1904,  in Clarinda, Iowa, Glenn Miller and his family relocated to Grant City, Missouri, while he was young.  
It was here, that Major Miller picked up his first trombone, which he had earned the money for by milking cows.  
His family moved again, to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where he attended high school and played for the football team, winning the 1920 Northern Colorado American Football Conference.
It was in high school that  Major Miller also discovered his love for dance band music, and, by high school graduation, had decided to make his living as a professional musician.
In his early career, Glenn Miller played freelance, working with dance bands and clubs, with occasional appearances in Broadway orchestra pits, but, with the formation of the Glenn Miller Band, and it's unique saxophone arrangements that his career took off, earning him a record contract at Blue Bird records and regular performances, including two motion pictures.  
Although past the age of …

A Soldier's Story: Colonel Charles Young

Born on March 12, 1864, in Mays Lick, Kentucky, Colonel Charles Young was enslaved until the passage of the 13th Amendment in December of 1865.

His family relocated to Ripley, Ohio and he attended Ripley High School, graduating in 1880 with the top student of the class.

He taught at a school until in 1883 he took and passed the examination for West Point with the second-highest score in the district.  He reported to the academy in 1884.

Initially Colonel Young struggled with mathematics, in addition to hazing that accompanied the early West Point cadets of African heritage.  He persevered, graduating in 1889 and was assigned to the 9th Calvary.

His military career was a career of firsts, Colonel Young was the first person of African descent to become the Superintendent of a National Park (The Sequoia and General Grant),  he was also the first service member of African descent to be assigned to the military attache in Liberia.

Colonel Young was highly educated, spoke several languages…

A Sailor's Story: Lieutenant Eugene (Gene) Kelly

Eugene Curran Kelly was born on August 23, 1912, in the East Liberty neighboorhood of Pittsburg, Pennslyvania. While young, his mother had enrolled both he and his brother in dance lessons, but, those were quickly canceled because they kept getting into fights with other boys about the lessons.

Instead, Lieutenant Kelly focused on becoming a Pittsburg Pirate, playing baseball through high school. He briefly attended Pennsylvania State University, but, dropped out after the 1929 stock market crash to help support his family by performing dance routines with his brother at local clubs and talent shows.  He returned to college, University of Pennsylvania, in 1931, graduating in 1933 with a degree in economics and after graduation, opened a dance studio and committed to a career in dancing.

Lieutenant Kelly made his debut on Broadway in 1938, and after finding success on stage, was lured to Hollywood by David O. Selznick.  He was in Hollywood long enough to firmly establish "The Mus…

A Soldier's Story: Sergeant First Class Lawrence Joel

Born on February 22, 1928, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  After spending a year as a Merchant Marine, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946, at the age of 18, and chose, from the beginning to be a career soldier.

Sergeant Joel trained as a combat medic and in addition to his Korean War deployments, earned a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War's Operation Hump, when, on November 8, 1965, while assigned to the 503rd Infantry Regiment, he remained in the field (wounded and against orders) and continued to render aid during a firefight that lasted more than 24 hours.

Sergeant Joel retired from the U.S. Army in 1973 and worked with the Veteran's Administration until 1982.  He died in 1984 and rests in Arlington Cemetery.

Sergeant First Class Lawrence Joel's Vietnam valor was honored in the song "8th of November" by Big and Rich.

A Soldier's Story: Corporal Solomon Bond Louis

Born in Brand County, Oklahoma on April 22, 1899, Corporal Solomon Bond Louis spent his early years at the Armstrong Academy, a Native American orphanage and school.

When the enlistment for WWI began, Corporal Louis lied about his age to enlist with his friends.  After training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, he deployed to France with the 142 Infantry and became known as one of the Choctaw Code Talkers of WWI.

After the war, Corporal Louis returned to his native Oklahoma, where he worked as a peanut farmer as well as did carpentry.  He was also an active preacher and served as a Justice of the Peace.

He died on February 19, 1972, and rests at Homers Chapel Cemetery in Boswell, Oklahoma.

The first issue of a comic book series that was issued by the Indigenous Narratives Collection called "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers" celebrates the actions of Corporal Louis and the other Choctaw Code Talkers.

See Also:

Captain Charles Walter Vetch

Corporal Peter Maytubby

Corporal Tobias William F…