Tag Archives: Veterans

Have We Forgotten Our Heroes? Chapter 21

090430-F-JZ031-268James Robinson Risner
Nickname(s): Robbie
Born: January 16, 1925; Mammoth Spring, Arkansas
Died: October 22, 2013 (aged 88); Bridgewater, Virginia
Place of burial: Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance: United States of America
Service/branch: United States Army Air Forces; United States Air Force
Years of service: 1943–1946 1951-1976
Rank: Brigadier General
Commands held: 832d Air Division; 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron; 34th Fighter-Day Squadron; 81st Fighter-Bomber Squadron
Battles/wars: Korean War; Vietnam War
Awards: Air Force Cross (2); Silver Star (2); Distinguished Flying Cross (3); Bronze Star with “V” (2); Air Medal (8); Joint Service Commendation Medal; Purple Heart (4)

James Robinson “Robbie” Risner (January 16, 1925 – October 22, 2013) was a general officer and professional fighter pilot in the United States Air Force.

Risner was a double recipient of the Air Force Cross, the second highest military decoration for valor that can be awarded to a member of the United States Air Force. He was the first living recipient of the medal, awarded the first for valor in aerial combat during the Vietnam War, and the second for gallantry as a prisoner of war of the North Vietnamese for more than seven years.

Commands held: 832d Air Division; 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron; 34th Fighter-Day Squadron; 81st Fighter-Bomber Squadron
Battles/wars: Korean War; Vietnam War
Awards: Air Force Cross (2); Silver Star (2); Distinguished Flying Cross (3); Bronze Star with “V” (2); Air Medal (8); Joint Service Commendation Medal; Purple Heart (4)

Risner became an ace in the Korean War, and commanded a squadron of F-105 Thunderchiefs in the first missions of Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965. He flew a combined 163 combat missions, was shot down twice, and was credited with destroying eight MiG-15s. Risner retired as a brigadier general in 1976.

At his passing, Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III observed:

“Brig. Gen. James Robinson “Robbie” Risner was part of that legendary group who served in three wars, built an Air Force, and gave us an enduring example of courage and mission success…Today’s Airmen know we stand on the shoulders of giants. One of ‘em is 9 feet tall…and headed west in full afterburner.”

Risner was born in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas on 16 January 1925, but moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1931. His father was originally a sharecropper, then during the Great Depression became a day laborer for the Works Progress Administration. By the time Risner entered high school, his father was self-employed, selling used cars. Risner worked numerous part-time jobs in his youth to help the family, including newspaper delivery, errand boy and soda jerk for a drug store, for the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce at age 16, as a welder, and for his father polishing cars.

Risner had a religious upbringing as a member of the 1st Assembly of God Church. He wrestled for Tulsa Central High School, where he graduated in 1942. In addition to a love of sports, Risner’s interests were primarily in riding horses and motorcycles.

Risner enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet in April, 1943, and attended flight training at Williams Field, Arizona, where he was awarded his pilot wings and a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in May 1944. He completed transition training in P-40 Warhawk and P-39 Airacobra fighters before being assigned to the 30th Fighter Squadron in Panama.

The 30th FS was based on a primitive airstrip without permanent facilities at Aguadulce, on the Gulf of Panama. Risner noted to a biographer that his tour under these conditions amounted to as much flying as he desired but a distinct lack of discipline on the ground. When the squadron was relocated to Howard Field in the Panama Canal Zone in January 1945 to transition to P-38 Lightning fighters, its pilots were soon banned from the Officers Club for rowdiness and vandalism.

In 1946, Risner was involved in an off-duty motorcycle accident. While undergoing hospital treatment in the Army, he met his first wife Kathleen Shaw, a nurse from Ware Shoals, South Carolina. Risner and Shaw became engaged on a ship and were discharged and married the next month.

In civilian life, Risner tried a succession of jobs, training as an auto mechanic, operating a gas station, and managing a service garage. He also joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard, becoming an F-51 Mustang pilot. He flew nearly every weekend, and on one occasion, became lost in the fringes of a hurricane on a flight to Brownsville, Texas. Forced to land on a dry lakebed, he found that he was in Mexico and encountered bandits, but successfully flew his Mustang to Brownsville after the storm had passed. He received an unofficial rebuke from the American embassy for flying an armed fighter into the sovereign territory of a foreign nation, but for diplomatic reasons the flight was officially ignored.

Risner was recalled to active duty in February 1951 while assigned to the 185th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the OKANG at Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He subsequently received training in the F-80 Shooting Star at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Risner’s determination to be assigned to a combat unit was nearly ended when on his last day before going overseas he broke his hand and wrist falling from a horse. Robinson deliberately concealed the injury, which would have grounded him, until able to convince a flight surgeon that the injury had healed. He actually had his cast removed to fly his first mission.

Risner arrived in Korea on May 10, 1952, assigned to the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Kimpo Air Base. In June, when the 336th Fighter-Interceptor Brigadier General Robinson RisnerSquadron, also at Kimpo, sought experienced pilots, he arranged a transfer to 4th Fighter Wing through the intervention of a former OKANG associate. Risner was often assigned to fly F-86E-10, AF serial no. 51-2824, nicknamed Ohio Mike and bearing a large cartoon rendition of Bugs Bunny as nose art, in which he achieved most of his aerial victories.

His first two months of combat saw little contact with MiGs, and although a flight leader, he took a three-day leave to Japan in early August. The day after his arrival he returned to Korea when he learned that MiGs were operational. Arriving at Kimpo in the middle of the night, he joined his flight which was on alert status. The flight of four F-86 Sabres launched and encountered 14 MiG-15s. In a brief dogfight Risner shot down one to score his first aerial victory on August 5, 1952.

On September 15, Risner’s flight escorted F-84 Thunderjet fighter-bombers attacking a chemical plant on the Yalu River near the East China Sea. During their defense of the bombers, Risner’s flight overflew the MiG base at Antung Airfield, China. Fighting one MiG at nearly supersonic speeds at ground level, Risner pursued it down a dry riverbed and across low hills to an airfield 35 miles inside China. Scoring numerous hits on the MiG, shooting off its canopy, and setting it on fire, Risner chased it between hangars of the Communist airbase, where he shot it down into parked fighters.

On the return flight, Risner’s wingman, 1st Lt. Joseph Logan, was struck in his fuel tanks by anti-aircraft fire over Antung. In an effort to help him reach Kimpo, Risner attempted to push Logan’s aircraft by having him shut down his engine and inserting the nose of his own jet into the tailpipe of Logan’s, an unprecedented and untried maneuver. The object of the maneuver was to push Logan’s aircraft to the island of off the North Korean coast, where the Air Force maintained a helicopter rescue detachment. Jet fuel and hydraulic fluid spewed out from the damaged Sabre onto Risner’s canopy, obscuring his vision, and turbulence kept separating the two jets. Risner was able to re-establish contact and guide the powerless plane out over the sea until fluids threatened to stall his own engine. Near Cho Do, Logan bailed out after calling to Risner, “I’ll see you at the base tonight.” Although Logan came down close to shore and was a strong swimmer, he became entangled in his parachute shrouds and drowned. Risner shut down his own engine in an attempt to save fuel, but eventually his engine flamed out and he glided to a deadstick landing at Kimpo.

On September 21 he shot down his fifth MiG, becoming the 20th jet ace. In October 1952 Risner was promoted to major and named operations officer of the 336th FIS. Risner flew 108 missions in Korea and was credited with the destruction of eight MiG-15s, his final victory occurring January 21, 1953.

Risner was commissioned into the Regular Air Force and assigned to the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Clovis Air Force Base, New Mexico, in March 1953, where he became operations officer of the 81st Fighter Bomber Squadron. He flew F-86s with the 50th Wing to activate Hahn Air Base, West Germany, where he became commander of the 81st FBS in November 1954.

In July 1956, he was transferred to George Air Force Base, California as operations officer of the 413th Fighter Wing. Subsequently he served as commander of the 34th Fighter-Day Squadron, also at George Air Force Base.

During his tour of duty at George Air Force Base, Risner was selected to fly the Charles A. Lindbergh Commemoration Flight from New York to Paris. Ferrying a two-seat F-100F Super Sabre nicknamed Spirit of St. Louis II to Europe on the same route as Lindbergh, he set a transatlantic speed record, covering the distance in 6 hours and 37 minutes.

From August 1960 to July 1961, he attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He next served on the joint staff of Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) in Hawaii.

In August 1964, Lieutenant Colonel Risner took command of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, an F-105D Thunderchief fighter-bomber unit based at Kadena AB, Okinawa, and part of the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing. The following January he led a detachment of seven aircraft to Da Nang Air Base to fly combat strikes that included a mission in Laos on January 13 in which he and his pilots were decorated for destroying a bridge, but Risner was also verbally reprimanded for losing an aircraft while bombing a second bridge not authorized by his orders. On February 18, 1965, as part of an escalation in air attacks directed by President Lyndon B. Johnson that resulted in the commencement of Operation Rolling Thunder, the 67th TFS began a tour of temporary duty at Korat RTAFB, Thailand, under the control of the 2d Air Division.

Risner’s squadron led the first Rolling Thunder strike on March 2, bombing an ammunition dump at Xom Biang approximately ten miles north of the Demilitarized Zone. The strike force consisted of more than 100 F-105, F-100, and B-57 aircraft, and in the congested airspace, heavy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire seriously disrupted its coordination and radio communications. Risner’s squadron was tasked with flak suppression, dropping CBU-2 “cluster bombs” from extremely low altitude. His wingman Capt. Robert V. “Boris” Baird was shot down on the opening pass, and the mission was in danger of collapsing when Risner took charge. After the last strike had been delivered, Risner and the two surviving members of his flight remained in the area, directing the search and rescue mission for Baird until their fuel ran low. Risner, in a battle damaged aircraft, diverted to Da Nang air base for landing.

On March 22, 1965, while leading two flights of F-105s attacking a radar site near Vinh Son, North Vietnam, Risner was hit by ground fire when he circled back over the target. He maneuvered his aircraft over the Gulf of Tonkin, ejected a mile offshore, and was rescued after fifteen minutes in the water.

On April 3 and 4, 1965, Risner led two large missions against the Thanh Hóa Bridge in North Vietnam. On the afternoon of April 3, the strike package of Rolling Thunder Mission 9 Alpha consisted of 79 aircraft, including 46 F-105s. 16 of those carried AGM-12 Bullpup missiles, while another 30 carried eight 750-pound bombs each, half of which were designated for the railroad and highway bridge. The force had clear conditions but encountered a severe glare in the target area that made the bridge difficult to acquire for attacks with the Bullpups. Only one Bullpup could be guided at a time, and on his second pass, Risner’s aircraft took a hit just as the missile struck the bridge. Fighting a serious fuel leak and a smoke-filled cockpit in addition to anti-aircraft fire from the ground, he again nursed his crippled aircraft to DaNang. The use of Bullpups against the bridge had been completely ineffectual, resulting in the scheduling of a second mission the next day with 48 F-105s attacking the bridge without destroying it. The missions saw the first interception of U.S. aircraft by North Vietnamese MiG-17 fighters, resulting in the loss of two F-105s and pilots of the last flight, struck by a hit-and-run attack while waiting for their run at the target.

Risner’s exploits earned him an awarding of the Air Force Cross and resulted in his being featured as the cover portrait of the April 23, 1965 issue of Time magazine. The 67th TFS ended its first deployment to Korat on April 26 but returned from Okinawa on August 16 for a second tour of combat duty over North Vietnam.

On August 12, 1965, U.S. Air Force and Navy air units received authorization to attack surface-to-air missile sites supplied to the North Vietnamese by the Soviet Union. Initial attempts to locate and destroy the SA-2 Guideline sites, known as Iron Hand missions, were both unsuccessful and costly. Tactics were revised in which “Hunter-Killer Teams” were created. Employed at low altitudes, the “hunters” located the missiles and attacked their radar control vans with canisters of napalm, both to knock out the SAM’s missile guidance and to mark the target for the “killers”, which followed up the initial attack using 750-pound bombs to destroy the site.

On 16 September 1965 Risner was flying this aircraft when he was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery.

0On the morning of September 16, 1965, on an Iron Hand sortie, Risner scheduled himself for the mission as the “hunter” element of a Hunter-Killer Team searching for a SAM site in the vicinity of Tuong Loc, 80 miles south of Hanoi and 10 miles northeast of the Thanh Hoa Bridge. Risner’s aircraft was at very low altitude flying at approximately 600 mph, approaching a site that was likely a decoy luring aircraft into a concentration of AAA. Heavy ground fire struck Risner’s F-105 in its air intakes when he popped up over a hill to make his attack. Again he attempted to fly to the Gulf of Tonkin, but ejected when the aircraft, on fire, pitched up out of control. He was captured by North Vietnamese while still trying to extricate himself from his parachute. He was on his 55th combat mission at the time.

“We were lucky to have Risner. With (Captain James) Stockdale we had wisdom. With Risner we had spirituality.”Commander Everett Alvarez, Jr. – 1st U.S. pilot held as a Prisoner of War in Southeast Asia

After several days of travel on foot and by truck, Risner was imprisoned in Hỏa Lò Prison, known as the Hanoi Hilton to American POWs. However after two weeks he was moved to Cu Loc Prison, known as “The Zoo”, where he was confronted during interrogations with his Time magazine cover and told that his capture had been highly coveted by the North Vietnamese. Returned to Hỏa Lò Prison as punishment for disseminating behavior guidelines to the POWs under his nominal command, Risner was severely tortured for 32 days, culminating in his coerced signing of an apologetic confession for war crimes.

Risner spent more than three years in solitary confinement. Even so, as the officer of rank with the responsibility of maintaining order, from 1965 to 1973 he helped lead American resistance in the North Vietnamese prison complex through the use of improvised messaging techniques (“tap code”), endearing himself to fellow prisoners with his faith and optimism. It was largely thanks to the leadership of Risner and his Navy counterpart, Commander (later Vice Admiral) James Stockdale, that the POWs organized themselves to present maximum resistance. While held prisoner in Hỏa Lò, Risner served first as Senior Ranking Officer and later as Vice Commander of the provisional 4th Allied Prisoner of War Wing. He was a POW for seven years, four months, and 27 days. His five sons had been aged 16 to 3 when he last saw them.

His story of being imprisoned drew wide acclaim after that war’s end. His autobiography, The Passing of the Night: My Seven Years as a Prisoner of the North Vietnamese, describes seven years of torture and mistreatment by the North Vietnamese. In his book, Risner attributes faith in God and prayer as being instrumental to his surviving the Hanoi prison experience. In his words he describes how he survived a torture session in July 1967, handcuffed and in stocks after destroying two pictures of his family to prevent them from being used as propaganda by an East German film crew:

“To make it, I prayed by the hour. It was automatic, almost subconscious. I did not ask God to take me out of it. I prayed he would give me strength to endure it. When it would get so bad that I did not think I could stand it, I would ask God to ease it and somehow I would make it. He kept me.”

Publication of Risner’s book led to a flap with American author and Vietnam war critic Mary McCarthy in 1974. The two had met, apparently at McCarthy’s request, when McCarthy visited Hanoi in April 1968. The meeting, described as “stilted”, resulted in an unflattering portrait of McCarthy in Risner’s book, primarily because she failed to note scars and other evidence of torture he had made plain to her. After publication of the book, McCarthy strenuously attacked both Risner (deeming him “unlikeable” and alleging that he had “become a Vietnamese toady”) and Risner’s credibility in a review. Risner made no rebuttal at the time, but when interviewed by Frances Kiernan decades later, Risner described the review as “character assassination”, a criticism of McCarthy’s treatment supported by several of her liberal peers including Kiernan.”

Risner was promoted to colonel after his capture, with a date of rank of November 11, 1965. He was part of the first group of prisoners released in Operation Homecoming on 12 February 1973 and returned to the United States. In July 1973 USAF assigned him to the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where he became combat ready in the F-4 Phantom II. Risner was later transferred to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico in February 1974 to command the 832d Air Division, in which he flew the F-111 Aardvark fighter-bomber. He was promoted to brigadier general in May 1974. On 1 August 1975, he became Vice Commander of the USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and retired from the Air Force on 1 August 1976.

Risner’s family life during and following his imprisonment was marked by several personal tragedies. His mother and brother died while he was still a P.O.W. and his oldest son Robbie Jr. died two years after his return of a congenital heart defect. In June 1975 Risner was divorced from his wife Kathleen after 29 years of marriage. In 1976 he met his second wife Dorothy Marie (“Dot”) Williams, widow of a fighter pilot missing-in-action in 1967 and subsequently married her after her missing husband was declared dead. They remained married until the end of his life, with the two younger of his four surviving sons choosing to live with him and Risner adopting her three youngest children. After retirement he lived in Austin, Texas, where he worked with the D.A.R.E. program and raised quarter horses, and later in San Antonio. He later moved to Bridgewater, Virginia.

Risner is one of only four airmen with multiple awards of the Air Force Cross, a combat decoration second only to the Medal of Honor.

The USAF Weapons School Robbie Risner Award, created September 24, 1976, was donated by H. Ross Perot as a tribute to Risner and all Vietnam era Prisoners of War, and is administered by the Tactical Air Command (now by Air Combat Command). The award is presented annually to the outstanding graduate of the USAF Weapons School. The Risner Award is a six and one-half foot trophy consisting of a sculpture of Risner in flight suit and helmet on a marble base, weighing approximately four tons. The trophy is permanently displayed at the United States Air Force Academy, with each winner’s name inscribed. A miniature replica, also donated by Perot, is presented to each year’s recipient as a personal memento. An identical casting, measuring four feet and weighing 300 pounds, was installed in the foyer of the USAF Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base in October 1984.

A nine foot bronze statue of Risner, sculpted by Lawrence M. Ludtke and mounted on a five foot pedestal of black granite, was commissioned by Perot and dedicated in the Air Gardens at the Air Force Academy on November 16, 2001. In addition to replicating the Risner Award, the statue commemorates Risner and other POWs who were punished for holding religious services in their room at the Hanoi Hilton on February 7, 1971, in defiance of North Vietnamese authorities. The statue was made nine feet tall in memory of Risner’s statement, commenting on his comrades singing The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America, that “I felt like I was nine feet tall and could go bear hunting with a switch.”

Perot helped Risner later become the Executive Director of the Texans’ War on Drugs, and Risner was subsequently appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a United States Delegate to the fortieth session of the United Nations General Assembly. He was also inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in November 1974 in recognition of his military service, and announced as an inductee into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame on November 1, 2013.

On October 19, 2012, ground was broken at the Air Force Academy for its new Center for Character and Leadership Development. In February 2012 the Academy received a $3.5 million gift from The Perot Foundation to endow the General James R. Risner Senior Military Scholar at the center, who “will conduct research to advance the understanding, study and practice of the profession of arms, advise senior Academy leadership on the subject, and lead seminars, curriculum development, and classroom activities at the Academy.”

The chapter squadron of the Arnold Air Society for Southern California, based on the AFROTC detachment of California State University, San Bernardino, is named for Risner.

Risner died in his sleep October 22, 2013, at his home in Bridgewater, Virginia three days after suffering a severe stroke. Risner was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on January 23, 2014. He was eulogized by Perot and General Welsh with fellow former POWs and current members of the 336th Fighter Squadron among those in attendance.


Have We Forgotten Our Heroes? Chapter 15

thTIGYUTE6Edward Robert Johnson
Rank, Service: 1st Sergeant E-8, U.S. Army
Veteran of:
U.S. Army 1943-1974
World War II 1943-1945
Cold War 1945-1974
Vietnam War 1964-1967 (POW)

Edward Johnson was born on September 23, 1923, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 8, 1943, and then served with the 755th SN Company at Camp Pickett, Virginia, from June 1943 to August 1944. His next assignment was with the 31st Quartermaster Training Company at Camp Lee, Virginia, from August 1944 to October 1945, followed by service as an Admin NCO with the 453rd Quartermaster Laundry Company in Germany from October 1945 to June 1946. SFC Johnson served as an Admin NCO with Headquarters Company of the 61st Quartermaster Battalion in Germany from June to July 1946, and then with the 598th Quartermaster Laundry Company in Germany from July to December 1946.

His next assignment was with the 436th Quartermaster Company in Germany from December 1946 to June 1947, followed by service as a Platoon Sergeant with the 661st Transportation Company in Germany from June 1947 to November 1949. During this time he served as an instructor with Detachment A of the 7871st Training and Education Group in Germany from February to April 1949. He then served as an instructor with the 7744th Educational Training Group in now West Germany from November 1949 to September 1953, and with Headquarters Detachment of the 7812th Station Compliment Unit in West Germany from September 1953 to March 1954.

He was assigned as an instructor to the 44th Replacement Company of the 44th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, from March to October 1954, and then as an instructor with the 2nd Replacement Company at Fort Lewis from October 1954 to June 1955.

MSG Johnson was next assigned as an instructor to the 90th Replacement Battalion at Fort Lewis from June 1955 to March 1956, followed by service as an instructor and then as an Operations and Intelligence Sergeant with Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army in Europe Quartermaster School in West Germany from March 1956 to March 1960.
He served as an infantry instructor with Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Infantry Training Center at Fort Ord, California, from March to April 1960, and then with Headquarters Company of the 4th Infantry Brigade at Fort Ord from April 1960 to October 1963.

MSG Johnson attended Military Assistance Advisor training at the U.S. Army Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from October 1963 to January 1964, and then served as an advisor with the U.S. Army Element of the Military Assistance Advisor Group in South Vietnam from January 1964 until he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War on July 21, 1964.

After spending 1,209 days in captivity, MSG Johnson was released by his captors in Cambodia on November 11, 1967. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and at the U.S. Army Hospital at Fort Ord before serving as Chief Enlisted Advisor to the U.S. Army Advisory Group with the California Army National Guard in San Jose, California, from September 1968 to November 1970.

His next assignment was as 1st Sergeant of 1st Battalion of the 13th Infantry Regiment in West Germany from November 1970 to March 1971, followed by service as 1st Sergeant of 1st Battalion of the 26th Infantry Regiment in West Germany from March to August 1971. 1SG Johnson served as 1st Sergeant of the 1st Adjutant General Admin Company in West Germany from August 1971 to May 1972, and then as 1st Sergeant of Company E of the 701st Maintenance Battalion in West Germany from May to December 1972. His next assignment was as 1st Sergeant of Company A, 4th Battalion of the 4th Infantry Brigade at Fort Ord from January 1973 until his retirement from the Army on March 1, 1974.

Edward Johnson died on July 11, 2000.

His Bronze Star Medal Citation reads:

For distinguishing himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam during the period January 1964 to November 1967. Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results. He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he was faced as a result of the ever changing situations inherent in a counterinsurgency operation and to find ways and means to solve those problems. The energetic application of his extensive knowledge has materially contributed to the efforts of the United States mission to the Republic of Vietnam to assist that country in ridding itself of the communist threat to its freedom. His initiative, zeal, sound judgment and devotion to duty have been in the highest tradition of the United States Army and reflect great credit on him and on the military service.

Have We Forgotten Our Heroes? Chapter 11

JamesAMulliganJames Alfred Mulligan, Jr.
Captain O-6, U.S. Navy
Veteran of:
US Navy 1944-1949, 1950-1952, 1956-1975
US Naval Reserve 1949-1950, 1953-1956
World War II 1944-1945
Cold War 1945-1975
Bay of Pigs Invasion 1961
Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
Vietnam War 1965-1973 (POW)

James A. Mulligan, Jr. was born in 27 March 1926 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the Naval Aviation Cadet V-5 Program on February 6, 1944, and was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and designated a Naval Aviator on August 16, 1947.

After completing transition training in the AD Skyraider, ENS Mulligan served as an AD-3 and AD-4 Skyraider pilot with VA-8A and VA-75 at NAS Oceana, Virginia, from April 1948 to November 1949, followed by service in the Naval Reserve with VF-913 at Squantum, Massachusetts, from November 1949 until he was reactivated in July 1950.

He then served as an AD-3W pilot with VC-12 at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, from August 1950 until leaving active duty in August 1952. LTJG Mulligan re-joined the Naval Reserve in January 1953, serving with VF-917 at South Weymouth, Massachusetts, until returning to active duty in January 1956.

LCDR Mulligan next served as a flight instructor at NAS Pensacola, Florida, from January 1956 to January 1959, followed by service as an A4D Skyhawk ph0001001rflight instructor with VF-21 and VA-43, the A4D Replacement Air Group, at NAS Oceana, Virginia, from January 1959 to November 1960. His next assignment was as an A-4 pilot and Operations Officer with VA-72 at NAS Oceana from November 1960 to December 1962, and then as a staff officer on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon from January 1963 to July 1964.

CDR Mulligan attended Armed Forces Staff College from July 1964 to January 1965, and then was Executive Officer of VA-36 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) deployed to Southeast Asia from January 1965 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on March 20, 1966. He was to have become Commanding Officer of the Squadron on April 1 1966.

When talking about his experiences in North Vietnam, CPT Mulligan states:

I was Executive Officer of VA-36 on board USS Enterprise and scheduled to become Commanding Officer on 1 April 1966 but I was shot down near Vinh in North Vietnam on 20 March 1966. I had flown more than 80 missions over North Vietnam when my A4 was shot down. I was injured on ejection, receiving a broken shoulder and cracked ribs.

My prison itinerary was as follows:  Hanoi Hilton (Heartbreak Hotel and New Guy Village) from 27 March to 23 April 1966; the Zoo from 23 April 1966 to 26 January 1967; Las Vegas from 26 January 1967 to 25 October 1967; Alcatraz from 25 October 1967 to 9 December 1969; Las Vegas from 9 December 1969 to 25 December 1970; Camp Unity (or “No OK Corral”) 25 December 1970 to 12 February 1973. I was in solitary confinement for 42 3/4 months.

I spent more than 30 months in leg irons. I was the senior officer on the 3rd plane out of Hanoi in the first release on February 12, 1973. I was lucky enough to be the 1st POW cleared for release from Clark Air Force Base to the States on February 14, 1973. I was awarded 2 Silver Stars, 8 Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and 2 Purple Hearts, as well as the POW medal.

mulligan02After captivity I earned my MBA degree in Public Administration. In 1975 after 31 1/2 years of service, I retired from the United States Navy as a Captain. (01 August 1975)

He has written a book regarding his time in Vietnam entitled, “The Hanoi Connection.” James and his wife Louise have 6 sons, (Jim, Kevin, Terry, Mark, Sean and Neil) and 17 grandchildren. James had a personal note on his update — “I share 6 POW grandchildren with Sam Johnson via his daughter Gini and my son Jim.”

His 2nd Silver Star Citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam – In January 1969, his captors, completely ignoring international agreements, subjected him to extreme mental and physical cruelties in an attempt to obtain military information and false confessions for propaganda purposes. Through his resistance to those brutalities, he contributed significantly toward the eventual abandonment of harsh treatment by the North Vietnamese, which was attacking international attention. By his determination, courage, resourcefulness, and devotion to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.

Information contained in this article has been gleaned from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, published sources, interviews, and oral history.


Ira Hamilton Hayes, United States Marine Corps

untitledIra Hamilton Hayes, participant in the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima, was a Pima Indian, born at Sacaton, Arizona, on 12 January 1923. In 1932, the family moved a few miles southward to Bapchule. Both Sacaton and Bapchule are located within the boundaries of the Gila River Indian Reservation in south central Arizona. Hayes left high school after completing two years of study. He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in May and June of 1942, and then went to work as a carpenter.

On 26 August 1942, Ira Hayes enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve at Phoenix for the duration of the National Emergency. Following boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego, Hayes was assigned to the Parachute Training School at Camp Gillespie, Marine Corps Base, San Diego. Graduated one month later, the Arizonan was qualified as a parachutist on 30 November and promoted to private first class the next day. On 2 December, he joined Company B, 3rd Parachute Battalion, Divisional Special Troops, 3rd Marine Division, at Camp Elliott, California, with which he sailed for Noumea, New Caledonia, on 14 March 1943.

In April, Hayes’ unit was redesignated Company K, 3rd Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment. In October Hayes sailed for Vella Lavella, arriving on the 14th. Here, he took part in the campaign and occupation of that island until 3 December when he moved north to Bougainville, arriving on the 4th. The campaign there was already underway, but the parachutists had a full share of fighting before they left on 15 January 1944.

Hayes was ordered to return to the United States where he landed at San Diego on 14 February 1944, after slightly more than 11 months overseas and two campaigns. The parachute units were disbanded in February, and Hayes was transferred to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, of the 5th Marine Division, then at Camp Pendleton, California.

In September, Hayes sailed with his company for Hawaii for more training. He sailed from Hawaii in January en route to Iwo Jima where he landed on D-day (19 February 1945) and remained during the fighting until 26 March. Then he embarked for Hawaii where he boarded a plane for the U.S. on 15 April. On the 19th, he joined Company C, 1st Headquarters Battalion, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.

On 10 May, Hayes, Private First Class Gagnon, Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class Bradley, and Marine Technical Sergeant Keyes Beech, a combat correspondent, left on the bond selling tour. In Chicago, Hayes received orders directing his return to the 28th Marines. He arrived at Hilo, Hawaii, and rejoined Company E of the 29th on 28 May. Three weeks later, on 19 June, he was promoted to corporal.

With the end of the war, Corporal Hayes and his company left Hilo and landed at Sasebo, Japan, on 22 September to participate in the occupation of Japan. On 25 October, Corporal Hayes boarded his eleventh and last ship to return to his homeland for the third time. Landing at San Francisco on 9 November, he was honorably discharged on 1 December.

Corporal Hayes was awarded a Letter of Commendation with Commendation Ribbon by the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, Lieutenant General Roy S. Geiger, for his “meritorious and efficient performance of duty while serving with a Marine infantry battalion during operations against the enemy on Vella Lavella and Bougainville, British Solomon Islands, from 15 August to 15 December 1943, and on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, from 19 February to 27 March 1945.”

The list of the Corporal’s decorations and medals includes the Commendation Ribbon with “V” combat device, Presidential Unit Citation with one star (for Iwo Jima), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four stars (for Vella Lavella, Bougainville, Consolidation of the Northern Solomons, and Iwo Jima), American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

The Corporal Hayes, U.S.M.C. completed his earthly tour of Duty at Bapchule on 24 January 1955. He was buried with honors on 2 February 1955 at Arlington National Cemetery, in Section 34, Plot 479A.

There are probably no more tragic stories than that of Ira Hayes. Born to Joe E. and Nancy W. Hayes on the Pima Indian Reservation in Sacaton, Arizona, Ira was the son of a poor farming family. His family and people had struggled for years to make a living in the arid conditions of the Reservation and had little success beyond survival. At one time the Pima were successful farmers but that was before the US Government cut off their water supply and created a situation where they could no longer grow enough crops to eat.

Until the beginning of W.W.II, his life was probably unnoticed by anyone more than a few miles from his birthplace. When America called its men to arms Ira answered this call and joined the US Marine Corps for several reasons: He would be able to leave the Reservation, eat regularly and send money home to his family to help them have a better life. His Tribal Chief told him to be an Honorable Warrior and to bring honor upon his people. Ira never failed to do this. He was a dedicated Marine who was admired by his peers who fought alongside him in three major battles in the Pacific.

February 23, 1945, at age 23, an event occurred that would forever place Ira Hayes in this nation’s history books and irrevocably change his life. On a hilltop above a Pacific island, a small group of Marines struggled to raise the American flag to claim victory over the Japanese occupancy. As the flag was being raised, Ira rushed to help his comrades just as the photographer snapped what was to become one of the most famous pictures in history. That picture was the “Flag Raising At Iwo Jima” and it is Ira’s hands that are outstretched to give the final thrust that planted this symbol of American victory. Six men were caught in that photograph, three of them died shortly afterwards. The battle of Iwo Jima was a costly one for our troops. Only 5 of Ira’s platoon of 45 survived and of his company of 250, only 27 escaped death or injury.

Ira Hayes was stunned when he was told that President Truman wanted him and the other survivors to return to the United State to join the 7th Bond Tour to help raise money for the war efforts. He never considered himself a hero and often said the real heroes were “my good buddies” who died during the battles. What was supposed to be an easy tour of duty turned into the worst ordeal of Ira’s military life. He never understood why he was called an American hero and struggled with the adulation that was heaped on him everywhere he went. Over and over he made statements that he was not a hero but reminded everyone of the brave men who had died and deserved this honor.

By the time Ira was released from duty he was hopelessly addicted to alcohol. The Bond Tour had been a battle that had taken more of a toll on him than any he fought in the Pacific. It seemed that this nation found one way to honor its heroes: Buy them a drink! Ira went back to the Reservation to escape the unwanted attention he’d be forced to bear but people did not stop writing and coming to see “the Indian who raised the flag.” Ira’s only escape from the conflict he felt over being viewed as a hero was the bottle. Over and over he made statements like; “I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they’re not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.” After a ceremony where he was praised by President Eisenhower once again for being a hero, a reporter asked Ira, “How do you like the pomp & circumstances?” Ira just hung his head and said, “I don’t.”

For the next few years Ira Hayes was a drifter and loner addicted to alcohol.  He never married, was often arrested for public intoxication and was filled with despair over the plight of his people. He had been wined and dined by the rich and powerful, had been immortalized in American history but he was still no more than an Indian on a dried up Reservation now that he’d come home. There was still no water, no crops and no hope for a better life for the Pima or him. All this time he still struggled with his own inability to reconcile himself as being worthy of the fame he’d received for simply being one of the lucky ones who lived through such a horrible war. Ira never saw his military service as any more than just being an “Honorable Warrior.”

In 1954, Ira Hayes attended the dedication ceremony in Washington, D. C. for the Iwo Jima Memorial. This monument was a bronze cast replica of the now famous photograph of the flag raising, created by Felix DeWeldon. Within 10 weeks of this celebration Ira Hamilton Hayes would be dead at age 33. After another night of drinking and still lamenting over his fallen “buddies”, Ira fell into an irrigation ditch and froze to death, alone and forgotten by a country that had called him a hero. The ditch where he died was the single source of water that was provided for his people by the same government he’d proudly served.

Note: Ira H. Hayes was one of the first public figures to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. During Ira’s time, it was referred to “Shell Shock” or “Survivor’s Guilt” and there was little or no treatment. Today, about 30% of war veterans experience PTSD and receive various treatment methods. If you or someone you know exhibits PTSD characteristics please seek professional help.


Daniel Carroll – Signer of the United States Constitution – Maryland

Daniel_carrollDaniel Carroll was born on 22 July 1730 in Upper Marlboro, Prince Georges County, Maryland, the oldest son of Daniel Carroll, a native of Ireland, and Eleanor Darnall Carroll, of English descent. He spent his early years at his family’s home, a large estate of thousands of acres which his mother had inherited. (Several acres are now associated with the house museum known as Darnall’s Chance, listed on the National Register of Historic Places).

Daniel was sent abroad for his education. Between 1742 and 1748 he studied under the Jesuits at the College of St. Omer in Flanders, established for the education of English Catholics after the Protestant Reformation. Then, after a tour of Europe, he sailed home and soon married Eleanor Carroll, a first cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

Carroll gradually joined the Patriot cause. A planter, slaveholder and large landholder, he was concerned lest the Revolution fail economically and bring about not only his family’s financial ruin, but mob rule as well.

Carroll, supported the cause of American independence, risking his social and economic position for the Patriot cause. As a friend and staunch ally of George Washington, he worked for a strong central government that could secure the achievements and fulfill the hopes of the Revolution. Carroll fought in the Convention for a government responsible directly to the people of the country.

At the time, colonial laws excluded Catholics from holding public office. Once these laws were nullified by the Maryland constitution of 1776, Carroll was elected to the Senate of the Maryland legislature (1777-81). At the end of his term, Carroll was elected to the Continental Congress (1781-84). In 1781, he signed the Articles of Confederation. His involvement in the Revolution, like that of other Patriots in his extended family, was inspired by the family’s motto: “Strong in Faith and War”.

Carroll was an active member of the Constitutional Convention. Like his good friend James Madison, Carroll was convinced that a strong central government was needed to regulate commerce among the states and with other nations. He also spoke out repeatedly in opposition to the payment of members of the United States Congress by the states, reasoning that such compensation would sabotage the strength of the new government because “…the dependence of both Houses on the state Legislatures would be complete…. The new government in this form is nothing more than a second edition of [the Continental] Congress in two volumes, instead of one, and perhaps with very few amendments.”

At the Constitutional Convention, Daniel Carroll played an essential role in formulating the limitation of the powers of the federal government. He was the author of the presumption – enshrined in the Constitution – that powers not specifically delegated to the federal government were reserved to the states or to the people. Carroll spoke about 20 times during the debates at the Constitutional Convention and served on the Committee on Postponed Matters. Returning to Maryland after the convention, he campaigned for ratification of the Constitution, but was not a delegate to the state convention.

When it was suggested that the President should be elected by the Congress, Carroll, seconded by Wilson, moved that the words “by the legislature” be replaced with “by the people”. He and Thomas Fitzsimons were the only Roman Catholics to sign the Constitution, a symbol of the advance of religious freedom in America during the Revolutionary period.

Following the Convention, Carroll continued to be involved in state and national affairs. He was a key participant in the Maryland ratification struggle. He defended the Constitution in the pages of the Maryland Journal, most notably in his response to the arguments advanced by the well-known Anti-federalist Samuel Chase. After ratification was achieved in Maryland, Carroll was elected as a representative from the sixth district of Maryland to the First Congress. Given his concern for economic and fiscal stability, he voted for the assumption of state debts by the federal government.

One of three commissioners appointed to survey the District of Columbia, Carroll owned one of the four farms taken for it; Notley Young, David Burns, and Samuel Davidson were the other landowners. The capitol was built on the land which Carroll transferred to the government. On 15 April 1791, Carroll and David Stuart, as the official commissioners of Congress, laid the cornerstone of the District of Columbia at Jones Point near Alexandria, Virginia.

He later was elected to the Maryland Senate. He was appointed a commissioner (co-mayor) of the new capital city, but advanced age and failing health forced him to retire in 1795. Interest in his region kept him active. He became one of George Washington’s partners in the Patowmack Company, a business enterprise intended to link the East with the expanding West by means of a Potomac River canal.

Carroll was one of only five men to sign both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States.

Daniel Carroll died on 5 July 1796, at the age of 65 at his home near Rock Creek in the present village of Forest Glen, Md. He was buried there in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery.


Alexander Hamilton – Signer of the United States Constitution – New York

alexander hamilton, Artist, John Trumbull national archivesALEXANDER HAMILTON was born a British subject on the island of Nevis in the West Indies on January 11, 1755. His father was James Hamilton, a Scottish merchant of St. Christopher. Hamilton’s mother was Rachael Fawcette Levine, of French Huguenot descent. When Rachael was very young, she had married a Danish proprietor of St. Croix named John Michael Levine. Ms. Levine left her husband and was later divorced from him on June 25, 1759. Under the Danish law which had granted her divorce, she was forbidden from remarrying. Thus, Hamilton’s birth was illegitimate.

Business failures resulted the bankruptcy of his father and with the death of his mother, Alexander entered the counting house of Nicholas Cruger and David Beekman, serving as a clerk and apprentice at the age of twelve. By the age of fifteen, Alexander was left in charge of the business. Opportunities for regular schooling were very limited. With the aid of funds advanced by friends, Hamilton studied at a grammar school in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. In 1774, he graduated and entered King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York City and obtained a bachelor’s of arts degree in just one year.

The War of Independence had begun and at a mass meeting held in the fields in New York City on July 6, 1774, Hamilton made a sensational speech attacking British policies. Hamilton’s military aspirations flowered with a series of early accomplishments. On March 14, 1776, he was commissioned captain of a company of artillery set up by the New York Providential Congress. Hamilton’s company participated at the Battle of Long Island in August of 1776. At White Plains, in October of 1776, his battery guarded Chatterton’s Hill and protected the withdrawal of William Smallwood’s militia. On January 3, 1777, Hamilton’s military reputation won the interest of General Nathaniel Greene. General Greene introduced the young Captain to General Washington with a recommendation for advancement. Washington made Hamilton his aide-de-camp and personal secretary with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He served four years as Washington’s personal secretary and confidential aide. Longing for active military service, he resigned from Washington’s staff after a dispute with the general, but remained in the army. At the Battle of Monmouth (June 28, 1778), Hamilton again proved his bravery and leadership and he also won laurels at Yorktown (Sept. – Oct. 1781), where he led the American column in a final assault in the British works.

Hamilton married Elizabeth, the daughter of General Philip Schuyler on December 14, 1780. The Schuylers were one of the most distinguished families in New York. This connection placed Hamilton in the center of New York society. In 1782, he was admitted to legal practice in New York and became an assistant to Robert Morris who was then superintendent of finance.

Hamilton was elected a member of the Continental Congress in 1782. He at once became a leading proponent of a stronger national government than what had been provided for by the Articles of Confederation. As a New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he advocated a national government that would have virtually abolished the states and even called for a president for life to provide energetic leadership. Hamilton left the convention at the end of June, but he did approve the Constitution subsequently drafted by his colleagues as preferable to the Articles of Confederation, although it was not as strong as he wished. Hamilton used his talents to secure the adoption of the Constitution and published a letter in the Constitution’s defense. This letter was published in the New York Independent Journal on Oct. 2, 1787.

Hamilton was one of three authors of The Federalist. This work remains a classic commentary on American constitutional law and the principles of government. Its inception and approximately three-quarters of the work are attributable to Hamilton (the rest belonging to John Jay and James Madison). Hamilton also won the New York ratification convention vote for the Constitution against great odds in July 17-July 26, 1788.

During Washington’s presidency, Hamilton became the first secretary of the Treasury. Holding this office from September 11, 1789 to January 31, 1795, he proved himself a brilliant administrator in organizing the Treasury. In 1790 Hamilton submitted to Congress a report on the public credit that provided for the funding of national and foreign debts of the United States, as well as for federal assumption of the states’ revolutionary debts. After some controversy, the proposals were adopted, as were his subsequent reports calling for the establishment of a national bank. He is chiefly responsible for establishing the credit of the United States, both at home and abroad. In foreign affairs his role was almost as influential. He persuaded Washington to adopt a policy of neutrality after the outbreak of war in Europe in 1793, and in 1794 he wrote the instructions for the diplomatic mission to London that resulted in the Anglo-American agreement known as Jay’s Treaty. Hamilton also became the esteemed leader of one of the two great political parties of the time.

After the death of George Washington, the leadership of the Federalist Party became divided between John Adams and Hamilton. John Adams had the prestige from his varied and great career and from his great strength with the people. Conversely, Hamilton controlled practically all of the leaders of lesser rank and the greater part of the most distinguished men in the country.

Hamilton, by himself, was not a leader for the population. After Adams became President, Hamilton constantly advised the members of the cabinet and endeavored to control Adams’s policy. On the eve of the presidential election of 1800, Hamilton wrote a bitter personal attack on the president that contained confidential cabinet information. Although this pamphlet was intended for private circulation, the document was secured and published by Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s political and legal rival. Based on his opinion of Burr, Hamilton deemed it his patriotic duty to thwart Burr’s ambitions. Burr forced a quarrel and subsequently challenged Hamilton to a duel. The duel was fought at Weehawken on the New Jersey shore of the Hudson River opposite New York City. At forty-nine, Hamilton was shot, fell mortally wounded, and died the following day, July 12, 1804. It is unanimously reported that Hamilton himself did not intend to fire, his pistol going off involuntarily as he fell. Hamilton was apparently opposed to dueling following the fatal shooting of his son Philip in a duel in 1801. Further, Hamilton told the minister who attended him as he laid dying, “I have no ill-will against Col. Burr. I met him with a fixed resolution to do him no harm. I forgive all that happened.” His death was very generally deplored as a national calamity. He died on 12 July 1804, in New York City, New York. He is buried in Trinity churchyard, New York City, NY.


John Brown, Jr. – United States Marine Corps – Code Talker

11535bJohn Brown Jr., 87, one of the original 29 U.S.M.C. WWII Code Talkers and a former Navajo Tribal councilman, passed on Wednesday morning, 21 May 2009.

Flags were ordered to be flown at half-staff by President Joe Shirley of the Navajo Nation in Brown’s honor.

“. . .  with sadness, we heard of the passing of Mr. John Brown Jr., one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers and one of the Navajo Nation’s great warriors,” Shirley said. “For so long, these brave men were the true unsung heroes of World War II, shielding their valiant accomplishments not only from the world but from their own families. The recognition and acknowledgment of their great feats came to them late in life but, for most, not too late. These heroes among us are now a very precious few, and we, as a nation, mourn their loss. We offer our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. John Brown Jr.”

John Brown, Jr. was born 24 December 1921, in Chinle, near Canyon de Chelly to John and Nonabah Begay Brown. Brown attended Chinle Boarding School and graduated in 1940 from Albuquerque Indian School. He was playing basketball when he heard about the bombing at Pearl Harbor, said his son Frank Brown.

“Sometime after that he remembered a number of Marine recruiters started talking to the young Navajo boys,” Frank Brown said. Brown ended up going to Fort Wingate to the military installation. His father remembered being signed up, sworn in and given his physical right then and there, Frank Brown said. Brown was immediately sent to Camp Pendleton for basic training. “They weren’t allowed to go home to say goodbye to their family or write letters,” Frank Brown said. “At some phase in their basic training, they were taken into one big room and a commandant told them they were all there for a special reason, and they were to devise a code in their language,” Frank Brown said. “The boys were left there in the room and they didn’t know what the heck to do. But they devised the code using names of animals and mammals to describe what would go with the alphabet.”

That code consisted of translations for 211 English words and was later expanded to 411 words, according to the president’s office. The code also included Navajo equivalents for the letters in the English alphabets so the Code Talkers could spell out names and locations. The NavajoCodeTalkerscode and the Code Talkers would help end World War II.

Navajo Code Talkers participated in battles in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. Frank Brown said his father served in four major battles at Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian and Guadalcanal. The code was not declassified until 1968.

Brown was one of the original 29 Code Talkers presented with the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush on July 26, 2001 — 56 years following World War II.

“It is, indeed, an honor to be here today before you, representing my fellow distinguished Navajo code talkers,” Brown said at the presentation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. “Only destiny has demanded my presence here, for we must never forget that these such events are made possible only by the ultimate sacrifice of thousands of American men and women who, I am certain, are watching us now. And yes, it is fitting, too, here in the Capitol Rotunda – such a historic place, where so many heroes have been honored. I’m proud that the Navajo Code Talkers today join the ranks of these great Americans. I’d like especially to thank Senator Bingaman and all of work that he has given to make this occasion possible, to recognize the code talkers.”

“I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942, not to become a Code Talker — that came later — but to defend the United States of America in the war against the Japanese emperor.”

“My mother was afraid for my safety, so my grandfather told her to take one of my shoes, place an arrowhead in it, take it to the mountain called Two Little Hills, and go there every day to pray that I would remain safe. Maybe she was more successful than she imagined because the Marine Corps soon had the Navajo Marines develop a secret code using our language. My comrade and I volunteered to become Navajo radio operators, or Code Talkers,” Brown said at the presentation.

“Our precious and sacred Navajo language was bestowed upon us, not a nation, but a holy people. Our language is older than the Constitution of the United States. I’m proud that, at this point in American history, our native language and the code we developed came to the aid of our country, saving American lives and helping the other U.S. armed forces ultimately to defeat the enemies.”

“After the original 29 Code Talkers, there are just five of us that live today: Chester Nez, Lloyd Oliver, Allen Dale June, Joe Palmer and myself. We have seen much in our lives. We have experienced war and peace. We know the value of freedom and democracy that this great nation embodies. But our experience has also shown us how fragile these things can be and how we must stay ever vigilant to protect them, as Code Talkers, as Marines.

“We did our part to protect these values. It is my hope that our young people will carry on this honorable tradition as long as the grass shall grow and water shall flow,” Brown said.

“Mr. President, we four original code talkers present this day, including the families of my comrades who aren’t able to be here with us, are honored to be here to receive this award. Thank you,” Brown said.

President Richard Nixon awarded Navajo Code Talkers a special certificate in appreciation for their patriotism, resourcefulness and courage in 1971. They were included in the Bicentennial Parade in Washington July 4, 1976.

The U. S. Senate passed a bill declaring August 14 National Code Talkers Day in May 1982.

Frank Brown said his father lived a hard life, first training as a welder, then becoming a journeyman and master carpenter and cabinetmaker. He was one of the veterans who returned to Navajo land and helped to build the Navajo government by serving as a member of the Navajo Tribal Council from 1962 to 1982. He also served three terms as Crystal Chapter president. “He was always active in politics,” Frank Brown said. “He was a wonderful speaker.”

Brown began a second career as a traditional counselor for the tribe’s Division of Social Services, driving 130 miles to Chinle and back each day. After that, he went on a lecture tour speaking about the Navajo Code Talkers around the country and becoming active in the Navajo Code Talkers Association, his son said. “Dad was also a traditional practitioner, constantly learning the traditional way of life but at the same time he was always active in the Mormon Church,” Frank Brown said.

Brown is survived by his wife Loncie Polacca Brown and his children Dorothy Whilden, Preston Brown, Everett Brown, Virgil Brown and Frank Brown. His other children were the late Dale Brown and the late Ruth Ann McComb.

He is buried at Crystal Cemetery, San Juan County, New Mexico.


Dan Akee – United States Marine Corps – Code Talker

43600aDan Akee, of the Kiyanni and Ashihii clans, was born in Coalmine Canyon in November 1922. He grew up in the Coalmine Mesa area. He started school in 1928 at an early age at the Tuba City Boarding School. Akee withdrew from school shortly after he started for medical reasons and went to a convalescence home in Kayenta, Ariz. to recover from tuberculosis. There he taught himself and reached a 10th grade level equivalent.

Akee enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943, shortly after the outbreak of WWII. Akee trained as a code talker and was detailed to the 4th Marine Division, 25th Regiment. From 1943-45, Akee took part in some of the most ferocious fighting in the Pacific theater. He participated in the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima campaigns.

As a code talker, Akee transmitted and received messages in coded Navajo, a code that was never broken. During battle, Akee was often on the front lines, receiving communication for his regiment. Especially at Iwo Jima, he lost many of his regiment and friends. Some years ago, the Retired Sergeant Major received the Congressional Silver Medal of Honor for his service.

After the war, Akee retired to civilian life with a rank of Sergeant Major, the highest rank for a non-commissioned Marine officer. He went back to high school at the Sherman Institute in Calif. but did not get a high school diploma, because of post war stress trauma. According to Akee, he recovered from the trauma with the help of Navajo Way and Christianity. He worked on the railroad and in a uranium ore processing plant. In 1967, he became an interpreter with Tuba City Hospital’s mental health department where he retired in 1988 after 21 years of service.

After delivering a prayer of remembrance in Navajo, Akee outlined the skills needed to memorize the approximately 555 Navajo words in the highly classified system. The code terms were designed to communicate locations and information of strategic importance during the Second World War. Navajo words, he said, were integrated to represent approximately 450 military terms not in the traditional language, such as submarine and dive-bomber.

The Tuba City resident explained it took five months to memorize the code, which remained top-secret until declassified in 1968. He emphasized the importance of indigenous language preservation and how the code was used to save many lives on both sides, and especially hasten the end of the war.

The approximately 450 Navajo Marines were not allowed to discuss their Signal Corps role in World War II until the 1990s. In 2001, they received Congressional Medals for service to their country.

School officials said the honorary high school diploma is long overdue and recognizes Akee’s achievement as a code talker and his outstanding and tireless lifetime of service to the Navajo people and the United States.

Dan Akee and his wife have 12 children. As of 2011, Sergeant Major Dan Akee and his wife had 73 grandchildren.


Joe Palmer a.k.a. Balmer Slowtalker – United States Marine Corps – Code Talker

JOE PALMER - NAVAJO CODETALKER-ORIGINAL 29Joe Palmer was born Balmer Slowtalker on 10 March 1922 to Judge and May Slowtalker in Leupp, Arizona.

As a Marine in WWII Palmer and 28 other Code Talkers used their native language to transmit military messages on enemy tatics, Japanese troop movements and other battlefield informatian by telephone and radio.

He was honorably discharged in January of 1946. During his service he received the Purple Heart, 4 Bronze Star Medals and a Presidential Citation. In July of 2001 he received the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for his service as one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers. He was a retired lineman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

According to the Naval Historical Center in Washington, the Navajo Code Talkers took part in every assault the Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945 and were praised for their skill, speed and accuracy. Their work was impossible for the enemy to decode. After the war, Palmer and the others were told to keep the Navajo code a secret. Even after the information was declassified in 1968, they were reluctant to discuss it or take credit for their deeds.

Palmer, 84, Of Yuma, AZ, died on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at the VA Medical Center in Tucson. He leaves his wife, Flora Nejo Palmer; son, Kermit (Earlena); granddaughter, Cejae; brothers, Tom, Thomas (Carol), Kee (Susie), Keeteddy (Sandra), John (Zannie) and Jimmie; and sisters, Betty Slowtalker and Bessie Scott. Joe was preceded in death by his father, Judge Slowtalker and mother, Mary. He is buried at Desert Lawn Memorial Park, Yuma, AZ


Have We Forgotten Our Heroes? Chapter 25

hopperGrace Murray Hopper was born Grace Brewster Murray in New York City. She was the oldest in a family of three children. She was curious as a child, a lifelong trait; at the age of seven she decided to determine how an alarm clock worked, and dismantled seven alarm clocks before her mother realized what she was doing (she was then limited to one clock). For her preparatory school education, she attended the Hartridge School in Plainfield, New Jersey. Rejected for early admission to Vassar College at age 16 (her test scores in Latin were too low), she was admitted the following year.

Young Grace’s diligence and hard work paid off when in 1928 at the age of 22 she was graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College. She then attended Yale University, where she received an MA degree in Mathematics and Physics in 1930 and a Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1934. Hopper began teaching mathematics at Vassar in 1931 where her first year’s salary was $800. She stayed there until she joined the United States Naval Reserve in December 1943.

Upon graduation, she was commissioned a LTJG and ordered to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University. There she became the first programmer on the Navy’s Mark I computer, the mechanical miracle of its day. Hopper’s love of gadgets caused her to immediately fall for the biggest gadget she’d ever seen, the fifty-one foot long, 8 foot high, 8 foot wide, glass-encased mound of bulky relays, switches and vacuum tubes called the Mark I. This miracle of modern science could store 72 words and perform three additions every second.

Grace’s love affair with the Mark I ended in a few short years when the UNIVAC I, operating a thousand times faster, won her affections.

In 1946, Grace Murray Hopper was released from active duty and joined the Harvard Faculty at the Computation Laboratory where her work continued on the Mark II and Mark III computers for the Navy. In 1949 she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in Philadelphia-later called Sperry Rand-where she designed the first commercial large-scale electronic computer called the UNIVAC I.

Grace Murray Hopper changed the lives of everyone in the computer industry by developing the Bomarc system, later called COBOL (common-business-oriented language). COBOL made it possible for computers to respond to words rather than numbers. Hopper often jokingly explained, “It really came about because I couldn’t balance my checkbook.”

Murray Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of Commander at the end of 1966. She was recalled to active duty in August of 1967 for what was supposed to be a six-month assignment at the request of Norman Ream, then Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy for Automatic Data Processing. After the six months were up, her orders were changed to say her services would be needed indefinitely. She was promoted to Captain in 1973 by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations. In 1977, she was appointed special advisor to Commander, Naval Data Automation Command (NAVDAC), where she stayed until she retired.

In 1983, a bill was introduced by Rep. Philip Crane (D-Ill.) who said, “It is time the Navy recognized the outstanding contributions made by this officer (Admiral Grace Hopper) recalled from retirement over a decade and a half ago and promote her to the rank of Commodore.” Rep. Crane became interested in Grace Murray Hopper after seeing her March 1983 60 Minutes interview. He’d never met Hopper, but after speaking with several people, was convinced she was due the added status of being a flag officer. The bill was approved by the House, and at the age of 76, she was promoted to Commodore by special Presidential appointment. Her rank was elevated to rear admiral in November 1985, making her one of few women admirals in the history of the United States Navy.

On 27 September 1985, the Navy Regional Data Automation Center (now the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station), San Diego, broke ground on a 135,577 square foot data processing facility, The Grace Murray Hopper Service Center. The building contains a data processing center as well as training facilities, teleconferencing capabilities, telecommunications and expanded customer service areas. A small room-sized museum contains numerous artifacts, awards and citations that Hopper received during her lengthy career. The guest visitor’s book contains the names of some prominent people paying homage to the computer pioneer. There is also a Grace Murray Hopper Center for Computer Learning at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, where she spent her childhood summers.280px-Commodore_Grace_M__Hopper,_USN_(covered)

She retired (involuntarily) from the Navy on August 14, 1986. At a celebration held in Boston on the USS Constitution to celebrate her retirement, Hopper was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the Department of Defense. At the time of her retirement, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the United States Navy (79 years, eight months and five days), and aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy (188 years, nine months and 23 days). (Admirals William D. Leahy, Chester W. Nimitz, Hyman G. Rickover and Charles Stewart were the only other officers in the Navy’s history to serve on active duty at a higher age. Leahy and Nimitz served on active duty for life due to their promotions to the rank of fleet admiral.)

Three hundred of her friends and admirers and thirty family members were there to watch as the end came to her 43-year Naval career. As then Secretary of the Navy John Lehman said in his speech, “I’m reminded of that famous story by P.T. Barnum. About the turn of the century, his principle attraction, the human cannonball, came to P.T. Barnum and said, Mr. Barnum, I just can’t take it any longer. Two performances a day and four on weekends are just too much. I’m quitting.’ Barnum said, You can’t possibly quit. Where will I find someone else of your caliber?’ They realized Hopper was irreplaceable.”

In her retirement speech, instead of dwelling on the past, she talked about moving toward the future, stressing the importance of leadership. “Our young people are the future. We must provide for them. We must give them the positive leadership they’re looking for…You manage things; you lead people.” It was at her retirement in 1986 that she was presented the highest award given by the Department of Defense – the Defense Distinguished Service Medal – one of innumerable awards she received from both the Navy and industry.

Other awards include the Navy Meritorious Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the National Medal of Technology, awarded last September by President George Bush. She also received the first computer sciences “man of the year” award from the Data Processing Management Association (DPMA) in 1969. Other achievements include retiring from the Navy as a Rear Admiral and the oldest serving officer at that time, and being the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale University. For a CAPT Grace Hopper, Head of the Navy Programming Section of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OP-911F), at work in her office in August 1976. She was the first Naval Reserve woman to be called back to active duty.

Retirement didn’t slow Admiral Grace Hopper down. Shortly thereafter, she became a Senior Consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation where she was active until about 18 months before her death. She functioned in much the same capacity she did when she was in the Navy, traveling on lecture tours around the country, speaking at engineering forums, colleges, universities and computer seminars passing on the message that managers shouldn’t be afraid of change. In her opinion, “the most damaging phrase in the language is We’ve always done it this way.'”

Grace said in many of her speeches, “I always promise during my talks that if anyone in the audience says during the next 12 months, ‘But we’ve always done it that way,’ I will immediately materialize beside him and haunt him for the next 24 hours and see if I could get him to take a second look.” Embracing the unconventional, the clock in her office ran counterclockwise.

Grace’s favorite age group to address was young people between the ages of 17 and 20. She believed they know more, they question more and they learn more than people in what she called the “in-between years”, ages 40 to 45. She always placed very high importance on America’s youth. Hopper often said, “working with the youth is the most important job I’ve done. It’s also the most rewarding.” This seems perfectly natural since she spent all her adult life teaching others.

Grace Murray Hopper was a big hit at the Navy Micro Conference. She loved to tell the story of how the conference started because it supported her famous saying, “It’s always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Here’s the story:

A sailor in the Pacific fleet built a computer aboard ship. A picture of the computer appeared in Navy Times where a rear admiral saw it. He wrote the sailor a letter of encouragement. The sailor decided to answer the rear admiral directly, telling him exactly what was wrong with computers in the Pacific fleet and what could be done using microcomputers. (The computer mentality at that time was geared around mainframes.)

As events evolved, the sailor was transferred to the Navy Regional Data Automation Center (NARDAC) in Norfolk, Virginia (now called Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station LAN) where his technical expertise could be fully utilized. He was part of the team that birthed the first microcomputer conference in 1982. A five point plan was developed that centered around the microcomputer contracts. It provided other needed services for users, including the ability to communicate via a conference.

What started off as a small seminar for 400 people the first year has grown into a full-blown conference, averaging over a thousand attendees every year. It wasn’t until the third year that the conference became completely legal.

Grace Hopper was a keynote speaker for the conference in its earlier years, drawing a standing-room-only crowd. Although she had a standard keynote speech, stressing the same message over and over, people were fascinated by her. Her lectures challenged management to keep pace. The Navy Micro Conference still goes on today, alternating between the east and west coasts, still stressing Hopper’s unique message to the world: Be innovative, open minded and give people the freedom to try new things.

Hopper enchanted her audiences with tales of the computer evolution and her uncanny ability to predict the trends of the future. Many of her predictions came true right before her eyes as industry built more powerful, more compact machines and developed the operating systems and software that matched her visions. Some of her more innovative ideas include using computers to track the lifecycle of crop eating locusts, building a weather computer, managing water reserves so that everyone would have a fair share and tracking the waves at the bottom of the ocean. She also thought every ship should have a computer that the crew could play with and learn to use.

Admiral Hopper was observed at the Navy Micro ’87. She passed by with her entourage, smoking a filter-less Lucky Strike cigarette as she often did. People could be heard whispering, “There she is,” as she passed by. The initial impression of her was that of a friendly, grandmotherly-type woman who looked almost frail. Those words don’t exactly describe the public side of Grace Hopper. She was described by one reporter as a “feisty old salt who gave off an aura of power.” This held true in her dealings with top brass, subordinates and interviewers – always interested in getting to the bottom line.

Eighty-five-year-old Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper who dedicated her life to the Navy passed away on 1 January 1992. As a pioneer Computer Programmer and co-inventor of COBOL, she was known as the Grand Lady of Software, Amazing Grace and Grandma COBOL. She’ll be remembered for her now famous sayings, one of which is “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Her insight into the future will stay with us even though she’s gone. Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was laid to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 59, lot 973.