by Debby Stinemetz Caulfield
When I was fourteen, I moved into the Marine Barracks and fell in love with many handsome Marines. My father was the commanding officer of the Marine Barracks, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Our quarters were literally one end of the barracks. On the other side of my bedroom wall was “the head” where I could hear the Marines showering at reveille. Our front yard was the parade ground and our backyard was the servicing area for the mess and laundry. There was also a brig. There was no better place for a coming-of-age young woman to be where opportunities for flirting abounded, if kept out of the Colonel’s watchful eye. My younger brother and sister developed friendships with the off duty Marines too, riding skateboards together down the back service road.
Sometimes our Marine friends moved away and we never heard of them again. But some came back in the form of bad news as our father would tell us at the dinner table that our friend Lurch or Tom or Bob had been killed in action in Vietnam. It wasn’t just the Marines at our barracks home who were dying. My father, being the senior Marine in Maine, was tasked with officially notifying the families of Marines killed in Vietnam. I’d wait for my father to come home and see the emotion on his face, as he’d tell of fathers fainting in his arms or mothers screaming inconsolably.
We moved out of the Marine Barracks and my father moved to Vietnam. We continued to get more stories of Marines dying as my father shared his experiences as the commanding officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in Danang.
Before I was 18 years old and started developing any political sense and ideology about wars, I had become keenly aware that war and service to country is about death. This is what I think about on Memorial Day.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
By Allen Dale Olson
Active duty personnel underwent some sort of alert almost every month. As a civilian employee, I was mostly unaffected by them. Only significant events – such as the death of President Johnson or the attempted assassination of President Reagan – disrupted my life in any meaningful way, attending security briefings or doing phone duty to inform various commands of proposed actions. But the most curious one came in 1974, shortly before President Nixon resigned.
I had been at our ranger training installation in Bad Toelz in Bavaria. At breakfast in the German hotel where I had spent the night, I gleaned from a TV newscaster that something was impacting on all U.S. Forces in the world, so I thought I’d better check it out at the Army post before driving back home to Karlsruhe. I didn’t make it to the post; I was intercepted by military police directing me to return immediately to my duty station. The senior NCO looked at my orders and I.D. and wished me luck on my three-hour drive back home. He had no explanation for the alert.
Nor did my bosses in Karlsruhe and Heidelberg. The alert had been called personally by a very troubled President who had perceived a national threat, apparently unsubstantiated by either military or security agencies. For almost 24 hours, soldiers, sailors, and airmen manned duty stations with absolutely no rational explanation as to why they were frozen in place. All we were ever told is that it was “real,” not “practice.”
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Of course it would be Sheer Lunacy to skip past a Pentagon security guard to get to your office. But I was surprised to be stopped by a guard who said my official ID issued by the United States European Command was no longer sufficient to get me in. Unless I was assigned to a Pentagon job, I could only get to my inner destination accompanied by a Pentagon-assigned employee.
For years my EUCOM ID had been good enough. I had even learned which Metro station, which Pentagon entrance, and which corridors to use on my frequent trips to the place. Not that day; new security rules.
The guard told me to use a lobby phone to call my counterpart inside and he would come get me and walk me in. This was before cell phones, so it meant I had to dig into my brief case to look for the phone number. While doing so, I became aware of an altercation across the lobby at another entrance.
I could see the back of a gray-haired man engaged in intense conversation with a security guard. Both men were obviouslypassionate about their discourse but they were not shouting, so I could not hear them. It also appeared that the security guard was not getting the best of the discourse.
When I finally found my colleague’s phone number, my security guard put his hand on my shoulder and said not to bother. The rule had just changed, and I was free to go in on my own.
I asked what happened, and he explained that the man at the next entrance was retired General Lyman Lemnitzer, former Supreme Allied Commander, Allied Powers, Europe. One more example that a few stars on your uniform can effect instantchange.
There is (or was) civility in the Pentagon in those days. On one of my visits, the Secretary of Defense called an “All Hands” meeting, and another colleague and I headed for the most secure wing of the famous Puzzle Palace.
My colleague was new to government service and had never been around the military, so when we arrived at the Secretary’s outer office and faced a buffet table laden with pastries and coffee urns, he approached a man in a white jacket pouring a cup of coffee and asked if he could please also have a cup.
“Absolutely,” was the response, and Admiral William J. Crowe, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and resplendent in Navy whites, turned, pot in hand, and fulfilled my colleague’s request. Sheer Lunacy is pleased to report that no task, it seems, is too small for our Defense Chiefs.
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Our Dad would have celebrated his 101 birthday yesterday if he were alive. I had a memory on my heart all day and decided to share.
It was December 1944. Dad was getting ready to go overseas during WWII . He and a large number of fellow military personnel were on a train in New Jersey when the train was held up due to a snow storm. The date was December 22, a few days before Christmas. Since everybody had a little cash on hand, the guys began to play poker to pass the slow moving time! Our Dad did rather well winning $1800.00. that was quite a lot of money in those days…our Dad was only making about $40.00 a month at the time.
He wired about $400.00. back home to save until after the war.
But he took the rest, about $1,400, went into town and bought items to make Christmas bags for EVERY guy on the train. Imagine the impact – guys going to war, not knowing whether they were going to return home, Christmas time, away from family and there was a Christmas surprise for them on Christmas morning.
(I never heard my Dad tell that story…the pastor shared it at his funeral). So very thankful I was raised by a kind and humble man! Merry Christmas everyone. I pray that your Christmas has an unexpected blessing,
Got three interesting bits of information to share here:
1) The story of Navy Brat, Bill Free, on December 7, 1941.
2) Why is December 7, 1941 so important to us today as Brats?
3) Ten Amazing Facts About The Bombing of Pearl Harbor?
The story of Navy Brat, Bill Free, on December 7, 1941.
Bill Free looked up to his father. As a boy, Bill enjoyed listening to his father, a sailor serving in the U.S. Navy talking about his experiences. Bill looked forward to the day he could join the Navy, and hopefully join his father onboard a ship somewhere. His dream came true, but with tragic results.
On December 7, 1941, U.S. Navy Seaman Second Class William Thomas Free was killed on board the USS Arizona when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. His father, Machinist Mate First Class Thomas Free, was also onboard the USS Arizona that morning and was also killed.
Today Bill Free is remembered on the OVERSEAS BRATS (OSB) Brats Memorial at: www.overseasbrats.com . He is the oldest Brat listed on the OSB Brats Memorial and the earliest date recorded of a Brat whom died while serving his country on that memorial.
Why Is December 7, 1941 so important to us today as Brats?
In the cruise industry I give a couple talks related to this.
December 7, 1941 is so important to us today because:
*The war in Europe had stalemated. The Japanese were on the offensive in the Pacific. U.S. entry would change all that.
*English replaced French as the language of commerce and diplomacy.
*The U.S. would emerge as one of the Super Powers of The World.
*Gave birth to a new generation called The Baby Boomers.
*Would set in motion a number of things that would eventually make us all Brats.
The following comes from one of my talks in the cruise industry.
Ten Amazing Facts About The Bombing of Pearl Harbor
1) This may come as a surprise but which nation came up with the idea of Pearl Harbor?
The British! A British journalist first wrote about it in 1925.
Then in 1940, the British attacked the Italian naval base at Taranto with torpedo bombers that crippled the Italian fleet. A Japanese naval attaché stationed in Berlin was sent to investigate.
2) The USS Arizona had actually been part of an aircraft carrier task force attacking from the north that as part of a training maneuver, had attacked on a Sunday and on the 7th! (February 7, 1932).
3) How is it that the Americans fired the first shot at Pearl Harbor?
This happened when the American destroyer, the USS Ward fired on an unidentified submarine and sank it in a restricted area in front of the entrance of Pearl Harbor at 6:30 a.m. on December 7.
4) What major objectives did the Japanese fail to accomplish on December 7 which would come back to haunt them?
A couple things here.
When Admiral Chester Nimitz did an inspection of the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 25, 1941he commented that:
-The Japanese picked the wrong day to bomb. It being Sunday, nine out of every 10 crewmen stationed on board the ships were on shore leave.
-The Japanese pilots got so carried away trying to sink battleships, they didn’t touch the dry docks near the ships. As it was, since the ships were in shallow water and the dry docks went untouched, meaning the ships could have been quickly repaired.
-The oil storage tanks that had 4.5 million of gallons of oil in them that were located nearby at Hickam Airfield and a few miles away went untouched in the attack. The oil from those storage tanks fueled the aircraft carrier task forces that went on to bomb Tokyo in April 1942, stop the Japanese advance in the Coral Sea in May 1942, and decisively defeated the Japanese at the Battle of Midway in June 1942.
Last but not least: The major mission of the Japanese was to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers. None were at Pearl Harbor at the time the Japanese bombed it.
5) What other ship was sunk at Pearl Harbor that has sailors entombed aboard it other than the USS Arizona?
This is the USS Utah.
6) What allied ship came to the aide of the Americans in Honolulu on December 7?
This was the Dutch merchant vessel, the SS Jagersfontein, which was berthed at a pier in Honolulu. When the attack began on Hawaii, the crew came to the aid of the Americans when the ships’ anti-aircraft batteries fired on Japanese aircraft that flew by it.
7) Why is Torao Migita’s Pearl Harbor story unique?
He was a Hawaii National Guardsman. On December 7, 1941, as a Private stationed with D Company, 298th Infantry at Schofield Barracks, he was killed while returning to his post. When we think of American servicemen who were killed in Hawaii on that date, we usually think they were all Caucasians, Private Migita was of Japanese ancestry.
8) What aircraft at Hickam AFB that was destroyed by the bombing, was actually preparing for a secret mission against the Japanese?
On December 5, 1941 a B-24 bomber flew in from the mainland and upon landing was placed under a lot of security. What we know is that some very sophisticated camera equipment (for that time) was being loaded on board, according to one of the guards assigned to protect it. The aircraft was being prepared for a special mission, but on December 7, 1941 the bomber was destroyed in the attack and two crew members were killed trying to save it. Speculation? The aircraft was to be flown to either Wake Island or Guam to use as a base to launch photographic missions on the Marianas or Marshall Islands, then under Japanese control.
9) What were some of the classic statements made about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
“Rising sun, attacking early in the morning from a northerly direction.”
Quatrain 91, Century II,
Michael Nostradamus, 16th Century.
Returning home from a ball held at the Schofield Barracks Officers Club on Saturday night, December 6, 1941, the top Army commander in Hawaii, Lieutenant General Walter Short saw the bright lights of the ships in Pearl Harbor.
“Isn’t it a beautiful sight?” he commented to his wife. “And what a target they would make.”
In early December 1941 the main job of Pearl Harbor’s Station Hypo, a highly secret intelligence unit was to listen and locate Japanese naval radio traffic. On December 2, the call signs for most of Japan’s carriers disappeared from the air waves.
When Admiral Kimmel’s intelligence officer told him this, Kimmel replied, “Do you mean to say they could be rounding Diamond Head and you wouldn’t know it?”
In a letter to his wife dated December 6, 1941, the Captain of the USS Arizona, Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh wrote his wife, “By this time next week,” he penned, “We will be on our way home for Christmas.”
When he discovered that the that the diplomatic ultimatum from Japan to the U.S. was delayed in being delivered to the U.S. State Department until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (instead of being delivered before the bombing, which was the plan), Japanese Admiral Yamamoto commented solemnly to his staff, “We have awakened a sleeping giant and instilled in him a terrible resolve.”
10) The second bombing of Hawaii happened on March 4, 1942 by two Japanese flying boats from Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands. There were no casualties and little damage done.
Thank you for remembering December 7!