Emmett O’Donnell, Jr. was born on September 15, 1906 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point in 1928 and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. He served during World War II in the Air Corps and United States Army Air Forces. As a Brigadier General, he led the first Boeing B-29 Superfortress raid on Tokyo, November 24, 1944. This was the first American attack on the Japanese capital since the “Doolittle Raid” on April 18, 1942 .
Today – November 14, 2015 – marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang, November 14-18, 1965. This was the first major action of the Vietnam War which saw American forces fighting the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) rather than the Viet Cong guerillas.
Ia Drang was the first time the United States Army‘s new air assault tactics as implemented in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) were really put to the test, and tested they were. The fighting during the first three days of the battle ultimately produced three Medal of Honor recipients and three recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross. Two of the Medal of Honor recipients were helicopter pilots who maintained the critical airborne lifeline between the soldiers fighting on the ground and their bases to the rear. Their names were Major Bruce P. Crandall and Captain Ed W. Freeman.
George Lafayette Mabry, Jr. was born on September 14, 1917 in Sumter, South Carolina. He graduated from Presbyterian College (Clinton, SC) in 1940, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army via ROTC. Mabry, as Captain in the 8th Infantry Regiment, landed with the 4th Infantry Division on D-Day at Utah Beach. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor during the invasion.
Seventy years ago today – May 28, 1945 – during the Battle of Okinawa, then-Staff Sergeant Eugene J. Bigda of Company B, 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division, United States Army single handedly fought both the Japanese and deplorable weather conditions while single-handedly destroying an enemy machine gun post. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Leonard Alfred Funk, Jr. was born on August 27, 1916 in Braddock, Pennsylvania. He was living in nearby Wilkinsburg, PA when he was drafted for service in the United States Army at age 24 on June 7, 1941, prior to the United States’ entry into World War II. Funk volunteered for service in the fledgling airborne force, and earned his paratrooper’s wings.
Audie Leon Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Kingston, Texas. He was the seventh of twelve children in a family abandoned by their father during his childhood. Murphy left school after the fifth grade and was orphaned with the death of his mother in 1941.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he attempted to enlist in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, but was rejected by all three as being both under age and underweight.
In June of 1942, with the help of an older sister who falsified his age by one year, he enlisted in the United States Army at age 17. At the time, the Army recorded him as just 5 feet, 5 1/2 inches tall and 112 pounds.
Might comes in small packages, so it was later shown.
Alfred B. Nietzel was born in the Fordham neighborhood of The Bronx, New York on April 27, 1921. He enlisted in the United States Army as a volunteer on October 15, 1940 when he was 19 years old. He fought during World War II in Europe as a soldier with the 1st Infantry Division.
Richard Ira Bong was born in Superior, Wisconsin on September 24, 1920. He was a college student and already under instruction as a civilian pilot when he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet on May 29, 1941.
Bong received his pilot’s wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant on January 19, 1942 and was posted as an aerial gunnery instructor. He would go on to become the top ace of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.
Pedro Cano was born on June 19, 1920 in La Morita, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. At two months old, he moved with his parents to Edinburg, Texas. Other details of his early life are sketchy, but it’s known he was married and had a daughter when he entered the United States Army for service during World War II. It’s likely he was drafted, but his enlistment record is lost to time. Regardless, he left his family to serve his adopted country; a country of which he was not yet a citizen.
Horace Seaver Carswell, Jr. was born in Fort Worth, Texas on July 18, 1916. He enlisted as an aviation cadet in the United States Army Air Corps in early 1940, and later that year received his pilot’s wings and his commission as a Second Lieutenant.
On October 26, 1944 as a Consolidated B-24 Liberator pilot with the United States Army Air Forces‘ 374th Bombardment Squadron of the 308th Bombardment Group, then-Major Carswell refused to abandon two members of his crew who couldn’t bail out of their damaged bomber over the South China Sea.