Archive for the ‘Heroism’ Category

Obit watch: September 11, 2014.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Colonel Bernard F. Fisher (USAF – ret) passed away on August 16th, though his death does not appear to have been widely reported until today.

Col. Fisher (he was a major at the time) received the Medal of Honor for pulling off one of the greatest rescue missions in the history of the Vietnam War.

(I swear that I read this story in Reader’s Digest when I was a child, maybe as a “Drama In Real Life”.)

The paper of record does not seem to have deigned to note the passing of Richard “Jaws” Kiel, but the LATimes and the A/V Club have.

Edited to add: now the NYT gets around to it.

And speaking of obits…

Friday, May 9th, 2014

I am sad that William Ash, a gentleman I was previously unfamiliar with, has died.

On the other hand, 96 years is a pretty good run, and his NYT obit is quite entertaining.

Before the war ended, he had attempted 13 escapes and made it outside the barbed wire a half-dozen times. He went under, over and through fences. He walked out in disguise. He tunneled through a latrine. He was always recaptured.

I suspect one reason he was always recaptured is that the Germans could hear him clanking as he walked from miles away.

Obit watch: March 29, 2014.

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., retired from the Navy as a rear admiral and a former US senator from Alabama.

He was also a war hero.

Over the next seven years and seven months, Commander Denton was held in various prison camps, including the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” and endured beatings, starvation, torture and more than four years of solitary confinement, including periodic detentions in coffinlike boxes. He and other officers nevertheless maintained a chain of command and a measure of discipline among the prisoners.


The North Vietnamese, who lost face, were even more outraged when they learned that Commander Denton, in the Japanese-taped interview broadcast on American television on May 17, 1966, had blinked out “T-O-R-T-U-R-E.” It was the first confirmation that American prisoners of war were being subjected to atrocities during the Vietnam War.
The commander was beaten all night.

And where did we get such men?

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Brigadier General Robinson Risner (USAF- ret.) has died.

General Risner, who was promoted to the rank of brigadier general at his retirement in 1976, was shot down in September 1965 during a mission to destroy a missile site. Then a lieutenant colonel, he turned out to be the highest-ranking officer at Hoa Lo Prison, which American prisoners of war called the Hanoi Hilton. For the first five years — after which higher-ranking officers came to the prison — he helped organize inmates to make complaints about the conditions and to boost morale.

General Risner spent a total of seven and half years in Hoa Lo Prison, more than three of those in solitary confinement.

One of his major acts of defiance was helping to organize a church service in 1971, even though he knew he would be punished. As guards led him away to yet another spell in solitary confinement, more than 40 P.O.W.’s sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” to show support. He was later asked how he felt at that moment.
“I felt like I was nine feet tall and could go bear hunting with a switch,” he said. In 2001, a nine-foot-tall statue of General Risner was installed at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to commemorate that declaration.

You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Like Robert Ruark, I have a certain sentimental attachment to the Coast Guard. (Unlike Ruark, I didn’t grow up around the water, and nobody ever let me chase a rum-runner on a Coast Guard cutter.)



I have some more pictures of the Cleveland Fallen Firefighters Memorial in the tubes, but not all of them came out as well as I would have liked. I was trying to get some closeups of the memorial that would allow folks to actually read the names on it.



Monday, July 8th, 2013

I’m waiting until I get back to edit and post photos. (As a side note, geotagging photos is a PITA on Ubuntu, compared to Apple’s iPhoto.)

We (that is, my mother, aunt, uncle, and I) were trying to get a good view of the tall ships at the Port of Cleveland. Which we couldn’t do yesterday, because the good views required $10 a car for parking plus $14 a person. However, my mother and I went back downtown today and took some photos.

I’ve been thinking a lot about firefighters recently. There was the West incident, and then the Houston Fire Department lost four people fighting a fire in a crack motel. Then there was Arizona. And it isn’t clear to me if any firefighters were lost in Quebec.

We stumbled across this yesterday while we were out, and I wanted to go back and photograph it. I’m happy with the way this photo came out.


Cleveland Fallen Firefighters Memorial, Cleveland, Ohio.

Interesting thing about this memorial: it was designed by Luis Jiménez, who also started building the sculpture. Mr. Jiménez was a popular and well-regarded sculptor. While he was working on the Firefighters Memorial, he was also working on the “Blue Mustang” sculpture for the Denver International Airport. In the process of building that sculpture, part of it fell and fatally injured Mr. Jiménez, and the memorial was completed by other people.

Where do we get such men?

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

The Statesman and other papers are reporting that 14 people are confirmed dead in West.

[Dr. George] Smith [EMS director for West] said four of the confirmed dead were among 18 EMS students who rushed to the scene. Another five volunteer firefighters died. “We had a class at the EMS station that was baptized under fire,” he told residents at the town hall meeting, tearing up as about 250 residents stood in unison and applauded.

The Waco paper is maintaing a list.

Volunteer Fireman's Monument, Texas S

Volunteer Fireman’s Monument, Texas State Capitol

Detailed article on the Dumas-Sunray disaster from Industrial Fire World.

Obit watch and random notes: December 28, 2012.

Friday, December 28th, 2012

For the record, your General Norman Schwarzkopf obits: NYT. LAT. WP.

I saw this a few days ago and intended to make note of it, but the holidays interfered. Donnie Andrews has also died.

Andrews was a legendary Baltimore stick-up man and all-around crook, who reformed later in life. Omar Little (of “The Wire”) was based on Andrews:

Andrews appeared on screen as one of Omar’s crew, and died in a shootout scene in which Omar leaps from a four-story building and escapes. Andrews said that really happened to him — but he had jumped from the sixth story.

The NYT would like for you to be concerned about the poor show ponies, who are frequently drugged to make them easier to handle. What makes this interesting, to me, is that yesterday the NYT ran an article praising Tattler’s Jet and his trainer; Tattler’s Jet was running his 460th and final harness race, in spite of an inflamed hoof. So. Running a horse for 14 years and 460 races, good; sedating show horses, bad.

Obit watch: special Merry freakin’ Christmas edition.

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Charles Durning, war hero and noted character actor.

He was among the first wave of U.S. soldiers to land at Normandy during the D-Day invasion and the only member of his Army unit to survive. He killed several Germans and was wounded in the leg. Later he was bayoneted by a young German soldier whom he killed with a rock. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and survived a massacre of prisoners.

They don’t make them like that anymore.

Jack Klugman. NYT. LAT.

I’m just a little too young to remember “The Odd Couple” well (except for the theme), but “Quincy, M.E.” was right in my wheelhouse for the first several seasons. At some point, I’d like to do a longer post about the “NBC Sunday Mystery Movie” and all the great stuff that came out of it, but for now, let me say that I was an avid Quincy fan when I was a kid; at least, until the series turned into Jack Klugman’s cause of the week.

I did sort of keep up with Klugman after the series went off the air, and was sad when he came down with throat cancer. That’s the sort of thing I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and I can’t imagine what it was like for an actor. Happily, he was able to do some acting after that. (It brings a smile to my face to see that he did a guest stint on “Crossing Jordan”, the “Quincy” of the 2000 era except that it sucked.)

(And I have, but have not watched, the Criterion “12 Angry Men“. Maybe after folks get back from the holiday.)

You know, they don’t write TV themes like those any more, too.

Medal of Honor followup.

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

I’ve written previously about the case of Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was awarded the Navy Cross for heroism in combat. Sgt. Peralta’s family, and other folks, believe Sgt. Peralta should receive the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Updating this story, the Secretary of Defense has declined to award Sgt. Peralta the Medal of Honor. Former secretary Gates initially ruled against awarding the MoH to Sgt. Peralta, but current secretary Panetta was asked to reconsider the decision, and chose not to overrule Gates.

Noted for future reference.

Friday, February 17th, 2012

All that airline stuff reminded me of a story I’d read a long time ago in Reader’s Digest.

I ended spending far more time than I needed to trying to track down that story (in part because I had both the title and the author’s name mangled). So just in case I want to refer to it in the future, and for the benefit of my readers (full-service blogging experience here, people; also, I think Frankie Housley should not be forgotten):

Wikipedia entry for Frankie Housley.

Knoxville “Metro Pulse” article on Frankie Housley (by way of the Wayback Machine).

MacKinlay Kantor’s “A Girl Named Frankie”.

Obit watch: January 31, 2012.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Master Sergeant John Franklin Baker Jr. (United States Army -ret.)

In November of 1966, then Private Baker’s company was tasked with rescuing another company that was pinned down by Viet Cong troops.

As the company began its rescue effort, the lead man in Private Baker’s column was killed. Moving forward, Private Baker took part in knocking out two enemy bunkers, killed four Viet Cong snipers and then led repeated assaults, killing more Viet Cong. During his forays, he grabbed wounded soldiers and took them to safety. At one point he was knocked off his feet by a grenade.

In addition to saving the lives of eight comrades, he was credited with knocking out six Viet Cong machine-gun bunkers, killing 10 enemy soldiers.

Baker was promoted to sergeant, and received the Medal of Honor for his actions.

In his later years, Mr. Baker volunteered to help ease the transition out of combat for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, including those hospitalized in Germany.