Afterword

News, notes and follow-ups

Category: military

One year ago: Gertrude Noone

Gertrude-noon Gertrude Noone was a 44-year-old insurance policy clerk for Travelers in Hartford, Conn., in 1943 when she enlisted in the Women's Army Corps.

A year ago, right before she died at age 110, she was the oldest known living military veteran in the world.

Noone rose to the rank of sergeant first class during her service, which began during World War II. She was chief clerk of the large dispensary at Ft. Myer, Va., by the time she left the Army in 1949.

Former Secretary of the Army Pete Geren honored her in March 2009 in recognition of Women's History Month and the Army's Year of the Non-Commissioned Officer. He visited her at her Connecticut nursing home and called her "a woman who has served with great distinction."

Noone, born Dec. 30, 1898, in Ansonia, Conn., was one of 10 children in her family. All nine of Noone's siblings predeceased her. The most recent was her sister Esther Balogh, who served as an Army nurse during World War II and died in 2003 at 103.

For more on the woman who was the oldest known living military veteran, read Gertrude Noone's obituary by The Times.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Gertrude Noone in uniform while she served in Women's Army Corps, and later in life at her nursing home last year. Credits: Courtesy of the family, left; Richard Messina / Hartford Courant

Israel Tal, who designed Merkava tank, dies at 86

Israel Tal, a decorated war hero and the creator of Israel's renowned Merkava tank, died in the Israeli town of Rehovot on Wednesday. He was 86, according to a military announcement.

Born in 1924, he held a series of important posts in the course of an illustrious military career, leaving the army as deputy chief of staff.

He is considered one of the five best armored commanders in history, alongside U.S. Gen. George S. Patton, Gen. Creighton Abrams, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and Israeli Maj. Gen. Moshe Peled, according to the General George Patton Museum at Ft. Knox in Kentucky, where Tal is commemorated.

Tal's best known accomplishment was heading up the Israeli military committee in the mid-1970s that sought to design a battle tank that would wean the Jewish state off its dependence on foreign weapons.

He oversaw the design of the Merkava tank — Hebrew for "chariot" — which is widely seen as one of the best of its time. The tank was created to ensure the safety of its crew by placing the engine at the front, allowing crew and medics to enter and exit from behind, even under fire.

The tank was also developed for Israeli terrain, particularly specializing in long-range fire, according to the Armor Museum. The Merkava tank entered combat in the 1980s.

Tal's mastery of long-range tank fire tactics are widely seen as key to the Israeli break through of the Egyptian Suez Canal on the Sinai peninsula during the 1967 Mideast war, during which he served as an armored division commander.

Tal became the commander of Israel's southern front during the surprise Egyptian and Syrian attack on the Jewish state in 1973 on its holiest day, Yom Kippur — the day of atonement.

The military commander was also respected for his moral standing. He refused an order by Israel's military chief of staff at the time to engage Egyptian forces after the 1973 war had officially ended, said the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Tal demanded approval from then-Prime Minister Golda Meir and the supreme court to attack. Ultimately, the newspaper said, Tal's refusal to obey the order cost him hopes of becoming the next chief of staff.

Tal leaves behind his wife, a daughter and a son.

-- Associated Press

Nick Bacon, who received Medal of Honor for valor in Vietnam, dies at 64

Nick Bacon, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and former Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs director, died Saturday. He was 64 and had cancer.

Bacon served in the U.S. Army from 1963 to 1984 and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during a 1968 battle in Vietnam. He served as director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs from 1993 through 2005.

Bacon was born in Caraway in northeast Arkansas and most recently lived in Rose Bud.

-- Associated Press

Civil War soldier's daughter dies at 103

Edna Marie Hetrick, whose father fought in the Civil War, died Monday at a senior living center in Findlay, Ohio. She was 103.

Hetrick was a member of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War. The Illinois-based group says there are 16 other living daughters of Civil War veterans.

Hetrick's father, David Huffman, served with the Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Union Army. He fought in battles in Tennessee and Georgia and was wounded in 1863.

Hetrick was born when her father was 62, some 41 years after the Civil War ended.

She said she remembered her father talking about the war, but she wasn't very interested at the time.

-- Associated Press

Medal of Honor recipient Vernon Baker dies at 90

Baker

Vernon Baker, a black soldier who belatedly received the Medal of Honor for his role in World War II, has died at his home in St. Maries, Idaho. He was 90.

Baker2 The Benewah County coroner says Baker died Tuesday of complications of brain cancer.

Then-President Bill Clinton presented the nation's highest award for battlefield valor to Baker in 1997. He was one of only seven black soldiers to receive it in World War II and the only living recipient.

In 1944, 2nd Lt. Baker was sent to Italy with a full platoon of 54 men. On April 5, he and his soldiers found themselves behind enemy lines near Viareggio, Italy. Under concentrated enemy fire Baker and his platoon crawled to several machine gun nests, destroying them and killing 26 Germans.

More later at www.latimes.com/obits.

-- Associated Press

Top photo: Vernon Baker in 2005. Credit: Associated Press; Jesse Tinsley / Spokesman-Review

Bottom photo: Baker during his Army career. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: Roger 'Bill' Terry

Roger-terryOne year ago today, a man who prominently fought for racial integration in the military died. Roger "Bill" Terry was an officer in an all-black group of World War II pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, which became famous for staging what came to be called the Freeman Field Mutiny.

In April 5, 1945, Terry helped 2nd Lt. Coleman A. Young, who later became mayor of Detroit, send black airmen over to an exclusively-white officers' club, three at a time, at Freeman Field in Indiana.

In all, 162 black officers were arrested, but only Terry and two others received a general courts-martial. He was fined $150, reduced in rank and dishonorably discharged in November 1945 without ever having traveled overseas.

Terry helped found Tuskegee Airmen Inc. in 1972 to draw attention to their history, and on Aug. 2, 1995, the Army pardoned him, restored his rank and refunded his $150 fine. In 2007, Terry and several other airmen collectively received a Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush.

Terry's son Jeff told this to The Times about his father:

"He was really quite gratified that he and his colleagues were honored in his lifetime.... With him, it really was the right thing to do, and he accepted the consequences of his actions. He knew if people didn't take a stand, things were not going to change, and they had to change."

Read more in Roger Terry's obituary from The Times.

Photo: Roger Terry. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times

Edward Uhl, who helped invent the bazooka, dies at 92

Edward Uhl, who helped invent the bazooka during World War II and later led the aerospace company Fairchild Industries Inc., has died. He was 92.

Uhl Uhl died Sunday in Oxford, Md., of complications from a stroke he suffered three years earlier, his stepson George Hatcher said.

In 1942, as an Army first lieutenant with an engineering degree, Uhl helped develop a shoulder-fired rocket launcher nicknamed the bazooka because it resembled a tube-shaped musical instrument.

Uhl joined Fairchild as president in 1961. He oversaw its transformation from a military aircraft manufacturer to an aerospace giant before retiring as chairman in 1985.

Fairchild's products included the A-10 Thunderbolt II, an airplane nicknamed the warthog that was used against Iraqi tanks in the 1990 Gulf War.

More later at www.latimes.com/obits.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Edward Uhl in 2005. Credit: Associated Press / via George A. Hatcher Jr.

Saying farewell to Canada's oldest veteran

Babcock
Family, friends and some Canadian dignitaries gathered in Spokane, Wash., over the weekend to honor John "Jack" Babcock, Canada’s last soldier from World War I, who died Feb. 18 at 109.

Babcock died in Spokane, where he had lived since 1932. At a memorial service Saturday, Gen. Walter Natnczyk said Babcock captured the spirit and courage of the 650,000 Canadians who fought in the Great War.

Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs Jean-Pierre Blackburn presented Babcock’s wife, Dorothy Babcock, with the Canadian flag that was flying over the Canadian Parliament building the day he died.

Babcock was born July 23, 1900, near Kingston, Canada, and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Regiment when he was just 15, lying about his age.

The complete story about the memorial service from the Spokane Spokesman-Review is here.

-- Associated Press 

Photo: Dot Babcock, center, widow of Canadian World War I veteran John "Jack" Babcock, surrounded by Canadian military officers after Saturday's memorial service for her husband. Credit: Jesse Tinsley / Spokesman-Review

Retired Army Col. Lewis L. Millett, a Medal of Honor recipient, honored by son

Millett Retired Army Col. Lewis L. Millett, a Medal of Honor recipient who died Nov. 14 at 88, was honored by his son, Lee, in a unique way. The Idyllwild resident, a sculptor, has created a series of sculptures honoring Medal of Honor recipients through history, including his dad.

The bronze sculpture depicts Lewis Millett, then a captain, while he led a bayonet charge up a heavily defended hill during the Korean War in 1951.

One of the sculptures of Col. Millett has been on display in the lobby of the Riverside National Cemetery, where Millett will be buried Dec. 5.

"We also have a lithograph of him charging up Hill 180 [by Don Stivers] that's on display, along with a framed photograph of him," said Jim Ruester, the cemetery's public affairs officer.

Lee Millett, who has heard firsthand accounts from many war veterans and has attended numerous military ceremonies and services, remains moved by their service.

"To meet these guys and talk to them is overwhelming," he told the Riverside Press-Enterprise in 2002. "They are real heroes. They put their life on the line. They put their dreams and hopes aside to protect us. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't ... we wouldn't be here today."

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: Lewis L. Millett in 1995. Credit: Doug Mills / Associated Press

Remembering the fallen on Veterans Day

Poppy2

Today is Veterans Day, when we remember those service men and women who fought for the United States in every war the nation has waged. It was originally called Armistice Day and commemorated the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson made the proclamation:

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.…"

In 1938 it became a legal holiday, and in 1954 it became Veterans Day, to honor veterans of World War II and all other wars. Often marked with patriotic parades, somber remembrances and suspension of regular business, it was observed as a three-day holiday weekend for a time in the 1970s, until Congress moved the official holiday back to Nov. 11 starting in 1978.

It remains a holiday for American schoolchildren, teachers and government workers. And all national parks and national forests will be waiving admission fees today. But many office workers will be in their cubicles. I'll have on display my red paper poppy from the British Legion. As a story from the Voice of America notes:  

The symbol comes from a World War I poem by a Canadian military physician, lamenting the death of a friend, citing that on the battlefields where the dead lay, poppies still grew.

Thirty-six-year-old Michael Newcomb sports a poppy on his lapel like millions of other Britons.

"It is an important tradition. A lot of people died. It is important to remember them, and I think it is a very nice tradition," he said.

For many, Veterans Day is especially poignant this year in the wake of last week's tragedy at Ft. Hood. President Obama spoke at a memorial service there Tuesday, and more remembrances are planned today.  

We'd like to hear about your memories of your loved ones on this Veterans Day.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: A cloth poppy is left on a grave after a service at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Ramle in central Israel. The cemetery dates from World War I and is the last resting place for deceased of both world wars, and the period of the British mandate of Palestine. Credit: David Silverman / Getty Images

Robert Stinson, a casualty of World War II, finally comes home

Stinson

Sixty-five years after Robert Stinson's B-24 bomber went down in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, his remains were returned home Wednesday.  He will be buried Friday at Riverside National Cemetery.

Stinson joined the Army Air Forces out of high school and was a flight engineer when he died in combat on Sept. 1, 1944. He was 24.

After military divers recovered several pieces of leg bone from wreckage off the island nation of Palau, DNA samples provided by his brothers were used to identify the remains.

Said Edward Stinson, who was 9 when his brother died: "Welcome home, brother."

To read the full AP story, click here.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Richard Stinson, left, and Edward Stinson hold a photo of  their brother, Air Force Sgt. Robert Stinson. Military divers recovered Robert's remains, which were then returned to the family. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

We salute Ed Freeman, American hero, but not
the e-mail hoax linking him to Michael Jackson

Right here, right now we are breaking the e-mail chain.

We won’t be forwarding the e-mail to all of our friends on war hero Ed Freeman, who supposedly died in anonymity while Michael Jackson died, triggering “24/7 news coverage,” the e-mailers are likely to point out.

“This death seems to be worth marking,” a journalism professor at USC’s newly rechristened Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism wrote yesterday as he sent along an attachment that chides the media for disregarding the story of a true American hero.

Problem is, Freeman died more than a year ago.

Freeman, of Boise, Idaho, received the Medal of Honor. He flew his chopper more than a dozen times into a Vietnam jungle to save wounded men who were trapped under enemy fire so threatening that regular medical choppers were grounded.

His hometown paper, and many others, did cover this remarkable man’s death when he died at 80 — on Aug. 20, 2008.

For weeks, we’ve been receiving e-mails that shake a virtual finger at us and our obit-writing colleagues around the country for ignoring Freeman, who they claim died the same week Jackson did in June.

Soon after receiving the first of these, we knew the Freeman-Jackson link to be untrue because we did what we do with every name that is submitted: We asked our librarian to do research.

Snopes, the urban legend clearinghouse, did its best to clear up the confusion, in an “Ed Freeman” entry last updated in July. But the e-mail campaign that uses his death to complain about “all Jackson coverage all the time” continues.

To borrow a tired phrase, “please send this to every red-blooded American you know.”

-- Valerie J. Nelson

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