All posts in “Memorial Day; In Remembrance”

“The Last Full Measure of Devotion…”

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“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”           – Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg 19 Nov 1863

From the commons at Lexington and Concord to the gray, forbidding cold of the North Atlantic, the black sand beaches of a Pacific island to a shattered wood near the Marne, this nation has been blessed with generations who have answered the call, who, as Lincoln put it, gave their last full measure of devotion to the cause of Freedom as represented by the nation governed by, for and of  the people.  Some answered willingly, others less so.  For some it was danger so near that they literally dropped their plowshares to catch up their arms for to turn back the enemy.  For others a threat at once less and more defined — ideology that through militant authoritarianism sought or still seeks to spread its darkness across the continents through any means possible.  Many went; most returned while still others found eternal rest across the vast oceans.  For some that rest came in the first moments of an amphibious landing — Omaha, Tarawa and Okinawa come to mind.  To others it came in the freezing skies over Schweinfurt, Berlin, or the Yalu.  Still others in the wine dark deep of the Atlantic, the clear, tropical waters of the Pacific or a yellow brown river delta in Southeast Asia.  Others still it came closer to home — Bunker Hill, Cowpens, or a little known stretch of road in the Maryland countryside.  Sometimes the enemy had a face and a hundred bayonets  – other times it was hidden – a fuel leak, an incomplete weld and never forget the weather.  In hot and cold war, home and abroad, men and women laid down their lives for their fellow countrymen – their last full measure of devotion, and that is what this weekend is all about.  Why we call it “Memorial” Day, and why we should; why we must pause and remember.  Remember and honor not just the dead – but the cause for which they died.  For I fear that daily we let slip a little more that grasp that we must hold on what it means to be free – to enjoy the liberty we have been endowed by our Creator with the understanding that it indeed comes with a price.

Trial by Fire

We have written of that price – offered up corporate and personal remembrances over the years here — and today, collect together those we have a particular, abiding interest with, beginning with that of the trial by fire off the coast of Japan in 1945…the Franklin

Fifth ship of the Essex-class CVs.

Fifth ship named for Benjamin Franklin…

The date – 19 March 1945. Area of operations – fifty miles off the coast of Japan. Flight ops have been underway since before dawn, beginning with a strike against Honshu and another against shipping in Kobe harbor. On the flight deck, aircraft of CVG-5 are being turned around, serviced and armed for another launch and strike; in the ready rooms, the crews are briefing… 

It never takes much — it happens so fast, in the blink of an eye the world turns upside down…

Out of the low-hanging scud-layer a single Japanese aircraft suddenly appears and drops two armor-piercing bombs on the laden flightdeck….Blink. (More Here)

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Shadow Warriors

War can be hot…or cold.  The battle for information, for intelligence to better understand the adversary – their equipment, tactics, thought processes; that battle is never ending.  The price for failure is correspondingly high and recognition for those who labor in the shadows to obtain the needed knowledge is oft miniscule compared to their sacrifice:

The gap between what we know with certainty and what we conjecture (guess) is in constant flux and through time immemorial, efforts have been expended on almost infinite means to close that gap. Indeed, the driving impetus for bringing the airplane (which itself was more of a curiosity than accomplished fact in its early days) into the military were the possibilities implicit in gaining the ultimate “high ground” for scouting and reconnaissance supporting ground and naval forces. Indeed, Naval Aviation was born with the patrol/scout mission in mind.

Information collected was binned as actionable (useful in an immediate or near term sense — i.e., troop movements along the trenches, battleships seeking their opposite numbers for decisive engagements, etc.) or cataloged for longer-range/big picture use – “strategic” information if you will (and yes, we know this is a vast oversimplification). In the beginning, most of the information collected was visual — recorded observations by pilots passed at post-mission debriefs that evolved into still photography with either handheld or airframe mounted cameras.  In time it became the invisible messages and signals tracing the ether over and around the adversary’s territory.  And the adversary’s reaction to attempts to collect it frequently went “kinetic”:

  • 8 April 1950.  Soviet La-11 Fangs, shot down a VP-26 PB4Y-2 Privateer (BuNo 59645″Turbulent Turtle”). Based at Port Lyautey, French Morocco, the Privateer was on a patrol mission launched from Wiesbaden, West Germany. According the to the American account, this incident happened over the Baltic Sea off the coast of Lepija Latvia. The Soviets claimed the aircraft was intercepted over Latvia and fired on the Soviet fighters during the interception. After the fighters engaged the Privateer, the Soviets report that it descended sharply before crashing into the sea 5-10 kilometers off the coast. Wreckage was recovered, and although the Soviet pilots noted 10 parachutes, and the US mounted a search effort that eventually counted over 25 aircraft, the crew went missing and were presumed lost at sea.
  • On July 1, 1960, a Soviet MiG fighter north of Murmansk in the Barents Sea shot down a six-man RB-47 crew.  The planned route of the flight took the plane northward from England over international waters where the plane turned east and entered the Barents Sea northeast of Norway and continued a track in international waters approximately 50 miles from the Soviet Kola Peninsula. While the RB-47H was conducting its reconnaissance mission, a Soviet MiG-19 fighter assigned to the 206th Air Division based at Murmansk paralleled the USAF plane at a distance. The MiG fighter then turned towards the RB-47 on an intercept course, but passed about 3 miles behind it. The radar course plotted by Capt. McKone called for a turn to the northeast at about 50 miles off Holy Nose Cape at the bottom of the Kola Peninsula; however, the Soviet MiG had returned and was now flying in close formation (40 feet) off the right wing of the RB-47. As the RB-47 (flying at 30,000 feet and 425 knots) started its turn to the left, the MiG (piloted by Vasily Polyakov) broke right towards the Soviet shoreline (away from the RB-47), turned back towards the USAF plane and started shooting. Capt. Olmstead immediately returned fire, but the RB-47 was no match for the nimble MiG and after a brief fight, the RB-47 was shot down about 6 P.M. (local time) over international waters in the Barents Sea.  The MiG shot up the left wing, engines and fuselage in its initial firing pass causing the RB-47 to enter a spin which Major Palm and Captain Olmstead were able to pull out of; however, the MiG made a second firing pass at the plane and finished the job. Major Palm and Captain Olmstead attempted to save the plane once again, but the damage was to serious and the bail out order was given.  At least three of the six crewmen managed to eject from the stricken plane – Captains Olmstead & McKone and Major Palm. The three reconnaissance officers (Ravens) seated in the converted bomb bay of the plane were (probably) unable to get out of the spinning plane. Major Palm apparently died of exposure in the frigid water, but Captains Olmstead and McKone were able to climb into their survival rafts and lasted long enough to be picked up by a Soviet fishing vessel after more than six hours in their tiny rafts. The US Air Force, unaware that the plane had been shot down – the Soviets did not release this information for more than a week – conducted a search for the missing plane and crew from July 2nd to the 7th but no trace was found.  The plane was crewed by Major Willard Palm, Aircraft Commander; Captain Freeman Bruce Olmstead, Pilot; Captain John McKone, Navigator; and three reconnaissance officers (Ravens): Major Eugene Posa, Captain Dean Phillips & Captain Oscar Goforth (this was Goforth’s first and only operational mission).  The Soviet Union had a history of shadowing, escorting and occasionally shooting down American planes flying over international waters near its borders; in the 10 years between 1950 and 1960, about 75 US Navy and Air Force air crewmen in 10 separate incidents lost their lives flying routine reconnaissance missions.  (Arlington Cemetery)
  • With the advent of satellite reconnaissance, much of the impetus for overflight of denied territory was removed and with notable exceptions, the practice of shooting down recce aircraft operating off shore and in international waters pretty much abated during the 1960s. The notable exception is that of North Korea. Following its earlier piracy of the USS Pueblo, North Korean fighters shot down a VQ-1 EC-121 over the Sea of Japan on 15 Apr 1969 (see the full story here) with the loss of all 31 crew onboard. No explanation, much less apology or reparation has ever been offered by North Korea.
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(More Here)

War from the Shadows

Sometimes the shadows of war approach either as a harbinger of what is to come:

12 October 2000 . . . When another chapter in the Long War against terror was written in the blood of the free:
The toll – Seventeen American Sailors dead: Hull Maintenance Technician Second Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, 21, of Mechanicsville, Va.; Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, 35, of Morrisville, Pa.; Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, N.C.; Information Systems Technician Timothy Lee Gauna, 21, of Rice, Texas; Signalman Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, 22, of Rex, Ga; Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Va.; Engineman Second Class Marc Ian Nieto, 24, of Fond du Lac, Wis.; Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class Ronald Scott Owens, 24, of Vero Beach, Fla; Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego, Calif.; Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, 19, of Churchville, Md Fireman Patrick Howard Roy, 19, of Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y.; Electronics Warfare Technician First Class Kevin Shawn Rux, 30, of Portland, N.D.; Mess Management Specialist Third Class Ronchester Manangan Santiago, 22, Kingsville, Texas Operations Specialist Second Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, 32, of Ringgold, Va.; Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., 26, Rockport, Texas; Ltjg Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Miss; Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Md … Remembering the USS Cole

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Or sometimes it was when there appeared to be no war at all, like on one fall morning when the sky was so blue it burnt your eyes:

  • Here are our shipmates who were lost in the Navy Operations Center (NOC).  Look closely and ponder the slice of America they represent – from every corner of the country, some first generation immigrants who were refugees of war others from a long line that has served this country. None of them anticipated their fate when they left for work that morning from their homes in Virginia, Maryland or the District. From all walks of life they had come to serve and ultimately to unexpectedly die together. E Pluribus Unum. Indeed, out of many, one. Rest in peace… Remembering Fallen Shipmates
  •   Today we focus on those who were from N513 (note, the Branch Chief, CAPT Bob Dolan, will be part of the post for tomorrow, 11 Sept)N513 is the Strategy & Concepts branch, part of the N51 Strategy & Policy Division of N3N5. N513’s personnel were the folks who looked at “the big picture” focusing on warfighting concepts and maritime strategies in defense of the US and our Allied partners. This is the branch that in the past had worked on the Maritime Strategy and provided the basis of the Navy’s input to the National Security Strategy among other vital documents. Husbands, fathers, sons — aviator and SWO; all were shipmates and all are missed. Rest in Peace… Remembering Fallen Shipmates – Part II (N513)
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Heros – Defined

We find ourselves in an age where heroes are declared of those who strive on the athletic field, or do some other ‘noteworthy’ thing that gets captured in the relentless 24/7 news cycle; and after a while, we find ourselves taking a jaundiced view of the word.  If every action is heroic – then none is, for by its very definition, heroic describes action that is having or showing of courage; yet another overused, oft misapplied word which itself points to a “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”  Too frequently we succumb as head-nodding masses to the false courage of someone or group taking an allegedly unpopular stance while in reality, enjoying the full, complicit support of a fawning media and uncritical or cowed public.

Until we are reminded what real heros do, whereupon we are left humbled and amazed…

“Had a lesser pilot been at the controls of Bluetail 601 last Wednesday, there might have been four memorial services this week instead of one. But Lt. Miroslav “Steve” Zilberman was one of two pilots in the cockpit of the E-2C Hawkeye as it returned from a mission over Afghanistan, heading toward the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the North Arabian Sea. The Ukrainian-born junior officer had distinguished himself during three years with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 121. He knew the plane – and its training manual – inside and out. So after one engine lost oil pressure and then failed completely; after one propeller couldn’t be adjusted to balance the plane; after it was clear that there was no way to safely land, Zilberman ordered his crew to bail out. He manually kept the Hawkeye stable as it plummeted toward the water, which allowed the three other men to escape. Time ran out before he could follow. Zilberman, 31, was declared dead three days later.”Kate Wiltrout, The Virginia Pilot, 10 April 2010

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Close to Home

Anyone who spends any amount of time in Service to the nation makes hardened, long lasting friendships that carry more import because of their shared adversity, danger and bloodshed.  There is a bond forged in the hardest steel – until they are cruelly snatched from our lives.These are the bonds forged in the early years – flight school for example, where you learn to be competitive…and still keep the competition in perspective…

CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN

Flight school is an interesting opportunity to study the human psyche in its multitude of facets. Competition is keen, at least for the first 4 or five slots in the class standing as those folks are reasonably sure of getting the community they want (it is also where one is introduced to the phrase “needs of the Service…”). For all the competition – in the classroom, in the simulator, in flight, one also has the opportunity to forge some pretty strong friendships, which years down the pike, are periodically refreshed in a chance encounter at a conference or courtesy the daily COD delivery…

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Your last flight in the mighty T-2 – time is fast approaching for the meat of the syllabus and the T-39, with its dual-personality imbued by the presence of an IP and Instructor NFO awaits. Childhood’s end – adolescence’s start. Still, one more chance is offered for play before the level of seriousness is ratcheted inexorably higher. 1v1 – time to go beak to beak, to turn and burn baby. Hang the fangs out a bit and see how you do in the dynamic environment that is ACM – such as it is in a straight-winged, subsonic jet. Your sparring partner is a good friend. Came from a fighter family, he did – pops having been instrumental in the early life of that worthy steed and snoVerticalrting beast, the F-4 Phantom. Scott was his name, but everyone just called him Scooter. Along with Rich and Briggs, the four of you had torn through AI and VT-10 (and, ahem, truth be told, the environs in and around P-cola, usually with our hair on fire and late into the night, but we digress) clustered together standing-wise with grades broken out to the second decimal. If everything held, and it looked oh-so-tantalizingly so, you each were headed to your community of choice – but that was stuff for the ground. Here, now, it was you vs. Scooter, each with a VF-derived IP manning the front seat and – Fight’s On!

Inbound now, there they are – watch, watch and…call the turn. Damn! Where’d they go? OK, got’ em, but it’s going to be close. Work it – the g’s build, work it – rats, looks like they won this one. Let’s set up for a second run. Outbound we get a quick debrief and suggestions from our IP that they didn’t talk about in class.

Inbound again, visual and coming to the merge – call the turn and … got em all the way this time. A quick knife fight and a guns solution met with a “Knock it off.” One for our “W” column. Quick check of gas in both planes – time for one more run? Absolutely – go for it. More bits of knowledge, experience passed back from the front seat. Seemed pretty standoffish in the brief and the gouge was he wasn’t a screamer – but still a tough grader and not much given to serendipitous talk…are we sure they didn’t switch IP’s on us?

Here we go again – once more into the breech. This time we’re going vertical, big time. And there we are, me looking across to a mirror image pinned against the dark blue as we go vaulting off into the heavens…

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Some number of years later the memory came flooding back as we learned of the terrible news. It had been while flying a low-level anti-ship cruise missile supersonic profile for a destroyer. Just a training hop. He’d taken time off from his post-command staff job to climb back in the cockpit he so dearly loved. The big Tomcat was there one minute – and gone in a cloud of flame, smoke and vapor. Little was found – and a good friend, a husband, father, and fighter NFO beyond compare was gone. CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN. Bounty Hunter One. Rest easy Scooter and know that while we all miss you, we each have our memories. Mine forever of an orange and white jet with the countenance not unlike a guppy, suspended against the Florida sky and two young buck aviators, intense on the task at hand and loving every second of it with grins a mile-wide, yet hidden behind an O2 mask, having the time of their life…

And sometimes – when you think it is all done, that you won’t have to face the empty seat, or raise a solemn toast ‘ere again; when you think that all the markers have been paid in full and the baton passed, Fate, the eternal hunter, cruelly reminds you once again of our mortality – returning you to a first person perspective:

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I lost a friend today.

We have lost a friend, a father, husband a comrade in arms. Fellow aviator and blogger-at-arms, Neptunus Lex, was killed earlier today when the F-21 Kfir he was flying in support of TOPGUN’s adversary squadron crashed at NAS Fallon. No word on the cause as yet.  Prayers and thoughts go out to his family please likewise keep them in your prayers in the days/weeks to come.  Lex would be the first to tell you, upon asking (or not), that he was a fighter pilot.  And he was an accomplished one at that having reached the pinnacle with command of a Hornet squadron and XO at TOPGUN (“not two words” he would say) He was a sailor at heart with a love for the sea and those who set forth thereon in grey-hulled ships befitting of one who wore the gold wings of a naval aviator. And he was a patriot in the truest and traditional sense with a deep love for this country and her people.

Indeed, his last work in this life was training a new generation of fighters to defend this nation. Ave Atque Vale 

 

 

Some few years ago, during a quiet, reflective conversation with a wise friend and fellow former-NFO about Lex, he allowed as how we are “…actually, pretty few, and we count our fellows as friends of a different sort. And so when one of us leaves, it is noticed. It is one thing to fade, fade away. It is another to be taken by the mistress, to be here, and then gone. I thought she was done with leaving me to count. So I thought.”

And on reflection I find it somewhat applicable here too.  For let us be honest with one another — this fora, and most of the others like unto it where linkage and readership will find their way onto, are kindred in spirit — we who have served (and I include families here) and have known loss “get it” – we understand and by far and away, we are the ones who observe (not celebrate) the true import of the Day.  The rest of the population — a head nod and a “thanks” during a seventh inning stretch or while reloading the cooler.  It wasn’t always so, to a large degree because so much more of the population had close, personal encounters with war and the dreadful costs it imposes and lessons it teaches about “slam dunks” and operations being run with surgeon-like precision and minimal force.  

When a nation at war was a nation mobilized for war.  

And herein lies the conundrum – because a nation mobilized for war, whose industrial base is churning out the destructive stuff that will be used by the flesh and blood marching out of the training camps, is not what I believed our founders hoped for future generations.  The seeds of incipient authoritarianism are sown in such an atmosphere — where information is tightly controlled and it becomes acceptable, even encouraged to discriminate, isolate and even incarcerate citizens because of their national extraction.

In a nation of immigrants.

Conversely, a nation that fights war on the side, where a sliver of a single digit percentage of the population wears the uniform and goes off to fight; that nation runs the risk of the Praetorian Guard which is antithetical to the citizen-soldier(sailor, airman, etc.) and fosters a sheepdog/sheep, “I Served and You Didn’t” attitude which has within it, the seeds also for destruction of a constitutional republic.  It is at once a selfish, self-centered point of view that is corrosive to the precepts this nation was founded upon.

Which brings me back to the opening lines of this post — Lincoln’s address.  This is the perspective we should — we must have going forward.  That we honor those who have given their last full measure by giving to our last full measure in all aspects of our walk on this Earth and under the flag of this nation, that their sacrifice not be in vain and that the torch of freedom and liberty is passed to succeeding generations.

May your Memorial Day be a blessed and respectfully contemplative one.

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A Memorial Day Compendium – 2015 Edition

 

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You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done  — Ronald Reagan

Through the years we’ve observed Memorial Day on these pages in a variety of ways. Through it all, we’ve sought to instill a sense of perspective and context to an occasion that, unfortunately, most have come to recognize as a mere green light for the frivolous pursuits of the summer season.

We’ve offered a first person perspective:

Some number of years later the memory came flooding back as we learned of the terrible news. It had been while flying a low-level anti-ship cruise missile supersonic profile for a destroyer. Just a training hop. He’d taken time off from his post-command staff job to climb back in the cockpit he so dearly loved. The big Tomcat was there one minute and gone in a cloud of flame, smoke and vapor. Little was found and a good friend, a husband, father, and fighter NFO beyond compare was gone. CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN. Bounty Hunter One. Rest easy Scooter and know that while we all miss you, we each have our memories. Mine forever of an orange and white jet with the countenance not unlike a guppy, suspended against the Florida sky and two young buck aviators, intense on the task at hand and loving every second of it with grins a mile-wide, yet hidden behind an O2 mask, having the time of their life… Flightdeck Friday: T-2C Edition

Other times we used the occasion of the return of an MIA from our past wars — like the story of Spectre 13, an AC-130 gunship downed in Vietnam:

 

It is perhaps fitting the day after Memorial Day that we learn of more former MIA’s whose remains have since been identified and returned to their loved ones. Hence, today’s story of some of crew of the AC-130A Spectre named ‘Prometheus’ callsign Spectre 13 – SJS  Airmen Missing In Vietnam War Are Identified: Spectre 13

 

or this one from WW2:

This raid on Ploesti wasn’t the (in)famous one from August of 1943, yet it was representative of the many missions flown against industrial and military targets in Europe and the Pacific by the men of the Army Air Corps. On this mission 438 B-17’s and B-24’s took part with loss of “only” two aircraft. As we pause to give thanks this Memorial Day for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for keeping the Union intact, for our freedoms, to extend that umbrella of freedom to others freeing them from tyranny and oppression, let us give thanks and always remember.
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.
Welcome home Lieutenant Kelly, rest easy now that your mission is complete.
Memorial Day Remembrance Ploesti Raid Aircrewman Returns Home

Sometimes they were lost in the shadows of a war that was called Cold, but for one brief, awful instant, had gone hot for them:

 

15 April 1969 (Korean time) marked the final flight of a Navy VQ-1 EC-121/WV-2 callsign Deep Sea 129. Roughly 100 nm off the North Korean peninsular site where the Hermit Kingdom today defies the world with its ballistic missile tests, lies the watery grave of 31 Americans (2 bodies were later recovered).  North Korea not only acknowledged the shoot down, they loudly and boastfully celebrated their action. President Nixon suspended PARPRO flights in the Sea of Japan for three days and then allowed them to resume, only with escorts. No reparations were ever paid to the US or the families of the lost airmen.
And Kim Il-Sung celebrated another birthday (April 15th).
15 April 1969: Deep Sea 129 Shootdown

Or served as a harbinger of what was to come:

12 October 2000 . . . When another chapter in the Long War against terror was written in the blood of the free:
The toll:
* Seventeen American Sailors dead:
Hull Maintenance Technician Second Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, 21, of Mechanicsville, Va.; Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, 35, of Morrisville, Pa.; Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, N.C.; Information Systems Technician Timothy Lee Gauna, 21, of Rice, Texas; Signalman Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, 22, of Rex, Ga; Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Va.; Engineman Second Class Marc Ian Nieto, 24, of Fond du Lac, Wis.; Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class Ronald Scott Owens, 24, of Vero Beach, Fla; Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego, Calif.; Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, 19, of Churchville, Md
Fireman Patrick Howard Roy, 19, of Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y.; Electronics Warfare Technician First Class Kevin Shawn Rux, 30, of Portland, N.D.; Mess Management Specialist Third Class Ronchester Manangan Santiago, 22, Kingsville, Texas
Operations Specialist Second Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, 32, of Ringgold, Va.; Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., 26, Rockport, Texas; Ltjg Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Miss; Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Md Remembering the USS Cole

Sometimes it was when there appeared to be no war at all, like on one fall morning:

Here are our shipmates who were lost in the Navy Operations Center (NOC) {note: N513 will be posted 10 Sept}. Look closely and ponder the slice of America they represent from every corner of the country, some first generation immigrants who were refugees of war others from a long line that has served this country. None of them anticipated their fate when they left for work that morning from their homes in Virginia, Maryland or the District. From all walks of life they had come to serve and ultimately to unexpectedly die together. E Pluribus Unum. Indeed, out of many, one. Rest in peace…  Remembering Fallen Shipmates Part I (N3N5)
Yesterday, we remembered those we lost in the Navy Operations Center (NOC) who were from within the larger N3N5 organization.  Today we focus on those who were from N513 (note, the Branch Chief, CAPT Bob Dolan, will be part of the post for tomorrow, 11 Sept)N513 is the Strategy & Concepts branch, part of the N51 Strategy & Policy Division of N3N5. N513’s personnel were the folks who looked at “the big picture” focusing on warfighting concepts and maritime strategies in defense of the US and our Allied partners. This is the branch that in the past had worked on the Maritime Strategy and provided the basis of the Navy’s input to the National Security Strategy among other vital documents.  Husbands, fathers, sons — aviator and SWO; all were shipmates and all are missed.  Rest in Peace… Remembering Fallen Shipmates – Part II (N513)

Bob loved to be at sea, but with each offshore assignment he deeply missed his wife and two children. His 20-year career took him to the far-flung corners of the world — Bahrain, the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean — but he still managed to keep in touch with the friends he made in kindergarten. He was a disciplined officer who made it his business to excel at every post, but he also was a “guy’s guy” who enjoyed grabbing a beer with friends. “Bob was a touchstone for many of us because of the person he was, not because of his accomplishments as a leader,” said family friend Mark Wallinger, who was best man at CAPT Dolan’s wedding. “He was a friend to everybody, and a hero to those who knew him.”

“He was a man who viewed service as a privilege,” his wife, Lisa of Alexandria, Va., wrote in an e-mail. “Bob Dolan was the best and the brightest this country had to offer to the altar of freedom.” In addition to his wife, Capt. Dolan is survived by his children, Rebecca, 15, and Beau, 9; his parents, Joan and Robert of Florham Park; two brothers, Christopher of Quakertown, Pa., and Daniel of Bethel, Pa., and several nieces and nephews. (Compiled from various sources, primarily consisting of The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post) The 2996 Project: CAPT Bob Dolan, USN (Pentagon) and Mr. Colin Arthur Bonnett (WTC) The 2996 Project: CAPT Bob Dolan, USN (Pentagon) and Mr. Colin Arthur Bonnett (WTC)

And sometimes – when you think it is all done, that you won’t have to face the empty seat, or raise a solemn toast ‘ere again; when you think that all the markers have been paid in full and the baton passed, Fate, the eternal hunter, cruelly reminds you once again of our mortality – returning you to a first person perspective:

I lost a friend today.
We have lost a friend, a father, husband a comrade in arms. Fellow aviator and blogger-at-arms, Neptunus Lex, was killed earlier today when the F-21 Kfir he was flying in support of TOPGUN’s adversary squadron crashed at NAS Fallon. No word on the cause as yet.  Prayers and thoughts go out to his family please likewise keep them in your prayers in the days/weeks to come.  Lex would be the first to tell you, upon asking (or not), that he was a fighter pilot.  And he was an accomplished one at that having reached the pinnacle with command of a Hornet squadron and XO at TOPGUN (“not two words” he would say) He was a sailor at heart with a love for the sea and those who set forth thereon in grey-hulled ships befitting of one who wore the gold wings of a naval aviator.

And he was a patriot in the truest and traditional sense with a deep love for this country and her people.  Indeed, his last work in this life was training a new generation of fighters to defend this nation.  Ave Atque Vale

Abrek-300x296We find ourselves in an age where heroes are declared of those who strve on the athletic field, or do some other noteworthy thing that gets captured in the relentless 24/7 news cycle and after a while, we find ourselves taking a jaundiced view of the word.  Until we are reminded what real heros do, whereupon we are left humbled and amazed…

Had a lesser pilot been at the controls of Bluetail 601 last Wednesday, there might have been four memorial services this week instead of one.   But Lt. Miroslav “Steve” Zilberman was one of two pilots in the cockpit of the E-2C Hawkeye as it returned from a mission over Afghanistan, heading toward the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the North Arabian Sea.  The Ukrainian-born junior officer had distinguished himself during three years with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 121. He knew the plane – and its training manual – inside and out.  So after one engine lost oil pressure and then failed completely; after one propeller couldn’t be adjusted to balance the plane; after it was clear that there was no way to safely land, Zilberman ordered his crew to bail out. He manually kept the Hawkeye stable as it plummeted toward the water, which allowed the three other men to escape.  Time ran out before he could follow.  
Zilberman, 31, was declared dead three days later. – Kate Wiltrout, The Virginia Pilot, 10 April 2010

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Be they aviator or ground-pounder; dogface or nurse; Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, Coast Guardsman, Merchantman, Guard or Reserve — at one time or another they answered the call.

And in so doing, all gave some — and some gave all.

So before the burgers and beer, before the green flag drops, and before the tanning lotion is applied for the first time — pause, ponder and give thanks to the Almighty that such as these gave their all so that we may remain free:

Remember

Memorial Day Thoughts

For those who are serving or who have served — and those who love them, this is a bittersweet time of year.  Surrounded by rebirth after a long winter we are reminded of our fallen shipmates; some in battle, some in preparations for battle and some for whom the distant shouts of war were suddenly and dramatically brought down upon them, far from the battlefield.  For some that list may be extensive, especially given the last 12-plus years from Sept 11, 2001 and forward. For others, it may be a relatively short list, but no less poignant as it has a father, uncle, mother, aunt, brother, or sister on it.  While we have written on these (virtual) pages of many instances over the years, there are some that are particularly dearly held because they were fellow brethren in arms, shipmates and friends in the truest sense…


CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN

Flight school is an interesting opportunity to study the human psyche in its multitude of facets. Competition is keen, at least for the first 4 or five slots in the class standing as those folks are reasonably sure of getting the community they want (it is also where one is introduced to the phrase “needs of the Service…”). For all the competition – in the classroom, in the simulator, in flight, one also has the opportunity to forge some pretty strong friendships, which years down the pike, are periodically refreshed in a chance encounter at a conference or courtesy the daily COD delivery…

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Your last flight in the mighty T-2 – time is fast approaching for the meat of the syllabus and the T-39, with its dual-personality imbued by the presence of an IP and Instructor NFO awaits. Childhood’s end – adolescence’s start. Still, one more chance is offered for play before the level of seriousness is ratcheted inexorably higher. 1v1 – time to go beak to beak, to turn and burn baby. Hang the fangs out a bit and see how you do in the dynamic environment that is ACM – such as it is in a straight-winged, subsonic jet. Your sparring partner is a good friend. Came from a fighter family, he did – pops having been instrumental in the early life of that worthy steed and snoVerticalrting beast, the F-4 Phantom. Scott was his name, but everyone just called him Scooter. Along with Rich and Briggs, the four of you had torn through AI and VT-10 (and, ahem, truth be told, the environs in and around P-cola, usually with our hair on fire and late into the night, but we digress) clustered together standing-wise with grades broken out to the second decimal. If everything held, and it looked oh-so-tantalizingly so, you each were headed to your community of choice – but that was stuff for the ground. Here, now, it was you vs. Scooter, each with a VF-derived IP manning the front seat and – Fight’s On!

Inbound now, there they are – watch, watch and…call the turn. Damn! Where’d they go? OK, got’ em, but it’s going to be close. Work it – the g’s build, work it – rats, looks like they won this one. Let’s set up for a second run. Outbound we get a quick debrief and suggestions from our IP that they didn’t talk about in class.

Inbound again, visual and coming to the merge – call the turn and … got ‘em all the way this time. A quick knife fight and a guns solution met with a “Knock it off.” One for our “W” column. Quick check of gas in both planes – time for one more run? Absolutely – go for it. More bits of knowledge, experience passed back from the front seat. Seemed pretty standoffish in the brief and the gouge was he wasn’t a screamer – but still a tough grader and not much given to serendipitous talk…are we sure they didn’t switch IP’s on us?

Here we go again – once more into the breech. This time we’re going vertical, big time. And there we are, me looking across to a mirror image pinned against the dark blue as we go vaulting off into the heavens…

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Some number of years later the memory came flooding back as we learned of the terrible news. It had been while flying a low-level anti-ship cruise missile supersonic profile for a destroyer. Just a training hop. He’d taken time off from his post-command staff job to climb back in the cockpit he so dearly loved. The big Tomcat was there one minute – and gone in a cloud of flame, smoke and vapor. Little was found – and a good friend, a husband, father, and fighter NFO beyond compare was gone. CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN. Bounty Hunter One. Rest easy Scooter and know that while we all miss you, we each have our memories. Mine forever of an orange and white jet with the countenance not unlike a guppy, suspended against the Florida sky and two young buck aviators, intense on the task at hand and loving every second of it with grins a mile-wide, yet hidden behind an O2 mask, having the time of their life…


CAPT Carroll “Lex” Lefon, USN-Ret.

Aviation – especially tactical aviation whether it be from the ship or on the beach, is an unforgiving mistress – as we found out not so long ago…

I lost a friend today.

Lex

We have lost a friend, a father, husband — a comrade in arms. Fellow aviator and blogger-at-arms, Neptunus Lex, was killed earlier today when the F-21 Kfir he was flying in support of Top Gun’s adversary squadron crashed at NAS Fallon. No word on the cause as yet. Prayers and thoughts go out to his family — please likewise keep them in your prayers in the days/weeks to come.

Lex would be the first to tell you, upon asking (or not), that he was a fighter pilot. And he was an accomplished one at that – having reached the pinnacle with command of a Hornet squadron and XO at TOPGUN (“not two words” he would say…). He was a sailor at heart with a love for the sea and those who set forth thereon in grey-hulled ships – befitting of one who wore the gold wings of a naval aviator. And he was a patriot in the truest and traditional sense with a deep love for this country and her people. Indeed, his last work in this life was training a new generation of fighters to defend this nation.

Even so, what really set Lex apart was his eloquence, obvious love of the classics and an ability to turn a phrase that would do his Irish ancestors proud. Anyone who has spent time in the air or at sea comes to appreciate the change in perspective those alluring mistresses offer and how they come to change you. It is the rare person, however, who is able to more than adequately express and convey that imagery, that perspective. Lex was one of those rare individuals and you could readily see it in his work – almost all of which he shared gratis online. Whether it was a semi-fictional account of a young aviator wrestling with carrier flight ops or surgical dissection of a controversial subject, his wit, grace and command of the language marked him as a finely honed rapier in a field cluttered with dull broadswords and broken battle axes. And it will be missed.

The time will come when we will take position and give our formal farewells with appropriate ceremony. For now, I’ll leave with this thought from a fellow naval aviator and friend – part of a discourse from last night…

 ” We are, actually, pretty few, and we count our fellows as friends of a different sort.. And so when one of us leaves, it is noticed. It is one thing to fade, fade away. It is another to be taken by the mistress, to be here, and then gone. I thought she was done with leaving me to count. So I thought.”

I too thought my counting days finished – alas not so…

Fair winds Lex and God bless and uphold your family. We’ll meet you at the rendezvous point…on the other side at the Green.


CAPT Bob Dolan, USN, OPNAV N513 and The Navy Operations Center

September 11, 2001.  We all remember where we were, what we were doing – now.  Then, it was just another early fall day that on the East Coast, found a sky so clear of clouds and haze that the blue burned your eyes.  It was the perfect day for flying.  None of us, especially those who worked in the Navy OPS Center which included CNO-IP and my Strategy and Concepts Branch (N513) could have possibly imagined that a day which started with such promise would end in fire, smoke and personal loss.  We lost many fine Americans that day in the Pentagon, including the 39 in the OPS Center. Among them was my N513 branch chief, CAPT Bob Dolan as fine and decent a human being, naval officer and SWO as may be found…

CAPT Dolan, 43, was working on the first floor of the Pentagon as head of the Strategy and Concepts Branch (N513), when a hijacked jetliner slammed into the building last Tuesday morning. The Florham Park native knew from childhood that his future was with the military, his mother, Joan Dolan, said. After graduating from Hanover Park High School in East Hanover, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering. His career subsequently took him to the Arabian Gulf to clear mines and to the Adriatic Sea as a combat systems officer aboard the USS Richmond K. Turner, in support of Operation Deny Flight over the former Yugoslavia. In 1994, CAPT Dolan served as executive officer aboard the USS Thomas S. Gates in the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf. From October 1998 to May 2000 he was commanding officer of the USS John Hancock, based in Mayport, Fla.  Capt. Dolan’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal (4), and the Navy Achievement Medal (1) along with numerous unit awards. – Washington Post, September 2001

Bob loved to be at sea, but with each offshore assignment he deeply missed his wife and two children. His 20-year career took him to the far-flung corners of the world — Bahrain, the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean — but he still managed to keep in touch with the friends he made in kindergarten.  He was a disciplined officer who made it his business to excel at every post, but he also was a “guy’s guy” who enjoyed grabbing a beer with friends. “Bob was a touchstone for many of us because of the person he was, not because of his accomplishments as a leader,” said family friend Mark Wallinger, who was best man at CAPT Dolan’s wedding. “He was a friend to everybody, and a hero to those who knew him.” 

He was a man who viewed service as a privilege,” his wife, Lisa of Alexandria, Va., wrote in an e-mail. “Bob Dolan was the best and the brightest this country had to offer to the altar of freedom.” In addition to his wife, Capt. Dolan is survived by his children, Rebecca, 15, and Beau, 9; his parents, Joan and Robert of Florham Park; two brothers, Christopher of Quakertown, Pa., and Daniel of Bethel, Pa., and several nieces and nephews. (Compiled from various sources, primarily consisting of The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post)

We served aboard the USS Inchon (LPH 12) back in the early 80′s. The Inchon was the PHIBRON 6 flagship during the MARG 3 82 deployment. In September 1982, we put the 3/8 marines ashore in Beirut as part of the MNF and supported them until February 1983. Ensign Dolan was a part of that mission and earned one of his expeditionary medals as well as the NUC for his participation. I find it terribly ironic that a man who started his Naval career as part of a Peacekeeping operation in the Middle East would eventually fall victim to Middle East terrorists on 9/11.– Joe Netzel, Webmaster USS Inchon Association.

“One of Bob’s department heads on the USS John Hancock gave this picture to him when they made their last deployment. This was the ship he commanded for two years, and it was the ship’s last deployment because it was decommissioned shortly after. The picture shows Bob sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge. He liked being in the Navy; he liked being on a ship and being at sea. The ship’s motto was ‘First for freedom,’ which I’ve kind of taken on as our family’s motto since September 11. The picture just personifies his life; beyond being a family man, this was Bob.” – Lisa Dolan, wife

 In the midst of tragedy we often times find small offerings of light — a bright moment we can hold onto that serves to, if only for a moment, ease the hurt. Such was the case with Bob; I well remember the cheer this story brought our group when we first heard it as told here by CAPT Tempestilli (Class of ’79) on the USNA’s Alumni ’9/11 Remembrance’ site:

I must also share a brief and miraculous story with you. Last week, I received a phone call from an FBI agent working at the site of the Pentagon attack. He was a USNA ‘ 89 alumnus. As buckets of debris were being removed from the site, he noticed a Naval Academy 1981 class ring, which turned out to be Bob’s. (We Academy types are advised to have our name engraved in our rings because they always seem to find their way home.) I went down to the Pentagon to receive the ring. When I arrived, he was in his SUV with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” playing on the stereo. As he handed me the ring, we hugged and cried together–the longest and deepest cry I have had since this tragedy struck. Enroute home, I stopped at Bob’s favorite bar in Alexandria, “Murphy’s,” and drank a beer with 4 other of Bob’s closest friends. We left Bob’s beer glass full on the bar as sort of a “missing man” formation. Lisa now wears the ring around her neck, just like she did the day of Bob’s USNA ring dance.

By the end of September the funerals had begun. From small, family only services to a Naval Academy chapel filled to the rafters – some at Arlington and others back in their home states; we buried our shipmates. Catholic, Protestant, Hebrew, Buddhist…a deep, painful slice of America was being buried. Each had a story to tell – whether they were a former ship’s CO, retired P-3 aviator, a second generation Vietnamese immigrant, a sailor from Chicago, a husband on his first shore tour with his bride – all represented this great nation.

Indeed — all represented and gave their all for this great nation.  Let us never forget.

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Memorial Day – 2013

"If There Is Only One Man Left" by R.G. Smith (VT-8 TBD @ the Battle of Midway, 4 June 1942)

“If There Is Only One Man Left” by R.G. Smith (VT-8 TBD Devastator @ the Battle of Midway, 4 June 1942)

It is perhaps fitting that on the calendar, Memorial Day precedes two signatory battles in our history — Midway and D-Day because each in their own way epitomize what Memorial Day is all about.  Established to recognize those who gave their lives in the Civil War, it has grown to encompass all those who gave their lives in service to this great nation.

Oft times, as was the case for LCDR John Waldron, the odds they faced seemed insurmountable.  Having unsuccessfully argued  in the days preceding Midway for splitting fighter cover to protect the dive bombers and torpedo planes (as had been done at Coral Sea) he had been overruled by Hornet’s CO, CAPT Pete Mitscher – all the fighters would stay high to protect the dive bombers with the Air Group CO, CDR Stanhope Ring leaving the TBD Devastators to press their part of the attack unescorted.  The implications were clear to Waldron as he addressed the assembled crews in VT-8’s Ready Room onboard Hornet, and if he felt any misgivings or second thoughts, they were not in his final charge to his squadron:

“If we find ourselves alone and outnumbered by the enemy planes on the way into attack, we’ll keep boring in toward the carrier,” he said. “If there is only one man left I want that man to take his pickle in and get a hit.”

We all know the outcome of that fated attack – but that diminishes not one iota the dedication and bravery the crews of VT-8 displayed in pressing home the attack.

A decade or so later, a writer who cut his teeth in the Pacific War would write of another war, in another theater, of men who faced enormous odds with these words:

“Where do we get such men? They leave this ship and they do their job. Then they must find this speck lost somewhere on the sea. When they find it, they have to land on its pitching deck. Where do we get such men?”   – Rear Admiral George Tarrant in “The Bridges at Toko-Ri”

Where indeed – for the likes of VT-8, of  V Corps, 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions on bloody Omaha Beach, the Marines at Iwo Jima, and 8th Air Force crews over Schweinfurt; and of those who preceded them at Antietam, Belleau Wood, Saratoga and Cowpens and followed at Chosin Resevoir, who “went downtown” over Hanoi, or building to building in Fallujah.  Or just never came back from patrol – a mystery known only to the sea.

To some, it may seem trite or, God forbid, even cliche, but freedom never comes without cost and it must be vigilantly protected, for there are those who are jealous of our freedom and would seek to terminate it.  President Reagan best summed this state of affairs by saying:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

and

No arsenal … is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.
This Memorial Day, let us remember those who gave their last, full measure in the service of freedom and protection of liberty  – for us and for our posterity.
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A Memorial Day Compendium – 2012 Edition

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done Ronald Reagan

Through the years we’ve observed Memorial Day on these pages in a variety of ways. Through it all, we’ve sought to instill a sense of perspective and context to an occasion that, unfortunately, most have come to recognize as a mere green light for the frivolous pursuits of the summer season.

We’ve offered a first person perspective:

Some number of years later the memory came flooding back as we learned of the terrible news. It had been while flying a low-level anti-ship cruise missile supersonic profile for a destroyer. Just a training hop. He’d taken time off from his post-command staff job to climb back in the cockpit he so dearly loved. The big Tomcat was there one minute and gone in a cloud of flame, smoke and vapor. Little was found and a good friend, a husband, father, and fighter NFO beyond compare was gone. CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN. Bounty Hunter One. Rest easy Scooter and know that while we all miss you, we each have our memories. Mine forever of an orange and white jet with the countenance not unlike a guppy, suspended against the Florida sky and two young buck aviators, intense on the task at hand and loving every second of it with grins a mile-wide, yet hidden behind an O2 mask, having the time of their life… Flightdeck Friday: T-2C Edition

Other times we used to occasion of the return of an MIA from our past wars — like the story of Spectre 13, and AC-130 gunship downed in Vietnam:

 

It is perhaps fitting the day after Memorial Day that we learn of more former MIA’s whose remains have since been identified and returned to their loved ones. Hence, today’s story of some of crew of the AC-130A Spectre named ‘Prometheus’ callsign Spectre 13 – SJS  Airmen Missing In Vietnam War Are Identified: Spectre 13

 

 

or this one from WW2:

This raid on Ploesti wasn’t the (in)famous one from August of 1943, yet it was representative of the many missions flown against industrial and military targets in Europe and the Pacific by the men of the Army Air Corps. On this mission 438 B-17’s and B-24’s took part with loss of “only” two aircraft. As we pause to give thanks this Memorial Day for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for keeping the Union intact, for our freedoms, to extend that umbrella of freedom to others freeing them from tyranny and oppression, let us give thanks and always remember.
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.
Welcome home Lieutenant Kelly, rest easy now that your mission is complete.
Memorial Day Remembrance Ploesti Raid Aircrewman Returns Home

Sometimes they were lost in the shadows of a war that was called Cold, but for one brief, awful instant, had gone hot for them:

 

15 April 1969 (Korean time) marked the final flight of a Navy VQ-1 EC-121/WV-2 callsign Deep Sea 129. Roughly 100 nm off the North Korean peninsular site where the Hermit Kingdom today defies the world with its ballistic missile tests, lies the watery grave of 31 Americans (2 bodies were later recovered).  North Korea not only acknowledged the shoot down, they loudly and boastfully celebrated their action. President Nixon suspended PARPRO flights in the Sea of Japan for three days and then allowed them to resume, only with escorts. No reparations were ever paid to the US or the families of the lost airmen.
And Kim Il-Sung celebrated another birthday (April 15th).
15 April 1969: Deep Sea 129 Shootdown

Or served as a harbinger of what was to come:

12 October 2000 . . . When another chapter in the Long War against terror was written in the blood of the free:
The toll:
* Seventeen American Sailors dead:
Hull Maintenance Technician Second Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, 21, of Mechanicsville, Va.; Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, 35, of Morrisville, Pa.; Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, N.C.; Information Systems Technician Timothy Lee Gauna, 21, of Rice, Texas; Signalman Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, 22, of Rex, Ga; Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Va.; Engineman Second Class Marc Ian Nieto, 24, of Fond du Lac, Wis.; Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class Ronald Scott Owens, 24, of Vero Beach, Fla; Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego, Calif.; Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, 19, of Churchville, Md
Fireman Patrick Howard Roy, 19, of Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y.; Electronics Warfare Technician First Class Kevin Shawn Rux, 30, of Portland, N.D.; Mess Management Specialist Third Class Ronchester Manangan Santiago, 22, Kingsville, Texas
Operations Specialist Second Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, 32, of Ringgold, Va.; Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., 26, Rockport, Texas; Ltjg Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Miss; Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Md Remembering the USS Cole

Sometimes it was when there appeared to be no war at all, like on one fall morning:

Here are our shipmates who were lost in the Navy Operations Center (NOC) {note: N513 will be posted 10 Sept}. Look closely and ponder the slice of America they represent from every corner of the country, some first generation immigrants who were refugees of war others from a long line that has served this country. None of them anticipated their fate when they left for work that morning from their homes in Virginia, Maryland or the District. From all walks of life they had come to serve and ultimately to unexpectedly die together. E Pluribus Unum. Indeed, out of many, one. Rest in peace…  Remembering Fallen Shipmates Part I (N3N5)
Yesterday, we remembered those we lost in the Navy Operations Center (NOC) who were from within the larger N3N5 organization.  Today we focus on those who were from N513 (note, the Branch Chief, CAPT Bob Dolan, will be part of the post for tomorrow, 11 Sept)N513 is the Strategy & Concepts branch, part of the N51 Strategy & Policy Division of N3N5. N513’s personnel were the folks who looked at “the big picture” focusing on warfighting concepts and maritime strategies in defense of the US and our Allied partners. This is the branch that in the past had worked on the Maritime Strategy and provided the basis of the Navy’s input to the National Security Strategy among other vital documents.  Husbands, fathers, sons — aviator and SWO; all were shipmates and all are missed.  Rest in Peace… Remembering Fallen Shipmates – Part II (N513)

And sometimes – when you think it is all done, that you won’t have to face the empty seat, or raise a solemn toast ‘ere again; when you think that all the markers have been paid in full and the baton passed, Fate, the eternal hunter, cruelly reminds you once again of our mortality – returning you to a first person perspective:

I lost a friend today.
We have lost a friend, a father, husband a comrade in arms. Fellow aviator and blogger-at-arms, Neptunus Lex, was killed earlier today when the F-21 Kfir he was flying in support of Top Gun’s adversary squadron crashed at NAS Fallon.  No word on the cause as yet.  Prayers and thoughts go out to his family — please likewise keep them in your prayers in the days/weeks to come.  Lex would be the first to tell you, upon asking (or not), that he was a fighter pilot.  And he was an accomplished one at that having reached the pinnacle with command of a Hornet squadron and XO at TOPGUN (“not two words” he would say…).  He was a sailor at heart with a love for the sea and those who set forth thereon in grey-hulled ships befitting of one who wore the gold wings of a naval aviator. 

And he was a patriot in the truest and traditional sense with a deep love for this country and her people.  Indeed, his last work in this life was training a new generation of fighters to defend this nation.   Ave Atque Vale

Be they aviator or ground-pounder; dogface or nurse; Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, Coast Guardsman, Merchantman, Guard or Reserve — at one time or another they answered the call.

And in so doing, all gave some — and some gave all.

So before the burgers and beer, before the green flag drops, and before the tanning lotion is applied for the first time — pause, ponder and give thanks to the Almighty that such as these gave their all so that we may remain free:

Remember

Memorial Day: Once to Every Man And Nation

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

Four years ago I compiled this video for Memorial Day — in the years hence it has become one of the most watched (and commented on) of all the ones I’ve put up. My precept going into the making of the video was simple — focus on the venues where our freedom was won and preserved, and lift up those who gave their all – private to flag officer, warfighter and corpsman. Sailor, aviator, soldier or Marine – they came from every state and territory, mostly willingly, sometimes reluctantly. Oft filled with concern over what the immediate future portended, they knew full well what it would be if they passed on their duty. Citizen-soldiers – regular, reserve and guard they served on, over and under this earth and its seas in our defense and in the name of liberty. From the greens at Lexington and Concord to the flak-filled skies over Schweinfurt. Manassas to the Marne. Across the bloody beaches of Normandy and Tarawa to the depths of Iron Bottom Sound and the trackless north Atlantic. They were called — and they answered:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

May we remember and honor those who gave their all…

A Memorial Day Compendium

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done – Ronald Reagan

Through the years we’ve observed Memorial Day on these pages in a variety of ways.  Through it all, we’ve sought to instill a sense of perspective and context to an occasion that, unfortunately, most have come to recognize as a mere green light for the frivolous pursuits of the summer season.  We’ve offered a first person perspective:

Some number of years later the memory came flooding back as we learned of the terrible news. It had been while flying a low-level anti-ship cruise missile supersonic profile for a destroyer. Just a training hop. He’d taken time off from his post-command staff job to climb back in the cockpit he so dearly loved. The big Tomcat was there one minute – and gone in a cloud of flame, smoke and vapor. Little was found – and a good friend, a husband, father, and fighter NFO beyond compare was gone. CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN. Bounty Hunter One. Rest easy Scooter and know that while we all miss you, we each have our memories. Mine forever of an orange and white jet with the countenance not unlike a guppy, suspended against the Florida sky and two young buck aviators, intense on the task at hand and loving every second of it with grins a mile-wide, yet hidden behind an O2 mask, having the time of their life…  Flightdeck Friday: T-2C Edition

Other times we used to occasion of the return of an MIA from our past wars — like the story of Spectre 13, and AC-130 gunship downed in Vietnam:

It is perhaps fitting the day after Memorial Day that we learn of more former MIA’s whose remains have since been identified and returned to their loved ones. Hence, today’s story of some of crew of the AC-130A Spectre named ‘Prometheus’ – callsign Spectre 13… – SJS Airmen Missing In Vietnam War Are Identified: Spectre 13

or this one from WW2:

This raid on Ploesti wasn’t the (in)famous one from August of 1943, yet it was representative of the many missions flown against industrial and military targets in Europe and the Pacific by the men of the Army Air Corps. On this mission 438 B-17’s and B-24’s took part with loss of “only” two aircraft. As we pause to give thanks this Memorial Day for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – for keeping the Union intact, for our freedoms, to extend that umbrella of freedom to others – freeing them from tyranny and oppression, let us give thanks and always remember.
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.
Welcome home Lieutenant Kelly, rest easy now that your mission is complete.
Memorial Day Remembrance – Ploesti Raid Aircrewman Returns Home

Sometimes they were lost in the shadows of a war that was called Cold, but for one brief, awful instant, had gone hot for them:

15 April 1969 (Korean time) marked the final flight of a Navy VQ-1 EC-121/WV-2 callsign Deep Sea 129. Roughly 100 nm off the North Korean peninsular site where the Hermit Kingdom today defies the world with its ballistic missile tests, lies the watery grave of 31 Americans (2 bodies were later recovered):

North Korea not only acknowledged the shoot down, they loudly and boastfully celebrated their action. President Nixon suspended PARPRO flights in the Sea of Japan for three days and then allowed them to resume, only with escorts. No reparations were ever paid to the US or the families of the lost airmen.
And Kim Il-Sung celebrated another birthday (April 15th).
15 April 1969: Deep Sea 129 Shootdown

And sometimes it was when there appeared to be no war at all, like on one fall morning:

Here are our shipmates who were lost in the Navy Operations Center (NOC) {note: N513 will be posted 10 Sept}. Look closely and ponder the slice of America they represent – from every corner of the country, some first generation immigrants who were refugees of war – others from a long line that has served this country. None of them anticipated their fate when they left for work that morning from their homes in Virginia, Maryland or the District. From all walks of life they had come to serve – and ultimately to unexpectedly die together. E Pluribus Unum. Indeed, out of many, one. Rest in peace… Remembering Fallen Shipmates – Part I (N3N5)

Be they aviator or ground-pounder; dogface or nurse; Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, Coast Guardsman, Merchantman, Guard or Reserve — at one time or another they answered the call.

And in so doing, all gave some — and some gave all.  So before the burgers and beer, before the green flag drops, and before the tanning lotion is applied for the first time — pause, ponder and give thanks to the Almighty that such as these gave their all so that we may remain free: