Friday, November 11, 2011

FRIDAY TRAVEL BLOG & VETERAN'S DAY MEMORIAL: Thanks!

Starting with my great grandfather, Indovan Pierce, 1824-1910, nearly every generation of my family has been involved in our country's battles.  This is a great source of family pride!

Indovan, nearly 40 and the father of 4 at the time, joined the 13th WV Volunteers in the Union Army during the American Civil War.  He was grievously wounded at the Battle of Berryville and was still in a hospital in Philadelphia long after the war ended.

HERE'S TO THE MEMORY OF INDOVAN PIERCE!

My Dad, William F. Pierce, was in the Infantry in World War I.  He did not see foreign service.  My Uncle Joe, Mom's brother, however, was gassed in France.  He left his home hale and hardy but returned frail and mentally retarded, he had the mind of maybe a 5-year-old.  People laughed at Joe as he "guarded" the banks of the river with a wooden gun.  He would gather huge piles of drift wood.  Anyone could help themselves from his piles but he would do a bayonet charge at anyone getting driftwood from the riverbank.  Ornery kids like my brother Henry loved to taunt Joe by grabing a board off the bank and running.  Joe died an early death.

HERE'S TO THE MEMORY OF MY DAD WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO UNCLE JOE.

My brothers, Henry and Ray, volunteered in World War II to serve in the Navy and Army.  Ray never served overseas but was enroute to the invasion of Japan when the atomic bomb ended the war.  Henry further volunteered to served in the Navy Armed Guard, providing protection to merchant ships.  Henry was constantly at risk serving on a tanker, a prime target for both submarines and attacking planes.  He saw a lot of action, frequently at great risk.  

My cousin, Ira Shamblin, Jr. was the same age as my brother Henry.  Junior was truly just a good old farm boy from West Virginia.  He lost his life in the campaign against the Germans in North Africa.

My brother Henry's wife Ruby had a brother named James Byus.  The Byus and Pierce families were very close during the great depression leading up to World War II.  Jim was more like a cousin, frankly, than was my cousin Jr. Shamblin.  Jim lost his life in France and is buried there in an American Miltary Cemetery.

HERE'S TO MY BROTHERS, MY COUSIN, MY FRIEND AND ALL THE BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN WHO SERVED IN WORLD WAR II.

Only 10 years old when World War II started, I was too young to serve.  This bothered me to no end, I'd always joined in family fights.  When I was 16, large for my age and a high school senior, I lied about my age and joined the WV National Guard.  I served on many burial details for veteran's returned home from battles around the globe.  I also served in rescue work in the flood of '47 when the WV National Guard was activated.

Shortly after graduating from high school at age 17, I joined the U. S. Navy.  I was in the Korea War Zone when the war started in 1950 and when my enlistment was up in 1951, I served an addional one year extension.  Although I saw no battle action, a mine sweeper that my sea going tug was escorting from Guam, sailing through mine fields in a darkened ship, was later sunk by a free floating mine that the Chinese had freed to float in the current.  Most of the crew was lost.  A year later I met one of the survivors in the Mare Island Naval Hospital.  He was still in a full body cast and in critical condition.  One of the tugs that we served with in the war zone also struck a mine but with less loss of life, although the ship went down in only 15 minutes.

For a short time I was in an army hospital with a broken left wrist.  I was flown back to the states and put in a navy hospital but for the days I was in the army hospital I got a first hand look at the troops that were trapped on the frozen Chosin Resevoir by the invading Chinese hordes.  The results of frost bite to their extremities was heart rendering, still so to this day.

HERE'S TO ALL THE TROOPS THAT SERVED IN KOREA.

James Ray Pierce and Henry Lee Pierce, my brother's sons, served in the Vietnam War.  Jim, named after his Uncle Jim mentioned above, served in the Army in Germany providing protection againt the Russian threat of the Cold War.  Henry Lee made a career of the Navy.  Starting as an enlisted man, he eventually became an officier.

HERE'S TO ALL THE TROOPS THAT SERVED IN VIETNAM.

I am not aware of any of my family currently in the service, at least no close family.  In training and equipment, America's military today is the best ever.  As General Sherman opined, "War is Hell".  An IED on a dessert road is still deadly.  Our troops in current conflicts have paid a heavy price.

HERE'S TO ALL THE TROOPS THAT HAVE AND ARE SERVING.

I WOULD LIKE TO MENTION OUR FORCES WHO SERVE IN THE BACKGROUND AND SELDOM GET RECONITION, THE SERVICE FLEET.

Considering miltary action, one does not think of fleet tugs.  A bit over 200 feet long and 35 feet abeam, armed lightly, what can they do?  I served as radioman aboard the USS YUMA ATF94.  We laid anchor buoys at Iwo Jima in maybe 1951.  The planes, tanks, landing ships that were destroyed in the invasion of Iwo Jima in 1944 were still on the beach.  Salvage ships would use the new buoys while cleaning the battle site.  (I fished around Iwo Jima, the fishing was great!)

In 1944, however, the USS YUMA was in the midst of the invasion.  Along with another fleet tug, when the landing ships, especially the LSTs, repeatedly got stuck in the black, volcanic beach, it was the fleet tug that sailed in amidst the fury of the invasion to pull the landing ships free.  

When we think of the fleet we think of Battleships, Aircraft Carriers and Destroyers, and we should .  (I have served aboard an Aircraft Carrier and a Destroyer Escort).  But, we should also remember those serving on the tugs, tankers, refridgerator ships, repair ships, sub tenders, ice breakers, hospital ships, rescue ships and cargo ships.  (Remember the movie "Mr. Roberts", that was the boring duty of the cargo ship.) They were often in the thick of the battle, however, like the YUMA at Iwo Jima, even though they were less able to manuever or defend themselves.

 HERE'S TO THE SERVICE FLEET WITH SPECIAL REGARD FOR COMSERVPAC 6.

I SAID THIS WOULD ALSO BE MY FRIDAY TRAVEL BLOG.

I had only 3 months left on my enlistment after being part of a skelton crew taking the aircraft carrier, USS INTREPID CV11, out of mothballs and sailing her from San Francisco to the Navy Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA for a two year refit.  I was reassigned to a reserve training ship--TERRIBLE DUTY FOR A REGULAR NAVY GUY.  With a ship full of civilians, (reserves), while I was aboard her,  the USS HEMMINGER DE746 made three cruises, the Virgin Islands, Jamaica and a month long good will cruise of Europe, visiting Portugal and France.

I was in the Virgin Isle hotel when I heard someone shout "Walsine, hey, Walsine".  Now, there are a lot of Tom, Dick and Harry's in the world but only one Walsine, that's me.  I looked around and from a group of drunken marines, one of the men came forward, wanting to hug me.  WHOA!  Now, a sailor may tolerate any of many down at the heel ladies strolling the street but sailors don't get hugged by jarheads!  It was Stanley Riffle, a friend from my hometown of Point Pleasant, WV.  Unlike me, Stanley was really a good boy. He was a bit younger than me and his sister Hilda was a bit older.  We had am enjoyable chat and I learned that he was on R and R before heading for Korea.  I was probably the last person from his hometown to see Stanley.  He was killed shortly after getting to Korea, or so I understand.

HERE'S TO THE MEMORY OF STANLEY RIFFLE!

God Bless You and Your's

GOD BLESS THE USA

Note:  For the moment I have lost the ability to add pictures to the blog.

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