Uncommon Valor – June 6, 1944

WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe during WWII. Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.

WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe during WWII.
Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.

NORMANDY

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For Those Recognized To All

 

Normandy Marker-known to all

 

And Those Only Known To One

 

Normandy Marker-known to one

 

 “Lord, where did we get such men?”

 

Veterans and dignitaries gather to hear the D-day service at Bayeux cathedral in France.  Photograph: Reuters

Veterans and dignitaries gather for D-Day service at Bayeux Cathedral in France.  June 6, 2014
Photograph: Reuters

In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude

Sunrise on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France.  June 6, 2014 (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Sunrise on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France on the 70th Anniversary. June 6, 2014
(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

 For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

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“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

John F. Kennedy

 

 

 

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A Nation Honors WWII Heroes

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, USS Hornet skipper, chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle, attack group leader of the Army Air Forces.  The group of fliers, in coordination between the two services, carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a daring raid on military targets in major Japanese cities.  The USS Hornet carried the 16 North American B-25 bombers to within take-off distances of the Japanese Islands.               (U.S. Navy photo)

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, USS Hornet skipper, chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle, attack group leader of the Army Air Forces. The group of fliers, in coordination between the two services, carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a daring raid on military targets in major Japanese cities. The USS Hornet carried the 16 North American B-25 bombers to within take-off distances of the Japanese Islands.
(U.S. Navy photo)

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In long overdue recognition, Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of WWII have been honored with  a Congressional Gold Medal.   Bestowed for their tremendous valor and sacrifice at a pivotal point in our military history, it is one of our nation’s highest awards.

Congressional Gold Signing-DTR  May 23 14

 Congressional Gold Medal Text

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Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, provoked a  responsive Declaration of War, as Americans enlisted and Doolittle Tokyo Raiders  prepared  a retaliatory strike.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his "Day of Infamy" speech to Congress December 8, 1941

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress
December 8, 1941

President Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan on December 8, 1941 in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

President Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan on December 8, 1941 in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On April 18, 1942, fueled by the need for action in the devastating aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. launched a daring and dangerous air raid over Tokyo and a risky endeavor for safe passage of these men.   Eighty airmen, in volunteering for an unspecified and highly classified operation, willingly accepted the inherent danger.

Recruited from the Army Air Force, 17th Bombardment Group, they were among the first to receive B-25 medium bombers, integral for the mission, and some of the finest pilots from 35 states.  Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, aviation legend and attack group leader, would oversee the operation and a maneuver never previously attempted – launching B-25 bombers from a carrier deck.   Following a mere  three weeks of simulated practice, the mission moved forward.   Highly cloaked in secrecy, the destination  remained unknown to the airmen until briefed at sea.

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1: 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner.    (U.S. Air Force photo) Lt. Cole, at the age of 98, is one of four surviving Tokyo Raiders.

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1: 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Lt. Cole, at the age of 98, is one of four surviving Tokyo Raiders.

Passing beneath the Golden Gate on the carrier USS Hornet, as the waves of  thousands cheered their departure, the hearts and hopes of a nation sailed for those sacrificed at Pearl Harbor.  10,000 Navy personnel and a task force of ships would deliver 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crewmen within striking distance of Japan.   In a high-risk launching of bombers in the western Pacific, they were all prime targets for Japanese  forces.

B-25 bombers on the flight deck of the USS Hornet en route to the mission's launching point for the Tokyo Raid. One of the escorting cruisers, the USS Nashville, is seen in the distance. (U.S. Navy photo)

B-25 bombers on the flight deck of the USS Hornet en route to the mission’s launching point for the Tokyo Raid.
One of the escorting cruisers, the USS Nashville, is seen in the distance.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF  Wires a Japanese "friendship"medal to a bomb, for "return" to its originators in the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese Home Islands, April 1942. Photographed on board the USS Hornet, shortly before B-25 bombers were launched to attack Japan. U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF
Wires a Japanese “friendship”medal to a bomb, for “return” to its originators in the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese Home Islands, April 1942. Photographed on board the USS Hornet, shortly before B-25 bombers were launched to attack Japan.
U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Ultimately detected, hours prior to the planned raid and further out to sea than safely dictated, immediate action was demanded of the airmen.  Swiftly launching one by one in near gale force winds from a wildly heaving carrier deck, the bombers flew low over water toward Japan.  Their targets were industrial and military installations with planned escape to Chinese airfields unoccupied by the Japanese.

With fuel consumption a major concern, as well as threat of anti-aircraft fire and enemy interception, it was likely a one-way flight for these unescorted planes.   In the end, low on fuel with approaching night and deteriorating weather, none of the 16  bombers would reach their prearranged landings.

Lt. Col. Doolittle's B-25, the first of 16 bombers taking off from USS Hornet - 18 April 1942 (U.S. Navy photo)

Lt. Col. Doolittle’s B-25, the first of 16 bombers taking off from USS Hornet – 18 April 1942
(U.S. Navy photo)

Departure from the deck of the USS HORNET of an Army B-25 on its way to take part in first U.S. air raid on Japan. Doolittle Raid, April 1942. National Archives and Records Administration

Departure from the deck of the USS HORNET of an Army B-25 on its way to take part in first U.S. air raid on Japan. Doolittle Raid, April 1942.
National Archives and Records Administration

The attack, as predicted, was not without sacrifice.  Although most would survive, one would lose his life in bailing over China and two by ditching off the China coast.   Three of eight airmen, captured by Japanese, were ultimately executed.  A fourth perished in a Japanese prison.   All suffered harsh interrogation  and  remaining  captives  endured severe and prolonged confinement.  Four others, seriously injured in the raid and rescued by Chinese, were treated dangerously close to Japanese  searching units.  One would linger hospitalized until 1943, while another crew of five, forced to land in Russia, was imprisoned for 14 months.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan. (U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center)

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan.
(U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center)

U.S. Army Air Force Lt. Robert L. Hite, blindfolded by his captors, is led from a Japanese transport plane after he and seven other flyers were flown from Shanghai to Tokyo. Hite was co-pilot of crew 16, 34th Bomb Squadron, of the "Doolittle Raiders".  After 45 days in Japan, all eight were returned to China by ship and imprisoned in Shanghai.  On 15 October 1942 three were executed, one died in captivity. The four others, including Hite, were eventually liberated on 20 August 1945.  (U.S. Air Force photo)  Today, Lt. Col. Hite is one of only four surviving Tokyo Raiders.

U.S. Army Air Force Lt. Robert L. Hite, blindfolded by his captors, is led from a Japanese transport plane after he and seven other flyers were flown from Shanghai to Tokyo. Hite was co-pilot of crew 16, 34th Bomb Squadron, of the “Doolittle Raiders.” After 45 days in Japan, all eight were returned to China by ship and imprisoned in Shanghai. On 15 October 1942 three were executed, one died in captivity. The four others, including Hite, were eventually liberated on 20 August 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Lt. Col. Hite is one of only four surviving Tokyo Raiders.

Essentially all 16 bombers inevitably were lost.  Of the 15 reaching China, 11 were destroyed during bail-outs and 1 crash-landing, while 3 were ditched at sea.  The remaining bomber, seriously low on fuel, was confiscated upon reaching Russia.

Despite the minimal effect of the bombing, the mission proved a definitive success in its reciprocal lesson of vulnerability which took a toll on Imperial Japan and its military strategy.  The undertaking by these Raiders, which greatly boosted American and Allied morale, would generate strategic benefits for the U.S. in the Battle of Midway and disaster for the Japanese.

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With the loss of all 16 aircraft, Doolittle believed  the raid had been a failure and court-martial faced him upon return to the states.  To the contrary, promoted to General, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt in a White House presentation.  A number of pilots would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross. 

While the raid created a tremendous boost to American morale which had plunged following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor,  the psychological effect on Japan was even greater than anticipated.  The intrusion into Japanese airspace created serious doubts in the minds of their war planners.    Their repositioning of seasoned fighter-plane units, in defense of their homeland, would weaken Japan’s air capabilities in the upcoming Battle of Midway and other South Pacific campaigns.

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In Eternal Remembrance

December 7, 1941

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Jan. 20, 2004) -- Pearl Harbor survivor Bill Johnson stares at the list of names inscribed in the USS Arizona Memorial. Johnson visited the memorial to pay respects to the Sailors killed that day, particularly his friend and high school buddy, W N Royals, 64 years after the attack.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Jan. 20, 2004) — Pearl Harbor survivor Bill Johnson stares at the list of names inscribed in the USS Arizona Memorial. Johnson visited the memorial to pay respects to the sailors killed that day, particularly his friend and high school buddy, W N Royals, 64 years after the attack.

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“The very soul of a nation is its heroes”

 

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In Profound Gratitude

Memorial Grounds-8

 In Memory of Supreme Sacrifice for Country

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

“Ode of Remembrance” from Laurence Binyon’s poem, “For the Fallen” (1914)

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“The very soul of a nation is its heroes”

PFC Joel Ramirez-off the plane

Their sacrifices, their pain, their selfless courage must continue to burn like an eternal     flame in our memory.
                                                             Gen. Colin Powell

 

PFC Joel Ramirez carried home

When we mourn for such men who have died, ….we should thank God that such men were born.
                                                           Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

PFC Welcomed Home

If a nation is to be great, if a nation truly is to be the land of the free, that it also must be the home of the brave.
                                                              Gen. Paul X. Kelley

Military Honor Guard

“In visiting the graves and family, in reading the headstones and creating a mind’s vision of these veterans, they are all so much more than merely a listed name.”

Veteran Markers

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PFC Joel Ramirez-Memorial

We were soldiers once and young…Remember us.”

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 Flags Unfurled

For their sense of duty continues to preserve our past, safeguard our present, and sustain our future.

PFC Joel Ramirez-US flag

“We stand on the backs of their sacrifice. Their history is our tradition, as long as there are Americans to remember…”

In Profound Gratitude

Memorial Day
May 26, 2014

 

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My  Own Veteran Father

PT Boat-161 Skipper – WWII

John Edwin McElroy-gravesite marker

and his

Family Veterans

 

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WWII Tokyo Raiders Deserve Congressional Gold

Let’s not wait nearly 75 years to honor our veterans.  All too often, acknowledgment for their commitment and valor is long-delayed or even denied.  Such is the case for the WWII Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.

On April 18, 1942, fueled by the need for action in the devastating aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. commenced a daring and dangerous air raid over Tokyo.  Detected by the Japanese, hours prior to takeoff and further out to sea than dictated, immediate departure was required of the airmen.  Led by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, 16 B-25 bomber planes were swiftly launched from the carrier deck of the USS Hornet.  Their targets were industrial and military  installations in Japan with  escape to safe-landing destinations in China.  With fuel consumption a major concern, as well as threat of anti-aircraft  fire and enemy interception, it was a risky endeavor for safe passage of these men.

Beyond the targeted bombing, the mission  proved  a  success  in  a  reciprocal  lesson  of vulnerability which took a toll on Imperial Japan and its military strategy.  The operation by the Tokyo Raiders, which greatly boosted American and allied morale, would generate strategic benefits for the U.S. in the Battle of Midway and disaster for the Japanese.

The raid would claim a sacrifice in return.  Eighty valiant men, recruited from the 17th Bomb Group, had volunteered for  an unspecified and  perilous  objective.  Although most would survive, one would  lose his life  in parachuting over China and  two by ditching off the China coast.  Three of eight airmen, captured by the Japanese, would die by execution.  A fourth  perished in a Japanese prison as the others endured harsh and extreme confinement.  Essentially all  16  bombers  inevitably were  lost.  Of the 15 reaching China, 11 were destroyed  during bail-outs and 1 crash-landing, while 3 were ditched at sea.   The remaining, seriously low on fuel, was confiscated on landing in Russia and the crew incarcerated.

The Tokyo Raiders hailed from 35 states and only four surviving members remain today.

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, USS Hornet skipper, chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle, attack group leader of the Army Air Forces.  The group of fliers, in coordination between the two services, carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a daring raid on military targets in major Japanese cities.  The USS Hornet carried the 16 North American B-25 bombers to within take-off distances of the Japanese Islands.               (U.S. Navy photo)

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, USS Hornet skipper, chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle, attack group leader of the Army Air Forces. This group of fliers, in coordination between the two services, carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a daring raid on military targets in major Japanese cities. The USS Hornet carried the 16 North American B-25 bombers to within take-off distances of the Japanese Islands.
(U.S. Navy photo)

B-25 bombers on the flight deck of the USS Hornet en route to the mission's launching point for the Tokyo Raid. One of the escorting cruisers, the USS Nashville, is seen in the distance. (U.S. Navy photo)

B-25 bombers on the flight deck of the USS Hornet en route to the mission’s launching point for the Tokyo Raid.
One of the escorting cruisers, the USS Nashville, is seen in the distance.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1: 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner.    (U.S. Air Force photo) Lt. Cole is one of four surviving Tokyo Raiders remaining today.

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1: 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Lt. Cole is one of four surviving Tokyo Raiders remaining today.

Lt. Col. Doolittle's B-25, the first of 16 bombers taking off from USS Hornet - 18 April 1942 (U.S. Navy photo)

Lt. Col. Doolittle’s B-25, the first of 16 bombers taking off from the USS Hornet – 18 April 1942
(U.S. Navy photo)

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan. (U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center)

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan.
(U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph from the collections of the Naval Historical Center)

U.S. Army Air Force Lt. Robert L. Hite, blindfolded by his captors, is led from a Japanese transport plane after he and seven other flyers were flown from Shanghai to Tokyo. Hite was co-pilot of crew 16, 34th Bomb Squadron, of the "Doolittle Raiders".  After 45 days in Japan, all eight were returned to China by ship and imprisoned in Shanghai.  On 15 October 1942 three were executed, one died in captivity. The four others, including Hite, were eventually liberated on 20 August 1945.  (U.S. Air Force photo)  Today, Lt. Col. Hite is one of only four surviving Tokyo Raiders.

U.S. Army Air Force Lt. Robert L. Hite, blindfolded by his captors, is led from a Japanese transport plane after he and seven other flyers were flown from Shanghai to Tokyo. Hite was co-pilot of crew 16, 34th Bomb Squadron, of the “Doolittle Raiders.”After 45 days in Japan, all eight were returned to China by ship and imprisoned in Shanghai. On 15 October 1942 three were executed, one died in captivity. The four others, including Hite, were eventually liberated on 20 August 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Lt. Col. Hite is one of four surviving Tokyo Raiders remaining today.

“A nation reveals itself not only in the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

                                                                – John F. Kennedy

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On April 16, 2012, the 70th Anniversary of the WWII bombing mission, a Resolution  honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was introduced.   In early 2013, House and Senate legislation proposed a Congressional Gold Medal for their extraordinary service and sacrifice at a crucial point in our military history.   The four surviving members of the Raiders  would  lift a  final  toast  to their fallen comrades on November 9th.   Although Senate passage followed shortly afterward, the House has yet to extend its own toast from a grateful nation to these heroic men.

It  is only fitting that existing Raiders accept the accolade for the 80 who willingly stepped forward for their country when desperately needed.   To that regard, one would now hope that delays by the House will not impact the presence of four remaining in honor for all.   A  fifth Raider, at the age of 96, has already  passed away as the Senate bill was introduced.

For those who value the remarkable and sustaining commitment of our veterans, our voices for passage of this legislation could help ensure the Congressional Gold Medal for these valiant men.   Forward motion of this bill is now determined by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.  In a current effort to impact legislation honoring our veterans, Lend Your Voice for Congressional Gold to WWII Doolittle Tokyo Raiders  and Your Comments for Passage by contacting this House Committee.

House Financial Services Committee Members

View S. 381 /Track     View H.R. 1209 /Track     Find Your Representative

Call Congress /Vote Support

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Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.

Some of the notable recipients include George Washington, Major General Andrew Jackson, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, the Wright Brothers, Charles A. Lindbergh, Major Walter Reed, Howard Hughes, General Douglas MacArthur, Winston Churchill, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, General Colin Powell, the Navajo and Native American Code Talkers, and The Tuskegee Airmen to name a few.

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Texas proudly claims 13 members of the “Doolittle Raiders,” more than any other state, and plane #13 was piloted by an Ellis County veteran.

A Personal Account of the Training and Mission

Edgar McElroy, Army Air Corps

Lt. Edgar McElroy, Army Air Corps

 

 WWII Tokyo Raider  – Lt. Edgar McElroy

Excerpts from a story compiled by Perry Giles with contribution by Rick McElroy

Born and raised in Ennis, Texas, I developed a love for airplanes from an early age – often imagining the freedom of flying my own plane.  As a young man during the turbulent times prior to WWII, I felt our country would soon be drawn into war and made the decision to join the Army Air Corps in November, 1940.

I reported for primary training in California at airfields throughout the state. The training was difficult and frustrating at times with many of the men failing to complete.  Graduating on July 11, 1941 as an Army Air Corps pilot, I was also now following my dream.

Receiving my orders, I reported to Pendleton, Oregon and joined the 17th Bombardment Group. My unit would be the first to receive the new B-25 medium bomber. It appeared huge, sleek, and powerful and I was looking forward to flying this machine.

We were transferred to another airfield in Washington State, where we flew practice missions and attacked imaginary targets.  There were other assignments in Mississippi and Georgia for more maneuvers and practice.

We were returning to California on December 7th when we received word of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We listened with mixed emotions to the announcements on the radio and the next day’s declaration of war.  President Roosevelt’s words played over and over in my mind.  “…With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounded determination of our people,  we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.”  I felt as though he was talking directly to me.

None of us knew what would happen now but felt sure we would see action soon.  The first weeks of the war, we were back in Oregon flying patrols at sea and looking for possible Japanese submarines.

We were up at 0330 hours to warm the engines of our planes.  With 18 inches of snow on the ground, it was so cold that our engine oil congealed overnight.  We placed large tarps over the engines to reach the ground.  Inside these tents, we used plumber blow torches to thaw the engines until warmed to start.

Patrols were flown over the coasts of Oregon and Washington from dawn until dusk.  We considered it fortunate the Japanese did not attack the west coast, as we felt we weren’t strong enough at this point.  Our country was in dire need and overall appeared bleak to most people.

In early February, 1942, we were ordered to report to Columbus, South Carolina and were unsure what was to follow.  After settling in, our squadron commander called us all together. We were told a very hazardous mission was being planned and he asked for volunteers.  There were some who did not step forward but I was one who did.  Although married with a baby on the way, I had joined the Air Force to serve and knew the war would not be easy for any of us.

Those who had volunteered were transferred to Eglin Field near Valparaiso, Florida in late February.  When assembled, there were almost 140 of us who were told we were now part of the “Special B-25 Project.”  We commenced our training, although none of us knew the specifics. We were ordered not to discuss, even with our wives.

In early March, we were all called for a briefing and gathered together in a large building on the base.  Someone mentioned the man heading this operation would speak to those assembled and in walked Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle.   He was already an aviation legend and there he stood right in front of us.  I was truly amazed just to meet him.

Doolittle explained the mission would be extremely dangerous and only volunteers would take part.  We were told the location was still secret and some of us would not be coming back.  There was a silent pause and moment of quiet for everyone. We were told that anyone could withdraw now and no one would criticize our decision.   No one withdrew.

From the outset, all volunteers worked from early morning hours until well after sunset. All excess weight was stripped from the planes and extra gas tanks were added.  The lower gun turret, heavy liaison radio, and tail guns were removed and more gas tanks put aboard.  We extended the range of that plane from 1000 to 2500 miles.

I was then assigned my crew. There was Lt. Richard Knobloch as co-pilot, Lt. Clayton Campbell the navigator, Sgt. Robert Bourgeois my bombardier, Sgt. Adam Williams as flight engineer gunner, and myself as pilot.  Over the coming days, I came to respect them tremendously.  They were a great group of all-American boys.

We gleaned information from the training as to what type of mission we faced. A Navy pilot had joined our group to coach us on short takeoffs and shipboard etiquette.

We began our short takeoff practice with first a light load, then a normal, and finally overloaded up to 31,000 lbs.  The shortest possible departure was obtained with flaps full down, stabilizer set three-fourths, tail heavy, full power against the brakes and releasing them simultaneously, as the engine revved up to max power.  We pulled back gradually on the stick and the airplane left the ground with the tail skid about one foot from the runway. It was a very unnatural and scary method to get airborne

I could hardly believe myself, as I took off the first time with a full gas load and dummy bombs within just 700 feet of runway in a near stall condition. We were, for all practical purposes, a flying gasoline bomb.

In addition to departure practice, we refined our skills in day and night navigation, gunnery, bombing, and low-level flying. We made cross-country flights at tree-top level, followed by night and navigational flights over the Gulf of Mexico without radio transmission.

After starting our short-field takeoff routines, we had diligent competition among the crews.  We were told  only the best would actually participate on the mission and the rest held in reserve.  One crew stalled on takeoff and slipped back to the ground, breaking their landing gear.  They were eliminated from the operation.

Doolittle emphasized again and again the extreme danger to be encountered and made it clear that any of us, who so desired, could drop out with no questions asked.  No one did. At our base in Florida, we were abruptly told to pack our things.  After just three weeks of practice, we were on our way.  It was the middle of March 1942 and I was 30 years old.

Our orders were to fly on our own, at the lowest possible level, to McClelland Air Base in Sacramento, California.  So here we were, scraping tree tops at 160 miles per hour and skimming just 50 feet above plowed fields. We crossed North Texas and then the panhandle, scaring livestock, buzzing farm houses, and many a barn along the way.   We flew over the Rocky Mountains and across the Mojave Desert, dodging thunderstorms.  We enjoyed the flight immensely and it was good practice for what lay ahead.

Upon arriving in Sacramento, mechanics scrupulously checked our plane.  Of the twenty-two that made it, only those with no mechanical problems were allowed to proceed. The others were shunted aside.

After having our plane serviced, we flew on to Alameda Naval Air Station in Oakland.  As I came in for final approach, I excitedly called the rest of the crew to take a look. There below us was a huge aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet.  I had never even seen a carrier until this moment.

As there were already two B-25s parked on the flight deck, now we knew. My heart was racing and I thought how insignificant my plane would look on board this huge ship.  As we landed and taxied off the runway, a jeep pulled in front which we followed straight to the wharf and alongside the towering Hornet.  All five of us were in awe, scarcely believing the size of this carrier.

As we left the plane, there was already a Navy work crew swarming to attach cables to the lifting rings on the wings and fuselage.  As we walked towards our quarters, I looked back and saw them lifting my plane up into the air to swing it over the ship’s deck.  It looked so small.

Later that afternoon, all crews met with Lt. Col. Doolittle for last-minute assignments. The next morning, we all boarded the ship and I turned aft and saluted the flag.  It was April 2 and, in full sunlight, we left San Francisco Bay.  The whole task force of ships – two cruisers, four destroyers, and a fleet oiler – moved slowly with us under the Golden Gate Bridge.  Thousands of people looked on and waved to us as we passed underneath.

Once at sea, Doolittle called us together. “Only a few of you know our destination, and you others have guessed about various targets.  Gentlemen, your targets are Japan!”   A sudden cheer exploded among the men. “Specifically Yokohama, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Nagasaki and Osaka.  The Navy task force will bring us as close as possible to launch our planes.  We will hit our targets and proceed to airfields in China.”  After cheering stopped, he asked again, if any of us desired to back out, no questions asked.  No one did, not one.

Then over the intercom for  the whole ship to hear, the voice of the Captain blared, “The destination is Tokyo!”  A tremendous cheer broke out from everyone on board.  I could hear metal banging together and wild screams from down below decks… It was quite a rush!  I felt relieved, actually, as we finally knew where we were going.

I set up quarters with two Navy pilots who were part of the Torpedo Squadron Eight.  I enjoyed my time with them but later learned that both were killed at the Battle of Midway. They were good men.

There were sixteen B-25s tied down on the flight deck and I was flying number 13.  All the carrier’s fighter planes were stored away helplessly in the hangar deck.  They couldn’t move until we were gone.  Our Army mechanics were all on board, as well as our munitions loaders and several back up crews, in case any of us became ill or withdrew.

We settled into a daily routine of checking our planes. The aircrafts were grouped so closely together on deck that it wouldn’t take much for them to get damaged.  Knowing that my life depended on this plane, I kept a close eye on it.

Day after day, we met with the intelligence officer and studied our mission plan.  Our targets were assigned with maps and objective folders furnished for study.  We went over approach routes and our escape course towards China.

Every day at dawn and dusk, the ship was called to general quarters and we practiced finding the quickest way to our planes.   If at any point we were discovered by the enemy fleet, we were to launch our bombers immediately to enable the fighter planes on board. We would then be on our own and try to make the nearest land which would be Hawaii or Midway Island.

Dr. Thomas White, a volunteer member of plane 15, reviewed our medical records and provided inoculations.  We were given training sessions in emergency first aid and lectured at length about water purification and such.  Although a medical doctor, Tom had learned gunnery to be included on this mission.

Our new tail guns, in place of those removed to save weight, were not exactly functional but merely two broom handles painted black.   It was hoped they would appear to be what they were not.

On Sunday, April 14, we met with Admiral Bull Halsey’s task force just out of Hawaii and joined into one large force.  The carrier Enterprise was now with us, as well as another two heavy cruisers, four more destroyers, and another oiler.  We were designated as Task Force 16.

It was quite an impressive sight to see what represented the bulk of the U.S. Navy after the devastation of Pearl Harbor.  There were over 10,000 Navy personnel sailing into harm’s way, just to deliver sixteen Army planes to the Japanese by order of the President.

As we steamed further west, tension was rising as we drew nearer and nearer to Japan. Someone thought of arming us with old .45 pistols on board.  They were in such bad condition that I disassembled several of them, using good parts from some until I built a serviceable weapon.  Several of the other pilots did the same…

Lt. Col. Doolittle called us together on the flight deck.  We all gathered round, as well as many Navy personnel. He pulled out friendship medals given by the Japanese government to some Navy officers several years back.  Now the Secretary of the Navy had requested us to return them.  Doolittle wired the medals to a bomb while we all posed for pictures. Something to cheer up the folks back home.

I began to pack my things for the flight scheduled for April 19.  No letters or identity cards were allowed, only our dog-tags.

Doolittle let each crew determine their target.  We chose the Yokosuka Naval Base about twenty miles from Tokyo.  We loaded 1450 rounds of ammo and four 500-pound bombs… a little payback, direct from Ellis County, Texas.

We checked and re-checked our plane several times.  Everything was now ready.  I felt relaxed, yet tense at the same time.  Day after tomorrow, we launch at 400 miles out.  I lay in my cot that night and rehearsed the mission over and over in my head.  It was hard to sleep, as I listened to sounds of the ship.

Early the next morning, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast and expecting another full day on board.  I noticed the ship was pitching and rolling quite a bit this morning, more than normal.  I was reading through the April 18th day plan of the Hornet and a message which stated, “From the Hornet to the Army – Good luck, good hunting, and God bless you.”

I still had a large lump in my throat from reading the goodwill, when all of a sudden the intercom blared, “General Quarters, General Quarters, All hands man your battle stations! Army pilots, man your planes!”

There was instant reaction from everyone in the room and food trays went crashing to the floor.  I ran down to my room, jumping through  hatches along the way, and grabbed my bag, running as fast as I could to the flight deck.   I met with my crew at the plane, my heart pounding… and someone said, “What’s going on?”

The word was the Enterprise had spotted an enemy trawler.  It had been sunk but not before transmitting radio messages. We had been discovered!

The weather was poor, the seas running heavy, and the ship pitching up and down like I had never seen before. Great waves were crashing against the bow and washing over the front of the deck… This wasn’t going to be easy!

Last minute instructions were given. We were reminded to avoid non-military targets, especially the Emperor’s Palace.  Do not fly to Russia but as far west as possible, land on the water, and launch our rubber raft.  This was going to be a one-way trip!

We were still much too far out and all knew our chances of making land were slim.  At the last minute, each plane loaded an extra ten 5-gallon gas cans for a fighting chance of reaching China.  We all climbed aboard, started our engines and warmed them up, just feet away from the plane in front of us and the plane behind.

The ship headed into the wind and picked up speed.  There was now a near gale force wind and water spray coming straight over the deck. I looked down at my instruments as my engines revved.  My mind was racing.  I went over my mental checklist and said a prayer… God, please help us!

Past the twelve planes in front of us, I strained to see the flight deck officer.  He leaned into the wind and signaled with his arms for Colonel Doolittle to come to full power.  I looked over at my co-pilot who nodded to me and we both understood the significance of the moment.

With the deck heaving up and down, the deck officer had to time departures just right. Then I saw him wave Doolittle to go and we watched breathlessly to see what happened… When his plane pulled up above the deck, we screamed, “Yes! Yes!”

The second plane, piloted by Lt. Hoover, appeared to stall with its nose up and began falling toward the waves. We groaned and called out, “Up! Up! Pull it up!” Finally, he corrected, staggering back up into the air, much to our relief!

One by one, the planes in front of us took off.  The deck pitched wildly, 60 feet or more, it appeared.  One plane seemed to drop into the water, disappearing for a moment, then pulled back up into sight. There was a sense of relief with each one that made it… We gunned our engines and started to roll forward.

Off to the right, I saw the men on deck cheering and waving!  We continued inching forward, careful to keep my left main wheel and my nose wheel on the white guidelines painted on the deck.  If a little bit too far left, we go off the edge of the deck.  A little too far right and our wing-tip will hit the island of the ship.

We watched Lt. Bower take off in plane number 12, and I taxied up to the starting line, put on my the brakes and looked down to my left.  My main wheel was right on the line. Applying more power to the engines, I turned my complete attention to the deck officer on my left, who was circling his paddles.  Now my adrenaline was running high.

We went to full power and the noise and vibration inside the plane increased greatly.  The paddles circled furiously while watching forward for the pitch of the deck. Then they dropped and I yelled, “Here We Go!” Releasing the brakes,  we started rolling forward and, as I looked down the flight-deck, you could see straight down into the angry churning water.

As we slowly gained speed, the deck gradually began to pitch back upward.  I pulled up and our plane slowly strained airborne and away from the ship.  There was a big cheer from the crew, as I just felt relieved and muttered to myself on how short the distance.

We made a wide circle above our fleet to check compass headings and get our bearings.  Looking  down, as we passed low over one of our cruisers, we saw men on deck waving to us.

I dropped down to low-level, so low we could see the white cap waves breaking.  It was just after 0900 with broken clouds at 5,000 feet and visibility of thirty miles.

Up ahead and barely in sight, I could see Captain Greening, our flight leader, and Bower on his right wing.  Flying at 170 mph, we were able to catch up to them in thirty minutes. We were to stay in formation until reaching landfall and then break our separate ways.  We now settled in for the five-hour flight… Tokyo, here we come!

Williams was in the back emptying the extra gas into the tank, as soon as we had burned off enough fuel.  He then punched holes in the tins and pushed them out the hatch against the wind.  Some of the fellows ate sandwiches and other foods the Navy had put aboard for us… I wasn’t hungry.

I held onto the controls with a firm grip, as we raced along westward and some fifty feet above the cold rolling ocean, as low as I dared to fly.  Being so close to the choppy waves gave you a true sense of speed.  Occasionally our windshield was even sprayed with a little saltwater. It was an exhilarating feeling and I felt as though the will and spirit of our whole country was pushing us along.  I didn’t feel too much fear, just anxiety, as there was a lot riding on this mission and on me.

As we began to near land, we saw an occasional ship here and there.  None of them close enough to be threatening but, just the same, we were feeling more edgy.

Then at 1330 we sighted land, the Eastern shore of Honshu. With Williams now on his guns in the top turret and Campbell on the nose, we came ashore still flying low as possible and surprised to see people on the ground, waving to us as we flew in over the farmland… It was beautiful countryside.

Campbell, our navigator, said, “Mac, I think we’ll be about sixty miles too far north.”  I decided he was absolutely right and turned left ninety degrees, just offshore, and followed the coast line south.

When I thought we had gone far enough, I climbed to two thousand feet to determine our location.  We started getting fire from anti-aircraft guns and, spotting Tokyo Bay, turned west and nose down, dove toward the water.

Once over the bay, I could see our target, Yokosuka Naval Base.  Off to the right there was already smoke visible over Tokyo.  Coming in low over the water, I increased speed to 200 mph and told everyone, “Get Ready!”

When close enough, I pulled up to 1300 feet and opened the bomb doors.  There were furious black bursts of anti-aircraft fire all around us but I flew straight through them – spotting our target, the torpedo works, and dry-docks.  I saw a big ship there just as we flew over.  The flak bursts were really getting close and bouncing us around, when I heard Bourgeois shouting, “Bombs Away!”

I couldn’t see it but Williams had a bird’s eye view from the back and shouted jubilantly, “We got an aircraft carrier! The whole dock is burning!” I started turning to the south and strained my neck to look back and, at that moment, saw a large crane blow up and start falling over!…

There was loud yelling and clapping each other on the back.  We were all just ecstatic and still alive but there wasn’t much time to celebrate. We had to get out of here and fast!  When some thirty miles out to sea, we took one last look back at our target and could still see huge billows of black smoke..

We flew south over open ocean, parallel to the Japanese coast all afternoon. We spotted a large submarine, apparently at rest, and, fifteen miles later, three large enemy cruisers headed for Japan.  There were no more bombs, so we just left them and kept going.

By late afternoon, Campbell calculated it was time to turn and make for China.  Across the East China Sea, the weather ahead looked bad and overcast.  Up until now, we had not had time to focus on our gasoline supply which, at this point, did not look good.  We just didn’t have enough fuel to make it!

Each man took turns cranking the little hand radio to see if we could pick up the promised radio beacon. There was no signal… another bad sign.

The weather turned worse and was getting dark, so we climbed higher.  I was now flying on instruments through a dark misty rain.  Just when it really looked hopeless for reaching land, we suddenly picked up a strong tailwind.  It was an answer to a prayer… Maybe just maybe, we can make it!

In total darkness at 2100 hours, we figured we must be crossing the coastline, so I began a slow, slow climb to ensure we hit no high ground … I conserved as much as I could but we were really low on fuel now.

The crew was still cranking on the radio but after five hours, there was utter silence.  No radio beacon!

Then the red light started blinking to indicate twenty minutes of fuel remaining.  We prepared to bail out.  Turning the controls over to Knobby, I crawled to the back of the plane, past the now collapsed rubber gas tank.  I dumped everything out of my bag and repacked just what I really needed – my .45 pistol, ammunition, flashlight, compass, medical kit, fishing tackle, chocolate bars, peanut butter and crackers.

I told Williams to come forward with me so we could all be together for this. There was no other choice. I had to get us as far west as possible and then we had to jump.

At 2230 we were up to sixty-five hundred feet. We were over land but still above the Japanese Army in China. We couldn’t see the stars, so Campbell couldn’t determine a good fix on our position.

We were flying on fumes now and didn’t want to run out of gas before we were ready to go. Each man filled his canteen, put on his life jacket and parachute, and filled his bag with rations.

On auto-pilot, we all gathered in the navigator’s compartment around the hatch in the floor.  We checked each other’s parachute harness.  Everyone was scared, without a doubt, as none of us had ever done this before!

I gave the orders, “Williams first, Bourgeois second, Campbell third, Knobloch fourth, and I’ll follow you all.  Go fast, two seconds apart!  Then count three seconds and pull your rip-cord.”

We kicked open the hatch and gathered around the hole looking down into the blackness which didn’t look very inviting. Then I looked up at Williams and gave the order, “JUMP!!!”

Within seconds they were all gone.  I turned and reached for the auto-pilot but couldn’t make it, so pulled the throttles back, turned, and jumped.

Counting quickly – thousand one, thousand two, thousand three – I pulled my rip-cord and jerked back up with a terrific shock.  At first I thought I was hung on the plane but, after agonizing seconds that seemed like hours, realized I was free and drifting down.  In total darkness, I was disoriented at first but figured my feet must be pointed toward the ground. I looked down through the black mist to see what was coming.

I was in a thick fog with silence so eerie after nearly thirteen hours inside that noisy plane.  I could only hear the sound of the wind blowing through my shroud lines until I heard the loud crash and explosion of my plane.

Looking for a flashlight, I groped through my bag to shine it toward the ground which I still could not see.  Finally picking up a glimmer of water, I thought I was landing in a lake, as I hoped we were too far inland for the ocean…

I relaxed my legs in anticipation of splashing into water and swimming out. Suddenly jolted, I crashed onto my side in just a few inches of water.  Raising my head, I put my hands down into the thick mud of a rice paddy.

There was a burning pain in my stomach and I felt I must have torn a muscle or broken something. I lay there dazed for a few minutes and, after a while, struggled to my feet. Digging a hole, I buried my parachute in the mud.  Then, in trying to walk and hold my stomach, I realized in every direction I moved the water became deeper.

Seeing some lights off in the distance, I fished for my flashlight and signaled one time. Sensing something wrong, I retrieved my compass and discovered, to my horror, those lights were off to my west.  That must be a Japanese patrol!  How dumb could I be!

Knobby had to be back to my east, so I sat still and quiet and did not move.  It was a cold, dark, and lonely night.  At 0100 hours, I saw a single light off to the east and flashed my light in that direction, one time.  It had to be Knobby!

I waited a while and then called out softly, “Knobby?” And a voice replied “Mac, is that you?”… Thank God, what a relief!

Separated by a wide stream, we sat on opposite banks of the water, communicating in low voices. After daybreak, Knobby found a small rowboat and came across to get me. We started walking east toward the rest of the crew and away from that Japanese patrol.

Knobby had cut his hip when he went through the hatch but it wasn’t too bad.  We walked together toward a small village and several Chinese who appeared friendly.  I responded in their language, “I am an American!  I am an American!”

Later that morning, we found the others.  Williams had wrenched his knee when landing in a tree but was fine, although limping.  There were embraces all around and I have never been so happy to see four guys in all my life!

The five of us eventually made it out of China with the help of the local people and the Catholic missions along the way. They were all very good to us and later paid a terrible price for their help, as we would learn afterwards.

For a couple of weeks we traveled across country. Strafed a couple of times by enemy planes, we kept on moving by whatever transportation possible – by foot, pony, car, train, and airplane – finally reaching India.

I did not make it home for my  baby’s birth but stayed on flying a DC-3 in the China-Burma-India Theater for the next several months.  I flew supplies over the Himalaya Mountains and when B-25s finally arrived in India, flew combat missions over Burma.  Later in the war, I flew a B-29 out of the Mariana Islands to bomb Japan again and again.

After the war, I remained in the Air Force until 1962 when I retired from service and returned to Texas.  I had been among the fortunate, for 13 more Tokyo Raiders would later die during WWII.

Some people would call me a hero, yet I never thought of myself that way…although I did serve in the company of heroes.

What we did will never leave me.  It will always remain in my mind, as I think of the fine and brave men with whom I was privileged to serve.

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Edgar “Mac” McElroy, Lt. Col., U.S.A.F. (Ret.) passed away in Lubbock, Texas on the morning of Friday, April 4, 2003.

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With the loss of all 16 aircraft, Doolittle believed the raid had been a failure and  he would face court-martial upon returning to the states.  Quite to the contrary, the raid proved to be a tremendous boost to American morale which had plunged following the Pearl Harbor attack.  It also caused serious doubts in the minds of Japanese war planners.  They, in turn, recalled many seasoned fighter-plane units to defend the home islands, resulting in Japan’s weakened air capabilities with the upcoming Battle of Midway and other South Pacific campaigns.

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“We stand on the backs of their sacrifice. Their history is our tradition, as long as there are Americans to remember…”

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Family Veterans

Whether at present or in years long past, so many of us are families of veterans.  Their  commitment and service is a legacy to succeeding generations on true values in life – honoring your country, as well as your family.  In a sacrifice repeated through time, our families send sons and daughters to peacetime duty or periods of war and conflict.

My Father’s Family History of Veterans

The McElroy Family Jeanne, Bodie, Pat, Tom, John, Myrle, and Edgar

The McElroy Family
Jeanne, Bodie, Pat, Tom, John, Myrle, and Edgar

Edgar Hood and Myrle McElroy of Waxahachie, Texas proudly raised four sons and one daughter and served as wonderful role models for their children and future grandchildren.  Ed worked diligently and rose from printer’s devil to Managing Editor of the local newspaper, the Waxahachie Daily Light, and a respected  member  of  the community.  Never feeling  confined  by his present circumstances or small-town status, he reached far beyond his local roots in covering stories for his paper.

Roosevelt Letter

Myrle was a  devoted wife and mother who lovingly raised her children, dispensing discipline as necessary, and participating in their everyday lives.  She could often be seen  driving slowly at dawn, as her  young sons threw paper routes from the fenders of her car.

Ed and Myrle taught their  children to be true to their calling and persevere, applying themselves to whatever life presented.  They were always to love and respect each other, as well as serve their community.  When duty called on December 7, 1941, their sons honored their country and left for war.

LTJG John McElroy, USN

LTJG John McElroy, USN

John, the oldest, never considered the military as a career but the attack on  Pearl  Harbor  changed  that viewpoint and he enlisted in the Navy the following morning.    LTJG McElroy would serve as a PT boat skipper for  Squadron Ron 9, Rendova Island in the South  Pacific, and considered selection for such hazardous duty  as an honor.  Their mission  would be threefold:  prevent the Japanese Navy and Tokyo Express from resupplying island strongholds in the area, prevent  the escape of Japanese forces and their concentrated movement between the islands, and help move Marine-strike forces behind enemy lines.   Ron 9 would serve  more combat patrols than any other PT squadron in the Solomons and some nights returned to base repeatedly for ammunition  in strikes against Japanese destroyers and enemy barges.

LTJG McElroy was awarded a Silver Star for repeated action against Japanese forces while serving as Captain of a PT boat squadron in the Solomon Islands area,  July, 1943.

Silver Star Presentation LT John McElroy

Silver Star Presentation
LTJG John McElroy

 

LTJG John McElroy's PT 161

LTJG John McElroy’s PT 161

 

Years later, his father, now Waxahachie Postmaster, would receive another official letter.

LBJ Letter-4

LTJG John F. Kennedy and LTJG John McElroy

LT John F. Kennedy and LTJG John McElroy

All three of John’s brothers would join him in the war.

 Ed McElroy, Jr., USN

Ed McElroy, Jr., USN

Edgar Hood McElroy, Jr. or Bodie, as he was known, was a second son of the family.  Having suffered a serious leg injury from a horse accident in his youth,  he was rejected by every  branch of service he approached.  Although repeatedly unsuccessful but determined to enlist, he finally gained Navy acceptance and served proudly in the Pacific as a chief mechanic.   His persistence to serve was no surprise to family members who knew there was little in life that Bodie could not accomplish, should he decide to do so.

Tom McElroy, USN

Tom McElroy, USN

Tom,  a third son in line, served as an Ensign on a tanker in the South Pacific.   Out on deck one morning, he witnessed a Kamikaze pilot diving for the ship and, narrowly missing its target, violently struck the water and sank beneath the waves.  Envisioning the determination and  rage on the face of the pilot, it forged a deep impact on Tom’s life.  He decided at that moment, following the war, that he would live and practice in peaceful resolution.

Pat McElroy, USAAF

Pat McElroy, USAAF

Pat, the youngest of the sons, had just turned 17 when the attack on Pearl Harbor was announced.    Following in the steps of his older brothers, he would enlist and serve as a control tower and radar operator in the Army Air Corps.

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This family was among the fortunate, for the four sons who left for war would all return.  So many do not.  My father’s closest childhood friend, an Army First Lieutenant with the 135th Infantry Regiment in Italy, would die on Christmas Eve, 1944 at the age of 26.  He was the only son in a family of five children.

As we remember not only our own veterans but the history of all who serve, we pay tribute to the monumental contribution provided by their commitment and sacrifice on our behalf.   Their sense of duty continues to  preserve our past, safeguard our present, and sustain our future.

cropped-tribute-heading1.jpg

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A nation reveals itself not only in the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

John F. Kennedy

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Hometown Heroes

 

ELLIS COUNTY VETERANS

CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR

Jack Lummus-6

First Lieutenant Jack Lummus,  USMC Reserve

Awarded posthumously for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, at the risk of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty….He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

Leader of a Rifle Platoon attached to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, he was killed in action against Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, March 8, 1945, at the age of 29.

His citation for heroic actions may be viewed at the National Medal of Honor Museum of Military History:  Jack Lummus, MOH

Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

Jack Lummus marker

Congressional Medal of Honor

The highest award for valor in action against an enemy force to be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.  Awarded to its recipient by the President of the United States in the name of Congress, it is  commonly a posthumous medal presented to those who have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life and above and beyond the call of duty.

Created by a Resolution signed into law by President Lincoln on December 21, 1861, the first Medals of Honor were presented 150 years ago, March 25, 1863, to soldiers during the Civil War.

DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS

Edgar McElroy-2A member of the heroic Doolittle Tokyo Raiders  who  volunteered  for  a  daring and dangerous  air  raid over Tokyo in  U.S. response to the devastation of Pearl Harbor.  Recruited from the 17th Bombardment Group, Lt. McElroy was pilot of plane #13.   Designated as the “Special B-25 Project,” 10,000 Navy personnel and a task force of ships escorted 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crewmen within striking distance of the Japanese homeland on April 18, 1942.

Among commendations awarded to Lt. McElroy were the Distinguished Flying Cross and Silver Star.
                                                                                     LT. EDGAR MCELROY, USAAF

                                                                                    Distinguished Flying Cross

Distinguished Flying Cross

Distinguished Flying Cross

The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States Armed Forces.  They must distinguish themselves in support of operations by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918.”

The first Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded on May 2, 1927 by President Calvin Coolidge.  The recipients  were  ten  Air Corps aviators participating in the U.S. Pan American Goodwill Flight   during December 21, 1926 to May 2, 1927.   Having just been authorized by Congress the previous year, initially certificates were presented to the Pan American airmen as no medals had yet been struck.

Charles Lindbergh would receive the first presentation of the medal  from President  Coolidge during a  Washington, D.C. homecoming reception,  June 11, 1927,  in honor of his trans-Atlantic flight.  The medal was hurriedly struck and readied just for the occasion.

NAVY CROSS

Leonard Robinson-RA highly decorated combat pilot with extensive service in WWII and the Korean War.   One of the last surviving dive-bomber pilots attached to a squadron from the  legendary U.S.S. Enterprise, a carrier earning more battle stars than any other U.S. warship.

Following World War II, LCDR Robinson’s assignments included duty aboard the USS Midway and a Pentagon post with the Chief of Naval Operations.  At the onset of the Korean War, he returned to the air flying Corsairs from the USS Boxer.

During two wars and hundreds of missions, he was awarded over a dozen medals for distinguished service including the Navy Cross, Air Medal, and Legion of Merit.

     LCDR LEONARD ROBINSON, USN

Navy Cross
Navy Cross

                                 Navy Cross

The Navy Cross was established by an Act of Congress  and approved on February 4, 1919.  It was designed by James Earle Fraser, a distinguished sculptor and member of the nation’s Fine Arts Commission.

On August 7, 1942, Congress made the Navy Cross a combat only decoration with precedence over the Distinguished Service Medal. It thus became the Navy’s 2nd highest award.

Awarded for extraordinary heroism, actions that merit the Navy Cross must be of such a high degree that they are above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations with the exception of the Medal of Honor. The Navy Cross is equivalent to the Air Force Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross for the Army.

                 

                                                                                                     Air Medal

Air Medal

Air Medal

The Air Medal was established by an Executive Order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on  May 11, 1942  and  made  retroactive to September 8, 1939.  The medal is awarded to  those who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Armed Forces of the United States, have distinguished themselves by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.

The  designer  was  Walker  Hancock  who  competed for the medal design as a civilian  and  was later inducted into the Army prior to the competition award.

Notable recipients have included Buzz Aldrin, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Doolittle, Clark Gable, John Glenn, John McCain, George McGovern, Colin Powell, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, James Stewart, and Chuck Yeager.

                                                                  

                                                                   

                                                               

SILVER STAR

Dad-2WW II Skipper of PT-161 assigned to Squadron Ron 9, PT Boat Base 11, Rendova Island  in the South Pacific. Eventually designated to support his Commander during operations,  he was subsequently appointed Section Leader of  multiple  PT  boats  for every combat patrol.

LT McElroy would be one of three skippers participating in the rescue of John F. Kennedy and the crew of PT- 109. Fearing a ruse by the Japanese to draw them out,  the additional boats were to provide secure cover in the retrieval operation.

His “death” reported by Tokyo Rose propaganda, he was later awarded a Silver Star for volunteer action against Japanese destroyers in Rabaul  Harbor.                                                                  LT JOHN MCELROY, USN

                                                                                           Silver Star 

Silver Star

Silver Star

The Silver Star is the third-highest military  decoration for valor awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces. It is presented for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

Actions that merit the Silver Star must be of such a high degree that they are above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations with the exception of the Medal of Honor or a Service Cross (Navy CrossAir Force Cross, and Distinguished Service Cross  for the Army).

Notable recipients have included Omar Bradley, Alexander Haig,  Lyndon B. Johnson,  John Kerry,  Douglas MacArthur, John McCain, Audie Murphy, George S. Patton,  and H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

Silver Star Presentation LT John McElroy

Silver Star Presentation
LT John McElroy

PT 161 LT John McElroy

PT 161
LT John McElroy

PT 161 LT John McElroy

PT 161
LT John McElroy

                   

                                            FRENCH LEGION OF HONOR   (Chevalier)

Charles Atchley-French Order Legion of HonorA volunteer at 18 with the 75th Infantry, Division A Company, 290th Regiment.  In the Ardennes Forest during the Battle of the Bulge,  his division had never experienced combat prior to  a German attack  on  December 16, 1944.   Although the average age for the entire division was under 20 years, they successfully held their position to drive out enemy forces.

Atchley later fought in the battle of the Colmar Pocket in Alsace and Lorraine, France.  He was awarded two Bronze Stars for courage  exhibited in  both campaigns.    A  French Legion of Honor would be gratefully bestowed by  France in a U.S. ceremony nearly seven decades later.

  PVT CHARLES ATCHLEY, U.S. ARMY

            French Legion of Honor

French Legion of Honor

French Legion of Honor

The medal in the French Order of the Legion of  Honor was  established by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802.  It is the highest decoration in France and divided into five degrees: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer), and Grand Croix (Grand Cross).  The honor’s motto is Honneur et Patrie (“Honour and Fatherland”).

The medal was created to honor extraordinary contributions to France and awarded to U.S. veterans who risked their life during World War II to fight on French territory.   Eligible for any of the armed forces, they must have fought in at least one of  three main campaigns in Liberation of France: Normandy, Northern France or  the  Southern Provence.

A French  civilian  acknowledged by this award was Louis Pasteur who received the Knight of the Legion of Honor  in 1853.

 CROIX de GUERRE (BELGIUM)  

Harry Hitt-7A tank commander in the 4th Armored Division, Lt. Hitt saw action in France, Belgium, Luxembourg,  and  Germany. In the Ardennes Forest during the Battle of the Bulge and the coldest winter in 100 years, he received battlefield commission of Lieutenant and awarded  a Belgium Croix de Guerre for his leadership under fire.

Shot in the head when his tank was hit by enemy forces inside Germany, his crew, believing him dead, left him inside their burning tank.  Miraculously, he survived to escape on his own.

                    LT Harry Hitt, U.S. Army

                    Croix de Guerre  (Belgium) 

Belgium Croix de Guerre

The Croix de Guerre,  a military decoration of the Kingdom of Belgium, was established by royal decree on October 25, 1915.  It was primarily awarded for bravery or other military virtue on the battlefield.

The award was re-established on July 20, 1940 by the Belgian Government, exiled in London, for recognition of bravery and military virtue, including by allied forces during World War II.  The post-1940 decoration could also be awarded to units  that were cited and the decoration was re-established again by an April 3, 1954 royal decree for award during future conflicts.

Notable foreign recipients during 1940-1945 included General George Patton (US), Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery (UK), and General Harry Crerar (Canada).

       

“These men and all who serve are heroes”

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“We stand on the backs of their sacrifice. Their history is our tradition, as long as there are Americans to remember…”

On a cold and rainy Veterans Day in 2000, a crowd of over a thousand people gathered at the Ellis County Civic Center in Waxahachie, Texas.  They came in tribute to veterans past and present to dedicate a beautiful monument honoring their service.  One of those in attendance, scheduled to speak, was a Vietnam veteran with tears in his eyes at the sight of so many.  Never having experienced such an event, he was simply overwhelmed with emotion.

This memorial and its corresponding ceremony were a combined effort, over a decade in time, by two initial residents who wondered why the single monument in town honored only their Civil War veterans.  In the nearly thirteen years since its dedication, this annual Ellis County Veterans Appreciation Day has grown in leaps and bounds to create a truly remarkable occasion.  It addresses our military conflicts from WWI to the War on Terror and includes all branches of service.

Patriotic emotions are stirred by a swing band’s music and song relevant to each era, while the annual reading of a veteran’s story, accompanied by photos, is a visceral reminder of their commitment and character.  Giant screens reflect 700 poignant images of military men and women over the years, as well as a Memorial of young faces, frozen in time, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.    As emblems and songs are presented for each branch, veterans are asked to stand, if able, and meet heart-felt applause in appreciation.  The oldest representative this past year, 102 years of age, joined the others in rising.

In creating this yearly observance as a moving acknowledgment to our military forces, a committee and 100 volunteers donate countless hours of effort and describe as the highlight of their year.   Participants include – among others – the Department of Public Safety, Texas Civil Defense, civic and military representatives,  church and auxiliary groups, Boy Scouts, and ordinary citizens.   The program’s music and images address the mood, triumphs, and sacrifice in our nation’s history.  The processions and audience participation reflect a joint endeavor by multiple groups in celebration and remembrance.  A military fly over of vintage aircraft and the laying of a wreath concludes a heartfelt and inspirational ceremony.

Appreciation from veterans for this tribute is evident each and every year.  Following the program’s conclusion in 2011, a WWII veteran slowly made his way to the Co-Chairman and thanked him repeatedly with both hands gripping his in a fervent hand-shake.  He had tears in his eyes and emotion somewhat out of character to someone who had known him for 40 years.  The Co-Chairman, a guardian with him on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. the year before, would never see him again.  The veteran died suddenly four weeks later.

We were soldiers once and young… Remember us.

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