Veterans Day - Nov. 11, 2012
A special section of The Norman Transcript honoring veterans.
Heroes The sons and daughters of Cleveland County have served this country with courage and valor. Here are some of their stories. Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2012 2 2012 American Heroes:Your stories Sunday, Nov 11, 2012 Inside Altman, Lt. (JG) Joseph L. . . . . .4 Gastgeb, Ken . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Hartman, Frank . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Hendershot, Cecil . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Hendershot, Ernest . . . . . . . . . . .2 Hill, Garett . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Hill, Garrett Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Matthews, Lt. Bill . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Matthews, Coy . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Myers, Warren G. . . . . . . . . . . . .4 Richardson, David E. . . . . . . . . . .5 Simms, Loren . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Sloan, Jerry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Stephenson, John . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Your stories Editor’s note: These are the stories by and about Norman-area service personnel who have answered their country’s call to arms. Because of the response from readers, some veterans stories are appearing in the Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, Norman Transcript. On the cover Veteran Joe King participates in the 2011 Veterans Day Celebration, saluting the flag Friday during the “Pledge of Allegiance” before the Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, ceremony at Reaves Park. Photo: Kyle Phillips / The Norman Transcript Provided Photos Cecil Hendershot, left, killed in action in 1944. Ernes Hendershot is living in Mountain Grove, Mo. Two uncles served in World War II By Leola Mitchell Norman I have two uncles who served in World War II. One was killed, one is alive. Parents James K. Hendershot and Bessie R. (Beck) Hendershot are both deceased. Cecil Hendershot was a corporal who had two Purple Hearts and a lot more medals. Be a hero being kind to veterans and their families Not sure what age he was when he went into the military, nor how long he was over there before he was killed in 1944. He was to get out in 1945. He was not married. His brother, Ernest Hendershot, was in the Navy. However, he came home and is living in Mountain Grove, Mo. I am not sure of Ernest Hendershot’s rank, but it was higher than his brother’s. His duty was flying airplanes up coastline to detect enemy subs in the oceans. By Alice E. “Pixie” Stephenson Norman My maternal grandparents lost their bakery, cleaners and tin shop in Norman during rationing in WWII; granddad also made large cameras for the University of Oklahoma. My Grandfather, Garrett Hill, served in World War II. My uncle, Garrett Hill Jr., was career military, beginning in Korea, earning the rank of colonel over the years; he helped run Fort Hood in Texas, in the 1970s. My uncle and grandfather built 817 W. Eufaula St., in Norman, which could have been from one of Sears Honor Built home kits shipped by Provided Photo Jerry Sloan, 1970, Vietnam. Family stands proud By Jo Carol Sloan Norman I have attached a photo of my husband, a very young Jerry Sloan, taken in June1970 sitting in front of a Fire Direction Control hooch somewhere in Vietnam. His return home remains one of the most poignant memories of my life. We had married in June1968. His children, Andrew Sloan and Tami Sloan Bart, and I are very proud of his Vietnam-era service. rail from 1908-1940. My father, John Stephenson, was an American hero from World War II, 100 percent disabled veteran, now placed at Arlington National Cemetery with my mother. I remember, as a child, mothers calling one by one to say their daughters couldn’t come to my Mother’s first Bluebird meeting “since my father was a disabled veteran.” My mother looked like she’d been punched in the stomach when not one person came to her first Bluebird meeting. Dad looked stunned. So, my father went to work in radiology while living at Veterans Hospital so his family was not penalized by others over his serviceconnected disability. American Heroes:Your stories Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 3 He fought his way back from World War I trenches By Dale Hartman Grandson, Army, World War I This story begins with an immigrant couple from Austria coming in to New York City with two daughters. A strong young man named Jacob Hartman was looking for a new life. They didn’t even get out of New York City before they lost a daughter. Moving west, they had two more daughters and a son, named Frank. They lost another daughter in Kansas and moved farther south, where they settled on a farm just east of Noble. When Frank was 14 years old, intruders came to the farm to rob them. The family fought back and Frank’s father was shot and killed in the driveway. Frank was the only son and now the man of the house. War broke out, his country called and he left the farm to his mom and sisters in 1917, and reported to the Army at Camp Travis in Texas. He shipped out from there to England in May 1918 and a few days later to France. While working his way through France, his buddy was writing his gal back home and told Frank she had a twin sister named Estes and he should write her. He wrote the letter; she wrote back, they then wrote back and forth. Frank fell in battle in July 1918, was presumed dead and left behind. With severe wounds below the waist and shoulder but still alive, he began to crawl, and crawl, and crawl till he was found and sent to a base hospital. His mother and two sisters back home were notified of his death, life insurance money paid and The Norman Transcript reported him the first killed in action in WWI from Cleveland County. Six months of different hospitals and surgeries followed, but he slowly recovered. When he was finally able to write home, his family only then learned he was alive. Frank was discharged in February 1919. He came home to Noble, and then went to meet in person the girl who wrote him back. He married Estes a few months later. They settled on the family farm east of Noble and raised their family. When Frank was 59 years old, diabetes did what the journey west, the intruders on the farm or a world war couldn’t do — it took his life. He lies in eternal rest next to his farm and his wife. Today, he has sons Roy and Earl, a daughter, Ellen, and two daughters-in-law still alive. I never knew my Grandpa, but I think of him often. It is when I am strong that I feel my Grandpa. It was men and women like these, who made our country strong and the land of the free. When war broke out, Frank Hartman answered his country’s call to arms, and left the farm east of Noble to his mom and sisters in 1917, and reported to the Army at Camp Travis in Texas. Provided Photo 4 2012 American Heroes:Your stories Sunday, Nov 11, 2012 One-time armory now termed hallowed ground Sailor was We were called to active duty “for one year” on Sept. 16, 1940, and came home in September 1945 — five years after September 1940! Provided Photo By Warren G. Myers Army, World War II Back in 1940, I was a student at the University of Oklahoma majoring in petroleum engineering. But I was also a member of Company D 179th Infantry, 45th Division which trained at the armory located on the courthouse grounds across from the Norman Depot. We were called to active duty “for one year” on Sept. 16, 1940, and left for Fort Sill a few days later. In 1942, I was promoted to lieutenant in artillery and was transferred to the 189th Field Artillery 45th Division, which was commanded by Lt. Col. Hal Muldrow of Norman. How lucky can you get? I served with him till the war was over in Europe and we were used as occupants afterward. Got home in September 1945 — five years after September 1940!!!! “D” Co. and “C” Co. 120th Engineers were again called in to support the Korean effort. After the armory was torn down, the veterans got together and decided to build a monument (or something) to establish this sight as a permanent marker/reminder of its history. With the help of the Cleveland County commissioners, the guidance of Bob Goins, the insistence of Frank Pickel and the donations from veterans and their wives and widows we were able to build this monument in the northwest corner of the courthouse which reminds everyone of its importance. As far as we are concerned, this is on hallowed ground and should be treated as such. Recently, I was on my way to church and drove by our monument and noticed that the flags were at half staff. After thinking a minute, I decided they were lowered with respect to our Ambassador Stevens. Was this a coincidence? I think not! I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that the 2012 Veterans Day parade would start at the area of the Norman Depot and our monument at the northwest corner of the courthouse. It is my understanding that Maj. Gen. Gambill is head of the Mayor’s Veterans Day committee that planned the parade and activities. He and his group are to be commended and thanked for their efforts. part of elite frogman team Submitted By Sally Artman Widow, Navy, World War II Naval gunfire thundered shoreward over the heads of men of Underwater Demolition Team 12 as they headed for the beach on Iwo Jima. It was Feb. 17, 1945, two days before U.S. Marines stormed the strongly defended Japanese-held island, Ensign Joseph Artman was leading his elite “Frogmen” on a mission to get a preview of what the Marines would be up against when they came ashore. These men wore swim trunks and swam ashore with 40 to 60 pounds of explosives on their backs. A minimum training requirement was to be able to dive 17 feet deep into the sea and swim a mile in half an hour under enemy fire. “That water was cold; and we had no wet suits then,” Joseph Artman said. “We just smeared on regular old car grease, but that didn’t last long.” The cold was soon forgotten as Japanese defenders heated things up. • See ARTMAN, Page 5 American Heroes:Your stories Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 5 Artman • From Page A1 “We went in broad daylight, we could see firing all around,” he said. “If we went under water we could catch bullets in our hands that had gone into the water and were falling.” For the Japanese it was like trying to shoot bobbing apples in a tub. We went in past seven gunboats giving us fire support, and there were ships and planes giving us cover. The Japanese thought it was the real invasion. Artman trained in Florida after being commissioned an ensign out of NROTC at the University of Oklahoma. And the training was tough for the super-secret Frogmen, predecessors of today’s SEALS. “We would have to swim a mile at a time using nothing but under water strokes so as to not disturb the surface of the water and give away our positions,” Artman said. Training initially as a Naval Combat Demolition Unit, Artman’s group was originally scheduled to go to Normandy to prepare for the D-Day invasion. But another group was sent to Europe, and Artman’s unit was redesignated as UDT. They ran into reefs at Tarawa and decided they needed someone to go in first and clear away obstacles. When the existence of UDT teams became public, they were widely referred to as the American Suicide Corps. On his initial trip onto the Iwo Jima beaches, Artman and his 2nd Platoon spent about an hour and a half scouting the terrain and blowing up a few mines. “Because I had been there two days before, I was assigned to lead the first wave of Marines to Red Beach the day of the invasion,” Artman said. “We went in about 8 a.m., and there was pretty good fire coming in — machine gun, mortar and rifle. “We actually got within about 40 yards of Lt. (J.G.) Joseph L Artman the beach and stayed Joe returned to Norman after the there as the war and graduated from OU. He landing craft worked for Texaco for 35 years. He passed,” he retired and eventually moved to said. “We Norman. went back He died at Norman Regional later ended Hospital in January 2006. up staying on the beach — Sally Altman, wife of for four days Joe Artman blowing up wrecked boats and trying to keep the beach clear.” Artman was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry during the Iwo Jima operation. UDT-12 finished the war with two Presidential Citations. Artman saw the famous flag-raising on Mount Suribachi — from a slightly different perspective. “I was on the beach and saw them raise both flags,” Artman said. “I thought they were going to get killed.” Artman went on to participate in the invasion of Okinawa and was preparing for the invasion of Japan when the Japanese surrendered. Provided Photo David E. Richardson said chose to enlist in the Army to serve my country. Soldier helped relocate Vietnamese refugees By David E. Richardson Army, Vietnam War I spent eight years in the Army from 1971 to 1979. I chose to enlist in the Army to serve my country. During that time, I was stationed at Fort Sill in Lawton. My unit trained to be sent to Vietnam. I was one of the lucky ones in the fact that I was not sent to Vietnam. At the end of my tour, I reenlisted in the Army. I was sent to Hawaii. Once I got there, I was trained some more for Vietnam. I had to rappel from moving helicopters. I was sent on several training missions along with my unit. We had to do this many times.When Vietnam fell, I was sent to Guam. Once there, my unit — along with many branches of military service — helped to relocate the Vietnamese people. We also had to help them adapt to their new surroundings. The Vietnamese people were sent to different parts of the United States. Once this was completed, we were sent back to Hawaii. I was going to finish my second tour of duty but before I could, I was discharged on a medical discharge. This happened because my back and both knees were injured in training. My injuries kept me from doing my job. So I was medically discharged. I was sent back home. 6 2012 American Heroes:Your stories Sunday, Nov 11, 2012 Maturity gained through experience By Loren C. Simms Army, Vietnam War Sgt. Loren C. Simms We were first with the 54th Artillery group and later the 36th Artillery group. I worked in the Fire Direction Control section directing the 155 Howitzers in missions against the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. I was also responsible for the operation and maintenance of the two FDAC generators. My artillery unit fired in support of the 9th Infantry Division and the 199th Infantry Brigade operating in the Mekong Delta and in the Central Highlands. — Loren C. Simms, U.S. Army I served with “C” Battery 5/42 Artillery, II Field Force in the Republic of Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. I’ll never forget the heat, humidity and smell of the place. My military occupational specialty was 13E40. I made “Buck Sergeant” E-5. I was awarded the National Defense Medal; Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 device and the Army Good Conduct Medal. One of the highlights of my tour was the R&R in Sydney, Australia, for seven days. My story is about the rats at Fire Support Base Thu Thua in the Delta. We were located between the Parrots Peak of Cambodia and the town of Tan An. The area was covered with rice fields and was crawling with big rats. After the rice harvest the rats needed another source of food so they would invade the bunkers and hooch where we lived. Finally, we were being overrun with these huge field rats. It was then someone thought of one way to rid ourselves of this problem and have a “little fun” at the same time. Ten or 15 live rat traps were purchased at the local village market. They were set and placed everywhere the rats had been known to be numerous. The next morning the traps would be checked. A big circle of troops would assemble in an open area inside our Fire Support Base. Our medic would “shoot up” a rat with medical alcohol. Then someone would douse the rat with gasoline and set him on fire as he left the cage. The frightened rat would run in circles. The idea was that the rat would dart between the legs of a trooper then he would kick the rat back in the circle. Eventually the rat would die burnt to a crisp. That was the plan. But the first time we set out to have some fun, the rat didn’t cooperate. He skedaddled between someone’s legs and went right into a bunker containing 100 rounds of high explosive artillery shells and hundreds of bags of propellant powder. We all froze and held our breath praying the whole fire support base containing guns, thousands of rounds of high explosives would not explode in a tremendous fireball. After three or four minutes, the captain sent one of the troops into the bunker to see what happened to the rat. Well, the rat was dead and we learned our lesson. Needless to say, the captain said, “NO MORE GAMES!” I left Vietnam a wiser and more mature man. I went back to college and earned a Master of Education. I taught history and geography for 28 years at the secondary level. I married an elementary teacher in 1975. We have one son of whom I am very proud. Pinup girl becomes group’s Apache Princess By Ken Gastgeb Army, World War II Several months after I arrived at Port Moresby, New Guinea, in 1943, the movie of the week was “Rhapsody in Blue” starring Joan Leslie. After the movie, I went to my tent and wrote her a letter asking her to be our pinup girl. A couple weeks later, I received a letter and a picture from her. She sent such a nice letter and beautiful picture of herself that I want everyone to see them. I’m sharing a copy of the letter and my drawing of the picture she sent. After the war, I wrote to her and we became good friends. Back in the 1970s, a group of officers got together and formed a reunion organization of the 345th Bomb Group. Several years later, I attended a reunion. Then I invited Joan Leslie to attend a reunion and she accepted my invitation. I suggested to the officers that she could be an honorary member of the reunion group, which led up to her becoming our Apache Princess. American Heroes:Your stories Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 7 Far left: Lt. Bill Matthews, June 1, 1970, at the Tay Ninh airstrip. At left: The men in Lt. Bill Matthews’ company hauling out large bags of rice captured in Cambodia. Provided Photos Salute goes to support units behind the lines By Bill Matthews 25th Infantry Division, Vietnam Son of World War II veteran Coy Matthews To many people, words like “war” or “hero” conjure up TV or movie images of infantry soldiers, SEAL teams, or fighter pilots locked in battle with a vicious enemy. I agree, having seen “grunts” in the line, infantry battalions of the 25th Infantry Division come and go from our fire support bases, to encounter dangers every day in the field from mines, booby traps or enemy fire. But the unsung heroes of most wars are the “support troops” — those soldiers, airmen, or sailors who are often in harm’s way to provide necessities that the frontline soldiers, pilots, or marines must have to accomplish their mission. Men like my father, Coy Matthews, who served with the 77th Air Depot Group on Guam and Saipan in WWII, supplying the bombers that were striking Japan, in spite of taking occasional sniper fire from Japanese who remained on the islands. In 1969-1970, I was a first lieutenant with the 25th Infantry Division in South Vietnam, including eight months as company commander of the Headquarters Company (HHC) of the Division Support Command (DISCOM). The 25th Infantry Division area of operations was about 30 miles wide, from near Saigon to the Cambodian border to miles north, in an area of rice fields, rubber plantations, dense triple-canopy forest, and some of the most intense fighting of the war. DISCOM was responsible for supplying infantry and artillery units anywhere in the division area. DISCOM headquarters was at the large CuChi basecamp (now famous for the VC tunnels we barely knew were there), with forward supply points at Tay Ninh, and at small fire support/resupply bases on the Cambodian border. Men in my company were responsible for providing food, diesel and gasoline, ammunition, artillery rounds, or other supplies needed by the infantry and artillery. We lived at the perimeter of CuChi, so HHC soldiers nightly manned one of the fighting bunkers that protected the large base camp. Not long before I arrived, VC emerged from tunnels inside the company area, and several HHC personnel were killed before eventually killing the invaders at close quarters. To carry out the mission, men in my company regularly drove in convoys or alone over heavily mined, ambush-prone, dirt roads that connected the forward bases; took occasional sniper fire at the perimeter bunker line; and patrolled small villages to protect army doctors doing “MedCaps” to treat civilians. Some of my men lived at the fire support/resupply bases like Thien Ngon and Katum near the Cambodian border to offload and distribute artillery rounds or other supplies. These forward bases were only a couple hundred yards in diameter, surrounded by a simple earthen berm and a cleared area in the forest, and came under frequent mortar and rocket attacks. Our guys did their jobs at these forward bases nonetheless, and also went into Cambodia in the May-June 1970 campaign to do the dangerous job of hauling out captured weapons and rice. So, while I have the greatest respect for line infantrymen anywhere doing their unbelievably dangerous jobs, in Vietnam in the past or now in Afganistan, I also salute the “support troops,” who do dangerous, essential jobs every day, typically with little public appreciation for the roles they play or risks they take. 8 2012 American Heroes:Your stories Sunday, Nov 11, 2012