Veterans Life A Sound Publishing Monthly Magazine
Remembering D-Day www.kitsapveteranslife.com
VETERAN PROFILE/ ROBERT BUTTERTON By Jessica Ginet When an aimless 19-yearold’s father suggested his son join the Navy, he never thought he would have to leave landlocked Montana. Robert Butterton, looking back on a 30 year Naval career, enlisted in the Navy at the age of 19, after taking two quarters of courses at Montana State University. He was, as he described, “undisciplined.” His father, who was in the Army National Guard, suggested he join the Navy. “In my mind, he was in the military and raised five kids. We didn’t move around. So that was my impression of the military when my dad suggested I join the Navy. It’s funny he suggested the Navy, knowing it would take me away from Montana. He knew that but I didn’t realize it at first,” Butterton said. His recruiter was a submariner and that’s where Butterton eventually ended up. Butterton went to bootcamp in the Great Lakes and attended sub school in Groton, Connecticut. Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) is the U.S. Navy’s submarine train-
ing school for enlisted sailors. Located on Naval Submarine Base New London (NAVSUBASE NLON), the school is an eight week introduction to the basic theory, construction and operation of nuclear-powered submarines. Butterton’s first sub was the Marinao G. Vallejo (SSBN-658) in August 1984. Butterton, an E-1, was given his first task on the mess deck for more than100 days. “It honed my skills in how to act — you did what you were told and it molded you, unbeknownst to you,” Butterton said. “I enjoyed the way I was brought up in the Navy.” He would spend 16 hours on the mess deck, feeling the slight rolling of the boat at periscope depth. His future in the Navy was sealed when, Butterton noticed a light over a navigation chart. “I saw the Quartermaster instructing an officer on navigating from point A to point B safely, and I knew that was what I wanted to do,” he said. And that is exactly what he did. Butterton served from 1984-1988 on the Vallejo and
Robert Butterton then went to shore duty from 1988-1990 on the CMSG-6 in Charleston, South Carolina and met his wife, Laurel ‘Star’ Hansbarger, through mutual friends in 1989. They married on Nov. 23, 1990. Butterton reported to the Benjamin Franklin (SSBN 640) in Charleston from 1990 until 1992. “We lived in Charleston but would go to sea out of Kings Bay, Georgia,” he said. “In 1992 I got orders to the USS Charlotte (SSN 766) in Norfolk, Virginia,” adding, “It was being built in Newport News, Virginia.”
Butterton made chief in July 1994 the same year his son, William Hunter Butterton, was born. “July 1994 was a big month for us,” he said. They left Charlotte in September 1994 and Butterton went to work as the Assistant Navigator of CSS-6, completing that tour in 1998. He then had orders to the USS Alaska (SSBN-732) and moved to Kitsap County. “The Navy’s been good to me,” he said. “We’ve only had to move three times. By the time we moved here, my family had migrated from Montana to Washington, and we’ve always had ties here; my grandpa built a cabin on Hood Canal.” Butterton and his family only planned to stay in Kitsap County for two years, but they ended up loving Silverdale and they opted to stay. He transferred from the USS Alaska to CSS-5 and in March 2007 went to the Senior Enlisted Academy where he reported onboard the Nebraska (SSBN739) as Chief of the Boat (COB). Butterton served in this capacity from June 2007 to June 2010, then went back
to sub development squadron-5 detachment Sierra as the detachment master chief for one year, rolling into the Officer in Charge of sub special projects for personnel support detachment. “I got to recruit and find talents for sub squadron 5, exposing those individuals to a different side of the Navy,” Butterton said. Butterton’s retirement ceremony was March 14, 2014. “I never thought I would serve 30 years. Later on, as a COB, I would see those fresh out of bootcamp or A-school and I would really talk to them about the realities of separation, deployment, etc., to both the sailor and their spouse.” One of Butterton’s fondest memories while serving was receiving family grams. The only form of communication those days between the submarine sailor and their family, each sailor was allowed eight family grams per patrol (each patrol was approximately 75 days), and each family gram was limited to 40 words. “That family gram would be precious,” Butterton said. “You would run to your rack and read those 40 words and
it would reset everything. . . everything is OK at home, she still loves you...” It wasn’t until 1999 that the family grams fell by the wayside and the sailor email format began. “You could get a paragraph or two in and that was a huge advancement. But then you would get spoiled and want more and more,” he said. Butterton went on 22 patrols during his career. While he couldn’t divulge the special projects work he was a part of, he said he would have done special projects earlier if he knew what they entailed. His big push toward the end of his career was to expose young sailors to special projects. Now officially retired from the Navy, Butterton gives back to the local community. He serves as the Central Kitsap Food Bank board president. Butterton serves around 15 hours a week at the food bank while he looks for jobs with the Department of Defense. Transitioning from the benefits of the Navy to a civilian job is challenging, he said. “Try to find a company out there where you get 30 days of paid vacation a year,” he said.
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On the inside
This issue is a special one. It commemorates the 70th anniversary of D-Day, also known as the invasion of Normandy where so many lost their lives. Troops took to the 50 miles of shoreline to fight Nazi Germany soldiers. From the first orders of the day to the last boat forcing its way onto the beach, that day revolved around much courage, strength and honor. The cover of this issue is of an image that many associate with D-Day: the boats sneaking up onto the shores in France, a famous scene photographed from various angles during that historic moment. Throughout this issue, we’ve included several accounts of D-Day and the impact its had on lives then and now. Muriel Whalley of Kingston shares her role in the Women’s Army Corps in Europe during World War II, which included the D-Day invasion. As luck would have it, this year a former Sound Publishing editor happened to be in the area right around the 70th anniversary of the invasion. He offers insight as to how the area looks today through his story and photographs of the site. Brian Kelly writes his recollections on being in the presence of former President Ronald Reagan on the sacred ground at Pointe du Hoc during the 40th anniversary of D-Day. Kelly shares his memories of sitting next to Walter Cronkite and listening to Reagan speak about the bravery of the troops on that fateful day. As always, Veterans Life offers up the usual resources for area veterans— including phone numbers and information for various American Legion and VFW posts around Kitsap County. Veteran Thom Stoddert also offers pearls of wisdom about the best way to get through the Veterans Administration claims process with the most success. We’d loved to hear from you, the veterans of this county. Feel free to contact us to share your stories, photographs and words of wisdom about being a veteran. We don’t want your stories or experiences to be forgotten. Please also feel free to keep our staff informed of meetings, events or other veteran-related activities. Contact Leslie Kelly, editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON THE COVER: A bird’s-eye view of landing craft, barrage balloons and allied troops landing in Normandy, France on D-Day. Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress.
IN THE ARMY Muriel Whalley of Kingston recalls her service in the Women’s Army Corps in Europe during World War II, including D-Day.
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It’s been 70 years this month since U.S. troops landed at Normandy Beach. See what the area looks like today.
As a young Army photographer, he spent the 40th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy with former President Ronald Reagan.
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American-Vietnamese memorial planned By Thom Stoddert The period of the Vietnam War had the most wide-ranging affects on this country, more so than any other event in the history of this nation. It was a time of social, political, and even religious turmoil. That period of time spawned new meanings to words, love meant sexual freedom and freedom meant little accountability for personal actions. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese risked their lives so not to be under
the yoke of a government that brutally suppressed their self determination. Thousands chose this country for refuge and thousands drowned at sea doing so. American and Vietnamese were allies on the field in a manner never before seen. Combat units were even integrated with Vietnamese and American soldiers. The American military went to the rescue the Vietnamese after our government abandoned them. Sadly, most events were
dark; even now there is little education of that period for following generations to learn. High school history books contain very little information for today’s students to understand a period of war that directly and indirectly affects them even now. However, in 2011, Lan Phan Jones, a Vietnamese woman and many other members of the Vietnamese community living in Puget Sound wanted to express their gratitude to the American
born veterans for the service and sacrifice to their former country. Slowly and painfully, plans were made to build a joint memorial similar to California and Texas, except that Washington’s would contain a special tribute to the women who served. Auburn’s mayor at the time, Pete Lewis, worked to have the proposed memorial built there. The Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs joined the effort as did many Vietnam veter-
ans from both communities. Civic organizations such as the Rotary and the American Legion have supported the effort with donations. The purposes of the Joint American-Vietnamese Memorial Alliance, first to build a bronze memorial symbolizing the united effort of men and women to keep the former country of South Vietnam able to make their own individual choices, then to provide a place to confront old memories for healing. Last,
to build an organization that will provide education and understanding that is so lacking for this time. On July 26, at Holy Family Catholic Church in Auburn, the Alliance will host a free dinner for veterans. All are welcome to participate and learn. Last year’s event was a success. This year’s is expected to be much larger. Visit their website for more information at www. honorvietnamvets.org or call 360-491-7260.
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VETERAN RESOURCES Here is a listing of resources for veterans: Disabled American Veterans, 2315 Burwell St. Bremerton, 360-373-2397. American Legion Post 245 Service Office, assisting veterans. Open every Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 19068 Jensen Way, Suite 3A, Poulsbo, 360779-5456 American Legion Post 245: general meeting every third Thursday
at 7 p.m., 19068 Jensen Way, Suite 3A, Poulsbo. Information at www. alpost245.org, or call 360779-5456. WorkSource Kitsap County: veterans representatives at 1300 Sylvan Way, Floor 2, Bremerton, or call 360-337-4767. Email: jmckenna@esd. wa.gov, or Michael Robinson, Disables Veterans Outreach, 360-337-4727, email@example.com.
American Legion Post 149, 4922 Kitsap Way, Bremerton, 360-373-8983, www.legion149wa.org. VWF Bremerton Post, 190 Dora Ave., Bremerton, 360-377-6739. Meetings are 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month. American Legion Post 172, Bainbridge Island, 7880 NE Bucklin Hill Rd., mailing address: P.O. Box 10372, Silverdale, WA, 98383, phone 206-
842-5000. Meets first and third Fridays at 7:30 p.m. Website: www.bainbridgeislandpost172.org. Find them on Facebook at American Legion Post 172 Bainbridge. Marine Corps League, Olympic Peninsula Detachment 531, at 2315 Burwell St., Bremerton, 360-265-7492. Meets on the first Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. Mason County VFW Post No. 1694 in Shelton,
Memorial Hall, Second and Franklin streets. Meets second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 7 p.m. Beverages and snacks are served at 6 p.m. by the Ladies’ Auxiliary. For more information call 360-4264546. Silverdale American Legion Post 109, 10710 Silverdale Way, Silverdale. Meets on the third Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at All Star Lanes & Casino, email is
Alpost109cmdr@gmail. com. Find them on Facebook at American Legion Post 109 Silverdale. American Legion Post 200, Belfair, Box 24, Belfair, 360-731-4415. Meets first Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. For more information, email Tom Welch at xtw@aol. com. To be listed in Veterans Resources, email lkelly@ soundpublishing.com.
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Thank You to our Vets--for protecting our freedom! God Bless You!!
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Thank you to ALL service members and their families (past and present) for your selfless service and sacrifices to preserve our freedom, safety, and way of life. We salute you.
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VETERANS LIFE | 5
Marine gets his bachelor’s degree at 56 By Margo Myers
Margo Myers Communications
Floyd Robinson decided to pursue his college degree back in 2003 when George W. Bush was in his first term as President of the United States, and the Iraq war was just beginning. A lot has happened between then and now, and in those 11 years, Robinson finally achieved a major goal he’d set for himself, crossing the stage to take possession of his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership f rom Br an d m an University. As a 56 year old firsttime college graduate, Robinson was one of 43 men and women who took part in Brandman’s Bangor
campus commencement ceremony at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport on May 1. His advice? “Don’t quit,” said Robinson. “You set a goal and it appears to be difficult, but don’t quit. You may have to take a break, but remember what the goal is. Don’t quit.” Robinson never gave up despite working full time for the Department of Defense, and fulfilling his duties as senior pastor at Mount Lebanon Missionar y Baptist Church in Bremerton. “Each year, there seemed to be a major event that caused me to take a break,” said Robinson. “I’d start school, return to the job where the demands were great, and then take a break. I didn’t want to
sacrifice my grades.” Back surgery in 2009 delayed his studies further, but Robinson persevered. “This has been quite a journey and it has been very satisfying,” said Robinson. So satisfying that the 56 year old spent the moments prior to his graduation reciting a poem he once wrote for a liberal arts class. The poem was entitled “The Other Side,” describing his struggles on the journey to reach his goal, and how they made him a stronger person. Three generations of Robinson’s family made their way to Keyport to share in Robinson’s joy. His two daughters and a granddaughter traveled from Virginia to witness what Floyd called “a wonderful day.”
“Each year, there seemed to be a major event that caused me to take a break. I’d start school, return to the job where the demands were great, and then take a break. I didn’t want to sacrifice my grades.” ~Floyd Robinson The U.S. Marine Corps veteran continues in his position with t he D e p ar t me nt of Defense as a performance assessment representative who evaluates government contracts at Naval Base Kitsap at Bangor.
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graduates that they should “take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and then shout ‘we did it,’” to mark the momentous occasion. “Don’t let success go to your head,” said Kittrell. “And don’t let failure get to your heart.” D r. Glenn Wo r t h i n g t o n , dean of the School of Business and Professional Studies delivere d t he commencement exhorting Contributed photo speech, students to “take Floyd Robinson completed his goal initiative and make of getting a bachelor’s degree. things better” as they travel through life. Navy veteran Melissa More than 300 Kittrell, Master of Arts guests attended the in Organizational Leadership, delivered the graduation ceremony. student commencement speech, telling the other
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At 90, she still remembers her part in D-Day By Leslie Kelly Muriel Jean Whalley isn’t one to shy away from tough situations. In her 90 years, she’s done quite a bit of living and has many stories to tell. But the story that she’s most well known for is that of Uncle Sam. Living in England at the age of 20, she noticed that famous World War II poster of Uncle Sam pointing his finger right at her. “He was the funniest looking bloke I’d ever seen,” she said. “Why would I ever want to talk to someone who looked like that?” But that “angry whitehaired” man intrigued her. Whalley was born of British parents who were “on holiday” in the United States when she was born; so she had U.S. citizenship. And right there on that poster of Uncle Sam were the words “Uncle Sam is aware there are U.S.-born females in the U.K. If you are one, please telephone this number…” So she did. The recruiter told her the U.S. Army needed women who understood what war was all about and who could help with the invasion of France. Being a U.S. citizen, and having lived with the war for several years, she decided it was her job to join up. But she had questions: “Who was Uncle Sam? Where was this man?” When she was told he was
a symbol of the United States, she said, “this is news to me, all I know of the U.S. is movies and music.” Soon she found herself part of the U.S. Women’s Army Corps (WACs) being trained to intercept communications. The U.S. wanted women who were use to air raid sirens and the horrors of war and who could monitor calls. She was assigned to a special communications unit, 3341st Signal Battalion, Battle Company C, which commanded the Paris telephone exchange switchboard. In all, there were 45 women who were inducted in London in 1944. “We were like sisters, dedicated to getting the job done,” she said. They all had English, Scottish or Welsh accents and were born in the U.S. of English parents who had been in the U.S. doing business such as importers, banking and the like. “We had top security clearance and we could not tell anyone our location or our assignment,” Whalley said. “When Paris was captured, we went to Paris and I handled calls from General Eisenhower to General Patton, Omar Bradley and all of our allies (during) the Battle of the Bulge and all the way to Berlin.” She said as WACs they worked 16-hour days, and the winter of 1944 “was cruel and
we had no heat.” “We wrapped blankets around us and had to be checked for frostbite,” she said. “We were prime targets for the German spies in Paris and if they had known what we were doing, we would have been shot.” The communications officers were told to say they were nurses. The women chosen arrived at Omaha Beach and had to go over the side of the convoy to get to the landContributed photo ing craft. “There was no Muriel Whalley in her WAC uniform in instruction on England in 1945. how to go over the ship side,” she alive and it itched like crazy,” said. “We were dressed like the guys in heavy Army boots, she said. The women weren’t issued helmets and gear. I remember guns; they had only hatchets. looking down the rope ladder En route on the ship, troops and the waves that were slapwere packed “to the inch,” she ping between the ship and the said. “During the crossing, I landing crafts. You hoped that your boot was going to step on was picked to sing on deck that next rung and you wanted and lead the guys in their favorite songs.” to go fast enough so that the next girl coming down didn’t step on your fingers.” While crossing the English Channel, Whalley said they had only hard tack and Spam to eat and rested in liceinfested hay. “We were eaten
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They sang “Paper Doll,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and “Over There.” “I looked at the sea of faces and realized that most of them were singing for the last time,” she said. At Omaha Beach, she and the other women “waded through the surf to the beach.” They didn’t know what lay ahead, only that they were there to do a job. She has many memories of her service, some good, some bad and some sad. Whalley recalled the night Glen Miller, a famous 1940s orchestra director, was killed in a place crash crossing the Channel. She was attending a USO dance where Miller was supposed to perform that night. “We girls were waiting and when we heard the news, we cried,” she said. Whalley served two years, and she still recalls the look on her parents’ faces when she told them about her decision to join the WACs. “You are going to get yourself bloody-well killed,” her father told her. Her response: “I could do that right here.” “I knew what war was, what
it was like to starve,” she said. “We wanted the war over. We knew it was something that had to be done.” At the age of 15, in her home town of Warrington, close to Liverpool, she endured German bomb raids and daily put on a gas mask. Following the war, she moved to Brooklyn, New York, and eventually ended up in Washington state. She now resides in Kingston and is a member of the VFW Post 8870 in Edmonds. For her service, she earned a Meritorious Service Award. And still, today, she loves to share stories of her service. “We WACs had a job to do for Uncle Sam,” she said. “It was an honor to serve and help end World War II — the war where it was kill or be killed — no defeat, only victory.” (This story includes written information from the Sound Publishing archives and from letters supplied by Whalley. To hear Whalley in a radio interview go online at http:// kzok.cbslocal.com/2013/07/21/ muriel-whalley/)
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D-Day: A visit to Normandy 70 years later Photos and story by Jeff VanDerford Special Correspondent
(Editor’s note: Jeff VanDerford is a retired Sound Publishing employee who wrote for papers in the San Juan Islands and on Whidbey Island. He and his wife, Nancy, are currently touring Europe including a visit to Normandy. He shares his thoughts as we remember D-Day.)
aen, France, May 15, 2014: You need a degree of imagination to visit Normandy 70 years after the Allied invasion of France on June 6, 1944. An endless procession of cars, campers and tour buses vie for space on the narrow highway that traverses the coast from Ouistreham west to the headland of Pointe du Hoc and Utah Beach. This is a serious tourist destination for thousands of American, British, Canadian and French visitors; one can even detect a few German accents in the many restaurants that line the biggest town, Arromanches. We’ve made the pilgrimage as well; this is my wife Nancy’s and my 8
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first visit to France and though we enjoyed the culture of Paris, Monet’s home in Giverny and the architecture of Honfleur and Bayeux, it is the flat, sandy Normandy beaches that are the focus of our journey. As an American and a Vietnam veteran, it is an obligation I take seriously, to see these places and to remember the sacrifices made here. During our visit, the weather has been cool and windy with frequent rain showers and sun breaks. Much the same as it was 70 years ago, the beaches are as quiet as when the Germans settled in to wait for the Allied invasion they knew was coming. But where? The smart money was on the Pas de Calais, closest to England, but others favored the Normandy coast, a closer route to Cherbourg (with its muchneeded harbor facilities), Paris and the heart of Germany. German weathermen forecast a long period of storms moving in from the Atlantic. Figuring the invasion could not be pulled off until the tides were
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right in July, the prime architect of Hitler’s defenses, Erwin Rommel, was planning a trip home for his wife’s birthday, to be celebrated on June 6. Yes, tourists crowd the museums and car parks today. But if you squint hard and turn your face north to the English Channel, pretending you’re a German army observer on a hill overlooking the sea, it’s possible to re-create in your mind’s eye the shock he must have felt that morning as thousands of naval and cargo ships emerged out of the mist. The massive invasion of Hitler’s vaunted Atlantic Wall was on and nearly 160,000 soldiers on board those ships were coming right at you. And then the guns began to fire, some of the shells 16 inches in diameter, and it was time to seek shelter. And there was plenty of shelter. For the past four years, construction crews —virtually slave labor overseen by the Nazis — had been building massive steelreinforced concrete bunkers that provided sweeping fields of fire any place the
Germans thought the Allies would come ashore. The workhorse of German artillery, 88 mm anti-aircraft guns, were leveled and carefully sited to destroy any force foolish enough to attempt a landing. Bigger guns were placed behind the beaches; Hitler and his henchmen had planned for this day for years. So had the Allies. The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels and 277 minesweepers. It was truly a close run thing; in his pocket Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower had a press release telling the world the invasion had failed and the blame was his alone. The French have kept the invasion code names for the 50 miles of beaches involved — Utah and Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Each has a museum of varied quality. We found it a bit odd, considering to whom they cater, that the folks in the tourist office and museum in Arromanches spoke no English. At Utah Beach’s museum, the guy taking our money had a strangely flippant attitude while the nearby cafe treated us like second-class citizens, going so far as to make a big fuss on the seating, though we were alone in the restaurant. Nancy believes some French still suffer from a latent case of inferiority complex; things haven’t gone well for the French military since Bonaparte and though officially grateful, a few ordinary folk may resent Americans for saving their bacon. Twice. Wherever you are on this coast, you can’t help but notice a rocky headland jutting into the sea. On June 6, 226 men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, seizing artillery and holding on in a fierce fight that left just 90 unwounded by the morning of the second day. The remnants of bunkers and gun emplacements line the top, and shards of steel rebar jaggedly point to the sky. A very dramatic scene indeed. There’s a lot to see as you drive the scenic coast, past ancient walled farms
and historic markers. Soon after British forces landed, steel-and-concrete floating caissons were sunk offshore at the seaside town of Arromanches to provide an artificial port for the tons of supplies needed to support the forces inland. The brainchild of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and code-named “Mulberries,” they formed a crescent in the harbor, which was dubbed Port Winston. They are still there, huge artifacts of war for visitors to examine in wonder. Another Mulberry was constructed at Omaha Beach but a terrific storm later in the month destroyed it. Once the beachheads were established, the troops moved inshore, fighting the tough Germans all the way. Though intelligence and the French Resistance had reported what the lush Norman countryside was like, there were surprises, mainly in the form of bocage, thick hedgerows seven feet high and up to four feet thick. Combined with the church bell towers found in even the smallest village, the hedgerows — thousands of miles of them — were perfect spots for machine gun ambush and sniper fire. Even Sherman tanks were vulnerable, too wide for the narrow lanes and easy pickings for land mines and anti-tank guns. I had seen these hedgerows depicted in films such as “The Longest Day” and “Band of Brothers” but never quite understood. In our tiny village of Mestry, I note the church tower provides a good vantage point to watch for advancing troops, and a fine perch for a sniper rifle. Each church and hedgerow had to be checked out for enemy presence, a timeconsuming and dangerous process. The crown jewel of Normandy is the American cemetery where 10,625 soldiers lay at rest in a perfectly-landscaped tribute to bravery and valor. It is on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach with rows upon rows of crosses and Stars of David; their presence guaranteed to bring tears. The impressive museum has artifacts and videos detailing what happened here on the day, focusing on individuals such as the Niland brothers tragedy, the subject
of the film “Saving Private Ryan.” The government of France granted use of this land in perpetuity without charge or taxation; we were pleased to see busloads of French schoolchildren on a field trip for an up-close and personal view of the sacrifice our nation made for theirs. Overall, our Normandy experience did not disappoint. We’re glad we made the effort to come here and, yes — we will remember. About the author: Jeff VanDerford (above, left) started writing a column in 1999 for the Journal of the San Juan Islands, then was named sports editor in May 2000. He covered sports, schools, local government, business and the Port of Friday Harbor. In August 2005, he joined the South Whidbey Record, doing much the same, then retired in July 2010. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Price of Victory The human cost of the Normandy campaign was high for both sides, as well as the French on whose land the battle was waged. Allied casualties on the first day were at least 12,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. The Germans lost an estimated 1,000 men. From D-Day to August 21, the Allies landed 2,052,299 men in northern France and suffered 209,672 casualties from June 6 to the end of August, including 36,976 killed, 153,475 wounded and 19,221 missing. German forces in France reported losses of 158,930 men between D-Day and August 14. During the liberation of Normandy, between 13,632 and 19,890 French civilians were killed and more were seriously wounded. In addition to those who died during the campaign, 11,000 to 19,000 Normans are estimated to have been killed during the pre-invasion bombing. A total of 70,000 French civilians were killed throughout the course of the war.
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VETERANS LIFE | 9
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THE BOND/ LAST LOOK By Brian Kelly Wait a minute. Just how exactly did I, of all people, wind up here? “Here” was Pointe du Hoc, the cratered battleground that rose to a 100-foot-high cliff on the west end of Omaha Beach. Here I was, just a few weeks after my twentieth birthday, surrounded by more than 60 fellow soldiers of another era; some of the greatest heroes of the Greatest Generation. It was the 40th anniversary of D-Day, and I was standing amid a group where some had no doubt asked that same question the morning of June 6, 1944. How they first got here, this stout collection of silver warriors, to this windswept, rocky point on the Normandy coast overlooking the English Channel, would soon be recounted by President Ronald Reagan in one of his greatest speeches ever. Like the others, though, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division was also the reason I was now standing amid the bunkers and shell craters, reminders of the greatest amphibious invasion in history. I was the division photographer for the 1st Infantry, and the Big Red One had sent me to chronicle Reagan’s visit as part of the 40th anniversary commemoration. To my left, Walter Cronkite sat on one of the reinforced concrete bunkers, waiting for the president’s arrival. Behind me, a crowd of locals and Americans who came over for the anniversary had began to form. Reagan’s visit to Pointe du Hoc was just one event in a three-nation tour, and the 1st
Infantry had emptied its public affairs office in Germany to send everyone to France for Reagan’s visit. But as the sole photographer in a contingent of journalists, interpreters and other public affairs types on the trip, and still the relatively new guy in the unit, I got the assignment that was largely viewed as a photo op dud in the president’s itinerary: Point du Hoc. Everyone else elbowed their way toward the ceremonies at Omaha Beach, where Reagan would be one of
Brian Kelly in the Army. seven heads of state; a group of kings, queens and prime ministers that included Queen Elizabeth II, King Olav V of Norway, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. My colleagues were wrong. Standing in front of a memorial to the Rangers that sits at the top of the Pointe du Hoc, his wife Nancy sitting a few feet to his left on a small stage lined with seats filled with the soldiers of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, Reagan told how they landed on the
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My view of President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at the 40th D-Day anniversary. I asked, only to be answered by curse words and bitter recounts of seeing an ant-sized commander in chief on the horizon. “Well, I think I might have gotten some good stuff,” I said
as I started to pull my cameras out of my bag. “Shut up,” one quickly said. “We saw you on French television standing in front of everybody.”
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them turn moist. Recalling how some countries liberated during World War II were no longer free, Reagan explained in a clear, concise way like no other had before that made me realize why I, and thousands of other soldiers like me, were stationed in Europe. “Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They’re still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost 40 years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as 40 years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose — to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest. “We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost,” he said. Not so long after, one political pundit said Reagan had won his second term that day in Normandy. After Marine One took off, and Reagan left for Omaha Beach, I made my way back to the Army’s command post in Normandy. I was greeted with the disgruntled and disgusted glares of my fellow Army journalists, who had since returned from the Omaha Beach ceremony. “How close did you get?”
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beach and saw the mission before them that most thought impossible. “The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers — the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb,” Reagan said. “They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. “Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms. “Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. “These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.” I watched in awe as Reagan continued, his words making the eyes of the veterans before him and those in the crowd of a few hundred behind
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Vets can power through the VA claims process By Thom Stoddert There are many, many issues with the claims process in the Veterans Benefit Administration (VA) that may or may not make sense to the average claimant when attempting to file a claim for benefits. Understanding a few regulations can assure successful decisions for benefits. A few examples, the first with a slight twist: Documented medical records showed that a Vietnam veteran had collapsed one day in the front yard. He refused all medical treatment from his wife and EMTs. The next day he collapsed again and was taken to the local hospital unconscious. The brain scans showed a brain tumor so advanced that he had hours to days to live. In fact, he passed away three days later. His widow living in Tacoma was left destitute as he was her only means of support which was only VA disability payments. Disability compensation from the VA will end when the veteran dies. The widow filed a claim for the VA’s Dependent’s Indemnity Compensation (DIC) based on “cause of death.” She believed her husband’s brain tumor was caused by Agent Orange. Unfortunately, by law, she was correctly denied benefits. No research by government or other entity has indicated any link between exposure to Agent Orange and brain cancers. However, a VA employee suspected that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was the real culprit, not Agent Orange. The veteran had been in treatment for many years for PTSD and had a well-established history of symptoms, especially anger related issues toward all authority. The VA employee, a PTSD counselor, knew that brain cancer does not develop overnight and that there must have been some signs and symptoms weeks and maybe months prior to his death. The train of thought became that the veteran did have cancer symptoms, but because of his anger towards people-in-power, he hid his symptoms. PTSD was the real link to the vet’s military service, not Agent Orange.
The focus of all claims for benefits must be the identification of the correct link to military service from the current chronic condition. Assumptions, guessing, or even what appears to be a logical conclusions, won’t make it. If there is no link, there is no basis for a claim for benefits. The VA had documentation of treatment for PTSD. His widow was encouraged to get statements from her husband’s physicians that his cancer was a prolonged condition and that his symptoms existed long before he died. Next, she was provided another statement from the PTSD counselors recording that the vet had an anger problem and it would be normal behavior for him to reject treatment. The widow won the case showing that PTSD kept her husband from seeking the needed help in time to save or prolong his life. She did have a successful claim with the VA because she had the correct evidence. There are several lessons learned here. She was successful the second time because she had the appropriate link from the veteran’s military service to the cause of death. She was also in possession of expert medical opinions and knowledgeable guidance; the experts had lined up the facts for her. On the other side of the coin: Very often veterans feel the VA has cheated them out of deserved benefits or believe a congressional inquiry will strengthen and guarantee their efforts. In reality, claimants that registered a complaint with a local senator or congressperson did have their claims significantly slowed by getting a politician involved — it added another layer of time-consuming work. It works like this at the VA: The first stage is the development of evidence; second stage is the decision process; and lastly the notification of the award or decision to the vet. If a politician is involved the process, it instead goes this way: the claim file is pulled out of circulation at any stage and researched for an answer to be given to the politician’s office. When the
congressional team communicates back to the senator or congressperson and the veteran is responded to, then and only then, is the file is put back in line, delayed. Nobody else can work on the veteran’s claim if the congressional team has the file; they have priority, but no special authority. In greater than 95 percent of the congressional inquiries, the veteran would have been better served by not starting a complaint. The lesson learned here: be informed and understand the guidelines to access VA benefits. Get the support you need from the many local veterans service organizations such as the American Legion or Veteran of Foreign Wars. Their help is always free, no strings attached. Flip the coin back again. To get help and information directly is to set up an appointment to review your claims file (C-file) with a knowledgeable person at the local Regional Office in Seattle. While there, take notes and ask questions; if possible take a representative of a service organization with you. Caution: Where not to get help or information: At a reunion, a vet made assurances to two VA employees over and over that he was automatically entitled to a rating of 100 percent for PTSD, just because he had a Combat Infantry Badge, the equivalent to the Navy’s Combat Action Ribbon. His buddy had told him so and therefore it was correct. Most service officers will check with friends and colleagues to get the right information. There are many knowledgeable people at VA affairs and unfortunately, too few experts on VA laws/procedures. For additional information in understanding VA law and procedure, research them on line at www.vba. va.gov. Specific inquiries can be made by going to the VA’s online help service at www.iris.custhelp.com. In fact the VA puts almost everything online that a veteran needs. Never forget the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs in Olympia, call 360-725-2200 or 1-800-5620132.
In Memoriam Army Master Sgt. Roy Matsumoto 1913-2014 By RICHARD WALKER It was 2008, and Roy Matsumoto’s eyes still misted when he remembered how he was sent to an internment camp in 1942 and branded “4-C,” or enemy alien, by his country. The 4-C classification had wounded him. He was born in Los Angeles, the second generation of his family born in the United States. His immigrant grandparents farmed in Southern California. An uncle owned a neighborhood produce store. Roy spent his childhood running around with siblings and cousins in Long Beach, Calif. He graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School — my alma mater — where he ran the 220 and swam for the Jackrabbits. And so, when given the chance, Matsumoto enlisted in the U.S. Army and left the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas for the Southeast Asian theater of the war. “I wanted to prove to my country that I was not a traitor,” he told me. Roy joined the 5307th Composite Unit; led by Gen. Frank Merrill, the unit was known as Merrill’s Marauders. It was a special operations jungle warfare unit in the Southeast Asian theater of World War II. The unit became famous for its deep penetration behind Japanese lines, often engaging Japanese forces superior in number. Roy served as a Japaneselanguage intelligence specialist, intercepting radio transmissions, translating enemy documents, interrogating enemy prisoners of war, conducting reconnaissance and covert intelligence missions, and persuading enemy combatants to surrender. Once, when the Marauders were outnumbered and surrounded by Japanese forces in Burma, Roy sneaked within earshot of enemy officers and learned about their attack plans. The Marauders were ready when the attack came and repelled the enemy. When Japanese troops retreated, Roy — hiding off to the side — barked contrary orders at them in their dialect. Thinking one of their own officers was ordering them back into the fight, the enemy soldiers returned to die.
Consider the great risk to that young soldier listening in on enemy officers from behind some bushes: Roy said that although he was an American of Japanese ancestry, to the Japanese he was considered Japanese and a traitor. If captured, he could expect to be tortured.
Roy Matsumoto (Roy told The Journal of the San Juan Islands in 2011 that a soldier asked him, “Why did you do that? You could have gotten killed?” Roy told him, “If I don’t go, everyone might get killed. If I found out their plan, then everyone might survive.” He told The Journal, “We were able to survive even after we were surrounded for 12 days with no place to go.”) Many Marauders owed their lives to Roy Matsumoto; he was considered a hero. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. After the war, Roy interviewed suspected war criminals. He went on to spend a career in the Army, retiring as master sergeant. The country never forgot how Roy placed himself in great danger for the U.S. His exploits, and those of Merrill’s Marauders, have been chroni-
cled in several books. In 1993, Matsumoto was inducted into the U.S. Army Rangers Hall of Fame and in 1997 into the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame. In 2005, he was made an honorary Green Beret. In 2011, he and other Nisei World War II veterans received the Congressional Gold Medal. Roy said the gold medal was validation of his “American patriotism” and helped erase the pain of having been classified an enemy alien and shuttled to a camp because of his ancestry. I knew Ranger Roy in the 1990s and 2000s, when we both lived on San Juan Island. He was active in the San Juan Lions Club, leading the collection of donated eyeglasses. He was active in several veterans organizations. He was a Merrill’s Marauders historian, collecting and reading everything written about the unit and correcting writers as necessary. He was once and always a Ranger. On my desk is a pen and pencil holder made of driftwood; on the bottom, it’s stamped, “Hand crafted by Ranger Roy H. Matsumoto, Friday Harbor, WA.” Until shortly before his death on April 21, 2014 — 10 days before his 101st birthday — Roy was a frequent guest at military and veterans events. The old master sergeant knew how to stand down. He liked to joke; still true to his school, he frequently wore his brass Long Beach Poly High Jackrabbits belt buckle from 1932 and liked to wear it when he got his photograph taken with a general or some other dignitary. He had a great laugh. And he was humble. “I’m not a hero,” he told The Journal of the San Juan Island. “I’m just a member of the winning team.” I miss his friendship and I miss his laugh. Thank you, Ranger Roy, for your service and for helping the U.S. — your country — become the winning team. Rest in peace. — Richard Walker is editor of the North Kitsap Herald, a Sound Publishing Co. newspaper. He served as a quartermaster aboard the USS Manitowoc (LST 1180) from 1980-84.
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