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Classic Bike Ramblings The Famous.......The Unknowns and The American Soldier Theres a pre Veterans Day military tribute bike event coming up on Sat Nov. 5th that im really looking forward to being a part of and in helping out with. It will include a police and fire department escorted ride to the Bay Pines Military Cemetery and a USCG C-130 flyover and many veterans and special guests and I think that this event to me captures the spirit of what Veterans Day is about which is supporting our troops past and present. November 11th Veterans Day, a day to honor military veterans here in America it is also known elsewhere in the world as Armistice Day or Rememberance Day. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I and it marks the end of major hostilities which formally ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when Germany signed its surrender. Troy Musser at Biff Burgers has come up with another great chairitable idea in conjunction with Operation American Pride. He will be doing the first ever large scale ride beginning and ending at Biffs with over 2000 bikes expected and my friends I am proud to be a part of it as it will all go towards giving military families a better and more wonderful christmas. Both Troy and I are big supporters of the U.S. Military and their families and understand their hardships and also that so many in our biking community our currently serving or have served. Many in the military serve in obscurity simply "just doing their job" they are not serving to be heroes although they all are in my book. Coming from all walks of life and social and economic backgrounds all just doing their part for our freedom. And you know my friends there are some famous people who have walked away from their careers, from their fame and many wanted to be "just soldiers" and I have chosen two that you may know or may not know for even though they served the country proudly as so many citizens have chosen to do, they have never made a big deal out of their service, like so many we meet in our daily life they served and went on with their lives. So my readers of history I give you James Maitland Stewart born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on May 20th. 1908, nominated for five academy awards (winning one). Seven decades of amazing films such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Harvey

and the Christmas classic Its a Wonderful Life and of course the Alfred Hitchcock classics Mr 500 And Jon Barrow Rear Window and Vertigo. Ten of his films have been inducted into the United States National Film Registry. Named the third greatest male star of all time by the American Film Institute ( #1 Humphrey Bogart, #2 Cary Grant). He is remembered for a wide range of diverse roles including westerns ,suspense thrillers, family films and even off beat comedies. But what many people do not know and a fact that Jimmy Stewart never made a big deal out of, was his storied career in the U.S. military. Mr. Stewart would win his " Best Actor" academy award in 1941 for the romantic comedy "Philadelphia Story" and with 28 films to his credit our movie star would be drafted in late 1940. Jimmy Stewart's family had longstanding ties to the military as both his grandfathers had fought in the Civil War and his father had served in the Spanish-American War and World War I, Stewart had always thought that his father was the one biggest influence on his life, so when World war II broke out he was ready to serve and sought no deferment when drafted as he had already planned to enlist. Though all his family had served in the infantry he wanted to be a flyer. He always had a keen interest in flying and had received his Private Pilot Certificate in 1935 and his Commercial Pilot Rating in 1938. Flying Cross Country from movie locations to his parents home in Pennsylvania he would log in over 400 hours of flying time by the day of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He was thought of in aviation circles of the time as a very capable pilot even racing airplanes in 1935. He and famed musician Hoagy Carmichael both invested in Thunderbird Field a pilot training school built and operated by Southwest Airlines in Glendale, Arizona after it was clear to them both that America would need many new pilots for the almost certain war looming on Americas horizon. The airfield would later become part of the United States Army Air Force and train over 10,000 new pilots during World War II. Well, back to the year 1940 my friends when Mr. Stewart would be drafted into the United States Army but would be rejected for failure to meet height/weight requirments. He was five pounds under the 148 lb. minimum

when he would seek out the help of MGM's trainer who often added or subtracted the weight of many stars for movie roles. Well he was still close but with some persuading on his part to the enlistment officer that he could" fatten up" he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became the first major American Star to wear a uniform in World War II. Jimmy Stewart would enter as a private and begin military pilot training and by January of 1942 he would be a Second Lieutenant and become a instructor for single and twin engine aircraft. The Army would use his recent Academy Award and his film career for limited public appearances, performing in a large radio program after Pearl Harbor and then appearing in the United States Army Air Corps first motion picture called "Winning Your Wings" (May 1942) which would appear nationwide and result in 150,000 new recruits for our war effort. But with thoughts of his military heritage Mr. Stewart was concerned that his "movie star" status would keep him at home and "behind the lines" and these fears were soon confirmed when he would spend the next year training bombardiers and then B-17 pilots in Idaho. But the 36 year old patriot would hear rumors that he would be taken off flying status all togather and be regulated to making training films and selling war bonds, and although he knew of his value in this role, he wanted to join the fight my 92 loyal readers well after a sit down with a sympathetic commander who saw what a leader he was, he got Jimmy reassigned to a unit going overseas. It would be August of 1943 and he would rise through the ranks of the 445th. Bombardment Group out of Sioux City, Iowa and then as its commander, the group would fly B-24 Liberator bombers to England and immediately begin combat operations. Stewart would fly combat missions over Germany and be promoted to Major and Group Operations Commander of the 453rd. Bombardment Group a troubled B-24 unit that wasn't "working togather". As a way to inspire his new command Stewart would fly as "lead command" pilot on many, many missions deep into Nazi controlled Europe, all these missions went as "uncounted" on Stewarts orders ( so he would not be sent home when he completed the required number). His official and obviously low total of missions is listed at 20 and only counts his missions with his first group the 445th. In 1944 he would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice for actions in combat, the French Croix de guerre awarded to military commanders who performed heroic deeds in combat, and receive the prestigious Air Medal with 3 oak clusters for meritorious achievements in aerial flight. It wouldnt be long my movie loving readers that Stewart would soon be made Chief of Staff of the 2nd. Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force and although not required to fly combat missions our hero of the air

would continue to fly many more until the wars end. He would rise to the rank of Colonel and become one of the few Americans in the war to rise from Private to full Colonel in four years. After the war Stewart would stay in the United States Air Force Reserve and achieve the rank of Brigadier General in 1959. In 1966 (and now a major movie star) he would fly as an observer on B-52 bombing missions in Vietnam and at the time of these flights he refused the release of any publicity of his participation as he did not want this to be perceived as a "promotional stunt", but just as part of his job as an officer in the Air Force Reserve. Stewart never traded on or talked of his wartime service as he just wanted to be seen as a regular soldier doing his part for America, not as a celebrity. He did appear on the epic T.V. series "The World at War" to discuss his involvement in the Oct. 14th. 1943 bombing mission to the center of the German ballbearing plants at Schweinfurt, these missions were known as Black Thursday due to the high casuality rate the un-escorted B-17's received (27% of the 261 bombers would be lost) upon his request his only identification in the documentary was James Stewart Squadron Commander. After 27 years of service on May 31st. 1968 Jimmy Stewart, hero and patriot and one of the worlds biggest movie stars, would retire from the Air Force and President Reagan would promote him to Major general (two star). Many actors, actresses and musicians have served our nation, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Alan Alda, Chuck Norris, Tony Bennett and Bill Cosby to name a few but our sports stars have also answered the call of duty. Ted Williams, Rocky Marciano, Tom Landry and more recently Patrick Tillman who lost his life in Afghanistan. Well here is one such sports star who left his career and served the nation proudly, I give you Bob Feller a man called by many of the biggest players and noted baseball writers and insiders as one of the best right handed pitchers in baseball history. The first pitcher to win 20 games in a season before age 21. Threw three no hitters (including the only opening day one in history) and twelve one hitters. Led the American League in strikeouts 7 seasons and wins 6 seasons. Pitched 279 complete games and is still the winningest pitcher in Cleveland Indians history. 46 shutouts, a record 18 strikeouts in one game and a pitch that was officially recorded at 107.6 mph. 266 victories and 2,581 strikeouts. But my amazed friends the statistic we are keying on is the fact Bob Feller is the only Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy to be elected to a major sports

Hall of Fame. He would interrupt a stunning baseball career in the major leagues and participate in some of the most famous sea battles in the Pacific theater. Mr. Feller recalls the day he decided to join the Navy. "It was Dec. 7th.1941 and I was driving from my home in Van Meter, Iowa to Chicago to discuss my next contract with the Cleveland Indians and I heard over the car radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I was angry as hell". Feller had been with the Indians for 6 seasons at that point with 107 victories and 54 losses and he held a family related draft exemption. But he felt a duty that he had to answer the call of, as so many Americans would. So he informed the Indians of his decision to enlist and then phoned his friend Gene Tunney (former heavyweight boxing champ) who was a commander in charge of the Navys physical fitness program, Tunney flew in from Washington and without fanfare would swear Feller in on Tuesday December 9th. 1941. Bob Feller would become the first major league baseball player to volunteer for combat service following the attack on Pearl Harbor. After going through basic training the Navy made him a Chief Petty Officer and assigned him as a physical training instructor. But my pals our famous right hander wanted to fight and since he had a lot of experiance with guns as a kid growing up on a farm he applied for Gunnery School and sea duty. After spending 4 months at Gunnery School in Rhode Island he was assigned to the Battleship USS Alabama (BB-60) as a gun captain on a 40mm anti-aircraft mount that had a crew of 24 men. The Alabama would spend 6 months escorting convoys in the North Atlantic and in August of 1943 she would head for the raging battles in the Central Pacific. The next two years they would see horrific battle in the Marshalls, the Carolines and Phillipines. They escorted carrier task forces, fended of Kamikaze attacks, and bombarded beaches for amphibious assults and although often hit by bombs the Alabama never lost a man to enemy actions, as Feller put it "the people we had on the gun crews were very good shots". He would receive five campaign ribbons and eight battlestars. He would be placed on inactive duty 15 days after the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima which ended our

war with Japan. This in his own words I think really "hits the nail on the head" my interested readers "It makes a difference when you go through a war, no matter what branch of service you are in. Combat is an experience that you never forget. A war teaches you that baseball is only a game after all, a minor thing compared to the sovereignty and security of the United States. I once told a newspaper reporter that the bombing attack we lived through on the Alabama had been the most exciting 13 hours of my life. After that I said the pin-striped perils of Yankee Stadium seem trivial. Thats still true today. You and your comrades never lose touch. I've gone to my share of reunions and all of us treat each other as shipmates no matter what else we have done or accomplished or haven't over the years. Like anyone who's been under fire, I'm certainly not a war booster. But I still beleive as I did that grim Sunday afternoon in December, 1941, in a strong and well equipped military and in the values that being in the service instills in young men and women who don the uniform. I'm well aware of the hardships that our service members are enduring right now. Everyone ought to serve his or her country for a couple of years or more, even in a time of peace I'm still a Navy man at heart. And I'm proud to have served". Ted Williams called Feller "the fastest and best pitcher I ever saw in my career" and Stan Musial believed he was "probably the greatest pitcher of our era". Many baseball historians have said that Feller would have won 350 plus games and thrown well over 3000 strike outs had he not joined the military. He was honored by "The Sporting News" as "The greatest pitcher of his time". I think my loyal readers he was one of the greatest patriots and Americans of "any time". Well my 72 patriotic readers we have seen a few famous people who have served, and we all know personally by name so many who have served and returned, and we know so many who have served and died in so many wars and conflicts. But in Washington D.C. there is a monument that is dedicated to the ones who fought and died in war but were never known, never identified no friends, no family to mourn at their graves. It is guarded by one of the most elite and dedicated units in the U.S. military. My good friends I am talking about The Tomb of the Unknowns ( un-officially known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) it is dedicated to all American service members who have died without their remains being identified. Located at the Arlington National Cemetery It would have its beginnings on March 4th. 1921 when the U.S. Congress approved the burial of an un-identified American serviceman from World War I in the Plaza of the New Memorial Amphitheater. The Tombs design was selected by a national competition with the stone quarried from Marble, Colorado

and final finished in Proctor, Vermont, then shipped by train to Washington D.C. There are three Greek figures representing Peace, Victory and Valor carved in the East face, on the Western face are the words "HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD". This carved marble tomb was placed at the head of the World War I unknown. West of this is the crypts of the unknowns from World War II (South) and Korea (North). Between the two lies a crypt that once contained an unknown from Vietnam, but in 1998 due to advances in DNA testing it was positively identified and removed. On Memorial Day 1921 four unknown servicemen were exhumed in France and one was chosen, after a heroes journey he was interred on Nov. 11th. 1921. The World War II unknown was selected with one from the European theater and one from the Pacific, placed in identical caskets aboard the USS Canberra one was selected for interment, the other given a military burial at sea. Four unknown Korean soldiers were exhumed from the National Cemetery of the Pacific and one chosen, both the caskets arrived (WWII & Korean veteran) on May 28th. 1958 and on May 30th. 1958 with President Eisenhower in attendance both were interred next to their World War I comrade. On May 28th. 1984 the unknown Vietnam soldier was interred but in 1994 he was potentially identified and in 1998 exhumed and positively identified as First Lieutenant Michael Blassie, U.S. Air Force. He was buried by his family in St. Louis, Missouri. The crypt that held the remains of the Vietnam unknown has been replaced with the original inscription changed to "Honoring and keeping faith with Americas Missing Servicemen" as with new DNA technology it may be unlikely in the Vietnam and more recent conflicts to truly have an "unknown casualty". It is considered one of the highest honors to serve as tomb guard or ceremonial guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Less than 20% of all volunteers are accepted for training and only a fraction become tomb guards. The guards wear no rank insignia on their uniforms so that they do not outrank the unknowns whatever their rank may have been. Over the years the weapons used to guard the unknowns have changed

like the Army. Starting with the Springfield rifle and the M1, M14 rifles and Barretta and Colt pistols. Guards currently use M14 rifles which are unloaded but kept ready for use and always have bayonets fixed. There is a meticulous ritual the guard follows when on post. The soldier walks 21 steps across the tomb. This alludes to the Three Volley's of the 21 gun salute. Their weapon is always on the shoulder opposite to the tomb then on the 21st. step, the soldier faces the tomb for 21 seconds. The soldier then turns to face the other way across the tomb and changes the weapon to the outside shoulder. After 21 seconds the first step is repeated. The Tomb of the Unknowns has been guarded continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since July 2, 1937 no matter what the weather is. The platoon of guards, part of the 3rd. U.S. Infantry Regiment work on a team rotation of 24 hours on, 24 hours off for five days taking the following 4 days off. A guard takes an average of 6 hours to prepare his uniform for the next day, and its made of heavy wool regardless of season. They cut their hair each day and shave twice a day. A special Army decoration the tomb of the Unknown Soldier Guard Identification Badge is authorized after passing a written test. a uniform test (with less then two errors) and a guard changing sequence test. After serving honorably for nine months it is awarded. It is the second rarest award currently issued in the U.S. Army, only the Army Astronaut Badge is rarer. It is also the only Army Badge that can be revoked or taken back after a soldier has left the military for any act that would bring discredit upon The Tomb of the Unknowns. As I have done in many of my articles I would like to thank everyone that has served and thank all the families out there that have members serving, your support keeps them going. And thank you to those who have "given all" some of us wont forget. Also a big thank you to all of the people who continue to support all the military and Veteran themed events its this support that lets those serving know we care about past, present and future soldiers and their sacrifices. I urge everyone to join me at Biff Burgers and at all the Veterans events going on in the weeks around this day and please take some time on Friday Nov. 11th around 11am (the eleventh hour) and remember that it was and is our military that serve who have made it possible for us to ride our motorcycles to that bike night, or take your kids to a baseball game or a movie or to simply say what we want, listen to what we want or in my case with Full Throttles help to write what we want uncensored, unaltered, and undiluted. Next time you see a member of our military tell them "Thank you for serving" you dont have to approve of any war or belive in current politics to support our troops who will always be at the ready when our great nation is threatend. God Bless the American Soldier. Robert "E.T." De Moss For cool videos on this story go to

Classic bike Ramblings  

November Classic Bike Ramblings

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