Archive for October, 2018

The Legacy of Master Chief Carl Brashear

This story was originally posted in January on Naval History and Heritage Command site. It was written by Phillip Brashear the son of master diver Carl Brashear. 

Throughout mankind’s history, there have been stories of individuals who have overcome extremely difficult odds in order to showcase the true strength of the human spirit with amazing results.

Carl Maxie Brashear is one of those individuals who demonstrated unyielding tenacity to overcome his circumstances only to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a United States Navy Master Diver.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum.

My father is a true example of the American dream in the fact that whoever you are, or wherever you come from, anyone can achieve their dreams if they work hard and believe in themselves. I often say my father overcame his “Five Hurdles” to prove to the world that dreams do come true. My father overcame racism, poverty, illiteracy, physical disability, and alcoholism during his lifetime only to pass away with no malice in his heart and a feeling of accomplishment for his work.

Carl Brashear joined the military in 1948, only a few years after President Truman ruled that the military would not deter anyone from joining based on race. Even though President Truman officially desegregated the military, racism was a continued practice in society and the military. My father could only be an officer’s valet or some other menial-task person in the Navy. He joined with a limited education also. He was a seventeen year-old with an equivalent of an eighth-grade education at best. Being the son of a poor share-cropping family in rural Kentucky, his socio-economic class was an extra detriment to his success. With these obstacles already against him he still continued to press in the Navy.

One day he witnessed a diving exercise off the coast of Florida and instantly his desire was to become a Navy Diver. Of course this was unheard of during his day because the Navy would never send a minority to the Navy’s prestigious diving training. My father was not defeated by this apparent attitude of exclusion and wrote dozens of requests to enter diver training. One remarkable day, he did receive approval to attend the training, but before he was off to fulfill his dream, reality hit him in the face when he failed to qualify academically and had to wait to apply again. During his waiting period he studied and excelled in his knowledge in preparation of returning to the course. When he got the opportunity for a second chance, he was able to complete the course standards and was awarded the designation of Navy Diver despite going through a course of instruction that included death threats, isolation, name-calling and fistfights. He was the first of his race to attain that goal, but the struggles continued.

Image courtesy of the Brashear family.

 

Carl Brashear was an accomplished Navy Diver in the late 1950’s and made a name for himself as his career continued (Note: As he proved his skills as a diver, the respect fellow divers started to show him opened the door to creating bonds of friendship and inclusion with his peer group and the officers appointed over him), but in 1966, an incident occurred that would again alter my dad’s life and challenge his dreams.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum.

Two Air Force planes were practicing in-flight refueling procedures off the coast of Spain when a mid-air collision destroyed both aircraft. One of the aircraft stored nuclear weapons onboard and one of the weapons was lost at sea. My father was part of the official Navy diving operations team sent to recover the lost warhead. During shipboard operations a cable snapped and ripped across the deck of the salvage ship, severing my father’s left leg, nearly killing him on the spot.

My father would endure his massive wound, numerous blood transfusions, ship transfer in rough seas and a helicopter trip just to get him stabilized for a trip home to Virginia. It was there at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital where he decided to get the leg amputated below the knee and continue his career.

Again my father was greeted with negative attitudes and disbelief, but with strength and patience he proved once again that a belief in something greater than himself would conquer any obstacle. This was the pivotal moment that would make him an American military hero and give him world fame as he regained his Navy diving privileges as an amputee. Rising to the top of his goal as a Master Diver in the Navy in 1970 was the icing on the cake.

As the rest of my father career winded down, the constant stress of putting his family second, coupled with the many obstacles he overcame with sheer determination proved to expose a weakness in his character. He began drinking heavily and at one point drove his car off of the pier at Little Creek Naval Base in Virginia Beach. After this incident, he entered a Navy substance abuse course for alcoholism and completed it shortly before his retirement in 1979.

In November of 2000, he was honored as the subject of a major Hollywood movie, “Men of Honor” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. in the leading role as Carl Brashear. Also in the movie was Robert DeNiro, Charlize Theron, Hal Holbrook and a host of other Hollywood notables.

 

Image courtesy of the Brashear family.

 

My father has many notable tributes and honors attached to his name like the USNS Carl Brashear (TAKE-7), the Carl Brashear Conference Center at Joint Base Little Creek/Ft. Story, a special edition luxury watch from Switzerland, and a newly dedicated Veterans Center in Radcliff, Kentucky. These and many other honors recognize the remarkable achievement of a man who proved to the world that with a grain of faith, mountains can be moved!!!

Editor’s Note: Phillip Brashear is a former Chief Warrant Officer 4 and Blackhawk Maintenance Test Pilot in the Virginia Army National Guard. He is a combat veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from January 2006 through February 2007, and as part of Stabilization Force Ten in Bosnia-Herzegovina from October 2001 through April 2002.

WASHINGTON (Feb. 10. 2012) Army Chief Warrant Officer Phillip Brashear, son of Master Chief Carl Brashear, holds his father’s prosthetic leg as he speaks with a group about his fathers’ legacy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani/Released)

Original Story link: http://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/2018/01/16/overcoming-hurdles-the-legacy-of-master-chief-carl-brashear/?fbclid=IwAR1S9ZD7xj7haA6PEv_ILt19wmC1oDUdpzbGebv1l25xks4-qF16lscpsGs

 

WWII Veteran returns to service

This story originally appeared in the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger-News written by Margaret Waage (https://www.tribuneledgernews.com/local_news/call-of-duty-world-war-ii-veteran-returns-to-service/article_5e5a3cc2-c7d2-11e8-b52a-9b543fcfbf83.html)

At the age of 99, a Canton man was recalled to active duty with the U.S. Navy last week and reported to Port Canaveral, Florida.

Center, Captain Gerald Peddicord, a retired United States Naval officer and a proud veteran of the USS Indiana, is accompanied by his son Lieutenant Colonel Craig Peddicord, US Army (retired), at right, during the commissioning ceremony of the new Navy Virginia class submarine at Port Canaveral, Fl., on Sept. 29. The USS Indiana (SSN 789), the newest Virginia-class attack submarine which is the most modern and sophisticated in the world, was commissioned on Saturday, Sept. 29 at the Navy port at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Over 5,000 people attended. Florida Today/Tim Shortt

Capt. Gerald ‘Jerry’ Peddicord, who is looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday on Nov. 16, was asked by the Navy to return to active duty and proceed under orders to attend the commissioning of the new Navy Virginia class submarine, the USS Indiana (SSN 789) held last Saturday.
“It’s a new ship and it’s never been operated until now,” Peddicord said. “I was surprised to hear from them and I think they contacted me when they found out I am the oldest living survivor of the battleship USS Indiana (BB-58) where I served and attended the commissioning of on April 19, 1942.”
The September 29th commissioning ceremony marks the acceptance of the submarine USS Indiana as a unit of the operating forces of Navy and is where its new crew takes over the ship.
Peddicord was accompanied by his son Lt. Col. Craig Peddicord, who is an Army retiree. Father and son live together in Canton. The latest Naval Academy’s monthly magazine Shipmate showed Peddicord listed as the fourteenth oldest living member of the Naval Academy.
From its initial naming June 22, 2012, to its commissioning last week, the submarine USS Indiana is the fourth ship to bear that name over the past 70 years.
Peddicord was 18 when he joined the Navy and served for a total of 33 years. “I was enlisted that’s how I got into the Navy. From the enlisted ranks, I joined the Naval Academy as a midshipman student.” Peddicord said. “They sped up our graduation because of World War II and we went to summer school. That put us to graduation six months early in Dec. 19, 1941.”
From there Peddicord went to M.I.T. and the naval research lab to learn basic radar. “Radar at that time was becoming operational. We haven’t always had radar,” Peddicord said. Peddicord was then ordered to the USS Indiana battleship which was also built at Newport News Shipbuilding, where he remained to April of 1994.
He went on an “island hopping” campaign to Japan, where he was in an active combat zone. “The water canal operations started in August of 1942 at Tarawa and Kwajalein, plus raids on three other islands,” Peddicord said.
Peddicord had flight training in Dallas, Texas, and then Pensacola, Florida for intermediate training, and then finished training at Daytona Beach, Florida.

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2018) Capt. Gerald Peddicord (ret.), a plank owner on USS Indiana (BB 58), presents Lt. Keenan Coleman, the ships’ Weapons Officer and first Officer of the Deck, with the Long Glass prior to USS Indiana (SSN 789) setting the first watch. U.S. Navy’s 16th Virginia-class fast-attack submarine and the third ship named for the State of Indiana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson/Released)

“Every pilot had to make eight qualifications landings aboard an aircraft carrier ship before earning their wings,” Peddicord said. “I had to land on a converted ferry boat for my qualifications. You’ve heard the expression ‘God is my co-pilot,’ well God was my co-pilot my whole life. He was with me all the way. I came so close to being killed so many times.” On March 25, 1945, Peddicord received his wings becoming a naval aviator. During the commissioning ceremony Peddicord, assisted in setting the first watch by passing the “long glass” – a telescope – to Indiana’s first Officer of the Deck, Lt Cmdr. Jeremy Leazer.

The crew of the USS Perch (SS-176)

USS Perch (SS-176) was a Porpoise-class submarine and the first ship in the US Navy to be named for the Perch. She was commissioned in 1936 in Groton CT. She became a member of the Pacific Fleet in November 1937 joining Submarine Squadron 6.
In 1942, the USS Perch was dispatched to the Java Sea. In the middle of the night on March 1, she was spotted and hit by depth charges. Despite the quick crash dive, she was badly damaged. Crewmembers found electrical grounds, battery issues and a severe leak in the engine room. A test dive was attempted on March 3 but the leaks forced the crew to return to the surface. The damage was too severe to route and escape. Spotted again by Japanese’s destroyers and unable to launch torpedoes, the decision was made for the diesel submarine to be scuttled. The crew was ordered off the boat and the Perch was lost to the sea. The entire crew of the Perch would be picked up by Japanese ships and become POW’s for the remainder of WWII. In Stephen Jackson’s book “The Men” the ordeal of the crew of the Perch is documented by one of its survivors Ernie Plantz.

“The prisoners were offloaded and marched, many barefoot, through the streets of Makassar. This city is almost on the equator, and the blacktop streets were hot enough to burn, blister, and bleed, and their feet suffered in the column of marching men…..The remaining enlisted men marched to a former Dutch army training came that the Japanese had made into a detention facility for Allied prisoners. The Perch men were not the only Americans to be interred here. Survivors of the USS Pope (DD 225), a World War I-era four-star destroyer, were also brought to the camp. The Pope had been sunk of March 1 as part of the same battle that claimed the Perch, a battle that was later called the Battle of the Java Sea.”

“How does one go about describing such and experience? When privation, loss of liberty, starvation, disease, cruelty, and torture are the norm, the only experiences that significantly deviate from that norm are noteworthy. The prison camp experience for these sailors was one of the slow erosion of physical health and mental stability punctuated by moments of violence, brutality, and rarely, pleasure. The men who found themselves trapped in this nightmare kept alive and kept together because they kept the faith with each other. They made the best of it, bartered with the locals when they could, stole from the Japanese when the opportunities arose, and stayed true to their shipmates, their prison mates, and their country.”

“Then one day, a day like any other of the one thousand, two hundred and ninety-seven days that had preceded it, the prisoners were called to assembly by the Japanese’s guards. Plantz recalled the joy and the irony of that day : They called us together and announced to us that the war was over and that the Americans had won. And they wanted to shake hands, ‘Now we’re friends.’ These were the same bastards that beat you and starved you for three and a half years, because we kept the same guards from beginning to end. They wanted to shake hands and be friends. Needless to say, nobody did. Plantz and the men would spend another month in the camp due in part the logistics of removing the remaining number of prisoners from the remote island, but initially because nobody knew they were there. Absent the report or confirmation from another Allied ship, the Perch had been assumed lost with all hands back in 1942.”

“Of the over three thousand men initially imprisoned at the Makassar camp, only about a thousand remained when the war ended….The crew of the Perch made out quite well, losing only six shipmates during their incarceration out of a crew of fifty-nine.”

U.S.S. Perch (SS-176)
Crew List
Alboney, Francis
Arnette, Elbert H.
**Atkeison, Warren Ingram
Berridge, Robert C.
Boersma, Sidney H
Bolden, Sidney
Bolton, Vernon
*Brown, Charles N.
Byrnes, Thomas F., Jr.
Clevinger, Gordon B.
Crist, Daniel
Cross, Charles L., Jr.
Dague, Lawrence W.
Deleman, Bernard
*Dewes, Philip J
Earlywine, Roland I.
Earlywine, Virgil E.
*Edwards, Houston E.
Evans, Roger W.
Fajotina, Alejo
Foley, Joseph A.
Gill, Benjamin S.
Goodwine, Calvin E.
**Greco, John
Harper, Earl R.
Henderson, Henry C.
Hurt, David A.
Kerich, Thomas L.
Klecky, Rudolph
Lents, Robert W.
McCray, James G.
*McCreary, Frank E.
Monroe, Elmo P.
Moore, Thomas
*Newsome, Albert K.
Normand, Joseph R.
Orlyk, Stephen M.
**Osborne, Robert Willis
Pedersen, Victor S.
Peters, Orvel V.
Plantz, Ernest V.
Reh, Theodore J.
Richter, Paul R., Jr.
Robison, Jesse H.
Roth, E.J.
Ryder, John F.
Sarmiento, Macario
Scacht, Kenneth G.
Schaefer, Gilbert E.
Simpson, Samuel F.
Stafford, Frankland F., Jr.
Taylor, Glenn E.
Turner, Marion M.
Van Buskirk, Beverly R.
Van Horn, Edward
Vandergrift, Jacob J.
Walton, Felix B.
Webb, James F.
Welch, Freeman
Wilcox, Myron O.
*Wilson, Robert A.
Winger, Ancil W.
Wright, Ray N.
Yates, Henry S.

Note: *Brown, Dewes, Edwards, McCreary, Newsome and Wilson died as Prisoner of War and **Note: Atkeison, Greco, and Osborne were mistakenly included in the 1963 edition. All three survived the loss of the boat and were taken, prisoner. Atkeison and Osborne were liberated from a prisoner of war camp on 17 September 1945, and Greco was liberated on 21 September 1945. (https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/u/united-states-submarine-losses/perch-ss-176.html)

This is only one story of the thousands of American men who were captured during WWII. Their stories and names will always be remembered.

Stephen Jackson’s book The Men and Trial and Triumph (An interview with Ernie Plantz) can be purchased at the museum gift shop’s online store. 

 

 

POW/MIA Day

The third Friday in September is recognized as POW/MIA Day. The following is from Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
The POW/MIA flag, made official by Congress in 1990, may be flown six days a year, smaller and always below the United States flag: Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May); Memorial Day (last Monday in May); Flag Day (June 14); Independence Day (July 4); National POW/MIA Recognition Day (third Friday in September), and Veterans’ Day (Nov. 11).The day of recognition was created in the 1998 Defense Authorization Act, stating the annual event “honors prisoners of war and our missing and their families, and highlights the government’s commitment to account for them.”And yet thousands remain unaccounted: World War II has at least 73,000 missing plus those lost at sea; 7,500 from the Korean War, 1,600 from Vietnam, 126 during the clandestine operations of the Cold War years, and two from Desert Storm. Both of those missing are Navy pilots whose planes went down in the Persian Gulf: Lt. Cmdr. Barry T. Cooke, flying an A-6 aircraft on Feb. 2, 1991, followed by Lt. Robert J. Dwyer, in his FA-18 aircraft on Feb. 5, 1991.
If you’ve ever been to a military ball, stepped inside a chow hall, or attended an event at a military veterans association in your local community, you’ve likely noticed the small, round table that is always set but never occupied—the prisoners of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) table.
The tradition of setting a separate table in honor of our prisoners of war and missing comrades has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. The manner in which this table is decorated is full of special symbols to help us remember our brothers and sisters in arms. Those symbols are spelled out in OPNAVINST 1710.7A.
The POW/MIA table is smaller than the others, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his or her oppressors. This table is separate from the others and can be set for one to four place settings to represent each service participating in the event.
The white tablecloth draped over the table represents the purity of their response to our country’s call to arms.
The empty chair depicts an unknown face, representing no specific Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, but all who are not here with us.
The table itself is round to show that our concern for them is never ending.
The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.
The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends. A Purple Heart medal can be pinned to the napkin.
The single red rose reminds us of their families and loved ones. The red ribbon represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.
The yellow candle and its yellow ribbon symbolize the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet accounted for.
The slices of lemon on the bread plate remind us of their bitter fate.
The salt upon the bread plate represent the tears of their families.
The wine glass, turned upside down, reminds us that our distinguished comrades cannot be with us to drink a toast or join in the festivities of the evening.

The significance of the POW/MIA table is called to attention during the toast of the evening. This is an important part of many military banquets to remind us that the strength of those who fight for our country often times rests in the traditions that are upheld today.

http://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/2014/10/06/the-powmia-table-a-place-setting-for-one-a-table-for-all/