Today Italy’s Celone airfield has returned to nature and agriculture. One couldn’t know the activities, the machines and the hero’s who once occupied this Italian countryside. Only from the air can be seen the faint scarring of the landscape. Hidden are the fading remnants of taxiways and the 6,000 foot runway that gave pathway to the heavy B-17 bombers, their crews and payloads of America’s 15th Air Force.
The faint runway (center), taxiways and other roads of what used to be Celone Airfield.
One of those crew members came from Salt Lake City, via Canada, then England. His name is Howard Thayne. He is my children’s first cousin, two generations removed. Their maternal grandfather and Howard are first cousins. Born on March 23, 1919 in the coal mining camp of Kenilworth, Utah Howard’s family would move to Salt Lake where he was the typical American boy, sociable and popular among his peers. He graduated from West High School and at the age of 19 served a two-year mission for the LDS Church in Canada. Soon after his return home, with the outbreak of World War II, Howard enlisted in the Army Air Corps.
It was the early days of World War I in the Second Battle near the town of Ypres. A 22-year old Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed, from the explosion of a German artillery shell. He died 102 years ago tomorrow, May 2, 1915.
Ypres a small, ancient Belgian town saw some of the most intense and sustained battles during the war. Helmer was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as his friend, doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.
The son of Scottish immigrants, for McCrea, medicine, the Army and poetry were family traditions.
This is dedicated to the memory of all the heroes. Not just those from my school days, and those from my days in the military during the Vietnam era, all who died too soon, but especially in remembrance of the nameless, forgotten ones. From wars and battles long past.
But to the hero, when his sword
Has won the battle for the free,
Thy voice sounds like a prophet’s word;
And in its hollow tones are heard
The thanks of millions yet to be.
~~ Marco Bozzaris, verse by Fitz-Greene Halleck, American Poet
Pfc. Bradley Kritzer
Today* would have been his 27th birthday. An all-American boy from small-town America. Bradley G. Kritzer, like many from the small boroughs of central Pennsylvania’s Clearfield county loved the outdoors and someday hoped to work there with an organization like the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Brad is a lot like many of my cousins with hunting and fishing a favorite pastime. It is said that he grew up with a rifle in hand, hunting turkey and deer with his father and going fishing every chance he got. Brad is a distant cousin whose life I was drawn closer to by the tragedy of his death. Continue reading
The following is the third and final installment of what was originally titled A Burial at Sea: Remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer. It was written by Lt. Colonel George Goodson, U.S.M.C. (Retired) and published in the Marine Corps Gazette in September 2007. Because of it’s length it was divided here into three parts. Part 1 was published Tuesday, part 2 yesterday.
More Notifications and Funerals
More notifications and funerals followed. My staff and I were numb. The tension was palpable. My marriage was affected; it ultimately failed. My corpsman was so alarmed that he insisted on taking blood pressure readings on everyone–twice a day. My staff and I ran 5 miles daily trying to reduce the stress.
My Last Notifcation: A Burial at Sea
One day while I was running, Sergeant Jolley stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth… I never could do that… and held an imaginary phone to his ear. I waved acknowledgement and went into the office. Jolley handed me the phone. It was another call from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes and said, “Got it.” I hung up. I had stopped saying “thank you” long ago. Continue reading
The following is the second installment of what was originally titled A Burial at Sea: Remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer. It was written by Lt. Colonel George Goodson, U.S.M.C. (Retired) and published in the Marine Corps Gazette in September 2007. Because of it’s length it was divided here into three parts. Part 1 was published the day before while the final Part 3 was published the following day.
Notifications and Funerals
Over the next 18 months I notified the families of 18 Marines killed in action, 2 missing in action, and 30 seriously wounded in action. Despite the controversy that existed about Vietnam, I received sympathy and affection from virtually every family. Once a mother said to me, “I’m so sorry you have this terrible job.” With tears in my eyes, I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. When I presented the flag to the father, mother or wife, I always said, “All Marines share your grief,” instead of, “On behalf of a grateful Nation.” I didn’t think the Nation was grateful so I wouldn’t say that.
The following is the first installment of what was originally titled A Burial at Sea: Remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer. Written by Lt. Colonel George Goodson, U.S.M.C. (Retired) it was published in the Marine Corps Gazette in September 2007. Because of its length it’s divided here into three parts. Part 2 and part 3 will be published here over the next two days.
This story is a personal one, but shared with many from a unique perspective. It is one Marine officer’s 18-month long experience as he notifies the families of soldiers killed in Vietnam when casualties were on the rise. In 1967 — when this story begins — the U.S. saw the number of its soldiers killed increase from the year before by 81% to more than 11,000. The following year 1968 would be far worse. 16,592 American G.I.’s were killed that year. By the end of the Vietnam war nearly 53,000 would die. Unbelievably those numbers pale to those lost in the Civil War, but by today’s standards they’re difficult to comprehend.
Someone once said: A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of ‘up to and including their life.’ That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.
What follows is shared in remembrance of all our veterans who have served our country faithfully. We especially honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and to the families they left behind. Thanks to Colonel Goodson for sharing his story.