Currently viewing the tag: "Vietnam"

Colonel Bernard L. Talley, Jr.

Former Mount Graduate and POW

Bernard L. Talley Jr. was born on February 23, 1939, in Baltimore to parents Emma Louise Sheely and Bernard Leo Talley, Sr., and was the youngest of his parents’ three children.

Talley was a graduate of Loyola High School, Towson, and was graduated in the Mount Saint Mary’s University Class of 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in economics before entering U.S. Air Force Officer Training School on June 27, 1962.

Talley was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, according to, on September 25, 1962, and served as a supply officer at McCoy Air Force Base, Florida, until entering Undergraduate Pilot Training in April 1964. also reported that he was awarded his pilot wings at Laredo Air Force Base, Texas, in May 1965, and then flew F-4 Phantom II fighters with the 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. In April 1966, at the age of 26, Talley volunteered to serve in Vietnam as an F-4C Phantom II pilot.

Talley flew 76 combat missions with the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron out of the Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, before being forced to eject over North Vietnam on September 10, 1966, according to The Dallas Morning News reported, in his 2022 obituary, that his plane was struck by a missile, and further noted that Talley’s Flight Commander, Douglas “Pete” Peterson, who was also in the plane, was also forced to eject. reported that Tally’s target for the mission in which his plane was shot down was a bridge and ferry complex near Hanoi, and, as they were departing the strike zone, the Phantom was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). “Fortunately,” according to, “It was not a direct hit, thus neither the pilot nor Talley were injured by the missile’s blast. The aircraft, however, was severely damaged. Both engines were rendered inoperative, and the entire aft portion of the aircraft was on fire.”

Apparently, Talley and Peterson knew they could not make it to a safe area where they stood a chance of being rescued and decided to eject.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Talley had managed to evade capture for one day before being taken prisoner on September 11, further noting that he was the 125th American airman captured.

Talley subsequently spent the next six-and-a-half years in captivity. The Dallas Morning News stated, “Talley’s parents would not know he was KIA (Killed Action)/MIA (Missing in Action) or a Prisoner of War for three years and one day.” He was released along with Douglas “Pete” Peterson during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. Talley subsequently retired from the Air Force as a Colonel.

For bravery demonstrated in Vietnam during a bombing raid in Vietnam on September 3, 1966, seven days before his plane was shot down, Talley was awarded the Silver Star. The citation is quoted here in full (

The President of the United States of America… takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant Bernard Leo Talley, Jr., United States Air Force, for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as a Pilot of the 433d Tactical Fighter Squadron, Ubon Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action over North Vietnam on 3 September 1966. On that date, Lieutenant Talley conducted a night strike on a vital supply and storage area of the hostile force in a highly defended area. With complete disregard for his own safety, Lieutenant Talley continued the attack in the face of intense defenses to deliver ordnance on the target, completely destroying it. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Lieutenant Talley has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Harvey Lee Wetzel

From Erecting Bridges to Disarming Bombs

by Richard D. L. Fulton

Harvey Lee Wetzel was born in 1947 in Waynesboro to parents, Clarence and Elsie Wetzel, and he and his family lived in Thurmont, where Wetzel graduated from Thurmont High School in 1965. Wetzel presently resides in Indian Head, Maryland with his wife, Sandy. They have three children: Jackie, Chris, and Andrea.

Wetzel enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1965, only months after graduation, then to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, and, after a brief assignment with Infantry Training Regiment and the 2nd Engineer Battalion at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. Wetzel was transferred to Camp Pendleton, California where he was assigned to the 3rd Bridge Company, 7th Engineers Battalion.

His first deployment was to Vietnam, where he was stationed for 13 months, from 1966 to 1967. During his time in Vietnam, he rose from the rank of lance-corporal to corporal, and ultimately sergeant.

The 3rd Bridge Company, as the name would suggest, entailed repairing and erecting various types of bridges – which included fixed and floating bridges – and roadwork as necessary in order to maintain reliable supply convoys for reaching the convoys’ designated destinations.

During this deployment, the 3rd Bridge Company opened the first supply road from Dong Ho to Khe Sanh, which was essentially established utilizing an old French road that had become heavily overgrown. During the establishment of the road, Wetzel said the unit encountered communities whose inhabitants had never seen a motorized vehicle.

At the end of his 1966-1967 deployment, Wetzel returned to Camp Pendleton and Twenty Palms, California, until he reenlisted in 1969, which resulted to his assignment at Maine Barracks Bermuda. After 12 months in Bermuda, he deployed on his second deployment to Vietnam with the 1st Engineer Battalion, consisting of a six-month stint spanning from 1970 into 1971.

Duties during this deployment entailed much the same as the previous deployment, with the added responsibilities of sweeping the roadways for mines, ‘rehabilitated” damaged or otherwise-ruined assets, and “rehabilitated” or helped repair the military infrastructure.

During both deployments, Wetzel was based at Dong Ho, Hill 37, and in the Da Nang area at Landing Zone “Ross,” and at Landing Zone “Baldy (also known as Hill 63).”

Subsequently in 1971, Wetzel was transferred back to the states on a “Humanitarian Transfer,” following the death of his father. Such transfers were granted to those who actually represented as being a family’s “only child.’

From 1974 to 1975, Wetzel attended Explosion Ordnance Disposal (EOD) school, and received training in how ordnance functioned which helped the rendering ordnance safe ranging from mines and improvised explosive devices, to rockets/missiles, and even nuclear weapons, which included disarming weapons that failed to fire when triggered.

Upon completing the training in 1975, Wetzel was sent to Japan to provide EOD support to the Marine Air Wing. His duties were to support flight operations.

Wetzel was assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Deploy from 1974 to 1977 as Drill Instructor, senior drill instructor, and series gunnery sergeant meritoriously promotion to the rate of gunnery sergeant.

In 1977 through 1979, he served at Camp Pendleton as part of the Marine Corps Base EOD team, and in support of the other EODs. Tasks included support of range operations and rendering safe ordnance that failed to exolode. 1979 and into 1980, Wetzel was sent back to Japan, and to North Korea and the Philippines, the assignments being repetitive of those rendered within his initial service in Japan. “We (the EOD team) supported the air-wing wherever they went,” he said.

In 1980, he was assigned to the Marine Corps Detached Joint Service installation at Indian Head, Maryland, where he was involved in revising training manuals and standardizing EOD-related procedures.

Wetzel considered himself retired after his assignment to the Marine Corps Detached Joint Service installation, but instead he found himself recalled to active duty during Operation Desert Storm.

He said he was not deployed overseas but did spend “about three months sitting on my butt” in Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, filling in for EOD technicians who were deployed. At this time Wetzel, Son and Daughter were on active duty.  His son went on to retire from the Coast Guard with 30 years of service at the rank of CWO4.

Finally retiring from the Marine Corps, Wetzel continued on as a government contractor, serving as a senior engineer on EOD-related projects. After the contracts ended, he worked at Lowes, “just counting nuts and bolts,” until he officially retired in 2012.

Today Wetzel enjoys photography and belongs to a number of photography/camera clubs, and he enjoys traveling.

Photos Courtesy of Harvey Wetzel

Deb Abraham Spalding

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Freedom isn’t free,” especially around Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Independence Day, as a reminder of the sacrifice others have made to protect our freedom. This past Memorial Day, the official dedication ceremony of the Moser Road bridge and Trolley Trail foot bridge in Thurmont to two Thurmont Marines who were killed in action in Vietnam reminded those in attendance that there is a price for freedom.

The Moser Road bridge was dedicated, and signage unveiled, to honor SGT Woodrow Franklin “Frank” Carbaugh USMC. The Trolley Trail foot bridge was dedicated, and signage unveiled, to honor PFC Charles R. Pittinger USMC. These two young men were raised in Thurmont, and upon graduating from Thurmont High School in the 1960s, each enlisted or was drafted into the United States Marine Corps.

They were both killed in action by wounds received from hostile forces in Vietnam. They gave their lives in service to our nation, for our freedom.

The signage that is visible from both directions as you approach the bridges will serve as an on-going opportunity for travelers to remember and give thanks.

At a luncheon hosted by the volunteers at the Edwin C. Creeger, Jr. American Legion on Park Lane in Thurmont, dedication ceremony host Gary Spegal, Frederick County Commander and Thurmont American Legion Honor Guard OIC, gave the official welcome to the dual dedication of the Trolley Trail foot bridge and the Moser Road bridge spanning over Big Hunting Creek in Thurmont.

Commander Spegal said, “Read the names, reflect, and consider the sacrifice for the values that these two men fought for and died for. They inspire all of us to pray for our country’s leaders to seek peaceful settlements to our disputes.” He added, “One of the things our nation could have done better is welcoming home our Veterans who fought in Southeast Asia. It’s been half a century and their legacy has faded.” Locally, the bridge dedication will be a reminder to those who pass.

Thurmont’s Mayor John Kinnaird said, “The memory of the day when news arrived about the deaths of both Charlie and Woodie sticks clearly in my mind. I think it is appropriate that these bridges be dedicated in their names today. Bridges physically transport us from one point to another, but these bridges will now take us back in time. Each time we cross these bridges, we will remember Charlie and Woody…as the local boys we knew as family, neighbors, and friends…and the sacrifices these young men made for our community and our nation.”

On the bridge site, Ella Renner, the American Auxiliary Jr. Unit 168’s Poppy Princess, assisted Unit 168 Poppy Chairperson Angela Spegal to install red poppy flowers on each of the sign posts. The red flower of the poppy represents the blood of our fallen.

Deacon John Hawkins provided the blessing of the bridges. “Chewy,” a Veteran memorial vehicle, sounded the guns in salute.

Attendees moved from the official dedication location at the bridges to the ceremony location at the Edwin C. Creeger, Jr. American Legion on Park Lane in Thurmont.

Here, Scouts of Troop 270 Color Guard performed the Presentation of Colors.

During this touching ceremony, music was enjoyed, attendees sang the Marine Corps Hymn, and several people shared fond memories.

Sandy Seidel, mother of 1st Lt. Robert Seidel, presented a print of Robert’s poem “War” that was written in honor of Charles Pittinger to the Pittinger family. As an elementary-aged boy in Emmitsburg in the 1990s, young Robbie Seidel, learned from his uncle Larry Pittinger, about another uncle, Charles Pittinger, who had lost his life in Vietnam. He wrote the poem “War” in Charles’ honor. Little Robbie later became 1st Lt. Robert Seidel, who was killed in action while serving our country in Iraqi Freedom in May 2006.

Sgt. David Carter USMC traveled from Morristown, Tennessee, to the ceremony to talk about his tour with Sgt. Woodrow Franklin “Frank” Carbaugh. He said, “His tour of duty ran parallel with mine. I met Frank in January 1967. We received orders together. I will never forget him. He was the most Christian man I have ever known. A man of great character.”

Larry Pittinger, representing his brother John and sister Ann, spoke about their brother PFC Charles R. Pittinger. He shared that in preparation, American Legion Cmdr. Gary Spegal gave him a project to locate photos and memorabilia to display at the event.

Larry said, “For me, this request is the most rewarding part of the past eight months. Because of this request, photos that were packed away were unpacked and enjoyed again. Letters written more than 50 years ago were re-read. Through these letters, I learned of Charlie’s plans to buy a Corvette when he returned home. In a follow-up letter, he said that he may have to switch to his plan B, which was getting his ’57 Chevy on the road because of a change in the State of Maryland’s insurance rates.”

Larry continued, “He wrote of his frustration of walking through about four inches of mud to return to the base camp while carrying the M79 that was nicknamed the “Blooper” and carrying other gear that almost weighed as much as himself. Next, I found a website for Lima 35. Some of these Vets called me and shared their personal experiences. I am not a military Veteran, but after talking to these four Marine Vets, I have a deeper understanding of the kinship and the bond Veterans have for one another. To all Veterans, thank you for your service.”

“Thank you all for honoring my brother PFC Charles Robert Pittinger.”

The ceremony closed with the Benediction by Deacon John Hawkins and the Retirement of Colors by Scouts of Troop 270.

Photos by Deb Abraham Spalding

The Moser Road Bridge named in honor of Sgt. Carbaugh.

James Rada, Jr.

Thurmont servicemen Charles Pittinger and Woodrow Carbaugh were remembered last month when the Moser Road bridge was dedicated in their honor. However, their families will soon receive another remembrance. Kellen “Buck” Musser will paint portraits of the two young men for their families.

Musser, 83, has been painting for 20 years. He often paints in watercolor or acrylics, using a palette knife.

“I use every edge of that knife when I paint,” he said.

His paintings are vivid and often look a lot like a photograph. He once spent two-and-a-half hours getting a shoe right in one painting.

Musser is also a 26-year Veteran of the U.S. Army and Air Force, serving in Vietnam. He often paints portraits of fallen Veterans for their families and Veterans’ groups. For the many hours of loving work he puts into the portraits, he receives nothing more than a “thank you.”

“This comes from the heart,” he said.

Musser not only paints the portrait, he also has it framed for the family. Over the years, he has painted more than 100 of these portraits.

He remembers the first one he did of David Smith, a Frederick Marine reservist killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Musser spent about 50 hours on the painting. When it was complete, he called Smith’s mother and asked her to meet him.

“I told her I had something very valuable to her that she would want,” Musser said.

They met in a Denny’s parking lot, and Musser took the painting out of his truck to give her.

“Her smile when she saw it… she had tears running down her face looking at it. That made it worth it for me,” Musser said.

Musser grew up in Brunswick. He dropped out of high school and joined the Army. When he retired from the military the first time, he came to Frederick to work as a maintenance employee for the city. After two years, he realized he didn’t enjoy civilian life and rejoined the military.

“In all those places, all those people I met, I never told anyone I was an artist,” Musser said.

He always knew he had an attraction to making art, but he never indulged himself and took classes to refine his skills. That is, until he saw a painting of a vase of flowers with water drops on it. Those water drops intrigued him, and he decided he wanted to learn how to paint.

“It was a gift I was born with, but I had never used it,” Musser said.

He took a class with Diane Simmons at A. C. Moore. Then, he continued taking classes with her, learning all he could, trying different subjects, and challenging himself. He then found a way to combine his love of art and the military.

He does his paintings at his small kitchen table, working from pictures of the servicemen provided by their families.

“I don’t eat at the kitchen table anymore,” Musser said. “It has my work on it.”

His home is filled with his paintings—hung on the walls, in sketchbooks, in stacks around the living room. He also has a book filled with the letters he has received from the families to whom he has given his paintings.

His work has also allowed him to meet some notable Veterans, such as Frank Buckles, the last surviving Veteran of WWI who died in 2011, and Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient.

Buck Musser holds a painting he made for “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor winner. You can see on the wall a self-portrait he did of himself after he joined the Army.

Photo by James Rada, Jr.

On Tuesday, August 18, 2020, the bridge on Biggs Ford Road over the Monocacy River will be dedicated in memory of Sgt. Kenneth L. Krom who was killed in Vietnam on August 18, 1968. He lived on Sixes Bridge Road and graduated from Emmitsburg High School. Many of his friends are still in the Emmitsburg area. The Emmitsburg Legion and VFW will be presenting and retiring the colors at the dedication.

The dedication will be held at the Walkersville Volunteer Fire Company on Frederick Street in Walkersville at 10:00 a.m. All are welcome as we celebrate, remember, and give thanks to one who has given the ultimate sacrifice while serving his country.

John Kinnaird

Memorial Day means many things to many people. To some, it is the first weekend of the summer; to others, it’s a day off to spend with the family.

To Joe Keller of 107 East Hammaker Street in Thurmont, Memorial Day is the day to remember his brothers in arms who died in action while stationed with him in Vietnam.

Joe has erected a moving memorial to his fallen brothers and has the names of each one on display. I stopped to visit with Joe the afternoon of Saturday, May 23, and it was a moving experience. He knew each of these guys and reminded me that his friends and each one of the 58,220 who died in Vietnam had a name and a story. So often, we hear the number of soldiers killed in action but seldom do you know their names or anything about who they were.

I remember watching the evening news in the 1960s and seeing scenes of battle from Vietnam and hearing the daily casualty lists. I left Joe’s house this afternoon with a renewed appreciation for the sacrifice each of those men and women made on our behalf.

Memorial Day started out as Decoration Day and reaches back to before the Civil War. Soldiers graves are decorated with flowers or flags so their memory will be carried on to the next generation. Joe is making sure his brothers are remembered and honored for their service and sacrifice.

I encourage each and every one of my friends to take a drive past Joe’s house and experience this moving memorial for yourselves. If you see Joe there, stop and say “Hi.” Take a minute or two to hear a little about the American Heroes and the personal friends Joe is honoring.

John Kinnaird stands with Joe Keller in front of Joe’s memorial to his fallen brothers.

Over the past 100 years, Roger Atkins has been on quite the adventure!
Roger was born in the big city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 6, 1919. He recalled his first job, which was making nuts and bolts, followed by working at the Pittsburg Steel Mill.

Roger is a graduate from Purdue, with a degree in metellurgy. He also worked a summer as a lumber jack up north. A Veteran of the U.S. Army, he served in World War II. After his tour, he settled down for a career in government working for the U.S. Army, which included a tour in Vietnam, finally retiring in his mid-60s.

He has been a resident of his favorite little town, Detour, for 50 years. He has three children—two sons (Thomas and Kevin) and a daughter (Sheila), plus two grandchildren (Jason and Rebecca) and two great-grandchildren (Brady and Hudson). He enjoys getting his exercise at physical therapy, and spending time calling and speaking with his sweetheart of 35 years, Darleen.

by Jim Houck, Jr.

Specialist 4th Class Thomas Eugene Joy

173rd Airborne Brigade

Tom Joy was born on December 5, 1948, at Annie M Warner Hospital Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Austin L. and Catherine E. (Walter) Joy, and was taken home to live with them on East Main Street in Emmitsburg. Tom is the youngest member of his family, having five sisters and two brothers. Tom and his siblings went to St. Euphemia’s Elementary School and went on to graduate from St. Joseph’s High School. Baseball was Tom’s favorite sport, and he loved playing the game. He also played basketball while attending high school. He enjoyed fishing and hunting (ask him about chicken hunting) with the friends he went to school with—Terry Myers, Mike Orndorff, John Sherwin, and Eddie Pryor—and he still hunts and fishes with most of them. Tom, Terry, Mike, Eddie, and a few other friends and classmates went to Trenton, New Jersey, over Christmas vacation one year to some classes to see what it would be like to become a priest. While there, they attended a party and met some girls, thereby deciding to forget the priesthood and go for the girls and fun, instead. Tom also liked doing donuts in a Volkswagen at the old carnival grounds and hitting phone poles; however, he could never fool his dad with his faulty explanations of why the dents were in the VW. Tom, like so many Emmitsburgians, worked at Mount St. Mary’s College (not yet co-ed or a University at that time), washing pots and pans while attending high school.

Tom joined the U.S. Army while in high school and wasn’t to report until July of 1967. Yet, shortly after graduating high school in 1967, his recruiting officer contacted him and asked him to report early in June because they didn’t have enough numbers for that month. Tom agreed to report early. Tom and his friend, Eddie Pryor, left at the same time for basic training to Fort Bragg, and from there to Fort Ord for military police training, and then on to Fort Benning, Georgia, for jump school and paratrooper training. He made five jumps while there. Tom was sent to the southern part of Vietnam after his training was completed as a military policeman. He was assigned to help guard prisoners of war. Tom said if you heard the bang and the whoosh whoosh whoosh sound, it meant outgoing mortar, but if you heard whoosh whoosh whoosh, find cover fast in a bunker before the bang because that meant it was incoming. When he first got to Vietnam, he was assigned to a tact corporation center that was a big area with wire all around it. If any dignitaries were there, they were in this one hooch. If there was incoming fire, he went in and woke the dignitaries to get them into a bunker, so no harm came to them. On his first night on watch, sure enough, incoming fire started coming in, so Tom went to the hooch. It was pitch black in there, and he felt around but someone was in the cot, so he hurried to get the heck out of there and find a bunker for himself. In his next bunker, he felt around for hand grenades and shells. When he discovered that he had jumped into an ammo bunker, he said it didn’t take him long to get out of there. Tom recalls a time he got into hot water because he didn’t shave, even though not shaving was allowed. His CO told him he was an MP and he wanted him to shave every day and to report to him after duty. Tom did, and the CO said to get a shovel and dig a 6 x 6 x 6 hole. He dug the hole and the CO came to inspect it. He said Tom did a nice job, then told him to fill it back in. With that punishment, Tom learned his lesson and shaved every day thereafter. Tom was honorably discharged from the army in 1970.

He met Ruth (his soul mate and wife) and they started dating. One day, they were in Thurmont, and Tom said he was hungry. So, he parked in front of Charlie and Pete Angel’s Sweet Shop. He asked Ruth to hold out her hand. She thought he was giving her a ring, but he handcuffed her to the steering wheel—as a joke—while he went in and ate. She thought they were toy handcuffs and tried to pull out of them. But the harder she pulled, the tighter they got since they were his MP cuffs. By the time Tom came out of the Sweet Shop, they were causing Ruth a lot of pain, and she was so mad at him. Despite the tricks he pulled on her, Tom and Ruth were married, and have two beautiful daughters: Lisa (born on Tom’s birthday) and Tina. Tom and Ruth lived above Green’s Bakery on West Main Street in Emmitsburg by the dough boy when they first got married. A few years later, they moved to Emmit Gardens, where they still reside today. Tom went to work for Moore Business Forms after he was discharged from the Army. He retired from there in May of 1997, after thirty-six years of service. He is enjoying every minute of his retirement.

Tom is a life member of the VFW and the AMVETS and Post Commander of the AMVETS Post 7 Thurmont, as well as a member of Post 7’s Honor Guard. Tom plays a part in most of the functions. He also belongs to Post 121 The American Legion Emmitsburg. Tom does a lot of volunteer time at St. Catherine’s Nursing Center in Emmitsburg and at Martinsburg W.V. Veterans Administration. He is also a social member of the Vigilant Hose Company in Emmitsburg. Tom and Ruth’s children and grandchildren— Samantha Star, Nicholas Scott, and Mathew Jacob—all live nearby, and they enjoy family functions together. I have been told when you go to a ball game, everywhere you look, there are Joys filling the seats. Tom loves a good joke, but when it comes to volunteering and helping Veterans, he is dead serious. I hope you have had as much joy reading this article as I had in writing this article. I wish Tom and the entire Joy family a happy and fulfilling future.

Note: This column that I wrote about Tom was originally published in The Catoctin Banner in August of 2012. Tom hasn’t changed much, except for getting a little older and being elected as Post 7 AMVETS Commander. Wait a minute…there was the time in 2014 when Tom and his wife, Ruth, were both voted in as AMVETS of the Year! Tom is still very active with Post participation and volunteer work for the Veterans and the community. Folks, if you meet Tom on the street or at the grocery store or in a restaurant (Tom hangs out at Post 7 AMVETS, a lot), please say hello, shake his hand, and thank him for all he does. Tom Joy is a Veteran and a “great human being,” and I am so proud to call him a friend.

Pictured from left are Jim Houck, Jr., Ruth (Tom’s wife), and Tom Joy. Tom won the AMVET of the Year Award, Ruth won the AMVET Auxiliary Member of the Year Award, and Jim Houck, Jr. won the AMVET Son of the Year Award.


by Jim Houck, Jr.

Loren “Curly” W. Kruen



E-6 U.S. Navy (Retired)

Loren was born to Lawrence W. and Clorence Kruen in a small town in Minnesota in the northeast corner named Edgerton, population approximately three thousand, a farming community. Curly grew up with two brothers, Donovan and Carroll “Buck”, and two sisters, Lois and June. Curly and his brother Donovan are the only surviving members of his family today. When he was about twelve years old, the family moved to Tracy, Minnesota where he attended Tracy Public High School. Curly, at twelve years old, went to work on a farm for his brother-in-law on breaks from school and holidays.

Curly graduated from Tracy Public High School in 1960 and soon after decided to join the military because he had a lot of family – uncles, brothers, etc., in the military. He was very proud of them and decided it was the future for him. Curly wanted it to be his choice and not the draft boards, he chose the Navy.

On July 20, 1960, he went to boot camp in San Diego, California at the recruit training center. He then went to Naval School in Pensacola, Florida. After graduating there, he was sent to Camtasia, Japan for another field school before they sent him to Guam where he was stationed at the Naval Communication Center for ten months. For some reason, he was transferred from Guam early to Okinawa, at Troy Station. While Curly was at Okinawa in 1963, they asked for volunteers for a detachment to go to Vietnam and he volunteered. He went to Vietnam and landed aboard the USS Hancock where he was stationed for three months. When the Hancock was rotated back to Hawaii, it was replaced by another carrier, the USS Midway. Curly was transferred back and was on the Hancock until March of 1964.

He then returned to Okinawa. He was debriefed and spent another six months there before being transferred to the Naval Communications Center in Washington D.C., a small base in the woods south of Andrews Air Force Base. Curly was there for two years after which he was sent to the USS Liberty, home ported in Norfolk, Virginia. The day after Curly reported there, they pulled out to sea. They were on a mission off the west coast of Africa, up and down, for almost six months, returned to Norfolk for a couple of weeks and then went back out again on another mission on the west coast of Africa. When they were on port call at Accra on the Ivory coast for one day  making their rounds of the bars, the shore patrol came and got them and told them they had to get back to the ship immediately because they were pulling out.

The ship had received orders to head straight for the Mediterranean Sea. Curly didn’t know where they were headed, but he had a suspicion they were headed for the eastern Mediterranean where things were getting awfully hot between Israel and Egypt. That was during the Six-Day War where Israel, in Curly’s words “kicked the hell out of Egypt.” His suspicion was right, because they headed for the war zone.

The Liberty was a non-combatant ship and had no guns except four World War II .50-cal. machine guns. They were sent with no protection and no cover whatsoever. Just a couple of days off the Sinai Peninsula, they were attacked by air and sea by Israeli Forces, our ally. They were first attacked by air. The planes that attacked them were unmarked. At the time, they had no idea who was attacking them. They thought it was the Egyptians because Israel was an ally. The fact that there were no identifiable markings on the planes had them really puzzled.

The Liberty was hit from forward to aft with rockets and tandem fire, striking a bunch of men, including Curly, who had just assembled on the port side of the ship towards the fantail and were waiting to go on watch at 4 o’clock. They were just standing around smoking cigarettes like sailors tend to do and were missed by the tandem fire by about fifteen feet. As soon as they were hit, a message came over the intercom for general quarters battle stations. Curly said they all scrambled down below. Some of the guys on deck got hit by the tandem fire. The rockets hit the bridge and blew that apart and several guys were killed on the deck and bridge. Curly’s battle station was down in his work station and orders were that if he had to, he was to destroy all records. He and some other guys were demolishing all classified equipment and paper work. They were an intelligence-gathering ship, or in other words, a spy ship. Curly was down there for quite a while. He could hear the bullets from cannons and rocket fire and they were being hit left and right. All but one of their life rafts were destroyed and all of their communicating antennas were knocked out, so they couldn’t call for help. One of the radiomen managed to get out, fix one antenna, and was able to send an SOS to the rest of the fleet located next to Crete, hundreds of miles away from the Liberty and her crew. Curly said after the planes hit them, there were three Israeli torpedo boats that fired – what some guys said was five torpedoes, but Curly said he only knows of two of them. He said one went about twenty feet aft and missed the ship, but the other one hit them dead center in their working spaces where he was located. When that torpedo hit, it killed twenty-five of his buddies. They had been warned about bullets coming through the side of the ship, so they all made as small a target of themselves as they could. They were laying down on the deck of the compartment with their feet pointed to the outside the bulkhead of the ship. That way, if any bullets did hit them, it would hit their feet and not their head. Curly said no bullets hit them, but the torpedo did. The guy that laid next to him about a foot away, instantly disappeared – just blown away. Curly was blown up into the air. While he was in the air, he thought for quite a while about his fiancée because they had planned to be married the next time he pulled back in to Norfolk. He remembers thinking, or saying out loud, he doesn’t remember which, “I am so sorry, Judy.” That was the last he remembers. He lost consciousness, he doesn’t know for how long. When Curly came to, he was laying in salt water. Mediterranean Sea water was coming through the hole the torpedo made in the side of the ship. He remembered thinking “This is warm,” it was a hot day.

The ship was listing to the starboard side where the water came in and filled the compartments. Curly didn’t know what to do because he said his brains were scrambled. He lay there a few minutes, got up, and said, “I’ve got to get the heck out of here,” but he didn’t know what to do or where to go because the whole compartment was absolutely pitch black. He said he could have scratched his nose and never seen his hand. He sustained a concussion from the torpedo blast that made him temporarily deaf. He could hear nothing, but had pressure like you get at high altitude. Curly couldn’t see or hear, but over to his left was a very gray faint light that gave off no illumination, just a pale gray light. He figured that had to be the hole in the side where the water came in, so he stood up and headed towards that hole. He figured anything that could blow a hole like that could also blow away the deck. He could easily, at any time, just step off into space and he would be gone.

He headed toward that light, but he had to shuffle his feet instead of taking a step, so he would not step off into the hole.  He had to slide his feet so he could feel where the edge of the hole would be. Curly was sliding along and kicked a body. He bent down to see if he could do anything to find out if he was alive or dead, but the body was under about three feet of water. When Curly reached down for him, there was no life response from him. Curly tried to pick him up, but he couldn’t because he thinks something was laying across him holding him down—or maybe he didn’t have the strength to lift him. Either way, there was no response from him and Curly knew he was dead. He had no idea who the sailor was, so he sat down for a couple of minutes next to him until he decided he had to do something to get the heck out of there, because if he stayed, he would die with him.

Curly got up again and headed for the pale light. The closer he got to it, his ears started to work again. He could hear shouting and he said, “Thank God, I’m not alone.” He said he heard a horrible sound, but to hear any sound at that time Curly said was Heaven. He saw other guys standing at the ladder.  There was only one ladder to get up out of that hole to the upper deck. For some reason, the ladder didn’t come down. If it would have, he would not have survived. Curly could have dived out through that hole in the side. He found out later that if he had, he would probably have been shot.

The torpedo boats were circling the ship and shooting at anyone showing themselves in any way. He got lucky by staying inside the ship. His comrades opened the hatch above them and they started to climb out. They had a bunch of injured that had to be taken care of, and they managed to get them all out. Curly and the crew took the injured to the mess deck which was turned into a medical station. He said they carried quite a few of the wounded with arms missing and torsos torn open. They turned them over to the medics. They only had one doctor and a couple of corpsmen. There were some guys that weren’t wounded that helped and they laid the wounded out on tables on the mess deck and the medics took over from there.

Curly said thirty-four men were killed and one hundred and seventy-one wounded, including himself. The total number of able-bodied men aboard before the strike was two hundred and ninety. The count after the strike was eighty-five able-bodied men.

Curly said the heck with it he was going up on deck and help with what he could because there was so much to do. He joined a working party that went around and picked up the bodies of the nine men that were killed on deck. Curly said he knew he had been hit in the back but he couldn’t see it, so he went ahead and joined the party picking up bodies. They picked up two of his buddies’ bodies at the forward machine gun mounts. They wrapped them up and put them in the line locker where they keep all the ships mooring lines and laid them out on the lines. Curly said he was ashamed to say he had to quit because his back was killing him, plus he had broken bones in his right foot. When he quit, he was going to go down to the mess deck and turn himself in to the medics. He had to stop and lean over the rail of the ship to ease the pain in his back. A chief petty officer came over. He was going to talk to Curly, but when he saw the blood on the back of his shirt and pants the Chief said, “Buddy, you are coming with me now.” He took Curly down to the mess decks and turned him over to the medics. They put him on the table. By that time, there had been so many seriously injured, they were running out of all medications. The only things the medic could do was put a battle dressing on Curly’s back and give him two aspirins. The Chief that brought him down got a Navy coffee cup, which is about a half a cup larger than a kitchen or restaurant cup, and filled it with whiskey. No one is supposed to have whiskey aboard ship, but he put just enough coffee in it to give it color to look like coffee. The chief gave it to Curly and told him not to tell anyone where it came from. Curly made the Chief a promise he keeps to this day; he said until he dies, he’ll never give the Chief’s name. He said he feels that cup of whiskey did more for him than all the pain killers they would normally have had, could have done for him. He said that was the best cup of coffee he has ever had in his life.

They had no protection during the whole time they were there and no help from anybody. They went through that night scared that at any time they could be attacked again or a bulkhead could buckle under the water pressure. If that would have happened, the ship would have gone down with them all aboard. They had watches out for any approaching aircraft or boats or anything else. Watches were also set to continuously check for water leaks and any bulkhead that may be buckling under that pressure. Since only a third of the crew was left that could do anything, and that’s not many men, Curly said he thinks they had some help from above because no planes came and no bulkheads buckled until the next morning.

Eighteen hours later they joined with four other ships. The America, being a medical ship, sent over some supplies and personnel by helicopter. The Davis tied up alongside of them and sent over a whole bunch of medical personnel, engineers, damage control people, and electricians – Curly said, “You name it, they sent it over. They took over the ship, except for command of it. They took over everything that needed to be done. They sent over stretchers and crutches and everything.” They started to take the critically injured patients above deck. The most seriously injured went first. By the time they got to Curly, there were no stretchers left. They gave him a pair of crutches. He went over next to the ladder ready to climb up on deck and he saw this other sailor who had a mangled leg. He didn’t have a crutch. The sailor was being helped by a friend of his and he was having a pretty hard time of it. Curly gave him one of his and fell in behind him. Between Curly and the sailor’s friend, they got him up on deck. When they got up on deck the sailor wanted to give Curly his crutch back, but he wouldn’t take it back. Curly said the grateful look on the sailor’s face got him right in the heart. Curly said he didn’t know him because he was from a different division on the ship and he went off to where his people were gathered on the ship.

Curly went up forward to the ship by himself with one crutch to be air lifted aboard a chopper for transport to the carrier USS America. Once aboard, the America crew took them in hand and helped them down into their hospital. They were a great bunch of guys and really did a good job, according to Curly. When they got down in their hospital they had to go through triage which is a process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for medical attention. Curly went through triage. He waited two days before they got to him, because the doctors were working twenty-four hours a day in the operating rooms since there were that many wounded. By the time they got to Curly, they took him in, fixed his foot, and then performed surgery on his back. They dug shrapnel out of his spine and when they did, they made a hole too big to close. So, he was walking around with an open hole in his back. Curly was there for two weeks and then they put him in a helicopter and he left the USS America for Naples, Italy to a Naval Hospital where they did surgery again. This time, they closed the hole in his back. He was there a week when he was transferred to Frankfort, Germany to an Army Hospital for another week. There, he just lay around and healed.

Curly then flew by military plane from Rhein-Main Air Base back to the United States and landed at Andrews Air Force Base. It was a full plane-load and the wounded were sent all over America to different hospitals. Curly, being engaged to be married, chose Washington, D.C. He was sent to the Navy Hospital at Bethesda, Maryland. He said he thought that was great because that’s where the President went, and if it was good enough for the President of the USA, it was good enough for Curly. While he was there, the stitches were removed from his back. He spent a month going through therapy.

On August 10, 1967, three days after being discharged from the hospital, he was married. Curly’s new bride was Judith Lee who was a descendant of General Robert E. Lee. He was then transferred to Norfolk, Virginia to the naval Communications Station. He was given three medals: Combat Action, Purple Heart, and the Presidential Unit Citation. Curly was at Norfolk for a year, then transferred to Rhoda Naval Base in Spain. While there, he was awarded the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation “That ended the Liberty incident,” Curly said. He remained in Rhoda, Spain for four years. Curly was sent there for three years, but at the end of three years, the Navy ran out of money, so they delayed all transfers for another year. He lived there in a Spanish town for four years and said they had a ball and loved it there.

Curly was then transferred to Turks Island in the British West Indies, just off Florida, and he was on isolated duty there for a year. His family couldn’t go with him. He and Judy bought a house in Lanham, Maryland and his family stayed there. Curly was then transferred to Bermuda for a year. He said he hated that place. It was no place for him. He said it was beautiful, but duty there was bad.

Curly was next transferred to the aircraft carrier USS Independence for two years.  He loved it. They made several cruises; one was in the middle of winter. They went up the North Atlantic and across the Arctic Circle to see if they could hold flight ops, war games, in those conditions. They went to Northern Norway. Curly said it was rough up there. For an aircraft carrier, they were bobbing around like corks. They couldn’t run flight ops, but they chipped tons and tons of ice off the flight deck; otherwise, it would have gotten too heavy and they wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Curly said, “Cold! My gosh, whoever said salt water doesn’t freeze should go up there in the middle of winter.” He said when you cross the Arctic Circle you become a blue nose. They finished their flight ops there and then pulled into Portsmouth, England for down time. Two years later, Curly came back to the states again and was stationed at the Naval Communications Station at Annapolis, just across the water from the Naval Academy. After two years there, he was again transferred to another ship, the USS Guam, a landing platform for helicopters. While Curly was on there, he was part of a Master of Arms Force. He said it’s like a police department in town. He spent a year on the USS Guam. He retired May 30, 1980, and the ship was in dry dock at the time at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

That completed twenty years of service for Curly. He went back to his home in Lanham, Maryland to be with his wife, Judy. He went to work in D.C. for Press Releases Wire, a news wire service where he was a wire chief for six years. Curly and the family moved from Lanham to Thurmont in 1986. He has two sons, Tom and Ed, a daughter Darlene, three grandsons and two granddaughters. His oldest boy, Tom, lives in Smithsburg, Maryland, His second son is Ed who lives in Flugerville, Texas and his youngest, Darlene, lives in Taneytown, Maryland. Tom has three children, one son and two daughters, Ed has one son, Corey, and Darlene has a son, Joshua. Curly said he worked for so many years behind closed doors in the intelligence field, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to drive a truck over the road and see the sunshine. He drove for several different companies since moving to Thurmont in 1986: Bowers Lumber, J&R Transports, Delauter Construction Company and Home Run, hauling oversized loads.  After twelve years, he retired. Curly’s wife, Judith, had a heart attack and needed care. He took leave, turned sixty-two, then quit any jobs. He retired. For eight years, he was his wife’s care-giver. Curly lost her two and a half years ago. Since then he’s been on his own. He told me that he has never told his story to anyone, even his family, and that I am the first to hear it. He said he felt it was time for his children to hear the story and reading it would be a good way. He had to stop several times while telling his story to me and I can understand why. It was getting to me emotionally and I didn’t live it. I only heard it from Curly.

I know that Curly is the true definition of Hero. When you see him, shake his hand and thank him for sacrificing so much to serve our country.

I am so proud to have met and talked with Curly. Thank you and may God Bless you, Curly.