Veteran Jerry remembers...................
I joined the Marine Reserves in August of 1956 as a senior in high school. I went once a month until I graduated. Because of my activity in the Marine Reserves, I sucked in about six people in eleven months. I graduated in June of 1957 and went to active duty July 1st in San Diego for Marine Corps recruit training.
I finished Boot Camp and ITR in November of 1957. I got a 0300 MOS and was on my way to see the world. We were on our way to Manila via Hawaii on December 7, 1957, for the 16th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. From there, we sailed for two weeks and arrived in Manila on December 21, 1957.
When I arrived in Manila, they assigned me to Cubi Point Naval Air Station. They had an atomic underwater weapons shop at Cubi Point and I was a guard there for about six months. I worked there until I was sent to the brig as a prison guard in l958.
Sometime later in 1958, I was transferred to Naval Communication facility in San Miguel, Philippines where I made Corporal. These duty stations were on the island of Luzon.
In June of 1959, I had completed 18 months of duty in the Philippines.
When I enlisted in the Marines, three years was an option. After spending one and a half years in the Philippines with all of the people coming in, I heard a lot about the line companies in Okinawa. I decided to extend for one year and went from the Philippines to 3rd Division. When I reported to headquarters, they gave me my absolute choice. I had heard a lot about Recon so I asked if I could join. They said whatever I desired and that began my adventure of a lifetime. I spent sixteen months on Okinawa attached to A Company 3rd Recon Battalion. Then I began my Far East adventure as a Recon Marine.
At that time, Recon was an amphibious oriented unit, so swimming and boating of all descriptions were involved. We went to the northern training area of Okinawa where I learned to swim long distance using breaststroke and inside stroke.
My first excursion was to Iriomote-Jima, the last island in the Ryukyu chain, south of Japan. We continued to train, and I went to Japan and deployed at the northern training area.
When we finished, we went back to Yokosuka, Japan and they gave us one week off to tour Tokyo. I was there on December 7, 1959, for the 18th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
After returning from Japan, I went to Okinawa and attended the Marine Corps Combat Swimmers Course. The people who successfully completed that course were sent to Hawaii. Due to the dateline change, I had two New Year’s days in 1960.
I went to underwater swimmers’ school at West Loch, Pearl Harbor until the end of January and then returned to Okinawa.
In early 1960, we went to Subic Bay in the Philippines and lived on Grande Island. We continued to train with the Subic Bay Marines.
We left the Philippines and returned to Okinawa via Hong Kong. Upon returning we again started training for an operation in Taiwan. At that time, Taiwan was called Formosa. The Chinese Air force was attacking Quemoy and Matsu and the United States Government sent the 3rd Marine Division to block the Chinese from invading the island.
The Marine Corps sent eight combat swimmers, myself included, by way of the USS Cook (APD-130). They dropped us off in the South China Sea and we swam ashore at three insertion points. We swam all night. Because of the tide all three teams got in trouble as they were pushed to the south. In the end, it was successful, but three days later we were rescued by the 4th Marine Division. We had to go back out and look for the two lost teams, as they could not communicate. One team nearly missed the island completely. Finally, all of us made it to the island. The Chinese decided it wasn’t worth it and discontinued the attack. This maneuver was called Operation Blue Star 1960 and it can be found online.
After returning from Okinawa, we continued training and went to Korea working with the United States Army and Korean Marine Corps on amphibious reconnaissance. This was in the summer of 1960.
In between my adventures, I went to three Marine Corps schools while in Okinawa – Noncommissioned Officers Training School, Demolitions and Under Water Swimmers School. I came in first in NCO school for the 3rd Marine Division and received a diploma from the General who was Division Commander.
In September of 1960, I returned to California and was assigned to the 1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division. We continued to train in amphibious reconnaissance until the Marine Corps introduced the helicopter replacing the rubber boat. At that time, I was assigned to pathfinders’ school in Yuma, Arizona.
I was discharged as a Corporal E-4 from active duty in June of 1960 and returned to Milwaukee. I was in the ready reserves until June of 1962.
As you can see, none of my duties in the Marine Corps translated well to civilian life. I met a guy from South Milwaukee who was stationed here in the Coast Guard as an Electronic Technician. We hung around for a few weeks and I was impressed by his abilities. I went to the Coast Guard Recruiter and after some discussion he was convinced that I was qualified to be an Electronic Technician.
One week later, January 1st of 1963, I arrived in Cape May, New Jersey for Coast Guard Boot Camp. After finishing Boot Camp, I was transferred to Naval Electronics School at Great Lakes, Illinois. I was there for 38 weeks of schooling.
When I left Great Lakes, I was sent to Groton, Connecticut to Loran C School. Upon graduation from Groton, I was transferred to Johnson Island, which is 850 miles southwest of Hawaii, for Aviation and Ocean Navigation by the Navy. I got to Johnson Island in August 1964 and came home to Milwaukee in August of 1965.
Upon completing one year tour of duty on Johnson Island, I requested service in Vietnam but instead they sent me to Milwaukee where I continued my service as an Electronic Technician servicing equipment from Menominee, Michigan in the north to Benton Harbor, Michigan in the south. The Coast Guard serviced the lighthouses and lifeboat stations along the west side of Lake Michigan. At that time, they numbered over 30. I continued doing that until I was discharged in June of 1967.
In early January of 2001, I received a phone call telling me I would be receiving the “823 Campaign” Badge of Honor commemorating the campaign that began August 1958 to protect the islands of Quemoy and Matsu. The award is named after the eighth month and 23rd day of 1958 when the Communist attack was launched. The Communist attempt was successfully thwarted, and Taiwan has developed into a thriving democracy.
On January 5, 2001, I received a letter from Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Chicago inviting my wife and I to attend the Chinese New Year Celebration on Saturday, January 20, 2001 at the Chicago Hilton. At that time, I would receive my award. On January 17, 2001, I received another letter with all of the details for the event.
There were 14 honorees in attendance, and one was given posthumously. I had no idea, until 41 years later, that Operation Blue Star was so large. I did not know anyone who received the awards with me. I was given the “823 Campaign” Badge of Honor (BOH) and the National Defense ribbon.
I would be remiss if I did not explain some of the details. There were 1500 people in attendance at the event and everyone other than the recipients and their guest, were Taiwanese. They would walk up and bow to us; they told us not to stand, they would stand to honor us. Each table that had an honoree had an interpreter who guided us through the meal, program, etc. The interpreter asked my wife if he could have the honor of taking her camera and taking pictures when I was on stage. No one at our table spoke English other than us and the interpreter. There were 10 people at our table.
There were only waiters, and they were all in tuxedos. The ballroom, meal, etc. was excellent. After the meal, people just kept coming up to us and bowing, squeezing our hands and constantly saying thank you. Our interpreter asked me if I would be willing to meet and shake hands with his young children as he wanted them to meet the servicemen who saved their country. It truly was my honor.
Once the program began, it was all in Mandarin and our interpreter just kept telling us what was going on. The presentation to the honorees was incredible, amazing, spectacular, and very moving. The audience all stood and would not stop applauding, many of them were crying. When they spoke to me, the gratitude they showed was beyond believe.
If all of that wasn’t enough, the Chinese New Year Celebration began. The entertainment was something we will never forget. After the entertainment was over, there was a dance. The evening began at 5:00 p.m. with a social hour, ceremony, dinner, entertainment, and dance, ending at 12:00. Seven hours of being treated like royalty with so much respect for those 15 men who received the awards. It is a memory we will never forget.