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Posts Tagged ‘Air Force’

WELCOME TO BREMERHAVEN

My grandfather, Glen R. Johnson, was transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany in 1950 (before the Army Air Corps became the Air Force). Upon arriving at the Port of Bremerhaven aboard the Gen. Patch on July 20, 1950, the U.S. Band greeted him and my grandmother, Vesta. Wikipedia says that Bremerhaven means “Bremen’s Harbor” in Bremen (which was in the free Federal Republic of Germany).

The ship – USNS General Alexander M. Patch (T-AP-122) (picture of it as it is berthed at Bremerhaven in 1950 can be found here – exciting to think that this might just be at the same time my grandparents had arrived!) was named after the General who took “command of the Allied Forces in New Caledonia” in 1942 (from NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive; 2012; NavSource Naval History)

Luckily, while they were in Germany, they were able to take side trips to other places on the weekends. The picture above was taken on August 5, 1950, when they went with another lady, Mrs. Mulligan, along with a Bavarian guide to see the Nymphenburg Castle, Home of the Bavarian Kings.

Besides all of the photos, I also have several years’ worth of letters my grandparents wrote my parents. Those letters detail all the little trips around Europe they took as well as their day to day life in Wiesbaden.

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So sorry that there has been a bit of a lag between Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. This should be the final chapter of what I call “My Trip Out West” – or as the title suggests – “Over the Rainbow.”  After all, I was only four years old – almost five. So everything about this trek from Ohio to the Pacific Ocean and back was magical!

In the last installment, Mom, Dad, and I were finishing up our time at Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and Marine Land in California. From there we drove to Victorville, California which sits on the edge of the Mojave Desert in San Bernadino County.

We spent September 21 and 22 at the home of Captain and Mrs. H.B. Alexander, friends of my parents. September 21 was my mother’s birthday. I thoroughly believed my mom was 29 because as is common, once she passed a “certain” birthday milestone, she always said she was only 29. Wow – imagine my surprise a couple of years later when I realized that she was much older than 29!  I was also confused when I realized my grandparents were also in the area!  They were on a tour of the western United States as well and it was probably by design that they were able to celebrate their daughter’s birthday.

     

Leaving the Alexander home, we traveled to the Grand Canyon. Breathtaking, beautiful, scenic, awesome are only a few words to describe what a magnificent wonder it is. When we had left California, the temperature was over 100 but as we got to the rim of the Canyon, the temperature had a drop of over 40 degrees. I remember wearing a sweater as we stood gazing out over such a majestic sight.

Leaving the Grand Canyon, we drove northeast toward Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy. We stayed with the R.G. Schuster family and toured the Academy.

  

While there we saw 1800 cadets marching in formation and the beautiful Chapel. It is one building I will never forget being inside. On September 26 our western trip was complete and we began the drive back to Ohio, arriving on September 28.

There are many things I remember very well about the trip – items that weren’t part of a tour or a national park or a wonder of the world. Mom had packed a hot plate because even though we were able to stay in the homes of so many family and friends, we were also in a lot of motels!  The hot plate enabled her to heat up oatmeal for breakfast or a can of soup for lunch.

A lot of my breakfasts (when not at a home or in a restaurant)   were Keebler Cinnamon Graham Crackers and milk (hey, I loved it and still eat it!!). I can remember restaurants we ate at or purchased food to go from: Jerry’s (I think it was like Denny’s), Kentucky Fried Chicken (before it went by it’s initials!), and Howard Johnson’s (which is a hotel chain but we’d eat at the restaurant). I remember laundry mats – and oh goodness, there were many laundry mats that Mom and I were at washing clothes. Well, she washed and dried, and I sat and watched. I believe a lot of them were a dime. Mom would always need dimes. I remember lying across the backseat of the Pontiac either sleeping or trying not to give in to my car sickness. Every once in awhile, Dad would rouse me so I could “see the sights” – something he knew that I just had to see!  Except for the accident. I don’t know where it was but we were bumper to bumper on the road.  As we got closer, and my parents saw the ambulance (back then, they looked like a hearse) and the emergency vehicles, my Dad realized that whatever it was – was very, very bad. He told me to keep lying down and not to look.  I think later after I was older, Mom told me that it was a fatality and there was lots of blood. I also remember the little Wet Naps we always got – especially at KFC. And guess what I thought those little sudsy napkins were for? Cleaning the car windows!!  That was a big mistake!  Those windows I so carefully “cleaned” were loaded with streaks and probably were dirtier than when I started!

Oh – and going over the rainbow? Yes, I feel as if I certainly did!  At one point, after my mother could not stand to listen to me asking if we were in Kansas and where was Dorothy’s house, she pointed to a run down farm house and said – “That’s Dorothy’s house!” I spent many years believing that I saw the actual house!  (Ok, then I thought that maybe it was the “actual” house from the film until Mom told me she just could not stand to hear me ask that question one more time!)  So I don’t know if we were in Kansas (which would have been on the way back to Ohio – so I think we were probably in Montana or Idaho when she did that!).  I was young enough to see Disneyland as a child would but old enough to be able to remember quite a bit about that trip. And I have tons of pictures to help me remember!

I hope you have enjoyed my Travel Thursday series of Over the Rainbow!  I hope to begin a new series soon!

Sources: 

Personal knowledge and written description published in the Beavercreek News (Beavercreek, Ohio), Oct. 19, 1966.

Wikipedia Article online for “Victorville California”, 27 July 2012.

Photo of Cinnamon Graham Crackers: Keebler.com, 2012. Kellogg.

Photo of Rainbow: Rainbow in the sky by Jonathon Coombes (Public Domain)

All Other Photos taken by Gene or Mary Amore, digital or original slide/print owned by Wendy J Littrell, address for private use. 

Copyright for this blog post 2011 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog

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This past week I shared this photo of the Caquot Observation Balloon that is on exhibit in the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.  I’ve taken many pictures of this balloon over the years.  Rarely do I visit this exhibit and not just stand gazing at it for a long time.  Why?  It’s a connection to my grandfather, Col. Glen R. Johnson. 

When my grandfather enlisted in the Army Signal Corps on February 5, 1918, he was sent to Fort Omaha, Nebraska for training on Caquot Balloons.  I wrote about his service in this post. Taken from his obituary is the following, “In the 1950s and ’60s, he was active as national commander and newspaper editor of the National Association of Balloon Corps Veterans (NABCV) (WWI), and had contributed many artifacts to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.” 

The official website of the Air Force Museum says of the balloon on display: Manufactured in 1944, the balloon displayed at the museum is believed to be the only survivor. The British used it for parachute testing and noncombat aerial observation and photography until 1960. The British Ministry of Defense, Royal Aircraft Establishment, presented the Caquot to the museum after it was located with the aid of American and British WWI balloon veterans in 1975. Assisted by the Goodyear Aerospace Corp. of Akron, Ohio, which had produced these balloons during WWI, museum personnel mended and sealed the balloon fabric and prepared it for inflation. It was placed on display in May 1979.

My grandfather was one of the American WWI balloon veterans who helped locate this balloon.  I remember his excitement especially when it was finally ready for display.  He also contributed many other artifacts to the museum including this:

Piece of WW I balloon fabric manufactured in the U.S.
Donated by Col. Glen R. Johnson, USAF (Ret) Dayton, Ohio

U.S. Insignia removed from the last observation balloon
flown by American Forces in Europe.  The balloon was
assigned to the 14th Balloon Company during occupation
duty in Germany, 1919.
  (This was donated by Evert Wolff, N.Y.)
(Grandson in front)

Ft. Omaha Squadron 2 Flag (donor unknown)

So the next time (or the first time) you visit the Air Force museum, take a look at the Balloon that dwarfs one of the areas and take the time to check out the displays that talk about the Balloon years.  I guarantee that you will learn something that you probably didn’t know before your visit.

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Many of my family members have served in the Armed Forces at one time in their lives.  Most of them volunteered to serve their country while at least one that I know personally – was drafted at a time when big swooping changes were occurring throughout the nation.

My great-grandfather, James Emory House, was a member of Company “H” of the 80th Regiment of Ohio Volunteers during the War between the States.  He enlisted the day after Christmas in 1861 and was honorable discharged on May 27, 1865.  Three and a half years of his 82 years were spent marching through the South.  He was engaged in the famous Battle of Vicksburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.  At some point in his life, he shook hands with the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.  During his time at Vicksburghe incurred a stomach illness that disabled him later in life.  It is unknown what battle scars he suffered that weren’t visible on the outside but ones he possibly lived with in his nightmares for the rest of his life.  To read his pension application papers, please go to Civil War Papers on my genealogy website.

Glen R. JohnsonMy grandfather, Glen Roy Johnson, enlisted in 1918 – just a couple months after his first son was born.  He went to Omaha, Nebraska for training as part of the Army Signal Corps.  In July 1918, he sailed for France during World War I and the troops were inspected by Gen. John J. Pershing.  Glen (or Granddad as we all knew him) was part of the 14th Balloon Squadron where observation balloons were taken 1-3 miles from the front lines to scout for army artillery.  The men in the observation basket would telegraph information down the cables to the sentinel on the ground.  It was extremely dangerous for an enemy shell could hit the balloon and cause the 38,000 cubic feet of hydrogen to become a raging inferno in an instant.  He survived France and was discharged in 1932 as a Private but he won a reserve commission to Quartermaster Corps eight years earlier in 1924 due to his Civilian work at what used to be called Wilbur Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio (now Wright Patterson Air Force Base).  When WWII began, he again went into active service with the Army Air Corps which later became the United States Air Force.  He served through the Korean War and was released from active duty in the fall of 1953.  He retired from the Air Force in 1958 as a Colonel.  During his tenure, he spent three years in Weisbaden, Germany as a supply chief. (Photo above left is my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson.)

Dad in UniformMy father enlisted in the Army Air Corps in November 1939, a mere 5 months after graduating from high school.  In August 1942 he was assigned to  Reykjavik, Iceland for 15 months as an airplane mechanic for the air transport command.  It was in Reykjavik when he first heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.  He returned to his hometown of Coshocton, Ohio on December 1, 1943 as a Staff Sergeant.  Between that time and 1953, he was stationed in Milwaukee and Great Falls, Montana.  Then he was assigned to Japan for three years and after two years back in the states in Columbus, Ohio as a recruiter, he went back to Tachikawa AFB in Japan for another three years.  While in Japan he was assigned to the 6400th Transportation Squadron.  Upon returning to the states after the last tour, he was stationed at Tyndall AFB outside of Panama City, Florida where he retired from the Air Force after 20 years of military service. (Photo at left is my Dad in uniform.)

 

Norman Amore receiving Bronze StarMy uncle, Norman Amore, entered the Army in December 1942 and was shipped overseas in March 1944.  In Germany his platoon leader was mortally wounded by enemy artillery fire, and Norman, calmly removed his wounded crew member to a station to be treated.  For that brave act, he received the Bronze Star. (Photo at left is my Uncle Norman Amore receiving the Bronze Star.)

 

 

 

Gail and Lloyd AmoreMy father’s two oldest brothers, Gail and Paul Amore, also served in the military. (Photo at left is my Uncle Gail and my Grandfather, Lloyd Amore.)

Three of my first cousins and a brother-in-law served in the Vietnam War.  Luckily, all four men returned home.  What they saw, I do not know. 

I am thankful that my relatives all came back from Wars and military service alive and in one piece.  These men served their nation honorably and bravely – never knowing what the next set of orders would send them.  They are heroes by being ready to defend our freedoms.  Freedoms that so many take for granted and so many in other countries struggle to attain.  These brave men and women who put on a military uniform, a police uniform or a firefighter’s suit each and every day to keep us safe – whether it’s from evil half a world away, down the block or that out of control fire in our garage – they are heroes and if not for them, we may not know the freedoms and happiness we have today.

As Memorial Day approaches, please stop and thank every hero you see.  Stop in at your local police or fire station to thank them.  Send cards and letters to the men and women around the world stationed far away from loved ones to say thank you.  Write a moving tribute about your hero.  Place flowers and flags on the graves of those who served.  Attend a parade, stand when the flag goes by and place your hand over your heart in honor of those who’ve helped keep us free.  And never, ever forget  

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