For most of our veterans it’s what ‘we’ did not what ‘I’ did
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  1. #1

    Exclamation For most of our veterans it’s what ‘we’ did not what ‘I’ did

    For most of our veterans it’s what ‘we’ did not what ‘I’ did

    By Gary Larson
    Mille Lacs County Times

    Marine Corporal Duane M. Larson

    Last Friday while watching presidential campaign coverage on one of the cable news networks they showed a clip of senator John McCain speaking to a crowd in Newport News, Va.

    Among the senator’s comments were “I’ve fought for my country since I was 17 years old and I’ve got the scars to prove it.”

    While speaking, he pointed his thumbs inward towards his body. He was referring to the severe injuries he suffered when his Skyhawk aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam in October 1967 while on a bombing run during the Vietnam War. McCain was held as a prisoner of war until 1973 and suffered more injuries while being tortured.

    U.S. Marine Corps Photo
    A Mass for the Marine dead at Tarawa.

    McCain is one of many U.S. war heroes and his war experiences are another fine example of how our country’s men and women have performed under fire.

    What got my attention were his words “and I’ve got the scars to prove it.” Whether that was a misstep is open for debate. And, calling attention to his military service during a heated campaign was justified and an important character trait for many voters.

    “And I’ve got the scars to prove it” bothered me. I’ve known and listened to many, many veterans over the years as they described their service during times of conflict and this was the first time I’d heard one singling himself out for the wounds he suffered, citing them as something special.

    The wounded and scarred veterans you and I have known have never looked at those scars as something that made them better than other soldiers. They accepted those physical and mental scars as part of their service to their country. Nothing special - something that happened while they were doing their duty.

    A characteristic war veterans share is their reluctance to talk about their war experiences, especially to those who weren’t there. War stories are shared with their comrades. When asked about their experiences most will share stories unrelated to combat unless you really pry.

    A typical Marine

    Here’s a short story about one veteran, Marine Corporal Duane M. Larson of Foley, my old man. But, it’s also a story about the millions who have served their country.

    Larson, like many others, signed up for the Marines shortly after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. He wanted to be a fighter pilot. The Marines said “sure,” then promptly assigned him to an infantry division, the Second Marine Division. The planes he saw were the ones flying overhead, some friendly, many not.

    He took part in three major engagements in the South Pacific where the Americans engaged the Japanese in a series of island battles. They called it “island hopping.” First came Guadalcanel in August-September 1942, the first U.S. ground offensive of World War II. Then it was bloody Tarawa in November 1943. His final battle was in June 1944 on Saipan, where a Japanese machine gun shell ripped through his arm, nearly severing it. Doctors decided to try and save the arm and he spent the next year undergoing several operations. His final days as a Marine were spent at the naval hospital in San Diego, Calif.

    ‘War stories’

    His “war stories” to his family included:

    •How a Japanese Zero pilot, apparently unaware that the Marines had taken Henderson Field at Guadalcanal, attempted to land at the field. The Marines, digging in to defend the prized airstrip, were apparently as surprised by his aborted landing as he was surprised by their presence. He revved the engine and took off, without a shot being fired.

    •Playing poker under moonlit, sandy beaches.

    •The beautiful voices of native children who serenaded U.S. soldiers with gospel hymns.

    •How beautiful New Zealand was. The division spent time there replenishing itself between engagements. Duane always wanted to go back but he didn’t.

    •How welcome mail from home was.

    •How the food rations weren’t too good...but they weren’t too bad, either.

    •The friendships he made with his comrades, including one special friend who died in combat. My late brother Terry was named after that Marine.

    •How disembarking from the troop transports into landing vehicles prior to invasions seemed to take so very long. The Marines climbed down those rope ladders we’ve seen in war movies, then settled into the landing boats. The boats then circled and circled until all were ready to go.

    •How, while in the hospital in San Diego, many Hollywood movie stars visited the soldiers. His favorites were western star “Gabby” Hayes (Roy Rogers’ sidekick) and Rita Hayworth. I think he mentioned Rita just to get the ire of his wife Evelyn.

    Mentioning how he thought he was going to die at Tarawa was about as close as he got to the war stories we were anxious to hear. The actual combat stories he shared mostly with his fellow veterans, some while he was post commander at the Foley Legion.

    Veterans use the word “we” a lot. There aren’t many “I’s” in their stories.

    After his death in June, 1986, we found a newspaper clipping his mother had filed away in a box for him. It was from the Minneapolis paper and the incident happened shortly before he was wounded at Saipan. The correspondent had singled him out following a charge that had taken out a Japanese machine gun bunker that had been causing much havoc and several casualties. His quote was “the bunker had to be taken out and we did it. If we hadn’t the next group of Marines would have.”

    Bloody Tarawa

    I think the battle that stayed with him was Tarawa.

    Here are some specifics from that three-day bloodbath. The information came from the encyclopedia, not Duane Larson.

    •The Marines landed under heavy Japanese machine gun and light artillery fire. An error in judging where the tide would be at resulted in most of the landing boats being unable to make it to shore. Most of the Marines had to wade in 500 to 700 yards


  2. #2
    WWII prisoner of war escaped on third try

    By Dawn Slade
    Mille Lacs County Times

    “I was a prisoner of war for 14 months, 14 days, eight hours and 31 minutes,” George Cline told the Mille Lacs County Times in May 1945. “Believe me, the time seemed long and I marked every day down as it passed.”

    The United States declared war on Japan on Dec. 8, 1941 (the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor). Three days later Adolph Hitler, on behalf of Germany, declared war on the U.S.

    It was then the U.S. became part of WWII, the deadliest human conflict in history with over 70 million deaths.

    George Cline was one of over 16 million U.S. armed forces to serve in WWII.

    Cline grew up in Milaca and entered the Army in May 1943 at the age of 19.

    He became part of the Company B First Ranger Battalion.

    After some time in Africa, Cline’s battalion was one of the first to land at Anzio Beachhead in Italy in January 1944.

    Eight days later, Cline was captured by the Germans. The Germans kept him in Italy until January 30, 1944 when he was transferred to Stalag IIB in the northeast corner of Germany, near Hammerstein.

    Stalag IIB has been described as the worst camp for American POWs.

    Stalag IIB in 1943 is described in the book “Blood In Our Boots” written by Minnesotan native Edward P. Haider.

    The POW barracks held wooden bunk beds with no mattress, just one inch of straw for padding.

    The prisoners were taken out of the barracks eight to 10 times a day, forced to stand in lines one behind the other and be counted. They were served one slice of bread and one cup of soup (described by Haider as warm water) each day.

    When a POW died, the men would hold him up in the back row as they were counted, so the men could get the dead soldier’s piece of bread.

    Cline, who was 5’8” tall, lost 45 pounds during those 14 months he was held captive.

    Despite that, he attempted escape two times before gaining success the third time.

    Cline was marched across Germany from camp to camp and managed to survive a 600-mile march that took 52 days. It was during this march that he made his successful escape.

    He found his way to an American troop just two days before his 21st birthday.

    “If it wasn’t for the Red Cross packages coming regularly I wouldn’t be here at all,” he later told the Times in 1945.

    According to one newspaper article, Cline’s parents (George Sr. and Betsy Cline) received word Feb. 17, 1944 of their son being taken prisoner.

    POWs were sometimes able to receive mail.

    A letter from Cline’s sister Bertha was sent to him at Stalag IIB in January 1945, but never reached Cline. It was returned to Milaca in July 1945 (two months after he was back on American soil).

    On April 13, Cline was liberated by the Americans.

    One month later, on May 4, 1945, Cline’s mother received a Western Union telegram that stated: “The Chief of Staff of the Army directs me to inform you your son Private George M. Cline has returned to military control and is being returned to the United States within the near future and will be given an opportunity to communicate with you upon arrival.”

    In an undated article, it was reported that Cline’s parents received word from the Red Cross that their son had escaped and was at a Red Cross station in Germany in poor condition.

    In a letter he wrote to his parents and sister, Cline briefly described his experiences:

    “Well folks, today I am once more a FREE man, and boy am I HAPPY. It sure feels swell to be eating regularly again. You can’t imagine how swell it really is to be free once again. I am feeling well and sure hope you are the same.

    “I suppose you haven’t received any letters from me for a long time, cause I haven’t been able to write or receive any this year.

    “Now to tell you the story. We were working on a farm in the northeastern corner of Germany and last February the Russians started their drive into Germany and when they got pretty close we had to move so the guards started us marching westward. We marched for 52 days and during that time they nearly starved us to death. We walked about 600 miles, almost all the way across Germany. Now I can say things that I couldn’t say before, so here goes.

    “The German people, most of them are no good. They believe in Hitler and his ways too much and the people that aren’t Nazis are so afraid of the Gestapo and the SS, a Hitler secret organization. The rations the Germans gave us were this; about half a pound of black bread a day and maybe not that much. And sometimes a little margarine and two or three boiled potatoes and then some days when we were marching, not anything at all. NOT EVEN WATER.

    “We received only about 1 1/2 Red Cross parcels each in the 52 days. But not is all over and I am fine again so I am going to forget it if possible. I escaped the guards April 10 and hid in a barn, then I made it to our lines two days ago on Friday, April 13. Today I am 21 years old and this sure has been a swell day but I am going to celebrate when I get home.”

    Back home

    After the war, Cline married Beryl Thompson and they raised four daughters.

    Cline died in 1989 at the age of 64. He ran the GMC Garage in Milaca for 20 years and had a snow removal and dirt hauling business until his death.

    He also served as a volunteer for the Milaca Fire Department and was a member of the Milaca American Legion Post 178.

    Cline’s daughter, Nancy Erickson, said of her dad, “There was nobody else quite like him. He never wanted to leave Milaca again.”

    “I’ve been to hell and back,” Cline told his daughter.

    Erickson said her dad never spoke of the war. He was a combination of darkness and humor.

    “He was the funniest guy on earth. He had a sense of humor and wit that threw people against the wall,” Erickson said. “You wouldn’t know it was coming.”

    Long time friend and former neighbor Bob Wig said of Cline, “He was very helpful with his knowledge of mechanical things and was very generous with his help.

    “As a fireman, they didn’t have adequate equipment and he sucked in a lot of smoke. I could hear him coughing next door.

    “He was an all around heck of a good neighbor.”

    Lorraine Johnson and her late husband Paul shared a double wedding with Cline and his wife in 1946. They even took their honeymoon together, travelling to Lake Mille Lacs.

    Though they were friends for many years, Cline didn’t talk about the war, but she said he had a lot of stomach trouble from being a prisoner of war.

    “He had some very dark sides too,” Erickson said of her father. “He had a temper that would flare like fire. He wasn’t a tough guy, but he wouldn’t take crap from anybody. And my mom was probably the most patient, loving, kind and gentle person on earth.

    “He was social because he owned a business, but he just wanted to go home at the end of the day. He didn’t want to travel. Milaca was, to him, the best place on earth.”

    Cline was honorably discharged from the Army on Nov. 2, 1945.

    His military service earned him an Infantryman’s badge, a European Theatre ribbon with three bronze service ribbons, two battle stars, an American Theatre ribbon, a Victory Medal II and a good conduct medal.

    Because he escaped, Cline was able to share a little bit of the war’s history that 292,000 other soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were unable to share. They did not make it home alive.


  3. #3
    Marine returns from Iraq to meet newborn son

    By Dawn Slade
    Mille Lacs County Times

    Ben Matthews is on his way home from Iraq to meet his six-week-old son for the first time.

    The 1996 Milaca High School graduate joined the Marine Corps in 2005 and has been serving in Rawah, Iraq for seven months. It was his first tour in Iraq.

    He is the son of Rick and Mary Jane Matthews. His brother Jon, who is also a 1st Lt. Logistics Officer, is an advisor to the Iraqi Army and is out in the field on different missions fairly regularly. Their brother Dan coaches football in North Carolina.

    The following is a Q&A, via e-mail, Matthews sent from Kuwait as he prepared to return to the states.

    Can you share some background information with us?

    I graduated from Milaca High in 1996 and Bethel University with a business degree in 2000. I then worked a couple jobs and played one season of football in Germany before joining the Marine Corps in 2005.

    Why did you join the Marines?

    After I came back from Germany in 2002, I had a hard time deciding what to do next. I saw the movie “Black Hawk Down” and something clicked inside me and I knew I was supposed to join the military. After looking at each of the different branches of service, I decided the Marine Corps Officers program would be the best fit for me.

    What is your military background? After getting commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in 2005, I injured my knee and needed surgery. When I completed my rehabilitation, the timing worked out that my brother Jon and I ended up going to The Basic School (TBS - six month program in Quantico, Va. that all Marine Officers must go through to learn basic infantry skills) at the same time. Near the end of TBS, Jon and I both found out we were going to be Logistics Officers and ended up going to the Logistics Operations Course together in Camp Lejeune, N.C. Despite the relatively small size of the Marine Corps to other branches, it is still quite rare to have two brothers end up going to TBS and Military Occupational School together. We had a good time.

    I graduated Logistics school about a year ago on Oct. 30, 2007. I immediately started the deployment work up with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines in Camp Lejeune, N.C. as the Assistant Battalion Logistics Officer. We did two weeks of training at Fort Pickett, Va., six weeks at 29 Palms, Calif., and then I deployed to Iraq in April.

    The tough part of the deployment tempo is that we are gone a lot during workups to deployments too, not just during the deployment itself.

    What is your family status?

    I’ve been married to Andi Matthews of Winona since 2000. We met at Bethel in 1998 and got married 18 months later. We have a daughter, Allie, who is two, and a son, Drew, who is six weeks old.

    The separation from family has easily been the toughest part of being a Marine. Andi and I knew when I signed up that we’d be in for at least one deployment, but we didn’t know we’d have a daughter and a son on the way when I deployed.

    It was tough watching Allie change so much during the deployment. She went from saying just a couple words to full sentences and singing songs to me on the phone.

    I must say though that Andi did a great job of keeping “daddy” involved while I’ve been gone. We videotaped me reading different books, singing songs, and other parental reinforcement messages (i.e. “daddy says ‘listen to mommy!’”) prior to my leaving. Using those videos, Allie would have “daddy time” at least a couple times daily where she would watch them intently. I really think this will go a long way to ease my transition back to the family since Allie is used to seeing me a couple times a day anyways.

    During the deployment, I missed Andi’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my birthday, our anniversary, Allie’s birthday, and finally Drew’s birth on Sept. 20. I’m very proud of Andi for being so strong through this. I always say that the families of military personnel who are left behind have it tougher than the people who deploy. Andi is no exception and she’s done a great job with our family while I’ve been away.

    Drew’s birth was the hardest thing to miss. However, we made the best of it using webcams and phones to bring me right into the delivery room (virtually). I was able to talk to Andi throughout the delivery and see Drew right after the birth. Certainly not ideal, but not bad considering the circumstances. Hopefully I’ll be meeting him for the first time this weekend!

    What were your duties while you were there?

    As a logistics officer for an infantry battalion, my main responsibility is supporting the infantry companies with food, water, fuel, ammunition, and whatever other supplies they require to sustain operations. I ran a shop of 29 enlisted Marines from the various areas of logistics including motor transportation, supply, ammunition techs, armorers, maintenance, and embarkation. I did a lot of the planning, but the credit for the work that gets accomplished goes to the enlisted Marines in my shop who get the job done. Any success that I had was a direct reflection of their efforts.

    Besides logistics, I also did a lot of general engineering work including managing two large camp expansion projects. This involved working with Seabees from the Naval Construction Regiments as well as numerous other contractors. These responsibilities were new to me but certainly kept things interesting.

    Throughout the deployment, my job responsibilities were always changing with new challenges around every corner. Overall it was a great deployment professionally.

    Where is the infrastructure at now in Iraq? Do you feel progress is being made?

    Progress is definitely being made, especially with the security situation. Violence is at its lowest levels since the war began which is allowing infrastructure improvements to make big gains. One of the projects I worked was supervising the paving of a road that was previously notorious for IED’s (improvised explosive devices). The civil affairs team in our location also rebuilt a couple schools, opened a youth center, and brought in some specialists to help the locals improve their agricultural situation. I just hope the Iraqis can continue to build on what they are doing now as we start reducing our troop levels.

    Do you feel the mainstream media is portraying our presence in Iraq accurately? Was there anything that surprised you when you got there (maybe misconceptions based on media reports).

    Very little has been made of the recent improvements in the mainstream media. Let’s face it, civil military operations like infrastructure improvements don’t make riveting headlines, so much of what we are doing now goes unnoticed by the media. I get frustrated by mainstream media so I don’t watch or listen to much of it.

    Besides family and friends, what did you miss the most while serving in Iraq?

    I really had it pretty good. However, I did miss fast internet, sports and my full sized guitar (I brought a small one). I didn’t see a single one of Michael Phelps gold medal races, which kind of sucked.

    What did you receive or wish you would have received or would have brought with you while you were there? (This is helpful for those of us who want to send packages to military personnel serving abroad).

    I had everything I could have asked for. However, it’s always nice to get mail and packages, no matter what’s in them. If I didn’t want it, another Marine in my shop usually did.

    Have military men and women who have served before you affected you? If so, in what ways?

    Both my grandparents served in WWII. My mom’s dad, Carl Johnson, was a Marine in WWII and drove the duck boats in the Pacific. My dad’s father, Willard Matthews, was in the Army and went through Europe. As I’ve learned more about the history of our nation, I’m extremely proud of the veterans who have gone before me serving this country. Reading about WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam, I’m proud of our veterans and humbled to be recognized among them.

    How long do you plan on serving in the military?

    I plan on transitioning back to the civilian world when my contract is up next spring. It has been a great experience, but with two kids at home and the deployment tempo being high, I’d basically be agreeing to more time away from my family if I stayed in.

    Please feel free to elaborate (parents’ support, support from community, or whatever you want to get across to readers back home).

    My parents have been extremely supportive throughout and I cannot thank them enough. It cannot be easy having two sons in the Marines, both deployed to Iraq at the same time. They have always been supportive of whatever I’ve chosen to pursue in my life, which has empowered me to follow my heart wherever it leads. Many of the successes I’ve had are a direct result of my parents.

    The one benefit my parents did have from me deploying was that Andi moved back to Minnesota. This enabled them to spend quality time with their granddaughter Allie and see Drew right after he was born (at Unity hospital in Fridley).

    On a side note; my brother Jon and I ran into each other in Iraq. He was escorting an Iraqi General around and happened to stop by a location adjacent to my base. We only got to see each other for about a half hour but it was still fun.

    Semper Fidelis,

    Ben Matthews


  4. #4
    Milaca’s Battery D celebrates Lindbergh’s homecoming

    By karen schlenker
    Milaca Area Historical Society

    Signa section on range at Camp McCoy, July 1927.

    Last month, members of the Milaca Area Historical Society toured historic sites in Little Falls, including the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site. This site includes the childhood home of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. as well as a visitor center with a museum, and is run by the Minnesota Historical Society.

    In May of 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the most famous man in the world when he was the first to fly across the Atlantic, from New York to Paris, which he accomplished in 33 1⁄2 hours. Following that flight, Lindbergh toured the U.S. in his plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis.”

    A map in the visitor center’s exhibit showed the tour’s route, and it looked as though the flight from Minneapolis to Little Falls on Aug. 25, 1927 might have passed over Milaca. Thinking that the passage of any airplane in those days, much less Lucky Lindy’s “Spirit of St. Louis” would be a noteworthy event, I looked through the Mille Lacs County Times for that date. While no sightings were reported, the Lindbergh homecoming was in the news on Sept. 1:


    Members of Local National Guard Unit Left Early Thursday Morning to Join In Celebration

    Local Boys Were Picked for the Honor Guard Duty at the Banquet to Col. Lindbergh

    (By Alan Kling, Correspondent.)

    Battery “D”, 125th Artillery, spent a very eventful day at Little Falls last Thursday, August 25th. Of the 50,000 people who attended the Lindbergh Homecoming celebration, our battery played a very important part. Lindbergh himself made favorable comment on the handling of the traffic and this was one of the big duties of Battery “D.”

    All of the members who wanted to go to Little Falls met at the armory at six o’clock Thursday morning [Aug. 25]. Quite a few drove their own cars so there was room for everyone. On the way over they passed the truck which was hauling the cannon to the celebration. They had started almost an hour earlier.

    Shortly after the Battery arrived, they were directed out to the flying field for guard duty. There was very little to do as the crowd did not start together [sic] until past noon time. At 10:30 a light lunch was served, which later proved to be the only dinner which the boys received.

    As the time for the arrival of Lindbergh drew near, cars began to stream in from every direction. These were driven as close as possible and then deserted for places of better view. Airplanes were continually landing, the prettiest formation perhaps being that of the 109th Aero Squadron which formed the advance guard for Colonel Lindbergh.

    At two o’clock the Spirit of St. Louis came in sight. Flying low, it circled over the town a few times and then flew to the landing field. Battery “D’s” firing squad for the occasion, consisting of Sgt. Andy Carlson, Corp. Roy Lundstrom, Privates Clem Schmitz, Paul Schweiger, Roy Tingblad, Virgil Henschel, Ted Telander, and Ervin Hogan, started firing the salute of twenty-one rounds as Lindbergh’s plane came into sight.

    As the plane neared the ground a mighty cheer arose which lasted until Lindbergh left the field for the fair ground. In the jam which followed, Battery “D” kept a close control on the traffic and handled it in such shape that not a single accident or smash-up occurred in their territory...

    The banquet in the evening was held in the ballroom of the Elk’s Hotel. Battery “D” was picked as the unit that should do the guard duty. This was quite an honor and the boys thus got in much closer contact with Lindbergh. Some of the guard posts of the various men were as follows: Pvt. Earl Mikkelson and Pvt. Harold Solberg, upstairs hallway and door to Lindbergh’s room; Pvt. Harry Peterson, lobby way; Pvt. Roy Tingblad, front entrance to ballroom; Corp Alan Kling, Privates Clem Schmitz, Virgil Henschel and Erling Johnson, Lindbergh’s table at banquet; Privates Paul Schwieger and Ervin Hogan, side entrance; Pvt. Ted Telander, Sgt. Andy Carlson and Pvt. Howard Folsom, fire escape. The banquet ended shortly after nine o’clock, and the men were relieved from then on.

    At twelve o’clock that night as many people were celebrating the triumphant return of their “Lindy” as there had been at twelve o’clock the previous noon.


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