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John Greening: A Veteran in the Spotlight by Andrea Hoffman

Handmade variation on the Type B-1 Summer Flying cap worn by Senior Airman John A. Greening.

Handmade variation on the Type B-1 Summer Flying cap worn by Senior Airman John A. Greening.

This handmade variation on the Type B-1 Summer Flying cap was worn by the donor, Senior Airman John A. Greening, while he was based in Okinawa, Japan during the Korean War.  The painted portions record his service on the brim, including bombs representing the 28 missions he flew over Korea between December of 1952 and spring of 1953.

Greening–a native of Michigan who later moved to Madison, Wisconsin–had an early interest in aircraft that was fed in earnest as a young teen during the second World War.  When the Korean War broke and President Truman declared a State of Emergency, he decided he would rather avoid induction and instead voluntarily join the Air Force.  A lifelong asthmatic, Greening believed he would never survive in a foxhole.  He figured he would quickly be rejected by the Air Force, avoid the draft and return to work.  If by some chance he passed, he at least had an interest in aviation.  He was surprised when the Air Force accepted him, and even more so when he passed the subsequent physical.  There was a sense of relief he was not as medically bad off as he had been led to believe his whole life.  His new found health likewise awarded him a new sense of freedom.

Greening’s enthusiasm showed immediately.  After his technical training at both Lowry and Randolph Air Force Bases stateside, he was eager to be in the thick of it.  He passed at the chance his rank afforded him to be the combat crew’s Center Fire Control, instead requesting to be a waist gunner and thus part of the flight crew.  Since he believed he may not make it home again, he concluded it was better to at least do something he considered exciting with whatever time remained.

John Greening (center front)--seen in his yet-unpainted cap--poses with his crew in front of their B-29 in Okinawa.  Photograph dated December 31, 1952.

John Greening (center front)–seen in his yet-unpainted cap–poses with his crew in front of
their B-29 in Okinawa. Photograph dated December 31, 1952.

The crew he trained with was eventually assigned to the 20th Air Force headquartered in Guam.  He served with the 19th Bombardment Group, 93rd Bomb Squadron, and arrived at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa during December of 1952.  It was here they hired a local Japanese servant they referred to as their “cabin boy,” a former pilot himself who never had a chance to fly before World War II ended.  The Japanese gentleman left Greening with an exceptional memento when he hand embellished this cap for him, including painting “OKINAWA” across the back as a reminder of the several months he spent there.

Despite his prediction, Greening survived his missions and came home in 1953, although not without experiencing some harrowing situations first.  Greening made sure that this cap along with nearly 30 other objects, his photo albums, papers and oral history became part of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s permanent collection to preserve his notable story.  You can learn more about Greening’s archival and object collections by visiting the WVM website at http://bit.ly/1EGgza7.

Out of the Ordinary by Russ Horton

Three letters from three eras (left to right);  Andrew Brady with his letter from 2004, Kenneth Zerwekh with his letter from 1945, and Charles Stuvengen with his letter from 1918.

Three letters from three eras (left to right); Andrew Brady with his letter from 2004, Kenneth Zerwekh with his letter from 1945, and Charles Stuvengen with his letter from 1918.

There are still service members who, for a variety of reasons, write the occasional letter with pen and paper. Sometimes, they even choose to write letters because they have something out of the ordinary on which to write. Andrew Brady, a Poynette native who served with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines in Iraq during the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom, donated  to WVM over one hundred emails that he exchanged with his family during his overseas service. He also donated one physical letter that he wrote to his brother, Joseph. This letter is interesting for two reasons. One is that he clearly felt more free to write about his real experiences with his brother than with his parents, writing to him about being shot at often with the instruction, “Don’t tell Mom, I know how she would worry.” The other interesting aspect of the letter is that it is written on a piece of cardboard from an MRE box. Because he also wrote emails to Joseph, it is clear that he chose to physically write this letter because of the uniqueness of the medium.

Hardtack message from George C. Youmans.

Hardtack message to George C. Youmans.

Brady’s MRE box letter is one of many in the WVM collections that demonstrate the imagination of Wisconsin veterans in using materials at hand to write home to family and friends. One of the most unique examples of this came from a Janesville soldier who was serving in Company A, 1st Wisconsin Infantry Regiment during the Spanish-American War. The 1st Wisconsin spent the duration of the short conflict at Camp Cuba Libre, near Jacksonville, Florida. This unidentified soldier decided to send a souvenir home to his friend, George C. Youmans, so he wrote on, addressed, and stamped a piece of hardtack and sent it through the mail without any packaging. Amazingly, or perhaps not so amazingly given hardtack’s reputation, the piece survived its postal journey from Florida to Wisconsin intact. Stationed at Love Field in Dallas, Texas during World War I, Sergeant Charles Stuvengen of the 277th Aero Squadron, an Orfordville native, used a piece of canvas from one of his unit’s airplanes to write to his sister. Touching upon one of the dangers of flying planes in World War I, he wrote, “I suppose you’ll be wondering what kind of paper this is. This is what covers the framework of an airplane. I got it off a wrecked ship. Touch a match to it and you’ll see how fast it burns.” He added, “All the fellows in camp have been getting this stuff and writing letters on it.” Madison resident Kenneth Zerwekh, an officer in the 3546th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company, wrote dozens of letters home to his wife, Evie, on traditional paper, postcards, and V-mail during his World War II service in Europe. On June 20, 1945, though, he chose a different medium to write to his wife. With the defense, “As this is the only paper available—and the property of Lt. Davidson—I hope you will excuse the reverse side especially,” he continued the letter on the back of a Vargas pin-up girl calendar page. Zerwekh used nine of the calendar pages to write letters to Evie, and although the collection includes her return correspondence, she made no mention of her husband’s unique stationery. The above examples demonstrate the desire of Wisconsin veterans throughout history to stay connected to the home front while also showing off some of the new things with which they were coming into contact. Along with the thousands of other letters, diaries, photographs, and other materials preserved at WVM, they help keep the stories of Wisconsin veterans alive.  Learn more about the WVM’s archival collections at http://bit.ly/1xsHf5E

Making History by Guest Author SSG Sonia Buchanan

Sonia Buchanan conducting a clothing exchange program.  (From the collection of Sonia Buchanan).

SSG Sonia Buchanan conducting a clothing exchange program. (From the collection of Sonia Buchanan).

My decision to join the military came a little later in life than most. The military has always played a major role in my life. My father served in the Navy for 27 years. In fact, out of nine children, seven of us joined a branch of service or married someone who was in the military. I was thirty-six years old and found myself going through a divorce after 17 years of marriage. Little did I know, my life as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of two was about to be turned upside down.

In 2008, I was working part time at a martial arts school and knew a couple individuals who were in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. They knew of my situation and persuaded me to look at joining. I realized that being a newly single mother of two and having a degree in Fine Arts was not enough to support my family. Knowing the journey that lay ahead, I decided to join. In 2008, I went off to basic training. In 2009, I received an active duty position with the Wisconsin Army National Guard and from day one I knew I made the right decision.

I was presented with a rare opportunity in the beginning of 2011. The first time in history USASOC (United States Army Special Operations Command) was going to hold an AANDS (Assessment and Selection) for females for a new addition to the Special Operations community, CST (Cultural Support Team). A CST is a two female team that allows specially selected and trained females to serve alongside SOF (Special Operations Forces) in a unique operating environment. The primary task of a CST is to engage a host nation’s female and adolescent population in support of USASOF (United States Army, Special Operations Forces) missions where their interaction with male service members may be deemed culturally inappropriate. There were 178 females from around the country who went through assessment and selection, and fifty were chosen. Five of the females were from Wisconsin; four from the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and the other from the Army Reserves. It definitely was the most physically and mentally grueling experience in my life.

After selection, we spent two and a half months at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina attending SWCS (Special Warfare Center and School) for training in basic human behavior, Islamic and Afghan culture, women’s roles in Afghanistan, Dari and Pashtu language, hand-to-hand combat, warrior tasks and drills, weapons training and tribalism.

Once we arrived in Afghanistan we flew to our respective locations to embed with the SOF unit to which we were assigned. I had the pleasure to work with all three SOF units, MARSOF (Marine Special Operations Force), ODA (Operation Detachment Alpha, Green Berets) and SEAL (Sea, Air, Land US Navy SF). I was first assigned to a MARSOF unit and our main objective in Farah was to be the conduit between the local government and the women in the surrounding villages.

SSG Sonia Buchanan at a mobile medical clinic in a nearby village.  (From the collection of Sonia Buchanan).

SSG Sonia Buchanan at a mobile medical clinic in a nearby village. (From the collection of Sonia Buchanan).

Being one of the first females to serve alongside an all-male special ops unit was such an honor and a privilege. However, we knew going into the deployment that we may run into some resistance with some of the team guys and we were prepared. Our first obstacle we encountered was building rapport with the team guys.  We were team players and were willing to pitch in whenever possible to assist with the mission. We were not there to change the way the guys lived day-to-day. We were well aware this was their environment and we needed to gain their trust, which didn’t take long at all. The entire team knew that cohesion and trust with one another is the most important thing for a successful mission.  We were brothers in arms almost instantly. These men respected us from the beginning knowing what we went through in order to be selected. We experienced the same training the guys went through, just in a shorter timeframe. These guys went to school for two years.  We went for two months. Even though I didn’t get the same amount of training time as the guys, I felt competent in my abilities.

During the mission, we’d meet weekly with a group of elected women from the local area to assess their needs, identify resources, and organize a plan. We assisted them in developing programs to create revenue for their villages. One of the programs we developed with the women was a sewing program.  We requested sewing materials through the local government on a special grant.  We assisted the women with the grant proposal and its submission to the liaison for their Province. The grant provided 38 sewing machines, fabric, thread, and needles, which were utilized by women in rural villages. They made Afghan attire to sell at local bazaars for profit.  Since growing poppies was now illegal, the women were so happy to fill the day doing something to help provide for their family.

After a month we were moved to join a new team that just arrived in the Helmand province. We joined them in a little village in the Sagin district to assist them in a VSP (Village Stability Platform). This team of Green Berets was the definition of professional. From day one, we felt like a family. The environment was very austere; the comforts of home did not exist in this land. There was no running water, electricity, toilets, sofas or beds. It was two months before we felt the water from our first shower. Our main meal everyday was beans and rice. There was a stench in the air that permeated through everything we had; you could not escape it.  It appeared to me that this civilization had not progressed in over 1,000 years. I thought to myself this desolate place would be home for awhile but we are here for a reason and that brought me contentment.

Our daily tasks included foot marches throughout the villages, visiting medical clinics, either on site or a mobile clinic, searches and seizures, humanitarian assistance, facilitated civil-military operations, and combat missions and presence patrols. Our days varied so much and there was always something new going on. Most of the intelligence that we received was either from the women or from the adolescents. The children often came up to us and offered information. We had to remain vigilant and never let our guard down.

SSG Sonia Buchanan attending SWCS graduation with state leadership, General Anderson, CSM Stopper and LTC Gerety (now COL Gerety).  (From the collection of Sonia Buchanan).

SSG Sonia Buchanan attending SWCS graduation with state leadership, General Anderson, CSM Stopper and LTC Gerety (now COL Gerety). (From the collection of Sonia Buchanan).

This incredible experience made me realize that no matter what culture or background you come from, we are alike in many ways.  Women can relate to each other based on natural instincts. We are mothers and wives, daughters and sisters. We love to share and discuss things with our girlfriends.  During the deployment, we offered to build a well closer to the village so that the women didn’t have to walk 2 miles every day to retrieve water.  They begged us not to, because they explained that was the only time they had to talk with each other and gossip. The women would tell us often where their husbands were going, where they had been, and who they were conversing with. At the end of the day, women know what’s going on in the home and we can all relate to being the primary care-takers for the family.

It was really hard to be away from my family during the deployment. I didn’t make the decision hastily. I discussed this with my two children and the decision for me to go was made by all of us, as my kids are my first priority. One of the toughest things during my deployment was the little communication I had with them. A random call with a satellite phone was about it. It was a constant internal struggle for me not being there for them. You miss out on all the little things happening in their day-to-day life that cannot be conveyed through an email or phone conversation. When you have a bad day all you want is to hold your kids and be comforted, as well as be there to comfort them. My faith and praying daily gave me peace.

The best part of my experience was the feeling after the mission. I feel we made a real difference in the lives of the locals. We had the opportunity to build rapport with the families, help create a safer environment, and educate them in basic needs areas of health, welfare, and agriculture to create a more sustainable future for the Afghanis.

Interested in reading more stories like this?  “Making History” appears in the upcoming issue of The Buglethe Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s quarterly newsletter and an exclusive benefit of WVM membership. Learn more about becoming a member at http://bit.ly/1z31yc7

WWI Sheet Music by Laura Farley

When the United States entered WWI, sheet music was very popular on the home front and a new form of pop music Good Bye Alexandercalled “jazz” was beginning to emerge.  Families, neighbors, and friends would gather around pianos to sing their favorite tunes popularized by larger-than-life vocal stars. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum has many examples of WWI sheet music, each with elaborate colorful covers.

Give me a KissMuch of the sheet music of the time reflected patriotic themes like, “America He’s For You!” with the lyrics:

 “There’s a baby in the cradle

And as soon as he is able

America he’s for you!”

Other songs reflect anxieties families felt with their soldiers away at war, like “Send Back Dear Daddy to Me” featuring a young girl staring longingly at a photograph of her father in uniform.

WWI was a period of social change, increasingly couples began marrying solely for love and women gained some independence. These social shifts are reflected in titles like “If He Can Fight Like He Can Love Good Night, Germany!” with risqué lyrics:

“Fare thee well my lovin’ man

All the girls said “Ain’t he nice and tall,”

Mary answered “Yes, and that’s not all.”

“If he can fight like he can love,

Oh, what a solider boy he’ll be.”

au voirMany American soldiers traveled overseas for the first time and flares or   foreign culture showed up in American sheet music. Some songs featured lyrics in French like “When Yankee Doodle Learns to Parlez Vous François”, with cover art featuring an American soldier escorting two French Cancan dancers.

The sheet music of WWI offers a unique look at the consciousness of the United States as it went through social changes and began to emerge as a major world power.

Interested in viewing the Museum’s collection of sheet music? Schedule your  appointment today!

A Soldier’s Sacrifice by Emily Irwin

Lucius Fairchild, ca. 1862.

Lucius Fairchild, ca. 1862.

On January 1, 1866, Governor Lucius C. Fairchild delivered his inaugural address and emphasized the Civil War’s impact on Wisconsin. A million of men have returned from the war, been disbanded in our midst, and resumed their former occupations… The transition from the citizen to the soldier was not half so rapid, nor half so wonderful, as has been transition from the soldier to the citizen.

Lucius Fairchild's vest.

Lucius Fairchild’s vest.

The governor’s speech also recognized the Wisconsin men who never returned from the Civil War. By Fairchild’s count, 10,752 Wisconsin soldiers, “about one in every eight,” had died in service to the United States (the actual number is 12,301). Tens of thousands more experienced disease or suffered serious injury, including Governor Fairchild, who served in the Union Army. Fairchild enlisted in a Wisconsin volunteer militia in 1858 and moved quickly up the ranks after the Civil War began. He served with the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, part of the famed Iron Brigade, and saw action at several major battles including the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Colonel Fairchild and the 2nd Wisconsin also fought at Gettysburg.

Fairchild

Lucius Fairchild, ca1863

On July 1, 1863, Gettysburg’s first day, Fairchild was shot in the upper left arm, a wound that required immediate medical attention. The attending surgeon removed Fairchild’s vest by cutting it at the left shoulder. The injured arm could not be saved and was amputated near the shoulder. This vest, now in the collections of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, tells the story of Lucius Fairchild’s sacrifice during the Civil War.

Fairchild left the military in 1863 and was appointed Secretary of State of Wisconsin before being elected governor, an office he held for three terms. He was also a charter member of the first local Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) post in Wisconsin and served as national commander of the GAR for one term. Governor Fairchild passed away in Madison, WI in 1896 at the age of 64.

This vest is currently on display as part of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s latest Civil War sesquicentennial exhibit, The Last Full Measure, on exhibit until April 19, 2015. Learn more at http://bit.ly/1Ad2df7

John Garrett: A Veteran in the Spotlight

Born on July 6, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois, John W. Garrett was in a fraternity studying Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Illinois when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Knowing they were at war, John decided to enlist in the spring of 1942.  As an engineer by education, John was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for basic training.  After basic training, Garrett was assigned to the 14th Armored Division at Camp Campbell, Kentucky.  In October of 1944, John and his unit were sent to southern France, where they moved up the Rhine Valley into the Vosges Mountains.

On New Year’s Eve night in 1944, John recounts defending against the last major German counter-offensive of the war, Operation Nordwind.

Operation Nordwind

Operation Nordwind

“On New Year’s Eve night, we had the first attack by the 6th SS Mountain Division against us. And we were the first unit they caught.  We had listening posts at night…we could hear movement.  And we knew we were going to get it, sooner or later.  What we did, we took equipment they had…concertina coil and criss-crossed all the deer trails and mountain roads to slow them up, because we knew they were coming.  We didn’t have any grenades or that, we were short on ammunition and everything, and we were half-way rationed and stuff.  So what we did, we got into this depot at Barenthal and we would make our own pull-type devices. We’d take a quarter-pound block of TNT and wrap a whole bunch of nails around them with tape. And then put a pull-type device to set them off. We had those all through the area where we knew the attack was coming.  We knew there was only one route they had to come and that was right at us, so we had everything set up for them.  So we had the attack.”

Americans in action during Operation Nordwind.

Americans in action during Operation Nordwind.

Garrett and his comrades saw almost continuous action towards the end of the war.  The strongest attack of Operation
Nordwind was halted by the 14th Armored Division in the fierce defensive Battle of Hatten-Rittershoffen, which raged from January 9th to the 21st in 1945.  John safely returned home in September of 1946 and worked as a steel salesman and contractor for many years until retiring in 1980 in Delavan, Wisconsin.

To hear more of John’s story and many others, visit http://bit.ly/1txxO9K

 

Together in War by Emily Irwin

Willard (left) and Wilbur (right) Diefenthaler.

Willard (left) and Wilbur (right) Diefenthaler.

Born twenty minutes apart in Kiel, Wisconsin, identical twins Willard and Wilbur Diefenthaler share a story of duty and sacrifice during World War II.  They were drafted together on December 7, 1942 and after induction at Fort Sheridan, Wilbur joined the 919th Field Artillery and Willard went to the 101st Airborne Division.

After three months, Willard requested a transfer and joined his brother at Camp Phillips in Kansas.  The brothers later joined the 106th Infantry Division, where Wilbur became an assistant supply sergeant and Willard worked with chemical warfare.  After training in Indiana, the 106th was sent overseas in October 1944 and experienced its first major conflict in December 1944 at the Battle of the Bulge.

On December 19, 1944, German soldiers captured Willard and Wilbur along with 1200 of their comrades.  Knowing his captors would take any valuables, Willard threw his wristwatch to the ground and stomped it into the mud and snow, effectively hiding it until the inspection was over.  This watch is now in the collection of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, its glass still cracked from Willard’s boot.

Willard Diefenthaler's wristwatch.

Willard Diefenthaler’s wristwatch.

In rain and sleet, Willard and Wilbur were marched towards Germany.  While bedded down in a boxcar, they narrowly avoided bombing by an Allied plane, which destroyed part of the train track, the train’s engine, and coal car directly next to the POWs.  The next morning, after the prisoners were forced to rebuild the train tracks, they were transported to Bad Orb, Germany and marched to Stalag IX-B, considered one of the worst German POW camps.  The prisoners passed the time by singing, writing poetry, praying, and sleeping.  They regularly went without food and, when fed, were forced to share a loaf of bread with six or seven other men.  Many prisoners, including Wilbur, became too sick to move.  On January 25, 1945, Willard was sent to Stalag 9A.  It was the last time he would ever see his twin brother.

Willard was liberated on March 20, 1945.  Wilbur’s fate was unknown until a fellow soldier saw Willard and said “I swear to God I buried you at Mannheim.”  It was then that Willard realized his brother had not survived.  Wilbur died in a POW hospital on February 21, 1945 at the age of 22.  Years later, Wililard learned that his brother had died of pnemonia, despite the efforts of German doctors to save him.

After the war, Willard went to vocational school in Sheboygan and became a machinist.  He married and had four children.  Willard passed away on May 14, 2008 at the age of 85.  He donated artifacts from his service and recorded an oral history with the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, preserving both his and Wilbur’s stories for future generations.

This article appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of The Bugle, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s quarterly publication and an exclusive benefit of WVM membership.  Learn more about The Bugle at http://bit.ly/1yQca0c

Read Willard Diefenthaler’s oral history at http://bit.ly/16o8J6M

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy by Emily Irwin

Stanley Gruber.

Stanley Gruber.

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, where an estimated 200 Wisconsin men and women were stationed on December 7, 1941. One such Wisconsinite was Gunner’s Mate Stanley Gruber. A Butler, Wisconsin native, Gruber entered the Navy in 1939 and was stationed aboard the USS Maryland. In April 1940, the battleship left Long Beach, California, destined for Pearl Harbor.

Photograph taken from Japanese bomber during the attack.  Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

Photograph of the attack. Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

The Maryland was moored along Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on December 7, near seven other battleships in a line now known as “Battleship Row.” When the attack began, Gruber manned gun three on the Maryland and stayed at his post despite suffering perforated eardrums, an injury which permanently damaged his hearing. During his oral history interview, Gruber discussed the devastation he saw during the attack: “So I’m lookin’ and I see a ship, and I didn’t know which ship it is. It was the Nevada. And when I looked the second time it was just a big ball of fire.”

Around 9:30 AM, 90 minutes after the attack began, the Japanese planes departed. Gruber described the aftermath:

The Maryland beside the capsized Oklahoma.  Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

The Maryland beside the capsized Oklahoma. Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

But after the attack was over, we started helping people on the Oklahoma, she was rolled over, and those Oklahoma sailors were all coming aboard our ship and they were all in the nude, maybe just shorts, and they had grease and oil all over them and everything. And there were four hundred-fifty of them that we couldn’t get out of the Oklahoma.

2,403 Americans lost their lives in the attack and 1,178 were wounded. While exact numbers are unknown, at least 40 Wisconsinites were killed that day. Described by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as “a date which will live in infamy,” the events of December 7, 1941 united a nation and led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

Learn more about Wisconsin and Pearl Harbor at http://bit.ly/12n0YfB.

To read Stanley Gruber’s full transcription, click here.

Jeff Carnes: Veteran in the Spotlight

Jeff Carnes in Kuwait.

Jeff Carnes in Kuwait.

As a military linguist, Jeff Carnes provided a critical link between American troops, foreign forces, and the local population, establishing trust in treacherous times. Fluent in Arabic, Carnes connected intimately with the local people during his tour in Iraq in 2003. He recalls a conversation with an Iraqi civilian named Muhammad who had undergone horrific torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s regime. “That night in late March 2003,” Carnes writes, “Muhammad not only gave me a crash course in Iraqi Arabic. He taught me that the human soul can endure and flourish under even the most trying circumstances.”

Jeff Carnes was born in Jefferson, Wisconsin, in 1977. He enlisted in the Army after two years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and attended basic training in the fall of 1997 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was first deployed to Kosovo in 2000, attached to the 1st Armored Division. The unit was charged with leading Task Force Falcon, a part of a NATO-led international peacekeeping force. He returned to the United States in 2001 and continued his field training at Fort Campbell, located along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. Two years later, he was deployed to Iraq as a military linguist with the 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. There he provided interpretation on missions; assisted officers with matters of purchasing, transportation and security; and facilitated interactions with locals.

Members of the 101st Airborne Division while stationed in Iraq.

Members of the 101st Airborne Division while stationed in Iraq.

As one of the Army’s many specialized vocations, the job of the military linguist is notable for its high stakes and required expertise. Linguists use their foreign language skills to supplement military intelligence in translation, on-the-ground communication, cryptology, and other diverse operations. Whereas strategic linguists typically work remotely, tactical linguists like Carnes accompany troops in the field.

In 2004, after redeployment to Fort Campbell following his tour in Iraq, Carnes traveled to Arizona to serve as an instructor in the Army Reserves at Fort Huachuca. Since leaving military service in 2006, Carnes re-enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in linguistics in 2008. He was awarded the Dean’s Prize as one of the top three graduates in the College of Letters and Science at UW-Madison. He has also been active in the veteran community, including volunteering at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

Carnes was a diligent documentarian of his time in the Army, toting home compelling relics and scores of photographs, particularly of his tour in Iraq. Many of these items are now in the WVM collection, helping to illustrate diverse day-to-day encounters and preserving his story for future generations.

Are you a Wisconsin veteran and interested in donating your collection? Learn more: http://bit.ly/1FqCksp

Holiday Greetings from the Field by Mary Kate Kwasnik

Card

Christmas card from the Marvin Fruth collection.

A wise man once crooned that this is the most wonderful time of the year. As the winter holidays roll in, cheer seems to surround us. Coffee shops break out their festive red cups , the radio croons out classic holiday songs and the city is suddenly frosted in tiny, little light bulbs. It’s everywhere. But what are the holidays like for our troops, especially those serving overseas? For those at war? There are classic stories about the 1914 Christmas Truce, when German and British troops ventured out from their trenches into no man’s land to share season’s greetings and cigarettes, or the annual Bob Hope Christmas shows during World War II and Vietnam, but what about the stories about the individual soldier? What was it really like?

We can imagine that holidays spent in the field are wildly different from those at home. Grandparents and cousins turn into sergeants and captains, while cozy, warm homes are replaced with mess halls and tents. Those special, annual holiday meals and dishes that you look forward to every year become just a story to tell your squad about Christmas back home. Upon searching the oral history collection for holiday stories, however, it seems that most veterans have fond memories of holidays in the service. Many have stories of hosting delicious feasts on base and inviting loved ones and locals to celebrate, while others have memories of returning home from the war just in time for Christmas.

In a 2003 oral history interview, C.J. Antonie, a Madison resident and aerial navigator who served in Africa and Italy in World War II, recalled a Christmas feast while stationed in Rome. Following the bombing of the city and the American invasion in 1944, many Romans were living in a state of hunger and poverty. Antonie remembered seeing families living in the rubble of their destroyed homes and encountering elderly Italian women waiting outside the U.S. mess hall with gallon cans to collect unwanted food from the American GIs. At Christmas, Antonie described inviting the young son of the family who did his laundry to the American holiday feast:

 

At Christmastime they said we could bring a guest. They had a little guy about your size, and I said, “Would you like to come for Christmas dinner?” “Oh,” they said, “sure.” So I went to pick him up and they must have had him in a tub and scrubbed him with a scrub brush because he just shone. So as we went through the line I told them this guy’s got a pretty good size family at home, give him a little extra. So, he had a plate that was heaped up like this (indicating). In the meantime he’s taking bread and putting it in his pockets. And he got a bag to put all this stuff in to take it home. He ate pretty good.

(C.J. Antonie, WVM Oral History Interview, 2003)

Roger Miller, a Silver Creek native, recalled holiday memories from inside the kitchen. As a newlywed and newly appointed Army cook at Fort Bragg during the Korean War, Miller was one of only two men in basic training who was not sent to Korea. Miller was able to bring his wife Sylvia to North Carolina where he began cook school and was soon making meals for over 200 soldiers. Miller described his memories of holidays in the mess hall in a 2003 oral history interview:

 

“Things that stand out in my mind from that time is, the spreads that you would put on for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just out of this world. Cans of canned nuts, and all the materials to bake cakes, and cranberry sauce, and all that. On Thanksgiving it was then, they invited your wives to come out to share a meal. It was nice.”

(Roger Mill, WVM Oral History Interview, 2003)

Although most would prefer to be with their loved ones at home for the holidays, that often is not the case for our troops in service. Today, there are roughly one million troops in active duty in over 150 countries around the world. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and Trees for Troops have created programs in which civilians can send holiday cards, packages and Christmas trees to troops overseas. We can hope that when today’s soldiers tell us their stories from their time in service, they will also have warm memories of the holidays, those of festive days in an otherwise difficult time.

Learn more about the WVM Oral History program at http://bit.ly/1uzrCIr.

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs