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Avenue of Heroes Biographies


 Date of Record: 2015-06-11

Lieutenant W.R. (Bill) Lunt
Army Air Corps

By Coronado Scribe, Jerry Greenspan, May 2015

Former First Lieutenant (Lt), Willis (Bill) Lunt, was a member of the United States Army Air Corps. He is the personification of what Tom Brokaw, in his 1998 book, “The Greatest Generation” was describing.  He is a decorated officer who saw action in the European theater in World War ll. He has called Coronado home since 1989.

Born January 7, 1921, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and raised in Ohio, as a youngster Bill brought a model GB Racer aircraft to the hotel room of Amelia Earhart for her autograph. She signed it, and needless to say, it was a very proud moment! Shortly after graduation from Cuyahoga High School, Bill was awarded a scholarship by the CAP (Civil Air Patrol) and earned a private pilot’s license. 

When America entered WW11, Bill joined the Army Air Corps as a volunteer, on June 12, 1942, and was initially sent to Nashville, Tennessee (TN).  Bill had further training in Helena, Arkansas (AR), and Gunter Field, Alabama, before graduating and earning his ‘wings’ as a Second Lt., at Blythville Airbase, AR, in August 1943. 

Next came 12-weeks of training on B-24’s, and Pilot In Command (PIC), at Smyrna, TN. In November of that same year, Bill was transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he received advanced training on a B-24 Bomber. It was in Salt Lake City that Bill met his crew; three other officers and six sergeants. Since there was concern that lower graded military were not treated as well as officers and non-commissioned officers upon capture, no American flying crew on a warplane carried a rank under Sergeant. These nine men were his team through 51 credited missions. 

Bill’s team was assigned their aircraft at Mitchell Field New York, on April 1, 1944. They named their Bomber “Sleepy Time Gal.”  On April 7, 1944, “Sleepy Time Gal” was assigned to the 15th Army Air Corps, 456th Bomb Group, 744th Bomb Squadron, in Foggia Field, Stornara, Italy. Lt. Lunt’s first combat mission occurred on April 12, 1944. It was an attack on enemy positions in Budapest, Hungary.

The group received a Presidential Unit Citation, initially named a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC). In this case the mission was to bomb the Shell Oil Refinery, again in Budapest, Hungary. On July 2, 1944, the 456th Group pounded this previously untouched target. Three minutes after bomb release, and before the Group could reform into a protective formation, they were attacked by no less than fifty Me-109’s and, ten FW-190’s, of the Lufwaffe gruppe. These were JG 302 fighters and the Hungarian Air Force 101 puma Group, in all, sixty enemy aircraft. 

Of the 31 B-24 bombers involved in the attack on the refinery, Lt. Lunt’s formation bore the brunt of the enemy counter offense, losing six bombers and a seventh damaged beyond repair. There had been nine bombers in the Formation. Thirty-six American airmen were killed, and 24 captured. That was largest single-day loss for Group 456 during the war. Bill and only one other bomber made it back to base without a loss of crew or craft. It was also a day in which those attacking American bombers destroyed twenty-six enemy aircraft, possibly eight more, and damaged nine others. 

There was other near death missions for Lt. Lunt. One occurred when returning to base with one engine out, and running low on fuel. The #1 and #4 engines were OK, but in addition to having lost engine #3 to enemy fire, there was a mistake made in transferring fuel, resulting in engine #2 being just about out of fuel. That put more of a burden on the remaining two working engines. Approaching the small dirt runway, Sleepy Time Gal encountered another American B-24, approaching from the opposite direction. The tower fired a red flare, not knowing that Sleepy Time Gal was flying on fumes. The flash signaled Lt. Lunt to circle behind the other B-24. That cost time and precious fuel. Most of his crew had gone to the rear of the plane, in the hope of bailing out, only to realize they were too low for a chute to open. As they were completing the 180-degree turn, and closing in on the runway, on nothing but fumes, a B-17 taxiing into position just shy of the runway, sighted the distressed Sleepy Time Gal and heard the increasing noise of its engines under severe strain, and, thinking it was likely to crash into their plane, ran for their very lives. That Bill is here to tell the tale speaks of great piloting. No doubt Bill would humbly add, “He was just lucky.”

Lt. Lunt had been promoted to First Lieutenant before he was transferred stateside, having completed 35 sorties (deployments) and 51 mission points. The difference between missions flown, and mission points earned, was a result of reviews, wherein his Group, the 456th Bomber Group, was deemed to have performed especially well under very difficult conditions, thereby earning a second mission point. Lt. Lunt was the third replacement pilot added to this Group, arriving two months after the 456th had started flying missions, but only the second pilot to complete his 50 missions target sheet. Amazingly, all of this was accomplished in a four-month period. 

Lt. Lunt received numerous commendations, including The Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with 4 Oak-leaf Cluster. 

Bill was considered both an excellent pilot, and a lucky one. In 1990, Bill met his one time radioman, Robert M. (Bob) Rogers. Bob had been hospitalized during their assignment together in the war, when he was a member of Bill’s crew. When Bob recovered he was no longer assigned to Sleepy Time Gal. By this time, Lt. Lunt had flown his 50th mission on July 16, 1944, and he would be heading stateside. Unfortunately, Bob’s second mission, not under the leadership of Lt. Lunt, with his new bomber crew, ended badly. Bob’s B-24 was hit on July 17, 1944. He parachuted and was taken prisoner. 

Upon greeting Bill 46-years later, Bob said, “I would fly with you anytime, anywhere.” In 2015, when Bill related the incident to this author, he seemed to be quietly reflecting on his team-mate and friend, from their times together in both, 1944,`a 1990, Bob Rogers.

Bill met an Army Air Corps 1st Lt., named Dorothy Marie Chadwick, at a bus stop heading off-base at Westover Field, Mass. They must have found something they liked about one another. On April 16, 2015, they celebrated their 70th anniversary. At age 94, family, friends, and this author, consider Lieutenant W.R. (Bill) Lunt, articulate, modest, and funny.

 

*Note, Lunt’s “Avenue of Heroes” Banner is displayed on Third Street and E Avenue, the first on approach to Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) in Coronado California, May 18, 2015.

 

 

 

Hospital Corpsman First Class (HM1) Jeff "JT" Taylor

Navy SEAL

 

By Coronado Scribe, Mike Lavin, June 2015

The erudite and prescient final letter to his wife of only three months, Erin, speaks so well to defining who Jeffrey Taylor was, as a husband, an American, and a Navy Seal, where he wrote, “Here I am, living my dream which extends out as the farthest-reaching arm to smash those who wish harm on my loved ones and our way of life. Sometimes the great pride is replaced with anger, followed by sadness at the loss of friends that couldn't be here with me to fight as they also dreamed to do. As far away as I am, I feel at home here, and know this is what I'm meant to do. Not sure if this will give me the closure to move on or solidifies my place in life, only time will tell. The one thing I know without a doubt, is that I look forward to coming home to you, being the best husband I can and loving you for the rest of my life." 

HM1 (SEAL) Jeffrey S. Taylor died soon after writing that letter, on June 28, 2005, while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan. He lost his life when the MH-47 Chinook helicopter he, and fellow special forces were aboard, crashed into the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, after being shot down by enemy forces, during an attempt to provide ground support for stranded Navy Seals in what was coined, Operation Red Wing. Jeffrey had deployed to Afghanistan just three months earlier, in April 2005.

Jeffrey spent his first 18-years in Beckley, West Virginia (WV), the son of Gail and John Bowman. He graduated from Independence High School in Coal City, WV, where he excelled in sports. (2) "Jeff was an expert outdoorsman who loved sky diving, BASE jumping, rock climbing, adventure sports, hunting, and shooting and his family."

Jeffrey enlisted in the Navy, June 20, 1994, and completed basic training in Great Lakes, Ill., in August 1994. He went on to graduate Field Medical Service School in Camp Lejeune, N.C. He served as a medic on a SEAL quick-response team, a Basic Airborne, and was a Military Freefall Parachute school graduate. In addition to SEAL Team Ten, Jeff's previous duty stations include the Navy Medical Center, Portsmouth, the 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, SEAL Team Eight, and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). He re-enlisted for three years, and had hoped to go into an officer-training program.

It was when Jeff came to Coronado, California, where he completed Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training, that he met his wife, Erin, a Coronado High School graduate.

Taylor was part of a dedicated Naval Special Warfare team fighting the Taliban, a fundamentalist regime that a U.S. led coalition knocked from power in Afghanistan in 2001. However, the Taliban continued to conduct guerilla operations, particularly along the Pakistan border. Taylor worked to help ensure al Qaeda terrorists could not train in, nor launch strikes from, Afghanistan, since their lethal attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

He was assigned to SEAL Team Ten, Virginia Beach, when he, and “seven other SEALs, and eight Army “Nightstalker” Commandos, died in their heroic attempt to rescue SEALs, LT Michael Murphy, Matthew Axelson, and Danny Dietz, who fought on the ground courageously, providing protective fire for a fourth squad member to escape, before being killed in the fierce firefight by overwhelming Taliban forces.”  

HM1 Taylor’s duty assignments included Recruit Training Center, Great Lakes,  Illinois; NSHS San Diego, California Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia; Field Medical Service School, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, Naval Special Warfare Center, Coronado, California; SEAL Team EIGHT, Little Creek, Virginia; USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Norfolk, Virginia; John F.  Kennedy Special Warfare Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and SEAL Team TEN, Little Creek, Virginia.

For his heroic efforts answering the call of his country, Taylor was decorated with the Purple Heart, Bronze Star for Combat ‘V” for Valor, Navy Commendation and Combat Action Medal posthumously. Other awards included the Presidential Unit Citation, Navy “E” Ribbon, Navy Fleet Marine Force Medal Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (combat). Also, the Navy Battle “E” Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal (4 awards), Navy Fleet Marine Force Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal (2 awards), Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (3 awards), Expert Rifle Medal and Expert Pistol Medal.     

Jeff’s family includes his mother, Gail Bowman and brother Brandon Eston Cox, his father John Taylor, and stepmother Cheryl Gwinn Taylor, and half brothers, Justin Alex Taylor and Josh David Taylor, all who reside in West Virginia (WV).  

Jeffrey's home state newspaper reported that, "hundreds of family, friends, and fellow SEALs, filled Cornerstone Freewill Baptist Church...to share their fondest memories of Jeff. The day saw tears and laughter from many as speakers told stories about the man they had known."  Gov. Joe Manchin made an appearance at the service to offer prayers and condolences. Taylor’s SEAL teammates remember him as “an extremely strong leader who knew how to get the job done. He was known as a serious, yet lighthearted person.” (1)

Erin spoke of her husband as “honest, compassionate, and giving to a fault.” She said, “He knew his place was fighting side by side with his best friends to bring peace and avoid future attacks on American soil. Jeff knew his calling.” 

 

*Note, Taylor’s “Avenue of Heroes” Banner is displayed on Third Street and F Avenue, standing watch over the approach to Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI), in Coronado, California, May 18, 2015. It would have been his 40th Birthday.

 

Sources:

(1) Navyseals.com.

(2) Charleston Gazette (WV). 

(3) "Jeffrey Taylor." Seal Team 8. N.p., n.d. Web.

(4) Correspondences with Erin Taylor

 

 

 

Admiral Raymond Spruance

US Navy

 

By Bruce Linder, July 2015

During World War II, Admiral Raymond Spruance (July 3, 1886 – December 13, 1969) commanded US naval forces during two of the most significant naval battles that took place in the Pacific theater, the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Philippine Sea.  The Battle of Midway was the first major victory for the United States over Japan and is seen by many as the turning point of the Pacific campaign of the war. The Navy’s official historian said of the Battle of Midway “...Spruance’s performance was superb...(he) emerged from this battle one of the greatest admirals in American naval history”.

A 1906 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Spruance’s naval experience was primarily in destroyers and battleships. In the early 1920s, he commanded destroyers Osborne (DD-295) and Aaron Ward (DD-132) that were based in San Diego, and occasionally tied up at the piers in Coronado. Spruance and his wife lived in Coronado during this time. 

Aboard ship, Spruance ran a quiet bridge, without chitchat; he demanded that orders be given concisely and clearly. In one incident a distraught officer rushed to report, “Captain, we’ve just dropped a depth charge over the stern!”  “Well, pick it up and put it back,” was Spruance’s measured response.

In the first months of World War II in the Pacific, Spruance commanded four heavy cruisers and support ships of Cruiser Division Five from his flagship, Northampton. He then replaced Admiral Bull Halsey as commander of American forces sailing for Midway when Halsey was unexpectedly hospitalized. The Battle of Midway ranks as one of the most famous fleet engagements in all of maritime history. The forces under Spruance sank all four Japanese carriers they opposed during the battle while losing one of its own, Yorktown. For his actions at the Battle of Midway, Rear Admiral Spruance was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and was cited: “For exceptionally meritorious service… as Task Force Commander, United States Pacific Fleet. During the Midway engagement which resulted in the defeat of and heavy losses to the enemy fleet, his seamanship, endurance, and tenacity in handling his task force were of the highest quality.”

For the rest of World War II, Spruance commanded the Fifth Fleet in actions in the Marshall Islands, Marianas, Truk, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.  While screening the American invasion of Saipan in June 1944, Spruance defeated the Japanese fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Spruance received the Navy Cross for his actions at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Spruance succeeded Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz as Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas in November 1945.

After the war, Spruance was appointed President of the Naval War College. He was appointed as Ambassador to the Philippines by President Harry Truman, and served there from 1952 to 1955.

Raymond Spruance died in Pebble Beach, Ca, on December 13, 1969. He was buried with full military honors alongside his wife, Margaret Dean, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, his longtime friend Admiral Richmond K. Turner, and Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, an arrangement made by all of them while living. Two naval destroyers have been named Spruance.

Awards: Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with two gold stars, Navy Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Order of the Bath (United Kingdom).

*Note: Spruance banner is located at Third and Alameda.

Next week’s Avenue of Heroes biography will be Vice Admiral James Stockdale, 

by Toni McGowan, June 2015(Banner at Fourth and Alameda)

 

 

 

Commander Theodore “Spuds” Ellyson

US Navy

 

Naval Aviator # 1

 

The birth of their strapping red-haired son, Theodore Gordon Ellyson, on February 27, 1885, was a proud day for Virginians, Henry and Lizzie Ellyson. No one was prepared when his life was tragically cut short exactly 43-years later.

By all accounts, Commander Theodore Gordon “Spuds” Ellyson was in a rush to be first at everything—as if he sensed his days would be short. While his time in Coronado was brief, his daring anchored North Island’s role as a leader in naval aviation and flight technology, and earned him a place in Coronado’s history as an adopted son.

While stationed at North Island, Lt. Ellyson achieved many of the firsts he desired. He was the first naval officer assigned to aviation duty, the first passenger of a seaplane, the first pilot to land at night on water, and was first and only commander of North Island’s Camp Trouble. He was first to advocate for gear for airmen that included a “light helmet, so the engine could be heard, a leather jacket, and a life preserver.” He also prepared the first check-off list for inspecting an airplane prior to flight. His proudest ‘first’ however, was as United States Naval Aviator No. 1.

As a brawny 14 year-old, the freckle-faced youth saw naval ships entering the bay in Hampton Rhodes and knew precisely what he wanted to do, go to sea. He even hopped a train on his own for the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Before being retrieved by his worried parents, a curious official asked him why he wanted to become a naval officer. Young Theodore replied without hesitation, “I saw the fleet come in.” His dream was realized when he attended the Academy five years later, Class of 1905.

Following graduation, Ellyson served at sea aboard (USS) Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Colorado, West Virginia, Rainbow, and USS Shark at the Asiatic Station. After his return to the states he commanded USS Tarantula and the submarine - USS Seal. He worked his way up to Lieutenant.

An urging by his friend and fellow submarine service officer, Ken Whiting, changed the course of his career. The two submitted requests to the Secretary of the Navy to learn to fly. Coincidentally, aviation innovator Glenn Curtiss, the eventual “Father of Naval Aviation,” also sent a letter to the Secretary. He offered to train a naval officer at no charge “in the construction and operation of airplanes” at his newly established flight school on Coronado’s North Island.

In a rush to leave for the winter holiday, the Secretary reportedly grabbed the first application on his desk and on January 17, 1911, Ellyson reported for duty at North Island. This marked the birth of United States Naval Aviation.

Whiting, while not selected, went on to have his own distinguished career as “Father of the Aircraft Carrier.”

Glenn Curtiss had a competitive spirit, especially when it came to the Wright Brothers - who were building planes and training Army pilots in the east, so he and Ellyson were a good fit. Their relationship shored-up Curtiss’ vision of launching airplanes from ships, the development of the seaplane, and providing his airplanes to the navy.

By January 1912, Ellyson was commanding the aptly named and accident prone “Camp Trouble,” located across from the Broadway Pier in San Diego. It closed permanently in May of that year and Ellyson left Coronado.

He was assigned as head of the Aviation School at Annapolis, where he was nearly killed in an experimental launch of a seaplane from the air-compressed catapult system. A second launch attempt was scheduled after his recovery five months later.

It was during the short break in flying that he met his “lucky charm’” Helen Glenn, a daughter of prominent Atlanta politicians. Ellyson knew instantly she was ‘the one,’ but she would only marry him if he gave up flying for one-year. He agreed, but only after the upcoming catapult launch. This time it was a success, and so was the marriage.

For unknown reasons, possibly related to a head injury, his love of flying took a “dark turn.”  “I have decided to quit flying for good…never to get in a machine again for any reason,” he wrote to his wife.

Escalation of world tensions took him back to sea and revived him as evidenced in a letter home, “I am really feeling fit and in good condition for the first time since I bumped my head out at San Diego.” In July of 1918, Ellyson was promoted to Commander. He was also assigned to the commission charged with carrying out the Australian Peace Treaty that ended World War I. A role he argued he was not qualified for.

Ellyson remained in Europe until his career took a hit while Commanding USS Brooks, in what came to be known as the “Clash at Keil.” A German officer ordered Brooks out of the harbor because he believed “they were still at war with the U.S.” Commander Ellyson fiercely refused to leave. The New York Times reported, “Commander Ordered Home as Result of Clash, Admits Refusal to Leave Harbor.” In defense of his actions a robust Ellyson argued, “I didn’t tell him to go to h---, as much as had been reported.”  He was relieved of command.

This took him back to Hampton Roads to serve as Executive Officer of the Naval Air Station, Naval Operating Base, and head of the Plans Division for the Bureau of Aeronautics. In 1922, Ellyson assisted in the reorganization of the Brazilian Navy. He and his family spent three years in Rio de Janeiro, where he provided technical and flight instruction.

When the family returned to the U.S., he was back at sea, first in command of Torpedo Squadron-1, then Executive Officer of USS Wright, a seaplane tender.

In what seemed as full circle in his career, Ellyson became Executive Officer of USS Lexington, the Navy’s second aircraft carrier when tragedy struck. It was his 43rd birthday when the carrier received a panicked dispatch from Annapolis that his 11-year old daughter was severely ill. The worried father was given leave and he, and Lt. Commander Hugo Schmidt, and Lt. Roger Ransehousen, took off for the two-hour flight.

The three men never made it. For over a month, Army, Navy, and Marine aviators searched Chesapeake Bay for the missing plane. Sadly, two-months later, Ellyson’s body washed ashore. He was buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery.

His daughter survived her illness.

Commander Ellyson continued to be honored after his death. In 1941, the destroyer USS Ellyson was named in tribute. In 1961, he was designated the recipient of the Gray Eagle Award for the period 1911 to 1928, while senior active Naval Aviator. He and Glenn Curtiss were honored in San Diego, at the El Cordova Hotel, where Helen accepted the plaque in his honor.” In 1964, Theodore “Spuds” Ellyson was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

The origin of Ellyson’s nickname, Spuds, remains a mystery. Whether it was his call sign, Academy moniker, or childhood pet-name is not known. Interestingly, the term “spuds” came to  identify carrier aviators who’s airplane hit or came close to a ramp strike near a ship’s ‘spud’ locker - below the rear level of the flight deck.

 

 

 

Admiral Edward H. Martin

US Navy, Vietnam War POW

 

Some veterans are honored for conspicuous courage in the face of the enemy, and others for excellent performance in command of great fleets. Admiral Edward H. Martin is here recognized as a hero in both arenas.

Martin continued to serve his country and the city of Coronado even in retirement. The special regard of his neighbors and friends was made visible after he died on December 22, 2014. The huge crowd of mourners at his funeral spilled out of Christ Church into the large courtyard, where the ceremony was broadcast over loudspeakers.

Sherry Martin, who had married Ed in that same Church 56 years before, was later asked to comment on the extraordinary qualities of her husband. She promptly mentioned his unfailing devotion to the United States Navy on active duty and in retirement. “His hobbies all involved the Navy, but he also never lost his great sense of humor.”

Martin grew up in Savannah, Ga, and entered the Naval Academy in 1950, at the beginning of the Korean War. That conflict was over when he graduated in 1954, but the tense “Cold War” with Communist Russia and China continued throughout his 39 years of active service.

A brief biography cannot detail each of Ed’s varied assignments. Sherry Martin has often said that they moved 35 times! (She can say it with a smile, because she also grew up in a military family and was used to it.)

In summary, Ed Martin was trained as a pilot in Pensacola, Fl, and Kingsville, Texas, after he graduated from the Academy. From 1955 to 1962, his credentials as a pilot were firmly established when he was served successively in multi-engine and single-engine squadrons, and then served as an instructor both at North Island and Miramar.

During the next five years, Ed’s varied assignments included service as a Flag Lieutenant for three Admirals, a cruise in the Mediterranean and graduation from the Naval War College in Newport. He was rapidly promoted. By the May of 1967 he was a Commander, serving as Executive Officer of an Attack Squadron, VA-34, flying the single-seat A-4 “Skyhawk.”

With a ground and air war raging in Vietnam, the men of VA-34 sailed from Norfolk, Va, on the carrier Intrepid. The ship crossed the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, then sailed through the Suez Canal on the way to the Tonkin Gulf off the coast of North Vietnam. After years of exposure to Cold War tensions, Commander Martin would fly in active combat.

The missions could be both dangerous and frustrating. The fliers were continuously exposed to attacks by ground-to-air missiles, but some prime targets were off-limits by restrictions imposed in Washington. Commander Martin did have one notable success on June 30, when he led an attack over the Haiphong Harbor that destroyed a large petroleum storage area. It was a mission for which he would later be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He would not get to wear the decoration for a long time, because just nine days later, his A-4 was hit by a missile in the area. He bailed out, was promptly captured on the ground, and imprisoned for almost six years.

It is not necessary to detail Ed Martin’s experience as a POW. The world now knows about the brutal efforts of the Communist captors to extract “confessions” of war crimes from the prisoners, in order to fuel opposition to the war in the U.S. It is sufficient to say that he endured prolonged solitary confinement in barren cells, sleep deprivation, brutal beatings and broken bones. He later attributed his survival to “faith in God, his country and its government,” and “the well organized and strong leadership in prison.” (The senior POW was another Coronado resident, James Stockdale.) Ed Martin also emphasized the “strength, courage and faith” of his wife, Sherry.

After his release from prison in March, 1973, Ed Martin returned to duty and assumed ever increasing responsibilities until he retired in 1989. Sherry believes that he most enjoyed his 1978-79 tour as Captain of the carrier Saratoga, a part of the Sixth Fleet in the still-tense Mediterranean area.

A carrier’s Captain has the ultimate responsibility for the welfare of a crew of 4500 on a floating airport and small city. He also serves as official host for visiting dignitaries when the ship is in various ports, an important diplomatic function in an area with so many NATO allies.

The Captain obviously has to delegate various tasks, but is always ultimately responsible if something goes wrong. He or she will fully experience what has been called “the loneliness of command” -- a burden underlined by the longstanding tradition that a Captain normally dines alone.

Ed Martin’s performance must have been outstanding, because command of a carrier is often the last assignment in a successful career. He went on to wear the three stars of a Vice Admiral, with ever-increasing responsibilities that included command of the entire Sixth Fleet and service as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare.

Shortly before he finally retired, Ed Martin was honored by President Reagan with two awards of the Distinguished Service Medal for his performance in “positions of great responsibility,” and belated awards of the Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his bravery and wounds suffered as a prisoner of war.

During his retirement years with Sherry in their Coronado home, Ed Martin was conspicuous for his leading role was in just about every public service organization in town, including Rotary, the Roundtable, and the Midway museum across the Bay. The value of his contributions is best demonstrated by the crowds who flocked to his funeral.

Ed Martin is survived by his Sherry, his devoted and brave wife for 56 years, and two of their three children: Michelle, born in 1959, lives in California; and Peter, born in 1963, lives and works on the East Coast. The first son, Edward II, born in 1960, died before his father, and his name is among those inscribed in Christ Church’s Memorial Garden.

 

 

 

Colonel Theodore H. Runyon

U.S. Air Force

 

Throughout his life, Theodore H. (“Ted”) Runyon lived by the values which shape our heroes: love of country, pride in her service, and a zest for adventure. He inherited them from his father, Theodore W. Runyon, who had enlisted in the Navy as a young man, earned a commission from the ranks, sailed around the world with the “White Fleet” in 1907-1909, and served in WWII before he retired as a Lieutenant Commander. The elder Runyon and his wife Martha, like most Navy couples, raised their five children in many cities around the U.S. and abroad.

The younger Ted Runyon, whom we now honor, was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1919. He chose to follow in his father’s footsteps, and enlisted in the Navy promptly after his 1939 graduation from the Brown (now “Army Navy”) Academy in Carlsbad. He wanted to fly, and took advantage of an opportunity to train as a pilot in the Army Air Corps. By 1941, he was a commissioned officer and qualified to fly what were then called “pursuit” aircraft, the equivalent of a “fighter pilot” today.

The U.S. went to war with Germany, Italy and Japan in December, 1941. In July, 1942, Ted was an Air Corps Captain, in charge of a P-38 unit that operated from various bases in Libya. The P-38 was the famous Lockheed “Lightning” with unique twin fuselages and engines. It was called “The Forked Tail Devil” by the German enemy.

By mid-January of 1943, Ted had flown over 50 missions from a base in Tripoli, with three credited victories in combat with pilots of German Messerschmitts. (Two other victories that he reported had not been witnessed by another pilot, so he was not officially credited with the five needed for recognition as an Air Force “Ace.”)

On January 14, 1943, Ted Runyon was shot down by German ground fire while on a low level strafing mission. He bailed out from an altitude of 700-800 feet, and landed with serious fractures and open shrapnel wounds in one leg. He was first confined in an Italian Field Hospital, and later moved several times to various camps in North Africa and Italy, as the Allied forces swept the enemy from Africa and battled their way North on the Italian mainland. When Italy surrendered in September 1943, Ted became a prisoner of the Germans.

He was a prisoner of war for 26 months and 6 days, in continual pain from his still-damaged leg and shrunken to 130 pounds from a once-sturdy 180. In March of 1945, he was rescued by forces under the command of General Patton. The German guards had all left the camp on the day before, and Ted retained joyful memories of the General’s entry through the high gates of the camp, armed with his ever-present pistols.

When Ted, then a Major, returned to the United States early in 1945, he was sent to San Antonio, Texas, for further medical treatment and the reorientation needed before prisoners of war could return to active duty. It was there that he met Carol Kyle, a First Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps.  Ted and Carol were married in 1946, and she still lives today in the Coronado house on Glorietta Boulevard that they had built in that year. Ted and Carol raised their four children in the house and in the various bases around the world where Ted was stationed.

The remaining years of Ted’s service were not marked by the same personal drama, conflict and pain, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart, among other campaign decorations. He did not see combat in either the Korean or the Vietnam conflicts.  However, in retrospect, his later contributions may have been the most significant, because he was actively engaged in the effort to ensure that the so-called “Cold War’ with the Soviet Union did not explode into a conflict that could kill a substantial portion of the world population overnight.

The nuclear stalemate depended on the presence of what was then known as “mutually assured destruction,” and that balance depended on the development of ever-improved rockets and missiles. Ted’s postwar education had made him an expert in that field. After completion of his rehabilitation in Fort Worth, the Air Force had sent him to college in Berkeley, California, and he graduated in 1949 with a degree in “Aeronautical Engineering.”

The full details of his later assignments are likely to be still classified, but the sequence is suggestive:

• He was involved, as a Lieutenant Colonel, in early missile programs at the Elgin Air Force base in Florida, from 1950-53, and at bases in France and Germany from 1953-58

• He served as a full Colonel from 1958-63 in the Pentagon, under the Air Force Chief of Staff. He was present there at the time of the Cuban Missile crisis.

• Perhaps most significant, was his command of a Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile squadron at the Davis Monthan base near Tucson, Arizona, from 1963-66.

After a tour in Europe coordinating the sale of military equipment to allied countries in NATO and command of the Wright Patterson Air Force base in Ohio, Ted retired in 1970. He and his family returned to their home in Coronado.

In retirement, Ted enjoyed a second career as a Real Estate broker for over 30 years, taught at Southwestern Junior College, and was an active member of Coronado’s Men’s Golf Club, Rotary, and Yacht Club.  He was particularly proud of the fact that he, an Air Force veteran, was also President of the Retired Officer Association in what was considered a Navy town.

Ted, otherwise best known as “The Col.,” died in 2005 at the age of 85. Survivors who still live in Coronado include Carol, his wife for 59 years, their daughter Susan Seaton, and sons Ted II and Dan (with his wife Susie). Another son Bill (with wife Bev) lives in Carlsbad.

*Note, Runyon’s “Avenue of Heroes” Banner is displayed on Third Street and H Avenue, standing watch on approach to Naval Air Station North Island, (NASNI), in Coronado California, May 18, 2015.

 

 

Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Richard Engel

US Navy

Dashing young pilot, Richard (Dick) Engel saw his future wife, stunning Susan Cheston at a party in San Francisco while he was stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Alameda. The Vietnam Conflict was heating up and President John F. Kennedy was still in office. She was pursuing a dental hygiene career. He was bound for battle. 

Engel was inspired from a young age to pursue a military career. His father was a World War I veteran of the Army’s Calvary Rainbow Division, coined by General Douglas MacArthur when the United States declared war on the German Empire. Troops from the best regiments of 26-states were combined into that single division. MacArthur said the division would “stretch over the entire country like a rainbow.”

Dick’s oldest brother, Captain Wilson F. Engel, EDO (Engineering Duty Officer) USN (deceased), graduated from the Naval Academy several years before Dick in 1946. He retired with 30-years of service.

But his pivotal moment to pursue a military career occurred when he was just twelve-years-old. It was at the graduation ceremony of his older brother Gordon from the Naval Academy in 1948. Right then-and-there young Engel determined to follow in his brothers’ and his father’s footsteps into military service.

Born in Minneapolis Engel moved in his youth to sunny California, where he graduated in 1954 from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach. A few years after his father died, (Dick was then 14), his mother moved to Tolita Avenue in Coronado. His three younger sisters Barbara, Janet and Margaret all graduated from Coronado High School.

Engel excelled academically and received the appointment he desired to the US Naval Academy; Class of 1959. This was the doorway to the fulfillment of his deepest desire: to become a naval aviator like his brother Gordon.

Unfortunately, his brother and inspiration, LCDR Gordon Engel was killed at the pinnacle of his career when an aircraft he was launching off of aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt near the coast of Florida, crashed when the catapult malfunctioned. 

While at the Naval Academy, Dick earned a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and a BS in Naval Science. The Naval Flight Training Command in Pensacola, Florida, was Dick’s first assignment. Then he was off to Corpus Christi for Advanced Training Command. 

Dick received his Naval Aviator Wings in October of 1960 with orders to Coronado, Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI). He was assigned to Fixed Wing Early Warning Training Squadron (VAW-11); the “Early Elevens.” These “war-birds” served as early warning forces to protect the fleet (ships) and shore warning networks under all weather conditions.

His mother had by then moved to 616 Ninth Street, which he remembers as “handy” during his duty in Coronado. “Great times were had at the Officers Club and the Mexican Village Happy Hour.” The Mexican Village on the 100 block of Orange Avenue was a well-known officer’s only hub for military personnel. His mother lived in Coronado until her passing at age 92.

It was late 1961 when Dick was transferred to NAS Alameda, where he met Sue. Soon after their marriage the two were pulled apart by war. More adventurous than many women of that era, Sue would hop a plane so they could be together, even for a moment or two. While separated, they wrote each other letters every single day.

In 1964 in Monterey, Ca, he attended Naval Post Graduate School earning a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. In 1966, it was on to Beeville, Texas, Chase Field, where he served in the Advanced Naval Air Training Command. This is where he transitioned as a pilot from propeller aircraft to jets. He was assigned as an instructor. In 1968, he was ordered to Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. 

From 1969 to 1970 Dick made two Mediterranean Sea deployments attached to Squadron VA-176 “Thunderbolts,” during the “Cold-War” era between the US and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). He served with the air-wing aboard USS Roosevelt, the same ship where his brother Gordon had been killed.

During his combat service in Vietnam, Engel was an attack pilot aboard USS Saratoga, attached to Squadron VA-75 the “Sunday Punchers.” For a good view of (VA-75) Vietnam combat tour, Dick suggests a Carol Reardon book, “Launch the Intruders.”

Engel never focused away from the “mission” and reported “that flying-low-level attack missions over North Vietnam at the end of that war (1972) at 600-feet in the dark of night was scary.” On one particular mission against a power plant north of Hanoi, just five miles from the target at an altitude of 600’ - his plane took a bullet in the nose landing-gear, severing a hydraulic system line. “The cockpit warning lights ‘lit up’ very suddenly giving an adrenalin-pumping scare.”

His bombardier/navigator, LCDR Hal King USN (now deceased) said he “felt the hit between his legs” and shouted on the intercom “What was that?!” Dick commanded, “We took a hit, but we are still flying, so get back on that radar scope and get rid of these bombs!” Seconds later, Engel and his crew declared a combat emergency and returned to the ship. Two other crews from that Squadron perished.

In his nine-month combat tour in Vietnam, Engel was awarded four Distinguished Flying Cross Medals, 14 Air Medals, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, the Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Commendation Medal with two Bronze Stars, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and he held the National Defense Service Medal.

He “flew about any plane you could name of that period.” From the AD5, one of the last propeller-driven aircraft (they could travel 311 mph, had a range of 1200 miles and could carry their weight in bombs) to the AD5Q “Skyraider” (Q-electronic warfare), and AD5W (W-anti-submarine and ship identification). In 1962, when across the board redesignation of several aircraft occurred, Dick flew with the “Bobcats,” VT3 advanced training squadron in Beeville, where he piloted the TF9J and AF9J “Cougar,” of 1950s Korean War vintage. He also flew the A6A “Intruder” low-level, all-weather Attack Aircraft, with Squadron VA-42 “Green Pawns,” the A6A “Intruder” attack aircraft, and KA6D “Intruder Tanker” aircraft while assigned to VA176 and VA 75 squadrons.

The solid pilot rounded out his years of active duty on Air Force exchange as a navy instructor at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Wright-Patterson Air Force base, Dayton, Ohio.

Engel retired to San Diego after 20-years of exemplary naval service. He went on to have a successful career in management with General Dynamics Electronics Division here in San Diego, retiring in 1992. In 1996, he and Sue sold their home in Carlsbad and traveled the USA via motor home for seven years, settling back to San Diego in a property they owned in Mira Mesa, a suburb north of San Diego.

Currently, Dick continues his service to community and country as a volunteer aboard USS Midway Museum, where he uses his skills as a Safety Team Member and shares military memories as a Docent. He is a volunteer police officer with San Diego Police Department’s, Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (RSVP) Traffic Division, where he was selected Volunteer of the Year for 2014.

Dick and Sue have two children, Nancy, and Gordon (his brother’s namesake). Both graduated from University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Nancy lives in Colorado and Gordon in California. They have four grandchildren: Jonathan, Karin, Joshua, and Christopher.

Not only did Engel find success in both naval and civilian careers, he was one of the lucky ones to find success in marriage as well. 

Today, Dick and Sue enjoy active lives in San Diego, in retirement.

*Engel’s banner can be seen at Third and J.

 

 

 

 

Colonel Richard F. Kenney

US Air Force

 

By Joseph Ditler 

He shot down Messerschmitts in one-on-one duels high in the skies above the European theatre of war; he bluffed another one out of the sky with aggressive flying when his guns jammed. He survived the ordeal of captivity in German POW camps that later inspired the movie, “The Great Escape,” and he somehow lived through a forced march in the worst snowstorm of the century. This was Coronado’s Colonel Richard Kenney.

Colonel Kenney passed peacefully in his sleep, on the morning of Dec. 11, 2014, at his home in Coronado. He was 94, and the last known surviving member of Coronado High School’s Class of 1938. His was a life well lived, and now he is being honored and remembered along Coronado’s Avenue of the Heroes.

Richard F. Kenney, (Dick) was born March 2, 1920 and moved to Coronado at the age of three. He gained a reputation for being a big, athletic kid who liked to work and play with equal passion. Kenney excelled as a junior sailor throughout the late 1930s, winning numerous regattas at the Coronado Yacht Club in Star boats, scows, and the Sunbirds of the Rainbow Fleet. He attended San Diego State University in 1940-41, University of Nevada in 1968 and Sierra College in 1972. 

He obtained his pilot’s license in 1940 from the Clyde Corley Flying School at Lindbergh Field. In September 1941, after a brief stint on four-stacker destroyers, he joined the Army Aviation Cadets at Cal Aero in Chino, Ca. In 1942, he was commissioned an Army Air Corps second lieutenant and assigned to a squadron at Hamilton Field just north of San Francisco. On short notice that Fall, the squadron boarded the Queen Mary in New York sailing for Ireland and the war. He flew with the 95th Fighter Squadron in Ireland and eventually deployed to fight air battles in the North Africa Campaign.

At 6’3” and 190 pounds, Lt. Kenney was a lanky twenty-three year old as he jammed himself into the tiny cockpit of the P-38 Lightning, one of the most significant aircrafts of World War II, and a veritable killing machine. 

On April 28, 1943, Kenney piloted his P-38 in low (15 feet over the waters of the Mediterranean) and fast (200 mph) to make a direct hit on an enemy merchant, troop transfer ship. Maneuvering himself directly over the ship when dropping his load, the explosion, and resulting shock wave flipped his P-38 past vertical. 

Disregarding his own safety, he kept his eyes on the ship long enough to watch his wingman’s bomb also explode on the doomed ship’s deck. Suddenly, the radio squawked as one of our bombers flying overhead warned Kenney of Messerschmitts dropping in on him. Kenney righted his aircraft in time for a head-on run with one of the Messerschmitts, guns blazing. Kenney won that duel as the Messerschmitt flamed and crashed into the sea. 

Kenney’s bombing of the Axis merchant ship and downing of the Messerschmitt ME 109 that day resulted in his receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. An official description of his actions read like a Clark Gable movie script: “Undaunted by a solid wall of flak and machine gun fire thrown above the ship, [Kenney] attacked broadside, planted his bomb squarely amidships, and passed a few feet over the ship. The merchant vessel was left at a complete standstill belching black smoke and steam after the explosion.” 

On another mission Kenney attacked a flight of six Italian transport aircraft (SM-82). He took out the rear transport, and then the next. As he took a bead on the third transport, a Messerschmitt assigned to cover the transports dropped out of the ceiling and opened fire on Kenney’s P-38. Kenney wheeled his plane around and shot down his attacker. That, including the two SM-82s, gave him a total of four confirmed kills. It was a big day as pilots go. 

Later, while escorting a flight of B-25 bombers over Sardinia, Kenney and his wingman were under attack by several Messerschmitts. Kenney’s wingman took down one of the German planes, amidst a mixed portrait of planes and hot lead. Kenney’s guns jammed and his wingman had to switch gas tanks so they decided to hit the deck for home at about 400 miles an hour. The Messerschmitts had altitude in their favor, however, and weren’t ready to give up the fight. 

“They were dropping down on us fast, and their bullets were exploding at maximum range just outside my canopy,” recalled Kenney. “We couldn’t outrun them so I signaled my wingman to turn back into them. He shot at one and missed, shot at another and it went down. The second plane ran for it and I had the third one in my sights but I was toothless.” Kenney’s jammed guns prevented him from scoring a fifth kill that would have given him ace status, however, and despite having no firepower of his own, Kenney saved his wingman by boldly bluffing the third enemy plane out of the air. 

That action resulted in a United Press International story that hit newspapers back home. The headline read, “Coronado Flier Bluffs Enemy.” Richard Kenney complained about that fifth elusive kill until his dying day. 

Two months after bluffing the German pilot out of the sky, Kenney was sent on a mission to fly in low and strafe a radar tower in Sicily that took him out of the war for the duration. His left engine was hit by surface-to-air gunfire, engulfing the plane and him in fire. Unable to reach the Mediterranean, Kenney crashed on a Sicilian farm.

He was captured by the Italians, taken to a hospital in Palermo, handed over to the Nazis and immediately transferred to Germany. Over 17 days of “interrogation,” he had a gun put to his temple, was refused medical treatment, thrown into solitary confinement and nearly starved before being transferred to Stalag Luft III, a POW camp for captured aviators. Located 90 miles southeast of Berlin in what is now Poland, he was to call Stalag Luft III home for the next two years. Kenney’s POW tag read “Stalag Luft III-1747.” 

Stalag Luft III was the inspiration for the movie “The Great Escape,” throwing a light on Kenney’s misfortune that gave it, and him, celebrity status in the years to come. While he was not on the list of escaping prisoners, he worked to help make that escape possible, often times carrying dirt from the tunnels in his pant legs to be spread outside when the Germans weren’t looking; or standing night watch as the diggers burrowed underground towards their intended escape.

In January of 1945, as Russian troops closed in on Stalag Luft III, Hitler ordered all 11,000 POWs be moved to prevent their capture. He intended to use them as gambits, as his war crumbled around him. The POW’s were marched out at midnight in a blinding blizzard. The now infamous death march was 60 miles, through the worst snowstorm to hit Europe in fifty years. Dick Kenney was one of those men who marched, starving through snow and ice, in sub-zero weather. 

For six days the prisoners slogged through the worst possible winter conditions. Finally the Germans packed the POW’s into small boxcars – up to 70 men were forced into the filthy cattle cars that would have been crowded at half that number, “That was the worst,” said Colonel Kenney. 

“On the morning of April 29, 1945, elements of the 14th Armored Division of Patton’s 3rd Army attacked the SS troops guarding Kenney’s Stalag. Prisoners scrambled for safety. Some hugged the ground or crawled into open concrete incinerators. Bullets flew seemingly haphazardly. Finally, the American task force broke through, and the first tank entered, taking the barbed wire fence with it. The prisoners went wild. They climbed on the tanks in such numbers as to almost smother them. Pandemonium reigned. They were free!” 

Dick Kenney was starving and just wanted to go home. He slipped out of the camp with an Army artillery unit and made his own way across Europe arriving at Camp Lucky Strike in France with no dog tags or uniform, but one step closer to home.

Following WWII, Kenney become an instructor pilot for aviators flying P-51s. He trained combat crews in aerial gunnery, bombing and strafing at Nellis Air Force Base in mid-1953. In search of that elusive fifth kill to qualify him as an ace, Kenney signed up to fly in the Korean War, as the squadron commander of a Saber jet outfit. The war however was all but ended.

Kenny’s work was crucial in instructing Navy fliers in the transition from prop to jet propulsion. He became one of the first Air Force flyers to become carrier qualified. Later, he was sent south of the border as an emissary of the United States Air Force, to aide the Mexican Air Force’s transition from propellers to jets. To add to his unique collection of awards and honors, he was presented a set of third-world “wings” from the Mexican Air Force as an honorary member of that allied force.

Kenney flew for the Army Air Corps/US Air Force for 27 years, logging 6,000 flight hours that covered two wars. “Flying was my life,” he often said proudly. 

The media loved Dick Kenney. After World War II he seemed to be forgotten. But, in his 90s, he was featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune twice, on two TV news stations, the subject of two KPBS specials, and featured in articles of local newspapers numerous times. 

Dick Kenney wrote and sent poetry in lieu of Christmas cards. Just a few years before his passing, he published his booklet, “Christmas Greetings.” Many of the poems he wrote while being held captive in Germany during WWII - where his thoughts turned daily to home, family, and the holidays. He also published his memoirs under the title, “Sailor, Soldier, Airman.” 

In 2007 Kenney funded the purchase, at great expense ($14,000), of the historic 1923 Hotel del Coronado Laundry truck, and donated the vehicle to the Coronado Historical Association. He also donated five silver dollars he had recovered as a young boy from the shipwreck Monte Carlo in 1937. They are now on display at the Coronado Museum.

Kenney received his first Purple Heart from wounds received in action while flying out of North Africa, in June of 1943. Just a few years before his passing, he belatedly received a second Purple Heart for injuries incurred during the forced march, when he suffered severe frostbite on his hands and feet. That second Purple Heart arrived 68 years later. 

Colonel Richard Kenney’s Avenue of Heroes Banner is displayed at the corner of Third Street and I Avenue, at the corner of the newly designated, Glenn Curtiss Park, in Coronado California, May 18, 2015.

Note: Dot Harms and C.L. Sherman contributed to this story.

 

 

SOC Bradley S. Cavner

US Navy SEAL

On Monday, June 23, 2014, U.S. Navy SEAL Chief Special Warfare Operator Bradley S. Cavner suffered fatal injuries in a training jump near the desert town of El Centro, California (CA). It was just weeks after he returned from the battlefield of Afghanistan. “The training SEALs’ go through is inherently high-risk,” said Commander Christian Dunbar, in Coronado for Naval Special Warfare Group 1, and “Bradley was a warrior who selflessly answered his nation’s call to defend freedom and protect us.”

Brad, a native son of Coronado, CA, was born November 23, 1983, and dreamed of being a Navy SEAL since childhood. His father - retired Coronado Police Sergeant, Steve Cavner recalled that as a boy Brad watched the film “Top Gun” many times a week, and told his kindergarten teacher that his favorite color was “camouflage.” He excelled at football, first playing Pop Warner, and then for Coronado High School. He was known as the hardest hitter on the team. “Aggressive almost to a fault,” according to his dad, “He nailed people.... knocked them down and out.”

After graduating from Coronado High School in 2002, he enlisted in the Navy. True to beach town culture, Brad left Coronado on February 3, 2003, in “shorts and flip-flops to attend basic training in icy-cold Chicago.” After basic, Brad returned home to Coronado to attend Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL and SEAL Qualification Training. He graduated in class 247 in July 2004.

By August that same year, Brad was assigned to a West Coast-based SEAL Team. He deployed four times between 2005 and 2010. Once to the Pacific theater of operations, once in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He served as a member of the west coast-based training detachment from May 2010 to December 2012, and then returned to a West Coast-based SEAL team. Brad’s most recent deployment was to Afghanistan, from November 2013 to May 2014, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Brad’s own words crystallized his philosophy as a SEAL when he wrote, “In jobs like ours, it’s not about the title - not about bragging about what you do...It’s about the guy next to you. It’s about the Brotherhood. One guy can’t do everything. But together, we can crush anything. The guy next to you should always be more important than yourself.”

His fellow SEALs, who remain nameless for selflessness, and security reasons, describe Brad as an “intense” man. He “demanded the best out of those around him.” His aspirations were not celebrity. Rather, he was a true soldier, “always upgrading his knowledge to be more lethal on the battlefield, to defeat the enemy.” He lived his life to be an example to others, “not for him, but for love for his friends, family, and teammates.” This is what formed his actions. He kept his word, and he was a man of integrity. Brad had a positive influence on all the West Coast SEAL Teams, “Plain and simple, Brad made you want to be better at your job.” If there was an easy way out, he didn’t take it.

He personified the word patriot, by never going into battle without his American flag carefully folded and slipped under his breastplate.

Brad was also a true friend; a man with a devilish sense of humor who enjoyed playing pranks on his teammates. Because he worked and lived in the same town he was born and raised in, his SEAL teammates nicknamed him, “The Coronado Cowboy.”

His values of loyalty to brotherhood and service can be seen in Brad’s own writing:

To those before us...

To those amongst us...

To those we will see on the other side.

“Lord let me not prove unworthy of my Brothers.”

~Bradley “Cav” Cavner

Chief Petty Officer Bradley S. Cavner is a decorated hero. He was awarded the Bronze Star medal with “V” for valor on the battlefield, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor, Joint Service Achievement Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, two Combat Action Ribbons, Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Meritorious Unit Commendation, three Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, three Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, Overseas Deployment Ribbon, NATO Service Medal, and Expert Rifle and Pistol Marksmanship Medals. Brad was posthumously awarded a second Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal at his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

While he was a soldier through and through, Brad had a deep love for, and bond with his family. At home he was a “colorful character who liked to wear his hair shaggy, drink beer … and come up with creative nicknames for friends and his favorite possessions,” like his Jeep, “The Dominator.” He loved life and lived a “full throttle” lifestyle, enjoying ocean sports, snowboarding, and travel. Brad is survived by his father Steve, mother Beth, sister Andrea, and brothers, Colton, and Carson.

Sources:

Email correspondence with Andrea Cavner, sister

SEALs.com

Other online sources

Coronado Eagle Journal

* Note, Cavner’s Avenue of Heroes Banner is displayed on Third Street and Palm, at the corner of the newly designated, Glenn Curtiss Park, in Coronado California, May 18, 2015. It is synchronistic that his biography publication coincides with the anniversary of a community loss of this great American. This author had no idea the order the City of Coronado would mount the banners, which determined release.

 

 

 

Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale

US Navy

 

Vice Admiral (VADM) James Bond Stockdale was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy. He was one of only 15 Medal of Honor recipients for the entire Vietnam War, and the only vice admiral to wear both aviator wings and the Medal of Honor. Stockdale was the highest ranking Prisoner of War (POW) in Vietnam.

His family hailed from Mt. Pleasant, the “Athens of Iowa,” a leader in women’s rights and education. Stockdale was born in Abingdon, Il, on Dec. 23, 1923, the only child of Mabel Edith (née Bond), a master’s level school teacher, and Vernon Beard Stockdale, a company executive. Vernon enlisted in the Navy after his boss Jim promised to hold his job; James was named after him.

Mabel’s influence meant education had a high priority, and Vernon hoped Jim would attend Annapolis. He was so careful about ensuring admission that he gave Jim carrot juice because the eye exams were “very stiff.” 

Jim Stockdale spent many days of his childhood listening to his father’s Navy stories. In grammar school and high school, he excelled in academics, music and athletics. After a year at Monmouth College, close to home at his mother’s request, he was appointed to the US Naval Academy, Class of 1947.

Just before graduation, Jim Stockdale met smart and sassy Sybil Bailey on an Easter weekend blind date. Soon after, Stockdale asked her if she wanted to look at “miniatures.” A tradition for Academy graduates was to give miniatures of class rings for engagement. They married June 28, 1947.

Sybil Stockdale would later be recognized for her own heroic efforts to make the public aware of the sufferings of POWs in Vietnam and their families at home. 

Ensign James Stockdale received his diploma with a handshake from Admiral Nimitz, while Vernon Stockdale beamed as the photographer he hired took pictures of his only child. Also in his graduating class were future United States President Jimmy Carter, and Commander Everett Alvarez, the first American shot down and captured in Vietnam. Alvarez recalled, “In hindsight, it was as if Stockdale was meant to be there. It was as if God had a plan for him.”

Jim’s Naval Academy yearbook, the ‘Lucky Bag,’ included a herald for each graduate. Jim’s said “it would be a lucky man who found himself deployed with ‘Stock.’” That prophesy proved true.

The newlyweds moved to the then southernmost house (literally) in America, on Key West, Florida, where Sybil credited her reading of “The Navy Wife” with preparing her for naval life. Their four boys, James Jr., Sidney, Stanford, and Taylor, came along in the many duty stations where the family resided. 

Jim Stockdale’s early appointments were as an officer aboard minesweepers and destroyers before he was trained as a Navy fighter pilot in Pensacola, Fl, in 1954. Stockdale was selected for Test Pilot School with 17 others, including John Glenn, the first man to orbit the earth. 

In between assignments flying the F8 Crusader, Jim Stockdale earned a master’s degree at Stanford University in 1962. Sybil Stockdale earned hers there as well. He later credited those stoic philosophy studies with giving him “inner strength” to survive torture and imprisonment. 

Stockdale then returned to sea. He flew almost every aircraft in the Navy’s inventory, accumulating over a thousand hours in the top fighter, the F-8U Crusader. By the mid-1960s, he was commanding a fighter squadron aboard USS Oriskany in the Tonkin Gulf when the controversial “attack” on the Destroyer Maddox plunged the US into war. This action on the part of the US was a challenge Stockdale describes in he and Sybil’s book, “In Love and War.” 

On Sept. 9, 1965, Commander James Stockdale was shot down after he “launched his A-4E Skyhawk off the flight deck of USS Oriskany … approaching his target, his plane riddled with anti-aircraft fire that set his engine aflame within seconds. With no way to maneuver, Stockdale had no choice but to punch out from the aircraft, and he watched as his plane slammed into a rice paddy and exploded in a ball of fire.”

Stockdale would endure extensive solitary confinement and periodic torture for nearly eight years at the infamous Hoa Lo Prison, or “Hanoi Hilton” and other prisons in Hanoi. Stockdale was among those who spent two years in solitary confinement for their resistance. The “Alcatraz 11” were held in a separate facility where they were shackled every night in 3x9 foot cells with bright lights 24/7. It was there that he earned the reputation as an exemplary leader by many POWs, including another 2015 banner recipient on the Avenue of Heroes, Vice Admiral Ed Martin.

Jim Stockdale’s father Vernon died earlier that year. Sybil Stockdale and their sons lived in Coronado during his imprisonment in the home they purchased just one year before. 

Stockdale took his role as highest ranking prisoner seriously. He organized resistance among fellow prisoners, established a code of conduct, and developed a secret communication system to talk with other POWs. He passed information to Navy Intelligence through coded letters to Sybil, confirming that there was torture. 

While he fought his battle in the French Colonial dungeon of Vietnam’s communist prisoner of war camp, Sybil fought the battle on American soil for POW recognition. She, like other wives obeyed the “keep quiet” policy until one televised prisoner blinked torture in Morse code. In response, Sybil and members of her POW/MIA support-group formed the National League of Families of American Prisoners Missing in Southeast Asia. She became a powerful spokesperson. Before long she met key leaders in Washington DC and organized the National League of Families, for better treatment of POW families.

While her efforts made headlines at home, Commander Jim Stockdale’s conduct would earn him the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor. He shared that story in an interview shortly before his death. 

“One day, sometime in 1969, the camp Commander said to me: “You will meet some of your countrymen tomorrow. I knew that he intended to show me off to another ‘peace delegation’ as a humbled ‘war criminal,’ and I wanted no part of it. I used a large piece of wood as a club to beat my face, then smashed the glass in a small window and used sharp shards to cut open the mess. The injuries were horrible, but similar to others our captors had repeatedly inflicted on us. Obviously, I was not shown off. In an odd way, however, our captors were somehow impressed by my gesture. For the final years of captivity, we were not treated quite as brutally. I understand that this episode and its aftermath, was one reason I earned the Medal of Honor.”

That year was pivotal. 

Sybil Stockedale’s work brought pressure on Hanoi. The Viet Kong wanted a positive image to encourage the wave of US anti-war activism and celebrity endorsements. Then, Ho Chi Minh, who lived less than a mile from the prison, died. Treatment of POWs improved.

Just over four years later, on Feb. 12, 1973 the North Vietnamese released nearly 600 POWs. Jim Stockdale rejoined Sybil, and his nearly grown children in Coronado. He continued in the military as president of Rhode Island’s Naval War College until retiring in 1979.

In civilian life Stockdale was president of the Citadel Military Academy and a senior research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, a prominent think tank. He became Ross Perot’s running mate in their 1992 third-party run for the Presidency. Perot had worked alongside Sybil for Operation Homecoming that resulted in POW release.

VADM Stockdale continues to be an inspiration through the places, projects, and scholarships that bear his name - in Coronado and across the country. The roadway into Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) is named for him, as is the VADM James B. Stockdale Building. The University of San Diego’s hosts the annual James Bond Stockdale Leadership and Ethics Symposium. VADM Stockdale was inducted into the Navy’s Carrier Hall of Fame, and on April 18, 2009, USS Stockdale (DD106) was commissioned in his honor. There is a plaque in front of the Coronado Public Library dedicated to both Jim and Sybil Stockdale.

The Stockdale family spent many happy years fully engaged in all aspects of the community of Coronado. As members of the Hotel Del Beach and Tennis Club, Jim and Sybil Stockdale could often be seen swimming at the pool and walking up and down their beloved “A” Avenue. Their sons attended Coronado schools, and all went on to have careers in education, something both Jim and Sybil Stockdale were extremely proud of. 

In that same interview where the retired Vice Admiral shared his Medal of Honor story, he was asked what he still wanted to do after he had accomplished so much. He replied, “I just want to take care of Sybil; nothing more.”

VADM James Bond Stockdale passed away in July of 2005 and was laid to rest at the Naval Academy Cemetery. His Naval Academy classmate, best friend, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Deceased) ADM William Crowe delivered the eulogy and Chief of Naval Operations ADM Mike Mullen (Retired) closed with a final tribute.

Sybil continues to reside in Coronado. She and son Taylor and daughter-in-law Anne Stockdale were present at the Avenue of Heroes dedication ceremony in 2014.

VADM Stockdale’s banner is located at Fourth and Alameda.

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