Categotry Archives: Military

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Hugh Thompson Jr.

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Categories: Military

hthompson.jpgOn the morning of March 16, 1968, Army helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson Jr. was flying a reconnaissance mission over the south Vietnamese village of My Lai when he saw a horrific scene of carnage.
“We kept flying back and forth, reconning in front and in the rear, and it didn’t take very long until we started noticing the large number of bodies everywhere. Everywhere we’d look, we’d see bodies. These were infants, two-, three-, four-, five-year-olds, women, very old men, no draft-age people whatsoever. That’s what you look for, draft-age people,” Thompson once said.
Upon landing the OH-23 helicopter, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn, crew chief Glenn Andreotta and Thompson began picking through the bodies and placing green gas markers near the Vietnamese civilians who were wounded, but still alive. As they returned to the helicopter to call for additional aid, however, a U.S. soldier in Charlie Company, 11th Brigade began shooting the marked civilians. When Thompson found another GI preparing to blow up a hut filled with Vietnamese, he told Andreotta and Colburn to point their weapons at the Americans and shoot anyone who tried to kill the villagers. With his two-member crew providing cover, he went searching for the platoon’s leader and ordered a cease fire.
Thompson then radioed for two other helicopters to transport the injured Vietnamese to safety. He and his crew were flying away from My Lai when Andreotta spotted movement in an irrigation ditch filled with dead bodies. Once they landed the helicopter, Andreotta hopped out to search the mass grave for survivors. He returned a few minutes later carrying a wounded child.
Up to 500 people were killed in My Lai that day by approximately 80 American soldiers. Not every member of Charlie Company participated in the slaughter, neither did they do anything to stop it.
In 1969, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh published an expose of the My Lai massacre and its subsequent cover-up. The series of articles, which included comments about the incident from Thompson, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970. It also helped change the public’s opinion of the Vietnam conflict and led to the conviction of the platoon’s leader, Lt. William L. Calley. Calley received a life sentence for his role in the killings, but served just three years of house arrest after President Richard Nixon reduced his punishment. He was the only soldier to be convicted in the massacre.
Thompson later testified before the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Army Inspector General and at every one of the My Lai massacre court-martials — and suffered retribution for doing so. Strangers phoned him with death threats and left mutilated animals at his home. Members of the armed services called him a traitor for turning on his own countrymen, and one congressman allegedly labeled him as “unpatriotic.” David Egan, a professor emeritus at Clemson University, felt otherwise and in the late 1980s launched a letter-writing campaign to encourage the government to honor Thompson’s heroism.
Still, it wasn’t until 1998 when the Army decided to award the Soldier’s Medal, the highest award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy, to Thompson, Colburn and Andreotta. Andreotta was honored posthumously; he was killed in a helicopter crash three weeks after My Lai. Thompson and Colburn returned to the village that same year to dedicate an elementary school. There they met some of the villagers they saved, including the 8-year-old boy pulled from the irrigation ditch. In 1999, the two veterans received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award.
Thompson enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1961 and in the U.S. Army in 1966. The Atlanta native was shot down five times during the Vietnam war, broke his backbone in the last attack and suffered from psychological scars for the rest of his life. Despite this, he continued to serve his country as a counselor for the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.
Thompson died on Jan. 6 of cancer at the age of 62. He was buried in Lafayette, La., with full military honors.
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Walter Haut

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Categories: Military

whaut.jpgArmy Lt. Walter Haut typed up one of the most famous press releases ever sent to the media. The dispatch claimed a flying saucer had landed in Roswell, N.M.
In 1947, Haut was a public relations officer at the now-defunct Roswell Army Air Field. On July 8 of that year, base commander Col. William “Butch” Blanchard dictated the contents of the official dispatch to Haut, and ordered him to release it. The press release, which was hand delivered by Haut to two local radio stations and two newspapers, said the 509th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force had obtained the wreckage of a flying saucer from a local rancher.
The following day, The Roswell Daily Record published a story featuring the banner headline: “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region.” A second statement from the Army released on July 9 disputed the original report, and said the alien aircraft was simply a high-altitude weather balloon.
Haut was never told exactly where the flying saucer was supposedly found, nor did he ever see the spacecraft, but the Chicago native still believed in its existence. Although he later worked in the insurance industry, Haut and two friends co-founded The International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell. Haut served as its president from 1991 to 1996, and was inducted into the New Mexico Department of Tourism Hall of Fame in 2002. He also received four air medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart for his service during World War II.
Haut died on Dec. 15 of natural causes at the age of 83. He is survived by two daughters, three grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and millions of UFO-enthusiasts.
[Update – July 3, 2007: Haut allegedly left behind a sworn affidavit about the Roswell event, to be opened after his death. Last week, the text of the document was released. In it Haut claims the weather balloon story was a coverup, and that the object recovered in 1947 was an alien spacecraft. Haut also claimed to have seen the bodies of two extraterrestrials.]

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Richard Pryor

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Military, Writers/Editors

rpryor.jpgControversial. Authentic. Foul-mouthed. Manic. Pioneering. Genius. These are just some of the words that have been used to describe actor/comedian Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III. But fans and colleagues always add one other adjective to the list: Funny.
“He doesn’t fall into the [categories] of comedians we have, like prop comic, black comic, Jewish comic, white comic… he doesn’t even get comic. He’s just funny!” comedian and TV personality Jon Stewart said.
Born in Peoria, Ill., Pryor’s childhood was far from innocent. Raised in his grandmother’s brothel, he was sexually molested by a neighborhood teen and by a Catholic priest, and once saw his mother perform sexual acts on the town’s mayor. To escape from these horrors, Pryor watched movies from the colored section of the local theatre and played the drums at an area nightclub.
Pryor was kicked out of school at 14, and worked a variety of odd jobs (janitor, shoe shine man, meatpacker and truck driver). He served two years in the U.S. Army then began working the club circuit as a standup comedian. By the mid-1960s, he was performing in Las Vegas and making appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. But Pryor wasn’t happy with the media’s constant comparisons to Bill Cosby, so he took a two-year hiatus and returned to the comedy circuit with an act that featured unique characters and cutting edge social commentary.
Pryor next turned his attentions to Hollywood. During the 1970s and 1980s, he acted in dozens of films — such as “Lady Sings the Blues,” “The Wiz,” “Stir Crazy,” “The Toy,” “Superman III,” “Brewster’s Millions” and “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” — and became one of Hollywood’s highest paid stars.
In 1986, he co-wrote, co-produced, directed and starred in the film “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling,” an autobiographical account of a popular comedian re-examining his life from a hospital bed. The film was an appropriate project for Pryor, who battled drug and alcohol addictions for years and nearly lost his life in 1980 when he caught on fire while freebasing cocaine. The incident, later described to Barbara Walters as a suicide attempt, caused him to suffer third degree burns over 50 percent of his body.
On television, Pryor headlined “The Richard Pryor Show” on NBC, a program that was canceled after only five broadcasts because the censors were so offended by his material. He hosted “Saturday Night Live” and the 1977 Academy Awards show, and won an Emmy Award and a Writers Guild Award for writing “The Lily Tomlin Special.” Pryor’s first screenwriting attempt, “Blazing Saddles,” which he co-wrote with Mel Brooks, brought him another Writers Guild of America Award. He released four comedy concert films, sold millions of comedy albums and co-wrote his 1995 autobiography “Pryor Convictions: And Other Life Sentences.”
Pryor suffered two heart attacks, and in 1986 was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system. Nine years later, he received an Emmy nomination for guest starring as an MS patient on the CBS drama “Chicago Hope.” Pryor was honored by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1998 with the first Mark Twain Prize for humor. In 2004, he was selected as #1 on Comedy Central’s list of 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 6438 Hollywood Blvd. Sheridan Road in his hometown of Peoria was renamed Richard Pryor Place in his honor.
Pryor married seven times to five different women and fathered seven children. A lifelong advocate of animal rights, he adopted stray animals, participated in letter-writing campaigns and was honored by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for saving baby elephants in Botswana.
Pryor died on Dec. 10 of a heart attack. He was 65.
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Stan Berenstain

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Categories: Artists, Military, Writers/Editors

For more than 40 years, Stan Berenstain and his wife Jan entertained millions of children while teaching them how to read.
Stan and Jan were in their teens when they met in a drawing class at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. A warm friendship and a mutual love of art soon developed into a blossoming romance, but World War II put their relationship on hold.
Stan attended engineering school at the University of Maine, then served in a field artillery unit and as a medical artist at an Army plastic surgery center. At the same time, Jan worked as a riveter in an aircraft factory and produced engineering drawings for military contractors. Once Stan’s three-year tour of duty ended in 1946, the couple wed and began collaborating on cartoons and submitting them to magazines. Soon they were regular contributors to Collier’s, Good Housekeeping, McCalls, The Saturday Review and The Saturday Evening Post.
An editor at a New York publishing house saw their cartoons and asked the Berenstains if they’d like to do a book. Inspired by the birth of their first son, the couple published the “Berenstains’ Baby Book” (1951). It attained modest success and led to the publication of several family humor books.
The husband-and-wife team then pitched a book to Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss), the editor of Beginner Books. With Geisel’s editorial guidance, Jan and Stan authored “The Great Honey Hunt” (1962), the first book in the Berenstain Bears series. Later stories, which featured the domestic adventures of Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister and Baby Bear as they did chores, visited the dentist, dealt with bullies, attended school and learned the value of sharing, captured the imaginations of generations of children. Stan and Jan Berenstain wrote and illustrated more than 250 books about the Berenstain Bears family, then expanded their literary empire to feature the Bear family in countless DVDs, a public television program and a Christmas musical.
The Berenstains sold nearly 300 million Berenstain Bear books and received numerous awards for their contributions to children’s literature, including the Ludington Award and a Children’s Choice Award. The couple’s sons, writer Leo Berenstain and illustrator Michael Berenstain, now help in creating the series. The couple’s life together was also chronicled in the 2002 memoir, “Down a Sunny Dirt Road.”
Stanley Melvin Berenstain died on Nov. 26 of complications of cancer. He was 82.
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Alfred Anderson

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Categories: Military

Alfred Anderson was only 18 years old on Dec. 25, 1914, when the “eerie sound of silence” fell along the 500-mile Western Front. On that day, British and German troops stopped shooting each other long enough to share a moment of peace.
Anderson, who served with Britain’s 5th Battalion – The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), would eventually become the last known surviving Allied veteran to have experienced the spontaneous “Christmas Truce” of World War I. The unauthorized ceasefire spread along the Western Front as enemy troops shook hands, swapped cigarettes and food, sang Christmas carols and even played games with each other.
In some places, the impromptu truce lasted for several weeks, and actually alarmed army commanders who feared the fraternization between the troops would interfere with the need to resume fighting. For Anderson, however, peace lasted only a few hours.
“All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices,” he once said. “But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas,’ even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.”
The yule armistice was not repeated during the remaining years of the war, a global conflict that left 31 million people dead, wounded or missing.
Anderson was born June 25, 1896, in Dundee, Scotland. He and many of his classmates enlisted in the Territorial Army in 1912 and were among the first British soldiers to serve in France during the Great War. Anderson reached the rank of sergeant, and briefly served as the valet to Capt. Fergus Bowes-Lyon, brother of Queen Elizabeth.
He continued to serve until 1916 when a shell exploded, killing several of his friends and seriously wounding him in the back of the neck. Anderson lay in his trench all day, and only received medical attention after darkness fell. The injury ended his active service, but he still helped the Allies by working as an infantry instructor.
Anderson aided the Home Guard during World War II and also ran his family’s building and joinery business. In 1998, he was awarded the Legion of Honor from the French government. Anderson’s life was chronicled in the 2002 biography, “A Life in Three Centuries,” and a bust of his visage is on display at the public library in Alyth, Scotland.
Anderson died in his sleep on Nov. 21 at the age of 109. His wife, Susan Iddison Anderson, died in 1979 at the age of 83. Alfred is survived by four children, 10 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

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