Rep. Raul Ruiz will speak to Palm Springs Navy League; other vet groups set to meet

The Coachella Valley Airborne Association is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 6 at the American Legion Herman Granados Post 739, 44-200 Sun Gold St., Indio.

The group meets the first Monday of every month.

All airborne-qualified paratroopers are welcome to join.

Information: Ed Granados at (760) 398-6938 or Dick Gauthier at (910) 620-9485.


The China-Burma-India World War II veterans group has scheduled a breakfast social at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 8 at Coco’s, 78-375 Varner Road, Palm Desert (located east of Washington Street, north of I-10).

“Everyone is invited whether you were ever in the service or not,” Earl Weichman said. “Come and hear our exciting, interesting stories. We are a great group … this willl probably be our last gathering until Wednesday, Sept. 11, same time, same place.”

For more information contact Weichman at (760) 771-8199.


An Inland Empire Aviation Roundtable event will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 9 at March Field Air Museum, 22550 Van Buren Blvd., Riverside.

Guest speaker, Ret. U.S. Navy Commander Chuck Sweeney, will talk about the Distinguished Flying Cross, the highest aviation medal and the fourth highest combat medal awarded by the U.S. military.

The Inland Empire Aviation Roundtable, sponsored by the March Field Air Museum, is dedicated to the local aviation and aerospace community.

The group’s monthly meetings are open to the public. Parking and admission are free.

Subjects include aviation and aerospace history, civil and military, and new developments in these fields.

For more information, call (951) 902-5949 or visit


The Palm Springs Navy League has scheduled a luncheon meeting for May 13 at Desert Falls Country Club, 1111 Desert Falls Parkway, Palm Desert.

Guest speaker is Congressman Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert.

Buffet lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. Meeting starts at noon. Cost is $20.

The Navy League will host a social gathering at 6 p.m. on May 16 at The Cheesecake Factory, 71-800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage.

“We will also say bon voyage to Peter Knaust, our council president and general manager of Cheesecake (Factory),” said Navy League secretary John Easton, who is also the editor of “Masthead,” the group’s newsletter.

“Peter has been selected to establish Cheesecake Factory restaurants in the Middle East including Dubai. We are also looking for an outspoken and patriotic leader to replace Peter as council president. Step up and ‘do it.’”

For more information, contact Easton at (760) 272-8449.


The Iron Horse Marines Foundation will host its fifth annual Run for the Wall Flag Array at 8:30 a.m. on May 15 at the Wall Road I-10 overpass in North Palm Springs.

The event honors the approximately 300 motorcyclists traveling east from Los Angeles on a 10-day journey to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

Another group is taking a northern route across the U.S.

Also participating will be Marines from the Wounded Warrior Detachment, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms. The men from the detachment will hold American Flags in tribute to the cyclists, who are riding in memory of POWs and MIAs from World War II and all the wars and conflicts since that time.

Organizer Gary Olsen said the “rarely used overpass” is located west of Indian Canyon Drive as it crosses I-10. It can be accessed by turning west from Indian Canyon on either side of the freeway and traveling about two miles.

A fuel stop for the riders in scheduled at the TA Truck Stop, 46-155 Dillon Road, Coachella.

For more information, contact Olsen at


Remains of U.S. Navy pilot missing from Vietnam War identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced Tuesday that a Navy pilot, missing from the Vietnam War, has been accounted for and will be buried with full military honors along with his crew.

Navy Lt. Dennis W. Peterson of Huntington Park, Calif., was the pilot of a SH-3A helicopter that crashed in Ha Nam Province, North Vietnam.  Also, aboard the aircraft was Ensign Donald P. Frye of Los Angeles, Calif.; Antisubmarine Warfare Technicians William B. Jackson of Stockdale, Texas; and Donald P. McGrane of Waverly, Iowa.  The crew will be buried, as a group, on May 2 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Read remembrances of Lt. Peterson from friends and family at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website

On July 19, 1967, the four servicemen took off from the USS Hornet aboard an SH-3A Sea King helicopter, on a search and rescue mission looking for a downed pilot in Ha Nam Province, North Vietnam.  During the mission, an enemy concealed 37mm gun position targeted the helicopter as it flew in.  The helicopter was hit by the anti-aircraft gunfire, causing the aircraft to lose control, catch fire and crash, killing all four servicemen.

Read more about the incident at

In October 1982, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) repatriated five boxes of remains to U.S. officials.  In 2009, the remains within the boxes were identified as Frye, Jackson, and McGrane.

In 1993, a joint U.S./S.R.V. team, investigated a loss in Ha Nam Province.  The team interviewed local villagers who identified possible burial sites linked to the loss.  One local claimed to have buried two of the crewmen near the wreckage, but indicated that both graves had subsequently been exhumed.

Between 1994 and 2000, three joint U.S./S.R.V. teams excavated the previous site and recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage that correlated to the crew’s SH-3A helicopter.  In 2000, U.S. personnel excavated the crash site recovering additional remains.  Analysis from the Joint POW/MIA Command Central Identification Laboratory subsequently designated these additional remains as the co-mingled remains of all four crewmen, including Peterson.

DoD scientists used forensic tools and circumstantial evidence in the identification of the remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at or call 703-699-1420.

‘Wings of Freedom’ Warbirds landing in Palm Springs today

"Witchcraft," a B-24J Liberator, is displayed by The Collings Foundation in Bremerton, Wash. June 19, 2012. Witchcraft, a P-51C, and B-17 will be in Palm Springs Monday, April 22 until Wednesday, April 24 offering walk-through tours and rides. (Photo/Crystal Chatham)

A trio of classic warbirds are headed to Palm Springs this afternoon as The Collings Foundation lands its national Wings of Freedom Tour.

The foundation is flying in a pair of World War II heavy bombers including a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed “Nine O Nine” and a Consolidated B-24J Liberator nicknamed “Witchcraft.” Also on the tour is a P-51C Mustang fighter with dual controls.

The B-24J and P-51C are the last remaining flyable aircraft of their type.

The warbirds are scheduled to land between 12:30 and 1p.m Monday and will be in town through midday Wednesday at Atlantic Aviation, 145 N Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs.

Tours of the aircraft interiors and exteriors cost $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12.

Tours are free for WWII Veterans.

The foundation also offers flights aboard all three aircraft. Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $425 per person while P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour.

The Collings Foundation is a non-profit educational foundation devoted to organizing living history events that allows people to learn more about their heritage and history through direct participation. The Nationwide Wings of Freedom Tour is in its 24th year and visits an average of 110 cities in over 35 states annually.

The Collings Foundation's B-24J Liberator is the last flyable aircraft of its make. After World War II, many of the heavy bombers were scrapped and few remain today. "Witchcraft" is seen here during a tour stop in Bremerton, Wash. last summer. (Photo/Crystal Chatham)

British Army officer survived Battle of Dunkirk during World War II, later served on Queen Elizabeth’s ‘High Court of Justice’

Edward Eveleigh joined the British Army reserves in 1936, while attending Oxford University in England.

“When the war clouds gathered in 1938, I was called up, but only for six weeks,” he said.

He returned in time to take his university exams.

“But I was called up again in September, 1939, about a week before war was declared by Great Britain on Germany.”

The British Expeditionary Force, which had served in World War I, was started up in 1938 after Germany annexed Austria. When the German Army invaded Poland on Sept. 3, 1939, France and Britain, having pledged to support Poland, joined the fight.

“My regiment left for France to be deployed close to the border with Belgium. However, I was sent to the base depot. I was the only non-regular soldier.”

Eveleigh was assigned to the 3rd Military Artillery Regiment, which served with the expeditionary force’s I Corps.

He was stationed in the town of Saint-Nazaire, in western France on the Atlantic coast.

“I lived next door the well-known La Baule resort where I remained for five months in a very comfortable, furnished house. Not a bad way to spend a war.”

“But it didn’t last.”

Sometimes the dangers lurked in surprising places.

“I remember on Christmas Day of 1939 I looked out of my bedroom window and saw a mine being carried straight towards my home.”

The French, in an effort to create a defensive line, set mines in the water along the coastline. One of those mines broke from its moorings and was floating straight for the home, built right up against the ocean.

“It threatened to explode on the rock beneath me. By sheer luck, the wind changed when the mine was about 100 yards away and I never saw it again.”

“In May of 1940, I was posted to join my regiment close to the Belgian border. At the base, they told me to take off all signs of identity from my uniform. I removed the buttons, the cap badge, and my two lieutenant shoulder stars. After I had been on the train for about four hours, the military police arrested me on suspicion of being a spy. I claimed to be an English officer, but they were not satisfied and said I had no means of identification. I spent the next 24 hours waiting to be identified by one of my fellow officers.”

“Then the peaceful existence was shattered by the German’s invading Belgium.”

“By telephone I sent the order for the 3-ton lorries (3-ton trucks known as ’3-tonners’) to report to me. After a long interval, three gunners reported to me. The artillery man thought I had ordered three gunners, so we delayed our advance considerably.

“As we made our way towards Belgium, we encountered hundreds of civilians coming in the opposite direction —away from the invading Germans.”

Eveleigh was given the order to withdraw.

“I had to turn around and go in the direction I’d come from.”

He jumped onto the side of the 3-tonner to direct the driver, but he slipped and fell under the vehicle which ran over his right leg.

“Normally, I should have been directing targets for the guns, but instead, I remained at the gun position. Then some Messerschmidt’s (German fighter planes) machine-gunned us and I did the 100 meters in about two seconds,” he said, laughing.

Eveleigh, who usually carried a walking cane, dropped it when he made a break for cover.

“When I emerged from the ditch in which I had sought safety, I looked for my cane until my sergeant major said, ‘We broke it up, sir, we thought you did very well without it.”

“Subsequently, I took up position as a forward observation post on the edge of a wood forest.

Eveleigh and another soldier had missed their night’s sleep.

“We dug a hole in the ground in which we could crouch if attacked. We were in fact shelled and small trees around us fell upon us until we were released by our comrades when it was decided that we must join the forces withdrawing through Dunkirk.”

The Germans had pushed through France, and the British, having been pinned down — with no where to go but into the ocean — were forced to evacuate from Dunkirk.

“We destroyed our guns and immobilized the vehicles which we had to leave. The beach at Dunkirk was full of our men.”

Two of his men reported to Eveleigh they’d been on leave when the retreat was ordered.

“They had been three days catching up with us only to reach us at Dunkirk. An hour later, the Stuka bombers flew over, and they were among the dead.”

Dunkirk is full of little mounds, and the men raced to get down into a spot where the mounds dipped. Eveleigh was able to avoid getting hit by the explosions.

“Just over half-way through the evacuation, I was lucky enough to be able to join others embarking upon a paddle steamer for England. We had an uneventful passage to Yarmouth. I spent the next year in England until America declared war on Germany in December, 1941.”

“In June of 1942 I was sent to Canada — I traveled on the USS Monterey which was not yet turned into a troop ship. Myself and five other officers traveled from London to the Port of Liverpool when we boarded the ship at 7 o’clock in the morning.

“We went straight to the dining room for breakfast where we were offered almost everything from caviar to bacon and eggs.”

It was a welcome change from the British rations.

Eveleigh spent a year in Canada as an artillery instructor.

He returned to England and became a barrister (lawyer) and later, a justice (judge).

Sir Edward Eveleigh — he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II —— served as one of the justices of “Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice.”

In 1977 he was appointed by the Queen as one of the Lords Justices of Appeal on the English Commonwealth Appeals Court.

The court of appeals in the second most senior court in the English legal system. Only the Supreme Court of England is higher.

The notation in The London Gazette, dated Oct. 4, 1977, read:

Crown Office, House of Lords:

“The Queen has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal bearing date the 30th of September, 1977, to appoint Sir Edward Walter Eveleigh, Knight, one of the Justices of Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice, to be one of the Lords Justices of Appeal.”

Sir Edward Eveleigh
Age: 95
Birthday: Oct. 8, 1917
Hometown: London
Residence: Palm Desert
Branch of service: British Expeditionary Force; British Army; 3rd Medium Artillery Regiment
Years served: 1938 – 1946
Rank: Major
Family: Wife Nell; two sons, Martin Eveleigh of Raleigh, N.C. and Richard Eveleigh of London; two grandsons, one granddaughter

Highway collision with Humvee kills Yucca Valley woman

A High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or "humvee," travels on base to one of three forward operating bases set up during a training exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms on February 21, 2007. (Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun)

The San Bernardino County Coroner’s office today released the name of a woman killed Friday when her vehicle was struck by a military humvee on Highway 62.

Kristin Thrawl, 26, of Yucca Valley was driving a 2010 Ford Focus westbound on Highway 62 in Joshua Tree at 3:30 p.m. when a humvee traveling in the opposite direction crossed the center divider and struck her. Thrawl was pronounced dead at the scene at 3:45 p.m.

The humvee was traveling eastbound along the highway and traveling in the direction of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.

Humvee is a common nickname for the military’s HMMWV, or High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle. The four-wheel drive utility vehicle comes in multiple body styles and various levels of ballistic plating.

The accident occurred 1 mile east of White Feather Road and is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

No mishap summary has been posted by the military’s Naval Safety Center at this time.

Valley’s first Purple Heart chapter named in memory of Cathedral City High graduate

The Coachella Valley’s first chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart will be instituted during a ceremony from 5-9 p.m. on Sunday, April 21 at American Legion Post #519, 400 N. Belardo Road, Palm Springs.

The Palm Springs-based chapter has been designated The Military Order of the Purple Heart PFC Ming Sun Chapter #755. The chapter was named in memory of U.S. Army Pfc. Ming Sun, 20, of Cathedral City, who died on Jan. 9, 2007.Sun was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. A graduate of Cathedral City High School, he was killed when his unit came under fire during a patrol in Ramadi, Iraq.

The evening’s festivities will include live entertainment and guest speakers from the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Suggested donation is $5. Information, or to RSVP: Justin J. Gardiner at (760) 567-0442, email

Cartoonist Murray Olderman served as U.S. Army officer during World War II

Most people familiar with Murray Olderman know him as an award-winning columnist and syndicated sports cartoonist whose work appeared in hundreds of newspapers for the better part of 35 years.

But before Olderman, of Rancho Mirage, became a famous cartoonist, he was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army during World II.

Olderman served in the ROTC field artillery unit while attending the University of Missouri, where he majored in journalism.

In August of 1942, he enlisted in the Enlisted Reserve Corps. He went back to school for his senior year and wasn’t called to service until the following March.

After reporting to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, he was shipped off to Camp Roberts in central California for basic training in artillery.

“It was the first time I’d ever seen California,” Olderman said. “It was March and it was in that valley above Paso Robles and it was beautiful. Everything was green. It was gorgeous.”

In the summer of 1943, Olderman was sent to Stanford University in Palo Alto where he participated in the Army Specialized Training Program. There he spent a year of intensive study in French language and culture.

He met his future wife, Nancy, at Auten’s, a Palo Alto supper club.

“Then the program broke up and they assigned me to the 71st Division, which was on maneuvers in Hunter Liggett.”

The 71st Light Division maneuvered against the 89th Light Division on the Hunter Liggett Military Reservation in the mountains inland from Big Sur.

“We were all college kids and we all became mule skinners,” he said, laughing. “It was a mountain division, and they broke up a 75mm howitzer into five pieces and a mule carried each piece. We had to tend the mules. So we got instructions — it was very mountainous, very narrow terrain, and when you go on these narrow passages, you walk on the outside, because there was a shortage of mules, but no shortage of soldiers, in case you fall off.

“The war had intensified in Italy and they were training to go to Italy, and by the time we finished basic training we’d already conquered the mountainous terrain in Italy, so they decided to mechanize the division and sent us to Fort Benning, Georgia.

“First, we had to walk the mules to a train station in King City — 27 miles. They said if you volunteer to walk the mules to the train station, you get a two-day pass.

“I wasn’t really a country boy, so I held one mule and led the other mule. The farm guys, they were smart. They got on one mule and led the other mule. But I was afraid. Mules — you have to hold them by the muzzle because if you don’t they’ll turn around and kick you in the jaw,” he said, laughing.

“And when we got there, they gave everybody a two-day pass whether you volunteered or not.”

By the time the division arrived in Fort Benning, the Allies had already invaded Normandy, “so they pulled me out, because I was French-speaking, and sent me to Camp Ritchie, Maryland, a military intelligence center in the U.S. Army,” he said.

After completing this training, he applied to Officer Candidate’s School.

“I was sent back to Fort Benning, Georgia where I became a ‘90-day wonder’ — except it took 120 days by then.”

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry.

On his furlough, Olderman and Nancy made plans to meet somewhere half-way between the California coast and the deep south.

Olderman suggested New Orleans — but Nancy had already been there with her high school graduating class — she grew up in Texas — so she pushed for Chicago.

It was winter and it was cold, he said.

“Nobody meets in Chicago in February, but we did, and we got married.”

“After our honeymoon, I went back to Camp Ritchie, Maryland. I was supposed to stay there six months. It looked like the war was going to end. But six weeks after we were married, I was suddenly given orders to ship overseas as an infantry replacement officer because we had a lot of casualties in the Battle of the Bulge.”

It took two weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean because the ships had to travel in a zigzag pattern to avoid German submarines lurking in the deep.

“We landed in England, then crossed the (English) Channel over to France and I landed in Le Havre two days before the war ended.

Olderman, who was put in charge of a group of replacement soldiers, took a train to Austria where he joined the 65th Infantry Division.

“We were on one side of the Enns River and the Russians were on the other side,” he said.

Many German prisoners were processed and released in Enns, where Olderman spent time at the Military Government office processing displaced persons from all over Europe In early June, the the men moved to a new location, about 15 miles from Enns.

“I was the only guy in my battalion who could speak German, so I was made the military governor of a little town called Nuehofen.”

After about a month, “I was called up to division headquarters because they found out I had a journalism background and they put me to work writing awards and citations.”

Those included a Medal of Honor citation for Pfc. Frederick Murphy, Medical Detachment, 269th Infantry Regiment, killed in action on March 18, 1945. . He also wrote a Distinguished Service Cross citation and Silver Star Medal citations.

U.S. Army Private First Class Frederick C. Murphy’s Medal of Honor citation

After a couple of months, “I was sent to Verona, Italy to be interviewed to join a new organization — USDIC — U.S. Detailed Interrogation Center.”

Gen. Mark Clark was put in charge of U.S. forces in Gmunden, Austria, and after getting word he qualified to join the group, he took a flight out of Italy.

“It was the first time I ever took a plane trip … a (C-47) over the Alps. No pressurized cabin, the door was open. I thought it was great.

“We processed military prisoners for the Nuremberg Trials. That was my main duty overseas. I has an editorial background — I was put in charge of the editing section, I edited all the reports.

“I did some interrogation. I interviewed Robert Best — an American journalist who became a traitor … he volunteered to broadcast for the Germans.”

Interrogations just involved talking.

“We didn’t use any water boarding,” he said.

“We also captured a lady named Hanna Reitsch, who was the Amelia Earhart of Germany. She was one of the last two people out of Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. She could reveal a lot of the inside details of Hitler’s life. We did extensive interrogations of her. I didn’t do the interrogations, but I edited the reports.”

While Olderman was out of the country — almost exactly a year — his thoughts were never far from his sweetheart back home.

“No matter where I was, every night before going to bed, I either typed or hand-wrote letters to my wife.”

He said each letter was about 1,000 words long — about 350,000 words in total.

“Nancy saved all of those letters. They were bundled in a carton and stored in a closet for more than six decades.”

Olderman took excerpts of those missives and wrote a book, “A Year Apart … Letters from War-Torn Europe,” just released this past week.“Nancy was already suffering from Alzheimer’s when I started the project and passed on Oct. 27, 2011,” after 66 years of marriage.


AGE: 91
BORN: March 27, 1922
HOMETOWN: Spring Valley, N.Y.
RESIDENCE: Rancho Mirage
BRANCH OF SERVICE: U.S. Army, 71st Division; 65th Infantry Division
YEARS SERVED: March, 1943 – May, 1946
RANK: First lieutenant
FAMILY: Wife Nancy (deceased); three children, Lorraine Imlay of New York City, Marcia Linn of Homer, Alaska and Mark Olderman of Indio; five grandchildren; one great-grandchild.
“A Year Apart,” is Olderman’s 15th book. It’s available for purchase on

Remains of missing Korean War vet identified; was posthumously awarded Medal of Honor in 1951

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced Wednesday that a serviceman, unaccounted for from the Korean War, has been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr. of Washington, Ind., a Medal of Honor recipient, will be buried April 17, in Arlington National Cemetery.

In late 1950, Faith’s 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), was advancing along the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.  From Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 1950, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) encircled and attempted to overrun the U.S. position.  During this series of attacks, Faith’s commander went missing, and Faith assumed command of the 31st RCT.  As the battle continued, the 31st RCT, which came to be known as “Task Force Faith,” was forced to withdraw south along Route 5 to a more defensible position.  During the withdrawal, Faith continuously rallied his troops, and personally led an assault on a CPVF position.

Records compiled after the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, to include eyewitness reports from survivors of the battle, indicated that Faith was seriously injured by shrapnel on Dec. 1, 1950, and subsequently died from those injuries on Dec. 2, 1950.  His body was not recovered by U.S. forces at that time.  Faith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor­­ – the United States’ highest military honor – for personal acts of exceptional valor during the battle.

Faith’s Medal of Honor: Read the citation

In 2004, a joint U.S. and Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (D.P.R.K) team surveyed the area where Faith was last seen.  His remains were located and returned to the U.S. for identification.

Lt. Col. Faith served in the military from 1941 – 1950. He served with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.

Lt. Col. Faith’s Awards: Medal of Honor; Silver Star Medal (2); Bronze Star Medal (3); Purple Heart (2), Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Korean War Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge.

To identify Faith’s remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence, compiled by DPMO and JPAC researchers, and forensic identification tools, such as dental comparison.  They also used mitochondrial DNA – which matched Faith’s brother.

Today, more than 7,900 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.  Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously turned over by North Korean officials or recovered from North Korea by American teams

Remains of other men from the 31st Regimental Combat team were also recently identified:

Cpl. Billy M. McIntrye, U.S. Army, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was lost on Dec. 7, 1950, near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. He was accounted for on Feb. 27, 2013. He will be buried with full military  honors in the summer of 2013, near Carter, Oklahoma.

Cpl. Robert W. Scott, 19, U.S. Army, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was lost Dec. 1, 1950 near the Chosin Reservoir on Dec. 1, 1950. He was accounted for on Jan. 16, 2013.

Cpl. Robert G. Archer, 19, U.S, Army, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, was lost on Dec. 2, 1950, near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. He was accounted for on Jan. 14, 2013.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office website or call (703) 699-1169

Local vet returns home: Army Master Sgt. Clifford Ryan was killed in action during the Korean War on Nov. 1, 1950. His remains – unrecoverable for nearly 50 years and not identified for some time thereafter, returned to the Coachella Valley on Sept. 6, 2012.

PHOTOS: Korean War soldier’s remains arrive in Valle

British army vet survived Battle of Dunkirk, served in Commandos during World War II

Frank Hunt fought in the British army, survived the Battle of Dunkirk and served in the British Commandos — an elite fighting force formed at the request of Prime Minister Winston Churchill — during World War II.

Hunt joined the army in 1939, the year Hitler’s troops invaded Poland, marking the start of the war.

After the declaration of war on Germany, the small British army — “ill-equipped and unprepared” — was called on to fight against the Germans, who were mowing through Europe, invading and occupying every country in their wake.

The British army was dispatched to France to help hold the German advance.

“We didn’t have very good tanks at the time — we didn’t have very good anything,” Hunt said.

German Stuka dive bombers pummeled the troops from the air, while the tanks — armed with 88 mm guns — pounded the Allies on the ground.

The British anti-tank guns were no match for the German Panzer.

“You had to get right on top of them to put sticky bombs on the tank,” he said. “The bombs had a wooden handle and you’d smash it on the track of the tank and get the hell out of there. If you were unlucky enough to get hit by a bullet while carrying that bomb, you’ll be looking down on what’s happening from heaven.

“We were in a bad situation, the French had been Hitler’s secret weapon. He had a lot of French people who were being paid money to give him information.”

Hunt talked about a nearby home that was frequented by the German army.

“We had orders to shoot and kill every French person in and around the house. When they came out to hang clothes, we’d shoot and kill. It was cruel.”

“You just managed to look after yourself and your mates — and they would do the same for you. We killed a lot of French people — we shot women and children. We shot them because of what they were doing for the Germans.”

The Battle of France began on May 10, 1940, as German troops pushed through to the English Channel, penetrating the Allied front lines. The maneuver separated the British Expeditionary Force, the French 1st Army and the Belgian army.

The Allies were surrounded, with no place to go but into the ocean.

The Battle of Dunkirk — the defense and evacuation of the Allies — began May 26.

“Someone had to stay behind to be the last to go out, to put up a fight. They lined us up and said, ‘You. You. You,’” Hunt said, pointing — demonstrating how the men were chosen. “I happened to be one of them they said, ‘you’ to.”

“We had rifles and machine guns and we dumped ’em in the ocean. We were guarding the beach with pick handles as weapons.

“The people in England — anybody who had a boat that could go across the (English) Channel — came over to pick us up. You had to wade out in water up to your chin … while they were bombing us. The Stukas could fly 50 feet from the water.”

He said they received cover from Allied aircraft, including American and Canadian pilots during the evacuation.

Hunt eventually caught a ride on a fishing boat.

“It wasn’t very big, but it moved pretty quickly and it carried a lot of people. It got us back to England.

“At Dunkirk, if they (the Germans) had enough boats to follow us over there, they could have taken England very easily.”

Just months after the men returned to England, the Germans launched “The Blitz” — a sustained bombing of London and 15 other cities in the United Kingdom that lasted nearly 37 weeks.

“People were living in the underground stations — they’d take their mattresses down there. They were bombing the hell out of us.”

After the events leading to the Dunkirk evacuation, Churchill called for a force to be assembled and equipped to inflict casualties on the Germans and bolster British morale, according to historical accounts. Churchill told the joint chiefs of staff to propose measures for an offensive against German-occupied Europe: “They must be prepared with specially trained troops of the hunter class who can develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast.”

“We were really pissed off with the Germans; I joined the Commandos. They paid a little more than the British army. The more you got paid, the more you got to blow up things.

“I learned a lot very quickly. They’d tell you how bad the Germans were, ‘Here’s what you’ve got to do,’” Hunt said, his voice trailing off. “It hurts. It lives with you forever,” he said, without going into specifics of what he was ordered to do to the enemy.

“Before I knew it, I was in Egypt.”

But the commando soon found himself in some big trouble.

“I got 56 days in jail. I hit an American officer. I hit ’im because I didn’t like his face. I could have been court martialed and shot.”

One day, Maj. Vladimir Peniakoff came to visit Hunt in jail and told him about a new outfit he’d founded — Popski’s Private Army, a British Special Forces unit attached to the British Eighth Army.

PPA was the last and smallest of the three main irregular raiding, reconnaissance and intelligence units formed during the North African Campaign.

Its official name was No. 1 Demolition Squadron, PPA and it was formed specifically to attack German Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel’s fuel supplies, in support of General Montgomery’s offensive at El Alamein.

Hunt, who was recruited because of his experience in the Commandos, was let out of jail early to join the elite fighting force.

“We were about two days short of catching Rommel,” Hunt said.

“It was interesting. It was exciting,” he said of his time with the PPA.

Hunt, who earned the rank of sergeant, said he had a good relationship with his men.

“They liked me because I would never ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do. I never said, ‘You. You. You.’ If you don’t volunteer, I’ll take your place.”

He was later deployed with the British army to Italy, where they joined forces with Polish troops to fight the Battle of Monte Cassino.

“There were two monasteries on the mountain,” he said. “We were positioned just below that mountain. The Germans were just yards away. They had the tanks dug in there.”

The British were armed with Thompson sub-machine guns, also known as “Tommy guns.”“The amazing thing was at nighttime, with all the bullets flying around and the bombs bursting, the nightingales would come out and sing.”

The British were dug into a cavern-type shelters, inhabited by no less than three men, Hunt said.

“Only one of you could sleep. One would walk (guard) close by, the other was there to chase rats away. One was watching out for the Germans, the other one was watching out for the rats,” he said, laughing.

They British weren’t able to move the Germans out because of how well they were dug in.

“One day we said, ‘Give up or we’ll drop gas and drop incendiary bombs and burn you out.’ That’s how we got past the Cassino Mountains … but we still had the Germans and the Italians to fight.”

By then, the American troops were moving along the Italian seaboard, clearing the way along the coast.

When the British army got to Rome, the Germans had already retreated, and the troops continued to Florence.

“The Germans had done so much damage to Italy, pretty soon the Italians were on our side,” he said.

When he returned home for a 28-day leave, his parents were relieved their son, who had been wounded in North Africa — “I got hit with a bullet in the leg,” Hunt said — was OK.

He said his parents were informed that he was wounded — but never received an update from the British military.

“My mom was a wreck,” he said.

Sadly, his mom had already lost another son — Hunt got the bad news when he returned home. His eldest brother, Albert James Hunt, was killed in France.

Hunt said he still has nightmares about the killings and the brutality of battle.

“The things I did were wicked, but it’s what I was trained for,” he said.

“There’s no necessity to have a war. Every person has a mouth. You can talk your way out of it. All that war is over is power and money.”


AGE: 91
DATE OF BIRTH: May 21, 1921
HOMETOWN: Ilford, Essex, England
RESIDENCE: Palm Desert
BRANCH OF SERVICE: British army; British Commandos; Popski’s Private Army, attached to the British Eighth Army
YEARS OF SERVICE: 1939 – 1946
RANK: Sergeant
FAMILY: Two daughters, Ann Smith of Simi Valley and Carol Symchak of Pleasanton ; six grandchildren; more than eight great-grandchildren.

Death penalty trial to begin for 3 Marines suspected of killing Marine and his wife

Opening statements begin Monday, April 8 in the death penalty trial of three of the four former Marines charged with the murders of another Marine and his wife, Riverside County District Attorney officials said Thursday.

Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach is seeking the death penalty for all four men.

Opening statements in the double-murder trial of Kevin Cox, 25, Emrys John, 23 and Tyrone Miller, 25 will begin at 9 a.m. Monday before Judge Christian Thierbach, in Dept. 43, Hall of Justice, 4100 Main Street, in Riverside, spokesman John Hall said in a news release Thursday.

In October, 2008, Marine Sgt. Jan Pietrzak, 24 and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26, were found brutally murdered in their home in the unincorporated area of Winchester/French Valley near Murrieta. Both victims were found bound and shot in the head.

Cox, John and Miller have each been charged with two counts of murder with special circumstances including murder during the commission of a burglary, robbery and rape by instrument and double murder.

A fourth defendant, Kesaun Sykes,25, faces the same charges and the death penalty. Sykes will be tried separately. His trial readiness conference is scheduled for Aug. 2.

In February, 2011, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported that Sykes stood up at a Friday hearing and began urinating, using his hands to fling drops of urine.

At the time, according to an Associated Press story, the judge granted a request by the lawyer for Sykes to suspend criminal proceedings until psychiatrists could evaluate Sykes, who goes by the nickname Psycho

Cox, John and Miller all worked with Sgt. Pietrzak at one time while stationed at Camp Pendleton.

“It is believed that all four defendants went to the home to rob the victims, forced their way inside, and then physically assaulted Pietrzak, sexually assaulted Jenkins-Pietrzak and murdered both victims,” Hall said in the news release.