These people are from Parsons Kansas, and are just a few veterans from my small town. I’m sure there are many more local veterans worth featuring. Parsons will always remember Cpl. Daniel Cox, killed in Afghanistan’s Wardak province in 2009.
My name is Ronald M. Phillips (Ron) and as I write this in Feb. 2012 I am within three months of turning 90. That means that I am a Veteran of WW-II, and I was drafted only a few months after the Pearl Harbor disaster at the age of 19. After my entry into the U.S. Military I managed to carefully observe the opportunities on the company bulletin board. By taking advantage of those opportunities I moved from Buck Private rank to that of “O” three, meaning–“Captain”, in the U.S. Air Corps. (which later became the U.S. Air Force.) After entering, and graduating, from the Airplane & Engine school in Glendale, CA, I entered the Aviation Cadet training center in San Antonio, TX and about a year later I graduated as a 2nd Lt. Fighter Pilot in Moore Field, McAllen TX. That put me into a ‘combat-ready’ status so I ended up being sent to China to join General Chennault’s 14th Air Force “Flying Tigers”. The “Tigers” by then, were known world-wide because of their record. In the nine months before Pearl Harbor they were known only as The A.V.G., or the “American Volunteer Group”. There were only one hundred of them to begin with. They were flying the previously used, beat-up old P-40 Warhawks, and had shot down 297 Japanese aircraft with a loss of only 12 of ours. I don’t believe that record was ever broken.
After Pearl Harbor the AVG became “The Fourteenth Air Force”, under the tutelage of Brig. Gen. Clair Lee Chennault, and that’s when I joined the Fourteenth Air Force, 23rd Fighter Group Flying Tigers. ~Ronald M. Phillips
It took 66 years for Leon Crooks to be awarded a Bronze Star for his World War II service, including an act of heroism that saved the lives of around 30 soldiers.
Crooks served in Company B, Second Chemical Mortar Battalion, also known as the Red Dragon Battalion, which dates back to Aug. 17, 1917, in the first World War. It was the first chemical battalion in the U.S. ranks. Crooks had a total of 511 days in combat. This unit tied with one other unit for the number of days on the front line in the European theater of operations.
The Bronze Star award recognizes Crooks’ entire military service, from June 22, 1943, to Sept. 18, 1945, but focuses on an action on Feb. 12, 1944, after the end of the first Battle of Cassino in Italy against German and Italian forces.
The lull in fighting had provided the Allies and opportunity to relieve and replace war-weary troops, and First Sgt. Crooks and his driver, T/5 Herbert Aram were asked to move to the rear echelons to pick up replacements and bring back PFC Norman Gearhart and PFC James Egoff.
The Germans opened up with 88mm guns, shelling members of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, whose gear had been loaded on a mule train.
“I was talking to my driver, and I said, ‘A lot of men are going to die out there today unless we do something’,” Crooks said. “The driver said, ‘If you get a truck, I’ll drive’.”
They got a 3/4 ton weapons carrier and, making three trips under German fire, transported the New Zealand soldiers to safety.
“We’d pull up, I’d get out and load the guys up, and when we got all we could handle, we’d drive back to the aid station, which was not too far behind us,” Crooks said. “Then we went back for our men.”
The driver was injured during the rescue. Crooks said that Aram didn’t even realize it at first.
“He said, ‘Sarge, I think I’ve been hit,’ and a piece of shrapel had got him in the arm,” Crooks said. “I was pretty lucky, I never did get hit.”
David R. Larsen
David Larsen is a Navy Cross Recipient, for extraordinary heroism on 2 August 1969.
GMG3 Larsen was serving as a gunner’s mater mate aboard PBR 775 which was part of a two-boat night waterborne guard post stationed on the upper Saigon River. Operating in conjunction with the patrol, a six-man ambush team, which was providing bank security for the guard post, engaged four enemy soldiers who were part of an estimated 35 to 50-man force that returned the contact with accurate rocker fire, killing or critically wounding all but one member of the six-man ambush team. One man from the team managed to call for the PBR crewmen’s help. Armed with a machine gun and several ammunition belts, Larsen hastened to the assistance of the ambush team. As he led his small force ashore, he saw three enemy soldiers about to overrun the friendly position. He immediately rushed toward them, firing his machine gun, and single-handedly tu rned back the enemy assault, killing at least one of the enemy. Larsen then maintained a one-man perimeter defensive position and, although under continuous enemy fire, succeeded in discouraging further enemy attacks until additional help arrived. Later, armed with three different weapons, Larsen was the first man to take his post on the perimeter established to provide security for the medical evacuation helicopter. By his extremely courageous one-man assault in the face of direct enemy fire, Larsen was responsible for saving the lives of three fellow servicemen, and for protecting his shipmates as they administered aid to the wounded. His valiant and inspiring efforts reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.
Charlie Vance of Portland, Ore., was there that August night, and earned a Bronze Star.
“I brought out ammo and helped bring the wounded back,” said Vance, a former petty officer.
He said Larsen was an unlikely candidate for heroics, but he rose to the occasion.
“He was just a quiet old farm boy and he took in an M-60, and he was the first one off the boat,” Vance said of Larsen. “He actually saved lives.”