This week the Boca Beacon honored local veterans, past and present. Here are some of their stories.
Lt. Col. John S. Flickinger, UMSMC, otherwise known as “Flick,” enlisted in the Marine Corps in January of 1941 and served combat duty in WWII in the Pacific Theater in 1943 -1944 as a fighter and dive bomber pilot.
He was Division Leader of Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 236, and Flight Group Leader of Squadron 244. He flew 30 raids against enemy forces in the Northern Solomons and New Britain areas and against enemy shipping and fortifications at Bougainville, Rabaul and New Ireland.
At Bougainville, his squadron operated from an airstrip only 400 yards from enemy lines. He was wounded in the head in Guadalcanal by an enemy sniper while preparing to take-off from Henderson Field. Fortunately, the bullet entered his cheek and made a clean exit behind his ear.
He returned to active duty after a brief hospitalization in Australia and participated in the Guam Campaign. He was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross, The Air Medal with Gold Stars in lieu of 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Air Medals, with Presidential Citations and the Purple Heart.
In an interview for his home town newspaper, the “Lewiston Morning Tribune,” after he was wounded he said, “This has been the most exciting tour of duty that any squadron has had since the first days of Guadalcanal. A few weeks ago the enemy began a series of attacks on our position and we were shelled continuously for 20 days. I would lead a strike out and they would shell us when we took off and again when we landed. At night we could not sleep because of the constant barrage. Many hours were spent in foxholes. The entire squadron behaved like veterans and it fills me with pride that they are ‘my boys.’ I would like to have them all in Idaho for a week of hunting and fishing.”
Flick was 23 years old at the time, but considered a combat veteran.
He also served in the Korean War in 1953 where he served in the First Marine Aircraft Wing and was awarded the Bronze Star with a Combat “V,” the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with 4 Stars for major engagements and the Korean Service Medal.
In 1956, he was Commanding Officer of Marine Fighter Squadron 115 at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in California where he was killed when his F4D-1 Skyray flamed out during a routine landing approach. Ironically, he was returning from a conference in Los Angeles with Douglas Aircraft, the plane’s manufacturer, concerning similar problems encountered during fleet introduction testing of the new supersonic craft. Lt. Flickinger was the father of Boca Grande resident Lynne Seibert.
While there he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, the Presidential Unit Citation and 12 air medals.
Jim Cooper is the executive director of the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority.
Spec. Michael E. Botos 1969 – 1970Michael E. Botos, a resident of Boca Grande and of the Village of Golf served in the Vietnam War from 1969-1970, where he was a Specialist 4th class serving in the 179th Military Intelligence Detachment, 199th Light Infantry Brigade.
He received his specialized training in interrogation and Vietnamese language at Fort Myer, Arlington, Va. Mike was awarded the Bronze Star for his meritorious service. After leaving the service, he attended the University of Miami School of Law where he received his JD degree.
Mike is a partner in Edwards, Wildman of West Palm Beach. When Mike is not working, he loves to spend time in his favorite place, Boca Grande. Lovingly submitted by his wife of 36 years, Fran Botos, and his daughter, Allison Botos of Washington, D.C. and his son, Michael Botos of Delray Beach.
Ensign Miranda Boudreau 2010 – presentMiranda Boudreau recently received her Surface Warfare Officer pin. She was commissioned as an officer in July of 2010, and is stationed in Norfolk, Va. aboard the “Leyte Gulf,” which is a Guided Missile Cruiser.
She and her shipmates recently got back from a six-month deployment, where their main objective was to combat piracy.
Miranda worked in the ice cream shop at the Loose Caboose, and her parents now own the restaurant.
“We are very proud of our little girl.”– Jacques and Blanche Boudreau, owners of the Loose Caboose
Photographer’s Mate Third Class Skip PerrySkip Perry. This photo was shot off Da Nang Harbor in 1969, aboard the “U.S.S. Boston, CA 69” (heavy cruiser.)
“It was our first day on the gun line, firing navel gunfire support for the grunts inland,” he said. “That’s Monkey Mountain in the background.”
Skip Perry is a resident of Boca Grande
He served in Vietnam from 1972 to 1973, and was part of a task force that swept for mines in the North Vietnamese harbor, and rescued downed flyers and bomber crews.
Rick is a resident of Boca Grande and with his wife, Karen, are owners of Buyers Resource of Gasparilla Island Inc.
Staff Sgt. Oswin M. SemmlerStaff Sgt. Oswin M. Semmler served in World War II from 1941 to 1945 in the Pacific Theater and in Germany. Purple Heart recipient.
Oswin “Duke” Semmler is the grandfather of Marcy Shortuse, and has been a regular visitor to Boca Grande since 1978.
He currently lives in Englewood with his wife, Joyce.
Edward Davis Jr. July 6, 1925 – Feb. 17, 2000
Edward Davis Jr. was a member of the Army Air Corps and served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of action with the 347th Service Group. He was stationed in Iwo Jima as a supply officer and took care of the pilots and their needs for the P-51 Mustang Fighter Group.
If they needed it, they came to him, and he usually found it.
He didn’t talk much about Iwo Jima, but one story his family remembers was when he slept through an air raid. After a long night with some buddies, he woke up the next morning looking through holes in his tent, and debris laying all around.
He was Honorably Discharged on April 23, 1946 and came back to Arcadia to run Richard’s Hardware for his dad on Oak Street, which is now an antique store.
He retired to Boca Grande, and ran the island’s mosquito control facility for Lee County on the island.
He was affectionately known by the locals as “Skeeter Davis” or Capt. Swat.
Jim BakerJim Baker. In the spring of 1942, my 19-year- old brother, Jim, enlisted in what was then the Army Air Corp’s. basic training in Enid, Okla., and Texarkana, and then off to Barksdale Field, La. to learn to fly the B-26 Martin Marauder. He flew the Atlantic, then on to Africa to join the 34th Bombardment Squadron.
After having helped push Rommell and the Afrika Corp out of Africa, the 34th supported the landings in Sicily and Italy and then relocated to an airbase in Sardinia. From that base, missions went regularly to Casino, Anzio, bridges over the Poe River and German troop concentrations.
Originally the quota for air crew rotation home was 30 missions, then it became 40, 50 and 60. The crew of the Laura June (Jim’s plane and a terrible name for a war plane) stood down for transportation home after 60. Unfortunately the Wing Commander asked Jim if he would personally volunteer to stay on a short while due to a shortage of experienced pilots to lead bombing raids.
My mother and I were home in Chicago on July 28, 1944 when we saw the Western Union man get off his bike in front of our house. Everyone knew what that meant. “The Secretary of War regrets to inform you …”
At the time hundreds and sometimes thousands of these telegrams went out. We subsequently got a letter indicating Laura June had been hit by a shell from a German 88 on the bomb run knocking out the left engine. Jim dumped his bomb load and headed back toward Sardinia, but with mountainous terrain to cross. A number of months later we learned that as the American Army advanced up the boot of Italy, Graves Registration found Jim’s remains and those of the other officers on Laura June in a common grave in a German Military Cemetery. They were removed to a U.S. Cemetery and seven years later returned to a central location in the U.S. in Louisville, Ky.
In 1994 my wife Renae and I were traveling around Europe by car and wound up one day in Parma, Italy, reasonably close to a town named Corniglio, although I had no idea what I was going to do when I got there. A challenging drive on mountain roads and then a town, a Catholic church, a gas station, a general store, and a bar and restaurant. It was Sunday and so Renae voted for the church but I insisted on the bar and that’s where a lot of the town was.
We entered a busy bar, but now what – we spoke only English and they spoke only Italian, we were asking about something that had happened 50 years ago before most in the bar were born. Renae used the English/Italian dictionary to write a note which the bar mistress passed around. Each person read the note, looked at us and shook their head no. After all, who were these people and what did they want?
We had a second beer and got out our maps preparing to leave Corniglio. Just then a small older man came in the door and was handed the note. He read the note and looked at us and then walked over to our table and asked, “What dat?” (was the plane crash). I told him July 20, 1944 and he said he remembered. We asked if he could show us where the plane had crashed, and he suggested we follow him in his car and he would show us. We followed him until he pulled over just outside of town. He described riding his bike up the hill, in 1944, and here came this plane up the valley with one engine out, trailing smoke and it crashed right in front of him in a friend’s yard. As we spoke, the friend came toward us from the house where he still lives.
He confirmed the story in French, which Renae could better translate. It was a hard crash and fire and nothing could be done to help any possible survivors. The next day the Germans came and took the remains away. In saying goodbye I thanked him profusely. I also learned his name and that he had been exactly my age, 14, when he rode his bike up to the Laura June. Closure after 50 years.
George Baker, Boca Grande resident
Sgt. John Edward DriscollJohn Edward Driscoll served in the Army from 1947-1961. He completed his career as a sergeant.
Over the life of his military career he was stationed in Japan, Korea, Alaska, Hawaii and Germany, where his oldest daughter was born.
He loved being in the military and had many good memories of the time he spent serving our country. 1930-2011.
John Edward Driscoll is the grandfather of Nikki Beatty.
First Sgt. Joseph Keith Shortuse served from 1966 to 1968, and 1970 to 1993 in air defense.
He was stationed in North Carolina, Vietnam, Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania, Italy, Texas, Indiana and twice in Germany.
Throughout his military career he received the Meritorious Service Medal, Parachute Wings, and a Combat Infantrymen’s badge.
Keith Shortuse is the father-in-law of Marcy Shortuse.
Casimer P. Kania
Aviation Mechanic Casimer P. Kania enlisted in the Navy in 1943, in his senior year in high school. He was stationed with the carrier, “U.S.S. Forrestal.”
He currently lives in Memphis, Tenn. and is the father of Angela Steffan of Boca Grande.
Anthony Robert KoppAnthony Robert Kopp entered the United States Marine Corps in June of 2009. He is stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He leaves this month for his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Anthony is the nephew of Charlie and Sally Pentecost (Boca Grande Post Office).
“Raising Anthony has been a pleasure and we are very proud of the man he has become,” they said. “This is the first Christmas he will not be able to come home and be with our family and friends. He will be deeply missed.”
John Tatko, WWIJohn Tatko came to the United States in 1915. He joined the Army and was deployed to France as a blacksmith in the Cavalry.
He was the father of Len Tatko, who resides in Boca Grande.
Walter Tatko is Len’s brother. A highly-decorated veteran of World War II, Tatko fought side by side with these heroes of the highest caliber, and he nearly lost his own life in the process.
Drafted in September 1943, Tatko landed on the shores of North Africa in March 1944.
After a week and a half, his 3rd Infantry Division pulled out of Africa and went on to Anzio, Italy and then to Rome.
In the battle for southern France, Tatko made a daring assault on German forces that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross.
According to the Legion of Valor text that describes their actions, Tatko “voluntarily ran and crawled 34 yards through intense enemy automatic and mortar fire to engage German armor which threatened to overrun an exposed platoon.
“Braving the head-on assault of a tank and destroying it with rocket fire, (Tatko) and his companion killed 10 Germans and prevented decimation of the platoon.”
He was wounded near Strasberg, when a sniper’s bullet struck him in the arm.
Six months after his discharge from the Army, he received a notice that he had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and the Purple Heart.
Tatko declined to receive the honors in a formal ceremony. He opted instead to pick up the medals at the 33rd Street Armory.
Sgt. Bubba RussellSgt. Bubba Russell served in Vietnam from December of 1965 to December of 1967. He was a skytrooper and served as squad leader with Company B, Second Battalion, Seventh Cavalry in places such as Song Mao and Phan Thiet.
He received two air medals for helicoptor combat flights over a year’s time, received the Vietnam Service Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, three Purple Hearts and the Bronze star “V” for Valor.
The Bronze Star was given for heroism in connection with military operations against hostile forces. His squad was pinned down near Song Mao by fire from five enemy soldiers with automatic weapons. Russell exposed himself to heavy fire as he directed bursts of return fire, overwhelming the enemy. He then led his men in an assault on the fleeing enemy, killing one and aggressively assaulting another position, killing three more enemy soldiers and capturing one.
He currently lives in Mt. Morris, Ill. and is the father of Marcy Shortuse.
Bill BarneyBill Barney served almost five years in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He enlisted in Boston in October 1941, having left Brandice College to do so. He was aboard an unarmed sub chaser at Bay City, Mich. Naval Base when war was declared.
Theirs was the last ship out of the St. Lawrence Seaway before it froze over for the winter. Bill was assigned to PC473, outfitted in Boston and patrolling from there to Nova Scotia. In 1942 they were in the first convoy to Key West. The “U.S.S. Icarus” sank the first German ship to be torpedoed and sunk during the war. He was in 10 or 15 more convoys, often sleeping on deck.
He was sent on to Midshipman School at Columbia University where he received his commission as an Ensign in March 1943 when he was sent to Rockport, Texas to pick up S.C. 1342, later P.C 135 out of Whitestone, N.Y.
Bill was married in 1944 and was assigned to “L.S.T. 913” out of Norfolk, Va., which was outfitted for Pacific Duty in New Orleans and Houston. He set sail from San Diego, Calif., in March 1945 for Hawaii where they transported hospital supplies to the islands, marines and equipment ending up in Okinawa. In January 1946, he received his honorable discharge as a full Lieutenant, but remained active in the Naval Reserves in Wilmington, Del.
He was the officer in charge of welcoming Dutch destroyers sent to celebrate the tercentenary of the landing of the Dutch in New Castle, Del.
He retired in 1955, and is a resident of Boca Grande.
Lt. Hopkins got out of the Air Force after Vietnam.
His daughter, Tricia, was born while he was in the Air Force and stationed at Kincheloe Air Force Base in the upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Dusty is a resident of Boca Grande and owns the Boca Beacon Newspaper.
Private Aaron Heath of Massachusetts served as a picket guard under Major L. Baldwin and Capt. Luka Drury’s Company in Johnathan Ward’s regiment in 1775. He was sent to Cambridge Camp, Canada. They attacked the British in Quebec and he was taken prisoner. According to a letter he wrote, he said, “At Bunker Hill we attacked the Brits and I fired 32 rounds.”
He was also engaged at Bunker Hill under Benedict Arnold.
In all, he was taken prisoner three times during the Revolutionary War. The last time was while he was acting the part of a scout.
He asked them to release him because he pled that he was insane. They agreed with him, and did so.
Private Heath was the grandfather (seven times removed) of Marcy Shortuse.
Lt. Commander Robert A. MelvinLt. Commander Robert A. Melvin Submitted by Sandy and Bob Melvin:
Dad has served our country since his youth, and his service has always been a source of pride for our family.
He learned to fly with the Army National Guard, served in Vietnam flying Huey ground support helicopters, and then joined the United States Coast Guard as a Search and Rescue pilot.
He’s saved desperate Cuban refugees seeking freedom in rickety life rafts off the Florida coast, commercial fishermen in the Bearing Sea off Alaska, and weekend fishermen that have found their way into trouble in the Gulf of Mexico, among others.
After retiring from active duty, he served for several years as Deputy Chief of Boating and Safety for the USCG Auxillary.
The story of the mission where he was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross is below:
Lieutenant Commander Melvin is cited for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight on the afternoon of January 5, 1980 while serving as pilot and aircraft commander of Coast Guard HH-3F 1430 engaged in the perilous rescue of eight crewmen from the tug A.W.GUILL, which had suffered a complete loss of steering and collided with its barge during a severe winter storm 160-nautical miles northeast of Norfolk, Va.
As the tug began to sink, the eight man crew was forced to abandon ship into a life raft. Dispatched from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., Melvin piloted the helicopter to the scene. The flight was made at altitudes less than 100 feet due to a near blizzard and icing conditions. An inoperative radar and unreliable navigational signals due to low altitude flight further complicated matters.
Utilizing dead reckoning headings obtained via HF radio from Air Station Elizabeth City and DF vectors from a C-130 aircraft, Lieutenant Commander Melvin finally located the life raft. Although the life raft was being violently tossed by 15-foot seas and 45 knot winds, Melvin maneuvered the helicopter into position for the eight arduous hoists. With the survivors safely aboard, he piloted the helicopter at 50 feet above the ocean surface and returned to landfall at Virginia Beach to find the airports below instrument approach minimums and visibility down to 1/16 of a mile. Already fatigued by the demanding flight, he cautiously maneuvered his way to a safe landing at Norfolk International Airport with less than 30 minutes fuel remaining. Lieutenant Commander Melvin’s innovative actions, expert aeronautical skill and valor throughout this rescue mission resulted in the successful rescue of eight men. His courage, sound judgment and unwavering devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.
Bob Sr. currently lives with his wife Carolyn in Elizabeth City, N.C.
He was called “The Old Man” because he was 26, and he flew 46 missions in the Pacific. He was involved in the Battle of the Bismark Sea, one of the turning points in the war. He went to the Pentagon after the war, and became head of aerospace research there.
He retired as a full colonel and is living today in Orlando.
He is the father of Boca Grande resident Ann Fletcher.
Second Lt. James M. AllenSecond Lt. James M. Allen served in the 101st Airborne, 502 Division, and parachuted behind Utah Beach on June 5, 1944.
He was involved in “Operation Market Garden” in the Netherlands in 1944, and the Battle of the Bulge with Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, Bastogne.
He served in Europe until the war’s end, with a total of six combat jumps.
He died of cancer in 1978.
James was the father of Jeanne Allen Saeger of Boca Grande.
He is the namesake of Kathy’s son, Matt.
We salute Jerry Jackson, Abe Dulaney, Don Trigleth, Rick Ellis, Wayne Catterton, “Deepwater Dave” Howell, Paul Howell and Raymond Howell.
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