At the Veterans Breakfast Club,
Stories Unite Us.
Check out our online & in-person veterans storytelling programs and see our full event schedule below. All are welcome to join us!
We mark Memorial Day with Open Conversation with America’s veterans about the meaning of the day and the memories, feelings, and thoughts it stirs. Please join us for this evening of reflection and storytelling about those who served and never returned home.
We’ll also welcome Jennifer McCreight from Albuquerque to tell us about her nonprofit, Standing In The Gap, that helps guide 18-25 year-olds to responsible adulthood. Chris Jacobson with Operation Enduring Warrior will introduce his organization’s mission to honor, empower, and motivate our nation’s wounded military and law enforcement veterans through physical, mental, and emotional rehabilitation. And we will celebrate the publication of VBC members William and Carole Wagoner’s book of Vietnam War letters, The Hardest Year.
The photo above is of Austin Williams visiting the gravesite of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher C. Campbell in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. Campbell was one of 30 Americans killed when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, with the call sign Extortion 17, crashed in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue/Arlington National Cemetery/released)
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For the 79th anniversary of D-Day, Glenn Flickinger hosts a conversation about Operation Neptune, the naval component of Overlord, the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944. While images of soldiers struggling on the beaches are familiar to most of us, lesser understood is the role of the sailors aboard thousands of ships which delivered and supported the beach landings.
In truth, without the improvised daring of about a dozen destroyers and their Tin Can Sailor crews, the landings at Omaha Beach would have failed on D-Day, and so might have the entire Operation Overlord.
* * *
In the early morning hours of D-Day above Omaha Beach, the landscape exploded with the ferocious assault by US Air Force and Navy bombardment.
Army General Omar Bradley had promised just such a scene while reviewing troops preparing for the cross-Channel operation.
“You men should consider yourself lucky. You are going to have ringside seats for the greatest show on earth,” he said.
It may have been a great show, but the bombardment did little to damage German defenses.
Though hundreds of Eighth Air Force B-24s swarmed the skies and battleships USS Arkansas (BB-33) and USS Texas (BB-35) pummeled the shoreline, few shells hit the fortified bunkers, pillboxes, trenches and tunnels Germans had carved into the bluffs overlooking the beaches. Instead, they fell either too far inland or short of their targets.
The consequences of this failure became apparent as GIs disembarked from landing craft only to crumple under withering enemy fire from the positions above Omaha. Survivors darted from steel beam hedgehogs and other beach obstacles only to huddle at sea walls and sand dunes while fire poured from the bluffs overhead. If you’ve seen the opening minutes of Saving Private Ryan, you have some idea what these troops from the 29th and 1st Infantry Divisions experienced.
By 0830, the landings at Omaha Beach had stalled. General Bradley came close to aborting the operation.
“What saved the day for the Allies was a handful of British and American destroyers,” argues naval historian Craig Symonds.
The destroyers were far offshore screening the invasion force from sea attack. They saw the disaster unfolding on the beach and took action.
Abandoning their positions and, in the first minutes, violating orders, a dozen ships broke full speed toward Omaha Beach, smoking pouring from their stacks. Then, as they approached within 1,000 yards of shore, they turned broadside and began pounding German gun emplacements at point blank range.
This is not how it was supposed to work. These Gleaves-class destroyers got too close—way too close—to grounding on the rising seabed. If that happened, they’d be sitting ducks, virtual practice targets for German gun crews. The ships were so close that German soldiers took aim with their Mauser rifles trying to pick off sailors one-by-one.
By the destroyers kept up their fire, even as they scraped bottom. Even as their guns glowed red and had to be cooled with water from shipdeck fire hydrants. They got so close, crews were able to fire light AAA guns and hit targets.
Meanwhile, the ships kept moving in short bursts of speed in order to avoid return fire.
Each of the ships claimed its own victories at its own points along Omaha, from Colleville Sur-Mar to the east to Pointe du Hoc to the west. Taken together, these destroyers–Emmons (DD-457), Carmick (DD-493), McCook (DD-496), Doyle (DD-494), Baldwin (DD-624), Harding (DD-625), Frankford (DD-497), Thompson (DD-627), Satterlee (DD-626), Ellyson (DD-454), Herndon (DD-638), Butler (DD-636)—allowed landing craft to make it ashore, preparing the way for the hard fighting ground troops to move inland.
Join us on June 5 at 7pm as we remember this lesser-known story of how Tin Can Sailors saved D-Day.
Image above: The destroyer USS Emmons (DD-457 ) bombarding enemy positions at Omaha Beach, on D-Day. She fired for 90 minutes and expended about 2,000 rounds of ammunition. (Watercolor by Dwight Shepler, 1944, National Archives)
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Come to our live, in-person breakfast in Beaver, PA, and meet these two speakers pictured above.
Jerry Fisher, left, joined the Navy to see the world and, of course, was shipped to California for shore duty. Larry Googins, right, was a weapons systems officer who flew 193 combat missions in an F4 fighter in Vietnam.
These two people have done as much on behalf of veterans and the military community as anyone I’ve ever met. Jerry was a founding member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 862 in Beaver, PA, established in 2000, He’s run a twice-annual free bus trips to the national war memorials in Washington, DC, for the past 16 years. He spearheaded the creation of a Veterans Memorial in Beaver County. And he drives a van once a week to take veterans to appointments at the VA Hospital in Pittsburgh. Wherever he goes, he hands out copies of VBC Magazine. We owe him much.
We also owe Larry, who is the President of not only VVA Chapter 862 but also of the VVA PA State Council. Larry travels the state advocating for and meeting with veterans of all eras and ages. He exemplifies what makes Vietnam Veterans so special: their outreach to the larger community of our nation’s veterans. People like Larry are the glue that hold the community together.
Join us to meet people like Jerry, Larry, and others who served from WWII to the present day.
We meet at Seven Oaks Country Club (132 Lisbon Rd, Beaver, 15009). You’ll walk in, pick up your name badge, pay $15 if you plan to eat (no cost for those who don’t), and meet others who are there to hear and share the stories. Breakfast is served at 8:30am. At 9:00am, we start the program. For the next 90 minutes, we circulate the room with the microphone and have veterans share a slice of their service experience. You never know what you’re going to hear, and there’s always new people with new memories to offer.
RSVP by calling 412-623-9029 or emailing email@example.com. Please make sure to RSVP for events at least two days in advance. We understand that your schedule can change quickly, but advance notice of attendance always helps us and our venues prepare the program. Thank you!
Thank you to our Event Sponsor, Encompass Health!
Lioness – Trailer from ROCO Films on Vimeo.
Join us on Women Veterans Day June 12 for a screening of the documentary Lioness about the first women sent into combat with US forces in 2003-2004.
After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, filmmakers Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers tracked a group of Army soldiers who became known as Team Lioness. They fought alongside the Marines in some of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war.
We’ll screen the film and then talk with Daria about what she learned in making it. The screening coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces. Prior to 1948, most women only served in times of war.
There for the action. Missing from history
Lioness presents the untold story of the first group of women in U.S. history to be sent into direct ground combat, in violation of official policy. Told through intimate accounts, journal excerpts, archival footage, as well as interviews with military commanders, the film follows five women who served together for a year in Iraq.
Their candid narratives of fighting in some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles form a portrait of the emotional and psychological effects of war from a female point of view. Lioness is the first film to bridge the gap between the perception and the reality of the role military women are playing in Iraq.
Sign up free for VetStreamTV and then register for the Zoom Premiere!
Join us for a conversation with Johnny Lang, who served with Elvis Presley in the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32d Armor, 3d Armored Division, at Ray Barracks, Germany, in 1958-1960. Johnny’s new book, My Army Days with Elvis: Friendship, Football & Follies, tells of hijinks and warm friendship with The King of Rock n’ Roll as the Cold War heated up in Europe. Johnny can tell you what Elvis was really like, in private, and we’ll discuss the impact of Elvis’s induction and service on his career and popular music.
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