Freeman Works "Not all who wander are lost; Not all that glitters is Gold"

January 22, 2013

The Unseen Hand

Filed under: Military — Gary Freeman @ 1:43 pm

The Unseen Hand

A Personal Experience during World War II by Captain William C. Washburn, U.S. Army Air Corp., (Retired.)

(ED Note: William C. “Bill” Washburn came into my life in the summer of 1976 when he married my widowed mother. To call him a “step father” would be to do him disservice. There are fathers in this world who have twice as much time and money and do only a quarter of the fathering that Bill did for us. He didn’t give us monetary things but was always there when we needed him for anything. Through good times and bad, he was always there coaching, raising and praying but never criticizing. I could not draw up a more perfect father.

He was a tireless worker for the Lord who could always find someone who needed witnessing to. One of the first memories that I had of Bill was playing golf with him and looking around to see if he was going to hit his ball. Bill was down in a ditch with a man looking for golf balls asking if the man knew Jesus.

He was also one of the last of a dying breed known as a southern gentleman. His southern drawl was legendary and one of the things that we loved about him most. Being a southern gentleman also meant that he was always at your service for whatever you needed him for. In 20 years, I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone or anything or not respond to our calls for help. Bill passed away in July of 1996 to be with the Lord. He is and will be sorely missed.

Gary Freeman

 

Our baggage was all marked FF. we were told that this meant extra fast. I had been on duty as an advanced flying instructor at Spence Field, Moultrie, Ga. A young second lieutenant just a few weeks out of cadet training, when the orders came through. From the very beginning of my flight training, I had been earmarked as an instructor.

 

“No combat for me”, I thought. “Anyway, I’m too old, they wouldn’t want me.” I was then pushing 27 years old. Many of my friends the same age were now Majors and comparatively uneventful role of training cadets.

 

The orders came unexpected. From across the entire training command, men of better than average abilities and experience were selected. I was one of two second lieutenants from my group. The rest were first lieutenants, Captains and Majors. We were all assembled at Tallahassee, Florida for an accelerated course in combat training, a course normally taking from eight to twelve weeks, which we were to receive in four.

 

Following this stepped up period of intensive indoctrination, we were all assembled at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where we were given the classification of FF. Little did we realize at the time that we were scheduled as replacements following the operations of D-day. This was the reason for the more experienced men, those who could adjust more rapidly, and assimilate and digest the tremendous amount of information necessary in so short a period of time. Looking back, I cannot help but feel a surge of pride in having been chosen for such a mission.

I knew very little of war. As a young boy, I had always shunned fights, being more of a peace lover. However, I remember if I was pushed far enough, or if the occasion demanded, I would fight but only as an absolutely necessity. One of my best friends in grammar school had been a little cross eyed Jewish boy that everyone else picked on. I defended him on day in a real wham-bang fight. He has been my fast friend ever since.

On the boat going over, I tried to think as little as positive of what the future held. However, as I stepped off the boat in Liverpool, England, I seemed to realize just how big a thing this was I was facing. For the first time in my life I began to think about myself, my life and what it was I wanted out of life. There was one thing that overwhelmed me completely. I WANTED TO LIVE, TO SEE AMERICA AGAIN, MY HOME AND LOVED ONEDS. Again the feeling that this thing was too big for Claiborne Washburn to handle or at least not alone. For the first time in my life, it suddenly dawned on me that the only one who could handle something this big was god, and from that moment on I knew that I must make contact with him.

 

We went though another combat indoctrination, just two weeks before D-Day. This is where we began to lose some of our men. I remember a very fine man, Captain Fling, was killed during this period. He and I had spent much time together on the boat coming over. It was during this last phase of training that made up my mind to place my trust, my very life in the hands of God. It gave me a great deal of peace, so that I could do my flying to the best of my ability and leave the rest to him.

 

The first mission I flew occurred on the 12th day of June, 1944. My friend, Anse Daese and I had joined the 371st fighter-bomber group of the Ninth Air Force. Our squadron commander was a tall, lean Texan named Casey. As I studied this fine looking specimen of man good, I just knew I had the right man to lead me into combat. Just before taking off, sitting at the head of the run-way awaiting my turn, I bowed my head in the cock-pit of my plane, a p-47 Thunderbolt fight. I’ll never forget that prayer, because it became a part of my routine cock-pit check prior to taking off on my 125 missions.

 

One day, on the Normandy beach head, I had an experience never t be forgotten. We were bivouacked <camped> in an apple orchard near St. Mere Eglise. I had gone to a great deal of trouble to dig a very elaborate fox hole. A few nights before a German FW 190 had bombed and strafed our area, and it had caught me sleeping under an apple tree. The next day, I went to work on my own fox hole and by the time, I had finished it was the biggest and deepest in the whole outfit!

 

On a beautiful day in lat June 1944, with not a cloud in the sky and the sun shining brightly, I stepped from my fox hole. Suddenly a great light shone all around me. I was all alone with not a soul around me. I knew it was God. It was as though all heaven itself had descended upon me I felt a great peace within me.

 

My mother had written me how she and many others in our church back home had been praying for me. I thought that God was calling me to preach, and this in itself scared me to death. I had never thought very much of myself, had always been somewhat reticent, timid and retiring. I remember throwing my head back, steeling myself, clinching my fists and resisting the wonderful, holy presence with every fiber of my being. After all, I couldn’t preach, and anyway, there were so many men a lot more capable than I was. Imagine me telling God what to do!

 

Looking back, I know that all he wanted was to come in my heart. All he wanted was me. What power there was in that presence, what love, and what understanding and God came to me.

 

I continued to fly through everything that the enemy could throw at me uninjured. What is more remarkable, I always brought my plane back to our base, at times, in absolutely in unflyable condition. There was one mission, my fifth, while we were flying across France that I caught a direct hit by an 88 caliber shell in my left wing, exploding in my gun bay. The hole was enormous. The short stubby wing of the fighter left little room for such a big hole.

I had been hit over the village of Cherbourg and headed directly for the channel. At fire wall and somehow miraculously, I stayed aloft. I managed to keep my air speed around 200 miles per hour because at any speed below that the ship tended to stall. It was not possible to bank the aircraft at anything more that 10 degrees. I had to circle far out beyond the white cliffs of Dover over the channel and to make a straight in landing, and taxing back to the hanger. The plane looked more like a kitchen sieve than an aircraft. I climbed out and they gave it a classification of class 26 while I was standing there. Classification 26 means junk.

 

In the early part of December, my squadron had moved from Dole, France to Tauntonville, a small town about 10 miles outside the city of Tauntonville, a small town about 10 miles outside the city of Nancy. It was during this stay that I flew The Mission, the events of which are absolutely unbelievable, and even now as I write this sound like fiction

.

We were bivouacked in a small town hotel. Christmas came and out soon to be squadron commander, Carson Robinson of Jackson, Mississippi, had us go into and woods and found the biggest tree we could. We cut the bottom out of tin cans, strung pop corn and made other hand made ornaments. I do believe that this was the nicest Christmas that I can remember. I taught the fellows how to make show ice cream using generous portions of powdered milk, one of the few things we had in a abundance.

 

It was during the this period that one of our newest recruits (I found out later that he was a PK or Preacher’s Kid) Monte Davis of Union, Mississippi, began to work on me about getting up a bunch of fellows to go to church on Sunday night. I was reluctant at first but Monte kept on and so we went. Oh, how I needed this spiritual refreshment. And those wonderful hymns, “Abide with me”, and “Sweet Hour of Prayer” were two of the chaplain’s favorites. I just thank God for the Monte Davises of this world and can’t help but think how much we need them today.

 

We had gone up on an armed reconnaissance mission with Col. Robby Robinson leading the mission. Enemy aircraft had been reported in the vicinity of Landau, and Robby was determined to find them. He had given strict orders for us to stay together during this period of almost certain contact with the enemy. However,  after more than an hour of hunting it because apparent that there was no ME109s to be found. Suddenly while flying at 12,000 feet loaded with bombs, I looked down through the clouds over Landau. There pulling into town was the longest train that I had ever seen. We knew that Landau was a heavily fortified German stronghold and it been our top priority for a number of occasions for targeting.

Leaving the formation, [I was leading the flight], I beckoned my wing man to follow. We streaked toward the oncoming train. I flicked on my gun sight which was our means of sighting the target on a bomb drop. There was practically no wind which meant I had to make very little correction. The air speed of my plane built up to 600 mph and was still climbing. I trimmed the ship, made one last minute correction, and pulled the bomb release. I felt in my bones, it was a good drop and looking back, it seemed that I had knocked out the locomotive pulling the train.  Somehow, I knew that this was not enough for such a “juicy” target.

 

p47-4

P47 Thunderbolt escorting B17.

 

At this moment, a voice spoke to me. It was just as though someone was riding in the cockpit with me. I know now that there was. Clear as a bell, the voice said to me “Get back upstairs.” As casually as I was actually talking to someone, I said “No, I haven’t finished my duty.” That was all and nothing more. I made my circling turn to come back along the train. My air speed dropped sharply in the process of making the turn. I remember seeing 350 on the air speed indicator which is like being a sitting duck so close to the ground. Halfway through the turn, I spotted the German Flak car at the end of the train.

 

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German WWII Flak Car

It was too late to turn back and we both opened fire simultaneously. My eight machine guns raked down the train as far as I could see. Almost immediately, he had me in his sights, and there was no escape. I steeled myself for the blows to come. His gun fire was absolutely devastating. He was loaded with 88mm, 40mm,20mm and machine guns and all were synchronized with me in the middle. I could see the tracers arcing toward me. Such a fantastic number and for each one I could see I knew that there were four or five that I couldn’t.

 

Flying at tree top level, I caught the full force of his firepower. My ship caught fire and I was thrown into an upside down position. As I was being flipped on my back by this hail or raw steel, I was conscious of the fire being smothered out, as if someone had thrown a blanket on it. I knew I had to do something to get out of this position, upside down at less than 100 feet altitude. Had there been a house or tree, I would never have made it. Luckily, for me, it was level ground for some distance. I kicked the rudder hard right and at the same time moved my stick sharply to the right. This maneuver normally would snap a plane back into the upright position but that is not the way that this happened. It was though a large unseen hand, as if playing with a toy, moving slowly and yet surely righted the big fighter. I had a strong urge to keep the aircraft down close to the ground, and instead of pulling up and bailing out, I headed toward the city of Landau at weed top level. In this way, the men behind me would not shoot at me for fear of hitting the city and the guns at the city would not fire for fear of hitting the train.

 

I checked my oil pressure. It seemed to be holding up; nevertheless, I stayed at tree top level for the next 30 minutes all the way to the base. In some way, I managed to get the ship on the ground for a safe landing and brought it to a stop at the end of the runway.

After taxiing back to my hanger, the commanding officer of the base came out to see what had caused the emergency landing procedure. He took one look at my plane and I heard the familiar “class 26.” The plane was literally shot to pieces. Almost the entire tail section had been show away, and we could eight cylinders in the big Pratt and Whitney engine that had been completely shot out.  When I tried to explain to the CO the position of my aircraft upside down at 100 feet, he wouldn’t believe it. “Look at your tail;, he said, “it’s all shot away. You would need your elevators and stabilizers to get out of such a position.”  I replied, “Well, Colonel, that’s the way it was and the position I was in.”

 

I continued to fly until the end of the war. And I lead my squadron on its last mission against Nazi Germany which was flown on May 2, 1945. As far as I can determine, this was the last combat mission of any group flown in the European theatre during World War II.

 

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield, “Psalms 84:11. “He delivereth and rescueth and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” Daniel 6:27.

 

Just as he delivered Daniel from the jaws of death in the lions den, even so he delivereth me from certain death that bright and sunny day over Landau , France. He gave my life back to me. Truly, he is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has become the best friend that I have ever had or ever hope to have. I commend my Lord to you.

 

December 24, 2012

Letter from Afghanistan

Filed under: Military — Gary Freeman @ 7:23 pm

My KidsThis is an older letter but it is to remind you to think of our guys on Christmas Eve. gvf

This letter was copied from Military.com without their permission but I wanted to share it with the world….

The following letter was sent to DefenseWatch by a regular reader. It was written by a USMC Lt. Col. to a retired USMC Major General as the Marine was departing . It offers an insightful, first-hand account of the brave and unfortunate demise of a U.S. Navy SEAL team wiped out while deep in enemy territory on a clandestine mission sometime around June 28, 2005. The  SEAL team disappeared just before a Special Forces helicopter carrying reinforcements to a mountainous area in eastern Kunar province was shot down June 28, killing all 16 Americans on board. It was the deadliest single attack on the U.S. military since the war began in Afghanistan in 2001. No editing effort for either grammar or punctuation was applied for the sake of authenticity- Editor

Hello every one, I am heading home soon. Here is my final update.

FINAL UPDATE

Hello everyone, this is my final update. Let me start by telling you that I am in excellent health and in good spirits. I apologize for not keeping you informed these last few months but our operational tempo was too high and our operational security did not allow me to share with you what missions we were conducting. When I return home I hope to sit down and write about our spring offensive here. However I will share with you that my team in Farah captured Mullah Sultan who was a mid level Taliban leader and a target that we had been searching for several months. He is still being interrogated in Afghanistan but should be making the long journey to GITMO (providing it is still open) very soon. I will be home in a couple of weeks and plan to have a party around Labor Day weekend so please mark you calendars because I would love to see you there. This update will be extremely short but I do want to close it by telling you some insight about the SEAL Team and Night Stalker tragedy that occurred a few weeks ago. By now you have heard a lot about what happen but I really want share how significant that event was to the soldiers on the ground here and to explain in my opinion why I feel it is important that all Americans continue the fight for freedom.

Before I explain what happen to the SEALs, I want to thank you all for your prayers, emails, care packages, yard work and all the things that you did for me in my family while I have been deployed. The support from my friends and neighbors has been incredible and humbling. Your support has helped me to endure this incredibly long year and to concentrate on what I was doing here with minimum worrying about Pam and “A”. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

The Naval Special Forces (NAVSOF) team that was involved in the operation in Kunar Province had been traveling throughout Afghanistan conducting apprehend or kill missions against Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. They had worked with us for two weeks, three weeks before the events on June 28. While working with our teams, they attempted to take out a high value Taliban target and missed him by hours. This operation was conducted in the Zerico Valley which has been one of our hot spots. We provided the outer ring security for the SEALs with Afghan National Army soldiers and ETTs while the SEALs conducted the compound assault. We missed the big target but did get some mid level guys so the mission was not a total bust. The NAVSOF guys are the best of the best, not cocky simply professionals in every way, we call them operators.
SEALS operate throughout Afghanistan using their unique skills to intredict  Taliban operations and movement. They own the night
On June 28 a four man SEAL reconnaissance team was trying to locate Taliban in the dense mountainous and forested area of the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. They were trying to identify routes that the bad guys use to enter from Pakistan . The targeting information would be used to direct U. S. and Afghan forces who would interdict and destroy those enemy forces. The SEALs were spotted and engaged by a large force of Taliban some where between 25-50 insurgents. The Taliban who are still alive and fighting in Afghanistan are very good combatants. Unlike Iraq Arabs, they are not suicidal and they use good small unit tactics. The bad guys used Rocket Propel Grenades (RPGs), mortars and small arms to attack the SEALs. The team set up a 360 degree defense and called in Hornet Nest (troops in contact) back to their operational base. The command and control headquarters for U. S. Forces in Afghanistan moved a Predator unmanned drone over the battle location. The SEALs were located by the predator by their locator beacon and the inferred camera system of the drone. The headquarters could see that the TEAM was encircled by bad guys and that the enemy was too close to the SEALs to use Air force close air support. A weather front was rapidly coming into the area and the SEAL Commander a Lieutenant Commander ask permission to launch his quick reaction force to go rescue his men. The commander of TF 160th (the Night Stalkers) agreed to fly the mission. The Night Stalkers are the Army’s Special Operations air wing. They specialize in high risk insertion and extraction at night. It was not night fall yet and the command hesitated because sending the special operation birds into the area in the light was very risky. The Generals look at the screen that was giving a live feed of the fire fight, they saw that the SEALs were surrounded, they did not see a way for them to escape, a weather front was coming, it was dusk but not dark yet and time for the trapped men was running out.

Leadership requires having the guts to make a decision, based on analysis and forethought. You must totally recognize the risk and be ready to accept the results. The general in charge made the right call, he had to try to rescue the operators, we as American soldiers cannot leave our people on the battlefield, every sailor and Soldier has to know that when you go down range and things go wrong keep fighting and help will come.

The decision was made, two CH 47 Pave Hawk helicopters headed toward the SEALs. The CH 47 is a large aircraft but it is fast for a helicopter, able to fly at 170 knots. The aircraft entered the mountains flying at 50 feet above the ground with 16 men aboard. All four SEALs were still alive and fighting an unbelievable battle. As the lead bird approached the landing zone they started to slow down and the air speed dropped under 100 Knots, another group of Taliban, not engaged in the initial firefight but in the area saw the aircraft and open fire with small arms and RPG’s. The lead aircraft was hit by a RPG but the aviator kept the bird in the air. They were in the mountains; therefore there was no clear place to land. He flew for about a mile and saw a ledge that he could try to put the bird down on. The CH 47 landed on the ledge hard, they almost made it. The hard landing and the palpitations of the rotors were too much for the small landing zone and weak ground. It was their time, the aircraft rolled off of the ledge on to its side and down the mountain into the valley below. 8 SEALs and 8 aviators from TF 160th were gone.

The other aircraft could not land in the hot landing zone and were called back. There was not enough time to try to secure the area because the weather front moved in and night fall fell. The SEALs kept fighting and used the cover of darkness to crawl out of the initial enemy lines. The SEALs were engaged again and had a running gun battle for over two hours. The SEAL that survived was knocked unconscious by a mortar round and found that he was alone when he woke up. Two of his team members were dead close by, and the last team member was missing. They had dropped all none essential gear during their escape therefore all contact with them was lost. Eventually the surviving SEAL ran into a villager who took him to his house. That shepherd, at great risk to himself, protected the SEAL until he could be moved six hours away to the nearest U. S. forces that the villager was aware of.

The loss of the operators really broke the hearts of all us deployed down range. Losing men of that quality and dedication is bad enough one at a time, but to lose so many, so fast was hard to comprehend. But after the shock had worn off and we got the true story of what happen we took solace. You see every one did what they supposed to on that day, the SEAL recon team kept fighting, the SEAL commander went to get his shipmates, the Night Stalkers volunteered to fly in to harms way to rescue their brothers in arms and the generals had the guts to make the right decision. That is all you can ask for out here, it is what it is and everything else is god’s will. I have had the pleasure of serving with some unbelievable men and woman in the last year. Folks from 18 to 59 (yes 59). It has been an honor. I really appreciated America before I came to Afghanistan but this experience has truly opened my eyes to how bless my life has been. Folks I know this is a clich?, but freedom is not free. Embrace it, respect it and don’t ever stop fighting for it. These people over here are far from free, but we have given them a taste of it. We need to ensure that we don’t give up the fight because to do so would be to dishonor all the men and woman who have died to ensure we remain free. Freedom is contagious, with it, out goes tyranny. The evil people that attack America on September 11th were not free because if they were, they would not have cared what another’s persons beliefs are they would simply accept them for what they are and moved on. Please continue to pray for all the soldiers in Afghanistan and  Iraq , don’t stop praying for me because I am still here, and your prayers have been working so keep it up, I don’t to mess up a good thing. I will be home soon, god bless you all, god bless America and thanks again, goodbye Cheers, George

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