Local Military Losses
Local military losses are considerable
Some area military heroes, who either died in the fire, fury and fog of war or died early due to their brushes with fate, are buried here where they grew up or were born. Others rest in Arlington and other national cemeteries. And then there are some who are lost in the mists of time. Here is a look, by no means complete, at military figures indelibly tied with Shreveport, Bossier City and our local military scene:
• Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger: Vietnam conflict Medal of Honor recipient, 1933-1968. Assigned to the 1043d Radar Evaluation Squadron of the 1st Combat Evaluation Group at Barksdale Air Force Base. Killed in combat while stationed at secret radar site Lima 85 about 12 miles west of the Laos/Vietnam border. When the site was overrun by enemy ground forces, he continued fire on the enemy, denying them access to the site, and also called on the radio for an air rescue. When a rescue helicopter arrived he helped withe the egress of two men but he was struck by gunfire and died minutes later. Eleven men were killed when the site was attacked. Etchberger’s Medal of Honor was posthumously awarded to his family on Sept. 21, 2010, by President Barack Obama at the White House. Etchberger is buried in St. Johns Cemetery in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
• Army Pfc. Milton Arthur Lee: Vietnam conflict Medal of Honor recipient, 1949-1968. Born in Shreveport and reared in Bossier City, he earned his medal at the cost of his life for actions performed on April 26, 1968, while serving as a radio operator with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). His citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. Lee distinguished himself near the city of Phu Bai in the province of Thua Thien. Pfc. Lee was serving as the radio telephone operator with the 3d platoon,Company B. As lead element for the company, the 3d platoon received intense surprise hostile fire from a force of North Vietnamese Army regulars in well-concealed bunkers. With 50 percent casualties, the platoon maneuvered to a position of cover to treat their wounded and reorganize, while Pfc. Lee moved through the heavy enemy fire giving lifesaving first aid to his wounded comrades. During the subsequent assault on the enemy defensive positions, Pfc. Lee continuously kept close radio contact with the company commander, relaying precise and understandable orders to his platoon leader. While advancing with the front rank toward the objective, Pfc. Lee observed four North Vietnamese soldiers with automatic weapons and a rocket launcher lying in wait for the lead element of the platoon. As the element moved forward, unaware of the concealed danger, Pfc. Lee immediately and with utter disregard for his own personal safety, passed his radio to another soldier and charged through the murderous fire. Without hesitation he continued his assault, overrunning the enemy position, killing all occupants and capturing four automatic weapons and a rocket launcher. Pfc. Lee continued his one-man assault on the second position through a heavy barrage of enemy automatic weapons fire. Grievously wounded, he continued to press the attack, crawling forward into a firing position and delivering accurate covering fire to enable his platoon to maneuver and destroy the position. Not until the position was overrun did Pfc. Lee falter in his steady volume of fire and succumb to his wounds. Pfc. Lee’s heroic actions saved the lives of the lead element and were instrumental in the destruction of the key position of the enemy defense. Pfc. Lee’s gallantry at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, the 502nd Infantry, and the U.S. Army.” Lee’s Medal of Honor was posthumously awarded to his family at the White House by President Richard Nixon on April 7, 1970. He is buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.
• Air Force Col. John Riley “Killer” Kane, World War II Medal of Honor recipient, 1907-1996: Born in Texas, he lived in Shreveport as a young adult and was the son of the Rev. John Franklin Kane, one of Shreveport’s more notable Baptist ministers. He was stationed at Barksdale Army Airfield and married a local girl, Pansy Inabnett. Kane earned the Medal of Honor for his bravery during the great Aug. 1, 1943 B-24 raid on Ploesti, Romania, an attack in which five Medals of Honor were earned, the most ever presented for a single action, with three going to former Barksdale personnel. His citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 1 August 1943. On this date he led the third element of heavy bombardment aircraft in a mass low-level bombing attack against the vitally important enemy target of the Ploesti oil refineries. En route to the target, which necessitated a round-trip flight of over 2,400 miles, Col. Kane’s element became separated from the leading portion of the massed formation in avoiding dense and dangerous cumulus cloud conditions over mountainous terrain. Rather than turn back from such a vital mission he elected to proceed to his target. Upon arrival at the target area it was discovered that another group had apparently missed its target and had previously attacked and damaged the target assigned to Col. Kane’s element. Despite the thoroughly warned defenses, the intensive antiaircraft fire, enemy fighter airplanes, extreme hazards on a low level attack of exploding delayed action bombs from the previous element, of oil fires and explosions and dense smoke over the target area, Col. Kane elected to lead his formation into the attack. By his gallant courage, brilliant leadership, and superior flying skill, he and the formation under his command successfully attacked this vast refinery so essential to our enemies’ war effort. Through his conspicuous gallantry in this most hazardous action against the enemy, and by his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, Col. Kane personally contributed vitally to the success of this daring mission and thereby rendered most distinguished service in the furtherance of the defeat of our enemies.” Kane received his Medal of Honor in a ceremony in Cairo, Egypt, on Sept. 4, 1943. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
• Air Force Gen. Leon William Johnson, World War II Medal of Honor recipient, 1904-1997. He served as a meteorologist at Barksdale Army Airfield in the 1930s, and by 1943 was in command of the 44th Bombardment Group, which took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the attack on the oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania. With “Killer” Kane he was one of only two living recipients of the five Medals of Honor presented for that attack. After the war he held numerous positions with bodies such as NATO, and also served as Air Deputy to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, at SHAPE Headquarters in Paris, France, retiring from that position on July 31, 1961. Just six weeks later he was recalled to become the director of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee Staff/National Security Council, in Washington, D.C., serving in that position until he retired again in 1965, with 39 years of active military service in the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Air Force. His Medal of Honor citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on August 1, 1943. Col. Johnson, as commanding officer of a heavy bombardment group, let the formation of the aircraft of his organization constituting the fourth element of the mass low-level bombing attack of the 9th U.S. Air Force against the vitally important enemy target of the Ploesti oil refineries. While proceeding to the target on this 2,400-mile flight, his element became separated from the leading elements of the mass formation in maintaining the formation of the unit while avoiding dangerous cumulus cloud conditions encountered over mountainous territory. Though temporarily lost, he reestablished contact with the third element and continued on the mission with this reduced force to the prearranged point of attack, where it was discovered that the target assigned to Col. Johnson’s group had been attacked and damaged by a preceding element. Though having lost the element of surprise upon which the safety and success of such a daring form of mission in heavy bombardment aircraft so strongly depended, Col. Johnson elected to carry out his planned low-level attack despite the thoroughly alerted defenses, the destructive antiaircraft fire, enemy fighter airplanes, the imminent danger of exploding delayed action bombs from the previous element, of oil fires and explosions, and of intense smoke obscuring the target. By his gallant courage, brilliant leadership, and superior flying skill, Col. Johnson so led his formation as to destroy totally the important refining plants and installations which were the object of his mission. Col. Johnson’s personal contribution to the success of this historic raid, and the conspicuous gallantry in action, and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty demonstrated by him on this occasion constitute such deeds of valor and distinguished service as have during our Nation’s history formed the finest traditions of our Armed Forces.” Like Kane, he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
• Army Air Forces Major John L. Jerstad, 1918-1943. World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Born in Racine, Wisconsin, he served as a Major in the 93rd Bomb Group, 9th Army Air Force, Europe, flying B-24 Liberators. Trained at Barksdale, he had completed more than his tour of missions, was no longer directly connected with the 93rd Bomb Group and could have rotated stateside. But when he heard of the upcoming low-level bombing mission against the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, he volunteered to lead a formation. On August 1, 1943, three miles from the target, his bomber was badly damaged by enemy ground fire and set on fire. Air defenses consisted of more than 230 antiaircraft guns, supported by many barrage balloons, smoke pots and German fighter planes. Ignoring the fact he was flying his damaged, burning bomber above a field suitable for a forced landing, he maintained his bomb run and after the bombs were released on the target, he crashed his B-24 into the target area. It was one of 54 aircraft that never returned. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously on October 28, 1943. He is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial in Liège, Belgium.
• Former Louisiana state Sen. Ronald C. Bean. Nov. 4, 1938-April 19, 2005. Presidential pilot, soldier, politician. An Army Chief Warrant Officer in May 1973, Bean was ferrying seven Secret Service agents to Grand Cay, Bahamas, to join President Richard M. Nixon on a moonless, overcast night when a faulty altimeter led to the helicopter clipping the wavetops, flipping and sinking. Despite swallowing many mouthfuls of jet-fuel-thickened water, he dove repeatedly to the stricken chopper, rescuing his copilot, flight engineer and six of the seven Secret Service agents. The seventh agent, J. Clifford Dietrich, drowned. Bean was awarded the Soldier’s Medal, the highest peacetime award a member of the military can earn, the non-combat equivalent of the Medal of Honor. He also was awarded the Secret Service Honor Award and the American Legion Aviator Valor Award. A two-term Vietnam War combat veteran, he also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with 17 oak leaf clusters and the “V” device for valor. He also served as helicopter pilot for President Gerald R. Ford. First elected to public office in 1976, he served as state Senator from Caddo Parish from 1991 to 2003, when health issues forced his retirement. The ingested jet fuel eventually caused his kidneys to fail, leading to his death. He is buried in Forest Park West in Shreveport.
• U.S. Navy Mess Assistant Floyd Baxter Jones. Born Dec. 15, 1920 in Shreveport, he was aboard the battleship USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941. His remains are entombed today in the hulk of the ship at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
• Three brothers who all died in World War II, a local “Saving Private Ryan,” all rest in local cemeteries. Army PFC Bose Frank Kelley Jr. and Lt. William G. Kelley lie side by side in the military section of Greenwood Cemetery, while third brother Edgar Rew Kelley is buried in Jewella Cemetery. Bose Frank, with the 507th Parachute Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, was killed after jumping into Normandy on D Day, 1944. William G. Kelley died Nov. 10, 1944, a day after his 24th birthday, also in combat. Edgar Rew Kelley died stateside of spinal meningitis in 1943.
• Air Force Col. Edith Marie Wimberly Patient. Born in 1911 in Campti in Natchitoches Parish, she died young in May 1964, likely due to outrages she suffered while a captive of the Japanese following the fall of the Philippines in 1942. She was one of a cadre of Army nurses who cared for captured soldiers and interned civilians and are known today as the “Angels of Bataan.” She is buried in Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport.
• Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Charlie Sherman Poole. Born in 1932, he was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base and served as a tail gunner on B-29, B-36 and B-52D bombers. He was killed Dec. 19, 1972 when his B-52 was hit by a surface-to-air missile over Hanoi. Four of the six crew members parachuted from the aircraft and were captured, but Poole and the navigator were listed as missing in action. In 1996 a crash site was located and excavated resulting in the repatriation of his remains. He is buried in Hillcrest Memorial Park in Haughton.
• Navy Lt. Commander Jack William Wintle, 1908-Nov. 13, 1942. Wintle, husband of longtime Caddo Parish educator Mary Clyde Wintle, was a 1932 graduate of the U.S. Navy Academy at Annapolis and was an aide to Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan at the naval battle of Guadalcanal when their battleship, the USS San Francisco, was shelled by the Japanese. Several Japanese salvos scored on her superstructure, obliterating her flag and navigating bridges. All but one member of the admiral’s staff were killed, and Wintle was among the casualties. He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously and DE-266, an Evarts Class destroyer escort, was christened USS Wintle in 1943.
• Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk: An Episcopal bishop and Confederate general, he founded Shreveport’s St. Mark’s Episcopal, now Church of the Holy Cross, as well as dozens of other churches across Louisiana and Mississippi. Cousin of U.S. President James K. Polk, he was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and while he had little or no military aptitude, was a charismatic and confidence-inspiring leader whose luck ran out on June 14, 1864, in the battles before Atlanta, when he was struck by an artillery shell and killed on Pine Mountain, Georgia. Fort Polk in Vernon Parish is named for him. He is buried in Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans.
• Lt. Gen. Millard F. “Miff” Harmon: The first commander of Barksdale Field, he had risen to the rank of three-star general and was, with Lieutenant Generals Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. and Leslie J. McNair, one of the three highest-ranking general officers in the U.S. military to die in World War II. He and the B-24 in which he was a passenger were lost during a routine flight from Guam to Washington, D.C., disappeared in March 1945. In September 1944 he was named to command Army Air Forces/Pacific Ocean areas and deputy commander of the 20th Air Force, under which B-29s began their bombardment of Japan from the Marianas Islands. His chief of staff, Brigadier General James R. “Jimmie” Andersen, was lost also; Andersen Air Force Base is named in his memory. Despite the most intensive search by Army and Navy planes and surface vessels to that time, no trace of the men or their bomber ever was found. There are several memorials to him but he has no grave other than the Pacific Ocean.
• Brig. Gen. Paul Thomas Cullen. A victim of the Cold War, Cullen was vice commander and chief of staff of the 2nd Air Force at Barksdale when he and several members of his staff, as well as a cadre of nuclear weapons and warfare experts from the 509th Bomb Group, then based at Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, N.M., were lost with their C-124 transport during a routine flight over the Atlantic Ocean in March 1951. As with Harmon, no trace of the men or airplane has ever been found. However, it later was learned that Soviet submarines were active in the area at the time of the loss, and historians have speculated the men might have been rescued and spirited to Russia.
• U.S. Army Air Forces Capt. Fletcher Eugene Adams, 1921-May 30, 1944. A P-51 fighter pilot and ace, Adams was shot down in Germany just days before the D Day invasion and was beaten to death by his captors. He is buried in Bethsaida Cemetery in Ida, in north Caddo Parish.
• James M. Lupton, 1942-1967, was a Navy communications/intelligence specialist aboard the spy ship USS Liberty that was attacked off the coast of Egypt by Israeli gunboats and jet fighters on June 8, 1967, during the Six Day War. Lupton’s body was never recovered. Memorials to him are at Forest Park East Cemetery and Arlington National Cemetery. His nephew, Shreveport Police Cpl. David Wayne Lupton, was killed in the line of duty on July 7, 1989, when he was struck by a car during a traffic stop on I-20 westbound west of Broadway. A suspect was arrested and later hanged himself while in the Caddo Parish jail.
• U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin Jerome Johnson, 36, of Shreveport, was killed June 25, 1996, when Al Qaeda terrorists bombed the Khobar Towers on King Abdul Aziz Air Base near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The 15-year Air Force veteran was a rescue HC-130 aircraft flight engineer with the 71st Rescue Squadron of the 1st Rescue Group out of Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. He is buried in Lincoln Memorial Park, Shreveport.
A book could be filled with the names and stories of Shreveport and Bossier City men and women who have died while serving the nation in its uniformed services. There were scores during World War I, hundreds during World War II and dozens in the Korean and Vietnam wars. During the current Global War on Terror, the 1/156th Armor at Fort Humbug lost 16 soldiers in combat or accidents while deployed to Iraq, of 35 lost by its parent unit, the 256th Infantry or Louisiana Tiger Brigade. In all, the state has lost well over 100 men and women since Sept. 11, 2001. A full list of those losses can be accessed at the website http://www.japrime.com/iraqsoldiers.htm. A list in progress for Louisiana losses in all wars is at http://www.japrime.com/soldiers.htm.