Archive for the ‘Always Remembered’ Category

In Memory of Martha “Maggie” Raye

November 16, 2012
I’m afraid that there are a lot of young people who have never heard of Martha Raye. But for those of you who remember the funny lady with the large mouth may end up just dropping theirs (mouth) when they read this about her.

 

Don’t let the sun go down without reading this about Martha Raye. The most unforgivable oversight of TV is that her shows were not taped. This is a great story about a great woman. I was unaware of her credentials or where she is buried.

Somehow I just can’t see Brittany Spears, Paris Hilton, or Jessica Simpson doing what this woman (and the other USO women, including Ann Margaret & Joey Heatherton) did for our troops in past wars. Most of the old time entertainers were made of a lot sterner stuff than today’s crop of activists and whiners. The following is from an Army Aviator who takes a trip down memory lane: “It was just before Thanksgiving ’67 and we were ferrying dead and wounded from a large GRF west of Pleiku. We had run out of body bags by noon, so the Hook (CH-47 CHINOOK) was pretty rough in the back. All of a sudden, we heard a ‘take-charge’ woman’s voice in the rear. There was the singer and actress, Martha Raye, with a SF (Special Forces) beret and jungle fatigues, with subdued markings, helping the wounded into the Chinook, and carrying the dead aboard. ‘Maggie’ had been visiting her SF ‘heroes’ out ‘west’.

 

We took off, short of fuel, and headed to the USAF hospital pad at Pleiku. As we all started unloading our sad pax’s, a ‘Smart Ass’ USAF Captain said to Martha…. “Ms Ray, with all these dead and wounded to process, there would not be time for your show!”

 

To all of our surprise, she pulled on her right collar and said …..”Captain, see this eagle? I am a full ‘Bird’ in the US Army Reserve, and on this is a ‘Caduceus’ which means I am a Nurse, with a surgical specialty….now, take me to your wounded!” He said, “Yes ma’am…. follow me.”

 

Several times at the Army Field Hospital in Pleiku, she would ‘cover’ a surgical shift, giving a nurse a well-deserved break. Martha is the only woman buried in the SF (Special Forces) cemetery at Ft Bragg.

OSS agent who led WWII rescue of 500 dies in NY

May 3, 2012

311 iran ship

NEW YORK – George Vujnovich, the intelligence agent who organized a World War II mission to rescue more than 500 U.S. bomber crew members shot down over Nazi-occupied Serbia, has died at his home in New York. He was 96.

Vujnovich is credited with leading the so-called Halyard Mission in what was then Yugoslavia. It was the largest air rescue of Americans behind enemy lines in any war.

A long retired salesman of aircraft parts, he died April 24 of natural causes at home in Queens, according to his daughter, Xenia Wilkinson.

The Serbian-American and Pittsburgh native was an officer of the OSS, the precursor of today’s CIA, when about 500 pilots and other airmen were downed over Serbia in the summer of 1944 while on bombing runs targeting Hitler’s oil fields in Romania, according to U.S. government field station files.

The airmen were hidden in villages by Serbian guerrilla fighter Draza Mihailovich, leader of the Chetniks, whom Yugoslav communist officials considered to be Germany’s collaborators.

“This mission would not have succeeded without the great courage of Draza Mihailovich and his brave men,” Vujnovich said at a 2010 ceremony in which he was formally awarded the U.S. Bronze Star Medal.

It was no small feat to convince American officials to allow him to work with Mihailovich on the clandestine mission, dubbed Halyard, meaning a rope used to hoist sails. By then, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had decided to follow British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s lead, abandoning support for Mihailovich in favor of the Yugoslav communists, the strongest grass-roots guerrilla force fighting the invading Nazis and Italian fascists.

“Vujnovich is the one who sold the mission to U.S. officials. He pushed hard,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steven Oluic, a former West Point professor who prepared the award submission for the Department of the Army.

On Aug. 2, 1944, three OSS agents strapped with radio transmitters were airdropped near Mihailovich’s headquarters to set up the operation. Dozens of U.S. military cargo planes flew in over the months to pick up the airmen when they were downed. Serbian villagers had helped them build an airstrip by the village of Pranjani.

The fliers parachuted into a mountainous region where local farmers brought them to their houses and barns. During the next 66 days, the Americans moved each night to a different location so as not to be captured by the occupying Germans.

The story is told in a 2007 book titled “The Forgotten 500,” by Gregory Freeman.