Monday Maritime Matters: Memorial Day 2010

May 31st, 2010 by xformed

The day was perfect. Relatively cool by Florida standards and clear. Plenty of shade under the old oak tress next to the Bay Pines Cemetery. 3000 chairs were put out, as 2500 last year wasn’t enough. The Boy Scouts in attendance still were busy pulling out more chairs as the ceremony began @ 1000. Veterans and family members and friends/supporters filled the area, with many obviously long time friends, and others just greeting those around them and making new ones.

Representative Bill Young (R-FL) gave the speech, honoring those who had given their all so we could all come to such a celebration by choice, and not as demanded by a government such as that of North Korea. He spoke of the many cemeteries around the planet, where US service personnel remain to this day, buried in the countries where they fought to ensure freedom for us and others.

I took the opportunity to meet some interesting pieces of history. These three Marine vets had seen many things:

I was introduced to Major Lindbloom, USAAF, a B-17 pilot who was shot down over Czechoslovakia and spend 6 months in a POW camp. He stayed with the damaged plane long enough to ensure it cleared a town and crashed into the forest instead. I’m told the town placed a monument to him to commemorate his act of selflessness.

A Marine near me, with miniature jump wings on his ballcap noting “Iwo Jima Survivor” had been with the Raiders in the Soloman Islands, a unit deactivated, then he was placed in the 5th Marine Division, along with his shipmates from the Raider Battalion, for their combat experience. On Day 4, he looked up after a mortar attack to check on his men and one more rounds came in and ended his combat career. He’s become the accidentally appointed historian of the Para-Marines and has plenty of pictures and files he and his wife are scanning and placing on the web.

On Sunday, I walked among the headstones and read many names and dates and annotations. This one (sorry for the cell phone picture quality), caught my attention, so I’ll place it here for the history of it:

Clarence F Swanson

Chales F Swanson headstone, Bay Pines Cemetery
Cox US Navy PVT Marines
WWII 9/29/1909 – 6/29/1997

Then there was the Navy Chaplin who spent time with the Marines and Army, and now is a disabled vet, the man who worked on F8U Crusaders, and the one who was on destroyer tenders in the Pacific.

All with the backdrop of the 29.166 American flags placed on the graves in the well trimmed grass nearby to compliment stories of men who didn’t make it, or have since passed away. It was fitting for the day.

Category: Air Force, Army, History, Marines, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy, Supporting the Troops | Comments Off on Monday Maritime Matters: Memorial Day 2010

Memorial Day: Chip in for the Future of a Fallen Marine’s Daughter

May 28th, 2010 by xformed

So, how about helping out a new mom and daughter who lost their Husband/Father in Afghanistan?

If you’re close to the Tampa bay area, or in it, get down to Paddy Burke’s Irish Pub tomorrow (5/29/10) from 1800 til 2100 (6PM til 9PM for the rest of you) (100 4th St S. St Pete) and make a donation in memory of CPL Jonathon Proto, USMC.

His widow, who is still very much a Marine Wife and troop supporter has put together a fun time for those who also want to say thanks to one who has fallen in the line of duty. Put some of your hard earned money in Ariana’s trust fund for later on. Details here, at A Little Bit of Pink in a World of Camo.

Click for the large image!

And now, a follow up to the burial of CPL Porto. Take a few minutes and get a glimpse of his life and his family and friends at his burial in St Petersburg, FL 3/24/2010:

Porto Tribute Part II from DiamondFilms on Vimeo.

Category: History, Leadership, Marines, Military, Military History, Supporting the Troops | Comments Off on Memorial Day: Chip in for the Future of a Fallen Marine’s Daughter

Monday Maritime Matters: Memorial Day Edition

May 25th, 2009 by xformed

It’s Memorial Day.  This is my tribute to one who went before me:  Seaman 1/C Omer Dee Simms, USN.  Here is some of the story of this man’s life that we are lucky to have heard.

(Note:  All pictures below are the small versions.  Click to get the original size provided)

Omer Dee Simms was a sailor aboard USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) on March 19th, 1945, when a Japanese kamikaze slammed into the flight deck and created a hellish place at sea for the crew of that aircraft carrier. 50 miles from the island of Kyushu, they were without power, on fire, and aircraft, on deck and in the hanger bay, loaded with aviation gas and ordnance were “cooking off.”

Who was Omer Simms? He was a son, a brother, a husband and a father.

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He was born in McKinney, Texas Nov 17th, 1911. When he was called to serve his country on Dec 16th, 1943 he was working at a boot factory. He was enlisted in the US Navy on Dec 31st, 1943.

He was the father of Richard Don Simms.

His wrote his wife, Blanche, and his son, Richard.

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In Boot Camp, he got to experience the wisdom of the military medical system, and he shared this with his sister in a letter:

He was assigned as a cook aboard USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) and rode her into battle, as the noose of the Allied Forces tightened around the virtual neck of the Japanese Homeland. The Japanese we’re going down without a fight, and, on the 19th of March, 1945, a single pilot brought hell to earth for that crew. Omer was 31 years old when he joined the service, so, the service being what it is across many generations, I imagine he picked up a nickname of “Pops” or “Gramps.” They probably looked up to him, because he had more life behind him than they did.

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(Click on the picture for the archived photos of the attack on NavSource)

725 dead, 265 wounded in the attack. Omer Dee Simms was a hero that day. He saved 12 of his shipmates, by not giving up on getting the door open, to allow the 13 of them to remain trapped in a compartment, with fire raging around them. Once he led that group to safety, he went back inside the skin of the ship to help get others to safety. He did not survive the day.

Here is the notice Omer’s family received from the Department of the Navy:

George Black owes his life to Omer Simms. He made the following statement to describe the efforts and situation he faced that horrible day in battle:


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Click here for this file scanned and converted to PDF

There are no bridges, streets, museums, schools or military barracks named after Omer Dee Simms, but, he, like so many others, had courage in the midst of battle and chose to carry on, to get the mission done, in this case to save your shipmates.

For a detailed story of a newly built carrier, that entered the Pacific and went straight to combat, took a seemingly mortal wounding off Japan, yet was underway on her own power the later that day, and steamed stateside herself to arrive at the shipyard for repairs, get the book “Inferno” by Joseph Springer. The story of Omer Dee Simms is in there, with the other reports of danger and death and courage.

The memory of Omer Dee Simms is kept alive by his son. Richard Don Simms, pictured above, who graciously provide me with the information and materials for this post. Richard shared in his items, a letter he sent to his father, but was returned unread:

In addition to that help, he has been one to help keep the memory of the crew of the USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) in the public eye, having attended the reunions and being declared an honorary crew member of the storied vessel.

Richard also shows his appreciation to our service members today, providing them with his presence at the DFW Airport, as reported in these two articles:

To complete my post, it is worthy of note that Seaman 1/C Omer Dee Simms, USN, has been honored by his home state of Texas in the following resolution in 2006:

Category: Navy | 1 Comment »

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