Contributed by Bill Faith
It all started with an email from Russ Vaughn, which I posted here. That set off a flurry of emails which led to the creation of this site. I’ll let Russ explain more:
Through the magic of the blogosphere it is becoming increasingly evident that there are a lot of old dogs out there mastering the new tricks of this 21st Century phenomenon. While some are technically skilled enough to create their own sites, like your host Bill Faith, far more fall into my category: those who tenaciously hunt and peck out their opinions on war, society and life in general, and have only the basic computer skills requisite to sending those opinions into the ether of this wonderful thing called the Internet.
Old War Dogs is a site designed for these old dogs to practice their new tricks without having to compete with the fluid skills of younger, more technically savvy bloggers. While we may be too old to carry a gun in the ranks, we can still pound these keys. Mao’s dictum that political power flows from the barrel of a gun, while true, predates the blogosphere; and this old dog bets the Chairman would be truly stunned at the power that flows from the keyboard.
Blog on you old mutts!
Ronald Winter is an author, public relations executive, college professor and award winning journalist. He regularly writes and speaks on matters of public interest including the military, politics and the Vietnam War particularly as it relates to the ongoing War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ron is author of the book Masters of the Art, A Fighting Marine’s Memoir of Vietnam published by Random House, and regularly posts commentary on war and politics in his column Winter’s Soldier Story at his website www.RonaldWinterbooks.com.
He grew up in the farming country of upstate New York near Albany where he gave up an academic scholarship at the State University there in 1966 to join the Marines and fight in Vietnam. Ron was a helicopter crewman and machine gunner, flying 300 combat missions.
After Vietnam he returned to his studies earning undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and English Literature. In a two-decade journalism career that included stints as investigative reporter, supervising editor and columnist, Ron was the recipient of several awards and a Pulitzer nomination.
He owns Spectre Communications where he specializes in marketing, media relations and political communications. He also is the Eastern Representative for Michael J. London & Associates public relations firm. Ron is an adjunct professor of communication at the University of Hartford.
The youngest of 4 sons, John Werntz turned 18 —choice draft-meat —11 weeks after Pearl Harbor. His eldest brother, Ted, a telephone technician in civilian life, was already in the Army, fated to find himself installing commo systems in Morocco in late 1942. Lest we forget, North Africa in’42 led to Palermo, then Messina, Salerno, Cassino, Anzio, Rome, Southern France, on up into Germany and all the way to Munich. But this is about John, not about Ted.
The middle brothers, Eugene and Howard, were already noncoms headed for action in the Pacific with the Fleet Marine Force. John’s dilemma: How to beat the draft without incurring the wrath and scorn of his dog-tagged and chevron-sleeved brethren. Just in time, the Army Air Corps lowered its standards to permit mere high-school grads to train as aircrew officers. After months of hard schooling relieved by PT and a modicum of Hup!Toop!Threep!Fawr, this gawky teenager found himself taking the President’s commission and with it a solemn vow of service to the nation. A soldier? Hardly. But a citizen in full.
That was early August of ‘43. Two months later John’s outfit, which was the first Troop Carrier Group to arrive in England, began to train for the assault on occupied Western Europe. Please note that John’s official MOS was Aerial Observer (Navigator). Prior to D-day he racked up well over 1000 hours of air time. Much of that was spent observing two sweating pilots wrestling with the controls, trying to stay on an even keel and keep proper distance in close formation while wallowing in rotten turbulent air exasperated by propwash and wingwash. A neat trick, formation flying in an aircraft that was designed to look serene while soaring over the Grand Tetons in lonely splendor.
The rest is history, and John had ample opportunity to observe some of it. The chaos that ensues when you release gliders, dozens of them in the air all at once, competing for a safe place to set down. The silent menace of that huge invasion fleet lurking in the pre-dawn mist off the coast of Normandy. The foreboding when the invasion seemed bogged down in the hedgerows six weeks after D-day. The euphoria after the breakout. Loud cheers in the Quonset hut when Patton’s tanks overrun the LZs and DZs of planned airborne ops. Why ramble on? We all know what happened. For John Werntz, it all comes down to a tale of 3 first weeks of August.
1943: Newly hatched shavetail, wet behind the ears.
1944: Breakout at St. Lô. Paris soon liberated. Rehearse French.
1945: Enola Gay does its thing. Tear up orders for Okinawa. Get smashed.
John has mentioned to me in the past that his unit flew C-47s and C-53s similar to the one in the above picture, which he told Small Town Veteran readers more about here, and that he himself flew one mission on that particular aircraft. STV readers first met John in this post.
The members of the Old War Dogs pack were saddened to learn that John Werntz passed away due to complications following a fall on 22 June 2008. Please see this post for more information.
I was tempted to just write “Russ Vaughn is widely known as the Poet Laureate of the milblogosphere,” but I guess I’ll go ahead and post what he sent me as well:
Russ served in the 101st Airborne Division in varying assignments including combat MP, infantry RTO/driver, fire team leader, and battalion CBR NCO from 1959-1962/1964-1966. He served in Vietnam with the 2d Bn, 327th PIR of the 101st Airborne. Russ was serving as brigade staff CBR NCO of the 2d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division when he left the Army in 1969. He obtained his B.S. degree from Texas El Paso on the G.I. Bill in 1971 and then entered the health care marketing field, specializing in military medicine. Retiring in 2000, he now travels frequently as a consultant in military medical marketing.
Small Town Veteran has been privileged to post frequent examples of Russ’s writings over the past several months. Click here to see the entire STV Russ Vaughn collection.
*** Update: The STV Russ Vaughn index has been updated and moved here.
Back in the day, the stage just barely shy of “heap highly pissed” was “torque-jawed.” Jaw muscles tight, jaw sticking out just a shade, somewhere between “If you weren’t wearing those freakin’ stars I’d tell you what I think” and “Dead man walking.”
TorqeJaw, A Proud Veteran-American
TorqueJaw don’t say much about his past, sorta gives the impression it’s safer not to ask. We’re not sure if he was a Gray Beret or maybe just a Mafioso or some such thing. TorqueJaw gets his way a lot.
TorqueJaw was created by Mr. and Mrs. Gray Dog.
“Zero Ponsdorf” was born and raised in West Virginia. He joined the Navy Reserves between his Junior and Senior year in high school (1963). Since his father was KIA in Korea he wouldn’t have been drafted, but wanted to ‘see the world’ anyway.
Following high school he went to FT/A school at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center and then to the USS England DLG-22, the first of four ships on which he served. Others were the USS Parsons DDG-33, USS Worden DLG-18, and the USS Mahan DLG-11.
“Zero” made 4 visits to the Gulf of Tonkin, each about 6 months long. The duty while there was varied, from picking up downed aircrew to firing shore bombardment. During rescue missions it was not unusual to exchange fire with North Vietnamese shore batteries.
He was discharged in May, 1969 as an E-5.
After his discharge Zero held many jobs, from driving a cab in San Diego to working for NASA at the tracking station on Kauai. While with NASA he worked on the first nine Shuttle missions.
Now Zero has settled in on his piece of ridge in central West Virginia. He does a little consulting work with computers, and some minor web work for friends.
Zero has been Blogging since 2004, and recently migrated (mostly) from Live Journal to Blogspot [Click here — BF.] He participated in the Kerry Lied rally in DC and is preparing to help Larry Bailey unseat Murtha this fall.
Zero has resigned from Old War Dogs effective 2007.01.21
and now posts at Veteran-American Voices.