Harry Hink, World War II pilot in Northern Va., recalls lost colleagues on Memorial Day
By Tom Jackman, Published: May 26
Harry Hink always wanted to be a pilot when he was growing up in Oklahoma. He just never envisioned flying over Japan in the last year of World War II, dodging kamikazes and drawing Japanese fighters from Hiroshima before the first atomic bomb was dropped.
After flying 28 missions in the new B-29 bomber, including the 500-plane flyover above the USS Missouri at the treaty signing with Japan, Hink piloted 63 more missions during the Korean War. When he finally stopped flying, Hink settled his family in Annandale in 1960, and he still lives in Northern Virginia, surrounded by three children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
But Hink, now 90, has clear memories of those who didn’t come back, settle in the American suburbs and grow big families. And every year on this weekend, “you have to think back on the past, to the guys I was flying with and serving with. I always say a little prayer for them.”
Then he goes further. “I have a habit of calling the wives” of his former fellow soldiers, Hink said, “and talking about the good old times we had.”
Hink now lives in The Fairfax at Belvoir Woods, a retirement community just west of Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County. He served in the Army, then the Army Air Corps, then the Air Force, and when he retired from active duty after 28 years, he joined another group with many alumni in this region: the civil service, working for the Federal Aviation Administration for 18 years until his retirement in 1987.
He remembers declaring his intentions to fly early on, making planes out of sticks in the yard of his home in Weatherford, Okla., and informing his father, “I’m going to fly one of these, one of these days.”
Hink was 19 and in college when Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941. He enlisted in the Army soon after and was summoned to active duty in 1943, after he turned 21. He immediately volunteered for the Army Air Corps, and after being trained to fly the B-17 bomber, he was one of three students chosen to learn and pilot the new B-29 “superfortress.”
The plane debuted in June 1944 and was used exclusively in the Pacific theater. Initially, American planes were launched from China and India, but the distances were too great. So Allied forces attacked and seized the Mariana Islands in the summer and fall of 1944 and built bases to launch attacks on Japan from there.
Hink landed in Guam in April 1945. With a crew of 11, he began flying 15-hour round-trip missions to northern Japan, targeting oil refineries and other war-
making machinery of the Japanese empire.
“It was something new to me,” Hink said. “I had to drop bombs on people.”
They also had to dodge Japanese fighter planes when they weren’t able to use their own high-powered guns to shoot them down. Hink said the Japanese planes weren’t as numerous or well-built as the German fleet, but the kamikaze mission of flying directly into an enemy aircraft occasionally found its mark.
“We were in the air, flying one day,” Hink recalled. “I looked over and one of our planes blew up,” its wing ripped off. “If they hit you, you didn’t have much of a chance.”
Most of the resistance Hink faced was flak from antiaircraft guns on the ground, and he said his B-29 took plenty of shrapnel hits, but “I never got anybody wounded.” He said that “one of the most challenging things was not the Japanese shooting at you. You really had to study your fuel situation” to make the 15-hour round trip.
Hink also had to make dangerous landings on Iwo Jima, where “we were still fighting the Japanese.” Enemy soldiers fired not only on the planes as they landed and took off but also on the maintenance crews working full time on the newly built base.
In August 1945, the B-29 pilots learned that they would be flying a new, powerful bomb on a secret mission to Japan. Hink said one of his colleagues, Col. Paul Tibbets, was chosen to make the run. But Hink said his crew was “prepared, we studied it and practiced it. If we had to do it, we could have done it,” though no one really knew the specifics of how powerful the bomb was and whether it would even work.
Instead, he and some other planes were sent on a run “to draw all Japanese planes away from” Hiroshima. “Apparently it worked,” he said.
Hink said he flew over the bombed city three days later. “The whole area was just scorched,” he said. There was very little information at the time about how much damage had been done. “All we knew is we dropped a bomb,” Hink said.
In all, Hink logged more than 417 hours of combat flying time in World War II. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and numerous other medals.
After the war ended, Capt. Hink was assigned to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, then to Okinawa for the Korean War, where he flew 63 more missions in the B-29. Following that conflict, he was assigned to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, where he flew for Gen. Frank A. Armstrong, the inspiration for the book and movie “Twelve O’Clock High.”
Assigned to the Pentagon in 1960, Hink moved to Annandale but also served as a staff officer flying over and inspecting airfields in Taiwan, Thailand and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He retired from the Air Force in 1970, then worked for the FAA in airport safety until 1987.
Hink retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel, and a part of his crew will always be near him. His navigator for six years, Col. Ted Dalides, asked to be buried near Hink’s family in Arlington National Cemetery and is about four graves away from the grave of Hink’s first wife, Cherry, which will also be Hink’s final resting place.
Native American vets push for recognition
These Navajo Native American Code Talkers were cousins and attached to a Marine Artillery Regiment in the South Pacific. They relayed orders over a field radio using their native tongue. Photographed on July 7, 1943. (U.S. Marine Corps Photograph.)
SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN , THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
POSTED: Sunday, May 26, 2013, 10:07 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Navajo Code Talkers are legendary. Then there was Cpl. Ira Hamilton Hayes, the Pima Indian who became a symbol of courage and patriotism when he and his fellow Marines raised the flag over Iwo Jima in 1945.
Before World War II and in the decades since, tens of thousands of American Indians have enlisted in the Armed Forces to serve their country at a rate much greater than any other ethnicity.
Yet, among all the monuments and statues along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., not one stands in recognition.
A grassroots effort is brewing among tribes across the country to change that, while Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii has introduced legislation that would clear the way for the National Museum of the American Indian to begin raising private funds for a memorial.
“This is not a political gamble for anyone, and it’s not politically threatening for anyone,” said Jefferson Keel, a retired Army officer and president of the National Congress of American Indians. “This is something that both sides of the aisle can get behind and support, because it’s not going to cost a lot of money for the country. It’s just something that needs to be done.”
The push for a memorial can be traced back to the 1980s when the well-known Three Soldiers sculpture was unveiled near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Depicted are three American soldiers: one white, one black and a Hispanic.
During the Vietnam era, the federal government says more than 42,000 Native Americans served in the military and 90 percent of those service members were volunteers.
“I’ve come across veterans from throughout the whole country, from the East Coast all the way to California, and a lot of Indian who people believe that there should be something on the National Mall. We’re not there, we haven’t been recognized,” said Steven Bowers, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Seminole tribe in Florida.
Bowers is spearheading an effort to gain support from the nation’s tribes to erect a soldier statue on the National Mall in recognition of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served over the years.
His proposal calls for placing it prominently at the entrance of a planned education center at the Vietnam memorial , where millions of people visit each year , rather than at the Museum of the American Indian.
Numerous tribal organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians, have signed on in support of the grassroots effort, and Bowers is hopeful the legislation introduced this week by Schatz doesn’t complicate matters.
Jeff Begay, a Navajo and Vietnam veteran whose grandfather also served as a scout for the U.S. Army, said he prefers a memorial close to the heart of the National Mall.
“We feel that we don’t want to be represented on the museum property because we’re not relics anymore,” he said. “We’re not artifacts to be observed. We are real soldiers, we contributed to defense of this country, and we need to be honored in the Mall area.”
John Garcia, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said he’s been meeting with Native American leaders and believes that a memorial “is a real possibility” if land is located and private funds are raised.
Garcia estimated there are about 200,000 Native American veterans, and a memorial dedicated to them would be appropriate since they have been involved in every American war from the American Revolution to recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Supporters of the two efforts agree that a memorial in the capital city would help to raise awareness of the role Native veterans have played in the country’s history.
“We’re trying to instill pride in our heritage as original inhabitants of this land,” Begay said. “We don’t want our children to grow up with that concept that we’re insignificant. We want to instill in them that they’re important members of the American community, and they should be proud of that.”
Across an ocean, families honor memory of soldier
May 26, 2013 8:04 PM
This one is for the GIs who went off to war and never came back. And for those who remember.
Howard William Berliner remembers in Indianapolis. So does his cousin Sharon Reisenfeld in Fort Myers. As do a couple, Patricia and Andre Hubert, in Belgium.
On this Memorial Day, as America honors its war dead, they will think about a man from Cincinnati who died during the Battle of the Bulge, America’s biggest and bloodiest World War II battle.
That was in 1944. After 69 years, they still grieve. Such is the lasting effect, the never-ending nightmare of war.
Sometime today, Howard will go to his basement cedar chest and take out a 48-star flag. That red, white and blue piece of heavy cotton cloth once graced a coffin. For nearly seven decades, it has been crisply folded in the shape of a triangle. Howard will think about the uncle whose coffin the flag blanketed, whose memory he holds in his heart and whose legacy he continues with his middle name.
Sharon will gaze at a hand-tinted, color photo of a tall soldier in uniform cuddled close to his smiling wife and their curly-haired toddler. She is barely 1 year old in the picture. Today, she’s 70. Sharon has no memories of her dad, just this photo.
Across the Atlantic, the Huberts will visit the grave of a soldier known only to them by what’s carved on his white marble marker: his name, rank, unit, home state and date of death.
Howard William Berliner, nephew of Private William C. Berliner, who was killed in 1944 in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, holds the flag that was draped over his uncle’s coffin when he was buried in 1949 in his final resting place at what is now the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial in Neupre, Belgium. Howard lives in Cloverdale, Indiana. Provided
38th Infantry Battalion
7th Armored Division
Ohio, Dec. 21, 1944
The Huberts, Patricia noted, “have always been fascinated by the USA.” She has been known to wear a “Grand Canyon National Park” sweatshirt when visiting Pvt. Berliner’s grave. The couple has taken 10 trips to the States, visiting places the GI only read about in school.
On one vacation, the Huberts stayed closer to home. They visited the Normandy beaches where Allied forces landed on D-Day and the nearby cemetery where 9,387 GIs who died in the invasion rest in peace. That’s when they found out about and later signed up for the adopt-a-grave program at the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial near where they live in Belgium. They adopted Pvt. Berliner’s grave there in 2012.
Grave adopters don’t pay any maintenance fee or cut the grass. Uncle Sam does that. They just must “visit their soldier once a year,” said Jeff Hays, assistant superintendent of the Ardennes cemetery.
“We see lots of adopters on Memorial Day,” he added. Sixty-five percent of the cemetery’s 5,323 graves have been adopted. “They walk to the grave, put flowers between the flags of the United States and Belgium we place by each marker. Then they go back to their cars. When they leave, they’re crying.”
Patricia Hubert offered a simple but powerful explanation as to why she and her husband adopted a grave: “Young guys died here for our freedom and are away from home.”
She wanted to know more about Pvt. Berliner. So she wrote to The Enquirer. Contact was made with two former Cincinnatians, the fallen GI’s nephew and the private’s daughter. Howard William Berliner and Sharon Reisenfeld fleshed out details of the life of the soldier buried in Plot D, Row 27, Grave 10.
William C. Berliner was born in Cincinnati in 1913. He did not have an easy childhood. His mother died when he was 10 and his younger brother, Howard, was 6. Their dad’s job as a trucker took him away from home. So they were raised by their grandmother.
“Dad was a hothead, always fighting,” recalled Howard Berliner. “William was tall and thin and quiet and mild-mannered.”
After high school, William Berliner found work as a clerk at the H.H. Meyer meatpacking company in the West End and love at Sefferino’s Rollerdrome in Walnut Hills when he roller-skated up to Kathleen Bates of Camp Washington. They married when she was 19 and he was 25 in 1939. They lived in South Fairmont before moving to Zinsle Avenue, the Kennedy Heights street where he grew up.
He left to go to war from Zinsle Avenue. His daughter, Sharon, had just celebrated her first birthday. One month to the day before she turned 2, her dad was killed.
Pvt. Berliner did not train long to be a soldier. There was too much action overseas and too few able-bodied men. He went to Europe shortly after D-Day in June 1944. He was assigned to be a rifleman, also known as cannon fodder since it was one of the most vulnerable positions in the infantry.
The Battle of the Bulge began on Dec. 16, 1944. Pvt. Berliner and 22,000 fellow GIs were sent to hold off the German advance at the crossroads town of St. Vith. They held the city for nearly five days, derailing the German battle plans and allowing Allied troops to recover from the surprise attack and begin a counteroffensive.
German forces began an all-out attack on St. Vith on the morning of Dec. 21. Outnumbered at times 10 to 1 and undergoing artillery barrages as well as infantry attacks, the Americans began to fall back. In the retreat, Pvt. Berliner was captured.
The front was changing so rapidly, the regular German army quickly disarmed the captives and moved on. That left captured Americans vulnerable to the cruelty of German SS forces, the Nazi’s uniformed thugs.
“They put my dad and a whole bunch of the American prisoners of war into a barn,” Reisenfeld said. “And then the SS blew up the barn.”
Riesenfeld’s voice quaked as she recounted this story, first heard from her mother.
“That’s why I have no memory of my father,” she said. She does remember, years later, “going up to the attic where my mother kept his things in a small cedar chest.” She spent hours poring over documents and reading letters, some sad – “the one from the president about my dad’s death” – and some happy. His letters home always ended with three things: Say hello to Sharon, how much he missed his wife and how much he loved them both.
Reisenfeld teared up just talking about those letters. She cannot hear “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” – “knowing they are about fighting for freedom” – without getting choked up thinking of her dad.
The thought of a stranger adopting her father’s grave reminded her of what her uncle Howard told her mom. After her dad was killed, his remains were placed in a temporary cemetery in Europe. Her mom had the choice of his body coming home or staying overseas. She chose the latter. Permanent interment took place at the Ardennes cemetery in 1949.
“Uncle Howard said: ‘The people in Belgium are so indebted to these soldiers and so grateful. They will take care of him and honor him. Leave him there.’ ”
She did. And the people of Belgium, as well as Uncle Sam’s cemetery caretakers, have kept up their end of the bargain.
The way Patricia Hubert sees it, no one can “forget what he did for this country,” how he fought for freedom and the sacrifices he made.
So, on this Memorial Day, take time to remember all of the Pvt. Berliners. Take to heart what they gave up for US.
Col. Bud Day, Heroic Pilot in Vietnam War, Dies at 88
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Published: July 28, 2013
Col. Bud Day, an Air Force fighter pilot who was shot down in the Vietnam War, imprisoned with John McCain in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” and defiantly endured more than five years of brutality without divulging sensitive information to his captors, earning him the Medal of Honor, died on Saturday in Shalimar, Fla. He was 88.
His death was announced by his wife, Doris.
Colonel Day was among America’s most highly decorated servicemen, having received nearly 70 medals and awards, more than 50 for combat exploits. In addition to the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, he was awarded the Air Force Cross, the highest combat award specifically for airmen.
In a post on Twitter on Sunday, Senator McCain called Colonel Day “my friend, my leader, my inspiration.”
Colonel Day’s life was defined by the defiance he showed in North Vietnamese prison camps, where besides Mr. McCain, the future senator and Republican presidential candidate, whose
Navy fighter jet had been downed, his cellmates included James B. Stockdale, also a Navy pilot, who became Ross Perot’s running mate in his 1992 presidential campaign.
When he volunteered for duty in Vietnam and was assigned to a fighter wing in April 1967, Colonel Day, then a major, had flown more than 4,500 hours in fighters.
On Aug. 26, 1967, he was on a mission to knock out a surface-to-air missile site 20 miles inside North Vietnam when his F-100 was hit by antiaircraft fire. He suffered eye and back injuries and a broken arm when he ejected, and he was quickly captured.
Major Day was strung upside-down by his captors, but after his bonds were loosened, he escaped after five days in enemy hands. He made it across a river, using a bamboo-log float for support, and crossed into South Vietnam. He wandered barefoot and delirious for about two weeks in search of rescuers, surviving on a few berries and frogs. At one point, he neared a Marine outpost, but members of a Communist patrol spotted him first, shot him in the leg and hand, and captured him.
This time, Major Day could not escape. He was shuttled among various camps, including the prison that became known as the Hanoi Hilton, and was beaten, starved and threatened with execution. His captors demanded information on escape plans and methods of communication among the prisoners of war, as well as on America’s air war.
In February 1971, he joined with Admiral Stockdale, then a commander and the ranking American in the prison camp, and other prisoners in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” while rifle muzzles were pointed at them by guards who had burst into a prisoners’ forbidden religious service.
He was released on March 14, 1973, having supplied only false information to his interrogators. He was promoted to colonel during his captivity, and on March 4, 1976, President Gerald R. Ford presented him with the Medal of Honor at a ceremony in which Admiral Stockdale was also awarded the medal.
Colonel Day received the medal for his escape and evasion, brief though it was, and his refusal to yield to his tormentors.
“Colonel Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself,” the citation read. “Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy.”
Mr. McCain recalled in his memoir, “Faith of My Fathers,” written with Mark Salter, that Colonel Day “was a tough man, a fierce resister, whose example was an inspiration to every man who served with him.”
Telling how Colonel Day, in wretched condition himself, comforted him when he was near death from beatings, Senator McCain wrote that Colonel Day “had an indomitable will to survive with his reputation intact, and he strengthened my will to live.”
George Everette Day, known as Bud, was born on Feb. 24, 1925, in Sioux City, Iowa. He quit high school to join the Marines in 1942 and served with an antiaircraft battery on Johnston Island in the Pacific during World War II.
He graduated from Morningside College in Sioux City, obtained a law degree from the University of South Dakota and then received an officer’s commission in the Iowa Army National Guard. After transferring to the Air Force Reserve, he was recalled to active duty in 1951 and received pilot training. He flew a fighter-bomber, tracking Soviet planes off the coast of Japan, during the Korean War and then remained in military service.
After coming home from Vietnam, Colonel Day underwent physical rehabilitation, regained his flight status and served as vice commander of a flight wing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He retired from the military in 1977 after being passed over for brigadier general and then practiced law in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Colonel Day represented military retirees in a federal court case aimed at securing what they said were health benefits once promised by their recruiters. He campaigned for Mr. McCain when he challenged George W. Bush for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination. When President Bush sought re-election in 2004, Colonel Day worked with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth organization in sharply attacking Mr. Bush’s Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, over his antiwar activities after coming home. Colonel Day backed Mr. McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.
In addition to his wife, Colonel Day is survived by two sons, Steven and George Jr.; two daughters, Sandra Hearn and Sonja LaJeunesse; and 14 grandchildren.
Admiral Stockdale, his fellow prisoner of war, died in 2005.
Looking back on the torment he endured as a prisoner, Colonel Day expressed pride over the way he and his fellow prisoners of war had conducted themselves. “As awful as it sounds, no one could say we did not do well,” he told The Associated Press in 2008.
Being held prisoner “was a major issue in my life, and one that I am extremely proud of,” he said. “I was just living day to day.”
Vehicles and supplies are unloaded from an LST (landing ship, tank) at a Normandy beachhead
American troops clear wreckage in Saint-Lô in this previously unpublished photographs taken in Normandy following the D-Day landings
American troops pose for a photograph amongst the ruins of northern France in the summer of 1944
American soldiers watch U.S. Army jeeps drive through the ruins of Saint-Lô, the town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord in June 1944
Children watch an American Army jeep driving through the ruins of Saint-Lô
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