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American Ex-Prisoners of War
3201 East Pioneer Pkway, Suite 40
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The Kitchen Table Gang Trust ...
... will dispose of your flags in a proper and dignified manner with full honors and dignity pursuant to the United States Flag Code Section 8K (PL93-344).
Flag retirement ceremonies are held on Flag Day, June 14th, each year and are conducted by an all volunteer U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard led by GySgt. Dan Kelley USMC (Ret.). www.kitchentablegang.org
42922 Avenue 12, Madera CA 93638-8866
AXPOW Convention 2013
Arlington, Texas, June 26 - 29
See ExPow Bulletin for details (p. 18)
The Tale of Peter Jones Knapp, from Birth to Grave (eventually)
adapted from "Andersonville POW Veteran Finally Rests in Peace"
by Alice A. Booher, Ex-POW Bulletin, 2012
(L to r: Meadows, the bullet, Knapp)
There is a Hebrew word for the period between death and burial: "aninut." Col. Peter Jones Knapp’s exceeded the span of his lifetime, which itself exceeded the traditional three score and ten, by eighty-eight years. He wasn’t Jewish, but still, it has to be some kind of record.
Knapp was a Civil War veteran and survivor of several Confederate prison camps, including Andersonville. He was born June 2, 1842, in Sandusky, Ohio, and died Apr. 13, 1924 in Kelso, Washington. He and his wife were, in the fullness of time, finally laid to rest, on April 13, 2012, at the Willamette [OR] National Cemetery, near Portland.
It’s a long story.
A nineteen year-old Knapp enlisted with Company H, 5th Infantry, Iowa Volunteers, in July 1861, and followed General Ulysses Grant down the Mississippi to Vicksburg. After months of battle, he came down with typhoid. Too ill to travel, he and other men were left in an abandoned building without medical attention for three weeks.
Knapp witnessed the surrender of Memphis and survived the Battle of Iuka (MO), where his regiment lost more men in 80 minutes than any other regiment lost in any other engagement of the entire war. He also lived through the battles at Shiloh, Vicksburg and Missionary Ridge.
Military historians said Missionary Ridge was “the war’s most notable example of a frontal assault succeeding against entrenched defenders holding high ground.” Of the 56,000 Northern soldiers engaged in the battles for Chattanooga (Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge) 5,824 were killed, 2,160 wounded and 300 missing, including some taken prisoner by the Confederates. Knapp became one of the prisoners.
He was held first at Andersonville and later transferred to prisons at Charleston, Libby and Belle Island. Eventually he escaped with a group of others. Starved, without even a shirt on his back, and almost blind from sickness, he had to be led as they managed their way back to the Union lines.
After the Civil War, Knapp re-enlisted and served 15 months in the Indian War. In 1870 he married Georgianna Eliza Pearson at Muskegon, Mich. Their marriage would endure for over 53 years.
The Knapps headed west in 1887, resettling in Kelso in Washington State. In the early 1890s they adopted a daughter, named Minnie Mae, their only child. Knapp ran a saw mill, developed a coal mine in Cowlitz County with one of his brothers and was a police judge. He was elected justice of the peace after his mill retirement, and was commandant of three different posts of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), where he was in charge of indigent veterans’ benefits for years.
On April 13, 1924, just shy of his 82nd birthday, having survived two wars, Peter Jones Knapp succumbed to the frailties of age and passed away in his wife's arms. Noted the Kelso Kelsonian in its obituary, “Mr. Knapp was the last of thirteen children and is survived by his wife and a daughter, Mrs. May Elliott. Funeral services were conducted from the Kelso Presbyterian church, Wednesday, April 16, with final services at the Portland Crematorium.” No mention was made of interment.
What transpired after Knapp’s death and the circumstances that led to an extraordinary burial service almost a century later, with full military honors and complete with Civil War re-enactors, historians, press, civilian and military brass and 300 relatives and friends he never met, is another story in itself—several stories as it turns out.
First is the story of a chance encounter with a Confederate sharpshooter during the Vicksburg campaign.
Knapp, patrolling with two other soldiers, spotted the sharpshooter behind a large piece of metal boilerplate and shot him in the eye through the peephole he was peering out of. An extraordinary shot. Thinking it had inflicted a mortal wound, the band moved on with their patrol.
This proved a miscalculation, and the episode with the sharpshooter, one Willis Meadows of the Alabama Volunteer Infantry, was to gain national press attention many years later (1921). It even wound up memorialized by Ripley’s Believe it or Not. (See sidebar, right.)
The story about the story might have been a transient sensation, but various papers kept it alive, revisiting it periodically. A Central Point, OR, resident, Henry Kilburn, brought it to the local newspaper editor’s attention in 1950. He had in his possession photos of the two protagonists, another of the bullet Meadows had expelled and Knapp’s hand-written diary.
Henry Kilburn was the biological brother of the Knapps’ adopted daughter. It was Mae Kilburn Knapp who, on a visit to Oregon in 1950, had given her brother the story, the diary and the photographs that he brought to the Central Point editor.
In 2009, Bill Miller, a reporter for the Medford [OR] Mail Tribune, breathed life into the story yet again. He chanced upon the 1950 Central Point article quite by accident while looking through that (by then long-defunct) newspaper’s microfilm records in connection with a different story.
After some additional research, Miller and his editors decided the Knapp/Meadows story was worth yet another retelling.
Bullet Didn't Kill; Story Didn't Die
(Excerpted from:”'Coughs Up Bullet': The unlikely sequel to a Civil War mystery” by Bill Miller, Medford [OR] Mail Tribune, 2009)
For 58 years, the bullet that took the right eye of Confederate soldier Willis Meadows in 1863 at the siege of Vicksburg was lodged near his brain.
It reappeared unexpectedly in 1921 when Meadows was stricken with a violent coughing spell sitting at his kitchen table in rural Alabama. The spasms became so severe, the 78-year old couldn't breathe. Just when he thought it was his time to die, something flew from his mouth, bounced on the wooden table and tumbled to a stop.
Willis Meadows had been 19 in the spring of 1862 when he joined his brothers and cousins in Company G of the 37th Alabama Volunteer Infantry.
In the summer of 1863, his company was defending the city of Vicksburg from the Union assault. On July 1, just outside of town, sharpshooter Meadows was firing his rifle through a peephole in a piece of iron boilerplate at Union troops. Peter Knapp and three other Union soldiers were approaching from the east with orders to kill any Confederate snipers they came across.
Knapp spotted Meadows and took aim at the peephole. Meadows fell, blood running from his right eye, apparently dead. The wound proved not mortal, however. Meadows was found and brought to Union surgeons who probed for the bullet but were unable to find it, and didn't feel it was safe to perform an operation.
Meadows was put on board a POW ship and transported to a Union hospital. Later, he was paroled to a Confederate hospital, where he spent the rest of the war as a patient and sometime nurse's aide.
After the war, he returned to his Alabama farm, just east of the Georgia state line. He married, but had no children and probably would have died in obscurity but for one violent coughing spell.
"Coughs Up Bullet" became a national newspaper story. A Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoon was published in 42 countries and 17 languages. Among those whose attention the story caught was Peter Knapp. He came to believe that he was the Union soldier who had fired that bullet.
Knapp contacted Meadows and when they compared notes, they realized it was true. The aging veterans spent their last few years as friends, exchanging photographs and wishing each other good health. Knapp died in 1924. The date of Meadows’s death is unknown. Their story never did die. It developed what newspaper people call “legs.”
Two years later Miller's story caught the eye of Peter Knapp’s great-great-great-niece by marriage, Alice Knapp of Nehalem, OR, found Miller’s piece online in 2011. Her family’s genealogist, she had been on Knapp’s trail for some time, looking for evidence that could point her to the location of her Civil War veteran ancestor’s gravesite.
The newspaper sent her what information it had, including Peter's obituary, which provided the clue she had been looking for. As Miller recounts, “The obituary said Peter's body would be taken to the Portland Crematorium. Alice discovered that the crematorium was still in business, but now operating under the name of Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Funeral Home.
“She called and asked whether Wilhelm's had Peter's remains, and the unexpected answer was yes. She was even more surprised to hear that Georgianna was there, too.” (She had died in 1930.)
Alice Knapp put all of this information together and contacted veterans’ advocate Debbie Peevyhouse of the California Medal of Honor Project, the Oregon Military Department and others to secure a proper resting place for the ashes.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Links: In a short period of time, the internet has made this story, and the elusive clues Alice Knapp sought for so long, much more accessable.
Statement of Charles Susino, Jr., National Commander of the American Ex-Prisoners of War Before the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs U.S. Senate/U.S. House of Representatives, February 28, 2013.
AXPOW National Commander Charles Susino, Sr.
Messrs. Chairmen and Members of the Veterans’ Affairs of the Veterans’ Affairs Committees:
My name is Charles Susino, National Commander of the American Ex-Prisoners of War. I am honored to testify before you and deeply appreciate your time in receiving the input from veteran
House Chairman Jeff Miller and Ranking Member Michael Michaud, Senate Chairman Bernie Sanders and Ranking Member Richard Burr, I applaud your efforts as you navigate your committees through the 113th Congress during these challenging times. Over the years our
organization has watched closely your committees grapple with hard decisions aiming to provide the needs for America’s veterans, their families and survivors. Thank you for your tireless work, but, further work lies ahead.
1. We need your commitment to hold a hard line as Washington
looks to solve its budget problems. The solution does not lie with the men and women who have defended our country. Since the overall military budget is large, the White House may be tempted to reduce veteran benefits. That would be unconscionable.
2. Timely processing of disability benefits- We have previously discussed constructive ideas at this meeting. However, despite best efforts from VA staff, the processing continues to take an extended period of time. We recognize there has been an increase in filings with soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan however an ever increasing wait is not fair. Is the problem our approach to processing or limited resources of the VA administration? It needs to be a priority to examine the problem, establish a solution, and
3. Health benefits for veterans. With the ongoing conflict in the Iraq and Afghanistan we need to stay ahead of the demand for health services for our returning soldiers. Health care professionals must be provided to maintain the high level of service. Critical to that objective is those incremental resources must be there in a timely manner.
4. Health care: A significant change was made in health-care eligibility in 1986. Congress mandated VA health care for veterans with service-connected disabilities as well as other special groups of veterans, such as former prisoners of war, veterans exposed to
herbicides and ionizing radiation and veterans of World War I. We believe it is timely to expand the special groups to include the WWII, Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf War veterans. While we recognize this is a complex issue since it would add 10’s of thousands of new veterans to the existing VA facilities and potentially overwhelm a system whose primary requirement is treating service related injuries, we believe Congress should examine ways to accomplish this objective in an effective manner. In addition, please remember those warriors serving our country with tours in the Middle East as well.
5. The American Ex-Prisoners of War are proud supporters of The Independent Budget. The FY2013 edition represents the 26th consecutive year that our partnership of veterans service organizations has joined together to produce a comprehensive budget document
that highlights the needs of every generation of veterans. During that time, The Independent Budget has improved significantly while gaining much more respect and recognition.
6. I want to thank the 112th Congress for passing the National Defense Authorization Act and the Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act. We appreciate your efforts on behalf of veterans and our military.
7. Although we were very disappointed the previous Congress could not agree on the Stolen Valor Act HR 258, we thank this new Congress for reintroducing this Bill to protect the honor and value of the hard earned military medals. We do, however, question the
omission of the United States Army Air Corps Air Medal from the listing of "combat medals."
8. We are also appreciative of your efforts on behalf of veterans with
the introductions of new Bills in 2013:
- HR 153: The Veterans Outreach Improvement Act
- HR 241: Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act
- S 49/HR 257: The Veterans Health Equity Act
- HR 369: Amend Title 38 to establish a presumption of service connection for tinnitus or hearing loss.
We ask for your special attention to HR 241.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to appear before you on behalf of the American Ex-Prisoners of War to share our input to the 113th Congress.
God Bless Our Troops
God Bless America
February 28, 2013
Joint Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the American Ex-Prisoners of War before the House/Senate Veterans Affairs Committees
Ex-POW and the Enola Gay
by Suzanne Simon Dietz
Robert Wyatt Granston was born December 28, 1916, in the Hamlet of Richmond Highlands, north of Seattle, Washington. After high school, he enrolled in the Navy ROTC program at the University of Washington. Following graduation Granston was chosen and commissioned into the Supply Corps of the Navy. Six months later, he volunteered for the Philippines and crossed the Pacific on board the USS Henderson, arriving in Manila on May 1941.
Ensign Granston’s first duty assignment was at the Cavite Naval Yard as Assistant Supply Officer and subsequently a Supply and Disbursing Officer of the Receiving Station. The after duty "good life" of tennis, golf, travel, and movie queens came to an abrupt halt following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and attacks on the Navy Yard by the Japanese on December 10, 1941.
Near the end of January Granston was moved from the Section Base at Mariveles to the Island of Corregidor. Corregidor had been under fire from Japanese bombardment since the end of December. On May 6, 1942, he was in Queen’s Tunnel when General Wainwright surrendered.
From the first bayonet drawn by a Japanese soldier in the tunnel to Bilibid prison, Camp 3 and Camp 1, and the Oryoku Maru hell ship Granston endured slave labor, beatings, and inhumane conditions.
After more than three years of his captivity on August 6, 1945, lives lost in the Asian-Pacific war had reached unfathomable millions. The numbers were growing by roughly 150,000 Allied and Axis lives (substantially civilians) a week.
As the battles moved closer to the main islands, the Japanese became better at fighting their enemy causing more losses. The Surgeon General had ordered almost half a million body bags for the planned initial land invasion on Kyushu.
What Causes Pneumonia?
It could be bacteria, viruses or even fungi. And the odds could go up if you're in a hospital. Pneumonia can affect people of all ages, but those 65 or older are at greater risk. Learn about symptoms, detection and treatment in the Medsearch department of the current EX-POW Bulletin.
Click here to read online.
Granston and the other prisoners of war held faced certain execution if the Allies invaded the main islands or sooner death due to their deteriorating physical condition.
Meanwhile, at 0245 hours the Silverplate B-29 bomber, the Enola
Gay, left Tinian Island piloted by Paul W. Tibbets and navigated by Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk to its eventual target, the T-shaped bridge in Hiroshima, with hopes
to end the war.
Ensign Robert Wyatt Granston
Sixty-three years later the ex-POW moved next door to the sole surviving crewman of the Enola Gay whose mission Granston credits with saving his life. His poignant experience of life-and-death struggle to survive in prisoner of war camps and hell ships is the opening chapter of My True Course Dutch Van Kirk Northumberland to Hiroshima.
Van Kirk’s biography is an authentic American story of the home front, in-service, and Special Mission No. 13, the first atomic strike in history. Robert Granston received the Navy Cross for his heroic actions and distinguished service following the bombing of the Cavite Navy Yard on December 10, 1941. In 2009, he donated the Navy Cross to the Supply Corps Museum. Granston does not believe that his actions were anything out of the ordinary and said, "There is no larger word in the English language than ‘duty.’ You can do no more than your duty and you should never do less."
Note: Suzanne Simon Dietz is the historian for the Aero Club of Buffalo and the Town of Porter (home of Fort Niagara), New York. She is the author of more than half a dozen historical books including Van Kirk’s authorized biography, Honor Thy Fathers & Mothers Niagara Frontier’s Legacy of Patriotism and Survival (includes more than a dozen accounts of American POWs held by Germany), and POWs Interned at Fort Niagara A Reference Manual. Her latest publication is Honor Thy Brothers The Fight Against Communism, a collection of veterans’ stories from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.
Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed
By Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille
Reviewed for the American Ex-Prisoners of War
by Alice A. Booher
Aldrich Ames was a one of the most destructive traitors in American history, and thus, not surprisingly, there are a number of Ames-related books in print, of varying degrees of insightfulness, whether directly focusing on him or featuring particular aspects of his case such as the decades long internecine CIA/FBI conflicts.
Circle of Treason’s advantage is that it was written by two of the five primarily responsible CIA principals for the Ames "collar", specialists in the clandestine service especially of the Soviet Union. It reflects both their personal and professional viewpoints as co-workers with and then pursuers of Ames, before, during and after the mole hunt including the often noisy backlash that followed at all levels within and without the Company including on The Hill.
The Ames story of vast treasonous duplicity may have been often told, but this is an insiders’ perspective, with clarifying details and upfront identification of the vicious damages, the sad glories and the assorted "warts" of the case. It provides an extraordinarily detailed discussion of the agents and their secrets betrayed by Ames, with stunning assessments of the devastating losses for all structural and human components.
The Circle of Treason provides all that one might expect but also some remarkable surprises. On the one hand, the authors, Grimes and Vertefeuille, both career CIA employees, forthrightly address the innately convoluted path to the CIA’s alerting to, eventually identifying and bringing down Aldrich Ames.
In that regard, as observed by longtime OSS/CIA veteran operative Betty McIntosh, author of Undercover Girl and Sisterhood of Spies, "is an extraordinary tribute to their training, ingenuity and access to CIA top secret files, Soviet agents collaborating with CIA, FBI colleagues and their own CIA training over 25 years. It took them three years to uncover the CIA mole in their midst. The book is a tribute to their work". Left unsaid is that the two women authors are worthy successors to the spy-crafty primarily historical women about whom McIntosh has written so articulately.
That said, perhaps the even more extraordinary contribution made by Circle of Treason is the detailed and utterly unexcelled core access to CIA inner-workings, whether by binder or performance, by departmental organization, job title, name by name, and in some cases, personality versus reputation.
One would be hard pressed to read a book that is more convincingly an instructional manual for operational endeavors, taken virtually from file drawer by locked file drawer, safe, vault, drop and safe house.
There are so many non-alias names, folks who have long indulged in secure public anonymity that it often reads like an internal CIA phone book; and the detailed discussions of often-complex operational techniques and activities are simply astounding. For whatever reasons, secrecy, from shallow to deep, does not remain a viable entity and the book is a layered labyrinth of fascinating data with or without the specific Ames-related details.
It is noteworthy that while the undeniably authentic book is indeed saturated with the authors’ own credible authority, stylistically the words sometimes flow more like a thesis than prose with occasional bursts of in-house jargon. Nonetheless, this in no way detracts from the awesome heft of the provocative tale told. The awesome Selected Chronology alone is a significantly illuminated time-line for decades of spy craft.
From the outset, it is stated that the revelations are made with the full cooperation of the CIA. The authors themselves raise the issue from page one as to why it is the time for them to air material previously considered classified, and hasten to assure that they do so not as "leakers" but with the Agency’s cooperation. After reading their work, it might be surmised that Company positive assistance was not a mere lack of censure.
Having met the criteria and demands of the CIA’s Publications and Review Board provides prima facie notice of cooperation, but the depth and intricacy of the revelations simply must be seen in print to be believed. Whatever the rationale for the unabashed candor, there is a truism [that has always been known inside Langley but not always in a Hollywood context], "you could not make up this stuff". Indeed Mmes. Grimes and Vertefeuille, did not make it up, but relate it in intimate, excruciating, and spellbinding details, making it all the more extraordinary and worth reading.
For poetic classicists, the book title will recall Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, wherein Virgil’s guidance through the stages of Inferno eventually leads to the 9th Circle of Hell, Treachery, reserved for those who betray those closest to them. Circle of Treason, through the voices of two modern day Beatrices, worthily dissects that special place in Hades as fully earned by the traitor Ames.
Bring Bowe Home
Special to the American ExPOW Bulletin
by Alice A. Booher
They are not fancy folks, Jani and Robert Bergdahl, but a bright, hardworking, solid, unflinching couple, she with piercing brown eyes and straight cut shoulder length brown hair; he with a strong, straight forward look, directed fierce eyes in a ruddy face surrounded by a batch of slightly unruly reddish beard.
Someone hands him a bandana emblazoned with POW on the front. He explains that the beard is but a chronology of his son’s captivity since June 30, 2009. They look a bit out of place, not uncomfortable but somber and eager.
They certainly never expected to be banked on all sides by the strong-hewn, solid look of the black motorcycle leathers of Rolling Thunder, their escort and guard, an impermeable human backdrop to support them as he spoke what he had come all the way to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington to say.
The Bergdahls journeyed from a tiny town in Idaho, Hailey, population 6,000, from whom one precious citizen is currently absent, their now 26 year old son, Bowe. They have not and are not now trying to buck the establishment, one with which they certainly never intended to become buddies, but such intimacy has been thrust upon them by circumstances that everyone would wish to be different. Robert’s words are spoken in a strong, convincing manner, and clearly straight from his depths:
"Bowe, your family has not forgotten you, your hometown has not forgotten you. Your state of Idaho has not forgotten you, and thanks to all of you here today, Washington, D.C. has not forgotten you."
"Bowe" is Bowe Robert Bergdahl, born March 28, 1986 in Sun Valley, ID, and assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Cavalry Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Ft. Richardson, AK.
The exact details of the circumstances of his capture in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province vary but it appears that his captors were a Taliban-affiliated Haqqani group led by senior leader Maulvi (Mullah) Sangin Zadrain (who is shown on one of the videos with him) who then moved him to Ghazni Province. It is publically unclear whether he is now in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
The senior Bergdahls are a couple following the spirits and actions of hundreds of families before them, in a handful of wars, simply trying to get their precious family member returned from captivity. Since he was last home, they have seen him on five videos made by his captors, the last one in May 2011 his face showing considerable bruising.
Sometime in late August or early September 2011, Bowe purportedly jumped from a first floor window of a mud-brick house in Pakistan where he was then imprisoned and headed for the underbrush and mountains; according to three seemingly reliable militants present at the time, he was recaptured three days later.
A PFC when seized he has twice since been promoted. The Taliban has in public demanded $1 million and the release of 21 Afghan prisoners and Aafia Siddiqui in exchange for his release.
The U.S. Government has readily acknowledged that military and diplomatic efforts including negotiations with Bowe Bergdahl’s captors have gone on at a feverish pace for nearly three years, but recently stalled for reasons not entirely clear, partly relating to prisoner exchanges and when the Taliban diplomatic negotiating office in Qatar was suspended in March.
To make his situation public was earlier thought by some to enhance the Taliban’s negotiating position. But senior Government officials have always strongly expressed their support of his release.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has met with the Bergdahls several times himself as have others. Said one high DoD official: "We want our guy back. Period." And many other former POWs have joined the chorus on Bowe’s behalf, including NamPows CAPT Jerry Coffey and CMDR Render Crayton who collectively spent 5,000 days in captivity.
During Bowe’s nearly 1,000 days in captivity, the family has been in touch with Washington movers and shakers and their support has been mutual. Former POW SEN John McCain confirms that he has been in constant touch with the officials and that Bowe Bergdahl’s return is of the highest priority.
More recently, the Bergdahls have availed themselves of something not available to those parents who wrote to Berlin in World War II or even the spouses who petitioned the Paris Peace Talks in the 1970’s, the internet. They have even e-mailed someone they think has connections with the Taliban to let them know of the continued interest.
And for nearly two years, they kept utterly silent while the U.S. government worked to free their son. They broke their silence only to bring focus on the situation, not to lash out at anyone or violate any laws or trust.
By all accounts, Bowe Bergdahl himself is a remarkable and very interesting young man. But that is a story for another day. For anyone who has dealt with and appreciated the sustained passion of Rolling Thunder and others who work and care on a daily basis for POW/MIA’s, the Memorial Day tribute and special focus was all about grassroots awareness, a very real, raw love and a visceral, positive moving representation of American patriotism.
We can just hope that it may achieve the ongoing general purpose of placing renewed focus on all POW/MIAs, but specifically, the goal of bringing Bowe home.
AXPOW Officer Charles Susino Enumerates Veterans’ Legislative Priorities to Joint Congressional Committee
March 21 testimony before joint session urges more inclusive health care standards, expanding benefits to veterans left out under current guidelines.
AXPOW Sr. Vice Commander Charles Susino, Sr.
Messrs. Chairmen and Members of the Veterans’ Affairs of the Veterans’ Affairs Committees:
My name is Charles Susino, Sr. Vice Commander of the American Ex-Prisoners of War. I am honored to testify before you again today on behalf of National Commander Carroll Bogard.
Senator Murray, Senator Burr, Representative Miller and Representative Filner, I congratulate your efforts as you navigate your committees through the second half of the 112th Congress. Our organization has watched you and your colleagues grapple with hard decisions while attempting to provide for America's veterans, their families and survivors.
This year marks the 70th birthday of the American Ex-Prisoners of War. On April 14, 1942, two mothers whose sons had been captured on Bataan formed the Bataan Relief Organization; in 1945, after the POWs returned home, we became the Bataan Veterans Organization; and in 1949, expanding our membership to encompass ALL former prisoners of war from ALL wars, we became the American Ex-Prisoners of War.
Since World War I, more than 142,000 Americans - including 85 women - have been captured and interned as POWs. Today, former POWs number just about 15,000. And soon the concerns of our tiny group of heroes will matter not—to this committee or any other.
Some of our youngest members are in their early thirties; however instead of 142,000, as in the past, we're talking of just 23 former POWs from current conflicts.
We are immensely grateful for past Congressional actions to help ex-POWs. It was our organization who pushed in the early 1980s for "Presumptives" and because of the efforts of your committees, the Veterans Administration and the heroes in red jackets walking the halls of Congress telling the stories of former prisoners of war, we now have benefits and entitlements that protect us... and the POWs that will surely come after we are gone.
Gout: no one's sure why you get it, but you'll sure know it when you do.
Gout causes a sudden onset of intense pain and swelling in the joints. Attacks frequently
occur at night. To learn more about causes, symptoms and treatment, see the current issue of The Ex-POW Bulletin.
Click here to read online.
As we look to the future, we want to lend our small voice and support to America’s aging veteran population from WWII, Korea and Vietnam – veterans who may have fallen through the cracks of care because of rulings enacted to cope with the frightening possibility of many millions of applicants to the Veterans Administration.
16,112,566 individuals were members of the United States armed forces during World War II. In November 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that approximately 1,711,000 American veterans were still living. More than 1,100 WWII veterans die each day. The average age of a WWII veteran is 92.
1,800,000 individuals were members of the United States armed forces serving in Korea during the 3-year period of the Korean War. Only about 1/3 of that number are still alive today. The average age of a Korean War veteran is 85.
2,594,000 individuals served in South Vietnam Jan. 1, 1965 - Mar. 28, 1973. Of this number of Americans who served in Vietnam, less than 850,000 are estimated to be alive today. The average age of a Vietnam veteran is 66. These are our "youngsters" in the time frame I’m speaking on today.
The clock is ticking and time is running out for the brave men and women who fought the good fight to keep America free. And while the debt we owe them can never be repaid in full, you can make their next days, months, years better.
There are less than 3 million heroes alive from these three great conflicts. You could fit them all into the city of Chicago. As they have aged, their disabilities have left many of them with poor quality of life and financially burdened.
Many of these Wartime Veterans are in the VA Category 8 or lower, which means they are not entitled to VA care at all. These Veterans are designated as Priority 8 when their income exceeds a pre-set threshold classifying them as "affluent". They are the most affluent category of vets, yet some earn as little as $28,430 a year – hardly affluent.
A significant change was made in health-care eligibility in 1986. Congress mandated VA health care for veterans with service-connected disabilities as well as other special groups of veterans, such as former prisoners of war, veterans exposed to herbicides and ionizing radiation and veterans of World War I. The average age of the WWI veterans was 88 in 1986…younger than today’s WWII veteran; virtually the same age as today’s Korean War veteran.
Today, we have a request of you, the 112th Congress: please update the 1986 law to add WWII, Korean, and Vietnam War veterans to this special group of veterans to make them eligible for health care. Please also consider including the Gulf War veterans in this special group as well. It is overdue to update Congress’ actions in 1986. From a health benefits standpoint, this puts these war-time veterans on par with WWI veterans, the special groups, and the current warriors who are fighting in the middle-east, all of which we strongly support. Please let them not be forgotten. Please do not continue to allow these war time veterans to be excluded and deprived health benefits.
It’s the right time to add these heroes to this special group of veterans. It’s the right thing to do.
We are willing and able to work with you or your staff on drafting this amendment.
We would also like to join our brother veteran service organizations in asking your consideration of the following bills:
HR 813, introduced by Representative Bob Filner (CA), which would amend section 1318(b)(1), title 38, United States Code, to allow dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) to be paid to the survivor of a veteran whose was continuously rated totally disabled for at least one (1) year immediately preceding death, whereas, eligibility under current law requires the veteran to be rated totally disabled for a minimum of ten (10) years.
S423 introduced by Richard Burr (NC). Authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide an effective date of an award of disability compensation, in the case of a veteran who submits a fully-developed claim, of up to one year before the date of receipt of such claim.
HR28 introduced by Mike McIntyre (NC). Veterans Outreach Improvement Act of 2011. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the outreach activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
HR23 introduced by Bob Filner (CA) Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2011. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish the Merchant Mariner Equity Compensation Fund to provide benefits to certain individuals who served in the United States merchant marine (including the Army Transport Service and the Naval Transport Service) during World War II.
HR178/ S.260 introduced by Joe Wilson (SC)/Bill Nelson (FL). Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to repeal the requirement for reduction of survivor annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan for military surviving spouses to offset the receipt of veterans dependency and indemnity compensation.
HR309 introduced by John Mica (FL). Samuel B. Moody Bataan Death March Compensation Act. A bill to provide compensation for certain World War II veterans who survived the Bataan Death March and were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese.
HR303 introduced by Gus Bilirakis (FL). Retired Pay Restoration Act. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to permit additional retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation and to eliminate the phase-in period under current law with respect to such concurrent receipt.
HR812 introduced by Bob Filner (CA). Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify presumptions relating to the exposure of certain veterans who served in the vicinity of the Republic of Vietnam.
HR3712 introduced by Martin Heinrich (NM). Bataan Defenders Congressional Gold Medal. A bill to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the troops who defended Bataan during World War II.
The American Ex-Prisoners of War are proud supporters of The Independent Budget. The FY2013 edition represents the 26th consecutive year that our partnership of veterans service organizations has joined together to produce a comprehensive budget document that highlights the needs of every generation of veterans. During that time, The Independent Budget has improved signifi¬cantly while gaining much more respect and recognition.
Messrs. Chairmen and Committeemen, this completes my testimony. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to appear before you on behalf of the American Ex-Prisoners of War to share our goals for the 112th Congress. Thank you also for all that your Committees have done and for all that you will do for our nation's veterans and their families in the future.
God bless America.
March 21, 2012
Joint Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, IAVA, Non Commissioned Officers Association, American Ex-Prisoners of War, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, and The Retired Enlisted Association
The Buckles Family, Revisited
by Alice A. Booher
Frank W. Buckles, the last surviving American WWI veteran, died on February 27, 2011, at age 110. During the war, he drove Army ambulances and motorcycles, guarded German POWs and then escorted them as they returned home at war's end.
In WWII, while working with White Star Line in Manila, Buckles was taken prisoner by the Japanese for 3 years, 2 months. He was interned at Santo Tomas, where he planted a vegetable garden, helped with therapeutic exercises for a polio victim and tended other POWS.
Buckles pursued neither recognition nor even veterans' benefits after WWI, but following WWII he used VA educational benefits at business school and lVA medical benefits later in life, including for hearing aids.
Buckles was a staunch advocate for veterans was National Commander of the Veterans of WWI, and he was an active supporter of its publication, The Torch. He was an articulate, erudite man who read classics in their original Greek and Latin. He rode his John Deere tractor on his 320-acre farm, into his late 90’s. The farm, which had been in his family since 1732, stood in Charlestown, WV, overlooking the Civil War battle sites of Antietam and Harper’s Ferry.
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In his last few years, the national press featured his regular participation in Veterans Day activities at Arlington National Cemetery, with pictures of him in his Army long coat, cap at a jaunty angle with wool scarf and wooden wheelchair, usually near GEN Pershing’s grave.
On one such visit to Washington, D.C., Buckles was driven past, and took notice of, the local D.C. WWI memorial, then a rather seedy-looking edifice hidden in brambles at the back of the Mall off Constitution Avenue.
The memorial had been dedicated on November 11, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover, GEN John J. Pershing and band leader John Philip Sousa. It is a domed, wedding cake-shaped affair, 47 feet tall, small, white and round with Jefferson Memorial-like columns. It had been paid for by locals to honor residents of the District who had served and died (1914-1918).
Through persistent ongoing attention and by capitalizing on the otherwise unwanted personal publicity that came from his visits, Buckles was able to make the case that the site might be suitable as a WWI National Memorial.
The latest Buckles in uniform: Navy LT Robert Buckles, assigned to Naval Submarine Learning Center, Naval Submarine Base New London, poses with his family after returning from a deployment while assigned to the USS Miami in 2009. Pictured with Buckles are his son Charlie, his daughter Grace, and wife Katrina.
At the very least it should be cleaned up, he suggested, calling attention to the broken fieldstone pathways, cracked marble and overgrown scrubs and lawn.
A Foundation was set up and effectuated renewal, using some Federal stimulus money and donations. The site was rededicated on November 11, 2011 and is now cared for by the National Park Service.
Frank Buckles’ idea to make it a National memorial met some opposition from the DC folks who bristled at home rule issues (other options might be Pershing Park in downtown D.C.). Nonetheless, Buckles made his point and, even at age 109, continued to make a difference.
With Frank Buckles, death, when he was honored by President Obama and other national leaders, the legacy of the family name is now carried on at the Naval Submarine Base in New London, Connecticut where a young Navy LT, Robert Buckles, is assigned. His own military inspiration comes as well from an uncle, Army Captain Richard L. Buckles, who died in Vietnam in 1969, (earning the Purple Heart and Silver Star trying to save a comrade).
LT Robert Buckles is related to Frank W. Buckles through a family lineage dating back to 1719. In that year, the first Buckles to arrive in the United States was also named Robert, son of a wealthy English landlord, who left England on a vessel headed for the land of promise. (With the crew's help, he traveled as a stowaway, hiding from authorities in a barrel of sand.)
Since then, genealogical research shows Buckles relatives serving in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI and WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam as well as present day conflicts. One Milton Abraham Buckles fought in the Civil War and left diaries of his service.
With six months remaining on his enlistment, Milton’s diary entry for February 15, 1865, noted: "We have high hopes of seeing home, and the loved ones who have so long patiently endured trial and hardship for ours and their country’s sake. We have endured and suffered more during the time we have been in the war, but no man now regrets what has passed, but all are glad to have done something for their country".
Clearly Milton Buckles spoke eloquently for an extended family of patriotic veterans that over generations has been quietly building a tradition of an inspiring American legacy.