Saturday, September 17, 2011

SigEp Patriot Prisoners of War / Missing in Action

Yesterday was National POW/MIA Recognition Day in the U.S. Who did you recognize and remember?

The United States’ National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September each year. Many Americans take the time to remember those who were prisoners of war (POW) and are missing in action (MIA).

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died. At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans. Today, more than 74,000 are unaccounted-for from the conflict.

As of 15 SEP 2011, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office lists 83,579 Americans as POW or MIA as a result of all conflicts to date.

The SigEp Patriots Projects (SPP) lists three Brothers as POW/MIA. Given the vast numbers listed above, while we hope that this low number is correct, does HQ in Richmond know the names of Brothers who were POWs or those who are listed as MIA? We cannot fail to remember these Brothers.

It is the goal of the SPP to remember and recognize all of our Brothers who serve/served, and it is through the efforts of the Project that we are able to pay tribute today to the following Brothers:

-World War II Veteran DC Alpha Brother Captain Waldo Schmidt, U.S. Army
-World War II Veteran IL Alpha Brother Ensign Joseph Metcalf Hissem, U.S. Navy Reserve
-Korean War Veteran TN Alpha Brother Sergeant First Class John William “Bill” Rambo, U.S. Army National Guard (Tennessee)

Brother Waldo Schmidt received a Silver Star before dying in a German hospital as a POW. While at George Washington University, Brother Schmidt served as chapter president.

Brother Joseph Metcalf Hissem (University of Illinois at Urbana, ’39) is listed by the Navy as MIA/Buried at Sea following the Battle of Midway.

Brother Hissem was stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pearl Harbor on 31 MAY 1942 when his squadron (Patrol Squadron 24) (VP-24) received orders to send one PBY-5A Catalina Flying (Patrol) Boat and several crews to Midway. Their mission, find the Japanese fleet. Joseph was directed to stay behind at Pearl.

Another group of aircraft directed to Midway from NAS Pearl Harbor included six TBF-1 “Avenger” torpedo bombers (or TBFs) which had just arrived from San Diego. These had been meant for Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) on the carrier USS HORNET, but she was at sea. Ensign Hissem and another officer, both navigators from VP-24, volunteered to fly with the bombers to help them navigate to the remote island.

On 04 JUN 1942, after a Midway-based patrol aircraft reported spotting the Japanese fleet, Brother Hissem volunteered to fly in to battle in one of the VT-8 TBFs from Midway, along with four B-26s, as the garrison on the island was fighting off the first wave of Japanese attack planes.

By the way, the official history gets this wrong and says that Ensign Hissem flew with VT-8, taking off from the USS HORNET.

While much is made of the loss of the VT-8 planes from the USS Hornet, it is quite possibly the efforts of Hissem and the others in the first attack against an enemy carrier of the Japanese invasion fleet that greatly influenced the outcome of the battle.

The Avengers and B-26s pressed the fight without fighter cover, and all but one Avenger crew made the ultimate sacrifice while none of the aircraft struck their objective. However, the sight of the Avengers may have influenced the fateful decision of the Japanese commander that later left planes loaded with fuel and ordnance on the deck of the carriers when U.S. warplane struck and sank three of them.

Brother Hissem is believed killed in action, and his body was never recovered. For his actions on 04 JUN 1942 he was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest medal awarded in the Navy following the Medal of Honor.

Brother John William “Bill” Rambo was among the first to serve in Korea. He was a POW there for 19 months, and was given a hero’s welcome by his hometown upon his return in 1953. During his service, Bill was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and the Korean Gold Medal of Honor.

Upon his passing, Brother Rambo was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery at Section 70, Site 1706.

Thank you for your service and your sacrfices. We will never forget you Brothers.