Smith And Wesson Forums banner

1 - 6 of 6 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,301 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
2020 has been a strange year so far, in fact every new opening decade year historically has brought events into my life that changed things, this is no different. However, it’s Memorial Day, time to remember those that gave their all for this great nation of ours. I realize that we generally reserve this time to remember fallen military service personnel, but I personally include all civilian first responders for their ultimate sacrifice, they died serving their country too. This year though, today in fact, I’ve had my favorite uncle Bennie (Windy) Mann on my mind and haven’t been able to let it go for some reason, so I figured I should say something on his behalf. Technically though, my Uncle Windy did not die on the battlefield, but sometimes the battlefield sticks to you and shows up years later, by way of illness that takes good folks away too soon. Besides bullets, bombs, missiles and mortars, wartime environments are not good places at all; bad water, bad food, exposure to chemicals/poisons/fuels, things that have taken a tremendous toll on our troops for years, but it mostly goes unreported. Don’t even go down the path of psychological and emotional damage done, I’ll let someone else take up that sad piece of work, I don’t have the gumption to even start, no way, no how.

I’m going to offer two photos related to my Uncle Windy from Viet Nam, his first tour. I know he went back, but at some point he taught at the Naval War College and then was an advisor to the administration before taking several Marine commands until his retirement in the early 80’s. He started his career during the Korean War as a jet fighter pilot, later worked in a highly classified “Cold War” nuclear defense operation by way of what were essentially ‘one way’, single trip aircraft (suicide missions) to deliver strikes in the Soviet Union if war broke out, he was one of the pilots and his own family didn’t know until he was being buried in Arlington Cemetery, he was a special individual. One of the proudest days of my life was when I graduated from Navy Boot Camp in San Diego, he was the commanding officer at the El Toro Marine Air Base in Santa Ana, he came down and because of his military rank and seniority, was pulled out of the crowd with my family and my girlfriend’s family to go out on the parade ground to review the troops, how cool for a ‘Boot’ like me! Oddly enough, when I was on the USS Midway that was home-ported in Yokosuka Japan, Uncle Windy commanded the whole Marine operation of that part of the Pacific in Okinawa, but we never got to visit.

This special time of year is about those that gave their life, so I’ll ask you to look at the “Life Magazine” cover; the poor soul laying on the deck of the helicopter in a ‘Hot Zone’ taking live fire, he was one of my uncle’s best friends and he died right there. I actually got to meet him once as a very young boy in Yuma as I was at my grandparents house and during a flight training break from the base, my Uncle and his buddy came by for a few minutes in their flight suits and cool aviator glasses! During that short period, my dad and other men from Somerton met with these flying Marines for drinks up at a Yuma bar when possible, in fact I think the ‘Fly Boys’ came down to Somerton as well! Anyway, it was a sad time when this news got back to our part of the world.
The other picture I’d like you to see is my Uncle Windy being awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during that event, unable to save his dear friend, but rescuing other stranded pilots and crew that were sitting in disabled copters and being fired upon relentlessly by the enemy. Even with a severely damaged aircraft, he ignored orders to land, but went back a 2nd and a 3rd time to pull up troops and was headed in when hearing on his radio that there were still a few more. The enemy fire had intensified, but he aborted take-off and his crew ran over to the closest disabled copter all while my uncle’s brave crew directed cover fire from the copter machine guns and miraculously they got the remaining stranded crew members and the sadly now lifeless body of his good friend aboard, lifted and flew to safety, which was really a mystery as to how it was even possible. Multiple inspections of his copter revealed bullet damage to the engines, the propellers and fuel lines that revealed that the aircraft simply shouldn’t have been able to fly, but it did. Take from that what you will, I have my personal opinions on the matter and it’s not simply due to good American Engineering practices and piloting, I’ll tell you that!

I just realized I glossed over the fact that he transitioned from being a ‘fixed wing’ jet pilot to Helicopters in the early 60’s when the military realized that copters could be more than an awkward rescue or transport aircraft, but be made into a war machine, so he found himself in the middle of it. I remember after my grandmother’s funeral he describing to me how difficult it was to tame a helicopter then for battle maneuvers with ZERO automated controls; both hands and feet doing more than one job, plus having to consider having to fire upon a target with weapons, not for the faint of heart or uncoordinated individual! Well, I could go on for hours about the man, he was so cool and did so many remarkable things, but I’ll leave you with this: The picture of him receiving the Navy Cross, the very first Marine Corps Helicopter Pilot to receive the award, he’s smiling and it’s not because of his accomplishment, but for that of the brave men in his command that all should have received recognition for this horrible event. Something else, he’d have gladly traded that medal, along with too many others to count from his career, only if he could have brought his good friend home alive and safe that terrible day. Hand Salute Colonel Bennie H. Mann!👍👍👍
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
16,560 Posts
I offer a sincere salute to Colonel Bennie H. Mann for his bravery and service. You are very fortunate to have met him and had him at your graduation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,960 Posts
Very cool story, great memories to cherish forever!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,955 Posts
Salute.

Hats off to your Brave Uncle.
 
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
Top