Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial to a Veteran

  My husband and I both had several uncles that served in World War II.  His Uncle John Haden was a true hero and fought in two wars.  He was a recipient of the Distinquished Flying Cross.  I have seen his medal and his citation, but, alas, that was before the days of digital cameras and I have no photos.  I would like to remember John on this Memorial Day, 2011.

John Haden was born 7 Feb 1921 in Ladonia, Fannin County, Texas - the youngest of three brothers.  His oldest brother William, born 7 Apr 1910, was my father-in-law.  I have articles from The Ladonia News - John graduated from Ladonia High School in the Class of 1938.  The "socials" column notes that he was studying at the University of Texas in Austin in 1929 and 1940.

John married as Lt. John Haden of the Marine Air Corps in December of 1942, in Houston, Texas, and it was noted in the local newspaper that the couple would be living in Corpus Christi, where the groom received his commission and was stationed temporarily. 

On the same day of his wedding announcement there was a second article in The Ladonia News:
Friday Dec 11, 1942.
John Haden Wins Coveted Medal
John Haden, son of Mr. & Mrs. R. C. Haden, Ladonia, recently was awarded the coveted "Navy Wings of Gold" and commissioned 2nd Lieut. in the U.S. Marine Corps at the Naval Air Training Center, Corpus Christi.
Lieut. Haden received his wings with the designation of a Naval Aviator from Rear Admiral E. A. Montgomery, USN, Commandant of the training center, at an impressive class graduation ceremony.
Haden volunteered for flight training in March, 1942, and received preliminary instructions at the US Naval Aviation Base, Dallas. Upon successful completion of this training he was transferred to Corpus Christi for intermediate and advanced training at the "University of the Air" the world's largest naval aviation training center.
In addition to flight instruction, Haden completed a thorough ground school course, including navigation, radio code, gunnery, and bombing theory, communications, and other aeronautical subjects. He is a former student of the University of Texas.

During World War II, the Marines were part of the Navy.  John flew the bent wing F4U Corsair.  On 1 Jun 1945, he was shot down in the Pacific and flown to a hospital in Guam with a badly broken foot.   Family letters related that he was sent on to a hospital in Honolula and then eventually home.  He remained in the reserves and was called back into service during the Korean War.

He received the Distinquished Flying Cross: 
"For heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight as Pilot of a Plane in Marine Fighter Squadron 214 during operations against enemy aggressor forces in Korea on 6 October 1951. Responding to an urgent call for close air support when friendly ground forces were subjected to concentrated fire from a hostile battalion command post and four heavily defended artillery emplacements, Captain Haden skillfully led his flight over hazardous terrain to the target area in reduced visibility and initiated a series of daring attacks against the enemy. Despite intense hostile automatic-weapons fire, he continued to press determined bombing, napalm and strafing assaults, inflicting many casualties on the enemy and destroying the command post together with the artillery pieces. By his courage, skilled airmanship and devotion to duty, Captain Haden struck a damaging blow to the enemy and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
For the President, C. S. Thomas, Sect of the Navy.

John was the humblest of heros.  I was part of the family for years before I even knew he had served in two wars.  He was a delightful and gracious gentleman - it was my good fortune to have known him.  John Haden passed away on 12 October 2010; he had lived with his beloved wife Merle in Bedford for many years.  John and Merle had celebrated 68 years of marriage.   As of the posting of the Blog, his wonderful obituary is still available online and has a small picture of John in his uniform.  I have seen the picture at his home, but have no copy.  You can see it here

Except for some small family pictures made when John was just a boy in the 1930's, I have only a single photo.  This one was made in Dallas on the occasion of my second son's wedding, March of 1990.  The man on the left is William Haden, my father-in-law who died two years after the picture was taken ...the man on the right is Uncle John with a twinkle in his eye.  To me, this picture is a true portrait of a great man with a great sense of humor.  Our true American heros live among us as ordinary men, although they are anything but ordinary.

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