Fred Karl from the Battle of the Bulge to a Life of Service

KIC Image 0006The Tampa Bay area has lost another of its World War II veterans and heroes – a tank commander who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

In addition to his distinguished military service which earned him a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star, Fred Karl worked at almost every level of state government from the Florida Supreme Court to Tampa City Attorney.

Karl will be remembered for many things. But he said World War II shaped him and taught him leadership.

He was a student at the University of Florida at the start of World War II. Karl enlisted in the Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant while still 18 years old.

Karl commanded a platoon of five tanks – 25 men all older than him – at the Battle of the Bulge. They were part of the 2nd Armored Division.

“We got set up for Christmas Eve.” Karl reminisced in 2008. “It was really a bittersweet time. I remember early Christmases at home, the smell of incense and pine trees, but I was terrified about the attack the next day. On Christmas day 1944, we attacked the Germans and cut the point off.”

Karl said his division captured the 2nd Panzer Division in the woods. Then, they were told to flank the bulge and drive south to meet Gen. George Patton’s tanks and relieve Bastogne.

“About the third day of fighting, I mean big, wicked fighting really a lot of resistance, my company commander was lost. He got blown up in a tank,” Karl said. “And then the next day, I was hit with a piece of shrapnel in my arm and my chest and went back to England. So, I missed everything from Jan. 5th.”

But he made it back with his troops in time to join the triumphant entry into Berlin. Continue reading

Nearly a Century of Women Serving in Combat

Beatrice MacDonald’s American Hospital identification, 1915. Ann Fraser Brewer Papers, Schlesinger Library

Beatrice MacDonald’s American Hospital identification, 1915. Ann Fraser Brewer Papers, Schlesinger Library

Women have been serving under fire just like men for almost a century as members of the Army Medical Department and even longer as volunteers.

There have been thousands of women. A few are featured an article published online by Lewis Barger, AMEDD Office of Medical History:

Beatrice MacDonald was the first of three nurses to receive the Distinguished Service Cross after she volunteered to accompany a surgical team reinforcing a British Casualty Clearing Station on the front lines during World War I.

On the night of August 17, 1917, Germans bombarded the hospital tent where MacDonald was on duty, according to an article on the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Harvard University:

During the course of this raid, MacDonald was gravely wounded and lost an eye. She eventually recovered and insisted upon returning to duty, claiming, “I’ve only started doing my bit.”

Ruby Bradley, (sitting with her arm over the side rail and waving to the camera) during the liberation of the POW camp at Santo Tomas in the Philippines during World War II. Photo courtesy AMEDD.

Ruby Bradley, (sitting with her arm over the side rail and waving to the camera) during the liberation of the POW camp at Santo Tomas in the Philippines during World War II. Photo courtesy AMEDD.

During World War II, Capt. Annie Mealer was serving on Corregidor as a chief nurse.

Instead of evacuating, she stayed to tend to the casualties being brought in as the Japanese took control of the island.

According to Mealer’s online account by, “… I reviewed the cases in the tunnel. They all needed help that only a nurse could give them. I sent word to my commanding officer that I would stay with them. Here in this tunnel choked with shell smoke and misery was a group of people that meant more to me than anything else.”

Mealer was captured along with the remainder of the garrison and spent nearly three years as a prisoner of war at Santo Tomas, along with the other women who had been captured in the islands including Maj. Ruby Bradley, would remain in service after the war and find herself in combat again in Korea as chief nurse.

You can read the full AMEDD article here.

You can learn more about women’s service at the U.S. Army Women’s Museum website.

Daniel Inouye: Courage on the Battlefield and in Congress

Photo credit: Sen. Daniel Inouye bio page

Photo credit: Sen. Daniel Inouye bio page

I have been remiss not marking the passing of another WWII Veteran, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye.

He fought both on the WWII battlefield being awarded the Medal of Honor and in the halls of Congress earning voters’ continued approval since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962.

Of all the comments memorializing the long-serving senator, one of the most heartfelt came from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki:

“Senator Daniel K. Inouye stood among the ‘greatest’ of our ‘Greatest Generation.’  Recipient of the Medal of Honor, our Nation’s highest award for valor; distinguished service as a long-serving member of the U.S. Senate; and role model to generations of Americans of Asian-Pacific Islander heritage, especially those growing up in his beloved Hawai’i, Senator Inouye made public service a noble and honorable calling.

Dan Inouye’s courage on the battlefield and in Congress, his passion for making a difference in the lives of average Americans, and his intense modesty spoke volumes about a remarkable American, who embodied the bedrock values and quiet virtues of our Nation.

On behalf of America’s 22 million Veterans, I salute the memory of a brave man, a great patriot, a devoted public servant, an unwavering benefactor to Servicemembers and Veterans of every generation, and my friend and mentor.  I extend my deepest personal condolences to the entire Inouye family.”

Remembering Dec. 7th a Date Which Will Live in Infamy

A WWII, Korea and Vietnam veteran at the WWII Memorial. Photo credit: Dept. of Veterans Affairs/Twitter

A WWII, Korea and Vietnam veteran at the WWII Memorial. Photo credit: Dept. of Veterans Affairs/Twitter

Today, December 7th,  is a date burned into the memories of all World War II veterans, their families and descendants. Yet, the number of people who don’t know the date’s significance is growing.

So take a moment to step back into time – here’s a copy of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech so often quoted after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

Anotated Typewritten Copy"Day of Infamy" Speech. Credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.

Anotated Typewritten Copy
“Day of Infamy” Speech. Credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

WWII Veteran of D-Day and Battle of the Bulge Passes

Former Congressman Sam Gibbons was a member of the U.S. Army’s 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, serving in Europe on D-Day and during the Battle of the Bulge. Photo courtesy of WUSF Public Broadcasting

Sam Gibbons at age 92 died peacefully in his sleep Tuesday his son told the Tampa Bay Times.

The Tampa native was 24 the night before D-Day when he dropped into German-occupied France as a young captain of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles.”

In Gibbons’ memoir I Was There – he describes his experiences in WWII. It is peppered with details like how he replaced his gas mask with two cans of Schlitz beer before the D-Day drop.

“So with all this gear on me (the same for about 12,000 others), I was the third man to step out of plane #42, and dropping 800 feet to start what some have called ‘The Longest Day.’”

The story of how the paratroopers were dropped off course and scattered across the French countryside is widely known. Gibbons and a few other paratroopers managed to pull together and planned an attack on a nearby town.

“At the end of this council I brought out my two cans of beer, which we shared,” Gibbons wrote. “When the cans were empty we decided to leave them in the middle of the road as a monument to the first cans of Schlitz consumed in France and moved on.”

Sometime in the evening of June 5, 1944, a “stick” of heavily loaded 101st Airborne paratroopers board their C-47 transport before their jump into history in the skies of Normandy. Capt. Sam Gibbons of the 501st carried a couple of additional non-issue items along with him. National Archives photo

Chuck Oldham of Defense Media Network wrote that Gibbons’ story of the Allied landing in Normandy has always stuck with him:

Of all those stories … Gibbons’ story, written in a self-deprecating tone as it was in I Was There and popularized in Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation, remains one that has always struck me as somehow being indicative of the American paratroopers’ fight during that early morning of June 6, 1944, with a young captain abruptly thrust into an unexpected leadership role, he and his men dropped far from their objectives, lost and improvising their way through a night of combat,  and ‘marching toward the sound of gunfire.’

The young captain was with the 101st as it helped hold Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and captured Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” facility.

When Gibbons returned to Tampa, he went to law school, served as a state lawmaker and then for 16 terms in the U.S. Congress. President Bill Clinton named Cong. Gibbons general chairman of the 50th Anniversary of Normandy commemoration committee.

President John F. Kennedy, flanked by Congressman Sam Gibbons, arrives in Tampa, Nov. 18, 1963. Gibbons served for many decades in the U.S. House of Representatives before retiring. National Archives photo

When Gibbons returned to Normandy for the 50th anniversary – he had with him another two cans of Schlitz beer – which he drank and left sitting on the road again – as a monument of a different sort.

Over the years, I had the opportunity to cover Sam Gibbons as an elected official and as a Veteran. He will be remembered as a “true American hero.”

And, if you happen to have a can of Schlitz handy tonight –  lift one to the old warrior who battled among the hedge rows of Normandy and bridged the aisles in Congress to make this a better country and world.

WWII Iconic Kissing Sailor and Nurse Meet Again

Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, VJ Day, The Kiss

It was in Times Square on VJ Day 1945. A sailor celebrated the end of the war and that he would not have to return to combat by grabbing, embracing and kissing a complete stranger – a dental assistant on a break.

The sailor and nurse were reunited by CBS Morning News and taken to Times Square to commemorate the 67th anniversary of VJ Day which is September 2.

You can watch their story HERE. The two are older, frailer and “spoiler alert” – they do not recreate the kiss that became immediately identified with the end of WWII thanks to photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.

However, former sailor was very gentlemanly – holding her hand – as she stepped down into the street where the initial kiss happened.


A World War II Veteran Purged from Florida Voter Rolls

WWII Veteran Bill Internicola. Photo by Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/MCT

An Army World War II Veteran, who was awarded the Bronze Star as a medic in the Battle of the Bulge and honored by France with its Chevalier Legion of Honour, received another distinction from the State of Florida.

Ninety-one year old Bill Internicola, the Stars and Stripes reports, got a letter recently that purged him from the voter rolls. It stated:
“The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office has received information from the state of Florida that you are not a United States citizen; however you are registered to vote.’’

Florida is a vital swing state in this year’s presidential election. The WWII Veteran participated in a news conference hoping to demonstrate flaws in the state’s effort to purge voter rolls prior to the election. Continue reading

New Veterans: 45 Percent Apply for Disability Benefits

Photo courtesy of

Nearly half of all the veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, some 1.6 million, have applied for some form of disability benefit from the Department of  Veterans Affairs according to an Associated Press study.

That’s more than double the estimated claims made by Veterans of the Gulf War.

What’s more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.

Other Veterans’ numbers from the AP review of VA records and interviews with doctors and troops:

  • 28 percent of those filing are from the National Guard and Reserves, up from previous wars because the Guard and Reserves had a bigger role in  these wars
  • 12 percent of those filing are women because more women are involved in the wars
  • 1,600 have lost a limb
  • 156 are blind while thousands of others have impaired vision
  • 177,000 have hearing loss,and more than 350,000 ringing in the ears

More importantly, the AP reports that no money has been put aside to pay for care of the Veterans – the cost of which is expected to grow over the next 30 to 40 years.

Tampa Bay Area Honor Flight Needs Guardians

Iwo Jima Memorial (Photo courtesy

About 75 World War II veterans are scheduled to take the next Honor Flight of West Central Florida (HFWCF). However, many of the veterans are frail and need a guardian to accompany them so they can visit the various memorials built on the National Mall.

The day will include visits to the Iwo Jima and WWII Memorials, and Arlington National Cemetery.  The veterans will also be able to visit the Lincoln, Washington, Korea, and Vietnam Memorials.  However, each veteran must have aguardian” who will be responsible for the veteran’s safety and aid such as pushing a wheelchair if needed.

The organization has chartered a plane from Allegiant Air to fly from St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport to Washington on the one-day trip scheduled Tuesday, April 3, leaving at 7 a.m. and returning at 7:30 p.m.

Guardians must apply ahead of time and are asked to make a minimum donation of at least $400 to the HFWCF operating fund. The local chapter is a 501(c)3, non-profit making donations tax deductible.

Persons interested in serving as a guardian can get more information at the website:, where you can print the guardian application, and mail it to P.O. Box 55661, St. Petersburg, FL 33732.

PTSD: “The Hidden Legacy of World War II”

Author Carol Schultz Vento

On March 6th, Carol Schultz Vento will share her story on the Voice of Warriors radio program as a daughter of a 82nd Airborne paratrooper, Arthur Dutch Schultz.

Her father was portrayed in The Longest Day and written about in World War II history books. But like most WWII veterans, he did not talk about what is now commonly refer to as Post Traumatic Stress.

She decided to write The Hidden Legacy of World War II about father’s experiences on D-Day, Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. She details how the lasting consequences of the trauma of World War II impacted her family.

Her father’s unacknowledged PTSD led to family turmoil and trauma and it led her to fill in the missing pieces not talked about by the World War II veterans who were stoic and unwavering and rarely talked about their war experiences.

You can tune into VOW Talk Radio on Tuesday, March 6, at 7:00 pm (Eastern) for her interview. You can join in the live chatroom or call in with your comments and questions.


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