Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Thanking Our Veterans, On Their Special Day

For some Westporters, Veterans Day is a holiday. For others, it’s business as usual.

No matter what today is, all of us — all Americans, really — should take time to reflect on the millions of men and women who, over the years, have sacrificed greatly to serve our nation, and the world.

Here are just a few of the many Westporters who deserve our deepest gratitude.

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In March of 1944 Emanuel (“Manny”) Margolis turned 18. He was a student at the University of North Carolina, but lacked a deferment. Drafted into the Army, he was chosen as a candidate for Officer’s Training School, and taught Morse Code.

Sent to England as a forward observer radio operator, he carried a 100-pound radio on his back. He weighed just 118.

PFC Manny Margolis, age 18 in June 1944.

PFC Manny Margolis, age 18 in June 1944.

He went to France and Belgium, to the Rhine River. The Germans had blown up all but 1 bridge crossing — a railroad bridge near Remagen. Made of wood, it was not meant to handle heavy tanks and artillery. The Army sent 100 engineers to remove dynamite, and shore it up.

Manny was among the first in his unit to be sent over the bridge. Radio operators had to report back to artillery how far to set their cannon fire.

Manny was not far into the woods on the other side of the bridge when the Germans began firing. He lay down behind a tree, and was shot through the leg and kneecap. He asked to be sent back to his unit, but his war was over. It was March 17, 1945 — 1 day before his 18th birthday.

The Army got some tanks and artillery over the bridge, but it collapsed with 100 engineers working on the underside. Many were killed.

Luckily, Manny’s leg was not amputated. He had 3 major operations in England, and more after returning home in the spring of 1946. He was awarded a Purple Heart, went back to UNC and graduated in 1947.

Manny Margolis, at a Town Hall ceremony. (Photo/Craig Skinner)

Manny Margolis, at a Town Hall ceremony. (Photo/Craig Skinner)

Thanks to the GI Bill, Manny went to Harvard. He earned a master’s and Ph.D. in international law. He taught at the University of Connecticut, then was accepted at Yale Law School with 1 phone call (no LSATs or interviews).

Manny worked for civil rights and civil liberties for 55 years, and lived nearly all his adult life in Westport. He died in August of 2011, at 85 years old.

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Stanley L. Englebardt landed on the beach at Normandy a couple of days after the initial assault. He saw action on the front line during the Battle of the Bulge. Initially a corpsman, he was put into infantry when the Germans broke through Allied lines in 1944. A longtime Westporter, he died this past March.

Stan Englebardt, age 18, soon after entering the Army.

Stan Englebardt, age 18, soon after entering the Army.

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Donald Snook was a B-17 pilot in the 369th Squadron of the 306th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. He was stationed at Thurleigh Air Force based north of Bedford, England during World War II. He flew 24 missions over Europe, and remained there with the Occupational Air Force until July 1946.

Don is now 91. He lives in Westport with his wife, Katherine.

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Bob Beeby served in the South Pacific during peacetime, just after the Korean War.

Bob Beeby

Bob Beeby

As a naval aviator he flew an anti-submarine aircraft to hunt for typhoons. With technology less advanced than that in today’s Prius, he went through the walls of a typhoons 1,500 feet above sea level, directly into the eye. He took readings with a sextant, and radioed the storm location to the fleet, in case they had to relocate.

Aircraft were often damaged by storms. Pilots risked their lives on emergency landings. Bob was one of them.

He has lived in Westport for 50 years. He logged over a million air miles a year as CEO of the international division of a major corporation. He is generous in time and spirit, and a loving father and grandfather.

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Byron Miller was a Special Forces radio operator in Vietnam. For the past 38 years, he's been a psychotherapist  in, and resident of, Westport.

Byron Miller was a Special Forces radio operator in Vietnam. For the past 38 years, he’s been a psychotherapist in, and resident of, Westport.

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Tom Feeley at Fort Benning Airborne School, 1962.

Tom Feeley at Fort Benning Airborne School, 1962.

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Robin “Bob” Custer Sr.  graduated from technical school in 1965, with a degree in drafting. He then served in the Army, seeing combat duty with the 1st Infantry Division (the “Big Red One”) in Vietnam from 1967 to ’68.

For years, Bob has played a big role in Westport. He’s been the sexton at Greens Farms Congregational Church for over 20 years (giving students on the Jennings Trail Tour the church  history), is quartermaster at VFW Post 399, and always marches in the Memorial Day Parade.

Bob Custer, standing amidst the flags he loves.

Bob Custer, standing amidst the flags he loves.

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Jay Dirnberger served with the 1st Cavalry Division in South Vietnam, in 1968.

Jay Dirnberger served with the 1st Cavalry Division in South Vietnam, in 1968.

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Kendall Gardiner Anderson was in Vietnam, with the U.S. Army

Kendall Gardiner Anderson was in Vietnam, with the U.S. Army

Kendall Gardiner Anderson's husband, Lt. Cdr. Robert Gavin Stewart Anderson, served in Cyprus with Her Majesty's Royal Navy. After moving to Westport and becoming a naturalized US citizen, he served his town on the Board of Finance and as second selectman.

Kendall Gardiner Anderson’s husband, Lt. Cdr. Robert Gavin Stewart Anderson, served in Cyprus with Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. After moving to Westport and becoming a naturalized US citizen, he served on the Board of Finance and as second selectman.

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And let’s not forget the Gilbertie family. John S. Gilbertie Sr. volunteered in World War I, and was awarded medals by the US, French and Italian governments for bravery.

He enlisted at 17 — just 12 years after emigrating from Italy — and served as a scout behind enemy lines in the Argonne forest, among other locations. He became a founding members of Westport’s Joseph J. Clinton VFW, was grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade, and helped organize Memorial Day ceremonies on Jesup Green for many years. His name is on the Doughboy statue on Veterans Green (with the Italian spelling, “Ghiliberti”).

John’s son Mario went to Korea. Anthony, who was younger, was a member of the Army National Guard.

Several grandchildren also served. Jay was in Vietnam, and was a member of the 1st crew of the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy. Marty was in the Navy CBs during Vietnam. Tom joined the Air Force in the 1980s, while Peter was in the infantry then.

Trevor — a great-grandson — recently returned from Afghanistan, with the Army National Guard.

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Thanks to all the Westport veterans we’ve mentioned — and the many, many others who also served proudly served us, over so many years.

 

7 Years On The Bridge

In the 1960s and ’70s, a good-sized group gathered every Saturday morning in front of Town Hall (the current Spruce store next to Restoration Hardware). Week in and week out, they protested the Vietnam War.

Estelle Margolis, on the bridge.

Since 2005, a much smaller vigil has taken place on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Post Road bridge. For over 300 Saturdays, several folks have held a “peace vigil” to draw attention to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Estelle Margolis was there 40 years ago. She’s still working hard for peace. This Saturday from 11-11:30 a.m., she says, “we will ‘celebrate’ the 7th anniversary of our peace vigil, if celebrating is an appropriate word for this serious mission.”

She adds:

We have failed to generate an influential peace movement in this country. I believe it would be different if we had a draft. We do get a lot of honks of approval on the bridge for our message: “End the Wars, Bring the Troops Home!, Get Out of Afghanistan, NOW!”

We will commemorate 7 long years on this Vigil. We are sick about the time we have been trapped in these two countries. President Bush created a living hell that is now 10 years old.

After 10 years we are still in Afghanistan at the insistence of President Karzai, who is known to be corrupt and untrustworthy. We support this fake “democracy” with our troops lives, financial aid and weapons while the Afghans make huge amounts of money exporting heroine. The latest figure estimates over 300,000 acres of poppies are planted every year….

The scene on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, several years ago.

How many horribly wounded young people could we have saved with a serious nationwide peace movement? How many lives? Over 6,000 dead and over 40,000 wounded. Over 400,000 who are in need of help from the Veterans Administration and a record high number of suicides among returning vets. How many more will there be? What have we done?

Come join us and lend your voice to the call for peace.

“Hell No, We Won’t Go!”

A portion of the crowd -- primarily Staples students -- protesting the Viet Nam war in 1969. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

For nearly 10 years, America’s all-volunteer military has fought 2 costly, controversial wars.

Protests have been muted.  A few people stand on the Post Road bridge every Saturday morning.  Someone writes an occasional letter to the editor.

At Staples, high school students — few of whom even think of serving — scarcely give Iraq and Afghanistan a passing thought.

How different things were in 1969.  Vietnam was a quagmire — and Westport was up in arms, on both sides of the issue.  Loud anti-war protests took place at Town Hall every Saturday.  After 3 hours of raucous debate the RTM passed — 17-15 — a resolution asking immediate action to withdraw from Southeast Asia.

Many Staples students — though certainly not all — were fervently anti-war.  On October 15, 1200 students — joined by some from the 3 junior highs — celebrated a national Moratorium Day.

They — actually “we,” because I was among them — marched from the Staples tennis courts, down North Avenue and Long Lots Road, all the way to the steps of the YMCA.

The long line of marchers headed downtown. The A&P was near what is now the firehouse; the Esso gas station is now a Phillips 66. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

We carried American flags and wore buttons saying “Peace Now” and “Hell No, We Won’t Go.”  Along the way, other students threw eggs at us.

At the Y, we listened to speeches (including one by Iowa Senator Harold Hughes).   We waved our fingers in the peace sign.  We looked around, and were stunned at our numbers.

A year earlier, we had helped drive Lyndon Johnson from the presidency — but our new president was Richard Nixon.  Finally, in 1973, a peace treaty was signed.  Two years later the last Americans were evacuated from the U.S. Embassy roof.

In 1969, Adrian Hlynka was a Staples student.  A gifted photographer, he took dozens of shots on Moratorium Day.  Here is what it looked like to protest a war, more than 4 decades ago.

A portion of the crowd in front of the Y. The Fine Arts Theater (now Restoration Hardware) was showing "Alice's Restaurant" and "Medium Cool." Police stood on the roof next door. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

More of the enormous downtown crowd. The current Max's Art Supplies is on the extreme left; what is now Tiffany is at the far right. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

Rabbi Byron Rubenstein of Temple Israel addresses the crowd from the steps of the Y. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

The crowd was predominantly -- though not entirely -- made up of Staples students. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

A Staples student states his case. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

Junior high students joined Stapleites at the 1969 Moratorium rally. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)