War Stories

ep 49: Finding Faces with Ryan Kern

Ryan Kern is a former news anchor and reporter for a Nevada NBC affiliate. Now, as an independent journalist, he is the host/reporter/producer of the Finding Faces podcast. You may remember Chris and Jody talking about Ryan and Finding Faces in Episode 37.

“Finding Faces: The Search for the Missing Pictures of Fallen Vietnam Heroes” is about the hunt for photos of servicemen who did not return home from Vietnam. In 2001, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (the organization running The Wall memorial in Washington D.C.) started collecting at least one photo of all 58,000+ who died in the war. Twenty years later, they’re down to around 100 servicemen who do not have pictures. These photos are all featured on a virtual “Wall of Faces” online. Ryan’s podcast searches for the families of Vietnam servicemen in order to collect the best pictures possible for the Wall of Faces and help investigate or resolve any issues or questions these family members are still dealing with 50-years later.

Finding Faces, Season 1, aired in 2020 from September through December. It was 12 episodes long and about 12 hours of content, but day one of recording the series actually began in February of 2019! So while some episodes were recorded over the span of one week, others covered 17-months…and everything in-between. Season 2 is currently in production and Ryan took time out of his busy schedule to talk to The Digression Podcast Guys!

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ep 46: Florida Fiasco

In 1812, the United States government tried to annex Spanish East Florida by a combination of covert action and direct invasion. Then the plan went horribly wrong.

The “Patriots’ War’” in Spanish East Florida during 1812-13 was an early example of a military disaster caused by a secret, flawed political policy. The characteristics of this fiasco bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the United States’ undeclared wars in the late 20th century—covert paramilitary operations, convoluted chains of command, restrictive rules of engagement, Congress at odds with the president, and increasing public dissatisfaction. As always, the troops paid the highest price for bad policy.

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ep 45: TRUMP!

IN THE NEWS: Mike saves Tiger; Space takes a back seat; Trump; Paski mocks Space Force; Floaty Bois; IG probes Space Force relo; Trump; Capitol fence ain’t going away any time soon; The National Guard may not either; Biden’s Three Stooges Syria Solution; ‘American is Back’ like it was before; Trump; We ain’t leaving Afghanistan; or Iraq; Trump brings deaths to zero!; Weeding out extremists; Taking sexual misconduct out of the chain of command; Sunday Ferrari; Action orders; Army gender issues; Bowe Bergdahl goes to court; Navy learns 3-D printing; Pueblo survivors beat North Korea; Marines need cobra blood; Mohawk drug score; Uranium and Gulf War Illness; Better late than never for 99-year-old soldier; Skynet IS real; Premature detonation.

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ep 44: Too L8, They’re Gone

To the mysteries of the sky add the case of the U.S. Navy blimp, L-8. Since the dawn of aviation, aircraft have flown into the clouds never to be seen again. The L-8 disappeared into the clouds all right, but when she reappeared and eventually came back down to earth, she was missing her crew!

During WWII, the L-8 patrolled the California coast near San Francisco looking for Japanese submarines. On August 16, 1942, she took off from the Treasure Island Naval Base on a routine flight with a two-man crew, Lt (J.G.) Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams of Airship Squadron 32. About two hours into the flight, Lt Cody radioed the control tower at the base and told them they were investigating a large oil slick, which could indicate a Japanese submarine was in the area. Neither Cody nor Adams were heard from again. Their ship returned to earth without them.

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ep 38: Broken Arrow

Seven and a half hours into their training mission, Major Howard Richardson and his Boeing B-47B Stratojet flight crew finally began to relax after an evening of deploying electronic counter-measures and chaff to evade prowling North American F-86 fighters. The sky was clear and the moon was full. Heading south at 35,000 feet and 495 mph over Hampton County, S.C., their next stop was home. Suddenly and without warning, a massive jolt yawed their aircraft to the left, accompanied by a bright flash and ball of fire off their starboard wing.

An F-86 Sabre fighter jet had collided with the bomber and the impact ripped the left wing off the F-86 and heavily damaged the fuel tanks of the B-47. For safety reasons, the crew of the B-47 jettisoned their payload, a 7,000-pound, 1.86 megaton nuclear bomb, which fell into the Savannah River.

Now, 65 years later, the bomb, which has unknown quantities of radioactive material, has never been found. And while the Air Force says the bomb, if left undisturbed, poses no threat, area residents aren’t so sure…

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ep 36: Top Secret Courage

In 1968, Chief Master Sergeant Richard “Dick Etchberger was part of a covert CIA and USAF team working out of a small radar site on a remote mountain in Laos called Lima Site 85. He was part of a highly-classified operation called “Project Heavy Green.” At this time, Laos was a neutral country, so it was illegal for either the United States or North Vietnam to have military forces in the country, so, Chief Etchberger and his team had to “voluntarily” resign from the Air Force and become civilians. As “employees” of the Lockheed Corporation, the Lima Site 85 crew directed USAF bombers to their targets in North Vietnam using mobile, computer-linked radar. However, what started as a mission to link bombers to targets in North Vietnam, soon moved closer to “home”, as Lima Site 85 started directing strikes in Laos as the People’s Republic of Vietnam Army moved closer and closer to their position. With the enemy at their doorstep, top brass considered evacuating Lima Site 85, but they were a day late and a dollar short as a group of specially-trained North Vietnamese Dac Cong sappers attacked the site on the evening of March 10, 1968. And the only thing between the Dac Cong and the crew of Lima Site 85 was Chief Dick Etchberger. This is his story.

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ep 35: White Feather

He’s the most famous sniper you’ve probably never heard of. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Carlos N. Hathcock II was a Marine Scout Sniper who served two tours in Vietnam, first in 1966, and returning in 1969. Until the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq he held the record for the most confirmed kills in the United States military. During the course of his two tours in Vietnam he recorded 93 confirmed kills and over 300 unconfirmed kills, building a reputation that was so renowned the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong placed a bounty on his head that was equal to three years pay or approximately $30,000. He was known by the army he hunted as “White Feather” for the single white feather he kept tucked in a band on his bush hat. His exploits against such deadly adversaries as “The Apache,” “The Cobra,” and “The General” were the stuff of legend!

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ep 29: “The Bomb” is 75

Ever since the American occupation of the Marianas, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, the main Japanese islands had been under constant bombardment by long-range bombers of the United States. The city of Tokyo and many other cities on the Japanese mainland were leveled by day-and-night firebomb raids. As Italy and Germany had already done, Japan was paying the price for its grandiose plans for world conquest. But the island nation wasn’t ready to surrender.

Then the United States unveiled the biggest surprise in the history of warfare. It was the deadliest weapon ever designed–the atomic bomb. And although the initial test detonation at Trinity was several times more powerful than scientists had predicted, U.S. officials questioned if it would be enough to compel Japan’s surrender.

On August 6, 1945, “Little Boy” provided an answer.

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ep 27: Snooze You Loose

Most of you have probably heard of Antonio López de Santa Anna, the self-proclaimed “Napoleon of the West,” and the story of the Alamo. What you probably haven’t heard is how, just a few months after the Alamo, Santa Anna parked his army directly next to Sam Houston’s much smaller American force by the San Jacinto River and ordered everyone to take a siesta. Houston literally caught the Mexican force napping and after convincing himself that the scene before him wasn’t some heat-induced hallucination, he plowed his troops through Santa Anna’s army while they slept, crushing them in just 18 minutes!

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ep 25: To Boldly Digress

The Amazing 25th Episode Podcast Spectacular! Of course, it’s really no different than our regular episodes…okay, so it’s a regular episode, but it’s special because it’s number 25–a podcast milestone! To celebrate #25, we talk about the origin of The Digression Podcast on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And, as if that wasn’t enough, we share some stories about a favorite topic that has received several mentions throughout our podcasts: Star Trek, the sci-fi series that wouldn’t die! This time it’s more than a mention, as we explore how the series raised social awareness and literally saved lives during the Vietnam war.

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