My dear brother in Christ, Rick Stambaugh wrote this story about his Dad, who passed onto Glory this week. Thank you for sharing this true all-American story Rick! We are praying for you and your entire family during this time. Picture is of Rick’s Dad, James A. Stambaugh Sr.
A Short Tale In Honor Of An Unspoken HERO !
By Rick Stambaugh
Many today do not understand this aspect of service to or for your country today, but for many reasons, we do not all necessarily talk a lot about actions that may have been taken during service to our country. I think I unknowingly learned it to an extent from my father and much of it through my own experiences during my Navy career.
In days of old, most who saw duty in the military, and particularly in combat, rarely discussed many of their activities during their service. Unlike today, this was engrained within most servicemen in the days of World War II, the Korean War and even up to and including my tours of duty in the Vietnam War. Most service men and women considered what they did as a part of their duty; doing what we were paid to do. Hero’s didn’t regularly consider themselves hero’s as it was simply their job and in most occasions, heroic actions were taken for the purposes of self preservation on the battle field. Many who know me, consider my having been shot down in Vietnam was a heroic situation and while I do speak of the incident, I do not provide detail. Mostly because it brings memories I don’t necessarily want to remember. There were probably other things in my own military career that could be considered heroic, but I do not consider myself one. Just as an example, when I was shot down, the actions I took during the incident and the two weeks following that incident until we were recovered were taken for survival purposes, not heroism. I simply wanted to be able to go home one day! In fact, hiding my location for self preservation for two weeks might be seen as being a bit of a chicken verses being heroic but I do have to offer that those of us who were left were very lightly armed.
But I write this for my family and friends and it’s not about me. Instead, it is about a true HERO who lived amongst you, and probably, like me, we were never aware of it. In fact, very few were aware and I attribute that to this individuals view of what he did as simply – a part of his job!
I called him Dad; alias James A. Stambaugh Sr! Many of you refer to him and know him as Papa Jim.
As most here know, ‘Papa Jim’ peacefully passed away this last weekend in his sleep sometime during the night of Saturday the 19th – Sunday the 20th at the age of 94. Today we face a scenario where there are fewer and fewer WWII veterans left and I felt it important to document and honor his service in which he was a true American War Hero and to share that with all his descendants. I believe his precious wife, Harriett Stambaugh, was aware of this but I do not know if my late brother Jim Jr. knew or not, but I can attest that neither myself or my other surviving brother David ever knew. I presume, he again, simply did not feel he was in fact the hero he truly was.
On the Monday following his passing, my brother David was going through his paperwork to help Mom in taking care of matters at which time he found Pop’s DD214. For those not aware, a DD214 is the final piece of documentation issued which is basically a one page document identifying the history of your service in the military. It details such things as dates of service, military conflicts which you may have been involved in during your service and amongst other things, lists any and all awards or commendations that were issued to you during your service. My brother wasn’t sure what he was seeing so he immediately called me for verification. Right there, on Papa Jim’s DD214 was his list of awards, all of which I knew, and right there it listed the fact that he was awarded one which is not handed out lightly, the Bronze Star for Heroic actions taken during the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii, December 7, 1941.
“The Bronze Star Medal, commonly referred to simply as the ‘Bronze Star’, was established by Executive Order 9419 dated 4 February 1944 which was superseded by Executive Order 11046 dated 24 August 1962 and amended by Executive Order 13286 on 28 February 2003. The Bronze Star Medal may be awarded by the Secretary of a military department or the Secretary of Homeland Security with regard to the Coast Guard when not operating as a service in the Navy, or by such military commanders, or other appropriate officers as the Secretary may designate, to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard of the United States, after 6 December 1941, distinguishes, or has distinguished, herself or himself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight … (a) while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; (b) while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or (c) while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.”
The story is put together in part from my personal experiences or knowledge from my military service, part told by my brother, part from Mom and tidbits from Papa Jim himself. And I’m also sure it is not quite the whole story, but the most complete we have and the rest we’ll have to leave to rest in peace along with Papa Jim himself:
Papa Jim was stationed at Wheeler Army-Air Corps Base located on the Island of Oahu Hawaii. Back then, the official Air Force as we know it today did not exist and the Army Air Corps is what eventually became the Air Force we know today. Wheeler Field is located in the mountains high above and overlooking the Navy Base at Pearl Harbor located on the south side of the Island. When the Japanese attacked, a part of the ‘sneak’ attack was to come from the North side of the Island opposite Pearl Harbor to try to avoid radar detection. While the ships in port at Pearl Harbor were their primary target, Wheeler Field just happened to be inconveniently in their path to Pearl Harbor, thus, was attacked first as they transited across the Island. Papa Jim was a Aircraft Mechanic, and I believe a Aircraft Crew Captain also. When the attack began, there were many machine gun and anti-aircraft armaments stationed around the field for use to try to defend the air base. Due to the size of the attack, many of these defensive positions quickly ran out of ammunition. That is when, on his own accord, Staff Sargent Papa Jim, along with two other individuals loaded a truck with a resupply of ammunition and without any self defense of their own, ‘under fire’ started distributing that ammunition to the different gun sites.
That my friends, is a true heroic action taken while under live fire in a combat zone on a battle field!!! We have cause to believe there is even more to what happened to Papa Jim that morning on December 7, 1941 but as I stated, those details shall Rest In Peace with him.
For all Papa Jim’s descendents – be it known – Bronze Stars are not just handed out .. they are earned .. and they are only earned BY HEROES !!!!!! YOUR PAPA JIM WAS, AND STILL IS, A TRUE AMERICAN MILITARY HERO !!!!!!
Sneaky old bugger never told me a thing – but as he always has – he has my complete and utmost respect and honor !!! THANK YOU POP !!!!!! I SALUTE YOU SIR !!!!!!
Thank you for sharing this love story Rick! A love story of a true all-American hero! God Bless the Memory of Pop’s!!!