War Stories

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Check out these excerpts from Al Zdon’s books. Note that not all volumes have the same price.

To order, send a $40 check made out to "Department of Minnesota" to: The American Legion Dept. of Minnesota 20 W. 12th St., Room 300A St. Paul, MN 55155-2000

“War Stories Vol. 1: 25 Stories of Minnesotans who Defended their Nation, Civil War to Persian Gulf War”

Firing The First Shot

The USS Ward was guarding the entrance to Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7th 1941. The World War I vintage destroyer was manned by a crew of Naval Reservists from St. Paul. When a small submarine tried to sneak into the harbor, the Ward fired on and sank the Japanese vessel. The time was 0645, a full hour before the Japanese air attack that precipitated the U.S. entry into World War II.

On Dec. 5, 1941, The Ward had a big event with the coming of a new captain. Lt. W.W. Outerbridge, a Navy Veteran of 14 years, was getting his first command.   

The Ward was supposed to be off duty, but one of its fellow destroyers had a breakdown, and Outerbridge and his ship headed out to the outer harbor before he even had a chance to unpack his bags.

It was business as usual on Sunday, Dec. 7, as the Ward criss-crossed in front of the harbor channel through the night. Soon after 4 a.m., however, just as the morning watch was starting its four-hour shift, a message was received from the minesweeper Condor:

“SIGHTED SUBMARINE ON WESTERLY COURSE SPEED NINE KNOTS.”

Outerbridge was called to the bridge, and he immediately sounded general quarters….

To order, send a $20 check made out to "Department of Minnesota" to: The American Legion Dept. of Minnesota 20 W. 12th St., Room 300A St. Paul, MN 55155-2000

“War Stories Vol. 2: 35 Further Accounts of Minnesotans Who Defended their Nation, World War II to Afghanistan”

Protecting The Convoys In Iraq

Whenever an American convoy hit the road in Iraq, it was in grave danger from explosive devices or from a weapons attack. Lt John Hobot headed a platoon whose job it was to protect the convoys. Before their tour was complete, 22 months later, they had protected 80 convoys.

On June 6, one of the scout vehicles was hit by a roadside bomb. “I had to quickly assess the damage and check out the guys.  They’ll be checking each other out too to see if everyone’s all right.”

In this case, the vehicle had to be transported to Baghdad International Airport for major repairs. Another unit took the convoy to its destination.

“On June 6th, it all sunk in. The reality and seriousness sunk in. We could have just lost three guys out there. Thank God they were not hurt. We felt pretty safe in our vehicles. The Army did everything it could to keep them safe, and they were upgrading all the time. It was about as safe as it could get, but still in the back of your mind, you wonder. If an insurgent wants to kill you, they’ll build a bomb big enough to do it.”

Again, the platoon had another “lucky” streak, going a month long without another incident. But following another IED on the fourth of July, the pace picked up considerably. Hobot estimated that from that point on, one out of three convoys was attacked. “It was ‘game on’ after that”….

To order, send a $20 check made out to "Department of Minnesota" to: The American Legion Dept. of Minnesota 20 W. 12th St., Room 300A St. Paul, MN 55155-2000

“War Stories Vol. 3: 31 Further Accounts of Minnesotans Who Defended their Nation, World War II to Vietnam”

Two Tours In Vietnam, Six Purple Hearts

Peter Thompson left the White Earth Reservation and volunteered for the Army in 1960. He was sent to Vietnam in 1968, the first of two tours. He was wounded six times, the last one so badly he had to be sent home to heal.

{3rd Purple Heart}

The enemy had fled except for three NVA nurses who were hiding in the tall grass. When they were discovered by the Americans, Thompson said, some aggressive GI’s began threatening the women.

“I chased them away, but because I did that the NVA nurses must have known I was some kind of leader. One of them threw a grenade at me as I was walking away. It fell short, but I was sprayed with shrapnel.”

“It didn’t even knock me down, and I was too busy with what was going on at the time to pay much attention to it. I was worried about the situation we were in.”

“But my kids have been picking pieces of metal out of my back for years.” Purple Heart No. 4 ….

About the Author:

Al Zdon is a Navy Veteran of the Vietnam war. Al was born and raised in Minneapolis Minnesota. A graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism, he was the managing editor of the Hibbing Daily Tribune for nearly 20 years. He was the editor of The American Legion Legionnaire for Minnesota for twenty plus years until his retirement. Zdon was a member of the school of Journalism’s Alumni Board and the Minnesota News Council, and he is a member in good standing of the Greater Mesabi Men’s Book Club. He has served on the Hibbing School Board, Minnesota State Board of Education, and a member of the National 100th Anniversary Observance Committee of The American Legion. He enjoys basketball, tennis, golf, crossword puzzles, canoe trips to the boundary waters, and playing his tenor banjo. He also has a master’s degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Minnesota. He has authored six books, three volumes of “War Stories,” “Three Blue Crosses,” “One Step Forward” and “Count the Pickets in the Fence.” Al is married with six children. 

Proceeds:

All the proceeds from the sale of these books will go towards youth programs of The American Legion Department of Minnesota, such as, American Legion Baseball, Boys & Girls State, Oratorical Contest, Legionville, and other youth programs. These programs are a part of the commitment of The American Legion to future generations of Minnesota’s youth.