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The USS Oklahoma was sunk by several bombs and torpedoes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (National Archives photo)
The USS Oklahoma was sunk by several bombs and torpedoes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (National Archives photo)

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — The U.S. Navy is flying the remains of an Ohio man back to his home nearly 75 years after he was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

William “Billy” Welch of Springfield enlisted in the Navy at 17. He was among the 429 killed aboard the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941.

Welch’s body wasn’t identified following the attack.

The U.S. Department of Defense began testing the remains of those buried in Hawaii for DNA this past year. The Springfield News-Sun reports one grave included a piece of jaw bone that matched Welch.

Family members are planning his funeral. Welch’s youngest sister, Ann Welch Ianni, says a military burial with full honors is planned for September.

Ianni said she had long ago given up hope the family could lay him to rest at home.

“We got to the point where we didn’t think we’d ever get him,” she said.

She was 8 when he was killed, but she knows he “was sweet and religious, loved his family.”

“We always talked about (Welch),” said his nephew, Tony Hannon of Springfield.

The family said the Navy will both pay to fly his remains back to Springfield and will pay the burial costs.


© Provided by TIME Inc. An 8-year-old California boy with a rare disease died Sunday – just one day after becoming an honorary U.S. Marine.

Wyatt Gillette had Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome Type 1, a disease that causes kidney failure and eventually leads to death.

His father, 29-year-old Marine drill instructor Jeremiah Gillette, reached out to fellow Marines asking for prayers when his son moved into hospice care.

He and Wyatt’s mother, Felishia Gillette, were stunned by the response.

“I just started crying,” Felishia said. “So many people and strangers took an interest.”

One of those strangers was Marine Anthony North, who created a petition on to have Wyatt become an honorary Marine.

“I truly feel that Wyatt has faced more hardship than any Marine has gone through, and for that should be given the title,” North wrote on the website.

Within days, the online petition gained thousands of names, and the U.S. Marine Corps granted the impassioned request.

Wyatt’s proud parents watched as their son was honored in a moving ceremony at Camp Pendleton on Saturday.

“He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met,” Jeremiah told ABC7. “He’s the toughest person I’ve ever met.”

Tragically, the young boy passed away the very next day.

Jeremiah said his son was peaceful and pain free, according to ABC7.

“Thank you all so much for letting Wyatt into your hearts, and allowing him to make you smile, it was his favorite thing to do,” Jeremiah wrote.


Sgt. Gary Rose, an Army medic who was involved in secret operations in Laos during the Vietnam War. After years of lobbying from members of his unit, he will be awarded the Medal of Honor.© Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times Sgt. Gary Rose, an Army medic who was involved in secret operations in Laos during the Vietnam War. After years of lobbying from members of his unit, he will be awarded the Medal of Honor. HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Unofficially, in the jungles of Laos in 1970, hundreds of North Vietnamese troops closed in on a small team of United States Army commandos. Unofficially, as men were shot down, a medic sprinted through a hail of bullets to help, hefting a man over his shoulder as he fired back with one hand. Unofficially, even when bloodied by a rocket, the medic kept going, not sleeping for days as he cared for 51 wounded soldiers.

Officially, though, American troops were not in Laos. So officially, nothing happened.

The medic, Sgt. Gary Rose, was part of the secret Studies and Observations Group, an elite division of Special Forces. After the assault, the group recommended him for the military’s highest award, the Medal of Honor. But at the time, President Richard M. Nixon was denying that American troops were even in Laos. The nomination was shelved, an example of what veterans of the group say was a pattern of medals being denied or downgraded to hide their classified exploits.

This summer that decision is poised to be reversed. After more than a decade of lobbying, Congress authorized the medal for Sergeant Rose, who now lives in Huntsville. His will be the first Medal of Honor to expressly acknowledge the heroics of a soldier on the ground in the so-called Secret War in Laos.

In the past, medal citations for the unit listed men only as “deep in enemy territory,” said Neil Thorne, a researcher and Army veteran who has drafted a number of medal applications in recent years for the group.

“The Army still doesn’t want to admit it,” Mr. Thorne said. “Even to this day, I put in Laos in a citation, the Army takes it out. It’s almost a game, but it’s not really funny. Rose is unique in that they finally left in the truth.”

During the Vietnam War, Laos was neutral and off limits to foreign troops. But the North Vietnamese used the jungles on the border between Vietnam and Laos to funnel weapons along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States secretly sent in Special Forces to disrupt the enemy while not arousing protest from allies or the American public.

Since then, veterans of the Studies and Observations Group, which had one of the highest kill rates and highest casualty rates in Vietnam, have worked to gain recognition for men like Sergeant Rose.

“Because we were where we weren’t supposed to be, a lot of men never got what they deserved,” said Eugene McCarley, a retired lieutenant colonel who was the medic’s commander. “Rose is one of them. He was a damn good medic and the level of gallantry and disregard for his own safety that he showed — I’ve rarely seen anything like it.”

The group operated in Vietnam under the cover story that it was an academic unit evaluating strategy. In fact, its mission was to sow mayhem.

Small teams tapped communication lines, sabotaged convoys, snatched captives and peppered enemy territory with fake documents, counterfeit money and exploding ammunition intended to confuse, demoralize and kill communist troops.

The Special Forces teams paired with indigenous mercenaries who opposed the North Vietnamese. They relied on stealth, many using weapons fitted with silencers. A few even carried hatchets and bows.

“It was a deadly game,” said Fred Dye, a company commander. “A lot of times we got the hell shot out of us. Sometimes teams didn’t come back.”

Mr. Dye was recommended for the nation’s third-highest military honor, the Silver Star. He never got it.

To hide American involvement, teams wore Asian uniforms with no rank and often carried foreign-made weapons. Even underwear and rations were from Asian countries. They called it “going in sterile.”

“That’s part of the reason so many awards were never given,” said John L. Plaster, a retired major who was in the group and has written books about its deeds. “We couldn’t really say what was going on.”

Mr. Plaster was also recommended for the Silver Star. He never got it.

On Sept. 11, 1970, the group launched one of its biggest missions of the war, Operation Tailwind. Helicopters dropped 136 men about 40 miles into Laos to “cause a huge ruckus,” Mr. Plaster said, and draw attention away from a C.I.A. operation to the north.

According to interviews and Army documents, North Vietnamese forces hit before the team even landed, piercing the helicopters with bullets. Three were shot before any boots hit the ground.

When the choppers touched down, the team swept into the jungle to escape enemy fire. The lone medic was Sergeant Rose, a soft-spoken 22-year-old from Southern California wearing a floppy jungle hat and camouflage face paint that did not quite hide his nerves. It was his second real combat mission. He had been wounded on his first.

Over the next four days, the company blew up ammunition bunkers and set fire to a supply camp, chased by an ever-increasing enemy force. By the end of the operation, a third of the company was wounded.

When a soldier was shot down in a clearing raked by machine guns, others yelled to stay down until the team could set up cover fire. But Sergeant Rose ran forward, firing as he went. He shielded the man to treat his wounds, then carried him to safety. “How or why Sgt. Rose was not killed in this action I’ll never know,” one platoon leader wrote in a statement at the time.

A few hours later a rocket-propelled grenade hit the command team, blowing the medic off his feet and punching shards of metal into his hand and foot. Ignoring his own wounds, he patched up the other men, stopping only later to fix his bloody boot.

That evening in the steaming forest, Sergeant Rose, already exhausted, dug long foxholes so the wounded could lie under cover. “All the night the enemy pounded us,” Mr. McCarley recalled. “Rose went from position to position, offering medical help and words of encouragement. I never saw him stop to eat, rest or treat his own wounds.”

Mr. McCarley was recommended for the nation’s second-highest military honor, the Distinguished Service Cross. He never received it.

By the third day, Sergeant Rose was all but out of morphine and bandages. He had rigged litters from bamboo for the worst off and tied the wrists of delirious men to other soldiers so they would not get left behind.

By the fourth day, when helicopters came to extract the team, enemy troops were so close that American planes dropped tear gas on their own men to drive the enemy back. Sergeant Rose was one of the last on the last helicopter, firing as he hobbled aboard.

When they lifted clear of the trees, he slumped to the floor of the helicopter, his marathon mission complete. Then a bullet pierced the neck of a door gunner, and the medic was up again. Out of bandages, he stopped the bleeding with a spare piece of cloth. As he worked, enemy fire hit the engines. The crippled aircraft crashed on a riverbank, spitting out men as it rolled.

Sergeant Rose, bleeding from his head, crawled into the wreckage.

“Fuel was leaking everywhere, that thing was ready to blow,” Dave Young, a sergeant in the company, said in an interview. “Rose went back in repeatedly until everyone was out.”

Few details of Sergeant Rose’s actions were ever made public. When his name was submitted for the Medal of Honor in 1970, Adm. John S. McCain, the father of Senator John McCain and commander of all forces in the Vietnam theater, turned it down.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1971.

Operation Tailwind stayed secret until 1998, when CNN and Time magazine erroneously reported that the mission’s aim had been to kill American defectors, and that the team had massacred hundreds of villagers while pilots dropped nerve gas.

Tailwind veterans united in fierce protest, then began pressing for recognition of men like Sergeant Rose. They spent years submitting applications and sworn statements. Now the sergeant’s medal just awaits the signature of the president.

A 68-year-old grandfather, the former medic lives in a tidy one-story brick house, and spends much of his time volunteering with poor and disabled people. On a recent morning, as he gave a tour of his church, he was more eager to talk about the congregation’s Tootsie Roll fund-raiser than about his role in a top secret commando raid.

“I just try to go through life doing as much good as I can,” he said with a shrug.

Over the decades, he has rarely thought about Operation Tailwind, he said, and is a bit embarrassed about the Medal of Honor.

“I didn’t do anything heroic,” he said. “I was just doing my job like everyone else.”

“It’s all a blur,” he continued. “I was oblivious. I was just so focused on the wounded that I didn’t see the machine guns.”

He paused, then added: “I don’t want to make it sound like I’m brave. The trembling, the throwing up, the fear, that always happened, but only after. In the moment, I was just concentrating on what I had to do. I didn’t want to let anyone down.”

In a 2009 file photo, A-10 Thunderbolts fly over Independence Hall during the Independence Day Celebration in Philadelphia. (Photo by Sharilyn Wells/U.S. Army)

In a 2009 file photo, A-10 Thunderbolts fly over Independence Hall during the Independence Day Celebration in Philadelphia. (Photo by Sharilyn Wells/U.S. Army)

The Fourth of July is perhaps America’s best known holiday, commemorating the country’s declaration of independence from Britain and the rise of 13 largely rural colonies to the top of the global heap.

However, details of the events of July 1776 are shrouded in national myth and legend. The story of the birth of American freedom is more complex:

The Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, voted for independence from Britain on July 4, 1776:

Actually the decision to break with the British Crown was taken July 2, when the Continental Congress approved an independence resolution offered by delegate Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, a distant cousin of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. A day after the vote, future president John Adams wrote his wife about the decision, predicting that July 2 would be celebrated “by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

So why celebrate the Fourth?

Two days after voting for independence, Congress formally approved Thomas Jefferson’s draft Declaration of Independence as an explanation for the decision to break with Britain. Since then Americans have celebrated the public announcement of July 4 rather than the decision for independence itself taken on July 2.

All the delegates signed the document on the Fourth, right?

Despite famous paintings of all the delegates gathered for a July 4 signing ceremony, the facts have been in dispute for years. Fifty-six men signed the Declaration, but most historians now believe they didn’t do so at the same time. New York’s representatives weren’t authorized to sign until July 9 because the colony’s legislature had not given them permission to vote for independence. Most delegates signed during a ceremony on Aug. 2, 1776. Others did so weeks later, and the last signatory, Thomas McKean of Delaware, didn’t add his name until the following year.

The Declaration was celebrated by ringing the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia:

That’s a nice tradition but just that. The story that a young boy standing at the door of Independence Hall gave the signal to an old man in the bell tower appeared in a book published in the 19th century children’s book written by George Lippard entitled “Legends of the American Revolution.” The bell became known as the Liberty Bell in the mid-19th century when abolitionists claimed it as a symbol of the anti-slavery movement.

Word of the Declaration spread rapidly across the colonies and to London:

That depends on how you describe rapidly, which had its own meaning in the days before telegraph, telephones and the internet. The American army was camped in New York City, where George Washington got the word on July 9. News of the events in Philadelphia didn’t reach the southernmost colony, Georgia, until Aug. 10. The British government didn’t hear of the decision until Aug. 30.

USS Constitution during its annual 4th of July turnaround cruise.

USS Constitution during its annual 4th of July turnaround cruise.

BOSTON — A Mainer is celebrating the Fourth of July weekend while assigned to the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy.

Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Parker is one of the 85 hand-picked sailors who comprise the crew of the USS Constitution, also known as “Old Ironsides,” in Boston.

Crew members routinely interact with people touring the ship, talking about their jobs, Navy rules and regulations, and life aboard a Navy vessel. Parker, who’s from Gorham, Maine, said it’s an honor to mentor and lead junior officers while assigned to the ship at Charleston Navy Yard.

The Constitution, which was launched in 1797, remains open to the public even though it’s currently in dry dock for its first major restoration in more than two decades.