Cold War Era Interviews
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Cold War Era Interviews
Peter Beckwith began a career in the Catholic Church when he was ordained at the age of twenty-five. In 1972 Beckwith began a dual career when he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Chaplain Corps of the U.S. Navy Reserve. He discusses these two aspects of his life, and the opportunities and challenges they posed. In 1995, Peter was selected for flag rank, a title which he held until his retirement from the Navy in 1999.
Gene Blade was raised on a small west central Illinois farm, and joined the Illinois Army National Guard in 1954. Two years later he enlisted in the Regular Army and served in an artillery unit in Hawaii before returning to Illinois and the family farm. Throughout the 1960s he owned a tire store and moved up through the Illinois National Guard, including a long tour as an artillery battery commander. By the late 1970s he became the Guard's first legislative liaison, and throughout the 1980s served as the United States Property and Fiscal Officer for the Illinois National Guard.
Richard Bowen was drafted into the Army in 1966, and received his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Bowen was originally on orders to go to Vietnam after advanced training, but his orders were changed because of a stint in the hospital. He was sent instead to Kissingen, Germany and assigned to Company E, 10th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. Bowen was soon assigned as the unit's clerk due to his college experience, and spent his spare time traveling throughout Germany, including East Berlin.
In the early 1960s, during the height of the Cold War, Richard Herndon's father built a fallout shelter in the basement of their Springfield home on Woodland Avenue, directly east of Washington Park. The shelter was equipped with an air ventilation system and provisioned with food, water and other essential supplies. The Herndon family occasionally ran drills so they knew how to react to a nuclear attack or a natural disaster.
Matthew Holden grew up during the Great Depression on his parent's farm. His father was a cash-renter in Mississippi's cotton growing region. In 1944 Holden's father moved the family to Chicago, where Matthew excelled in school, which led to him attending the University of Chicago. He later transferred to Roosevelt College, and attended graduate school at Northwestern University until he was drafted into the Army in 1956. Holden served in post-war South Korea, assigned to 49th Field Artillery Battalion's personnel office.
Mel Lester Lester joined the United States Air Force in 1957, and following his training as an aircraft mechanic, was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. He was there during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when the world approached the brink of nuclear war. A year later, he was sent to Vietnam for a one year tour, serving with the 34th Tactical Group at the Bien Hoa Air Base. Throughout his Air Force career, Lester had postings throughout the United States, as well as the Philippines, Guam and even Antarctica.
Toby McDaniel obtained his first camera when he was in seventh grade, and by high school he was chasing after news stories in Advance, Indiana, turning his photos in to local newspapers. He continued to hone his skills as a journalist while serving in the U.S. Navy from 1958 to 1963, including a tour on the carrier USS Hornet. After earning a journalism degree from San Diego State University, Toby settled in Springfield in 1967 and spent his next thirty-seven years working for Springfield papers.
Jan Staggs had already earned a Master's Degree in Industrial Relations when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in March, 1966. Following basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, he was sent to Ft. Carson where he learned personnel work on-the-job. He and his wife Francie were then sent to Okinawa, where he cut personnel orders for junior enlisted personnel. Following his tour in the Army, Jan returned to Illinois and spent the rest of his professional career working for the state of Illinois, most of that time as executive director of the Illinois Occupational Information Coordinating Committee.
Paul Sweet of New Berlin, Illinois served in the U.S. Navy from 1966 through 1969, most of that on the USS Canopus, AS-34, a submarine tender assigned to the Atlantic fleet. The ship operated out of Rota, Spain. Sweet first worked in the galley as a mess cook, then became a damage control firefighter. In 1976 he joined the 3637th Maintenance Company, an Illinois Army National Guard unit based in Springfield, and in 1980 Sweet transferred to the 183rd Fighter Wing in the Illinois Air National Guard, where he worked in the Civil Engineering section. During his many years in the 183rd, he went on several overseas deployments. After his retirement from the service, he was instrumental in the construction and dedication of the New Berlin Veterans Memorial in July, 2013.
Paul Tarr grew up in Morton, Pennsylvania, and played sports extensively, both throughout high school and also during his college years at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. Following college, Tarr was drafted into the Army, but soon found himself involved in sports again. Following his initial military training, he was assigned to the 30th Field Artillery Group in Hanau, Germany, where he played on the Group's baseball team, which allowed him to travel extensively throughout Europe playing other unit teams.
Vice Admiral Ron Thunman spent a lifetime in the U.S. Navy, the vast majority of it involved with nuclear-powered submarines. He signed up for nuclear submarine service during its infancy, and from that day forward his assignments repeatedly brought him in close contact with the father of the nuclear force, Admiral Hyman Rickover. Thunman's highlights included command of a nuclear attack submarine, command of the entire Pacific submarine fleet, key assignments in the personnel field, a tour as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Submarine Warfare, (where he helped field the Tomahawk missile and find the RMS Titanic) and Chief of Naval Education and Training.