Al Schade (my uncle)

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Al Schade (my uncle)
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Here’s a story on a Navy website about my Uncle Al and his experience as a Marine in WWII and Korea.

I recently found the link above broken, so I thought I’d copy the text of the link here, in case it "breaks" again:

Veteran passes knowledge on to NJROTC, Lincoln Sailors
Photo by JO1(SW) Joaquin Juatai
More than 60 years after assaulting the beaches of Makin, Alfred Schade enjoys a quieter time aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Schade said regardless of how much time has passed that carriers are still "old hat" to him.

By JO1(SW) Joaquin Juatai
USS Abraham Lincoln
Friday, November 18, 2005

Almost universally Americans acknowledge the deeds of the “Greatest Generation,” as heroic and vital to the existence of our nation. Yet many of the youth of today do not know where battles in places with names like Kwajalein or Guadalcanal happened or what they meant.

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Sailors had a unique opportunity to talk with a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War when Alfred Schade, a former U.S. Marine, recently came on board as an escort with the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

The silver-haired Schade still carries himself confidently and said being on a carrier was “old hat,” to him. He spent his time in the Corps during WWII in both carrier and island-based flight operations as an aviation machinist’s mate and aerial gunner in the SBD “Dauntless,” serving aboard USS Coral Sea, an escort, or “Jeep,” carrier.

“In the Marine Corps, you know, the air wing actually makes the beach heads with the line company, or the ‘grunts,’” said Schade. “We were the third wave so on my birthday, Nov. 20, 1943, we took Makin [in the Gilbert Islands]. At that point, the Seabees came in and built an airstrip for us.”

Schade’s first assignment was to repair SBD “Dauntless” aircraft, a carrier or land-based dive bomber, that had been used in the battle to take the island of Midway.

“The first thing we had to do was almost rebuild them to get them into flying shape,” he said.

When his squadron reached Makin after helping take the island they received new planes.

As an aerial gunner fighting and fixing in the Pacific campaign, Makin learned a skill most enlisted personnel don’t even dream of today—he learned to fly the mighty warplane he was also plane captain of.

“Being a gunner in an SBD, the pilot, for the most part, taught the gunners how to fly. We had a full set of controls in the back,” Schade explained.

“The gunner was trained to pilot the airplane and most of the time when we were on a mission the pilot was the navigator,” he added. “When he would pull his plotting board out from under the instrument panel it would cover the stick, and so the gunner then would fly the airplane.”

After his time in the Corps, part of which he had the distinction of being the youngest sergeant, Schade continued his flight education, receiving his pilot’s license, instructor’s license, instrument rating, multi-engine rating and A&P (aircraft mechanic) rating.

“I had all the FAA ratings that were available at the time,” said Schade.

In 1948, Schade opened his own business purchasing surplus warplanes and rebuilding them as general aviation aircraft.

“Brand new Corsairs and P-51s were available for ,500. So you can see that there was quite an opportunity there, but there were some negative aspects too,” said Schade. “Because of all the surplus planes that were on the market, in one year more than eight general aviation aircraft manufacturers went out of business.”

Schade’s business suffered too, so he went to work for North American Aircraft Corporation’s space division and spent 32 year working on projects such as the Apollo program and the Challenger Space Shuttle. But Uncle Sam wasn’t finished with him yet. “After hiring on with North American as an engineer, less than 60 days after I was employed, I was getting ready for work one morning and there was a postman asleep on my doorstep,” explained Schade. “I woke him up and said, ‘are you looking for someone?’

“He handed me a telegram and I opened up the telegram and it said, ‘you will report to the nearest Marine base for active duty.’”

Schade had been recalled along with many active and inactive veterans (he was in the Marine Corps Reserves) in order to form a full division to fight in the Korean War.

“[General] MacArthur had a plan to put a Marine division north in Korea at Inchon and then penetrate down towards the south to Pusan and sort of ‘rescue’ the 8th Army,” said Schade. “But he couldn’t get a full division of Marines.

He added that at the time, President Truman was trying to eliminate the Marine Corps so the force was down to less than two full divisions. In order to fulfill Marine Corps requirements all active and inactive reserves were recalled.

“I can recall that when the ship was being loaded in San Diego for its eventual trip to Inchon, some of the inactive reserves were brought in with handcuffs because they didn’t feel they were qualified or in a condition should be called up for active duty,” said Schade. “Nevertheless that’s how MacArthur got his full division of Marines and we did make the Inchon landing and secured Kempo Aerodrome and then secured Seoul and then we went back to Japan for 30 days of leave.”

Schade returned to Korea and took part in the drive into the north and the Chosin Reservoir.

This time around, Schade’s training as an aviation mechanic proved to be not as valuable as his availability as a “grunt” or a land company Marine.

“I was a fire team leader,” he said. “I had five guys under me. The first guy carried a Browning automatic rifle (BAR). I carried a Thompson submachine gun, a carbine and a 45-caliber pistol. But the object of that fire team was to keep that BAR firing at all times, so there were four backups behind the BAR rifleman.”

At the Chosin Reservoir, Schade and his fellow Marines saw some of the worst fighting and worst weather to date. Forced to withdraw by foot back to the North Korea coast to be evacuated, the 1st Marine Division fought defensively in temperatures of up to 75 degrees below zero.

“The daytime temperature was about 35 degrees below zero. That’s why so many Marines walking back lost their legs and feet to frostbite,” said Schade.

“I was in Korea for one year of combat,” he added. “You might say that I was destined not to die in either war because with all the close calls we had in combat and flying I was never injured. I don’t understand why not, but I guess I lucked out.”

After his second stint in the service, Schade returned to his career at North American.

Now he is an active member of the Estrella Warbird Museum in Paso Robles, Calif. The museum has 17 Navy aircraft and one Air Force jet; his most recent project.

Schade once brought an Air Force T-37 from a base in Texas to the museum where he helped oversee the reassembly of the craft. He is also involved, through the museum, with encouraging the youth of today to learn more about the history of the military who fought to ensure their freedom.

“One thing we’ve noticed in our museum is that for some reason young people aren’t interested in military affairs,” Schade added. “If we can motivate some of these people (NJROTC cadets) to stay in the military and especially the Navy, then we’re happy and proud to be able to do it.”

© 2005 Sound Publishing, Inc.

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