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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 17 - 23, 2002


Carey war veterans 
tell their stories

Group will be honored Saturday

Express Staff Writer

After being selected to serve as grand marshals in Saturday’s Pioneer Days Parade, a contingent of Carey war veterans gathered last Thursday at the town’s 93 Express restaurant to rekindle old memories and tell stories of their time in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Some had served in the Korean War, while others had answered their country’s call to duty in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. Despite their vastly different experiences while in the Army, Navy, or Air Force, they all share one thing in common: a resounding sense of patriotism.

Ray Baird “We were waiting there four days while the forces tried to get the airfield clear so the Marine pilots on board could go ashore.” Express photo by David N. Seelig

Carey Mayor Rick Baird calls them "The Greatest Generation," men who willingly went abroad to defend the interests of their country from enemies they had never before encountered. "We’re very proud of this group," he said, sitting among six veterans who returned to Carey to live, work and raise families after their time abroad.

The mayor called them an "unassuming" bunch, and in that he was certainly correct. They don’t consider themselves heroes, only loyal Americans. Here are some of their stories:

Ronald Peck “We mostly did escort work, but we were also instructed to pick up people who were shot down.” Express photo by David N. Seelig

Ronald Peck, 79,was a third-class petty officer for the Navy in World War II aboard the USS Wintle, a destroyer commissioned to escort convoys of U.S. supply ships across the Pacific. Peck said he was engaged mostly in submarine warfare with Japanese forces intent on cutting the line of supplies into the Pacific.

"We mostly did escort work, but we were also instructed to pick up people who were shot down," he said.

Peck, who served from 1944 to 1946, said he was back at home in Carey when the U.S. ended the war by dropping two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Our ship was de-commissioned," he said. "I was surprised when it ended. We had all figured that the war would last three of four more years if we had had to invade Japan."

After peace was negotiated, Peck went back to the Pacific to perform various duties during the post-war era, including a one-month stint in Okinawa, Japan, where he managed the mail room.

After he was discharged, Peck became the music instructor in 1950 at Carey High School, where he taught for 35 years before retiring. Today, his son Jim Peck is the principal of the school.

· Ray Baird, 77, is the father of Carey Mayor Rick Baird. A Carey resident "his entire life," he served with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1945.

Baird spent the majority of his time doing air-traffic control aboard a transport carrier vessel that brought planes, pilots, and supplies to larger aircraft carriers such as the USS Enterprise and the USS Saratoga.

"We took the first pilots to Okinawa," he said. "We were waiting there four days while the forces tried to get the airfield clear so the Marine pilots on board could go ashore."

Baird said that while waiting to "catapult" the pilots off the ship, his carrier was struck by a Japanese "suicide plane" that severely damaged the ship. "We had suicide planes coming in all the time," he said.

Baird noted that just prior to the end of the war his vessel approached the Japan coast. "We got close enough to Japan that we could see it on the radar," he said. "But we never did get to stop there."

Baird said that he believes that the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end the war saved many lives. "We had two million guys ready to invade," he said. "I know for a fact that there would have been a lot more people killed on both sides if they hadn’t dropped the bombs."

After he returned to Carey, Baird worked as a welding specialist at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory east of Arco for 35 years. Today, he raises cattle. "I’m still farming," he said.

· Reed Weaver, 72, is a veteran of the Korean War who has lived in Carey for more than 50 years. While serving as an Army corporal for 22 months, starting in 1950, he guarded "top secret messages" that were being provided to ground and naval forces. "I was on the first plane load in," he said.

After returning to carey from Korea, Weaver worked at INEEL for 33 years.

Weaver earlier this year received a medal and letter of gratitude from the South Korean government for his service in the war there. "It surprised and pleased me both," he said. "The letter was quite nice, thanking me for the time we put in and the hardships we went through."

· Curtis Parke, 80, served as a sergeant and tank commander for Patton’s Third Armored Division in Europe during World War II. Starting in October 1942, Parke fought for an entire year on the front lines against German forces, including in the notoriously brutal Battle of the Bulge. "It was very difficult. Very cold," he said of the snowy winter battle.

As Allied Forces advanced later in the war, Parke’s division moved "through Germany, down the Rhine River to the borders of Czechoslovakia, and south to Austria."

Parke stayed in Europe until December 1946, when he was sent to Fort Dix in New Jersey.

He said that while most of his fellow veterans have passed away, he thinks it is an honor to serve as grand marshal of the 2002 Pioneer Days Parade. "I think it’s a good thing," he said. "But they’ve almost waited a little too long in this little town. Many of them are gone."

· Jack York, 78, is a farmer who worked shore patrol for the U.S. Navy in Oakland during World War II. From 1943 to 1945, York served as a boson-mate, helping tugboats to safely escort Navy vessels into San Francisco Bay and the Port of Oakland.

As to whether he encountered any dangers while on the job in California, York said with a laugh, "I had some close calls, but they didn’t pertain to the Navy."

York said he believes that it was a deep sense of commitment on the part of American soldiers and officers that allowed the United States to prevail in World War II. "When we went into service, you said, ‘Yes, sir. I’m ready.’ And that’s why we won," he said.

Although he was born in Carey, York said that he has never before participated in the Pioneer Days Parade.

· Donald "Dude" Green, 70, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 to 1956 at the end of the Korean War. As a radar specialist based in Wisconsin, he tracked planes that flew across the Midwest and over the Chicago area, he explained.

Green was scheduled to serve overseas at one stage of his career, but said "the war ended before I went over." Was he disappointed he never made it to the front lines? "Definitely not," he said with a grin.

After his service, Green returned to Carey, where he had lived his entire life since he was 7 years old. "Somehow I got mixed up in law enforcement," he joked, noting that he worked for 27 years with the Blaine County Sheriff’s Department.

As for whether he liked getting together with the other veterans from Carey, he said, "I’m happy to be with them most anytime."

Other veterans scheduled to participate in Saturday’s parade include Ross Peck, Ross Dedman, Pete Cenarussa, and Boyd Barton.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.