Molly McGlaughlin wanted to follow her father and join the Air Force. Instead, she joined the Army’s Signal Corps, earning her commission as a second lieutenant following her graduation from Norwich University in 1989. Her career in active and Reserves duty has focused on information operations, including cybersecurity. As of 2015, she is a colonel, with tours of duty in Korea, Europe and Iraq.
When young Charles Leavitt heard about the atomic bomb being dropped in 1945, he thought there would be no more war. In 1948, he volunteered to enter the Army; in 1950, after a stint as a company clerk in Japan, he was sent to the conflict in Korea as a rifleman with the 1st Cavalry Division, 7th Cavalry Regiment. Leavitt tells of his experiences there, from watching friends get shot to being wounded in the thigh.
Joe Keefe entered the Army during the height of the Korean War. Sent to Japan, he served as secretary to a colonel overseeing a replacement camp and depot in Tokyo. He helped process security and clearances, as well as POW documents after the armistice was signed.
The first time Woburn native Charlie Bevilacqua took a train, it was to go to the U.S. Navy training center at Great Lakes, Ill., in 1948. He would serve in the SeaBees (construction battalion) for 30 years, serving in Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States. He was part of the construction crew that built the research bases at McMurdo Sound and at the South Pole in Antarctica in 1957. He also saw action at Inchon in Korea as well as in Vietnam.
Graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1946, Hudner was assigned to a cruiser north of Shanghai as a ship’s signal officer. Receiving his wings in 1949 he trained to be a pilot and was assigned to the carrier, USS Leyte. Hudner talks of the unrest leading up to the Korean War. In December 1950 he and his Fighter Squadron 32 were on a mission to attack “targets of opportunity” when a member of the Squadron was hit and crash landed. Jesse Brown, the first black aviator in naval history was at first thought dead but Hudner crash landed his own plane to save his friend. For this he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Hudner speaks eloquently about his comrades and how his military career affected his life.
In 1950, Roland Gendron quit school at 17 and enlisted in the Marines. Amphibious warfare training at Camp LeJeune and learning discipline prepared him for action in Korea with the Motor Transport 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He speaks about difficult winter conditions, ambushes that killed friends and the Battle at Chosun Reservoir. With pride, he talks of his commanders, Major Noonan, Col. Ray Davis and Col. Puller, who knew their jobs and saved many lives. Gendron became involved in local VFW organizations and has been the State Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In peacetime 1950, James Arena decided to enlist in the Navy with a friend, and although the friend was a no-show, Jim continued to Boston, where a recruiter convinced him instead to join the Marines. On leave when war broke out, Korea was a place he was not familiar with at all. As the youngest of 10 children, following his brothers who all made it home safely from World War II, Jim tells of his seven days at war. With the First Marine Division under the leadership of Col. “Chesty” Puller, they made an amphibious landing at Inchon and headed towards Seoul. A surprise attack seven days later killed two members of his unit and wounded Jim. Patched up at a MASHospital, he was sent home to recuperate. Knowing his mother’s worrying, a brother intercepted the telegram prior to it getting to her. His four-year career with the First and Second Marine Division took him to Japan, Korea, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and he tells of the wonderful experience he had in Italy where he was able to meet relatives he’d never before seen.
This interview covers Mr. Taffe’s service in the infantry in the Pacific Theater; to the Office of the Chief of Staff during the Korean War; and to the Office of the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War.