Floyd A. Woody: Biography
This is the second of three related essays about my father-in-law, Floyd Anderson Woody (13 Aug 26 - 24 Jan 97
). The first is posted here
. The third is about his time in Antarctica as a member of Operations Deepfreeze I & II, and will be posted here
when it's ready. I wrote these essays, especially this one, as a tribute to my wife's father because even though in some ways he was nothing special, in other ways, he was the best there ever was—and in every way, he was about as American as it gets. . . .
Floyd Anderson Woody
Floyd Anderson Woody was born in 1926 to a small-town mid-Texas family whose house did not have running water, indoor plumbing, or electricity. That last was added when Woody was around eight years old, much to the wonderment of his mother, who switched their single hanging light bulb on and off a few score times just to see it work. When he was born, his family had roots in the area that stretched back to at least the mid-1800s, and possibly much earlier, and had grown across the middle of Texas from Abilene to Waco. There are bandits and famers and tradesmen and native Americans in his family tree, with surnames like Carnes, Yarbrough, McBride, Wood, Corey, Chambless, and Ritter. The family lines originated in Ireland and England, and enroute to Texas settled through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The family is still firmly rooted in pinto-bean and cornbread eating Texas, but in the years since WWII, it has spread to all corners of the state and beyond, from San Diego to Washington D.C. and across the oceans in both directions. The Woodys and their extended family are buried in a half dozen Texas cemeteries, and their names can be found in numerous local histories and public records around the United States. They've also travelled the world, but as far as I can determine, Floyd Woody was among the first generation of his lineage to serve in the military outside the U.S. since the Wooddys
arrived here in the mid-1800s. He wasn't the last by a long shot.
Woody quit school after 10th grade and travelled to California with his older brother, Buster. He worked in a laundry for a while, and then enlisted in the Navy in August 1943 at the age of 17. He was trained to be a corpsman, which is navspeak
, and in the subsequent 23+ years, he fought in two wars and one 'incursion;' he saved many lives and administered to hundreds—probably even thousands—of people, many with traumatic combat-caused wounds or cold-weather injuries; and he literally travelled to at least one end of the Earth. After he retired from the Navy in June 1966, he took several civilian jobs before ultimately going to work for the U.S. Civil Service as a water treatment plant operator on Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. That is where I first met him in 1980. He had been married three times (twice to the same woman) and he was father to six children. He died in 1997 in Taft, Texas, and he was buried in the family cemetery in Cross Plains between his mother and father, not too terribly far from Cottonwood, where he was born. He was survived by his sister and brother (whose unique contribution to America is a worthwhile story in its own right) and by all of his children. He is still greatly missed by innumerable friends and relatives.
The U.S. Navy
Woody served in the Navy from 1943 until June 1966, except for a short break in service in 1946. He was a Corpsman his entire career; consequently, he spent about half of his 22-plus years assigned to Marine Corps units—assignments he spoke about with great pride. In fact, aside from Woody, I've never heard anyone other than Marines speak more highly of the USMC. His praise of Marines was unqualified and uncompromising, and considering the few 'war stories' he did tell, I can understand his fervor. The rest of his time in the Navy included service on ships and in hospitals, and with the Seabees (Naval Construction Battalions - CBs, or Seabees
By rows, from left to right, in order of precedence: Presidential Unit Citation (ribbon only), Good Conduct (5th Award), American Campaign, Asiatic Pacific Campaign, World War II Victory, Navy Occupation Service, National Defense Service, Korean Service, Antarctic Service (Wintered Over), UN Service, Republic of Korea War Service.
World War II
After joining the Navy and completing 5 weeks of nursing school in late Nov 1943, Woody was assigned to the naval hospital at Mare Island, CA. In late Dec 43, he was assigned to the U.S. Naval hospital at Aiea Heights, Territory of Hawaii (or haWHYya
, as he pronounced it). He sailed there aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-3)
, which had just undergone overhaul in San Francisco, and which was sailing to Pearl Harbor to join up with the light carriers "Langley
, to support the drive in the Marshalls." Enroute, startled into action by an emergency klaxon, he accidently jumped overboard from the flight deck. He was picked up by a following ship in the convoy, and on 7 Jan 44, he arrived at Oahu, no worse for the wear.
Woody worked at Aiea Heights until May 44, when he reported to the 130th Seabees, which was slated to participate in the invasion of Okinawa as part of the 2nd Marine Division. While with the 130th in Hawaii, he worked in the medical facilities at Ewa.
According to his military records, from 1 May 1944 until 26 Nov 1945, Woody was "attached to 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force (FMF), for Ryukyus Campaign." He became a member of the Domain of the Golden Dragon
when he crossed the 180th meridian on 23 Jan 1945 aboard the SS President Johnson
, enroute to the islands of Eniwetok, Saipan, and Tinian, where the unit trained for the invasion. He "participated in the invasion and occupation of Okinawa Shima, 1 April 1945 to 21 June 1945," for which he was authorized to wear an operation star for participation in the Okinawa Gunto operation.
On 1 Apr 45, the 2nd Marine Division made a feinting attack on the southeast end of Okinawa to cover the actual invasion that was taking place on the west-central side of the island. To everyone's surprise, the main force landed unopposed while the 2nd Marines "ironically suffered the first casualties as kamikazes slammed into a transport and an LST...." Woody said he was in the second assault wave on that day, but that the boat he was in had rudder problems and had to pull out of line to let the boats behind move up. He said the boat that replaced his was hit shortly thereafter by a Japanese plane that crashed into it and exploded. This was his first real experience with war, but it was not as bad as the tension that built while the 2nd Marines steamed around the area in reserve until the 12th of April, when the 130th was finally able to beach its LSTs. After that, in addition to the on-the-ground fighting, there were air raids every day and night when they were bombed or strafed, and that it "kind of got on your nerves"—especially Piss Call Charlie
who would arrive at around 0600 every day. He said everyone learned very quickly to dig foxholes, though it seemed they could never dig them fast enough or deep enough, especially using an entrenching tool, which he claimed was just "a big name for a little shovel." According to the 130th Seabees 'memory book,' published in Sep 45,
"No spot on earth during World War II was subjected to as many air raids per week as we were in Okinawa. The destroyer picket lines sixty miles offshore took ceaseless punishment of considerable cost in ships and lives. In one day 168 Jap planes were shot out of the Okinawa atmosphere. Every day saw Kamikaze planes striking for ships or shore installations: many of the eighty-odd ships hit in the Okinawa action were victims of the Kamikaze. Every day saw a few Japs get through our outer air defenses to harass man and machines at work. By the end of July, we had gone to Condition Red 166 times." During one big air raid, "a tent ward full of patients took a direct bomb hit, and fourteen were killed who might have been flown out the next day. We knew the stakes were high and worked around the clock untiring."
Woody also told us about being sent to the 'suicide cliffs
' where he helped catalog and clean up the remains of the Okinawans and Japanese who'd thrown themselves from the heights to avoid capture. He said "thousands of people jumped, made a stinking mess" and that he could "still smell it even today," and that it was even worse than the cliffs at Saipan
, which he'd seen a few months before. He also recalled the typhoon (Louise
) that hit Okinawa in Oct 45, and that a cousin named Everett Neil Strahan was on one of the ships sunk by the storm (12 ships were lost and another 250 or so were grounded or heavily damaged). A different cousin, J.W. Woody, who was a gunboat crewman, was also there for a short while and they were able to visit with one another for a bit.
Aside from the above, Woody never said much about Okinawa, but one thing he did talk about was the amount of work done after the invasion to get ready for the next big operation, the one everybody dreaded the most: the invasion of Japan. One official history of the Seabees tells part of the story:
Interlude of Movement
"The Seabees' task on Okinawa was truly immense. On this agrarian island, whose physical facilities a fierce bombardment had all but destroyed, they built ocean ports, a grid of roads, bomber and fighter fields, a seaplane base, quonset villages, tank farms, storage dumps, hospitals, and ship repair facilities.
Nearly 55,000 Seabees, organized into four brigades, participated in Okinawa construction operations. By the beginning of August 1945, sufficient facilities, supplies, and manpower were at hand to mount an invasion of the Japanese home islands."
(From Naval History & Heritage: Formation of the Seabees and World War II
Fortunately for both sides, the Japanese surrendered in August, 1945, and by November, Woody was back in California. By Apr 46, after a short-duration assignment to Naval Air Station (NAS) Dallas, he was in Norman, Ok, where he was discharged. From there, he returned to Texas, but life wasn't easy. He didn't really like working as a short-order cook, but more than that, people told him he acted strange, and they'd 'tsk-tsk' him, "saying it was a shame what had happened to him" in the war. Tired of all of that, in Jun 46, Woody reenlisted into the inactive reserves, and in Oct 46, he was recalled to active status to work at NAS Dallas. He served there and at Naval Station (NS) Orange, TX until May 47, when he was once again placed in inactive status.
Woody worked again as a short order cook from around June to November of '47, when he was recalled to active duty and sent to the San Diego (SD) Naval Hospital. He worked there until Mar 48, when he was reassigned to the SD Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and then in Feb 49, he was sent to Philadelphia Naval Hospital to be trained as a neuro-psychiatry technician. He finished that training in Aug 49 and was sent to Long Beach Naval Hospital, where he served until he returned to SD Naval Hospital in May, 1950. Woody's personnel record shows that on 1 Jul 50, his primary and secondary naval job codes (NJC) were changed to HM-8485-76 Psychiatry Technician (primary), and HM 8402-78 Independent Duty Corpsman (secondary). The first of Woody's six children was born in November, 1950.
One story Woody often told of that time—but which I could not substantiate—was the night he was called out to help the Shore Patrol collect Admiral Halsey, who was apparently suffering a nervous breakdown of some kind at a hotel. Woody said it was all very quickly done, and he was instructed to not speak of it by the Officer in charge. My father-in-law was not one to make up stories, so lacking evidence to the contrary, I believe this is most likely a true account of something that happened.
In 1951, Woody was still working in the psychiatric ward at the SD Naval Hospital, but he had come to despise that duty, so he volunteered for service in Korea (the only way he could get a transfer), and in Jan 51, he was transferred to the Marines at Camp Pendleton for reassignment to FMF, Ground, Pacific. After training in field hospital techniques at Pendleton, Woody was sent overseas and in May 51, he was assigned to HQ Co, HQ BN, 1st Marine Division as a member of the HQ staff. He didn't want to be in the rear, however, so he volunteered for line company duty and on 1 Jun 51, he was transferred to Company I (Item Co.), 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. In his words, regarding his time in Korea:
I hate to even get started on that; I had nightmares for a long time. Korea was something else. . . . I flew from Camp Pendleton to San Francisco, then from Travis to Hawayah, then Midway, then to Japan. I went to Osaka to a camp there for a couple of weeks, getting my 782 (combat) gear and climbing every mountain in sight for training. We left one night and flew to Pusan in the first part of '51, and I went to May San after the marines had dropped back and were heading back up the peninsula. I got with my unit at a place called Wonju, [and went] all the way up past the 38th Parallel.
According to various military histories, by Jun 51, the 1st Marine Division had secured its objectives around the Punchbowl
and had taken up defensive positions along a front about 11 miles wide. This is where Woody spent most of his time in Korea, and on 31 Aug 51, according to his personnel record, his enlistment was "involuntarily extended for one full year...to expire 24 November 1952" and "due to tactical situation, Woody is not present to sign statement or to state intention of reenlisting."
About his Korean War experiences, Woody spoke very little. He told of patrols and skirmishes and mean fighting; and about learning the life of an Infantryman the hard way; and about having to remove his red cross markings because the enemy would shoot at him
first; and about the Fall Offensive of 1951: "Imagine 10,000 bugles and 20,000 drums, and that many beating on tin cans, coming up a hill at you," he said, and that "will give you some idea of what we had to go through just about every night."
He also talked about one evening that his platoon was all but overrun. As he told it, the platoon found itself suddenly attacked by waves of Chinese soldiers who were wildly charging up the hill. From the beginning of the attack Woody was frenetically busy caring for the wounded, one of whom had been hurt when their position was hit by "friendly fire with twelve 4.2 mortars." Woody said, "I needed plasma but only had serum albumen instead, no plasma, there was a firefight, so I laid him down on top of the hill—hell, that's the only place Marines go, is on top of mountains—I was holding up a bottle of serum albumen, not really paying attention" though I knew there was fighting around me. When I was done with the serum and had bandaged the man, I looked up and saw "four or five Marines had formed a circle around me and him, and it was hand-to-hand with the Chinese with bayonets, knives, clubs; no shots, just hand-to-hand." Woody said he'd never been so scared in his life before, and never was again after that. He said there was a whole lot more of the same after that, but it was never again as horrifying. I've often wondered if he meant it wasn't as intense or if he meant he was never again as afraid of dying, but I never asked. I suspect it was the latter, because there was indeed a lot more of the same.
Once, while he was bandaging a Marine, a friend of his came up and asked if he had pair of scissors. Woody handed them to the man, who used them to finish cutting off some fingers that had been severed by a shot from a Chinese 'burp' gun, after which he placed them in Woody's hand to hold for him. In another battle, the Koreans and Chinese were "coming hard" at them and 82mm mortars were hitting all around them. One mortar landed right between Woody and his buddy, but it was a dud, so it only "scared the piss" out of them. They "got overrun in that attack," at which point, "the CO grabbed a machine gun and ordered everyone to pull back." According to Woody, around 40 of them withdrew and regrouped and came back, but by then the CO had been killed—he had more than 20 bayonet wounds. The enemy attacked again and ran the Marines off the hill a second time, but again they regrouped, this time with only 18 or so men, and attacked. In the end, according to Woody, only 12 men including him survived whole, "and that group of 12 got the Presidential Unit Citation—it's a pretty good honor, but not worth the trouble, believe me." Woody was pretty sure his CO was awarded the Medal of Honor (MoH) for his heroic rear-guard stand, but he couldn't remember the man's name or the dates, or much else except that he recalled it happened around the time they were fighting at Heartbreak Ridge
. I was unable to find any MoH reference that fit Woody's story exactly; however, his story fits very closely the date, location, and events described in the MoH citation for Marine 2LT George Ramer
, who was killed on 12 Sep 51, and is the only officer from Woody's unit who is listed in the MoH rolls from that time. I was also unable to verify the award of the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) to the 12 men specifically, but the 3rd Bn, 7th Marines was indeed awarded the PUC, all in one award, for its actions 21-26 Apr, 16 May-30 Jun, & 11-25 Sep 51.
Woody was with 3/7 Marines until 15 Nov 51, when he was transferred to the 1st MarDiv's 1st Medical Bn. Accordingly, even though he never said so, I think it's safe to assume that Woody was still with 3/7 Marines when, in Oct 51, for the first time ever, a "Marine battalion (3/7) and its equipment was flown by transport helicopter (HMR—161) to a frontline position in Operation Bumblebee, northeast of Yanggu, Korea. (Montross, Kuokka, and Hicks, pp. 213-214)."
On 31 Dec 51, Woody was assigned back to the U.S. as part of 12th Rotation Draft, and on 2 Jan 52 he set sail aboard USNS General William Weigel (T-AP-119)
at Sokcho-ri. He disembarked at San Francisco on 18 Jan. Of his time in Korea, Woody recorded this, "You didn't even think about death, 'cause you were surrounded by it, couldn't escape it...but somehow or another, by the grace of God we survived. We ate off the land, ate fish and rice, fish with the head, and we all had intestinal parasites, worms, etc.. [That's the] reason it took a long time to get back to the States...we were being de-wormed. That's why we came home by ship instead of airplane."
In all, my father-in-law served 8 months in Korea, six of which were on the front lines, during which time he earned his three Korean war medals and two battle stars
, and his unit earned the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC). Unfortunately, Woody threw away all of his Korean War awards because he hated the memories they brought back, and he "never wanted to think about Korea or what he'd done there." He even threw away the only memento of Korea he had when he left there, which was "a leaflet dropped by U.S. pilots for Chinese safe-passage."
Amazingly, although he counted his Korean service as the worst time of his life, it was not the harshest place he ever served. In fact, Woody's overseas service ranged across the entire Pacific from east to west, through the Panama Canal into the Caribbean, and as far south as it is possible to go
From 1952 until March, 1955, Woody served in San Diego at the Naval Training Center and at Camp Elliot. His second child was born in October, 1952. In late '54, he learned he was slated for duty in Cairo, Egypt in support of the Naval Research Institute, but he didn't want to go there, so he volunteered to go to Antarctica instead, as part of Operation Deepfreeze (ODF).
According to the ODF I yearbook
, "when the expedition was announced early in 1955, there were 15 volunteers for each billet," but only a few weeks after he applied, Woody was scheduled for evaluations and, having passed the initial tests, he was sent in Mar 55 to Davisville (Quonset Point), RI. There, he was asked if he knew anything about cold weather. He said he'd "been in Korea in the wintertime," which he was told made him a cold-weather expert so he was assigned to Admiral Byrd's HQ in Washington D.C. to help draw up medical orders and plans for the operation. In October, 1955, Woody's third child was born; in November, the ODF task force (TF-43) sailed for Antarctica, with Woody assigned as a corpsman with the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (SPECIAL) Detachment One. He was with the Seabees again.
The task force passed west through the Panama Canal in Nov 55, and arrived in New Zealand at Port Lyttelton in early December, having crossed the equator a few days earlier, at which time Woody finally became a Shellback. The ships arrived at the Ross Sea on 26 Dec 55, and on 30 Dec, the first ships tied up to the ice and began preparation for unloading. The Seabees moved to 'Hut Point,' where Robert F. Scott's 1901 polar expedition had built a hut that was still there in 1955. ODF personnel immediately set to work building a tent city, followed by more permanent quarters to shelter the men from the coming winter (Mar 56 to Oct 56), which some of them were to spend there—all in preparation for building a 6,000-foot ice runway, and after that, the first manned science station at the South Pole.
The next summer, as a member of the first Seabee construction crew to arrive at the South Pole (20 Nov 56), Woody helped build the first permanent science station there. On 24 Dec 56, before leaving the pole, he posed for the picture below with the others on the team. They are facing the striped flagpole that was topped by a glass ball, the shadow of which can be seen cast on the men just to the left of the 55 gallon drums.
There is quite a lot more to tell about Woody's Antarctic service (e.g., his family was on the Art Linkletter show while he was gone, and a copy of the show was sent to him on 16mm film and an LP; or that the physician he served with was the singer James Taylor's father), but for now, it will suffice to quote the Letter of Commendation Woody was given by RADM Dufek in March, 1957:
From November 1955 to March 1957 you were a member of the wintering over group at the U.S. Naval Air Facility, McMurdo Sound Antarctica. For two months of this time you were assigned to the South Pole Station construction group which erected one of the key U.S. scientific stations at a previously virtually inaccessible location. During these periods, your competence, integrity, moral courage, ruggedness and untiring efforts contributed materially to the success of Operation Deepfreeze.
Under the most adverse conditions, in complete isolation and subjected to frequent blizzards and sub-zero temperatures during a four month continuous Antarctic night your personal achievements were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. Well Done.
/s/ George Dufek
In 1957, Woody returned to the U.S. where he again settled into the life of a stateside Navy corpsman. From 1957 to 1960, he was assigned to the NAS at Green Cove Springs, FL, which is where my wife and her next older sister were born in '59 and '58, respectively. While there, aside from his routine duties, he was assigned as "riding crew" for a couple of weeks in July, 1960, to the USS AFDB-7 (Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock)
, which the following year was renamed the USS Los Alamos
and towed to Holy Loch, Scotland. From the timing, I believe Woody was likely a member of the crew sent to remove AFDB-7 from storage in preparation for its refitting.
In Oct 60, Woody transferred to the Oakland Naval Hospital, and from Dec 60 to May 61, he attended a field sanitation school there. He also completed high school by earning his G.E.D. in Dec 60. In Jun 61, according to his personnel file, Woody left the U.S. for unspecified sea duty, and in Nov 61 he was assigned to the 3rd Medical Bn, 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa. Woody's last child was born in September 1961.
Several times, Woody told us that he had been sent with the Marines to Southeast Asia in the early sixties. According to him, the Marine unit he was assigned to conducted combat patrols near and in Laos, though they weren't supposed to be in Laos. There is no direct mention of such a deployment in Woody's personnel files; however, the following evidence supports his claims:
1. In May 62, the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) was deployed to Udorn, Thailand as part of Task Force 116, in response to the military destabilization of Laos. The 3rd MEB was formed from some units of the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa. While in Thailand, the Marines conducted patrols and, starting in May 1962, "U.S. troops began combined military exercises with Thai forces to acclimate American personnel to the terrain and weather of Thailand. By the first week of July, when U.S. Combat strength peaked, some 5,000 American reinforcements had arrived in Thailand." By 30 July, the 5,000 marines had been withdrawn. (from Force Without War: U.S. Armed Forces as a Political Instrument By Barry M. Blechman and Stephen S. Kaplan)
2. Woody's Enlisted Performance Record (pg. 9) shows that he was transferred from H&S Co., 3rd Medical Bn to C Co., 3rd Med Bn, 3rd MarDiv on 28 May 62, and that he was transferred back to H&S Co, on 6 July 62. This coincides with the dates of the TF-116 deployment.
3. Woody had by this time a great deal of emergency and combat medical experience, and had served in combat with the Marines previously. He had also recently been trained extensively in field sanitation techniques, so it would only make sense for him to deploy with the force.
I never knew Woody to exaggerate or make up stories. In fact, he usually tended to underrate his achievements or his role in events, and this was no exception. In his story, he was 'poopin' & stompin' with the Marines somewhere in Laos, and it was during that mission that he decided he'd had enough of those people trying to kill him, and that he was going to retire as soon as he could rather than give them another chance. That was all he ever said about it, except that he realized at the time that it would not be long before the U.S. would be in another war over there, and he wanted no part of it.
In Aug 62, Woody returned to the States to Camp Pendleton. Initially, he was assigned to HQ Bn, 1st MarDiv, but on 24 Oct 62, he was transferred back to the 3rd Bn, 7th Marines for deployment aboard the USS Renville (APA-227)
as part of the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB). On 25 Oct, the 5th MEB departed California, and sailed through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean in anticipation of a war in Cuba (the 'Cuban Missile Crisis'). A memorandum sent to President Kennedy by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 16 Nov 62 stated, in part:
Status of Readiness for the Cuban Operation
1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are glad to report that our Armed Forces are in an optimum posture to execute CINCLANT OPLANS 312-62 (Air Attack in Cuba)(1) and 316-62 (Invasion of Cuba).(2) We are not only ready to take any action you may order in Cuba, we are also in an excellent condition world-wide to counter any Soviet military response to such action....
2. In response to your request, we have studied the need for augmentation of forces for CINCLANT OPLAN 316-62 and have concluded that while the forces originally included in the plan are probably adequate, it would be prudent to earmark additional forces as a ready reserve for the operation. Accordingly....the 5th MEB (Marine Expeditionary Brigade), at approximately 9,000 strength, has transited the Panama Canal, is in the Caribbean, and has been added to the assault force.
Upon his return from the Gulf of Mexico in Dec 62, Woody was assigned to H&S Co., 3rd Amphibious Tractor (AmTrac) Bn, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. He was with the 3rd AmTrac Bn until Aug 64, and the only item of note that shows up in his personnel file from that time is that he "was issued two pair of winter underwear for Operation Winter-Night
." The note is interesting for two reasons: 1) Winter-Night took place at Twentynine Palms, CA from 29 Feb-9 Mar 64 but Woody's file shows he was issued the items on 3 Apr, 2) Winter-Night was an exercise in which Marines practiced "counter-guerrilla operations, helicopter team troop movements, and day and night air support." Marine medium helicopter squadron-365 (HMM-365) was part of that exercise, and in Sep 64, after another six months training, that unit deployed to Vietnam as one of the first regular USMC aviation units assigned in-country (it was not, however, the first USMC helicopter unit in Vietnam).
Woody, on the other hand, never went back to Asia. In Aug 64, he was transferred back to Florida, to NAS Sanford (today Orlando-Sanford International Airport), and he served there until he was released from active duty to the Fleet Reserve Force on 2 Jun 1966, on which date his total time in-service was calculated at 22 years, 7 months. His rate at the time was HM1, or Hospital Corpsman 1st Class. Woody's primary and secondary NJCs at the time of his transfer were HM-8432 Preventive Medicine Technician (primary) and HM-8485 Psychiatry Technician (secondary).
From Florida, Woody returned to Coleman, Texas where he worked for a while before landing a job as an exterminator in Flagstaff, AZ. Then, in the early '70s, he took a job on Ft. Huachuca, AZ as a water treatment plant operator, and that's where he worked, both as civil servant and contractor until he finally retired from all full-time work in 1989. I first met Woody in 1980, when I was stationed at Huachuca and began dating his daughter.
Life was not nearly as adventurous for Woody after he left the Navy, but it wasn't an easy life either. He worked hard at a number of physically trying jobs before he was employed at Ft. Huachuca, and he had to deal with a number of unhappy personal issues, including two divorces (from the same woman), a fair bit of family strife, increasingly troublesome diabetes, and a second wife who committed suicide. In truth, he sometimes felt a bit let down by the way life turned out, but he never wallowed in self-pity or allowed anything to keep him down for long.
Woody was one of the most easygoing men I've known, intelligent and fairly well-read, but not highly educated, gentle-spoken yet a little on the earthy side, and—when he was not dealing with illness or the troubles of age, diabetes, and stroke—he was always full of good will matched by a pleasant, good humored demeanor. In fact, he was almost always congenial and friendly (embarrassingly so sometimes) and he never went anywhere he didn't make a friend or have someone to chat with. He was also loyal to a fault, especially to his family, which is just one of the reasons he is still missed by so many people, even today, including his Deepfreeze companions who still attend the biennial reunions.
Of course, Woody was human, and sometimes he was a difficult man to like, especially as he got older and more frustrated with the obstacles of age and the challenges of retired life. Even so, after my second step-father, Woody was the closest thing I had to a father. He always made me welcome and he treated me as one of his family, even when I didn't want him to. Also, among other things, he taught me how to give injections so I could administer medicine to my wife ("Practice on an orange," he said, and it worked); he taught me how to ride a motorcycle, though I still don't like them; and he took me around with him on his rounds at Ft. Huachuca late at night, which was actually a neat experience. We ate and worked together hundreds of times and we spent lots of time just shooting the breeze, during which I got to know him pretty well. All in all, ours was an interesting and generally rewarding relationship, and I feel privileged to have known him.
Unexpectedly, the more I've learned about Woody while writing this, the less I am able to think of him without feeling a mix of both awe and pity. Certainly, he wouldn't want anyone to feel sorry for him, and he would have sincerely scoffed at the notion that he'd had a bad life, but he was always one for putting the best face on things and for turning a blind eye to unpleasantness; moreover, he always hoped for and expected the best from people, and he was generally forgiving and charitable when they disappointed him. More than anything, I feel it speaks volumes about the quality of the stock he came from and the strength of his character that he was until the end of his life a genuinely kind man who wanted nothing more than to live in peace, without strife, and who was always willing to lend a hand to whomever asked.
Teddy Roosevelt said, "The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight—that he shall not be a mere passenger." My wife's father was not a mere
passenger, but to that I will add that if the measure of a life is whether or not the World is a better place at the end of that life than when it began, then Floyd Woody certainly left this world with a full tally. He was not a perfect man, but his flaws were trivial compared to his virtues, and the world is without question better for his having been here. We should all hope to have done so well.
Floyd Anderson Woody
13 Aug 1926 - 24 Jan 1997
Notes & Information Sources:
Information sources for this biography included Woody's official military personnel file; privately owned papers and photographs; hardbound published unit yearbooks
or memory books
; recorded cassette tapes, personal recollections, anecdotes, and remembrances, and on-line records. Some of the latter included:
- Navy Corpsman Information
- WWII: Okinawa
- Korea: Operations Windmill, Summit, & Bumblebee
On 13 Sep 51, Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (HMR) 161 (flying Sikorsky HRS-1s) "commenced Operation Windmill in support of the First Marine Division, when it airlifted supplies a distance of 7 miles from a base camp to a forward operating area." The mission comprised 28 flights that delivered 18,848 pounds of supplies and evacuated 74 seriously wounded Marines." On 21 Sep, during Operation Summit, "12 helicopters carried 224 combat troops and some 18,000 pounds of equipment a distance of 14 miles to occupy Hill 884," and in mid-October, in Operation Bumblebee HMR-161 transported an entire Marine battalion (3rd Bn, 7th Marines) and its equipment to a frontline position, northeast of Yanggu, Korea. All of these operations were firsts
, and as such HMR-161 had the distinction of being "the first helicopter transport squadron in the world
"Operation Bumblebee kicked off at 1000 on 11 October. Twelve HRS-1 helicopters working at about 30 second intervals and flying nap of the earth 15-mile routes, carried 958 passengers and more than 11 tons of supplies from airfield X-77 to Hill 702 using 156 individual flights in a total elapsed time of little more than six hours."
Marine Helicopters in Korean War
USMC Helicopters in Korea (.pdf file)
U.S. Marine Operations in Korea 1950-1953, Vol IV(.pdf file)
- Antarctica: Operation Deepfreeze
- Thailand & Laos (16 May-10 Aug 62)
Use of Forces Abroad (1962 entries)
A Chronology of the USMC, 1947-1964 (.pdf file)
Force Without War: U.S. Armed Forces as a Political Instrument
, By Barry M. Blechman, Stephen S. Kaplan (as displayed on Google Books, pages 144-147)
- Cuban Missile Crisis
Use of Forces Abroad (1962 entries)
A Chronology of the USMC, 1947-1964 (.pdf file)
- 2LT G. H. Ramer Medal Of Honor info
MoH citation for Marine 2LT George Ramer
- Unit: 3rd Bn, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division
Battle of the Punchbowl
Korean Service Medal/Battle Stars
- Unit: Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-365 [HMM-365] (Winter Night
- Unit: SeaBees
History of the Seabees
- Ship: LSTs 812 & 838 (two 130th CBs landing Ships)
- Ship: SS President Johnson
- Ship: USNS General William Weigel (T-AP-119)
- Ship: USS AFDB-7 (later the USS Los Alamos)
- Ship: USS Renville (APA-227)
- Ship: USS Saratoga (CV3)
USS Saratoga (CV-3) History
USS Saratoga (CV-3)
Minor changes were made to this essay on 24 Nov 09, 2 Jan 10, & 16 Nov 11; updated links & made minor corrections, 11 Oct 20.