Collectible coins popular with military

This Memorial Day weekend, it might be interesting to know that collectible coins have long been popular with members of the military. The American Legion, on the cusp of its 100th anniversary, is aiming to get Congress to mark the centennial with a limited-edition commemorative coin. This is to raise public awareness of the veterans organization, but money earned will raise awareness for the Legion’s outstanding programs as well.

There is a U.S.A. Vietnam War Commemoration lapel pin that is a lasting memento of the nation’s thanks and to honor the military veterans who served during that war, too.

Roger Sliva, past commander of Adena Post 525, applied for and received acceptance for the Adena Legion to be a Vietnam War Commemoration Partner and has presented programs in remembrance of the war where he served and lost an Adena High School friend, Dale Stock.

We go back even further to World War II, where most Americans today were not even adults and have no understanding of its magnitude.

At that time, 276,000 aircraft were manufactured in the United States, while some 43,000 planes were lost overseas, including 23,000 in combat and 14,000 lost in the continental United States.

The U.S. civilian population maintained a dedicated effort for four years, working long hours, seven days per week and often volunteering for other work. The war was the largest civilian effort in history. These statistics are from the Flight Journal magazine and sent in by Natalie Doty several years ago.

Germany’s invasion of Poland was Sept. 1, 1939, and the war ended with Japan’s surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. From 1942 onward, America averaged 170 planes a day lost.

There were 9.7 billion gallons of gasoline consumed from 1942 through 1945, with 107.8 million hours flown from 1943-45 and 459.7 billion rounds of aircraft ammo fired overseas from 1942-1945. There were 7.9 million bombs dropped overseas from 1943-45, 2.3 million combat sorties, or take-offs, from 1941-45, with 299,230 aircraft accepted from 1940-45; 808,471 aircraft engines accepted in the same time, as were 799,972 propellers. The most produced combat aircraft was the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik at 36,183.

According to the American Air Force Statistical Digest, in less than four years, 1941-45, the Army

Air Forces lost 14,903 pilots, aircrew and assorted personnel plus 13,873 airplanes inside the continental United States. This was the result of 52,651 aircraft accidents, with 6,039 involving fatalities in 45 months. They average nearly 40 a day. Less than one accident in four resulted in totalled aircraft however.

Almost 1,000 Army planes disappeared enroute from the U.S. to foreign climes. A mouth-dropping 43,581 aircraft were lost overseas, including 22,948 on combat missions against the Western Axis and 20,633 attributed to non-combat causes overseas.

On the average 6,600 American service men died per month during WWII, about 220 a day. By war’s end, more than 40,000 airmen were captured. Half of the 5,400 held by the Japanese died in captivity, compared with one-third in German hands. Total casualties were 121,867.

Whether there will be another war like WWII is doubtful. Fighters and bombers gave way to helicopters and remote-controlled drones over Afghanistan and Iraq. But within living memory, airmen left the ground in 1,000 plane formations and fought major battles five miles high, leaving a legacy that remains timeless.

John L. Harrison Jr., 96, was one of America’s first black airmen, being part of nearly 1,000 pilots training as a segregated unit within the Army Air Force, and died March 22. Ambrose Bolling often talked about knowing him.

The Jefferson County Veterans Service Commission started a coffee- and-doughnuts hour back in January, and other Legion posts have carried it on. I became friends with Schelley Brooks, county Veterans Service Commission executive director, and she asked the Steubenville American Legion David Walker Post 274 and the Adena Post 525 to host coffee-and- doughnut sessions to bring veterans together. They are intended to give the service men and women a chance to get together and talk. At the Adena post, Fred Koehler was recognized for his contribution in the battle for freedom in World War II, so long ago.

The Amsterdam VFW Post 232 will host the “All About Veterans” breakfast June 21 at 412 Liberty St. Veterans and their families are invited. Schelley addresses her e-mails as “Knock, knock,” saying she always knocks before given entrance to a house or business and feels she should do the same with e-mails.

There was the war in Korea that took place from 1950-53. Though most attention has focused on the war’s first year, bloody fighting persisted throughout the entire war. Some 46 percent of the American casualties were sustained between mid-1951 and 1953.

On March 29, 1973, the last combat troops withdrew from Vietnam, and the last prisoners of war held in North Vietnam arrived on American soil. It is the date President Richard Nixon chose for the first Vietnam Veterans Day in 1974.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. It would be nice to go to a program and pay homage to those who served, perhaps died or were wounded fighting for us. And don’t forget to thank a veteran for his service.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is a staff columnist and food editor with the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronline.com.)

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