Originally posted by Scott Tarkenton and Erik Grunwald

Two of our own members spoke to the club Wednesday April 1 about their respective fathers’ military service. It was a poignant talk from both men that gave us some background about who our friends are and where they came from.

View Erik and Scott’s presentation here:

Erik Grunwald’s father was Capt. Harry H. Grunwald, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps.

The following tribute was written by Erik.

My paternal grandfather left Germany after WWI for the US. My dad was the first born of the Grunwalds in the US. He had two younger brothers. All three of them would become Marines.

Harry H. Grünwald, Jr. joined the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. After tiring of crawling through the mud, as an enlisted man, he decided to become a fighter pilot. He graduated from Officer Candidate School and was immediately selected for flight school. He soon found himself seated in the cockpit of some of the the hottest fighter planes in the USMC.

“Naval aviators” are trained to take off and land on aircraft carriers. One of my best friends was a naval aviator in the USMC. He loved to describe, with great enthusiasm, just how difficult it was to land a fighter jet onto the pitching deck of a carrier. Like Capt. Grunwald, my buddy knew of the inherent danger of naval aviation. Still, the thrill of flying a fighter jet was overwhelming.

On May 3, 1962, my dad was near the end of a 6 month tour of duty on the USS Shangri-La(CVA-38) in the Mediterranean Sea. Capt. Grunwald’s flight log notes a beautiful morning “hop” (flight) over Italy and back to the carrier. Later that day, due to some pilots being ill, the squadron commander asked for volunteers to fill in. To complete the full mission of the squadron, some healthy pilots were needed. My dad was all too willing to go back up in his F8 Crusader that afternoon!

Once, again, his flight was uneventful. He made a perfect landing. As he taxied over to the elevator ( to hangar his plane) his tires contacted oil and other debris. This debris accumulates during the launch of aircraft. It’s supposed to be monitored and kept to a minimum. The protective barrier, near the edge of the carrier hadn’t been repaired from an earlier accident. As he lost traction and was headed toward the damaged barrier, a huge wave hit the carrier and tossed his F8 into the sea. After a snowball effect of mistakes my father and his jet sank. Capt. Grunwald was 31.

Off the coast of Sicily, on May 9, 1969, a fisherman got his nets caught on Capt. Grunwald’s plane. He’s now buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He’s between the mast of The Battleship Maine and the Challenger Memorial, just across the street from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Amphitheater. He died doing exactly what he loved to do.

Scott Tarkenton’s father was Lt Col. James C. Tarkenton, Jr., U.S. Army.

The following tribute was written by Scott.

My father was a member of the Greatest Generation. Like so many during that period in our country’s history, he answered the call to defend our country against Hitler in Germany, and five years later, against the spread of communism in Korea.

A battalion commander in the 13th Infantry Regiment of the 8th Infantry Division, my father landed at Omaha Beach – Normandy. For the next year the 8th Infantry Division pushed through Northern France to Luxembourg and into central Germany. He received a Silver Star for valor and a Purple Heart for wounds he sustained. His unit liberated a concentration camp of ~2,500. The local German residents, who claimed to have no knowledge of what was happening at the camp, were forced to bury the many bodies found at the camp. On one occasion, my father remembered his unit received reports of a very high velocity German antitank gun, called an “88”, positioned somewhere to his unit’s front. The weapon was extremely lethal and claimed many American lives. He interrogated two German prisoners, but they would not reveal the location of the 88. So my father had the two German soldiers sit on the hood of his jeep as he lead his unit down the road. It wasn’t long before the two prisoners became visibly nervous as the jeep approached a bend in the road. My father stopped the column, dispatched dismounted troops through the woods, and there was the German 88. They wasted no time in eliminating the position and my father’s unit proceeded without any loss of life. My father removed a Nazi banner hanging on a building in an unnamed German town. He brought that banner home and its one of my most prized possessions.

About five years after the end of WWII, my parents were stationed in Tokyo, Japan. General Douglas MacArthur was the United States’ Commander in the Pacific at the time, also based in Tokyo. My parents told me when Gen. MacArthur would go to work in the morning, his limousine was preceded by military police motorcycles with sirens blaring. When Gen. MacArthur’s limousine approached, Japanese on either side of the road would bow as he passed, a sign of respect and acknowledgment that he was viewed as a conqueror by the Japanese. When the Chinese crossed the 38th Parallel in June 1950, my father was told he had 24 hrs to assemble an intelligence staff and fly to Korea. For the next 18 months of the Korean War, LTC James C. Tarkenton, Jr. was the 8th Army G-2, a position normally held by a full colonel. He reported on all intelligence matters on the Korean Peninsula, reporting to Gen. Ridgeway. My father said he had one regret from his time in Korea. Once, when interrogating a North Korean or Chinese prisoner of war, the prisoner spit in my father’s face. Without thinking my father hit the prisoner and knocked him to the floor. It amazed me that given the significant loss of life and suffering our troops endured in Korea, that so many years later my father was still haunted by that split second loss of control when he struck the enemy soldier. My was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his exemplary performance of duty as 8th Army G-2 during the Korean War. The Central Intelligence Agency also recognized my father for the key role he played in providing timely and accurate intelligence estimates, so important to our ground commanders. I was born in Tokyo, Japan on January 31, 1951. My father was still in Korea. My mother and I, and my older brother Jim, returned to the United States on a military transport ship.

Lt. Col. James C. Tarkenton, Jr. passed away at the age of 69 and is buried at the Ft Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX. Alongside him are my mother, and my brother 1Lt James C. Tarkenton III, killed in action in Vietnam in 1967.