U.S. Army & Navy Korean & Vietnam Wars Alsip, IL Flight date: 06/06/18
By Donna S. Pacanowski, Honor Flight Chicago Veteran Interviews Volunteer
Arnold R. Painter Jr. comes from a long family tradition of military service. His great-grandfather, served in the Confederacy in the Civil War. His grandfather served under General Pershing during the Mexican Expedition from 1916-1917. His father’s career in the military included both World War II and the Korean War.
“Arnie” was born on March 14, 1937 in the Army Hospital at Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia. But a short time later, the family was assigned to another military post. Arnie’s mother was fluent in several languages, especially German. Once WWII was declared, she was hired as translator for her German language skills, vital to World War II. When Arnie’s father left for service overseas, the family remained on base because of his mother’s job. The young family included Arnie’s older sister, and a younger adopted brother.
After World War II, the family was reunited and moved to a farm around Hampton, Virginia. By 1949, they had made another move to a military base in Canton, Ohio, as Arnie’s father continued in his military career. Soon, Arnie’s father was sent to Korea. The family continued to live on the base to take advantage of the good education provided for the children in the base school. Arnie completed his high school education at an early age with the help of his older sister. In June 1952, Arnie, by now a strapping teenager at 6’01” and 220 lbs, showed up at the base Enlistment Office to enlist. When Arnold Jr. decided it was his turn to continue the “family business,” he may have been a little too hasty!
During the winter and spring of 1953, the Communist forces kept extreme and fierce pressure on United Nations forces while negotiating a ceasefire. Arnie was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for Basic Infantry Training and by November, 1952 found himself in Korea. There, he was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, his father’s unit. In a Division of 20,000 men, Arnie thought it was unlikely that anyone would make the connection, or that they would ever meet.
By the summer of 1953, Arnie was promoted to 1st Sergeant. During the fierce battle around Pork Chop Hill, 1st Sergeant (E7) Arnold R. Painter Jr., was wounded when he took a bayonet to his midsection. He was able to successfully dispatch his assailant with his .45 caliber sidearm. His next recollection was waking up on a hospital ship, recovering from his injuries. As fate would have it, in the bed next to him was none other than Arnold R. Painter, Arnie’s father, who was recovering from his fourth eye operation. As soon as Arnie Sr. was able to focus, he recognized his son, and stated, “Arnie, (expletives deleted !) what are you doing here? ” The 1st Sergeant immediately notified the Army that his son, Arnie Jr. was only 16, and had lied on his enlistment papers. Arnie Jr’s enlistment was nullified as a fraudulent enlistment; he was stripped of all rank, awards and medals, and after recovery, was shipped home!
By December of 1954, Arnie decided to try something new. Back home with his family, he saw that his younger brother was ready to enlist in the Navy. Arnie, now 18, and his brother enlisted together. Arnie took his Basic Naval Training at Bainbridge, Maryland, followed by Aviation Training in Submarine Detection, with a side trip to Fort Benning, Georgia for Parachute Jump School. On completion of training, he was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Antietam, (CVS-36). Again, fate intervened; his great-grandfather was probably smiling down on Arnie, as James Hill Painter had fought with the 4th Virginia Infantry at the Battle of Antietam in the Civil War.
Arnie was next assigned to the crew of a Grumman S2F (Submarine Warfare Aircraft). He was responsible for deploying and monitoring equipment during many missions in the China Sea. During one mission, Arnie’s plane had to ditch in the sea near the island of Formosa. After eight hours, a Navy tender rescued the entire crew.
While in the Navy, Arnie attained the rank of Aircraft Boatswain’s Mate (Petty Officer, Third Class). He received the Naval Air Crewmen Combat Badge, the China Service Medal, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Good Conduct Medal (Navy) and the National Defense Service Medal. Arnie had been on sea duty during most of his time in the Navy and shore duty did not seem likely for several more years.
After his tour of duty in the Navy, Arnie decided to try the Army again. By October, 1958 he was back in Basic Combat Training as a Private First Class at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Instead of Infantry, he opted for Artillery Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Like his father and grandfather, Arnie had found his career. By 1969, Arnie had finished foreign duty assignments in Korea, Germany and Italy, and had four tours in Vietnam. Arnie had traveled around the world twice! Arnie left the Army on a Compassionate Discharge, after his wife was seriously injured in an auto accident.
After a period of time in the Army Reserve, in 1973, Arnie again found himself serving his country on active duty. As an Army Recruiter based at Fort Sheridan, he was assigned to detached duty in the Chicagoland area. While working out of the Bridgeview, IL Recruiting Office, he met his second wife, Diane who worked next door. Arnie and Diane have now been married for 37 years and have successfully blended two families, with two children of their own. They have eight children, 36 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
Arnie retired from the Army on November 30, 1982, with the rank of Sergeant First Class (E-7). During his Army career, he received the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Good Conduct Medal (Army), the Army Service Medal, the Overseas Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, and a Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Palm from the Republic of Vietnam.
Today, Arnie is active in many veteran organizations, including the Tinley Park VFW, Korean War Veterans Assn., the Disabled American Veterans, and the Blue Island American Legion. Arnie is an active “muzzleloading musket” enthusiast, involved in shooting competitions throughout the Midwest. Arnie dresses in the uniform his great-grandfather would have worn as a member of E Company, 56th Virginia. His muzzleloader is an original Potsdam 1837 .72 caliber, which was used during the Civil War. He has won several ribbons in competitions.
Arnie, we honor you for your sacrifice and bravery during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Enjoy your well-deserved trip with Honor Flight Chicago.