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Coming Events in support of USWDA, Chapter 1

Avenue of Heroes Coronado, CA January 1, 2017

State Highway Route 282 from Orange Avenue in the City of Coronado to Naval Air Station North Island has been designated as a Blue Star Memorial Highway, one of only four higways so designated in the state of California. This same roadway has been designated by the City of Coronado as the Avenue of Heroes, the venue for Coronado's Hometown Heroes banner program.

The inspiration for Coronado's Avenue of Heroes came spontaneously with the movement of two Navy SEALs to their final resting place. The news spread quickly. The local Rotary Club passed out American flags, schools were dismissed early and teachers brought students to line Fourth Street to honor the fallen service members. As the procession approached the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, just beyond the toll booth in the center divide, a lone Navy SEAL stood for hours at attention, saluting as he waited for the passage of his comrades. At that moment, it was clear that Third and Fourth Streets were an Avenue of Heroes and deserving of true recognition.

The Avenue of Heroes more recently served as the backdrop for the funeral procession on May 13 for Charles Keating, a Navy SEAL killed in combat in Iraq.

Avenue Of Heroes Banner Recipient ... Commander John R. McCants, USN

Commander John R. McCants rarely if ever acknowledged his accomplishment or honors earned during a distinguished forty year career in the service of his country.

His is the story of a Navy Aviation career that found its humble beginnings on a bone dry Montana farm and horse ranch. Like so many before and after him, the military and war would shape and then define Commander McCants.

After enlistment, McCants would soon transition into the then new field of aviation, climbing to the rank of Chief Machinist Mate. The events that followed on the morning of May 15, 1941 would make McCants a national hero.

Early that morning, McCants and his fellow aviator William Lowrey would sight what appeared to be a tangled chute under the tail rigging of a Marine DC 3.

The Corps had been holding "jump" drills over North Island that week, and it appeared that a paratrooper had entangled in the tail section rigging of the DC3 jump plane during deployment.

McCants and Lowrey would fuel up the trainer, take to skies, and after several attempts, with McCants standing in the rear cockpit of the trainer, would cut Walter Osipoff's rigging, successfully dropping him into the rear cockpit of the plane.

Following this daring open cockpit air rescue over North Island, Coronado of Marine Lt. Walter S. Osipoff, with fellow airman Lieutenant William Lowrey at the controls, John R. McCants was awarded Naval Aviation's highest honor, the Distinguished Flying Cross, by the President of the United States.

Although Commander McCants in later years would brush the event of as "simply performing his duty," he would soon earn his wings, flying more than 3,000 hours in the wartime pacific -- skippering Admiral "Bull" Halsey's PB 2Y3, with the Secretary of the Navy and many distinguished political dignitaries on board -- including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

For more information on how to nominate a banner recipient, you can go to the Avenue of Heroes webpage on the City of Coronado website at: In addition, application forms may be picked up at either City Hall or the Coronado Historical Museum.
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From left: Chief Andy Mills, Capt. "Ski" Kaine, Cdr "Diz" Laird, and Cdr Nate Murphy

Avenue Of Heroes: The Boys Together Again

Four honorees from Coronado's Avenue of Heroes/Banner Program came together to ride in the annual Coronado Fourth Of July Parade.

Chief Andy Mills: Enlisting in a segregated navy in 1934, teenager Andy Mills rose from chief steward to the commanding officer of USS Yorktown. At the Battle of Midway, Andy had to open the safe just before four torpedoes hit. He lived in Coronado, on Orange Avenue, right between the Chief of Police and an Admiral in the 1930's. His proud family joined him, in what was once the 1920's sex symbol Mae West's Packard.

Captain "Ski" Kaine: "Ski" Kaine is a "real deal" Navy Top Gun Fighter Pilot with two Nobel Peace Prize nominations ... One in 2003 and then a runner up in 2014. Joining the Navy for an education, the Pennsylvania son of a coal miner, with a public high school education, was soon advanced to Navy Flight Training and became a teenage Ensign Naval Aviator. He lives in Coronado with his wife Anne.

Commander "Diz" Laird: Coronado resident "Diz" Laird is an aviation legend. He is the only navy Ace to achieve air victories over both German and Japanese enemy planes during World War II. He's served in three wars, qualified in 99 different aircrafts, and was lead stunt pilot in 1969 for 20th Century Fox's movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!" He was accompanied by his best friend, his three-year-old granddaughter Eva.

Commander Nate Murphy: Nate Murphy is a World War II Guadalcanal Veteran, one of the fiercest fought battles in the Pacific. Twice decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Nate flew over fifty dive-bomber missions and is one of the few surviving veterans of the "Cactus Air Force." Commander Murphy was assigned to carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) when she was struck and sunk by three torpedoes in the Pacific Theatre in 1942. Nate is a long time Coronado resident."
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