Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Walter Stinner, who served as an aviation ordnance man in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1968.
Walter Stinner was born in July 1947 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After graduating from high school, Stinner enlisted in the Navy in 1965 at age 17 to see the world. He went to Great Lakes, Illinois, for basic training, which he described as a “rude awakening,” but he learned discipline and adapted well to the military lifestyle.
Following basic training, Stinner attended Naval Aviation Ordnance school in Jacksonville, Florida, learning how to prepare bombs, arms and missiles on an aircraft. He joined aviation ordnance and went to USS Saratoga, an aircraft carrier, with Attack Squadron 106. In 1966, Stinner spent seven months aboard USS Saratoga in the Mediterranean Sea. He worked on the flight deck as a final checker, ensuring the aircraft was armed and ready to fire. He endured the “dangerous working atmosphere,” and enjoyed visiting Italy, Spain, Malta and Greece.
In October 1966, Stinner returned from the Mediterranean and trained for combat situations at Naval Air Station (NAS) Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
He joined USS Forrestal in March 1967, which began its journey in Norfolk, Virginia, and traveled to the Caribbean for training. In July 1967, USS Forrestal docked at Subic Bay in the Philippines and rested for one week before sailing to Yankee Station off the coast of North Vietnam. There, Stinner worked long days loading 250 to 1,000-pound bombs onto aircraft.
On July 29, 1967, an explosion on the flight deck caused over 20 planes to blow up. Stinner and the crew worked hard to avoid further explosions by pushing planes off the ship while the fire crew addressed the initial explosion. Their actions saved many lives on USS Forrestal, as well as the ship from destruction. On that day, 134 sailors, including many of Stinner’s friends, lost their lives and 161 were injured. USS Forrestal cut the nine month deployment short, sailing back to Subic Bay and then to Norfolk, Virginia.
Stinner spent the rest of his time in the Navy at NAS Cecil Field and on USS Intrepid. He honorably discharged as a petty officer third class on May 31, 1968.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.