Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tribute to the passing of a Giant of a Man, Captain Tony Schneider

A friend back in Albuquerque called to tell me about the passing of a true hero who had a profound impact on my life. Here is the obit as it ran in the Albuquerque Journal:

SCHNEIDER -- Tony Schneider, 92, passed away October 16, 2010. Those who wish to express condolences may do so at: Tony's care has been entrusted to: Daniels Family Funeral Services 7601 Wyoming Blvd, NE Albuquerque, NM 87109 (505) 821-0010

Plain and simple it hides a huge Man and true hero, recalled to active duty in God’s own Navy.

Let me explain. I knew him as Captain TF Schneider, Naval Science Instructor. For three years he was one of two men in my High School Junior ROTC program that were Naval Science Instructors. The one was a crusty Senior Chief that came out of Submarines (SSBN’s). He was our “Military” instructor and taught us infantry drill, marching and standing in formation. We actually carried old rifles (1903 Springfield’s with lead poured down the bore) which today would make todays Public School Administrators crap their pants. But the Senior Chief was good for a cup of coffee and great modern sea stories.

That's me in the middle of the top row, circa 1973.

The real “Naval Science” was taught by the Captain. An unassuming man who preached to us Naval History, Sea Power and seamanship of all things, way out in the desert west of Albuquerque. But preach he did, three days a week we took his lectures; the other two day’s were given up to the Senior Chief. We saw everyone of the Victory at Sea movies, the good Captain had lectures designed around each episode. He was a former Naval Aviator and the oldest sea story we ever got out of him went all the way back to the day Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. He was assigned to the USS Enterprise and flew his first combat air patrol on that day, searching for the Japanese fleet.

This is the Captain as I remember him, always the teacher, always the role model. Couldn't have asked for better.

After graduation I was one of the many that joined the Navy right out of High School. I was more than prepared thanks to both the Captain and the Senior Chief. After maybe 4 or 5 weeks into Basic training I was sent off to take the Basic Test Battery to determine what kind of school or job specialty I was to get as I was at that point in time undesignated. Once the scores came back I was sent again to see the Career Councilor to pick that Rating and to fill out my “Dream sheet” as it’s called. This is the list of preferred duty stations.

I had high test scores and was told I could go into any job the Navy had. So, I did some figuring. I wanted aviation; I wanted to work on the flight deck of an Aircraft Carrier. But deep in my mind the gears were turning. I remembered the lessons taught by that unassuming Captain. The Big lesson he taught was of how in two consecutive World War’s, the Free world had been brought to its knees because of Submarines.

But, deeper inside was a more subtle lesson, that Anti-Submarine Warfare (or ASW) had turned back the Submarine menace and allowed not just the Naval Forces free reign on the oceans but the commercial shipping which in both war’s allowed beleaguered nations to continue the Fight.

It was also the lack of any ASW that gave our Navy’s submarines free reign in the Pacific. A force that represented only 2% of the entire Navy accounted for 55% of Japan’s maritime losses (from “Silent Victory” by Clay Blair, Jr.). An astonishing figure that was allowed because Japan fielded only a token ASW force.

So it was ASW for me and in Naval Aviation there were only two ratings that were supposed to be devoted to ASW, AX and AW. The first of these is the Electronics Technician that specialized in ASW equipment, the latter is Operator of ASW equipment, he flies in the aircraft. The former worked the Flight Deck.

I filled out the various paper work requesting the AX as first priority and AW as the second. Of course the Career Councilor laughed at me saying that both schools took months to get into, the waiting list was 6-months long. He prepared me for the Aviation Boatswain’s Mate job which would have been ok since it would have gotten me to a flight deck.

But luck was with me and I was sent from Boot Camp to “A” School to learn Aviation Electronics and to further specialize in ASW equipments. I was assigned to VS-31 and their mission was Anti Submarine Warfare. Carrier based ASW.

There were other lessons learned in those steel portable buildings that were used for the NJROTC program at my high school. Lessons like getting the job done at all costs, watching out for you shipmate and that we were all serving in the finest Naval Force the world had ever seen.

All from this unassuming Captain. And who was he really?

Well, from Wikipedia (yes he has a Wikipedia entry) he was Dive Bomber Pilot (the Douglass Dauntless SBD) who flew from not just the Enterprise but also from the USS Yorktown, the USS Lexington and from Henderson Field on the Island of Guadalcanal. He was shot down once, ran another aircraft out of fuel looking for the enemy during the fighting at Midway Island and participated in the sinking of the largest battleship ever built, the Japanese Battleship Yamato. He supported the invasions of not just Guadalcanal but also, the defense of Wake Island, the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He also flew combat mission to the main Island of Japan and was there for the surrender as Commanding Officer of Bombing Squadron 9.

This unassuming Man was awarded the Navy Cross twice and the Distinguished Flying Cross three times.

And somehow ended up in Albuquerque teaching High School Naval Science, how lucky were we!

Fair Winds and Following Sea’s Captain Schneider. You had a profound influence on my life, one I am sure you are only now becoming aware of. I missed my chance back in the summer to reconnect with you and I will regret that forever, or until we meet again in that great Ready Room of the Heavens. Rest in Peace.

BT: Jimmy T sends.


Bag Blog said...

Captain Schneider sounds like an amazing man. It takes a special person to work with young people and have patience and point them in the right direction. It is good of you to recognize his importance in your life. 92! Wow!

JimmyT said...

Lou, so true your words regarding working with kids. He came to Albuquerque after he had served in many staff positions that could have been turned into a Consaultants job but instead retired to be a professor at UNM. It was through the UNM that we received his astute wisdom when they hosted the Junior ROTC program in my High School.

I remember only a few other adults outside my immediate family (Mother and Father and my older Brother) that had the impact on my life that this gentle and compasionate man had on me. What a wonderful person.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Anonymous said...

I attended Captain Schneiders memorial service on Veterans day which was ironically his birthday. He wound have been 94 on that day.It was good to see young and old there to honor him. Tony had an interesting and complex life. He is a true Hero.old school type. When asked about all the action he saw in the pacific, He just stated " it was just my job" There were many old and new photos of his life, with and without the Navy. One of the last photos of him was on a bicycle,wearing a helmet and a huge smile. God Bless you Skipper. Henry Harrison