Slain Riverside PD Officer was USMC vet

Undated composite image of Officer Michael Crain and American flag distributed by Riverside Police Department via Facebook

Riverside Police Department today released the name of their officer, a Marine Corps veteran, who was killed Thursday morning allegedly by a rogue ex-LAPD cop not yet found.

According to information released by the police department via Facebook, Officer Michael Crain served in the Marine Corps in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He graduated from Redlands High School in Redlands, Calif. in 1996 and enlisted following a year of study at a nearby community college. He was hired by Riverside Police Department in August 2001.

Crain, 34, deployed twice to Kuwait, the deparment posted. He served with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. He was also a Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) instructor at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, they said.

According to the department, Crain’s military awards and decorations include the Good Conduct Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with 1 star, Rifle Marksmanship Badge, and Certificate of Commendation.

During his enlistment, Crain attained the rank of Sgt., they said.

See the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument on Tues-Weds in Pasadena

This undated publicity photo provided by John Burnam Monument Foundation, Inc., shows the frontal view of the U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument. It is the first national monument ever to pay tribute to dogs and honors every dog who has served in combat since World War II. (AP Photo/John Burnam Monument Foundation, Inc.)

Today and tomorrow, the public can get a first glimpse at the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument in Pasadena before it starts a cross-country road trip to Texas for permanent installation later this year.

The bronze sculptures of a military dog handler and four working dogs — each canine standing about 5′ tall — are scheduled to be displayed on a vehicle parked next to the Natural Balance Pet Foods “Canines with Courage” float following the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. Each was created by sculptor Paula Slater.

In this undated publicity photo provided by Natural Balance, a rendering of a float called "Canines with Courage," the Natural Balance entry for the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1, 2013 is shown. War handler veteran, John Burnam, and dogs and handlers from every branch of the service will ride the float. (AP Photo/Natural Balance)

The float features a floral replica of the bronze monument and including working dog teams walking along side. Also riding on the float was Lucca, a working dog with three combat deployments, who lost her front left leg during a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan last March. Natural Balance’s Rose Parade annual canine star, Tillman, was also on the float. This year, the skateboarding and surfing bulldog traded in his sports equipment for Marine Corps dress blues. Tillman was made an honorary Marine Corps Private First Class during an October ceremony in Dallas.

The post-parade Showcase of Floats is open to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 from 1-5 p.m. and Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. The showcase offers a chance to see the floats up-close and often speak with volunteers or staff who worked on them. Tickets for the float viewing are $10. Click here for more information, directions, and tips for the post-parade event.

The Military Working Dog Teams National Monument will be permanently installed and dedicated in late summer at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, where military working dogs are trained.

In this Aug. 2, 2012 publicity photo provided by Natural Balance, war handler veteran, author and designer, John Burnam, left, and veteran portrait sculptor, Paula Slater, stand with the silicon bronze 9.5-feet tall military dog handler that is part of the U.S. Working Dogs Teams National Monument shown in the Sculptor's Studio in Hidden Valley Lake, in Calif. (AP Photo/Natural Balance)

World War II veteran played trumpet in Glenn Miller’s band

Robert Christoferson

U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Robert Christoferson played lead trumpet in one of Glenn Miller’s bands while stationed near Bedford, England during World War II.

His day job was control tower operator for a service base that was responsible for eight surrounding airfields.

Watching the aircraft come and go, he marveled at how the bombers — battered by anti-aircraft fire — were able to make it back after their missions.

“I don’t see how they did it with two engines out on one side, or part of the tail shot off,” he said.

When Christoferson arrived in Bedford in August of 1943, he found he could continue his fledgling trumpet career. He picked up the horn when he was a sophomore in high school and found he had some talent.

“I had good tone, and I was loud,” he said, laughing

He said there was a big, 20-piece band at the base, and they were looking for players.

It didn’t matter the experience level, he said. They were willing to train novice musicians.

Within three months, the band was playing all over.

“It was a thrill to play in front of monster crowds,” he said.

When Miller arrived in June of 1944, his band was deluged with requests to play.

“They had a load that was unbelievable, of requests, and recordings and personal appearances,” Christoferson said. “When they found out they needed more help, our band was drafted into special services, headed by Miller. That took us away from all our military jobs.

“We were the B band … while Miller and his main band were making recordings five days a week, 10 hours a day, somebody had to take care of these requests to play at different air bases. That was our job.

“‘Moonlight Serenade,’ ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo,’ ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000,’” he said, rattling off some of the songs on the band’s play list.

Christoferson had been playing a military-issue trumpet, but wanting to take his performance up a notch, he sent home for his new Buescher True Tone trumpet his mom bought for him for $300 in 1941.

“They got a hold of the Red Cross and contacted my mother. She sent the horn to me at the base.”

The new band was assigned a B-24 bomber — with the armament removed and outfitted for the musicians.

“We traveled around to all the bases in France, Belgium.”

Christoferson has a picture, dated Nov. 26, 1944, of himself and a couple of other U.S. Army Air Corps musicians. Glenn Miller also is in the photo and he’s holding Christoferson’s trumpet.

“He wanted to see this trumpet that they’d gone to all that trouble to bring over here,” he said, laughing.

It was the last time he saw Miller.

A little more than two weeks later, a plane carrying the famous band leader went down in the English Channel, on Dec. 15, 1944.

“He shouldn’t have taken off,” Christoferson said. “It was a miserable day. Rainy, windy. He had to leave to go to Paris. We were waiting for him. He never arrived.

“Miller wasn’t very outgoing — he was more of a technical guy,” Christoferson said.

“He wasn’t happy until he got the right sound, but he was an overall nice guy with a lot of talent.”

Christoferson said he’ll never forget the day he returned to the states after the end of the war.

“There were 20,000 soldiers all on the deck of the Queen Elizabeth.”

Nearly three days later, the luxury liner approached the coast of New York.

“Every boat that floated was in the harbor when we came in.”

Name: Robert Christoferson

Age: 89

Born: April 18, 1923

Hometown: Seattle

Residence: Palm Springs/Sun City, Ariz.

Branch of service: U.S. Army Air Corps; 8th Air Force

Years served: May, 1943 – November, 1945

Rank: Private First Class

Family: Wife Amy; five children, Jeff Wilson of Palm Springs, Ronda Ambrosini of Eureka, Randy Christoferson of Foster City, Paul Christoferson of Sacramento, and Marty Langham of Lansing, Mich.

Bandleader Glenn Miller (second from right) checks out Robert Christoferson's trumpet (Christoferson is pictured second from left)

Robert Christoferson

U.S. Coast Guard veteran served as ship’s cook during World War II


U.S. Coast Guard veteran Jack Samuels of Palm Desert

U.S. Coast Guard veteran Jack Samuels joined the military when he was 17 and nearing the end of his senior year in high school.

He still had course work and class finals to get through before graduation — but the last thing he wanted to do was spend his time studying

Samuels found he could avoid all that paperwork by donning a uniform in the armed services

“I got my diploma by enlisting,” he said. “I was at Santa Monica beach, lying in the sun, pondering my future. A coast guardsman with a police dog and a rifle was patrolling the beach. I thought, ‘That’s the ideal duty.’”

He enlisted and was sent to Government Island in Alameda,  where he attended two weeks of boot camp.

“I learned how to march and sing,” he said, laughing.

He took a little target practice on the rifle range … but never set foot on a boat during his training. Which was a good thing, because he got sea sick easily. Besides, he was hoping to guard the U.S. while standing on the solid ground of the California coast

After boot camp, Samuels was sent to San Diego where he was assigned to the frigate, USS Grand Island. The ship was sitting at the dock ready to depart the day Samuels arrived.

“San Diego Bay was like glass,” he said.

Then the ship started to move.

“I said, ‘Where are we going?’ They said, ‘We’re going out to sea to escort a submarine.’”

Subs had to be escorted into the harbor when they got within three miles of the coast, Samuels explained.

He became seasick almost immediately. When asked where he was supposed to sleep, he was pointed to a four-tier bunk.

One way to calm seasickness was to lie down on your stomach, he said.

“Before I knew it, I was asleep. At midnight, someone woke me up. He said, ‘You gotta watch.’”

Samuels said he showed the man his watch — the one around his wrist.

“Up in the bow,” came the reply.

“I didn’t even know the bow from the stern. The ship was bobbing all over, it’s pitch dark.”

The young sailor was told to watch out for flashlights, signaling the submarine had surfaced.

Three-foot waves were crashing over the side of the ship and Samuels said he had to lay down flat on the deck to keep from getting washed overboard.

“I had to do a push up to keep my head from going under water. It was cold. The water inundated me.”

About 20 minutes later, a crew member came over to relieve Samuels.

“I’ve never forgotten that gesture,” he said.

“The next morning I tried to eat breakfast, I was seasick, I was throwing up bile.”

He was handed a bucket. The men dubbed him “Bucket Man 3rd Class.”

“They said, ‘You’ll get your sea legs back.’”

By the time a week went by, the only food he was able to keep down was crackers and peanut butter.

When he went to the sick bay, he received no sympathy from the doctor, who himself was suffering from chronic seasickness.

Samuels wanted to get off the ship.

The doctor, who had been aboard for about a year, couldn’t get himself assigned to land duty. He made it clear that if anyone was getting off the ship, it would be him — and Samuels would just have to deal with it.

Samuels was a picky eater — when he was able to eat — so to have better control of the food offerings, he asked the chief cook if he could get a job in the galley washing dishes.

The cook told Samuels the guys doing the washing were “screw ups,” and why would he want that job any way? The cook eventually kicked one of the men out and Samuels got the job.

He moved up to “spud coxswain” — the guy who peels the potatoes and prepares the salads — and after one of the cooks went AWOL, Samuels was promoted to “cook striker.” He was now in training to become a cook.

Samuels was later transferred to the frigate, USS New Bedford. The ship was assigned to weather patrol duty in the South Pacific.

While docked in San Francisco, the ship’s 3rd class cook stole some steaks to give to his girlfriend and was put in the brig.

By the time they headed back out to sea, Samuels was creating the menus and making the meals. The executive officer promoted Samuels to 3rd Class Petty Officer and assigned two sailors to assist him in the galley.

Samuels was now in charge of feeding 250 officers and personnel — a task he performed until his honorable discharge in February, 1946.

Samuels joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 1949. He was assigned to East Los Angeles, where he also served with the Los Angeles County Marshalls. He retired as a lieutenant in 1983.

Jack Samuels

Age: 85

Born: Feb. 22, 1927

Hometown: East Los Angeles

Residence: Palm Desert

Branch of service: U.S. Coast Guard; USS Grand Island (PF-14); USS New Bedford (PF-71)

Years served: June, 1945 – February, 1946

Rank: 3rd Class Petty Officer

Family: Wife Evelyn; two children, Karen Costanzo of Yorba Linda and Robert Samuels of Whittier.

U.S. Coast Guard veteran Jack Samuels of Palm Desert

U.S. Army veteran Jim Roberson served as combat platoon leader during Vietnam War

U.S. Army veteran Jim Roberson

U.S. Army veteran Jim Roberson, a 1st Lieutenant with the 9th Infantry Division, was a combat platoon leader during the Vietnam War.

Roberson got an early start on his military career. When he was 14, his parents sent him off to Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Mo. — a 4-year college preparatory high school and military junior college.

“I was always getting into fights … and I think my parents wanted to keep me away from girls and beer,” he said laughing.

Roberson was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and trained at Fort Benning, Ga., where the 20-year-old completed a 4-month combat platoon leaders course.

“I became proficient in how to blow up bridges,” he said.

Most of his platoon’s action took place near the Mekong Delta area of South Vietnam.

While he was still a 2nd Lieutenant, he was assigned to Graves Registration duty. It was his job to go back after every battle to identify those who were killed in action.

The soldiers were collected from the battlefield and were brought to a Quonset hut where they were ID’d.

“The first time I didn’t believe what I was seeing. There were literally hundreds of guys.”’

“Another Quonset was the ‘quiet hut.’ Men who had wounds who wouldn’t make it another hour.”

Roberson said his men were under fire for most of the day while they were on missions.

“They’d pick us up in the morning, then we’d come back and ‘reload,’ then off we would go for an afternoon operation. We’d come back, then go out overnight. We got one day of break a week. We were busy.”

Sometimes the intel wasn’t always accurate.

“We’d get the wrong information. They’d tell us there were 20 people at a village, and we’d get up there and there’d be 200. We’d pull back a little, call headquarters and start calling in a lot of artillery. If they wouldn’t leave with the artillery, we’d ask for air strikes.”

Somtimes they’d bring in a massive gunship, nicknamed “Puff” to finish the job.

“The C-130. Puff the Magic Dragon. Quad 50-calibers – 6,000 rounds a minute and a whole house would be gone.”

Sometimes the men would come across the Viet Cong’s well-camoflauged tunnels.

Headquarters might call in B-52 bombers to pummel the area, “Or they’d say, ‘go on down and get what you can.’ That was so scary. It was pitch black dark.”

To get an idea of what they’d encounter once they got below the surface – where the Viet Cong built rooms that could be as big as houses, Roberson said – they’d throw a grenade down and listen to the sound.

“If it was less noisy, it meant it rolled down a long way. A guy crawled down on his stomach and would have to shoot his sidearm from that position.”

The loud sound of gunfire in such a confined space meant oftentimes, the soldier’s ears would be be bloody when he returned to the surface.

They took no prisoners — but they did gather whatever intelligence was available.

The enemy’s plans were etched on the walls of some of the rooms, he said.

Roberson had his share of close calls during his tour of duty in Vietnam.

While walking across a bamboo bridge, a spray of bullets crashed into the thick wood. The gunfire was heading his way, and Roberson, frozen in his tracks, watched as bamboo shattered closer and closer to his position.

“It stopped in front of me,” he said. “It came within inches. I think the guy ran out of ammunition.”

Another time, he jumped over a patty dike and when he landed, he felt a series of sharp pains jolt across his torso.

“The medic came running though a hail of bullets. He pulled me out, ripped off my fatigues, and started laughing. I said, ‘I’m dying here, what’s so funny?’”

The medic explained that Roberson had jumped into a huge ground nest of wasps.

The poison of the stings was painful, but Roberson got himself up, got the platoon out of harm’s way, and “salvaged the situation,” he said.

Roberson was hit by shrapnel on more than one occasion, but said he was fortunate and that he suffered little compared to other men who were severely wounded.

One piece of shrapnel — from a rocket propelled grenade — struck the base of his spine and sidelined the soldier for a couple of weeks.

He was sent to a hospital in Cam Ranh Bay – “It was beautiful there,” he said – where he rehabilitated.

Nurses took the soldiers on the beach to walk, which he had to relearn after his injury.

“I was rubber legged for a little while,” he said.

U.S. Army veteran Jim Roberson's dog tags and a military issue can opener, known as a P38, Roberson used during the Vietnam War.

Jim Roberson

Age: 66

Born: Nov. 22, 1946

Hometown: Arkansas City, Kansas

Residence: Palm Desert

Branch of service: U.S. Army; 9th Infantry Division; 2/39th

Years served: April 9, 1967 – March 4, 1969 (active duty)

Rank: 1st Lieutenant

Family: Wife Elizabeth; two children from a previous marriage; one grandchild

Remembering Korea

The Korean War Veterans Memorial is southeast of the Lincoln Memorial at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and features 19 statues representing a squad on patrol. Photographed October 18, 2012. Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun

62 years ago today, Marines and Soldiers endured some of the most severe fighting of the Korean War and in U.S. military history. A mid-November 1950 Army offensive in the west to Yalu encountered an unanticipated number of enemy combatants while in the east thousands of Marines and Soldiers in the Taebaek Mountains found themselves surrounded by more than 100,000 Chinese troops at the Chosin Reservoir on Nov. 27, 1950.

Referred to as “the Marines’ greatest battle” by the National Museum of the Marine Corps, troops spent more than two weeks in subfreezing temperatures and harsh terrain trying to fight their way out. The war continued for two and half more years, until an armistice was signed July 27, 1953.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. lists the following statistics for the duration of the war:

  • 54,246 U.S. dead
  • 103,284 U.S. wounded
  • 7,140 U.S. captured
  • 8,177 U.S. missing

Of the more than 50,000 troops who died, 40 were from Riverside County according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

  • Army Private First Class Clayton Arrowwood, died October 16, 1951
  • Air Force Master Sgt. Charles Tillman Avery, died April 7, 1951
  • Army Private First Class Peter Avila, died October 3, 1951
  • Army Private First Class George Baumer, died October 13, 1951
  • Navy FA Ray Allen Briggs, died March 11, 1951
  • Army Private First Class William Bryant, died December 1, 1950
  • Army Private First Class William S. Caldwell, died December 1, 1950
  • Army Private Pete Castana, died July 27, 1950
  • Army Major Charles Leo Cecil, died July 20, 1950
  • Army Private First Class Daniel V. Chavez, died October 14, 1950
  • Army Private Harold D. Chesbro, Jr., died March 17, 1951
  • Army Sgt. First Class Walter R. Coble, died September 8, 1950
  • Air Force 1st. Lt. Carl Edsel Combs, died February 26, 1951
  • Army Private First Class Jack R. Cooper, died October 14, 1951
  • Air Force Capt. Richard Glenn Croskrey, died January 25, 1951
  • Army Private First Class Ernest L. D. Curry, died August 18, 1952
  • Army Capt. Glenn R. Dean, died October 9, 1950
  • Army Corporal Arthur J. Duke, died June 11, 1951
  • Army 2nd Lt. John French, Jr., died July 25, 1950
  • Army Corporal Jerome E. Gallagher, died November 24, 1951
  • Marine Corps Corporal Wilburn Monroe Goodman, died May 20, 1952
  • Army Master Sgt. George R. Housekeeper, died December 12, 1950
  • Army Private First Class Victoriano Juarez, died September 6, 1950
  • Army Corporal Clyde S. Kennedy, died September 1, 1950
  • Army Private First Class Frank Lipscombe, died February 18, 1952
  • Air Force Major Joseph Sheldon Long, Jr., died April 7, 1952
  • Army Private Ralph O. Navarro, died August 27, 1951
  • Air Force Capt. Roger William Penninger, died October 23, 1951
  • Army Private First Class Tommie E. Rogers, died October 25, 1951
  • Air Force Capt. Michel Baines Russell, died February 26, 1951
  • Army Private First Class Charles J. Rutledge, died December 27, 1952
  • Air Force Capt. Harry Till Sandlin, died November 25, 1950
  • Army Sgt. Keith D. Seaman, died April 25, 1952
  • Army Private First Class Marvin K. Shaw, died September 4, 1951
  • Army Corporal Denver J. Smith, died August 26, 1950
  • Army Private First Class Paul A. Smith, died January 20, 1953
  • Army Private First Class John R. Stovall, Jr., died September 1, 1950
  • Army Sgt. Russell G. Torres, died January 30, 1951
  • Army Private First Class James F. Werber, died November 30, 1950
  • Army Private Ernest W. Wyckoff, died May 25, 1951

*Names collected from the California state level fatal casualty list for the Korean War compiled by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Thermal veteran attends 3/1 memorial at Camp Pendleton

Joseph Daily, a former sergeant who served with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, as a rifleman during the Vietnam War, shares a laugh with Capt. Patrick Acox, an intelligence officer serving with the battalion, after the unveiling of the battalion's Vietnam War Memorial Plaque at Camp Pendleton, Nov. 15, 2012. The plaque is dedicated to the 654 Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War. Daily, a 63 year-old native of Thermal, Calif., joked that the only difference between the current generation of Marines and the Marines of his time was they were more attractive. (Official Untied States Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Corey Dabney.)

Marines serving with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment wait to be dismissed from formation after the dedication of a Vietnam War Memorial Plaque at Camp Pendleton, Nov. 15, 2012. The solid-bronze plaque is dedicated to the 654 Marines and sailors of 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, who died in Vietnam. The plaque was unveiled in front of Marines and sailors who served with the battalion during the Vietnam War. (Official United States Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Corey Dabney)