For Grandpa Bailey, the sky's the limit

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com
Bill Bailey is a man of few words when it comes to the time he spent as a prisoner of war in Korea. But his grandson, Chief Warrant Officer David Long, did not let that deter him.
"Grandpa had a sackful of old clippings and letters and pictures -- just everything from when he was in the Army. I started researching his military paperwork and everything that he had, just kind of collecting piece by piece," Long said.
On a large piece of paper he started a timeline, marking such events as the day his Grandpa Bailey went into the Army, the day he went to Korea, and other milestones. He also found that his grandpa, despite being wounded, had not received the Purple Heart or other commendations.
Once Long had pieced together Bailey's past, he obtained the medals and ribbons and then "wrote a little speech about it," which he presented during a Wilsonville, Ore., celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire.
The fact that Bailey survived 27 months as a prisoner of war, Long believes is attributable to the medical care he received following a mortar attack that tore open his arm and sent shrapnel through the rest of his body, some of which remains.
"He spent a month and a half eating and recovering," Long said. "When he went back to the battlefront, he was only there two days before he was captured, so he was a rested soldier vs. a lot of the other men that had been there three-, four- and five months."
Bailey spent the first three days of his capture in a bunker, "a Chinese cave dug into the side of the mountain," Long said. "All of the 30 prisoners were shoved in there for three straight days and they couldn't go anywhere or do anything. The Chinese stood there in the doorway with a machine gun. Grandpa thought that he was going to get killed right there."
Grandpa Bill also doesn't talk about the 170-mile march from prison camp to prison camp. "He had no shoes, and there was snow on the ground. He cloth-wrapped his feet," Long said. If the soldiers couldn't make the 20 miles they were required to march per day, they were bayoneted. "They wouldn't even waste a bullet on you," Long said.
About a year ago, Long -- operations officer and senior instructor pilot for the Oregon National Guard at Pendleton -- received a phone call from Bob Pierce, president of the Korean War Veterans Association. Pierce wanted to get a helicopter for the 50th anniversary celebration at Wilsonville. Long started talking to him and found out that Pierce knew his Grandpa Bailey.
"Because my grandfather was in the Korean War, that's a pretty special place in my heart," Long told Pierce, and pledged his help. "I told him how to do it and helped him put together a mission request. We sent it up the chain of command and it got approved. So for the 50th anniversary, I was able to fly in," Long said.
"When we came in, a Blackhawk came in first, the medevac and I went ahead and went around and let him land first. It looked like an Army operation out of Vietnam," Long said.
In the quiet little town of Wilsonville, the sound of those loud turbine engines from the Army helicopters 50 feet away from the rooftops sent residents running outside to see what was going on.
Long made his turn above the crowd in a CH-47D Chinook helicopter. "I saw Grandma when I went around, so I turned and went over the top of her, and right when I went over the top of her, I just rolled a hard left so that I was looking straight down at her and then I just waved at her and she waved back up at me, and then Grandpa did," he said. "It was quite the scene out in Wilsonville."