Monthly Archives: May 2011

MIA: LCDR Michael Lora Bouchard, USN

Since this is Memorial Day, it seems appropriate to tell this story. When I first joined the Navy at age 18, I was given a MIA bracelet by my sea “daddy,” a senior chief who took me under his wing and taught me the ways of the Navy during those early years. I’m not positive if he actually knew the man on my bracelet but I have a feeling he did. Senior had already been in the Navy for 45 years when I met him and I believe by passing on his bracelet, he hoped to inspire a new generation to carry on and think about those who were lost in the jungles of Vietnam.

The name on my bracelet is LCDR Michael L. Bouchard and for probably my first 17 years in the Navy I wore his bracelet every day. I’d think about him each time my gaze would see his name on my wrist. When I visited Washington, DC and the Vietnam Memorial, I would seek out his name on the black granite stone and trace his name with my fingers.  His name is located on panel 36W, line 48. I stopped wearing the bracelet about the time I went to sea in 2001, I don’t remember why, probably because of the machinery on the ship, but I kept it in my coffin rack among my prized possessions. I thought about Michael again today and had to go find my old friend and research a bit about him.

Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot about LCDR Bouchard when he was younger, he was born after the 1930 census was released and new information about him and his family won’t be available until the release of the 1940 census in April 2012. What I do know is he was born on November 1, 1938 in Missoula, Montana to a Roman Catholic family. He attended the Bonner Elementary School and then Missoula High School, graduating about 1956. After high school he married, had four children, three daughters and a son and joined the United States Navy. Mike became a pilot and in 1962, he was stationed on board the USS Midway (CV-41) as a Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTjg). He was divorced by 1966, as his youngest daughter recalls being 3 years old when her parents separated and 5 years old when he was classified as missing in action.

In 1968, he was attached to Attack Squadron 196 (VA-196), deployed on board the USS Constellation (CV-64). This is what the Navy has released about his mission:

“On the night of 19/20 Dec 1968, LT Michael L. Bouchard, pilot, and LT Robert W. Colyar, bombardier-navigator, launched from USS CONSTELLATION in A-6A BuNo 154152 for a strike mission in Laos. Upon arrival in the area they were assigned to a Forward Air Controller working a truck park on the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the village of Ban Tanook, about 20 miles southwest of the A Shau Valley.
Bouchard was to make visual dive-bombing runs by the light of parachute flares. Once cleared by the FAC, he rolled in but as his aircraft was passing through 5500 feet and at an airspeed of about 500 knots the A-6 was hit by AAA fire, separating the starboard wing from the fuselage. Other aircrew in the area saw only one parachute, which turned out to be Colyar’s. Once on the ground, Colyar spent about 30 minutes searching for Bouchard but then was forced to leave the area to avoid capture. He was picked up the next day by an Air Force helicopter.
LT Bouchard was classed as Missing in Action and was carried in that status until 26 Nov 1973, when the Secretary of the Navy approved a Presumptive Finding of Death. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander while MIA. LCDR Bouchard’s remains have not been repatriated.”

Michael was very much loved and missed. I’ve come across emails from his daughters asking for information and memories of their father and I’ve also found the following memories written by former friends in my search:

My name is Alphie Liming and I grew up Missoula, MT. Mike grew up in a very small lumber mill “company” town, Bonner, about 7 or 8 miles from Missoula. My grandmother taught him in the second grade at Bonner Elementary School. Mike was one year ahead of me in school, and the following year my grandma taught me in the 2nd grade. That’s when I got to know Mike.
We sort of lost touch until high school, but because there wasn’t a high school in Bonner Mike had to come to Missoula to school. We became reacquainted and subsequently went steady in high school. An extremely bright and personable young man, he was very popular, being Student Body President, as well as State Study Body President. (I always thought he would go on to be a politician.)
He graduated in 1956 and went to Oregon State University on an NROTC Scholarship and was a Sigma Chi. I had been accepted to go to OSC as well, but as things happen sometimes, we parted ways (still very good friends) and I went to USC.
The last time I saw Mike was in 1961. He came to visit me and my husband, who was also a Navy officer, in San Diego. I know that he was married and believe had 3 children, but subsequently divorced.
I’ve heard that he had been accepted to the Blue Angels just before he was shot down, supposedly on one of his last missions. We’ve seen photos on TV taken in a POW camp in North Vietnam a year or so after he was shot down that many of us felt were pictures of him eating (he was left-handed as I am).
Mike was an admirable person and I know would have gone far had not his life been cut so short.
From a childhood friend,
Alphie Liming

I rememember when I was 10 years old, my dad talking to Mike’s father on the phone, listening … just being there for him. Sometimes the calls were late at night and when my dad would hang up he would break down and cry. This strong man who had served in WWII would collapse into the sorrow and loss he felt for his friend, who would never know the truth about what happened to his son after that plane went down. I have memories of there being a news story that showed some POW’s in captivity and how one young man resembled Mike, and my parents thinking there might still be hope of his returning. Sadly, that was not the case. Mike’s leather jacket still hangs in Bonner Grade School where he, and later I, attended. I didn’t know him, but I’ll never forget him. I’ll never forget my dad’s tears, or the heartbreak the whole community felt. God bless Mike, his family and friends, and all the brave men and women who never made it home.

Kathy Teague

Rest in Peace

Lieutenant Commander Michael Lora Bouchard

Nov. 1, 1938 – Nov. 26, 1973


The Wolfinger Brothers

William Penn and Herman Wolfinger mid-1880s

Found this pair of attractive young men in a local antique shop waiting to be taken home. The names scrawled on the back are W.P. and H. Wolfinger and they appear to be brothers to me. The picture, taken about 1885, was taken in San Francisco by William Shew (1820-1903), a fairly well-known photographer whose story was told previously.

At first glance, I am drawn to the casual stance of the young man on the left, leaning on the column. He looks completely comfortable while his brother on the right is trying very hard to appear distinguished, using a popular pose for gentlemen of the day. Some folks believe it was an imitation of Napoleon’s  famous pose but in reality people had a hard time keeping still while waiting during the long exposure times. For those who had trouble keeping their hands still, they held them inside their coats. This was to prevent the picture from being blurred in case they moved their hands during the exposure time. The long exposure times are also why it appears as if our ancestors were permanently depressed in their photographs. They weren’t depressed, it was just easier to hold a relaxed face then a constantly smiling one. You try smiling for 15 minutes…. I bet your jaws will be aching  afterwards!

They were brothers and both were born in Pennsylvania to Mary Wolfinger. Their father’s name is currently unknown as it appears he died soon after William was born. The 1860 US Federal Census shows the boys living with their 30-year-old mother and 10-year-old sister Louisa in Pennsylvania. Herman was 8 and William Penn was 7. The mother’s  birthplace is listed as Baden, which confirms later census reports.

It appears young William caught the gold fever rush. In 1870, at the age of 17, William is listed as Penn Wolfinger and is found living in Little York Township in the county of Nevada, California on his own. He is living in a hotel ran by Peter Drunzer and his wife, Mary, and his occupation is recorded as a miner.  Nevada County was the home of the second-largest gold-mining district in California. First discovered in 1850, for the next 100 years, the county produced over 68.4 tonnes of gold.

Born in February 1852, 28-year-old Herman, a cabinet maker, was residing in San Francisco, California along with his 24-year-old wife Julia, a long way away from her home state of New York in 1880. Also living in the home were son Herman M. Wolfinger, aged 4 and Julia’s mother, 60-year-old Catherine Smucker and her 27-year-old sister, also named Catherine. By 1880, William, who was born in May 1853, seems to have given up on prospecting and is living in the home of his sister and brother-in-law, Louisa and Theodore Erdin, in San Francisco, along with their four young daughters, Emma 8, Mary 6, Clara 4 and Julia 1. His occupation is listed as a cabinet maker.

In 1900,  at the age of 47, William was married to a 27-year-old Irish wife named Georgina. They had four children living at home – stepdaughter Margaret Stelling 7, daughter Eva 15, son Fred 13 and 11-year-old Elsie. He was still a cabinet maker and worked at Sterling Furniture Co., located at 1107 Treat Ave. and did quite well for himself. The company made educational furniture, such as the combination school desk and chair. The family was living at 5 Oak St., San Francisco, CA. Herman was living close by his brother at 786 1/2 Stevenson St. in a 3-storey flat. Herman was a widower, living with his children Herman M. 23, Raymond E. 16, Ethel T. 18 and Mabel J. 14.

Between 1900 and 1925, Herman and William moved residences quite a bit. One wonders if perhaps cabinet making wasn’t as lucrative as they had hoped. In 1904, Herman was living in room 13 on the 3rd floor of 100 Jones. In 1905, Herman marries again, a fellow Pennsylvanian named Bertha L.  and they are living at 152 Church Street in 1907. This is the second marriage for them both. William was living at 571 Duboce Ave in 1907. In 1912, records find William Penn living at 1751 Market Street. In 1916, he had moved once again to 20 12th Street. In 1923, he’s shown living at 2242 22nd Ave., still working as a cabinet maker.

In 1910, the federal census finds 58-year-old Herman and his wife of five years, living in Beaverdam, Hanover, Virginia. He has given up cabinet making and is recorded as working a home farm that he proudly owns. His 38-year0old wife, Bertha, tends to the home.

William Penn, 56, is living with his 23-year-old son Frederick at 1752 Market Street, which appears to be a boarding house in San Francisco. Both William and Frederick are listed as married, not widowed, but their wives are not recorded as living with them. The son doesn’t have an occupation listed but William is identified as a carpenter for the telephone service company.

Probably feeling lost without his old trade, 1920 finds Herman listed once again as a cabinet maker. At 67, he works from home to provide for his wife of 15 years. They are still living at their farm in Beaverdam, Va.

In 1920 William and Georgina, 66 and 47 years-old respectiviely, are living next to their son Frederick W., who also became a cabinet maker, and his family.  Fred is married to Catherine, and has two sons, William F., 9 and Raymond, 6 and a 4-year-old daughter, Delores.

William  and his wife, Georgina, are shown on the San Diego County voter registration list for 1940. His occupation is still listed as cabinet maker, although by now, William would be 86 years-old. They are living at 1874 O’Ferrell St.

Although, I haven’t found out exactly when they died, it is deduced that Herman Wolfinger dies sometime between 1920 and 1930 and William Penn Wolfinger dies after 1940.

Remembering 9/11 and Michael

This is a story I wrote immediately after 9/11 and after learning that one of my co-workers, a friend who worked for me onboard USS WASP for three years, had been killed at the Pentagon.  I can’t tell you how that felt to get that phone call. I was on duty and we were watching it unfold on TV. We were scared because we knew that Mike was in the Pentagon that day and worried for his safety. I remember there being talk that out of that huge building and thousands of people being inside, why did Mike have to be one who died. We could hardly see the TV through the tears that were streaming down our faces, praying that he was okay and that the call was a mistake. But it wasn’t. Mike was gone and he wouldn’t have wished anyone else to have taken his place. He loved the Navy and he loved being a Sailor. He was a hero.  He was our hero.

In the 10 years since his death, I don’t think a week has ever gone by when I haven’t thought of him. Something always happens that triggers a memory… Garth Brooks’ song The Dance… I’ll catch eye of the miniature stein he brought me back from Germany sitting on my display shelf… someone mentions 9/11… and now the death of Osama bin Laden.

There is mixed feelings among many people on hearing the news of bin Laden’s death. Some say it’s wrong to rejoice in his demise… but I can feel nothing but relief… and yes, enjoyment. We’ve waited… I’ve waited for ten years for this ending.

All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two – good and evil. With our eyes we see two things – things that are fair and things that are ugly… We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way, the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two. – Eagle Chief, Pawnee

Michael, you can rest in peace now shipmate… the evil doer has answered for his crimes.

Pentagon Blast Felt Close to Home

By Journalist 1st Class (SW) Sherri Onorati,
USS Wasp Public Affairs

 NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) — This past week, terrorists attacked the United States in its own backyard. The nation’s sense of security was destroyed, its innocence truly lost. Never did America really believe such a thing could happen. As citizens across the country watched in disbelief, the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed. Then, as Americans continued to watch in horror, the Pentagon, the center of America’s “military might,” was attacked by a commercial airplane filled with innocent Americans. It is unthinkable to Americans, such madness and barbarism can still exist in the modern world today; that terrorists could use American-made hardware and civilians in such a manner against the nation.

As all of America weeps in pain and stares in disbelief at the images flashed across television sets, Sailors of USS  Wasp (LHD 1) also feel the pain a bit closer to home. A former Wasp crewmember, Illustrator/Draftsman 2nd Class Michael Allen Noeth is among the missing and presumed killed in the Pentagon attack. Noeth, of Jackson Heights, N.Y., was an extremely talented artist, was recently transferred to the Pentagon to paint portraits of the former Chiefs of Naval Operations.

“He was so proud of himself when he received those orders,” said Petty Officer First Class Saundra Harris. “He thought it to be a great honor to be asked to paint portraits of the former CNOs.”

Noeth, an accomplished artist known for his naval-themed paintings, found himself among the elite last year when he was invited to display his personal paintings during an art exhibit held at the Montserrat Art Gallery in New York City. During his exhibit, he sold five of his paintings. While enlisting in the U.S. Navy as a deck seaman in 1994, Noeth’s paintings were soon noticed by the art director from the Navy’s “All Hands” magazine, who expressed an interest in his work. Noeth was eventually assigned temporarily to the All Hands magazine production staff where he had numerous paintings published. One of his paintings was reproduced for the cover of the All Hands April 1998 “Year of the Ocean” issue. Noeth was assigned to Wasp from October 1998 to October 2000, and left many friends and shipmates aboard to feel his loss. 

“Mike was a funny, friendly person. He was a riot during the Med Cruise talent show, and would do impressions of the taxi drivers in New York, that always made you laugh,” said Journalist 2nd Class Kory Deur.

Americans and Sailors will weep and mourn for their lost shipmates. But Americans and Sailors will rise in defense of the country when freedom is threatened. Yes, the nation is in tremendous pain, but throughout America’s history, adversity has made the country stronger. Noeth used to say that he painted pictures of the Navy because he wanted people to realize that their freedom and protection comes from the sweat of the Sailors on board. To the shipmates he has left behind, his visions of naval life at sea, will always be a constant reminder of his dream.


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