Thursday, December 31, 2020

Jack H Osborne







Jack H Osborne (1923-1989)


It's New Years Eve.

And 2020 has been a year to remember. Or maybe forget.

But 31 years ago on New Years Eve, I was in Pampa Texas burying my father.

I was in Monterrey, Mexico playing handball at the Ambassador Hotel with one of the trainers in the gym and I was getting drubbed.  There was a knock on the door. I opened the door wondering what could be happening to interrupt my workout.  It was my young teenage son.  "Papa Jack is dead", he said with tears in his eyes.

Thus began our long trip back to Austin and ultimately to the Texas Panhandle where I was born.

Jack H Osborne was quite a guy.  Here is a piece from the Freedom Museum archives:

"Jack H Osborne was born 1 January 1923 on the Osborne Ranch in Roberts County, Texas. He attended schools in Miami, Texas, graduating in 1940 from Miami High School. He received appointments to West Point and Annapolis Naval Academy but chose to stay in Texas and attend Texas A&M University to study mechanical engineering.  

 On 17 August 1942, a volunteer group, “The Plainsmen” from 23 Panhandle Counties were entertained with their families by the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce and the Globe News Publishing Company. This patriotic event with dinner and speeches took place in the Herring Hotel Crystal Ball Room. The men left that night by train for Athens, Georgia. They were to become known in the Naval Air Squadron as the “Sky Busters”. 

 Lt. Jack Osborne, pilot of a Navy “Avenger” torpedo bomber, was awarded the Air Medal “for his action during the Saipan campaign during which he made numerous photographic missions over enemy held positions in the face of concentrated Japanese anti-aircraft fire”. Osborne was cited by Adm. Chester Nimitz USN, Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, “For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight as a torpedo bomber pilot in action with enemy Japanese forces during photographic missions...flying straight courses under prevailing low ceilings in the face of concentrated anti-aircraft opposition and exposed to naval gunfire. 

Osborne engaged in dangerous photographic missions over Saipan, Tinian, Aguijan and Rota Islands, providing our forces with complete and careful coverage of desired areas. His skillful and daring devotion to duty in the successful accomplishment of these important missions was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval service.” Osborne received the Silver Star for these missions and also the Distinguished Flying Cross “for distinguishing himself by heroism and extraordinary achievement in operations against the enemy while serving aboard the USS White Plains

He flew his torpedo bomber in a coordinated strafing, one enemy cruiser and two enemy destroyers in the battle of the Samar Island on 25 October 1944. Osborne handled his aircraft with skill, daring and determination. In spite of the enemy anti-aircraft fire, he scored three direct bomb hits on the designated enemy battleships”.   

Osborne's sister, Phoebe Reynolds, says of his World War II experience, “Jack kept a daily journal. The family was not aware of this until after his death in December 1989. It is a documentary of all the days of this training, various bases, friends and battles. His precise, artistic handwriting became a hurried dash across the page. His boyish countenance became that of a seasoned veteran.” 

Jack H. Osborne died 29 December 1989.

Clearly, Jack was a War Hero.

But he was an athlete too.  At 18, he was the golden gloves heavy weight champion in Chicago in 1940. Jack was about 6 foot 3 and his weight was around 185 when he was fighting. He also fought during the war and he was rumored to be the Navy Champion. His father, Johnson Polk Osborne had also been a champion that year with his Junior Prince Domino Hereford bull winning the Grand Championship at the Denver stock show.

I was always a little intimidated by the stories.  But Dad never talked about the War that much.  He did teach me how to throw a punch, which was pretty handy when I was younger.

It's pretty well known that Navy aviators were notorious drinkers and Jack was no exception.  He put that problem behind him in his later years.  We were pretty close in a distant sort of way.  When I was in the panhandle I would almost always stay with him in his apartment in Pampa. We built many a fire in his living room and just hung out; often saying very few words all night.   He would set out books for me to read on the bedside table. It was comfortable.

His daily life after he sold his share of the farm to Uncle Wiley was pretty simple- go to the Commodity Office and trade futures in the morning and then go to the Country Club and play a round of golf with his pals.  To have been such a strong, good boxer, he never got the hang of hitting the ball a long distance, but he was a very good putter.

Jack had his share of suffering and loss.  He had a stroke during surgery when he was in his forties.  While he was recovering, I had to work at his feedlot and farm to keep things going. And he later had throat cancer while in his fifties. He managed to recover reasonably well.  At the age of 67, he was in the hospital with the flu over the holidays. Somehow, he didn't make it out alive.

The trip from Monterrey to Pampa was a long one, but nothing like the trip he took from the Texas Panhandle to a WAR that would put him in the pilot's seat of a Torpedo Bomber headed to destroy other men in ships just like his. 

He never really got over it.

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Blogger Vista de Peyote Cafe said...

HI Michael,
enjoyed this story about your dad, thanks...
take care, hope you're doing well in Austin
Paul de California

10:33 PM  

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