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Monday, October 25, 2010
Tony Schneider: Man Rescued Gunner After Crash
By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
On and over the waves of the Pacific, the Battle of Midway exploded into a World War II turning point, and it was a time of gallantry for then-Navy ensign Tony Schneider.
"Tony Schneider's plane coughed and ran out of fuel as did many others," the war history website www.reddog1944.com tells readers. "Tony told his rear gunner to jettison the guns as he landed the plane in the blue sea. The guns were not jettisoned and hit the gunner in the head knocking him out cold. Tony inflated both of their Mae West vests and the life raft and had his silk parachute for sun cover."
Schneider and the rear-seat gunner of the dive-bombing Douglas SBD Dauntless — the unconscious gunner who Schneider put into the life raft first — spent 56 hours on the water until the two were rescued.
"He was there for three days and they only had a canteen of water apiece and he had to shoot two sharks, by the way," said Ross Schneider, his son.
The sharks were curiously, or otherwise, drawn to the raft, and Schneider thought if one of the ocean creatures should bite and puncture it, all would be over. So he solved the potential problem using his standard-issue .45 sidearm.
Schneider was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the Battle of Midway — the first of two Navy Cross awards he earned during the Second World War, which was the early period in his 31-year-long Navy career.
He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Presidential Unit Citation multiple times.
Schneider, who retired as a captain in 1970, died Oct. 16 after suffering a stroke.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 11 — Veteran's Day — at Daniels Family Funeral Services, 7601 Wyoming NE.
On Veteran's Day, Schneider would have turned 93.
These days, Schneider is missed in his Tanoan West neighborhood.
"All these people are like, 'Where's Tony? I haven't seen him on his bike today?' " said Ross Schneider, who lives in the same area.
"He'd stop and talk with everybody all the time."
Schneider rode his bike until his stroke, in fact, one enjoyment among a lifetime of hobbies that included big game hunting and camping.
Tony F. Schneider was born in the little country town of Hillsboro, Mo.
He earned a mathematics degree from Westminster College in Missouri before entering Naval Officer Candidate School. He received his commission and wings in 1940.
Schneider flew Dauntless and Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bombers, and served aboard the Enterprise, Yorktown and Lexington aircraft carriers during World War II.
In early 1942, two months after the Pearl Harbor bombing, he took part in the raids of the Marshall and Gilbert islands from the USS Enterprise and he flew support during the Doolittle Raid on Japan, when the Enterprise accompanied the USS Hornet on its April retaliatory mission.
He attacked enemy ships and shore installations in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire, destroying a large storehouse and damaging two bombers on the ground with near misses, his Air Medal citation for the Marshall/Gilbert raids states.
Schneider went on to earn his first Distinguished Flying Cross — he earned three in all, each while serving as a squadron commander — while leading air strikes out of Henderson Field at Guadalcanal.
The next he earned while leading a successful air strike against an aircraft assembly plant near Tokyo and the last during air strikes on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Japan.
"His second Navy Cross was from his efforts in Operation Ten-Go wherein he, as squadron commander, led his bombing squadron against Yahagi," a Japanese cruiser, Ross Schneider said.
Tony Schneider flew no less than 60 missions during World War II in which he engaged the enemy or encountered enemy fire, missions that produced such stories as him flying his aircraft 50 feet over the water while in a dog fight and being chased by a Japanese fighter or once pulling out of a dive with bullets from enemy fire coming through the bottom of the plane — and between the gunner's legs — striking the metal plate behind the head of Schneider's cockpit seat.
He talked about being aboard an aircraft carrier as it was struck by a kamikaze.
Schneider held numerous positions after the war, his son said.
He served with the advanced training command at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., and then as tactics development officer for an anti-submarine warfare submarine squadron at Key West.
He worked at the Pentagon from 1951-53, writing tactical publications for anti-submarine warfare and all-weather operations, and next was stationed in San Diego and Hawaii as a squadron commander of an all-weather night fighter squadron flying F3D Skyknight aircraft.
He became executive officer of the University of Louisville's Naval ROTC program before being named executive officer of the USS Bon Homme Richard aircraft carrier. He attended the Naval War College, and received his master's degree in foreign policy from Boston University in 1962.
Schneider was an assistant of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, from 1962-65. He joined the University of New Mexico faculty in 1965 as professor of naval science and commanding officer of the NROTC. He left in 1968.
He became airbase commander at Subic Bay, Philippines, thereafter, and lastly served as an inspector general for the Navy.
Along with his Navy Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross awards, Schneider was the recipient of six Air Medals, three Presidential Unit Citations and a Joint Service Commendation Medal and The Legion of Merit, his son said.
Schneider for the last decade was "100 percent caregiver" to his 89-year-old wife of 67 years, Jean Ross Schneider, his family said. She survives him, as does his son, Frederic Ross Schneider, and other family.
Navy Cross awards
Albuquerque resident and retired Navy Capt. Tony F. Schneider earned two Navy Cross awards during World World II. Here are how the citations read:
• The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Ensign Tony Frederic Schneider (NSN: 0-84080), United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Dive Bomber of Bombing Squadron SIX (VB-6), attached to the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE (CV-6), during the "Air Battle of Midway," against enemy Japanese forces on 4 - 6 June 1942. Defying extreme danger from concentrated anti-aircraft barrage and powerful fighter opposition, Ensign Schneider, with bold determination and courageous zeal, participated in dive-bombing assaults against Japanese naval units. Flying at a distance from his own forces which rendered return unlikely because of probable fuel exhaustion, he pressed home his attacks with extreme disregard for his own personal safety. His gallant intrepidity and loyal devotion to duty contributed greatly to the success of our forces and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
• The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Tony Frederic Schneider (NSN: 0-84080), United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Dive Bomber and Commanding Officer of Bombing Squadron NINE (VB-9), attached to the U.S.S. YORKTOWN (CV-10), in action against major units of the Japanese Fleet off Kyushu, Japan, on 7 April 1945. Lieutenant Schneider led his formation of thirteen dive bombers in a devastating attack against a Japanese light cruiser. Approaching the target through an overcast, he maneuvered his flight into perfect position and, in the face of extremely intense anti-aircraft fire, pressed home his attack to minimum altitude. His skillful leadership enabled eight of the thirteen planes to score direct hits on the vessel, contributing materially to its sinking a few minutes later. Throughout the attack, his daring leadership and utter disregard for personal safety were inspiring to his men and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.