Rod Serling, the famous host of the television series, "The Twilight Zone" was a WWII combat veteran.


"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs, and explosions, and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, ideas, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, predjudices can kill and suspicion can destroy. A thoughtless, freightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own for the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is, is that these things can not be confined to the Twighlight Zone."

Scif-fi aficionados and casual couch surfers alike remember the other-worldly, high pitched chords and surreal imagery that introduced each episode of the Twilight Zone. Each episode was prefaced by Rod Serling who would step into the foreground and expound the human condition and the strangeness of his fabricated world. Before hosting the famed television show and his script-writing career even began, Serling spent three years in the U.S. Army in the 11th Airborne Division.

Serling was born in Syracuse, New York to a Jewish family. He was extremely talkative as a child and continued for extended periods of time without pausing for others. He was so oblivious when speaking that he went on for two hours nonstop during a car ride and didn't notice that none of his family members contributed. During his senior year of high school, he became interested in World War II and tried to inspire fellow students to join. Despite his civics teacher's attempts to dissuade him, he enlisted after graduation.

Training took place at Camp Toccoa, Georgia for the 511th Parachute Infantry of the 11th Airborne Division. During his time training, he took up boxing as a hobby and competed in 17 bouts. He lost in the second round of division finals and later attempted the Golden Gloves to no avail. In 1944 his unit was ordered to head to the Pacific Theatre aboard the USS Sea Pike.

In November of 1944, the 11th Airborne Division first saw combat on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. They did not deploy with parachutes, however, and served as light infantry. Despite his reputation of hot-headedness and passion for serving the U.S., Serling was transferred to the 511th's demolition platoon. The leader of his new squad said that Serling, “didn't have the wits or aggressiveness required for combat." It was in Leyte that he witnessed a fellow soldier die from a freak accident, an incident which informed much of his writing.

Despite receiving two wounds on the island, Serling was still ready for combat and deployed with his platoon to Tagaytay Ridge in 1945 and marched on Manilla. Japanese forces defended the city with 17,000 troops and laid numerous traps. It took roughly one month to take control of the city. When a city block was peaceful enough and devoid of Japanese forces, locals would celebrate with the Allies. Serling's unit was enjoying such hospitality one night when Japanese artillery rained down on them. He ran into the shellfire to rescue a performer, earning the notice of his sergeant.

When he was discharged in 1946, Serling had earned the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Philippine Liberation Medal. The experience of war followed him home, and he experienced nightmares and flashbacks for the rest of his life. Serling said that, "I was bitter about everything and at loose ends when I got out of the service. I think I turned to writing to get it off my chest." When he returned to civilian life, he used his G.I. benefits for medical services as well as a college education. With his Bachelor of Arts in Literature, Serling started his career and went on to become a voice of altruism and philosophy that resonates with us today.

The Top Secret Birth of Private Snafu

"Private Snafu was not the ideal soldier. In fact, his name was a reference to the rather indelicate army acronym SNAFU, which, in its tamer translation stands for “Situation Normal, All Fouled Up.” The cartoon private had the best of intentions, but he just couldn’t help screwing things up. Whether he was misinterpreting orders or acting on an inane hunch, he often ended up harming himself or the Allied cause, just like in this video, where he is the source of viral rumors that spread fear throughout the front lines.

With his comedic—often decidedly racy—antics, Private Snafu was a favorite among the troops. According to the Prescott Evening Courier in 1944, this series consistently ranked first or second when the army surveyed soldiers on their favorite wartime films.

But about that newspaper report: As the Prescott Evening Courier says, the Private Snafu films were “of, by, and for the armed forces only.” They were classified war office creations, meant to be kept top secret. But in 1944, before the end of the war and the end of Private Snafu’s story, the existence of the series had clearly been leaked to at least one local Arizona news outlet. Seems like someone wasn’t watching those Private Snafu films closely enough after all.

Uncle Sam Wants You…If You’re a Hollywood Star

The film division of the War Department—and particularly the team surrounding the Private Snafu franchise—was made up of the creme de la creme of Hollywood. Frank Capra, the famous director behind Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and, after the war, It’s a Wonderful Life, was tapped to become the head of the First Motion Picture Unit, charged with producing all domestic and overseas propaganda and educational films. Capra was the one who came up with the idea for the Private Snafu series.

But credit for their hilarious storylines lies solidly withTheodore Seuss Geisel, the man almost every American child knows as Dr. Seuss. Often working with a co-writer, Dr. Seuss was responsible for writing almost every one of the 27 Private Snafu films. Once you know the magical mind behind this rather adult franchise, the animation style begins to take on a distinctly Seussian character.

But Not All Rumors Were Bad…

Loose lips sink ships, or so the propaganda posters warned. But the Allies were counting on loose lips—or at least fake news—to help deflect some of the German bombing that was bombarding cities like London and Paris. They did so in the form of decoy cities.

The German Luftwaffe tore across the sky with their deadly payload guided by the most primitive of guidance systems: a compass, a map, and the human eye (which, in all fairness, were the only tools available at the time). The British concocted a scheme to try to fool the enemy pilots into thinking they had reached their intended targets by constructing sham sites that were designed and lit to appear as if they were cities or military installations. The idea was that the German bombers would pass over these decoy cities first, think they were the real thing, bomb them, and leave the real inhabited and valuable sites alone.

The U.S. followed suit after Pearl Harbor, but they took a different tactic. Because of the perceived danger of Japanese bombing on the West Coast, the U.S. wanted to disguise two airplane factories that were engaged in war effort production from their sites in Burbank and Seattle. In order to do so, they built fake neighborhoods on top of the factories that, from the air, would camouflage them to look like any old, harmless American suburb. It was a scheme sure to fool any Private Snafus on either side of the war."

-BY Allison McNearney

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MSG Charles Ernest "Snake" Hosking

Green Beret, 5th Special Forces Group

WWII and Vietnam

My Dad's - CSM Lee Allan Hosking (Ret) cousin

by Steve Balestrieri

"Charles Ernest Hosking Jr. was a career soldier who fought as a U.S. paratrooper in World War II and was one of the original Green Berets when the unit was created in 1952. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam.

A desire to serve

Hosking was born in May of 1924 in Ramsey, New Jersey. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and with World War II underway, Hosking ran away from home and hitchhiked to Canada. He enlisted in Canada’s famous “Black Watch” Regiment trying to get into the fight.

He eventually was tracked down by his U.S. congressman and others and being underage was shipped home. He then tried to join the Coast Guard with his grandfather’s permission but a heart murmur ended that venture as well. Undeterred, Hosking sought out his congressman, he received a waiver and was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1943.

But just serving wasn’t enough. Hosking volunteered for airborne duty and was assigned to Company B of the 509th Airborne Infantry Battalion. He joined them in Italy and served in the Rome-Arno, Southern France, and Ardennes-Alsace campaigns during the war in Europe. He was wounded by machine-gun fire during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes. Of the 1,500 men in the 509th, only 29 would go without being killed or wounded.

He did not manage to serve in Korea due to a training accident when a bazooka round exploded and he suffered two broken legs and severe shrapnel wounds that required many months to recover from.

When Colonel Aaron Bank created the new Special Forces unit at Ft. Bragg, Hosking volunteered and served as an Engineer as well as a Weapons Sergeant on his A-Team. He was assigned to both Smoke Bomb Hill on Ft. Bragg and to Bad Tolz in Germany.  He went to different training programs including language training. He eventually could speak Czech, German and Vietnamese.

Hosking served three different tours in Vietnam, in 1963, 1965-66 and his final tour in 1967.

On his final tour in Vietnam, Hosking was a sergeant first class in Company A of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces Regiment. He was assigned to the Mike Force. On an earlier tour, “Snake” Hosking developed such rapport with the civilian CIDG strikers, both Cambodian and Chinese Nung, that many came out of retirement to rejoin the unit with the word that “Snake” was back in-country. He was a legend with the men that Special Forces had trained and led.

On March 21, 1967, he was working as an advisor to a Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) battalion in Đôn Luân district, Phuoc Long Province, when his unit captured a Viet Cong sniper.

Hosking was preparing the VC prisoner for transport to the A-Team’s base camp, when the man grabbed a hand grenade from Hosking’s belt, armed it, and ran towards the 4-man command group, which consisted of two American and two South Vietnamese officers.

Hosking tackled the prisoner and held him to the ground, using the VC’s body and his own to shield others from the grenade blast. He knew what that entailed. In an attempt to save the officers’ lives he gave up his own. Both he and the Viet Cong prisoner were killed in the ensuing explosion.

Hosking was posthumously promoted to master sergeant and awarded the Medal of Honor for this action in 1969. President Nixon awarded the Medal to Hosking’s son Wesley at the White House.

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Master Sergeant Hosking (then Sergeant First Class), Detachment A-302, Company A, greatly distinguished himself while serving as company advisor in the III Corps Civilian Irregular Defense Group Reaction Battalion during combat operations in Don Luan District. A Viet Cong suspect was apprehended and subsequently identified as a Viet Cong sniper. While MSG Hosking was preparing the enemy for movement back to the base camp, the prisoner suddenly grabbed a hand grenade from MSG Hosking’s belt, armed the grenade, and started running towards the company command group which consisted of 2 Americans and 2 Vietnamese who were standing a few feet away. Instantly realizing that the enemy intended to kill the other men, MSG Hosking immediately leaped upon the Viet Cong’s back. With utter disregard for his personal safety, he grasped the Viet Cong in a “Bear Hug” forcing the grenade against the enemy soldier’s chest. He then wrestled the Viet Cong to the ground and covered the enemy’s body with his body until the grenade detonated. The blast instantly killed both MSG Hosking and the Viet Cong. By absorbing the full force of the exploding grenade with his body and that of the enemy, he saved the other members of his command group from death or serious injury. MSG Hosking’s risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest tradition of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.”

"He was buried in New Jersey. The Police Benevolent Association dedicated a monument to him in 2000 in Veteran’s Park on East Main St. in Ramsey, NJ.

Hosking’s daughter Gail who was just 17 when her father died, had had a hard time coming to terms with his death and with the war that had kept him, before that, out of the family’s life for so long. But nearly a quarter of a century later, she wrote a book, “Snake’s Daughter,” in which she finally came to realize what a hero her father was."

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