HEROES of STAR POST 309
In January 2017, Star Post 309 members had the honor of meeting longtime legionnaire, Charles H. Gillmann. We chatted a while with Charlie learning about his time in the military and with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. This is part of his story.
Charles Gillmann was born on November 4, 1925. Charlie enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces, then a component of the Army, during World War II. His reason for the Air Force was he did not want to be a “ground pounder” mostly because he hated walking. Charlie was assigned as a gunner on a B-24 Liberator as part of the 460th Bombardment Group, 760th Bomb Squadron stationed in Spinazzola, Italy.
During a mission, they came under enemy fire. With their plane severely damaged, the crew had to suddenly bail or risk crashing into a mountainside. Charlie was very nonchalant about this particular story. One would think he was on vacation by the way he told the story. But we knew right away, Charlie was a humble man, not one for being grandiose. After about a week after the crash, the crew was able to regroup and found themselves together behind enemy lines. For almost a month, they trekked from one small Italian town to the next. Luckily for them, the locals in that area had no love for the Axis powers. About four weeks later, Charlie and his crewmates made it to the forward lines where they were taken in by British troops. They spent a little more time there until American forces caught up with them.
Charles H. Gillmann
As a token of his surviving the jump, Charlie was given the unofficial designation of being a member of the “Caterpillar Club.” This designation is given to those who have had to bail out of a damaged plane using a parachute, which at one point were made of silk, hence the name of the club. Charlie was presented with the Air Medal. It is awarded for single acts of achievement after September 8, 1939, to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces who distinguishes him/herself by heroism, outstanding achievement or by meritorious service while participating in aerial flight.
After the war, Charlie came home, obtained his degree from UC Santa Barbara in Police Science, and then went on to join the ranks of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on September 14, 1948. He worked a variety of assignments in between custody and patrol.Charlie was called back to service during the Korean War. Because of his experience as a jailer in the county jail system, his commander made him the sergeant in charge of the military prison on base. While in Korea, his wife Charlene was having their first daughter, so Charlie was allowed to go home. He continued with the Sheriff’s Department working at Temple Station and Detective Bureau in Downtown Los Angeles. He retired on March 29, 1982, after 33 years of faithful service to the residents of Los Angeles County. Charlie went on to work for the Sheriff’s Relief Association for 20 years after his so-called retirement. If any Sheriff’s members had ever been to the small Emporium shop that used to be tucked in the corner of the Biscailuz Shooting Range, they may have remembered Charlie politely attending to their needs. He spent many years there after his retirement.
Charles Gillmann left this earth to be with his wife on March 1, 2017. Star Post members attended his funeral and honored his memory at the ceremony. He was 91 years old. Charlie was a 29 year member of the Star Post.
Walter D. Allsop
Star Post 309 caught up with Walter D. Allsop, and his lovely wife, Mary, at their home in Claremont. Both were extremely happy to know they are not forgotten. Walt took the time to sit with us and share his story.
Walter D. Allsop was born on April 6, 1928. He was born to a family of service men – both his father and uncle served in the British Navy during World War I. Walt was but a teenager riding in his father’s pickup truck when he heard the radio news story about the Pearl Harbor bombing.
Although still enrolled in high school, Walt graduated midterm in order to enlist to support the war effort. The choice to enlist in the Navy was a simple one given his father’s naval roots. Walt’s parents took him to the enlistment ceremony at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. That should give one a sense of how many people were there enlisting in the Armed Forces.
After basic training, Walt remembers seeing all of the destruction at Pearl Harbor. He went on to serve on the Aircraft Carrier USS Valley Forge CV-45 which was commissioned on November 3, 1946. While on leave in Philadelphia, Walt sent for Mary to join him. He and Mary were wed on May 1, 1947. In February 1948 Walt was discharged honorably from the Navy, but not before securing a plank from the original flight deck of the “Happy Valley.”
Walt came home and enrolled at John Muir College. After graduation he applied to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. While on the Department, Walt used his GI Bill benefits to enroll at USC where he obtained his Bachelors and Masters Degrees. Walt had a storied career with the LASD. He began his career working the old farm at Wayside. Eugene Biscailuz was Sheriff then. Walt quickly rose through the ranks during Sheriff Peter Pitchess’ tenure, where he was promoted to the rank of Inspector/Commander under Sheriff Sherman Block. After his retirement in 1979, Walt managed the Sheriff’s Relief Association for 10 years, after which he really retired in 1989. Walter Allsop is a 40 year member of the Star Post.
Frederick W. Gustin was born on April 14, 1925, in Huntington Park, CA. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived with his parents, Mildred and Roy Sr., Fred’s older brother, Roy Jr, and Fred’s two younger sisters, Dawn and Donna. Roy Sr. and his brothers had previously served in the Army during WWI.
After living in San Dimas for a short while, the family moved to Pocatello, Idaho during the Great Depression where Fred’s father found work on the railroad. After a few years, the family moved back to California and settled in El Monte where Roy Sr. worked for Union Pacific.
Fred recalled listening to the radio one Sunday morning and hearing the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Although he was still enrolled at El Monte High School, Fred took a GED test in order to enlist. Roy Sr. told Fred to opt for the Navy because dad said Uncle Sam took better care of the Navy. Fred reported for duty in 1942. After boot camp, he was selected for commercial Signal School in Los Angeles at the Naval Armory in Elysian Park. He was assigned to the US Navy Armed Guard who were responsible for communications and security aboard merchant ships. Fred was involved in the European Theater from September 1943 to June 1944, and later to the Pacific campaign from June 1944 to February 1946.
Fred’s service took him on many travels from New Orleans, to New York, across the Atlantic Ocean to England, back to New York, back to England, and then to the Mediterranean Sea, through the Straits of Gibraltar where the convoy he was in was attacked by German Stuka dive bombers. Fred continued his travels to Naples, Italy, then back to New York. From there, he went to Havana, Cuba to New Orleans, and then through the Panama Canal to the campaign in the Pacific.
He was later assigned to a new ship in Port Hueneme to take newly sworn Navy Ensign pilots to New Caledonia (an island in the Pacific). He sailed to New Guinea to transport troops to Australia, then back to New Guinea. From there he sailed to Indonesia to pick up more troops.
In January 1945 Fred sailed with three convoys on their way to the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf and the Battle of Luzon in the Philippines. During that mission, they were attacked by Japanese kamikaze aircraft. After surviving that ordeal, Fred’s ship travelled back to the U.S. stopping at many islands along the way. It was then he learned of President Roosevelt’s death and Harry Truman’s assumption of the presidency. After several years at sea, Fred landed in San Diego where he was discharged on April 11, 1946.
Fred returned home to El Monte. His father passed away on March 6, 1946. As with all tragedies, a bright light always shines through. He met his future wife, Patricia, at the memorial service where she played the organ. They married on September 10, 1949. Fred and his brother purchased a filling station in El Monte. He also worked as a nighttime switchman at Southern Pacific Railroad. Fred’s cousin was hired by the Los Angeles County Fire Department and suggested to Fred he should also join. The Fire Department was not accepting applications at the time, so Fred tested with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. That turned out to be the best employment decision he had ever made.
Fred was in Class #39 and sworn in by Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz on July 1, 1952. As a deputy, he worked transportation with Gail Champion, then transferred to Temple Station. When he was promoted to Sergeant, Fred was transferred to the radio room and then to Detective Bureau at San Dimas Station. He was soon promoted to Lieutenant where he worked at East Los Angeles Station. While at East LA, he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Police Science and Administration.
Fred was promoted to Captain and was assigned to Malibu Station for 18 months, and was later transferred to Norwalk Station. After being promoted to Inspector/Commander, Fred moved over to administration and then to Special Operations. In 1977 Sheriff Peter Pitchess promoted Fred to Chief of Technical Services Division. Much like his career in the Navy, Fred’s career on the Department took him everywhere.
Fred retired on February 29, 1980, after almost 29 years on the job. Fred was proud of his career, and is also proud of his two sons, both of whom are also military veterans. His son, Roy, was in the Marine Corps and his other son, Fred M., was in the Navy. Both served honorably during the Vietnam War era. Pat and Fred have three children and their spouses, eight grandchildren with six spouses, and eleven great-grandchildren ranging from 3 months to 13 years old. At age 92 (Fred) and 86 (Pat), both are blessed beyond measure.