Local man receives military medals 63 years after discharge

13 years ago

Veterans Day Banner

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer

HODGDON — Phil Geishecker traveled the world over while serving his country in the military. Now, 63 years after his discharge, Geishecker has finally been presented with six military medals he earned for service to his country. He received his medals in October.

VP-Medals-dc-pt-45Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
MEDALS — Phil Geishshecker of Cary Plantation shows off the medals he recently received, 63 years after his discharge from the military.

The medals were originally supposed to be presented to Geishecker upon his discharge. However, when he was offered the chance to get out of the service a week early, he jumped at the opportunity, not realizing it would be 63 years before he would finally be presented with his medals.

Geishecker, now 83 years old, received the following medals for his military service:

• Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal — Instituted in 1921, this award is for “Outstanding proficiency, leadership and conduct during three continuous years of active enlisted Coast Guard service.”

• American Campaign Medal — Instituted in 1942, this medal was for “service outside the U.S. in the American theater for 30 days or within the continental U.S. for one year.”

• Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal — Instituted in 1942, this award is for “service in the Asiatic-Pacific theater for 30 days or receipt of any combat decoration.”

• World War II Victory Medal — Instituted in 1945, this medal was “awarded for service in the U.S. Armed Forces during [1941-46].”

• Navy Occupation Service Medal — Instituted in 1947, this medal was awarded for “30 consecutive days of service in occupied territories of former enemies during the period [1945-55].”

• Antarctica Service Medal — Instituted in 1960, this medal is presented to those who had “30 calendar days of service in the Antarctic continent.”

VP-Medals-dcx4-pt-45Contributed Photo/Phil Geishecker
SHIP’S VIEW — The Northwind, a Coast Guard icebreaker, unloads its crew in the Antarctic.

In 1945, while other men were returning home from fighting in World War II, Geishecker was a young yeoman on the Northwind, a United States Coast Guard icebreaker, participating in Operation Highjump under General Richard Byrd. Operation Highjump was a Navy operation that began on Aug. 26, 1946 and ended in Februrary, 1947. The purpose of the operation was to establish the first manned base in the Antarctic, Geishecker said.

Geishecker is likely one of just a handful of men still alive who served on the Northwind. He has been asked to speak about the expedition in the past. About five years ago, he put the photo album together, complete with notations along the sides of the pages, so his children would be able to learn more about his time in the military. The Northwind was the last remaining of the original seven U.S.-built Wind-class icebreakers. It was decommissioned in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1989.

On the ship, Geishecker worked for the scientists who were gathering information on the various species of marine life.

“I was 16 when I joined in 1944,” he said. “You could join at 16 with your father’s consent. I remember telling my father, ‘Dad, you don’t want me running away do you?’ Everybody I knew was in the service. He agreed with the provision that I finish my education when I got back.”

Joining the service at such an early age was an easy decision for him.

VP-Medals-dcx5-pt-45Contributed Photo/Phil Geishecker
DOWN TIME — Phil Geishecker, fourth from left, of Cary Plantation relaxes with crew members.

“There were three Gold Stars on the street I lived on [in Portland],” he said. “Three of the fathers of my friends had gotten killed in the war. The patriotism we had back then, I don’t think we will ever see that again.”

He experienced three hurricanes and two tsunamis at sea during his time in the military.

“There is no description of 100-foot waves that can possibly do it justice,” he said.

Geishecker’s military life is documented in a personal photo album filled with snapshots taken by a Life Magazine photographer during an exploration trip to the Antarctic from 1945-46. He can still recall intricate details of the ship, such as the length of the vessel and what the ship carried for armaments.

“I was not a hero,” he said. “I just did my job.”

VP-Medals-dc2-pt-45Contributed Photo/Phil Geishecker
HISTORIC MISSION — The Northwind blasts its way through the ice in Antarctica.









VP-Medals-dcx3-pt-45Contributed Photo/Phil Geishecker
BATTLE GUNS — These guns were nicknamed “Acey” and “Deucey.”