On July 10, 2015 the Wisconsin Veterans Museum conducted the 2,000th interview for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. Volunteer interviewer Ellen Bowers Healey interviewed Dennis F. Kinney, who served in both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force and retired in 1968 after 20 years of service. Below are the interviewer’s summary of the interview and highlights of Mr. Kinney’s extensive and exciting service.
Dennis F. Kinney, United State Army and United State Air Force, was born May 12, 1931 and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin. With his parents’ permission, Dennis joined the Army in 1948, at age 17 and prior to graduating from high school. With numerous short breaks in service, Dennis retired as a staff sergeant. During his breaks in service, Dennis worked briefly in California, Wisconsin, and Florida. Dennis’s winning personality, which shone through during the interview, took him to many diverse duty stations and brought him in contact with many notable people.
Serving for 20 years and 7 days in military transportation and the engineers, he saw duty in Guam, Germany, Okinawa, North Africa, Vietnam, Thailand and Paris. In the late 1940s, his first duty station was Guam, where he served with the local army and Philippine soldiers searching for Japanese World War II survivors hiding in jungles. Following Guam, Dennis had order to Korea; however, due to a long hospitalization, he did not serve there.
As a driver and general’s aide, Dennis met many celebrities and government officials, including actress Debbie Reynolds, President Dwight Eisenhower, and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He met the latter two while serving as a military liaison to the 1960 Paris Summit. Dennis met American pilots in training as a driver in North Africa, and he met members of the French Foreign Legion, who he had previous contact with while serving in Okinawa, Japan.
Following retirement, Dennis settled in his hometown of Green Bay, where he continues to serve military veterans in many capacities. He is a member of 23 military organizations and successfully lobbied Wisconsin politicians for a VA hospital in Green Bay. And in keeping with his long service in military transportation, for many years Dennis served disabled veterans by driving them to medical appointments.
For more information about Mr. Kinney’s interview or any of the other interviews in our oral history collection, please contact our Oral Historian, Ellen Brooks, at 608.261.0537 or oralhistory [at] dva.wisconsin.gov.