Monday, May 31, 2010

World War II: Lessons in their dying

Paul Dominic Pastovich's high school graduation photograph.

I’ve been working lately, obviously if you follow this blog, on rosters of the Lucas County dead in our various wars --- those who, as Lincoln put it, lay their lives down for us, sacrifices at the altar of freedom. That concept of sacrifice has been ridiculed now and then in these post-Vietnam years, but I can’t imagine being among those who do it. And Lincoln’s “altar of freedom” rings off-key to some 21st century ears. Although rarely at a loss for words, it’s something I have a lot of trouble talking or writing coherently about --- most of us do. So it seems best most of the time just to stand there in awed silence.

What’s been done so far about Vietnam and Korea already has been posted here. I’d hoped to have the World War II roster done by this time, too. But there were too many losses, too many stories to tell in time. I’ve posted scraps of the list before. Now, since it is Memorial Day, I’ll post the list as it stands now with the names of those still to be accounted for at the end.

Paul Pastovich stopped me cold this week. My mother and grandfather, neighbors of the Pastovich family near that imaginary line that separates English from Pleasant townships in northeast Lucas County, spoke of him when I was growing up. Born in the mining camp of Olmitz, just down the road from the Miller family farm, to Dan and Anna Pastovich and into a coal-mining family headed by immigrants from Croatia and Italy, Paul beat the odds --- neither miners’ sons nor farmers’ daughters were expected to go to college, nor could they afford to do so, in the 1930s.

Paul did, earning his degree from Iowa State University in 1941, the year the United States entered the war. Enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he earned his wings and was commissioned second lieutenant in June of 1943. A few months later, on Valentine’s Day 1944, he was piloting a B-24 bomber from Florida to North Africa when it went down in the Atlantic with all hands perhaps 90 miles off Dakar.

So much promise lost in that war, and all our wars. In their dying, those young people left lessons, but I think those lessons have to be discerned individually. I hope you’ll spend a little time thinking about that today and in the days that follow --- and keep repeating their names.


Phrases like “the last good war” and “the greatest generation” often are used in relation to World War II and those who fought in it, both on the battlefield and the homefront. And these phrases are not exaggerations.

From Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor forced the United States into war against both Japan and Germany, until V-E Day on May 7, 1945, and V-J Day on Sept. 2, 1945, the nation was united in a single cause to an unprecedented degree.

The war also was extremely costly in terms of human life. An estimated 290,000 U.S. troops died in combat and 114,000 of other causes during the war for a total of roughly 405,000, the nation’s greatest loss since the Civil War.

Of this total, between 40 and 50 of the hundreds of young Lucas Countyans who served gave up their lives. No distinction is made here between those who died in combat and those who did not. Because of the oddities of record-keeping, the list is by its nature incomplete.


PFC Mahlon B. "Buster" Angstead

ANGSTEAD, MAHLON B., U.S. Army Private First Class, age 20, of Chariton. PFC Angstead, known as "Buster," son of Ira and Lula Angstead, was born 12 December 1924 in Chariton and inducted into the U.S. Army  on 13 July 1942. He had served honorably for two years and eight months when he was killed in combat.

Serving with the 346th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, PFC Angstead was engaged in an assault on the city of Koblenz that involved crossing the Moselle River when he died on 15 March 1945. Germany surrendered less than two months later. Initially reported as missing in action, his death was not confirmed until February of 1946.

PFC Angstead's remains were repatriated to Chariton during November of 1949 and funeral services were held and burial in the Chariton Cemetery occurred on Sunday afternoon, 27 November. Awards: Purple Heart Medal. He was survived by his mother and six siblings: Iris Davenport, Irene Williams, Donovan Angstead, Gay Steinbach, Fay Olson and Mary Jane Smith.


BAXTER, JOHN E. JR., U.S. Army Air Forces Second Lieutenant (promoted posthumously to first lieutenant), age 20, of Chariton. Son of Mr. and Mrs. John E. Baxter Sr., husband of Glea. Inducted 4 November 1942, commissioned 4 February 1944 at Blackland Field, Waco Texas; landed in England 30 June 1944.

Lieutenant Baxter died 28 July 1944 when the B-17 Bomber he was co-piloting went down over the North Sea after colliding midair with another B-17 approximately 15 miles off the English coast on the return flight from a bombing mission targeting Merseburg and ammunition factories in the Ruhr. Remains not recovered. Awards: Air Medal and Purple Heart Medal. Commemorated on Tablets of the Missing, Cambridge American Military Cemetery, Cambridge, England.

Mark D. Bingaman

BINGAMAN, MARK D., U.S. Navy Yeoman First Class, age 31, of Chariton and Arlington, Va. Son of Robert and Elsie J. Bingaman, husband of Marcella K. (Norris), father of Robert Lee. Born 28 December 1913, Lucas County; 1933 graduate Chariton High School; enlisted U.S. Navy October 1933 and served four years aboard U.S.S. Saratoga; employed after return to civilian life by U.S. government in Washington, D.C.; enlisted U.S. Naval Reserve March 1942; assigned to carrier U.S.S. Franklin 17 December 1943.

Yoeman First Class Bingaman was among 836 personnel killed on 19 March 1945 when a single Japanese bomber dropped two armor-piercing bombs on the U.S.S. Franklin, which had maneuvered closer to the Japanese mainland than had any other U.S. carrier, killing many outright and setting off massive fires and explosions that killed hundreds of others. More than 600 crewmen survived and saved the badly-damaged ship. Bingaman was buried at sea. Commemorated: Tablets of the Missing, Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific; Oxford Cemetery, rural Chariton.

Mark D. Bingaman memorial stone, Oxford Cemetery.

BLUE, DONALD L., U.S. Army Air Forces Technical Sergeant, age 23, of Derby and Peoria, Ill. Son of Walter L. and Mary Ethel (Kells) Blue; born 9 November 1921, Grosse Tete, La.; moved to farm near Derby at age 4; 1939 graduate of Derby High School; employed by Caterpillar Tractor Co., Peoria, Ill., when he enlisted in August 1942; called to duty February 1943.

Sergeant Blue, assigned to the 561st Bombardment Squadron, Bombardment Group (H), 8th Air Force, was serving as radio operator aboard a B-17 Bomber flying his 23rd mission over Germany on his 23rd birthday, 9 Nov. 1943, when it sustained a direct hit and went down near Trier. Three crew members, including Blue, were unable to parachute to safety. Awards: Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart Medal. Buried: Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, Luxembourg City.

CACKLER, ORA EVERETT JR., U.S. Marine Corps Private First Class, age 19, of Chariton. Son of Ora E. Sr. and Minnie Cackler, husband of Lena M. (Spencer). Born 5 May 1925; 1942 graduate of Chariton High School.

Deployed with the Sixth Amphibian Tractor Battalion, First Marine Division, on Peleliu Island, PFC Cackler was assigned on 17 September 1944 during combat with Japanese forces (Battle of Peleliu; Operation Stalemate II) to an amphibian tractor hauling ammunition to the front lines and evacuating wounded to hospital ships in the harbor when he was fatally wounded. Because of the questionable strategic value of the island and the very high death toll (more than 1,800 U.S. troops were KIA or MIA), this remains one of the most controversial battles of World War II. First buried on Peleliu Island, Cacker’s remains were repatriated during September of 1948. Buried: Fletcher Cemetery, Lucas County.


Beryl L. Clark

CLARK, BERYL L., U.S. Army Private First Class, age 24 (above left). Son of Melvin R. and Mabel D. Clark. Born March 7, 1920, Lucas County; 1938 Chariton High School graduate; farmed with his father until enlisting and his induction 4 February 1943. A military policeman, initially assigned as an army and prisoner escort in Africa; reassigned to 6th Infantry Division.

PFC Clark, serving in Luxembourg with Paton’s Third Army, was killed in combat on 11 January 1945, two months after the death of his brother, Lt. James D. Clark. The brothers’ remains were repatriated together to Chariton during August of 1948. Awards: Purple Heart Medal. Burial: Chariton Cemetery.

James Duane Clark

CLARK, JAMES DUANE, U.S. Army Air Forces First Lieutenant, age 28, of Chariton (below left). Son of Melvin R. and Mabel D. Clark, husband of Barbara M. (Sutton) Born 8 February 1916, Lucas County; 1933 Chariton High School graduate; trained and worked as a structural steel worker and welder; enlisted 23 Feb. 1943; earned pilot wings and commissioned second lieutenant 8 February 1944, Camp George Field, Ill.; deployed to England 13 June 1944; promoted to first lieutenant October 1944.

Lt. Clark, assigned to the 563rd Bombardment Squadron, 388th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, was co-piloting the B-17G Cicero Kid on its crew’s 33rd mission on 9 November 1944. Taking off from Station 136, Knettishall, England, the targets were marshalling yards and rail facilities of Saarbrucken, Germany. Over Foriches, Belgium, an engine caught fire and a simultaneous violent explosion broke the plane into three parts. Seven crewmen parachuted to safety, but co-pilot Clark and pilot John J. Chimenti perished. Clark’s remains were repatriated to Chariton in August 1948 along with those of his brother, Beryl, killed in combat in Luxembourg 11 January 1945, two months after James’s death. Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart Medal. Burial: Chariton Cemetery, Lucas County.

Prosdocimo J. "Dutch" Della Betta

DELLA BETTA, PROSDOCIMO J. “DUTCH,” U.S. Army Air Forces staff sergeant, age 24, of Chariton and St. Louis. Son of Olivo Michele “Mike” and Maria Angela “Mary” Della Betta, husband of Dora (DiBacco), born 15 October 1919 in Hocking, Monroe County; 1938 graduate of Chariton High School; working in St. Louis when he entered the U.S. Army Air Corps on 5 February 1943; deployed to England February 1944.

Sergeant Della Betta, assigned as a radio operator to the 576th Bomber Squadron, 392nd Bomber Group, was declared killed in action as of 15 March 1944 after the bomber on which he was flying his initial mission crashed at Heddinghausen, Germany. Awards: Purple Heart Medal. His remains were repatriated in May 1949. Burial: St. Mary’s Cemetery, Albia.

ECKERMAN, WALTER L., U.S. Army Air Forces second lieutenant, age 26, of Chariton and Burlington. Son of Ray and Agnes Eckerman; born 1919 in Iowa; 1936 Chariton High School graduate; working in Burlington when inducted 10 May 1942; commissioned bombardier 13 May 1943.

Lt. Eckerman was stationed at Lewiston, Mont., on 25 August 1943 when the B-17 bomber he was aboard crashed in a wind and hail storm while dropping practice bombs at night killing all 11 men aboard. Burial: Chariton Cemetery.

Roy Ellis

ELLIS, ROY, U.S. Army Air Forces staff sergeant, age 22, of Williamson. Son of Frank and Mary C. Ellis; born 31 January 1920 in the mining town of Andersonville (Marion County); lived as a child in Pershing, moving to Williamson in 1931; a 1937 graduate of Williamson High School; worked in Williamson-area mines until enlistment on 8 October 1940; completed training as radio operator in October 1941.

Sergeant Ellis, transferred June 5-11, 1942 to the Alaskan Zone, was killed in action on his first mission over Kiska Island on 11 June 1942. Generally acknowledged as the first Lucas Countyan to die in World War II. Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart Medal. Buried: Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.

EXLEY, FORREST J., U.S. Army private first class, age 21, of the Last Chance neighborhood. Son of James C. and Gertrude Exley, born 28 March 1923 in Lucas County; inducted 2 February 1943, deployed to the Pacific theater 1944..

PFC Exley, serving with the 147th Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Division, reportedly was among troops who volunteered to fight on Iwo Jima after a year of service on New Caledonia. The battle for two airstrips on Iwo Jima was the first U.S. attack on the Japanese home island and because of overwhelming force, a U.S. victory was assured. Nonetheless the fighting was fierce and bloody. A total of 6,821 U.S. troops were killed and more than 19,000 wounded. The Japanese toll exceeded 16,000. PFC Exley’s death reportedly occurred on 27 March 1945, perhaps of earlier wounds, several days after the 26-day battle officially ended. He is commemorated at the Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

GATHERCOLE, GERALD O., U.S. Army private first class, age 38, of Chariton and West Branch. Son of Robert and Emma Gathercole, born 13 July 1906, inducted 3 February 1943.

PFC Gathercole died of a heart attack at Fort Jackson, S.C., on 4 May 1944. Buried Chariton Cemetery.

HAINES, KENNETH H., U.S. Army private first class, age 19, of Chariton and Oregon. Son of Alva and Ruth Haines, born 11 October 1925 in Warren County; attended school in and around Chariton; accompanied family to Oregon; inducted 6 January 1944 at Hood River, Oregon; deployed to Europe January 1945.

Assigned to Co. F, 89th Infantry Division, PFC Haines was killed in action on March 20, 1945, in Germany, during the Battle of the Bulge. His remains were repatriated to Chariton during late August, 1948. Burial: Norwood Cemetery. Awards: Purple Heart Medal.

HANKS, ARLIE L., known as “Shovel,” U.S. Navy electrician’s mate third class, age 41, of Russell. Son of William and Laura A. Hanks, born 31 March 1901 at Russell, worked as a telegraph operator for the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad, inducted in Chicago on 1 January 1942.

EM 3C Hanks was serving aboard the USS Edward Rutledge (AP-52) which had successfully landed troops at Fedhala, French Morocco, on 8 November 1942 and lay off the beach unloading her cargo with two lifeboats, the only boats remaining after the assault. He was on duty in the engine room on 12 November 1942 when she was torpedoed by a German submarine that had slipped past the escort screen to sink the Rutledge and two other transports. The Edward Rutledge’s crew attempted to beach her, but power had been lost and she sank with the loss of 15 men, including Hanks. Remains not recovered. Commemorated: Tablets of the Missing, North African American Cemetery and Memorial, Tunis; Russell Cemetery.

Ellis H. Hatfield

HATFIELD, ELLIS H., U.S. Army private first class, age 27, of Millerton, Chariton and Chicago. Son of Calvin Ellis and Nancy Jane Hatfield, husband of Wilma (Moss), father of Melvin, Ellis Dale and Gerald; born 24 Feb 1919; spent childhood at Millerton; 1936 graduate of Chariton High School; working at a defense plant in Chicago when inducted 2 June 1944; deployed to Europe late 1944.

PFC Hatfield, assigned to the 398th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division, Seventh Army, was participating in the final allied drive into Germany when he was killed in action on 5 April 1945. According to the citation that accompanied the Bronze Star Medal he was awarded posthumously, PFC Hatfield was serving as an ammunition bearer with a unit that became surrounded by a numerically superior German force. Attempting with a comrade to reach a nearby U.S. machine gun post, the comrade was wounded. Ellis was killed instantly by machine gun fire while attempting to carry that comrade to safety. Awards: Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart. Buried: Lorraine American Cemetery; commemorated: Salem Cemetery, Lucas County.

HAYES, RONALD B., U.S. Army staff sergeant, age 24, of Chariton and Gary, Ind. Son of Leroy and Agnes Hayes, husband of Betty Ann, born 11 December 1920 in Lucas County; working in the steel mills of Gary Indiana when inducted.11 December 1942, deployed to European theater September 1944.

Sergeant Hayes, assigned to Co. E, 395th Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division, died 27 January 1945, among the 19,000 Americans who died in the Battle of the Bulge, the largest and bloodiest of World War II battles. His body was repatriated during September 1948. Awars: Purple Heart. Burial: Chariton Cemetery.


JERVIS, WILMA LUCILLE, U.S. Army Nursing Corps second lieutenant, age 22, of Chariton. Lt. Jervis, always known as Lucille, was the daughter of John and Ruth Jervis, born 15 December 1921 near Chariton; 1938 graduate of Chariton High School; 1940 graduate of Chariton Junior College. She graduated from nurses training during the fall of 1943 at Broadlawns General Hospital, Des Moines; enlisted and was inducted 30 December 1943, then called to duty in January 1944.

Lt. Jervis was assigned to Birmingham General Hospital, Van Nuys, Calif., when she was killed in an accident in Van Nuys, reportedly struck by a drunk driver, on 1 August 1944. Birmingham General was primarily a rehabilitation center for troops injured during World War II. Buried: Chariton Cemetery.


KEENE, ROBERT C., U.S. Navy pharmacist’s mate third class, age 20, of Chariton. Son of Homer A and Leah C. Keene, born 27 January 1925 in Lincoln Township, 1943 graduate of Chariton High School where he was an outstanding athlete and scholar; enlisted 28 May 1943.

Pharmacist’s Mate Keene was assigned to the Mare Island Naval Station in California when he died on 30 November 1945 (cause of death unspecified in public reports). Burial: Chariton Cemetery.

Andy Knapp

KNAPP, ANDY (Theron Andrew), U.S. Army Air Forces Sergeant, age 23, of Chariton. Son of Joe A. and Ethel M. Knapp; husband of Margaret (Tessman). Born 11 July 1918 in Missouri; 1936 graduate of Chariton High School; enlisted 18 October 1940.

Sergeant Knapp, apparently a mechanic, was assigned to the 21st Pursuit Squadron, 35th Pursuit Group, and was transferred with his unit 31 October 1941 to the Philippines. Reported missing in action on 7 March 1942, he was held in a Japanese prison camp until his death from malaria on or about 2 June 1942, thus becoming the first Lucas Countyan to die in World War II. Buried first in the POW cemetery at Camp O’Donnell, last stop on the Bataan Death March, his remains were identified during 1947 and removed to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial where he is buried in Plot D, Row 16, Grave 110. Awards: Purple Heart Medal.

KRASHOWETZ, LORANCE F., U.S. Army Air Forces second lieutenant, age 28, of Chariton and Detroit, Mich. Son of Frank L. and Edna Krashowetz, husband of Emma (Ellis); born 13 October 1916; living and working in Detroit at the time of his induction during May of 1943.

Lt. Krashowetz was assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron, 17th Bomb Group, when he was killed on 26 April 1945 reportedly after completing 31 bombing missions. Details are sketchy because his death was not reported in Chariton newspapers and other local records related to Lucas County’s World War II dead are incomplete. Awards: Air Medal with Two Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart. Buried: Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France (Plot B, Row 21, Grave 53); Commemorated with a tombstone near that of his parents in Calvary Cemetery, Chariton.

LARSON, JOSEPH J., U.S. Navy seaman first class, age 20, of Chariton; raised by his aunt and uncle, Germayne and Eva Mullen; 1941 graduate of Chariton High School, inducted 27 May 1943.

Seaman Larson was assigned to the Farragut class destroyer USS Monaghan, part of Task Force 38 consisting of approximately 86 vessels operating about 300 miles east of Luzon in the Philippines after heavy action when it was surprised by a small but violent typhoon on 18 December 1944. The Monaghan as well as two other destroyers, the USS Hull and the USS Spence, capsized and went down with all but a few hands aboard. In addition to Seaman Larson, approximately 790 men were lost. Commemorated: Tablets of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery.

LONG, DONALD DUANE, U.S. Army Air Forces corporal, age 19, of rural Russell. Son of Lloyd and Dorotha (Duckworth) Long, born 22 September 1926 at Chariton. Enlisted 17 October 1944, deployed to the Pacific 25 February 1945.

Corporal Long, assigned to the U.S. Army Air Forces 4th Rescue Squadron, was aboard  a B-17 type aircraft of the squadron that crashed west of Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, on May 27, 1946. At the time he was stationed on Eniwetok Atoll and had served in the Pacific theater for 14 months. He had participated in the invasions of Leyte and Mindanao.

No remains were recovered. He is commemorated in the Chariton Cemetery and Courts of the Missing (Court 7), Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

McDONALD, CONRAD FRANCIS, U.S. Navy aviation radioman 3rd class, age 20, of Williamson. Son of Francis and Rosa McDonald, born 12 April 1925 in Lucas County; inducted 23 August 1943.

AR3 McDonald, based on Oahu, Hawaii, was killed in a place crash “somewhere over the Pacific” on 4 September 1945. Details are frustratingly scarce. Body not recovered. Commemorated: Tablets of the Missing, Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii, and the Chariton Cemetery.

McDONALD, FRANKLIN W., U.S. Marine Corps Private First Class, age 19, of Lucas. Son of George and Artie McDonald, born 24 September 1924 in Lucas County, a 1942 Lucas High School graduate; enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps 31 October 1943.

PFC McDonald, assigned to Co. A, 5th Amphibious Tractor Battalion, 5th Amphibious Corps, First Marine Force, was killed in action during assault operations against Saipan Island in the Marianas on 15 June 1944, six weeks after completing basic training. According to the citation that accompanied his Silver Star Medal, Frank, crew chief operator of an amphibious tractor, was moving his vehicle in on the beach during landing operations on D-Day. Mortally wounded when Japanese mortar fire scored a direct hit on his vehicle, he drove it onto the beach before collapsing and being evacuated to a hospital ship offshore where he died. PFC McDonald’s remains were repatriated to Chariton during December 1949. Burial: Chariton Cemetery. Awards: Silver Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal.

MARSHALL, WILLIAM, U.S. Army Air Forces Major, age 26, of Chariton. Son of Adam and Ruth Marshall, born 27 July 1918 at Chariton; graduate of Chariton High School; working at a dairy in Ottumwa when he enlisted as a U.S. Army private in August 1940. received his wings and commission as second lieutenant 7 March 1942 at Kelley Field, San Antonio; served in Panama and other points in Central in South America, where he was promoted to first lieutenant; served as an instructor at many posts in the United Staes; promoted to captain 1 August 1943; deployed to the Pacific Theater in August 1944; promoted to major 1 October 1944.

Major Marshall, deployed to India, died in a plane crash there on 30 January 1945. His remains were repatriated to Chariton during early June, 1948. Burial: Chariton Cemetery.


MINCKS, FRED E. JR., U.S. Army Air Forces second lieutenant, age 26, of Monroe County and Chariton. Son of Fred Sr. and Nettie Mincks, husband of Luetta (Hobbs), father of Sandra Sue; born 10 February 1918 in Monroe County; apparently lived in Chariton late 1930s and early 1940s.

Lt. Mincks, assigned to the 705th Bomber Squadron, 44th Bomber Group, was piloting the B-24 Bomber Happy Go Lucky on 25 August 1944 when it went down, apparently because of engine failure, over the North Sea killing all 10 aboard. Body not recovered. Commemorated: Tablets of the Missing, Cambridge American Cemetery, Cabridge, England, and Avon Cemetery, Polk County, Iowa. Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart.



Lyle H. Morris

MORRIS, LYLE H., U.S. Navy storekeeper fist class, age 22, of Derby. Son of Otis W. and Leta G. Morris; born 3 September 1920 at Derby; graduate of Derby High School and the American Institute of Business, Des Moines; enlisted and entered the service 22 October 1940.

Storekeeper First Class Morris died at this battle station aboard the carrier USS Enterprise during a Japanese assault on 25 October 1942 in the south Pacific. Buried at sea, he is commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. He was the third Lucas Countyan to give up his life in service to his country during World War II.

MORRISON, RAYMOND D., U.S. Army Corporal, age 23, of Cedar Township and Chariton. Son of John Wesley and Mary F. (Dean) Morrison, born 29 October 1920 in Cedar Township, inducted 15 October 1941.

Corporal Morrison, assigned to the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, was killed in action near St. Lo, France, on 15 July 1944. He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France (Plot A, Row 3, Grave 36).

MOSBEY, LYLE E., U.S. Navy electricians mate 2nd class, age 23, of Chariton. Son of Carl and Lillie Mosbey, born 4 April 1920; a graduate of Chariton High School where he was described as an all-time basketball great; inducted 26 October 1941.

Electricians Mate 2nd Class Mosbey was assigned to the USS Scorpion, a Gato-class submarine whose mission was to patrol in the Pacific. The Scorpion departed Midway Island after refueling and reprovisioning on 3 January 1944 to patrol the East China Sea. On 5 January 1944, the Scorpion rendezvoused with the USS Herring to attempt transfer of an injured crewman, but the transfer was unsuccessful because of sea conditions. The Scrorpion was not seen again. It is presumed that the submarine struck a Japanese mine and was lost with all hands on board. The official date of loss is 11 January 1944, but that is naval guesswork. Mosbey is commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, in the Philippines, and also in the Goshen Cemetery.

NEEDLES, WAYNE M., U.S. Army private first class, age 22, of Chariton. Son of Marshall S. and Amy Needles; born 10 September 1922; completed 11th grade at Lacona High School then farmed with his father four years; enlisted U.S. Army Air Corps 27 September 1942, later transferred.

Assigned to Co. F, 415th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division, PFC Needles was killed by enemy artillery fire on 31 October 1944 while his unit was engaged in seizing a bridge head over the Mark River in the vicinity of Standdaarbuiten, Holland. Awards: Purple Heart Medal. Buried: Chariton Cemetery.

Loren E. Nussbaum

NUSSBAUM, LOREN E., U.S. Marine Corps private first class, age 23, of rural Lacona. Son of Ferman and Chloe Charity (West) Nussbaum; born 24 September 1920 in Liberty Township; graduate of Lacona High School and Chillicothe (Missouri) Business College; enlisted 18 January 1942.

Assigned for 20 months to Pago Pago, British Samoa, and the Wallis Islands, he was deployed during late 1943 with the 22nd Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps, in the effort to wrest the central Pacific Marshall Islands from Japanese control. A battle to capture Enewetak Atol, some 44 islets around a central lagoon at the northern end of Marshalls and the site of a Japanese airfield, began during mid-February 1944. It was there on Feb. 20 that Loren died in combat. His family was told much later that he had been wounded in the right forearm, but refused to be evacuated. As the battle continued, his company commander was wounded and while Loren was attempting to aid in his rescue, he was caught in crossfire and died instantly. Buried temporarily on Japtan, one of the Enewetak islets, his remains were repatriated in the fall of 1947. After arriving in San Francisco with the remains of 2,038 others from the Pacific theater aboard the transport ship Honda Knot during late October, his body was transported to Chariton where funeral services were held on 9 November 1947. His remains were the first repatriated to Chariton after the war’s end. Buried: Chariton Cemetery.

NUTT, RAYMOND A., U.S. Navy Seaman Second Class, age 18, of Chariton.

Son of E.B. and Ruby Nutt, born 1926 perhaps in Warren County; attended Chariton High School while living with his brother and sister-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Keith Nutt, rural Chariton; enlisted soon after his 17th birthday.

Seaman Second Class Nutt was assigned to the USS Indianapolis, which delivered the world’s first operational atomic bomb to Tinian Island on 26 July 1945 and then was ordered to join the USS Idaho at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. Refused an escort by Naval authorities, the Indianapolis was midway between Guam and Leyte Gulf when it was hit on 30 July by two of six torpedoes fired by a Japanese submarine. Blasts blew the ship apart and in sank within 12 minutes. Of the 1,196 men aboard, 900 made it into the water but only 317 were alive when discovered and rescued five days later because of constant shark attacks, dehydration, exposure and wounds. Raymond is commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.


Bobby Hunt/Find A Grave

ODEN, HOWARD M., age 21, U.S. Army Air Forces second lieutenant, of Russell. Son of Preston H. and Olive Oden; born 18 May 1922 at Chariton; 1939 graduate of Russell High School; attended Parsons College for two years and then worked in Washington, D.C., for a year before enlisting 10 April 1942 in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Second Lieutenant Oden was deployed to North Africa with the 448th Bombardment Group 20 November 1943, flying a B-24 Liberator. On 8 December 1943 he and 10 other airman were killed when their plane exploded during a training flight over Algeria. Their remains were repatriated during 1949 and buried in a common grave at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Chariton (Iowa) Leader, 23 August 1949

OSENBAUGH, JEFFERSON A., U.S. Army private first class, age 24, of Otter Creek Township, Van Wert and elsewhere. Son of Charles R. and Effie L. Osenbaugh, born 26 December 1917, inducted 24 March 1942.

PFC Osenbaugh, assigned to Headquarters Co., 1st Battalion, 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, was killed in action in Normandy on 11 June 1944 during the days following the allied landings there on 6 June 1944. Awards: Purple Heart Medal. He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery, Collevillel-sur-Mer, France (Plot C, Row 10, Grave 42).

PASTOVICH, PAUL DOMINIC, U.S. Army Air Forces second lieutenant, age 24, of Pleasant Township.

Son of Dan and Anna (Braida) Pastovich, born 3 September 1919 in the mining town of Olmitz (now vanished); graduate of Williamson High School and, in 1941, of Iowa State University with a bachelor of arts degree; inducted 24 June 1941; enlisted September 1941 in U.S. Army Air Corps; earned his wings and was commissioned 26 June 1943 at Randolph Field, Texas.

Assigned to the 787th Bomber Squadron, 466th Bomber Group (Heavy), Paul was piloting a B-24 bomber from Morrison Field, Florida, to Dakar, Senegal, on 14 February 1944 when the plane went down in the Atlantic about 90 miles off the African coast. Commemorated in the North Africa American Cemetery, Carthage, Tunisia. Paul also is commemorated on a cenotaph near his parents' graves in Graceland Cemetery, Knoxville.

PATTERSON, RICHARD L., U.S. Army staff sergeant, age 23 (a month short of 24), of Chariton.

Son of Carrie (Becker) Witherell/Ellis and Creed Patterson; father of Patricia Elaine; born 30 May 1920; enlisted U.S. Army Corps of Engineers July 1940; assigned with a U.S. Army engineering unit to the Canada-Alaska Highway Project for a year; deployed overseas October 1943.

Sergeant Patterson, assigned to the 300th Engineer Combat Battalion, was lost in the English Channel on 19 June 1944 when the LST he was aboard, bound from England to the French coast, was struck by a German mine. Commemorated: Tablets of the Mission, Normandy American Cemetery, Collevillel-sur-Mer, France. Awards: Purple Heart.

PEARCY, VERNON EDGAR, U.S. Coast Guard seaman first class, age 24, of Derby. Son of Grover C. and Estella (Savely) Pearcy; born 7 November 1920; enlisted 15 June 1942.

Seaman First Class Pearcy was killed in a motorcycle accident in San Francisco on 23 December 1944. Buried: Sharon Cemetery, Wayne County.

PESUTH, STEPHEN RODNEY, U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant/Technical Sergeant, age 25, of Chariton and DeKalb, Illinois.

Son of Mrs. Joe (Annie) Semich; born 15 June 1919; living in Chariton with mother, stepfather and siblings as early as 1930; attended school in Chariton; enlisted 30 June 1941 while a resident of DeKalb, Ill.

Technical Sergeant Pesuth was serving as flight engineer aboard a B-29 bomber on a combat crew training mission en route from the United States to Cuba when it disappeared over the Atlantic on 8 January 1945. Commemorated: Tablets of the Missing, East Coast Memorial, Manhattan.

PETERSON, OSCAR EUGENE “SWEDE,” apprentice seaman, U.S. Coast Guard, age 19, of Chariton.

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Oscar E. Peterson Sr; 1942 graduate of Chariton High School; worked at Chariton’s Jack Sprat grocery store for eight months before enlisting on 14 December 1942.

Apprentice Seaman Peterson had completed initial training at St. Augustine, Fla., and had just been transferred to New York City to attend diesel engineer school when he sustained fatal head injuries in an accident at the Coney Island amusement park on 16 May 1943. He was to have begun his advanced training training the next day. Buried: Chariton Cemetery.

POUSH, CARLOS LEROY, U.S. Army private first class, age 26, of Chariton.

Son of Harry W. and Carrie L. Poush; husband of Ethel Leota (Smith); born 25 September 1918 near Newbern; moved with family to a farm near Chariton; 1934 graduate of Chariton High School; married Ethel Leota Smith 19 June 1938; worked as a Fuller Brush salesman and for the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Co. before entering the service on 27 December 1943.

Assigned to Co. L, 350th Infantry, 5th Army, PFC Poush died 19 October 1944 of wounds received in battle on 18 October while his company, stationed in northern Italy, was assaulting an enemy position. His remains were repatriated during November of 1948. Burial: Chariton Cemetery.

ROSS, KENETH HUGH, U.S. Army technical sergeant 4th class, age 37, of Derby.

Son of Joseph H. and Mae V. Ross; born 19 May 1907 at LeRoy; 1925 graduate of Derby High School; enlisted 23 February 1942 with his younger brother, Harold.

Assigned with his brother, Harold, to the 33rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized) and deployed to Morotai Island in the Malukus, T/4 Ross was fatally injured in an accident on 28 January 1945 as the unit was preparing to be deployed to the Philippines. Initially buried there, his remains were repatriated during 1948. Burial: Derby Cemetery.

SAMPSON, LEO LEONARD, U.S. Navy Yoeman 3rd Class, age 20, of Williamson.

Son of Charles and Alta Sampson; born 5 October 1924; a 1942 graduate of Williamson High School; inducted 23 August 1943.

Yoeman 3rd Class Sampson was killed in action aboard ship “somewhere in the Pacific” on 11 April 1945 and buried at sea. Commemorated: Tablets of the Missing, Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu.

SKINNER, HERMAN L., U.S. Army private first class, age 34, of Lucas.

Son of John Skinner and Mamie Skinner/Baker, stepson of Chris C. Baker; born 14 December 1910 near Lucas; inducted 22 April 1942.

Assigned to the 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, PFC Skinner was critically wounded on 21 April 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa and died on 28 April 1945 of those wounds. His remains were repatriated to Lucas County and buried in the Chariton Cemetery during December of 1948.

Maj. Homer L. "Al" Smith
SMITH, HOMER LEWIS, known as "Al," U.S. Army Air Corps major, age 31, of Chariton. Born 20 August 1914 near Chariton; died on or about 19 November 1945 when the P-51 Fighter that he was piloting went down over China; commemorated on a cenotaph in the Chariton Cemetery and on Tablets of the Missing, Manilla American Cemetery, the Philippines.

Major Smith was a son of George Sr. and Helen (Baxter) Smith, born on their farm southwest of Williamson. He grew up in Williamson, where his father operated a meat market, and was a 1934 graduate of Chariton High School. After attending a year of junior college in Chariton, he went to work as a meat-cutter in various grocery stores until forming a partnership with his friend and future brother-in-law, Bassel Blakesmith, to purchase Chariton's Jack Spratt Grocery Store, located on the east side of the square, during 1940. Both men were flying enthusiasts, traveling to Ottumwa to take flying lessons, owing at least one aircraft, an American Eagle Biplane, jointly. Both men enlisted during February of 1942 in the U.S. Army Air Corps and received their commissions and sliver wings during November of that year at training fields in Texas. Smith had married Mary Ellen Clark on Jan. 1, 1940, in Chariton.

Smith worked as a flight instruction supervisor in Florida, George and Alabama during 1943 and 1944, advancing in rank to 1st Lieutenant, then Captain. During April of 1945, he was assigned to the 530th Fighter Squadron, then operating in the China Theater. Shot down over China during August, 1945, he parachuted to safety and walked 500 miles to safety, rescued during late September 1945. By that time, Japan had surrendered and Smith, promoted to the rank of Major, was assigned to ferry P-51 Fighters "over the hump" from Andal, India, at Shanghai. The fighter that he was piloting went down in the vicinity of Hankow, China, on 19 November 1945, apparently due to adverse weather conditions. Neither the plane nor remains of the pilot ever were recovered.

SMITH, ROBERT LEE, U.S. Marine Corps private first class, age 19, of Lucas County and Indianola.

Winifred Wennerstrum, Chariton Public Library librarian, was unable to come up with much information about Robert Lee Smith as she attempted to add his military record to the library collection during the 1940s. She determined that he was born 9 June 1924 and inducted 29 July 1940 while a resident of Indianola and that his mother was Mrs. Charles (Lillie) Page, who had lived in Lucas prior to or during the war. PFC Smith reportedly was killed in action on 28 December 1943 in the South Pacific.

STEMM, ZACCHEUS WILLIAM, U.S. Army technical sergeant 5th class, age 22, of rural Norwood.

Son of Charley I. and Nelly Stemm; born 4 September 1922; 1940 graduate of Norwood High School; inducted January 1943. T/5 Stemm, a tank operator assigned to C Company, 752nd Tank Battalion, reportedly was aboard the second tank to enter Rome as it was liberated during June of 1944. A few months later, on 22 October 1944, he was killed in action at Osteria in northern Italy. His remains were repatriated during March of 1949. Burial: Indianola I.O.O.F. Cemetery.


U.S. Army PFC Gerald E. Storie

STORIE, GERALD EUGENE., U.S. Army Private First Class, Battery A, 575th Automatic Weapons Battalion, Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Special), Coast Artillery Corps, age 21, of Derby. Born 2 May 1924, died 14 July 1945, in the vicinity of Schliersee, Germany; remains repatriated 2 November 1948 to Keokuk National Cemetery (Section D, Grave No. 129) from St. Avold, Metz, France.

PFC Storie, known to family and friends as Eugene, was raised in Derby by his grandmother, Lina A. (Thompson) Hilliard, and graduated from Derby High School with the class of 1942. He was single with no dependents when he enlisted in the U.S. Army from Lucas County on 13 July 1943. Assigned to the Coast Artillery Corps, he was deployed to the European Theater with an anti-aircraft artillery unit. He survived the war, but died on the evening of July 14, 1945, about two months after hostilities had ceased, when he drowned while swimming in Lake Scliersee near his unit's quarters, Schliersee, Germany.


THOMPSON, HENRY LEE, U.S. Navy (Seabees) chief machinist’s mate, age 38, of Chariton.

Son of Charles and Ella Thompson, husband of Merle E., father of John, Charles and Richard; born 18 October 1903; worked road construction in Lucas County; inducted 2 May 1942. Chief Machinist’s Mate Thompson, assigned to the 6th Naval Construction Battalion, was among the first Seabees deployed to Guadalcanal during September 1942. He was the first Seabee to die on Guadalcanal on 14 October 1942 when a Japanese shell struck the foxhole he and other men were taking cover in causing it to collapse (although he most likely was killed by the concussion). His remains were repatriated to Chariton during April 1948. Burial: Chariton Cemetery.

Van HOOK, ISAAC M., U.S. Army private first class, age 27, of Chariton and Berryville, Arkansas.

Son of John W. and Bessie C. Van Hook; born 10 November 1918 in Lucas County; moved with family to Berryville, Arkansas in 1929; inducted 29 September 1941 while a resident of Berryville. A machine gunner assigned to Co. K, 160th Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division, PFC Van Hook was killed on Negros Island in the Philippines on 13 April 1945 by a sniper’s bullet to the head.

PFC Van Hook was awarded posthumously the Silver Star Medal for gallantry. According to the citation that accompanied the medal, Van Hook, during an early-morning attack on his company’s camp, “on his own initiative, picked up his machine gun and ran to the only position where he could effectively employ the weapon. From this position, while exposed to accurate enemy fire he repelled numerous attempts of the enemy to secure the commanding ground above the company. He remained at his gun despite warning from other men in the company until he was killed.”

Isaac’s remains were repatriated to Chariton during September of 1948 and burial occurred in the Chariton Cemetery.

VICKROY, JOHN MARVIN, U.S. Army technical sergeant, age 26, of Lucas County and California.

Son of Arthur V. and Marie Vickroy; born 21 November 1918; a former resident of Lucas County who enlisted at Altadena, California, and was inducted 13 July 1942.

Sergeant Vickroy was killed in action 28 March 1945 at Bad Schwalbach, Germany, according to information gathered by the Chariton Public Library. He was “with Paton’s Army.” His parents were residents of Red Oak at the time of his death. No information about his place of burial.

WALKER, CHARLES WILLIAM, U.S. Navy apprentice seaman, age 25, of Russell.

Son of Albert D. and Sylvia Walker; born 16 April 1915 at Russell. Apprentice Seaman Walker, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy, was inducted 22 October 1940. He was home on furlough two months later when he died of complications of appendicitis at Yocom Hospital in Chariton. Burial: Russell Cemetery.

WELLS, VERNON STUART, U.S. Marine Corps sergeant, age 26, of Russell and Chariton.

Son of Orlan and Mabel Wells; born 7 October 1917 in Cedar Township; a 1935 graduate of Russell High School; enlisted at Chariton and inducted 13 October 1941; stationed Iceland, transferred to San Francisco, then to the Southwest Pacific. Sergeant Wells, assigned to the 6th Marine Regiment, was killed in action on 27 November 1943 during the Battle of Tarawa Atoll in the central Pacific. His remains were repatriated during November of 1947 and buried in the Chariton Cemetery.


ZIMMER, FLOYD HENRY, U.S. Army Air Forces staff sergeant, age 23, of Russell.

Son of Perry and Maude L. Zimmer; born 16 November 1919 at Russell; a 1937 graduate of Russell High School; enlisted at Ottumwa and inducted 18 August 1941. Chief Radio Technician Zimmer was chief radio mechanic, assistant radio operator and operator of two guns on board a B-24 Liberator bomber. Assigned to the 66th Bomber Squadron, 44th Bomber Group (Heavy), his plane failed to return from a bombing mission over western Europe on 16 February 1943. Commemorated Tablets of the Missing, Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England, and in the Russell Cemetery.

Going green on the cemetery circuit

A fresh flower rather than fake at the tombstone of my great-great-grandfather, Jacob Myers, at Salem Cemetery late Sunday.

As the charter member of a newly formed chapter of FFA (Fake Flowers Anonymous, not Future Farmers of America), Sunday was a tough day.

I was OK until late afternoon when I got to Columbia; late afternoon because I wanted to take a picture of Nathan Love’s brand new Confederate States of America tombstone and the sun needed to be in the right place for that. As often happens, my cousin, Esther Belle, had gotten there before me.

Bright tufts already were in place before the tombstones of all our joint Clair and Miller kinfolk and I have to tell you that when I saw that I wanted an armful of polyester posies so bad I could almost feel their vinyl-clad wire stems clutched in my hands.

Instead, I had an armful of peonies, cut fresh Sunday morning in my own flower bed that had already done double duty as altar flowers in the morning. Golly, I felt self-righteous about that --- and it was self-righteousness that saw me through as I walked from place to place in the cemetery depositing one stem each at the 15 graves that I usually tend. Who needs serenity when you’ve got self-congratulation?

Late Friday, I’d taken two planters from Ellis Greenhouse out to Salem, one to deposit in front of my parents’ tombstone; the other, before the tombstone that marks the graves of my Myers grandparents and Aunt Flora. After getting home from Columbia Sunday evening, I drove out there to water the planters (the down-side of fresh flowers) and plucked fresh peonies from the plant that has overtaken my grandparents’ stone to deposit at the graves of my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents.

That compulsion still was operating in the background, however, and had Ben Franklin been open I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t have driven back to town as fast as I could to invest in a few 99-cent sprays.

I still have mixed feelings about going green on the Memorial Day cemetery circuit. I’ve scattered a lot of fake flowers over the years.

On the one hand, I think it’s cool to visit the graves of those who have been here before us and leave tokens behind. So I don’t want to discourage that --- or to sound disapproving at the expense of those who do not have a ready supply of fresh flowers in their gardens.

On the other hand, fake flowers do not age well --- especially when left to weather for years as sometimes happens in rural cemeteries. They also get tangled in lawnmowers and deter the weed-whackers used to trim. And there’s no way to recycle them, so off to the landfill they go in the end.

But now on the edge of second childhood I’m content to have returned to the ways of my first childhood, when Hi-C juice cans weighted with gravel and water were filled with iris and peonies on Memorial Day morning, packed in cardboard boxes and taken to the same cemeteries visited Sunday. After a few days, the wilted flowers and the cans were removed.

I’m sure that before long I’ll get tired of driving out to Salem every other day to water the planters there and they will come home. But that doesn’t really matter. It’s not the flowers that count, after all, but the memories and the lessons all those good folks taught in living and dying.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Back to the future with fourth-graders

LCHS Museum Curator Marilyn Johnson introduces a roomful of fourth-graders to education back in the days when Puckerbrush School (built in the 1870s) was just one of more than 100 rural schools scattered across Lucas County. 

Thursday morning's visit by well over 100 Chariton Community School fourth-graders to the Lucas County Historical Society Museum campus went off without a hitch, I'm happy to report, on a spectacular late May morning. We couldn't have asked for better weather.

When I got there at 7:30 (running out of the house without my camera --- and I'm not used to the museum camera), Curator Marilyn Johnson already was unlocking the doors and opening various buildings. All hands were on deck by 8 a.m. --- about a dozen volunteer LCHS board members, staffers and friends --- and the buses loaded with students, teachers and room parents rolled up between 8:30 and 8:45.

This annual visit by fourth-graders has been an annual event for many years, but it's still a logistical marvel. Students were divided into four groups by classroom with members of a fifth class divided among the other four so that four groups were constantly on the move, covering 10 stations in a little more than two hours.

Once off the buses and grouped, the kids trooped up the circle drive to deposit their sack lunches by group --- so that they could be retrieved later --- on back pews in Otterbein Church; in one door; out the other.

The students all spent half an hour at Puckerbrush School and seven to 15 minutes at the other stations: upstairs and downstairs in the Stephens House, Otterbein, the log cabin, the Swanson Gallery (vintage vehicles and farm equipment), the mining gallery (which includes business exhibits), the Crist Gallery (where 20th Century exhibits are located), the John L. Lewis Gallery and the Perkins Room, which also contains the commons area, restrooms and the like.

It all went like clockwork, thanks to efficient teachers, really great groups of kids and our volunteer guides who did a fantastic job of keeping the kids informed and entertained.

My station was Otterbein Church. All the kids seemed most fascinated by the fact we still use the old church as a church now and then. I think some started planning ahead when I told them they could hold their weddings there a few years down the road if they cared to do so. One little girl asked if funerals were allowed, too. Hmmm. I expect a funeral would be allowed if someone asked.

Some of the questions were extremely perceptive. I always started by asking why there were two doors into the church. The correct answer was that once upon a time in some churches, like Otterbein in its earliest days, women and girls sat on one side, men and boys on the other --- and they used separate doors. But one little guy guessed that white people used one door and black people, the other --- which led to an interesting little discussion on race relations in Chariton. The truth of the matter is, when Chariton had a sizable black population back in the bad old days, the black population had its own churches and probably wouldn't have been that welcome in white churches.

Everyone wanted to ring the bell, of course, but that we couldn't do because I had to ring the bell at regular intervals to signal that it was time to shift stations and random rings would have just confused the issue. At 11 a.m., however, when the kids were through with the tour and trooped through Otterbein to pick up their lunches to eat on the lawn, everyone who really wanted to was allowed to ring the bell.

All in all, it was a great morning; hard to say who had more fun --- the adults of the kids. They went back to their 21st century school after lunch. I went home and took a nap. Whew!

Students gather on the lawn for lunch at 11 a.m. Thursday after collecting their sack lunches from the back pews of Otterbein Church.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Resilient enough?

I usually weed at ground level, scooting around flower beds on my butt with clippers and trowel in hand --- edging, too. It's an interesting perspective and more comfortable than bending double. And when I try to use a hoe I usually do more damage than good.

Attacking the prairie patch in the back yard late this afternoon, I happened to glance downhill at the half of the back 40 I'll get around to mowing tomorrow evening and had to think for a minute to figure out what was going on. It looked like a lilliputian forest, hundreds of reddish canopies poking above the grass.

Maple seedlings I finally figured out, hundreds and hundreds of them. It's been a great year for maple seeds. Not only were the trees loaded, but the greenhouse combination of heat and moisture the last few days conspired to up the germination odds. Not only is the grass full of maple seedlings --- so are the eavestoughs, and that will be another job.

It's amazing how resilient nature is when left alone. If I didn't mow them down, I'd be able to rechristen the back 40 "Maple Grove" in a few years. Same goes for weeds. It's been a wonderful year for weeds.


But of course we don't have a giant oil slick moving in on us here in Iowa's southern hills. And I'm not sure even the maple seedings could cope with that --- certainly the brown pelicans (above) that nest in Louisiana's coastal marshes won't be able to if it gets as bad as some say it will. Remember the white pelicans that spent a week or so with us here in Lucas County earlier this spring? Fortunately, they're safely in the northland for the summer at least.

Gulf Coast people aren't doing so well already --- all that oil threatens to simply eliminate a way of life based on harvesting the sea's natural bounty, now polluted.

Now in it's 37th day, BP is trying to plug that hole in the gulf floor with mud, concrete and other stuff --- latest in a series of attempts, all unsuccessful so far, to stop the flow.

My old friend Roberta R. e-mailed a link the other day to a YouTube proposal from a couple of guys to drop hay on the surface oil (oil adheres to hay --- it's a technique used before but on a far smaller scale), scoop up the resulting oil-soaked mess, dry it and burn it as fuel. Not too bad an idea, actually, if there were enough hay, enough boats to scoop it up and enough places set up to burn it.

A former president of Shell Oil Co. was on NBC this morning suggesting a technique used during a massive spill in the Arabian Sea --- A fleet of giant tankers to suck up the surface oil, transfer it to a facility where oil and water could be separated, then return the clear water to the sea. Not a bad idea either.

Golly, I wish I had a solution, but what I think is interesting is that no one really has a clue about what to do. They've been so busy reassuring us for so long that something like this couldn't happen that they've never really bothered to figure out what to do if it did. Now do you understand why environmentalists always have been uneasy about offshore drilling, or drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

Thinking subversively again, I get to wondering some days these days if Iowa has a giant oil slick of another sort in the making because of all the poison we pour onto the rich prairie soil we've been exploiting for about 150 years now. I know, I know --- the great minds at Iowa State University and the big farm chemical companies say nothing of the sort possibly could happen --- that herbicides and pesticides are good for us. But I wonder. If we won't wake up some spring --- and absolutely nothing will grow. Naah. Never happen. Then again, that's what BP thought.


We have busloads of 4th graders coming to the museum tomorrow to spend the morning before sack lunches on the lawn at 11. That means all hands on deck at 8 a.m. and I'd better get there well before that. We've been having trouble with the lock on Puckerbrush School's front door --- and not being able to get into the school would be realy embarrassing.

My assignment is Otterbein Church, where I always feel at home since my great-great-grandparents were among its founders back in the 1860s.

I get seven minutes per shift to amuse, amaze and inform, so maybe I'd better start figuring out what to say. "How many of you know why Otterbein has two front doors?" maybe. Or "how about that old wood stove?" Maybe I'll just let them ring the bell and be done with it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

To beard or not to beard

John G. Redlingshafer

That's my great-great-grandfather, John G. Redlingshafer, in his later Santa Clause phase. He had a beard. Obviously. I was thinking of growing one, too --- until it got so darned hot. In the 90s yesterday, more of the same today. Then, if the forecast holds up, more rain, more humidity. It's the humidity here in Iowa you know .... Not the heat. That's what we tell ourselves.

The beard idea developed after the latest episode in my long and troubled relationship with the Gillette Co., purveyors of razors and blades. I prefer a razor --- there's something about the possibility of dropping an electric shaver in a sink full of water and electrocuting one's self that I find discouraging.

When I started shaving long ago, blades had two edges --- at the most. And I cut myself occasionally. I still cut myself occasionally, but the latest blades I bought had five edges. Do we really need razor blades with five edges?

Having got absolutely the last shave possible out of my last Gillette "Mach 3" blade (where do they come up with these names, and why?), I set out to HyVee to buy replacements. HyVee, of course, in it zeal to market its own brand of stuff, had no Mach 3 blades but several varieties of blades guaranteed to fit razors of the Gillette variety, but packaged so that you couldn't really tell if they'd attach properly. This is an attempt to get you to buy a package of blades that won't work, open it and in the process of discovering the blades' unworkabilitiy to destroy returnability. That's what I did.

So I went next door to Pamida. They had Mach 3 blades --- in a package that when the division was done revealed a per-blade price of between $3 and $4. That's a heck of a lot of money for a razor blade. On the other hand, I could buy Gillette's latest razor --- the Turbo (again, where did that name come from and why?) plus two blades for less than the cost of two Mach 3 blades.

So that's what I did. The "Turbo" blades are encased in elaborate plastic razor heads that I'm sure will be even more expensive per blade than Mach 3 when replacement time comes, but at least I'm set for another few weeks. Another instance of things in general going to hell in a handbasket.

I don't think I'll grow a beard. Who wants to wrap a bunch of hair up in a dish towel to keep it out of the soup? But electric shavers are looking more and more appealing. I'd just have to remember to use it over a dry sink.


The census-taker finally caught up with me late yesterday afternoon --- a pleasant woman who completed her assigned task in under five minutes and was on her way.

I'd wondered vaguely what I hadn't gotten a census form in the mail at the appointed time --- something to do with moving, I suppose; perhaps complicated by the fact I still get my mail in a post office box when I really don't need to any more.

I know it's important to be counted, but had decided just to let it lay and see what happened. Now I know, I have been counted and all should be well in that department for another 10 years.

The forgotten nature of Korea

This is Iowa's memorial to its Korean War dead, located near other memorials southeast of the state Capitol in Des Moines.

This is the second version of a post about Lucas County's Korean War dead. An earlier version posted a couple of weeks ago was incomplete, so rather than fiddle with it, it seemed simpler to delete it and start again.

As said in that earlier post, when I started working on this the only Korean War fatality I knew anything about --- or so I thought --- was Manuel J. Spoon, the father of a Russell Community School classmate of mine. I had forgotten about Jerry Parker, a distant cousin buried after his remains were repatriated in the Russell Cemetery and about whom my dad used to speak occasionally. His family had moved from Lucas County to Britt in north central Iowa and that was his home of record at the time of enlistment.

The most moving element here now is the photo of Donald Halferty, only 17 when he was killed, shared with the historical society by his sister. The point here is neither pro-war nor anti-war, just an attempt to report our collective loss. But look into that face and it practically breaks you heart.


The Sunday afternoon speaker in September of 2009, during the visit of a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to Allerton , asked veterans of the various U.S. wars represented in the crowd to stand, naming wars one by one --- World War II, Vietnam, Desert Storm …. He forgot Korea. Until a veteran of that war stood up and yelled to remind him, decisively, of it.

Often called the “forgotten war,” Korea claimed at best count about 36,500 U.S. lives, no small number. But post-World War II weariness, the undeclared nature of the conflict, the fact it ended in stalemate and that U.S. participation did not divide the nation plus the absence of the collective anger that developed among veterans of Vietnam all contributed to what now seems more vague collective unease than distinct remembrance. Unless one is a veteran of that war or loved someone who fought or died there.

The war is said to have begun on June 25, 1950, when North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel to invade the south. President Harry S. Truman committed U.S. troops two days later to what became officially a United Nations war led by the United States. The war ended with the armistice of July 27, 1953, during the presidential term of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Hundreds of young Lucas Countyans fought or served in support units during Korea and several died. Different sources given different numbers. The official U.S. database lists four, but there is no doubt about a fifth. When others with close ties to Lucas County are added, the number approaches 10.

Four Lucas Countyans died in Korea, according to the National Archives and Records Service Korean War fatality database --- Donald D. Halferty, George Musick, Lyle R. Shelton and Manuel J. Spoon. Iowa records, available at Camp Dodge, list others, including Elmer A Rowe.



There is no doubt that U.S. Army Private Donald Lee Halferty, age 17, Co. C, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, killed in combat Aug. 6, 1950, at Naktong Bulge, was the first young man --- painfully young --- from Lucas County to die in Korea.

A son of Dennis W. and Mildred W. Halferty, Private Halferty was born Feb. 22, 1933, at Chariton and spent his first eight years with his family on a farm near Derby. After the family moved to Chariton, he attended school and worked as a carrier and assistant route manager for The Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.

With reluctant permission from his parents, he dropped out of high school to enter the U.S. Army as soon as he turned 17, enlisting on Feb. 23, 1950. After 14 weeks of training at Fort Riley, Kansas, during which the Korean War commenced, he was sent to the war zone where he was killed a few weeks later. His parents learned during late August that he was missing in action and his death was confirmed in mid-September.

The editor of The Chariton Leader, reporting in his Aug. 29, 1950, edition, wrote that the last letter his mother had received from Donald was dated Aug. 5, one day before he was killed. “The letter was written in that vein of a boy in camp, and he asked about the people at home and his dog,” the editor wrote. His mother had written daily to her son, according to Donald’s sister, Shirley Hamilton. All of those letters eventually were returned unopened because he did not live long enough in Korea to receive them. That, Mrs. Hamilton said, was one of the great sorrows of her mother’s life.

In addition to his parents, he was survived by five sisters, Juanita, Doris, Shirley, Kay and Sandra; and one brother, Dwaine.

Private Halferty’s remains were returned to Chariton a year later and funeral services were held during early August, 1951. Burial was in the Chariton Cemetery.


Little more than a week after Dennis and Mildred Halferty learned that their son, initially reported missing, had been killed in Korea, Anna Musick received word in late September, 1950, that her son, George, 33, had been reported missing as of Sept. 3.

U.S. Army Sergeant First Class George Musick, age 33, Co. H, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, had indeed been killed in action on Sept. 3, 1950, at Yongsan, his family eventually learned.

A son of Andrew and Anna Musick, born during 1917 in Monroe County, George was a veteran of World War II who had re-enlisted in the Army following an honorable discharge, most recently just two months prior to his death. In addition to his mother (Andrew Musick had died during 1947), George was survived by three brothers, Frank, John and Andrew; and by two sisters, Mrs. Wayne Trumbull and Mrs. John Grennet.

George, who had earned the Silver Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for valor during World War II, was awarded posthumously the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for valor in Korea, accepted by his mother during a ceremony in Chariton in March of 1951. The citation that accompanied the medal tells us how George died.

George was part of a small group of men from a heavy weapons company cut off and surrounded by the enemy near Yongsan on Aug. 31, 1950, The group formed a defensive perimeter and dug in, holding off constant assaults from Sept. 1-3. Rations were low and the only water the men had was the morning dew. According to the citation, Musick’s valor in these circumstances continued until death claimed him; the survivors telling and retelling the record of his bravery.

George’s remains have never been recovered. His name is inscribed in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu.

Anna Musick accepts the Bronze Star Medal awarded posthumously to her son, George, for his service in Korea (George already had earned the Silver Star Medial during World War II). Photos courtesy of Charlie Musick


U.S. Army Corporal Elmer A. Rowe, age 20, was one of three young Lucas Countyan who died in Korea during a very short span, but his parents were informed of his missing-in-action status before either the Halfertys or Anna Musick learned that their sons also were among the missing

Wayne G. and Ethel Rowe of Chariton were informed prior to Aug. 22, 1950, that Corporal Rowe, Co. F., 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, had been reported missing as of Aug. 12. They were informed later that he had died in combat on that date.

Born in Wayne County, Elmer enlisted in Jasper County, but his home of record was Millerton. His father, employed as a railroad worker, seems to have moved his family fairly often. His parents had received a letter from Elmer dated Aug. 7 telling of preparations for an attack and it may have been during that engagement that Corporal Rowe was captured, then killed.

His remains have yet to be recovered and his name, too, is inscribed in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Packfic, in Honolulu.


U.S. Army Private First Class Lyle R. Shelton, age 20, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, the fourth Lucas Countyan to die in Korea, was critically injured in combat on Nov. 26, 1950, in the vicinity of the Chongchon River and died of his wounds Nov. 27.

A son of of Emmit and Ethel Shelton, Lyle was born at Russell July 13, 1930, where along with his family he was active in First Baptist Church. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in August 1948 and later transferred to 23rd Infantry Division. He arrived in Korea during August 1950. Memorial services were held Dec. 10, 1950, at First Baptist Church in Russell.

The Shelton family was large and Lyle was survived, in addition to his parents, by eight sisters and two brothers: Olin, Irene, Leola, Erma, James, Marnie, Mary, Viva, Ora and Zora.

Four years after his death, his remains were repatriated during December of 1954. By that time, the Shelton family apparently had moved to Des Moines and funeral services were conducted there by the Rev. Archie Beals of Russell, his childhood pastor. Burial was in Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines..


U.S. Army Master Sergeant Manuel J. Spoon, age 32, 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, was captured in combat in the vicinity of Kunu-Ri Gauntlet, North Korea, on Nov. 30, 1950, just three days after Lyle Shelton was killed.

He died in enemy hands five months later, on April 30, 1951, although his family did not know that until late August, 1953.

Son of Manuel N. and Emma Spoon, husband of Lena (Mitchell), and father of Kathy, Manuel was born Aug. 24, 1918, in Kossuth County, but moved to southern Iowa as a child. A career soldier, Spoon was a World War II veteran assigned to Korea when the war started there. Reported missing in action after Nov. 30, 1950, his death in a North Korean prison camp was first reported in August of 1953.

His remains were repatriated to the Keokuk National Cemetery during late October, 1955, where funeral services and burial occurred. His widow, Lena, later married Walter LaRue and lived a long life in Lucas County.


Iowa records on file at Camp Dodge in Johnston identify Roy R. Kirton as a Korean War loss from Lucas County although federal records identify him as a resident of Marion County. U.S. Army Corporal Kirton, age 40, assigned to Service Battery, 39th Field Artillery Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, was, like Manuel J. Spoon, captured in combat near the Kunu-Ri Gauntlet, North Korea, on Nov. 30, 1950. He died in enemy hands more than a year later, on Dec. 1, 1951.

Unlike Spoon, however, his body has never been recovered. The Chariton Leader of May 14, 1954, reported that a memorial service for him was to be held at Newbern. His name is inscribed in the Courts of the Mission at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, in Honolulu.

Roy's parents, Lee (1875-1952) and Mina Pearl (Shounkwiler) Kirton (1883-1915) are buried in the Newbern Cemetery and they were living in Liberty Township, Lucas County, near Newbern, when Roy was born 29 March 1910. Mina Pearl died during 1915 and Lee raised their three children, Rosa, Roy and Ray, by himself, living much of the time on a farm in Dallas Township, Marion County. He still was a resident of Dallas when his son was reported missing but was dead by the time his death was confirmed.


Frank Mitchell, while researching a contemporary history of Lucas County, identified three former residents who also may be considered among our losses. They are: Jerry Parker, Alfred Agan and Harold H. Thorne.

Sergeant Parker, 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, was captured in the vicinity of the Chongchon River on Nov. 26, 1950, the same day Lyle Shelton was killed there. He died in enemy hands on March 6, 1951.

A son of Chester Alan and Ethel (Hull) Parker, Jerry, 23, was a Lucas County native whose family had moved to Britt, in Hancock County, and that was his home of record. When his remains were repatriated after the war, they were buried in the Russell Cemetery.

U.S. Marine Corps Captain Alfred H. Agan, 32, Marine Fighter Squadron 212, 1st Marine Air Wing, was the pilot of a F4U-4 Corsair fighter deployed aboard the carrier USS Bataan. His aircraft was damaged by the explosion of its bombs on Jan. 20, 1951, and he crash landed it in the water a mile off shore and eleven miles south of Inchon. Search missions found Agan, but by that time he had died of exposure. His home of record was Centerville.

Private Harold H. Thorne, 21, was assigned to the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, when he was killed in action on July 15, 1953. His home of record was Rockford, Ill. He was the last of the young men with links to Lucas County to die.

The sculptued figures below of Korean War soldiers form part of the Korea Memorial in Washington, D.C.