Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Gold stars and PFC Gerald E. Storie

I'm wondering how many remember the blue- and gold-star banners that were featured prominently in homes, churches and other public places during World War II. The blue stars on red-bordered fields of white honored family members --- biological, church and otherwise --- in service to their country; gold stars replaced blue stars when those represented died in service.

After gold stars had replaced blue, mothers of the deceased were known as "Gold Star Mothers" and families, as "Gold Star Families." These designations remain in use as wars continue and the final Sunday in September still is officially designated Gold Star Mothers Day --- but I have a feeling not too many are aware of this.

During the summer of 1947, Chariton's Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary planted a blue spruce on the courthouse grounds and during the Christmas season of that year --- and for a number of years therafter --- 54 lights blazed seasonally on it in memory of 54 young men and women considered to be members of Lucas County's collective World War II Gold Star family.

A tree still is lighted at Christmas on the courthouse grounds, but the original spruce was replaced some years ago after it died and the lights on it now represent other memories.

That list of 54 names, however, remains the principal source when determining how many young men and women with close ties to Lucas County died in service during World War II and I've managed to track down information about most of them --- although one (James G. Miller) has proved to be elusive.


One of those gold stars represents U.S. Army PFC Gerald E. Storie, a Derby boy known by family and friends as Eugene, who served honorably and survived combat --- then died in an accident in Bavaria two months after Germany surrendered during May of 1945.

Eugene's biological parents seem not to have been publicly acknowledged, so I don't know who they were. But he was born May 2, 1924, and raised in Derby by his grandmother, Lina A, Hilliard. He was a 1942 graduate of Derby High School and enlisted from Lucas County a year later, on July 13, 1943.

Assigned to Battery A, 575th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, Eugene pushed with his unit during the final Allied offensive into Germany, no doubt celebrated with his comrades when Germany surrendered, then --- while swimming in the lake at Schliersee, Germany, on the evening of July 14, 1945 --- drowned.

His remains were brought eventually to what is now the Lorraine American Cemetery at St. Avold, France, and interred with those of some 16,000 other Americans lost in that war. But his family was given the option of having his body repatriated to the United States and that mission was accomplished during 1948. 

PFC Gerald E. Storie was re-interred at the Keokuk National Cemetery --- Iowa's only national cemetery --- on Nov. 2, 1948 (Section D, Grave No. 129).

This is a lovely, peaceful place --- I've been there a couple of times. But now I'm wondering if there's anyone left in Lucas County who remembers this young man, only 21 when he died. Wondering, in part, because the snapshot here for some reason breaks my heart.

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