Currently viewing the tag: "Veteran Spotlight"

by Priscilla Rall

John Henry Lehman was born in Reed near Hagerstown in 1922 to J. Henry and Elizabeth Hege Lehman. His grandfather, a Mennonite, owned and operated the Lehman’s Mill on Marsh Creek, one mile south of the Mason Dixon Line. The mill, first built in 1869, had been rebuilt three times, the last time using bricks made at the mill by Marsh Creek. The mill ground corn, buckwheat, and wheat for human consumption and for animal feed. It still had the original stone-grinding stones imported from France. His grandfather was progressive for those days. He installed a telephone in the mill and got rid of his horses and wagon, buying a truck to deliver his wares.

This upset the elders of the church, but Grandfather Lehman insisted that he was running a business and needed the phone in the mill. This might have been the reason that John was raised in the Lutheran Church. Eventually, the mill was sold to a woman who removed all of the milling equipment and then sold items made by the local women.

John’s father worked for the Western Maryland Railroad until the Great Depression hit and he was laid off.

John and his two sisters attended the Bridgeport school on the Cavetown Pike by Antietam Creek. It had one room, one stove, and one teacher. Later, they went to school in Hagerstown. The family survived the Depression, as their grandfather hired his father for small jobs and such. The Mennonites did not lose their money when the banks failed, as they only dealt in cash, which they kept in their homes, not trusting banks. The Lehmans saw many hobos during this time. John’s mother would always find enough to feed them a meal before they journeyed on, looking for work.

The family had a half-acre garden where the children would help plant, pull weeds, and harvest. At this time, they lived along the Cavetown Pike. Sometimes they would go to Hagerstown to the movies, but that was all the entertainment they had.

After graduating from the old Hagerstown High School, John went to the Bliss Electrical School in Tacoma Park for one year. Amazingly enough, Mr. Bliss had once worked for Thomas Edison! John then briefly worked for the C&P Telephone Company, but the war caught up with him. Before he was to be drafted, John joined the U.S. Navy.  A naval officer had visited the Bliss School and encouraged the boys to complete the course, saying that they would then be very useful to the Navy. So, the Navy it was!

At the Naval Yard, John continued learning about radios, even building crystals sets and one-tube radios. He returned to Bliss, which by now was under the Navy, and learned more about the budding science of radar. He then traveled to San Francisco and spent six months studying radar. Then, he was off to New London, Connecticut, to learn specifically about radar used on submarines. After finishing these courses, he traveled back across the country to Mare Island, where he joined the crew of the USS Barb (SS-220). With Captain John Waterman, John made five combat patrols in the North Atlantic and sunk one German ship. The seventh patrol began with a trip through the Panama Canal, and then off to Pearl Harbor, where Eugene Fluckey joined the crew for his final training. Waterman was old-school, and Fluckey was from the new; they clashed repeatedly. John could hear this from where he was stationed. Finally, Waterman said, “Shut up…I’m the captain!”

Commander Fluckey captained the submarine during the next seven war patrols, between March 1944 and August 1945, when the Barb sunk 17 enemy vessels. In addition, when a “hell ship” carrying Australian and British POWs was unknowingly sunk (as she had no identification) by the SS Sea Lion, the Barb raced for five days to reach the survivors just before a typhoon hit. She was able to rescue 14 Allied POWs from the SS Rakuyo Maru.

Captain Fluckey considered Lehman one of the best radar men he sailed with, noting him several times in his book, Thunder Below.

The last two patrols were particularly impressive. The Barb sank four Japanese ships, including an aircraft carrier, in the East China Sea, off the coast of China. Next, with John constantly monitoring the radar, the Barb sailed up a busy harbor on the Chinese coast, launching her torpedoes at a convoy of 30 enemy ships at anchor. This was the easy part…getting out of the harbor safely to open water was the tricky part. Then, running on the surface, she retired at high speed through the uncharted harbor, full of mines and rocks. Seaman 1st Class Layman was at his station the entire time. For this audacious feat, Fluckey was awarded the Medal of Honor and the USS Barb received the Presidential Unit Citation.

After John left the Navy, he worked for the telephone company. In 1960, he married Anne Pearce and adopted her two children from a previous marriage. They had one son, William, together. They eventually retired to Frederick at Homewood. John passed away on March 5, 2021, the last crew member of the famous submarine, the USS Barb.

USN — Official U.S. Navy photo 19-N-83952 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS Barb (SS-220)

Cpl. Donald Kuhn From India to Burma: World War II

by Priscilla Rall

Last month, I wrote of how during World War II, Donald Kuhn traveled north in India, hearing jackals howling and starving children begging for food. When he finally got to the airbase at Tansucoa, he was assigned to Intelligence, an S-2, with tremendous responsibilities. He typed up every mission report as soon as the pilots were debriefed after each mission. Then, the reports went to the Communications staff that then put it in code to be sent to General Santameyer, General Chenault (of Flying Tigers fame), and four other top brass.

Every day, two planes went out to take reconnaissance photos of Burma. They had no guns for defense, just two cameras each. As soon as they returned, Kuhn had to process them, label them, and then file them for use in future missions. Another duty for Kuhn was to take a one-pound chunk of opium from the safe and cut it into small pieces that could fit in a vial to be placed in each pilot’s emergency belt, along with a small silk map of Burma, pills to purify water, and a special comb that had a hacksaw in the handle, supposedly to saw oneself out of a prison cell if captured!

Each emergency belt had a number, and it was Kuhn’s responsibility to keep records of each belt that he handed out before each mission and to record them when they were returned, and to put the opium back into the safe. What the opium was for he did not know, but one can only guess. At one base, he was actually responsible for the safety belts of every pilot in every airstrip in all of India.

Eventually, Kuhn was incorporated into the 459th Squadron, which was fitted with all P-38 twin-engine planes, although no one had been trained on these aircrafts. It was brimming with guns, and under its wings, they could hang two 100-pound bombs, put jelly bombs (napalm), or extra fuel tanks if the mission was particularly far away. The mission for the day would come down early in the morning and could include 10 or all 25 aircrafts. They were to bomb and strafe railroads, supply depots, and once all planes went out, to bomb the vital airstrip at Rangoon, Burma. When the planes returned (and not everyone did), Kuhn wrote up all of the ammo expended by each plane and gave that report to the higher-ups.

On Easter Sunday 1945, Kuhn vividly recalled that a single Japanese plane attacked his airfield (that had absolutely no defenses), and dropped a cluster of incendiary bombs, burning their barracks or “bashas.” Donald had just left the building and saw the approach of the enemy plane. A cautious man, he had already scoped out a nearby pipe that ran under a railway track. First, he grabbed his barracks bag, which was by the entrance, and grabbed a family photo off the wall, then he hopped into the pipe. Thankfully, no one was killed by the bombs, but many of the men were wounded by shrapnel. When it was safe to exit his place of succor, he noticed that a piece of shrapnel had pierced the photo he had of all of his sisters.

The airstrips were very primitive, just gravel and grass. They moved a lot, as they needed to be as close as possible to the fighting. Finally, the enemy was being pushed back east. The only troops were the American Merrill’s Marauders and some British and Indian troops. There were a number of air-warning units of several men each. They were secreted in the Chin Hills of northeast Burma. They reported all planes, friendly or not, to Kuhn’s airfield, then he had to write with a grease pencil on an acetate overlay of a map exactly where the enemy was, as well as how far the Allies had progressed. Earlier, he was responsible for marking all of the locations of German troops in North Africa, so he knew just where Rommel was, as well as the Allied troops. “The men would come in to see how we were doing, and at that point, not very well!”

At one point, the Japanese were closing in on Kuhn’s location, and all of the men were issued carbines for protection. Before that, they had no guns at all. But, the Japanese were stopped before they got to Kuhn’s location.

One of Donald’s most memorable experiences was when Lord Mountbatten, who was in charge of all the allied forces in Burma, visited his unit. He was there to give them a “pep talk,” when it seemed that the Japanese might be closing in on them and cutting the three airfields in the north off from the Allied forces in the south.

Cpl. Kuhn did ride on the famous Ledo-Burma Road, which he described as rocky with mountains and jungle all around. Once, Kuhn flew on a PT-19 Fairchild trainer plane, made right here in Hagerstown, Maryland. He laughed when he realized how many units he had been attached to. First the American Air Command #1, then the 5320 Air Defense Wing, then Headquarters 10th US Air Force, and finally, to the 459th “Twin Dragons” unit. This was dangerous business. Donald vividly recalled when two planes were lost on one mission. They never had any word on their status and were not captured. The entire unit rejoiced once when all 25 planes went out on a mission and all 25 returned! By the way, Air Commando Col. Phil Cochran, the inspiration for the comic strip “Terry and the Pirates” was in Kuhn’s 33rd Fighter Group, but in the European Theater. In all, 45 airmen were lost from the Hq. 33rd Fighter Group, the 58th, 59th, and the 60th Fighter Squadrons during the war in the CBI, or China, India, and Burma Campaign.

The war was winding down. The atom bomb was the final punch that knocked the Japanese down. Kuhn later learned that the 459th was to be in the “Forward Echelon” for the planned invasion of Japan. They were to be flown over China and back up the first invasion forces. Thankfully, that never was needed.

After the surrender was signed, Donald was finally able to return home. He took a Navy troop ship home, from Calcutta through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Then, they sailed through the Mediterranean, sailing by the famous Rock of Gibraltar into the Atlantic Ocean. He finally reached New York harbor in early November, and his ship pulled into a berth right next to the USS Missouri, where the surrender was signed! Then, off to Camp Kilmer and finally to Ft. Meade, where he was deactivated.

Finally home, he found that he began being troubled by a nervous condition of vertigo that made him feel like he was swirling around and could fly off into space at any moment. It was obviously a variation of PTSD; he worked it out, and a month or two later, it disappeared. He had a hard time deciding what he wanted to do. He first worked at a feed mill in Smithsburg and then on his brother-in-law’s farm. Finally, he landed a job in accounting at the Chewsville Co-op, where he worked for 34 years.

In 1950, he married Naomi Leatherman, and the couple moved into her parents’ home, where they had an egg and chicken business. One day they collected 800 eggs! The couple had two daughters and lived in the same home until he passed several years ago. Naomi still lives in the family home near Foxville.

Cpl. Donald Kuhn had a remarkable career in the U.S. Air Corps and was instrumental in the success of the 459th Fighter Squadron. Few of us even remember the CBI Theater, but now you know the rest of the story.

by Priscilla Rall

Donald Kuhn

From the Mountains of Appalachia to the Mountains of India and Burma

The late Donald Eugene Kuhn traveled with the Army Air Corps to places most of us merely dream of. Born in 1921 to Ernest Rexfore “Rex” and Goldie Wolf Kuhn, he was one of 10 children, growing up on a small farm on Brandenburg Hollow road near Wolfsville. Rex bought out his two sisters, buying the farm for $2,700 after his father died. When it was appraised, the banker told them to figure out how much it was worth before the Great Depression, and then halve that amount! The family had a sleigh and a buggy, but they were not used after Donald was born. Instead, his father drove a 1923 Chevy.

The Kuhn’s raised eight to ten hogs a year and had four to five milk cows. On the 38 tillable acres, the family grew corn, potatoes, wheat, and green beans. They had no tractors but used draft horses, “Kit” and “Bird.” The kids picked the beans for 15 cents a bushel. Donald remarked that he “looked to a quarter as a big piece of money.” After a hard day picking beans, the kids would race down to their favorite watering hole to cool off swimming. His mother was busy from morn to night, milking the cows, churning butter, and cooking for her large brood. When Donald was about 10, he was old enough to be given the chore of getting water from the nearby creek for the steam engine that ran the threshing machine needed for the wheat, which had been put up in shocks in the barn. The farm had no electricity until 1942.

It was not all work and no play. One of Donald’s fondest memories was after a big snow, the kids would go sledding. There were still a few chestnut trees not yet killed by the blight, and Donald remembered picking them to eat. He also helped split the chestnut logs to be used for split-rail fences. They still had to walk to the Forest School, a mile or so away, but his father would harness up one of the horses and hitch a log to her and drag a path for his children to the school.

The Depression hit the small farmers hard. Often, the Kuhns would take eggs and chickens to Goldie’s grandfather’s store in Wolfsville and barter for sugar and kerosene. All of the neighbors enjoyed sitting around listening to the radio, especially the Grand Ol’ Opry. At that time, there were “hucksters” like Ross Eyler, Raymond MacLean, and my husband’s great uncle, Victor Pryor, who would buy the produce and take it to the city to sell. When the children needed shoes, Rex would take a cured ham to Harry Myer’s grocery to sell for enough money to buy shoes for at least a few of the children. The Kuhns were fortunate not to lose their farm as some neighbors did.

The Roosevelt Administration began many programs to help the struggling Americans. A Civil Conservation Camp (CCC) was built where Camp David is now. The government bought much of the land, and those living there had no choice but to sell. Isaac Smith was one of those who lost his farm to eminent domain.

After seven years at the two-room Forest School in Garfield, Donald went on to Middletown High School. Goldie was insistent that all her children attend high school. Donald recalled that “It always grieved her” not to be able to go beyond seventh grade, as she had to stay home and care for her sick mother.

After graduating from high school, Donald attended Columbia Business School in Hagerstown. He then worked six-and-a-half days a week for a coal company, also in Hagerstown. He made $12.50 a week. Then, he received his draft notice, but decided to enlist in the Army Air Corps. After three days at Fort Meade, he traveled to St. Petersburg, Florida, spending a week taking tests. After qualifying for clerical school, he was sent to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for 11 weeks. His next stop was to the Waycross Air Base and the 385th Bombardment Squadron, 311th Bombardment Group, where he served until July 1943.

Then, it was goodbye USA and hello Asia. Leaving San Francisco on the USAP Brazil, a troop carrier, he sailed first to Tanzania, then around the south of Australia. At Perth, they picked up another ship and a destroyer, arriving on September 10 in the Indian Ocean. Finally on land, the men took three different trains and two different riverboats across India to reach its northeastern tip. They did stop at the British Camp at Gaya, where the Americans could hear the jackals howling at night. Quite an unnerving experience for a farm boy from Appalachia! The conditions were very primitive in India, particularly since they were experiencing a terrible famine at this time. At each train station, hordes of children would swarm around the train, begging for food. Finally, the men arrived at their destination, and Donald’s real work began.

by Priscilla Rall

Oscar Sykes was born in 1916 in Catoctin Furnace to William and Carrie Ann Stackhouse Sykes. His father was a lumberman from Canada whose own father was killed by a falling tree while working as a lumberjack. Oscar was one of three sons and two daughters. William died in 1919 when Oscar was just three, and he is buried in Lewistown. From then on, Oscar was raised mostly by his sister, Ida. He was very fortunate to be raised by his sister, as one of his brothers was put in an orphanage when their father passed. His mother later married Harry Sweeney, and they lived in Catoctin Furnace. Ida married Howard M. Kemp, who was a blacksmith and had a great impact on Oscar’s life.

Oscar moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a town then known for making wooden pipes for water systems. He was surprised to learn that Pennsylvania schools were not segregated like those in Maryland.

Moving once again, he lived in State College, Pennsylvania, with an aunt. Then, it was back to Catoctin Furnace, to live in a house across from the church.

Route 15 had not been widened at that time, and the boys swam in Locust Pond, located where the overpass walkway is now. The furnace was already in a state of disrepair, but the Dinky railroad was still in operation, and you could ride it up to Thurmont.

The trolley also went through Thurmont, and Oscar loved to hitch a ride on it to Braddock Heights to enjoy all the entertainment there. The main business in Catoctin Furnace at the time was making barrel staves from the thousands of dead chestnut trees covering Catoctin Mountain. Businesses also made telephone poles, crossties for the poles, and the wood screws that held the glass insulators on electric poles.

Oscar and his mother loved to ice skate on the upper and lower ponds there. They would place a log by the side of the pond and sit on it to lace up their skates and build a fire nearby to keep warm. Carrie was a gifted healer. She cared for pregnant women and delivered their babies. She would tap a pine tree and make a healing salve from the sap, just one of her many old-time recipes for medicine.

Oscar left school after eighth grade, and by age 13, he was working for Mr. Harding at his blacksmith shop in Mt. Pleasant, Maryland. The building is still there, at the end of the store.

An old buggy maker, Coleman Laddie, would sit by the fire and tell of his buggy shop in Frederick on All Saints Street. When Oscar mentioned he wanted a pincer to trim horses’ hooves, Mr. Laddie offered to show him how to make one. Eventually, Oscar made all of the tools he needed for blacksmithing and, most importantly, learned how to use an anvil correctly. Later, Oscar worked at Howard Kemp’s blacksmith shop in Frederick at the corner of South and Carroll Street.

Farmers brought their produce to Frederick, and it was especially busy when sweet corn was hauled in wagons, pulled by horses down East Street to the canneries. Many farmers took advantage of being in town to get their horses reshod or wooden wagon wheels repaired, so Oscar was especially busy at harvest time.

For wheels, they would buy the hubs and make the spokes and wooden wheels. Then they would have to place the metal rims on the wooden wheels, a complex process. On the weekends, Frederick was a bustling place, with cars and wagons parked along the main streets and benches up and down the sidewalks, filled with citizens sharing the latest news and gossip.

Then the Great Depression hit. There were no jobs to be had, and many people didn’t even have enough to eat. Hobos were a common sight. There was a CCC camp in Catoctin Furnace where Oscar’s Uncle Carl found work. Oscar did a lot of hunting, particularly in Canada, and would give the meat from rabbits, pheasants, deer, and even bear to his family and friends for food. Oscar remembered farmers who would come to his sister’s husband, Howard, crying as they had no money to pay him. Howard would take a dollar or two, and Oscar would later stop by to get another dollar as they tried to pay off their bill. Unemployed African Americans congregated on the corner of Patrick and Market streets, hoping that a farmer might need a hand for making hay or cutting corn.

Oscar fondly recalled that on nights with a full moon, he would join neighbors and shock corn for 20 cents a shock. Later, they would return to husk the dried corn. Oscar also worked on Guy and Will Water’s farms. He even shod horses at the Buckingham School. Oscar wasn’t afraid of hard work, but his fondest memories were of working with Tom Fox at his blacksmith shop on South Street, where he finished his journeyman’s training and became a full-fledged smithy.

In 1936, Oscar married Dorothy Brand from Brunswick. They had one son in 1944. He decided to join the Navy and, in March 1942, began work as a blacksmith at the David Taylor Model Basin in Carderock in Montgomery County. It was a top-secret facility for testing military vessels and equipment, so important that Marines guarded it. The complex consisted of a model shop, machine shop, blacksmith and welding shop, and a machine shop. Alongside the shops were two huge water basins, each approximately one-half-mile long. Oscar’s job was to test all of the metals to be used in ships and submarines. He tested the metals for compression and tensile strength. Along with an engineer, Oscar helped design what he called a “noise maker.”

This was at a time when Germans were using torpedoes that were attracted to the sounds made by a vessel’s engines. To create a kind of decoy, they made a metal device that created such noise that the enemy torpedoes honed in on it and exploded harmlessly behind the ship. Oscar also designed the point for a spear that was placed on lifeboats so that a shipwrecked sailor could use it to kill fish to eat, as well as a hook on the front of a lifeboat to hopefully use to be hauled to safety by a rescue boat. There was much more that Oscar felt he still did not have the authority to disclose.

He worked for 30 years at the David Taylor Model Basin as their top metallurgist, while also consulting at the National Bureau of Standards and at the Navy Yard. Pretty good for a boy who just finished eighth grade and was coached by a buggy-maker from the 1800s!

Although he enjoyed recalling the good times, there were plenty of bad times, which he preferred not to dwell upon. His most difficult memory was when he lost his beloved wife in 1954.

When the author interviewed Mr. Sykes for the Veterans History Project in 2007, Oscar was still driving everywhere, going out dancing in Martinsburg, and enjoying a healthy, full life, living with his doting grandson. He was extremely proud of his interview and went to all his friends to brag that his was the longest interview done to date. He even drove to see Mark Lewis, the friend who recommended that I talk to him.

It was heartbreaking to learn that he died of the flu just two weeks after his interview. Oscar Sykes exemplifies the American dream that anyone with determination can be anything through hard work.

Oscar and his wife, Dorothy, and son.

Oscar and his son.

Scatter Come Together

by Priscilla Rall

The motto for the 190th Field Artillery Long Tom Battalion (FAB) refers to its cavalry history going back to the Civil War. It reflects the cavalry tactics for a hard fought battle. But instead of horses, the 190th FAB used modern artillery pieces. A member of battalion’s headquarters group was a farm boy from near Sabillasville. Walter Leon Harbaugh was born on December 29, 1916, on the small farm in the home of Murry and Minnie Brown Harbaugh. The local area is named for his family, Harbaugh Valley. Walter had a large family, one of five children, and there were many chores to do each day. The family butchered hogs and then smoked the meat. Walter remembered they used sassafras and hickory chips for the fire. For two straight days, they had to make sure the fire did not break out into flames or “blaze up.” They also had two cows to milk, and had to cut wood for the cookstove and heat. They would use a cross-cut saw and then drag the log with horses to the mill. By age eight, Walter was using horses to plow. Thankfully, Maude and Colonel were gentle giants. At first, Walter went to a one-room school on Quirock Road and then to the school in Sabillasville. By his early teens, the Great Depression was in full swing. He left school at age 15 to work in construction and help the family.

But, soon, war loomed over the world, and Walter was drafted in June 1941. He was to serve one year. But after six months, war came to the United States, and he was in for the duration.

Walter trained at Fort Sill and then for 13 weeks at Fort Shelby in Mississippi. Finally, he set sail on the Queen Elizabeth as it zig-zagged across the Atlantic to avoid German subs. In seven days, they landed in Glasgow and soon crossed the Irish Sea in old cattle boats. He continued his training in mechanics, as the company had 6x6s, weapons carriers, prime movers, and jeeps. His unit was part of the 1st Army V Corps and was, by its nature, extremely mobile so that it could support the troops wherever they happened to be. While in Scotland, he managed to visit Belfast, but because of the black-out, he “couldn’t even find a pub.”

Walter was chosen to complete commando training taught by British soldiers who had recently been in North Africa. He was impressed by the British soldiers and got along well with them. With their stiff upper lip, they didn’t let anything bother them. In training, they used live ammunition, and one lieutenant was accidently shot in the ankle, but it could have been worse! For one of their exercises, they were taken outside at night and given just a map and a flashlight and had to find their way back to the base. They regularly made 25-mile marches, but that didn’t bother this tough farm boy. Back with his unit, they practiced beach landings after waterproofing their vehicles. They’d go out at about at 2:00 a.m. with a stove pipe extending from the exhaust pipe to keep the water out. Another time, they were left in the moors, but were not told the 110th Airborne was also there trying to “ambush” them. At the end, if you had a chalk “X” on your back, the troopers had gotten to you!

Finally, it was D-Day. Walter and his battalion were in a staging area and soon loaded in boats to cross the choppy channel. The 190th FAB landed on D-plus 2 at Omaha Beach. By 9:00 a.m., Battery A was firing at the enemy. Harbaugh was with the Group Headquarters Battalion and was soon fighting through the hedgerow country. The 190th supported the 29th Division in Normandy until St. Lo. There, Walter went to a hillside and looked down on the devastated city; he could see only a few church steeples sticking out from the ruins. They then fought their way across France, assisting in the Falaise Pocket. Then they stopped just for a day to participate in the victory parade through Paris. Then, through Aachen, where they faced heavy enemy resistance. Later, at St. Vith, there were three men in one foxhole. A shell hit the foxhole dead-on and killed the man in the middle, but left the ones on each side unharmed. In November, they spent 25 days giving support to the units caught up in the hellish battle in the Hurtgen Forest. In Walter’s words, “your life wasn’t worth a plugged nickel.” After that, the 190th was called on to help out in the Battle of the Bulge. As the Army crossed into Germany, the 190th found themselves at the Remagan Bridge. By this time, Harbaugh had enough points for a 45-day furlough. Fortunately, while he was in the good old USA, the war ended.

After taking a little time off to decompress from the war, Walter went back to working construction. Some of you may know of the Rocky Ridge Brick plant. Well, he was the foreman for that huge job.

Walter met Molly Emma Gates at a dance, and they were married soon after. They had six children. Son Leon was in the Vietnam War, and son Lamont served in the National Guard—a family that certainly served our country well and faithfully.

Walter Harbaugh died on December 30, 2017, at the age of 101. The last time I saw him, less than a year before his passing, he refused to let me get a ladder, and he picked the apples he wanted to give me himself! Rest in Peace, dear friend.

Courtesy Photos of Walter Leon Harbaugh

by Priscilla Rall

Playing Ball in Germany

Seventy-Five Years Ago

Seventy-five years ago, where were you? My father, Captain J. E. Rall, was in post-war Germany, an army doctor stationed in Nuremburg amongst the ruins of a once-great city. I wasn’t even born yet. Thousands of thankful American soldiers didn’t have to fight any longer. The war was over, and the killing ended.

One of those happy soldiers was the late Ronald Charles Manning. He was born on July 27, 1915, in Pennsylvania and grew up in rural western Maryland. His family ran a small market in Clear Spring. Ron was a married man of 28 when he was drafted. With two young daughters and one on the way, he was not anxious for combat. But he put in his time, and now there was peace. Ron and a group of “high pointers” were marking time until they could return stateside. He had accumulated 87 points (for the Silver Stars, battles fought, and dependents). A high-ranking officer told the men they needed to be “in training.” That didn’t sit too well with the battle-hardened men. Ron told the officer he had two years of training (an understatement), and he didn’t need anymore. What they needed was a few baseball bats, balls, and gloves, and they would stay out of trouble. A few days later, much to his surprise, the sports gear arrived. So, 75 years ago, Ron and his men spent three months playing ball until they were finally sent home in December 1945.

When the troopship carrying Ron pulled into New York, no crowds or ceremonies marked his homecoming, only Lady Liberty welcomed him home and his beloved wife, Nancy, who had given birth to their third child, alone. She had raised their three young girls while staying with her parents, and they ran their small grocery store in Clear Spring. Now they were together again. Nancy never asked Ron about his time at war. Ron never told her of his experiences. Words always failed him, but he never forgot the horrors of war. He had the scarred and numb fingers from frostbite to remind him.

He had been in England when he heard of the Normandy invasion, but he “didn’t think much of it.” Soon, he realized that he would soon be there himself. He was with the Tank Corps 6th Armored Division, the “Super Sixth.” D-Day plus three found Ron landing at Utah Beach. He saw the remnants of the assault… “It was terrible.” The destruction from the massive bombing and shelling shocked him. There was still strong enemy resistance, and the objective of St. Lo wasn’t realized until mid-July. Ron and his division then fought the retreating Germans south to Brest. After the Germans at Brest finally surrendered, he vividly remembered seeing hundreds of German POWs, mainly old men.

Eventually, his division moved through France to Belgium. It was then that the German breakout known as the Battle of the Bulge began, threatening the entire Allied effort. Ron and his troops were clothed only in summer uniforms. When Gen. George Patton was informed of this problem, he said that they had no choice but to go to the aid of the besieged troops at Bastogne. Ron noted that “it wouldn’t have mattered if we were naked; Patton would have sent them anyway.” Wearing only summer pants, a thin Eisenhower jacket, and a trench coat not designed for combat, the troops fought bravely. When the winds and snow were too much, they would dig a trench and run a tank over it, providing shelter for three men, as well as a target for the enemy. More often than not, they simply slept in their sleeping bags in shallow foxholes and would wake up covered with newly fallen snow. They had no hot food, just C-rations, and even those became scarce as the fighting raged on. Once, when Ron was sent into Bastogne to get mail for his company, a shell burst, narrowly missing him—but he did get the mail for his unit.

Ron and his company were defending Hill 510. When asked what was on that hill, Ron replied, “Nothing.” But, in fact, it was a strategic spot that defended a vital crossroad just northeast of Bastogne. One night, Ron noticed some moving figures, vaguely silhouetted against a nearby row of cedars. Then he saw what he thought looked like enemy tanks slowly moving towards his position. Ron tried to contact his command post, but the communications were down, so he ran through the dark to alert the command. Racing back, he discovered the wires had been broken from the recent shelling. Quickly repairing them, he returned to his company and roused his men, even pounding on tanks to wake the drivers. His company, now aware of the German offensive, spent the next three days and nights defending Hill 510. They were successful. It was for this that Sgt. Manning earned a Silver Star Commendation.

Finally, the German offensive was defeated, but the war continued. Ron didn’t remember the names of all of the towns, rivers, and cities where he fought. It was simply one battle after another. As a platoon sergeant, he once discovered a German pillbox that had gone undetected. He led his men in a successful machine gun assault of the enemy position. On a later mission, his platoon returned one man short. Ron and another soldier (Johnny Cash’s uncle) set out to retrieve the missing man. After going a half-mile, Ron told Cash to wait there and to cover him as he continued the search. Ron finally found his man lying against a cedar tree, wounded in the head and moaning. Ron hoisted him on his shoulders and began to carry him to safety. He trudged through the snow, with enemy bullets ringing around him. Ron eventually had to lay the wounded man across his back and walk, bent over, towards his lines. The three men eventually got back to safety. For these two heroic actions, Ron earned another Silver Star (with Oak Leaf Clusters).

Ron Manning saw the destruction of Germany first-hand. He saw the smoldering remains of factories bombed by Allied planes. He described one small town, completely destroyed and flattened, with only a chicken wandering alone in the ruins. They didn’t even have the time to eat the poor chicken. He did remember one hot holiday meal. It was either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Memorable because there were “more feathers than turkey!”

After the war, he joined the American Legion, but found that he didn’t have much in common with the younger men. His awards proudly hung in the Manning’s home until his death, and the old photos have been kept safely in an album, now with his daughters.

The battle-scarred Veteran died on September 14, 2011. He peacefully slipped away, noticed only by his family and a few old friends. He was 96 and had lost his wife, as well as most of his contemporaries. Just one of the last of the “Greatest Generation,” who had answered his country’s call, fought in some of the war’s most fierce battles, to return home and work the rest of his life as a machinist. He loved sports and fishing, but most of all, his family. Ron Manning was one of the quiet heroes of World War II who ended his fighting days playing ball 75 years ago.

Courtesy Photos of Ronald Charles Manning

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Mark Allen Lewis

A Life Well Spent

by Priscilla Rall

Mark Lewis was born in 1924 in the hamlet of Garfield, high up in the Catoctin Mountains. He died there, in a place he knew well—the home where he was born. When I consider Mark’s life, I realize it encompassed an entire century of our country’s history: from her agricultural roots to the Great Depression, from the horrors of World War II to the Cold War.

All that was rural America can be summed up in Mark Lewis’ life. He was born at home, not in a hospital, 1 of 10 children. The Lewis family scratched out a meager living in the rocky fields and orchards of Frederick County. He could not remember when he was not working on the farm. He went to a two-room school, Forest School, and then began working on a neighbor’s farm when he was just 13, plowing the fields with a team of horses, just as farmers had done for a hundred years.

The little store run by his father had all that the mountain people needed. Traveling hucksters provided a small income from eggs and butter. Mark’s mother, Annie, toiled long hours and, sadly, died too soon. She impressed on her children the need for an education. His hard-working father, Claude, was a pillar of the community.

These beginnings gave Mark all that he needed to face the uncertain years of the Great Depression. He joined the National Youth Administration at 16 years old. He worked at Fort Ritchie, where he saw the last of the cavalry regiments!

The world was changing.

As our country plunged into war, Mark joined up. Trained as a paratrooper, he rode a glider into Germany amidst savage enemy fire. He trudged through the snow to relieve the troops at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. This mountain boy, with little education, became a combat engineer, detecting mines, blowing up enemy bridges, and then building pontoon bridges for the allies. He was wounded three times and was ready to be sent to invade Japan when the war was ended by the atomic bombs.

Mark came home to his family, and then began his own. He married his beloved Dorothy, who he met picking beans in a field at the home farm. Like other GIs returning home, he began a new life. And like many other combat Veterans—then as now—he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. However, with drive and ambition, he succeeded, working for many years as a construction project superintendent at such American institutions as the Library of Congress, Camp David, and Site R. But Mark never lost his love of the land. He never lost his pride in being an American.

With his love of history, he wrote and published many articles on local lore and of the people he knew so well. From his writings, others learned about the strength of the people who lived in the hills and hollows of the Catoctin Mountains. To talk to him was to open a history book, with footnotes provided by Dorothy. He shared his own story with the Veterans History Project in 2006. It is fitting that his own history now resides in the Library of Congress, where he had once worked. echoua.com

Mark was a remarkable man—smart, hard-working, devoted to his community and his family. Just as he had fought in the fields of Europe as a young man, he bravely fought his illnesses during his last years, with Dorothy and their children by his side.

One would never mistake his voice for another, “Mark, here….” I would begin. “How’s my gal?” he would ask.  I will miss those phone calls. I will miss the visits I had with Mark and Dorothy. I will miss my friend, Mark Lewis, someone I consider a true American Hero.

Courtesy Photo of Mark Allen Lewis

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Smith

Forrest School opened its doors in the fall of 1882, serving children in the Garfield area, between Wolfsville and Foxville in Frederick County. Located at the intersection of Stottlemyer and Forrest School roads, the school closed its doors in the spring of 1939.

Peg Goes Into the Army

by Priscilla Rall

Margaret Virginia “Peg” Franklin has deep roots in Frederick County. She was born on her family’s farm, Thornbrook, in 1915, to John Nathaniel and Margaret Fox Franklin. The home is on the National Register with its fantastic example of Italianate architecture. At one time, it was owned by the well-known poet and professor at Mount St. Mary’s College, George Henry Miles.

Peg’s grandfather bought the farm before she was born. The large home was also used as a boarding house for vacationers from D.C., Baltimore, and Virginia. Before buying Thornbrook, Peg’s grandfather, Jeremiah Fox, ran a livery service in Thurmont, picking up riders from the Thurmont train station and taking them to their destination. Later, he worked as the mail carrier in Thurmont, driving his horse and wagon from the town to Frederick to get the mail. He often would take orders from Thurmont residents for items to buy for them in Frederick.

Peg’s father was a farmer, and their family consisted of four girls and three boys. They all worked on the farm, raising milk cows, hogs, sheep, and chickens. They took the cream to the creamery at Motters Station, located across from the store there. The family also grew factory crops like tomatoes and beans. These, they took to the cannery in Thurmont by the train tracks on Altamont Avenue. They grew grain and took it to the mill north of Emmitsburg to grind into flour.

All the family helped on the farm. Peg remembered riding on the binder, but the girls never milked—that was a job for the boys. They farmed with horses, and her grandfather never did learn to drive a car! The farm did not even have electricity until 1945. First, they had a windmill to pump water to the house and later got a gasoline engine to pump the water from the cistern.

The Great Depression was tough on all Americans, but at least those on farms had enough to eat. Like so many, her grandfather lost all of his savings when the Thurmont bank failed. Her mother fashioned clothes from feed sacks and also made them into curtains. She cooked for her family and the boarders on a wood-burning cookstove located on the porch during the summer.

Peg and her siblings attended the old Emmitsburg Elementary School, now part of the fire hall. Then they attended the old Emmitsburg High School, now the Emmitsburg Community Center. All the Franklin siblings graduated from high school. From 1931 to 1935, Peg attended St. Joseph’s College, majoring in home economics. She still lived at home, one of the so-called “day hops,” walking four miles most days. The father of her good friend, Elizabeth Troxell Newman, often took them in his sleigh when the snow was deep. Later, her sister, Elizabeth, taught at the one-room school at Appolds, between Motters Station and Rocky Ridge.

The next year, Peg interned in a hospital in Philadelphia, after which she began working at a Catholic hospital in Yonkers, New York, run by the Sisters of Charity. She was in charge of the Special Diet Department. After America went to war, she traveled to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where she worked for General Electric, not as a Rosie the Riveter, but as Rosie the Radio Tester! She tested radios to be used in tanks, while two of her brothers worked for Glen L. Martin in war production work. Her other brother joined the Army. Even her mother contributed to the war effort. The Army needed human hair to be used in precision instruments. So, she sacrificed her beautiful, long blond hair for the war effort.

In the spring of 1944, Peg joined the Army. After passing the physical in Boston, she went through basic training in Atlantic City; 2nd Lt. Franklin became part of the Army’s Medical Department and was assigned to Mason General Hospital on Long Island. It was the processing center for all military personnel arriving from Europe. The convoys would arrive, usually at night, often carrying more than 1,000 GIs. First, they had to be fed; the hospital was staffed with some Italian POWs to help. There were even Army nurses who had been POWs in the Philippines. They were given foods like ice cream, milk, and other delicacies missing from the front lines and much appreciated. Mason General Hospital was used mostly for those with emotional problems. The most severe cases were put in “closed wards.” After the war, the Army closed Mason, and Peg transferred to Letterman General Hospital at the Presidio in San Francisco. She worked there for seven months before Captain Franklin left the service in June 1947.

A friend from the service suggested that she join him at a resort in the Catskills, run by Macy’s Company for its employees. In those years, many large companies had resorts as a perk for those that worked for them. Unfortunately, it was closed after two years due to a dispute with its workers. It was at this time that Peg’s mother, brother, and father became ill, and she returned home to care for them. After her brother and father died, she continued to care for her mother for 15 years until her death.

Finding herself unemployed after so many years, Peg began working at St. Joseph’s Provincial House. After that institution closed, she worked at the Marian Center until she retired in 1985. Peg was a life member of Emmitsburg Presbyterian Church, where she sang in the choir. She was also a founding member of the Emmitsburg Community Chorus. After a long and productive life, Captain Franklin passed away in 2009. Her family served our country in many ways, and we in Frederick County are proud to call Captain Franklin one of our own.

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Like Father, Like Son

by Priscilla Rall

The first Baker, Henry, came to Maryland in 1742. He settled on a farm near Unionville, where his descendant, Wilbur Baker, farmed in the early 1900s. Wilbur only left the farm to serve in WWI in a supply company, driving a truck carrying supplies and sometimes the wounded in France. When he returned to the United States, he married Emma Glisan. They had two children: William Glisan Baker (born in 1923) and Betty Baker Englar. Betty’s husband, Donald, was a coxswain in a Higgins boat on D-Day in Normandy. William, or Bill, took a different route.

Bill grew up working on the home farm, milking cows by hand, making hay, and husking corn. He remembered the fun young people had at husking parties held at night under the full moon. Then they gathered ears of corn in baskets and threw them onto wagons to take to the corn crib by the barn. His mother was an excellent cook. Bill’s favorite meal was having breakfast after milking. It consisted of pudding and hominy, not the choice of many today. Emma really had her hands full at threshing time when she would have to feed about 18 thresher men.

Bill attended a one-room school, which eventually became the Linganore Grange Hall, and then to Linganore High School. In the fall of 1940, he began college at the University of Maryland, majoring in agricultural education.

Also, Bill’s uncle, Monroe Stambaugh, his cousin, Nevin Baker, and good friend, Warren Smith, served in the war. Warren was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and was a POW. He eventually became a well-respected educator in Frederick County. Nevin, after serving in the Marine Corps, went into banking.

At College Park, Bill enrolled in the Enlisted Reserve Corps. By the beginning of his spring semester in his sophomore year, he was told he was now in the regular Army. After a three-day visit home, Bill took the trolley to Union Station, and then on to Fort Lee, Virginia, where he went through basic training. Afterward, he was sent to Camp Lee for technical training and truck driving school. He was soon promoted to T-5, working in the mailroom. Tiring of this, he filled out forms to either enter Officers’ Candidate School (OCS) or join the paratroopers.

The camp commander, D. John Markey, a good friend of Bill’s father, strongly suggested that a rifle company was not the best place to be and urged him to return to Quartermasters’ School at Camp Lee. Bill took Markey’s advice and eventually was assigned to Camp Campbell with the 4332 Service Company as the 2nd Platoon Leader. The company consisted of four white officers and 212 African American soldiers.

First, they were sent to Fort Devan for two weeks, and then they were placed on a convoy that sailed from Boston in April 1943 to Amsterdam. There was still the danger of German U-boats, and the convoy was guarded by destroyers. After safely arriving in Holland, Bill and another officer had the choice of joining Graves Registration or a supply company for an armored unit. They flipped a coin for it, and Bill ended up in a truck supply company. They rode trucks filled with ammunition for howitzers and tanks. When they got to the Remagan Bridge, they had to wait a few days for the engineers to complete a pontoon bridge to replace the damaged bridge. One day, while staying in a German manor house in the center of town, Bill vividly recalled awaking to the tragic news that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died. Everyone wondered, “What would happen now?”

When in Leipzig, Germany, his company was tasked with taking truckloads of enemy guns, cleaning and repairing them, and then sending them off. The worst experience Bill can remember is when his convoy, carrying ammo, came to a crossroads. The MP there told them to go one direction…the wrong direction! Suddenly, they were confronted with a German howitzer…and quickly turned around. They ended up stuck in a ditch until they pushed the truck out and drove back to safety. Boy, did they give the MP hell for sending them in the wrong direction!

Once, when Bill’s company had crossed near the Remagan Bridge, he was in a foxhole with one of his men when a Messerschmitt flew up the river, shooting at the Americans. They were lucky that time. Usually, ammo convoys had little protection and were prime targets for the Nazis.

Finally, the war in Europe was over, and Lt. Baker was sent to Marseilles, where the troops were staging for the next offense: Japan. He was on a ship for one-and-one-half days, bound for the Pacific when they got a change of orders. They were going home. Bill returned to the shores of the United States, and after a 30-day leave, was eventually discharged in the summer of 1946.

Returning to college, Bill graduated in 1951 with a certificate to teach agriculture. He resumed his friendship with Marguerite “Weetie” Stitely from Woodsboro, who graduated from Hood College in 1947. She became a beloved librarian at Thurmont Elementary School for many years. Bill and Weetie were married in September 1947. They had three children: Bill Jr., Becky, and Katrina.

Bill began a long career teaching agriculture at Emmitsburg and then at Catoctin High School until retiring in 1980. Along the way, he attended an auctioneering school and continued auctioneering even after retiring from teaching. One of his proudest accomplishments was forming the Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show, which continues to this day.

No student who took agriculture from “Bulldog” Baker forgot him. He was one of a kind! As a neighbor of the Bakers for 25 years, I treasured their friendship. Sadly, Bill passed away in 2009, and then both Katrina and Weetie followed him in death. William Baker served his country like his father before him, and then spent the rest of his life serving his community. Truly a life well lived.

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Bill and Weetie Baker

Joseph Hooker Clabaugh

20 Years of Service

by Priscilla Rall

Joe Clabaugh’s life is woven into our community’s history beginning with his grandfather, J. Hooker Lewis, from the Garfield and Foxville area, who owned five local orchards. He bought one from a German family whose house was located where Mountain Gate Restaurant is now. It was part stone, part log, and the German family kept their animals in the lower level of the home! When J. Hooker’s daughter, Carrie, married Joseph Elmer Clabaugh, this young family moved into the old farmhouse. J. Hooker and his wife moved into a home where the Kountry Kitchen is now.

The farmstead had a smokehouse where the Clabaughs cured hams and bacon from the hogs they raised and butchered, and a springhouse where they kept the milk, cream, and butter from their milk cows.

Carrie and Joseph had 10 children, but in 1929, their oldest daughter, Carrie, tragically died at four years old when she was hit by a car at the end of their lane. Their son, Richard, 13, died from blood poisoning when he was swept over the dam at Bentz’s pond and cut his leg. This was before antibiotics.

Their son, Joseph Hooker Clabaugh, was born in December 1919. Young Joe was kept busy bringing firewood into the house to feed the kitchen’s cookstove and the chunk stove in the living room. All the kids carried water from the well in the front yard into the house, as they had neither running water nor electricity.

Joe recalled riding their milk wagon to deliver the farm’s milk. Bob, the old black horse, knew all the stops by heart and never missed a one. Joe’s father never did drive a tractor or a car. He hewed to the old ways. His mother was “the best cook that ever hit this world.” She was well known for her homemade noodles and pot pie.

When Joe finished seventh grade, he quit school. He lied about his age and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). He worked in the camp at Green Ridge, 30 miles from Cumberland, just across the river from Paw Paw, West Virginia. His two older brothers joined the CCC as well. They all earned $25 a month. The government sent $20 home, and they kept just $5. After he left the CCC, Joe worked on a farm in Hansonville.

In 1937, he joined the U.S. Army. He trained at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia with Company D, 5th Engineers. He was discharged after suffering from a severe cut to his hand. Then he worked at a foundry in Baltimore, along with his cousin, Charles “Stud” Lewis, making piston rings. Later, he worked for Herman H. Fisher, driving a fuel truck from Baltimore to Detour.

During WWII, Joe attempted to enlist five times but was rejected due to his injured hand and classified 4F. It was a bitter blow to the family when his cousins, Gordon and Raymond Pryor, died while in the service. Cousin Harry “Buck” Lewis was shot and then captured on the Battle of the Bulge. Amazingly, he survived his captivity but was down to 100 pounds.

Joe then worked for several years at Hammaker’s, setting tombstones. In March 1946, the Air Force finally accepted him. By the first of April, he was on his way to the Philippine Islands. He was assigned to the motor pool in Manila. He saw first-hand the terrible destruction of this once beautiful city. There were still 40-50 ships sunk in the harbor, and most of the buildings were empty hulls. Later, he was assigned to the Field Police at Hickam Field, but was soon sent to Guam to serve in the Fire Department. From there, he went to Andrews Air Force Base, where he served for five years. He got home in February 1948, and in May, he married Shirley Long from Creagerstown.

Joe’s next orders were to Greenland, leaving his family, that now numbered three children, home. Greenland was quite a new experience for Joe. They often had “wind warnings” when you had to stay indoors or be blown away. No planes could land then, either. After 13 months, Joe was sent with his family to Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas, as a fireman, where they spent two-and-a-half years. They experienced severe ice storms with large hail that put dents in everything exposed.

Finally, Joe got a wonderful assignment in Upper Hayfield, England, just 60 miles from London. He was able to take his daughter, Chris, to Holland for a memorable trip to a tulip festival.

In 1959, Joe was transferred to Bunker Hill, Indiana, where the “big boys,” the B 58s, were stationed. They carried the “big bombs,” but Joe refused to say anymore. “I ain’t telling you nothing.” This was the era of the Cold War, and Joe remembered a “hot day” when the airbase had 47 B57s lined up during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and they were on “high alert.”

Tech Sgt. J. Clabaugh retired from the Air Force in 1963, after 20 years and 1 month of military service. “I’m done!” The family returned to Thurmont, and Joe worked on the farm until George Black, the fire chief at Fort Ritchie, offered him a job. He worked there and at Site R for 17 years (9 years in the tunnel). During this time, the family lived in Shirley’s home with their five children, Chris, Jerry, Dennis, Billy, and Jimmy. Work was second nature to Joe, and after all of those years at Ft. Ritchie, he worked at Mount St. Mary’s until he finally retired for good.

The family moved from Creagerstown to New Cut Road and then finally to Longs Mill Road in Rocky Ridge. Joe and Shirley have been active volunteers at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Creagerstown, the Rocky Ridge Fire Department, and the American Legion in Thurmont. His volunteering only ended with his death in 2009. He earned his rest. Thank you for your service, TSgt. Clabaugh, and may you rest in peace, dear friend and neighbor.

If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Photos were taken in Manila after WWII while Joseph Clabaugh was stationed there.

There’s No Place Like Home

by Priscilla Rall

Marion William Rice was born to Marian Warfield and Ethel Metheny Rice in 1927 in Mountaindale. One of five children, the family lived in a house next to a small grocery store that Marion’s parents ran. When he was six years old, he walked three miles to the closest school in Lewistown. Later, he moved to live with his grandmother, Mrs. John Kesselring, to be closer to the Thurmont schools. She lived in Thurmont on Frederick Road, just above Camp Cozy.

His parents had a large garden and raised hogs. Marion, or “Bill” as he was called, missed school when they butchered. His job was to keep the fires going under the butchering kettles. Bill’s favorite meal was hog maw, which his mother would make at butchering time. At his grandmother’s, Bill’s job was to feed the chickens. He fondly remembered playing baseball in the summertime. Bill vividly recalled when he was playing ball in Mountaindale; a man came running out of the store, yelling that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. He responded, “Where’s Pearl?” Once a year, the family would go to Frederick to buy new clothes for school. That was a special day!

His family listened to the radio every night. Bill especially remembered Lowell Thomas and President Roosevelt’s (FDR) fireside chats. In fact, he saw FDR several times when he would drive up Frederick Road, sometimes in an open car. Often, he would stop to fish at the old ore pit at Catoctin Furnace, which was stocked with trout just for the president.

Bill worked part-time for the local florist, Allen Creager, collecting ferns growing in the mountains for funeral wreaths. Once, he looked up and saw two men with guns drawn running towards him. Bill had strayed too close to Camp Shangri-La. He was taken in a police car to the post office to be identified before being released. That was an exciting day!

Bill graduated from Thurmont High School in 1944 at 17 years of age, and he decided to join the U.S. Navy. “Mom was ironing and a’crying and a’crying.” She didn’t want her son to sign up, nor did his father, but eventually, they signed his papers. Bill remembered that the older men, the “Home Guard,” would march and do practice drills using broomsticks.

Before he joined the Navy, Bill was an air raid warden. They had a station on Payne’s Hill. Once, Bill had to stop Doc Birely because he was driving with his car lights on during a blackout. But the old Doc protested that he was rushing to see an ill patient.

Bill took the bus to Baltimore and then the train to Bainbridge for training. He spent several months in specialized training in electrical work. With his training done, Bill took the train cross-country, arriving after five days in San Francisco. There, he boarded a ship that sailed to Pearl Harbor, where one could still see remains of the Japanese surprise attack. It was “pretty emotional” for the young sailor. Then, he was quickly shuffled onto an airplane but was not told his destination.

The plane landed on different islands, and Bill finally ended up on Okinawa. Climbing down from the plane, he was given the order, “Go up on that hill and find an empty tent with a cot.” Bill stayed there for a month or so. He could explore where airplanes had crashed and exploded. Then, a tremendous typhoon came through the island, with 180 mph winds. Bill, and a few others, found refuge in a burial cave. When it was over, they crawled out; there were wrecked planes everywhere. He was assigned to the hospitals to set up electrical generators and to keep them going. Once, a gas drum exploded in his face, and he thought he was permanently blinded. Fortunately, he recovered. There were a lot of Japanese POWs who were helping repair the damage that they had done to the island.

Finally, the war ended, and Bill was granted a 10-day furlough to Shanghai, China. He bought a few souvenirs, including two kimonos for his sisters. He returned to Okinawa and continued doing electrical work until 1946 when he returned to the U.S. and was mustered out of the service.

Back in Thurmont, Bill began working for the town for a total of 44 years! Marion “Bill” Rice had a life that spanned almost a century and saw tremendous changes in the world. Bill never hesitated to serve his country when the time came. He was one of our “Greatest Generation,” a home-town boy turned sailor who saw the world but decided that the best place is home.

If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Bill and Nancy Rice.

Frederick & Washington Counties’

Lost in the Forgotten War (Part 3)

by Priscilla Rall

PFC Dailey Francis Dye

In September 1950, while the United States was holding onto the southeast corner of South Korea, PFC Dailey Francis Dye was born in 1931 at Big Pool in Washington County. Joining the Marine Corps, he completed his training at Parris Island in October 1948. By 1949, he was serving with the 2nd Marine Engineer Battalion in Puerto Rico. The next year, he was transferred to Pearl Harbor. But with the onslaught of the North Koreans into South Korea, the Marines were sent to Korea, where PFC Dye was in Ammo Co. 1 of the 1st Ordnance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, led by the famous “Chesty” Puller.

After the invasion at Inchon, PFC Dye and the 5th and 7th Marines were ordered towards the Yalu and the 5th Marines were sent to the east side of the Chosin Reservoir, but were then replaced by Col. Faith’s 32nd Battalion. All of this was in anticipation of the scheduled offense that was to end the war by chasing the NKPA out of Korea into China. The 3rd Reg. of the 1st Marines was tasked with guarding the 78 mile-long Main Supply Route, MSR, from the coast to Hagaru-ri. At Hagaru-ri, located at the southern tip of the reservoir, PFC Dye and 48 other Marines were loaded into jeeps and sent up the critical East Hill that was protecting the vital airstrip that was in the process of evacuating more than 4,000 wounded men to safety.

PFC Raymond Tuttle, an 18 year-old from New Jersey, and PFC Dye were in the forward position the night of Nov. 30 when the Marines were overrun and forced off the hill. PFC Tuttle and PFC Dye were left to cover the retreat, and were last seen fighting the enemy back to back. PFC Tuttle was captured and died in a POW camp within a year. In the chaos of battle, PFC Dye was reported to be missing. His body has not yet been recovered. He was survived by his parents and a sister. According to the family, his mother could never accept that her son was not coming home.

Sgt. Norman Lawrence Reid

 The troops in the west were centered on Kunu-ri. Sgt. Norman Lawrence Reid, a 20-year-old from Braddock Heights, was with D/1/24, an all-black regiment. He was the son of Paul and Helen Reid, and a descendant of an enslaved woman, Fannie Craig, from Virginia, who was born in 1852. During the Civil War, when Fannie was just 13, she had a son she named William E. Reid. Eventually his descendants ended up in Frederick County. The segregation of African-Americans in white America was still in evidence with the segregated units in the Korean War.

The United Nations forces had been divided, never a good tactic. The 8th Army was in the west, and in the east, divided by a mountainous terrain with few roads, were the Marines and the 7th Div. of X Corps. All of the men, including their leaders, had heard the rumor that the first units to reach the Yalu would be the first units to be sent home…so the race was on! “Home before Christmas!” claimed Gen. MacArthur. The weather was increasingly brutal, and in the mad dash to the Yalu, the supply train was stretched to the limit and beyond. Only the Marines had the proper cold weather gear.

The 24th continued north, and by Nov. 21, they were along the Chongch’on River near Kunu-ri. As part of the point in the planned offense that was to take them to the Yalu, the 24th was placed in a forbidding terrain with few roads, and none going north/south. The men still had their summer uniforms, and the temperatures were rapidly dropping. The men partook of a Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 23, but no one could really enjoy it with the coming battle hanging over them. That night the temps dipped to -15 degrees, and few men had insulated boots.

 Without warning, late on the night of Nov. 25 and into Nov. 26, the Chinese began their attack. There were many casualties, including SFC William F. Johnson, a WWII veteran from Maryland, who was taken prisoner and died in February 1951. The attacks grew in intensity the next day, as 30 men of the 24th fell, including 13 from Sgt. Reid’s D Co., including Sgt. Charles Owens from Upper Marlboro in Prince George’s County. Sgt. Norman Reid lost his life on this tragic day, so far from his home in Frederick. Many men in the 24th were captured, including SFC William F. Johnson, born in 1923 in Maryland and a veteran of WWII. All of the captured men had died from neglect by May 1951. The remaining men of the 24th fought their way south in a chaotic dash to safety. Few made it. The “dash to the Yalu” had turned into a march through hell.

Sgt. Jacob Augustus Ely

The 89th Tank Battalion with Sgt. Jacob Augustus Ely was also at Kunu-ri where the battalion was to take the road south to safety. Sgt. Ely was born in Baltimore in 1916, but three years later the U.S. Census records “Jacobo” as being a “boarder.” Perhaps he had been orphaned or abandoned? By 1938, he had married Mildred Wiles, one of the 15 children of Vernon and Bertie Wiles of Mountaindale, and they were living in Brunswick. Jacob and Mildred’s first children, twins Leila and Millie, died at birth. They later had two daughters, and Jacob found work as a bricklayer and later was employed at Camp Detrick. They were living in Lewistown in 1940 when he was drafted. After seeing combat in WWII, he was stationed in Hong Kong, and later in Japan. When the Korean War began, he was serving as a gunner with A Co. of the 89th Medium Tank Battalion.

In November, the 89th was made part of Task Force Dolvin, and on Nov. 26, they were heavily attacked by the Chinese but bravely held their position. The next day, as Task Force Dolvin continued to be hit hard by enemy forces, they withdrew and Sgt. Ely’s 89th became part of Task Force Wilson which was tasked with covering the 35th as it crossed the Yongbyon River. As Sgt. Ely had experience in WWII with the M-7 long-range gun, he was promoted to the platoon leader’s rank. On Nov. 27, the Chinese were threatening to overrun the CP of TF Wilson. The next day, the Chinese, disguised as farmers, managed to infiltrate the American line, and created a roadblock at Yongsan-dong. A Co. of the 89th along with a company of infantrymen was sent to eliminate the roadblock and clear the route to the rear. In this action, two tanks were hit, including the one that Sgt. Ely was in. He escaped, but was hit by small arms fire. He did not return to his company, and was declared MIA. Mildred was notified the day after Christmas that her husband had been missing since Nov. 28, 1950. The 34 year-old trooper had not seen his wife and family for more than two years. His body has not been recovered.

 On Nov. 26, the 2nd Engineers were also in the midst of the huge Chinese offense near Kunu-ri. As the companies lined up to retreat from Kunu-ri, the engineers were placed last in the column. Their officers had pleaded for days to allow them to withdraw before the main column. At the tail end of the line, they had to cover the rest of the unit, as well as protect their heavy equipment from capture. They could do neither. Without the proper weapons, they were powerless to hold off the enemy, and their huge trucks and trailers could not move quickly enough to outpace the Chinese troops.

Sgt. Joseph Hayes Trail

Sgt. Joseph Hayes Trail was a water supply technician with the Headquarters and Servive Company in the 2nd Engineers, 2nd Div. Sgt. Trail was born to Clarence and Nora Viola Trail in 1932. After enlisting in 1949, he spent his last leave at home in May 1950. After arriving in Korea, his parents got a last letter written on Nov. 9 from Sunchon.

More than 100 engineers were either captured or killed including Sgt. Trail. His parents got the news that he had been captured just days after learning that his brother, Cpl. Burr W. Trail had been wounded at the Chosin Reservoir while serving with the Headquarters Co., 57th FAB, the same unit as Cpl. Carty. Sgt. Joseph Trail died of malnutrition in a POW camp on Jan. 20, 1951, and his body has not been recovered. His brother, Cpl. Burr Trail, survived.

MSG Ira Miss

MSG Ira Miss with Hqts Co. 3rd Bn. 38th Reg. in the 2nd Div. was another Marylander near Kunu-ri. The 3/38 ran the “Gauntlet,” losing five of their eleven jeeps and nine men. They were the last major element to get through the “Pass” and reach safety. MSG Ira Victor Miss was born in Frederick in 1927 to Ira V. and Lillian Burdette Miss. After his mother died in 1948, Ira Jr. enlisted in the army. Two years later, he found himself in combat in Korea, serving as a combat construction specialist. On Nov. 28, in the fighting near Kunu-ri, he was shot in the hip. After recovering in a hospital in Japan, he returned to Korea in early January, and was soon in the battle north of Hoengsong, called “Massacre Valley.” On Feb. 11, 1951, the Chinese attacked the ROK’s 8th Div., soon over running the South Koreans, thereby cutting off MSG Miss’s nearby 3/38. In Massacre Valley, the 38th Reg. lost 255 men KIA, and 213 of those captured there died as prisoners. It proved to be the second deadliest battle in the Korean War. In the chaos of the following day, Feb. 13, MSG Miss was captured by the Chinese. Although he was first reported to be missing, it was later determined that he was a prisoner, and died in June of 1951. Surviving MSG Miss was his father in Buckeystown, his wife, Jean Louise and their daughter, Linda Verna. MSG Miss’s remains were finally found and identified. He was buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Feb. 2017.

Cpl. Manville E. Dagenhart

Cpl. Manville E. Dagenhart from Myersville was also with the 38th Regiment. Serving with I Company in the 3rd Battalion. He was born in 1931 to Lawson and Catherine. He was captured near Kunuri on Nov. 30, the same day as Sgt. Trail. He died in a POW camp in February 1951.

PFC Raymond R. Flair

PFC Raymond R. Flair was born in Frederick in 1928 to William and Marie Flair. He was married to Ida Belle and they had a 6 year old daughter, Darlene. A member of C/1/19, he was killed in the Inchon-Seoul area on Feb. 9, 1951. He earned a Silver Star for his bravery there, and the armory at Ft. Detrick is named in his honor.

Cpl. Jack Dempsey Wallace

Cpl. Jack Dempsey Wallace was born in 1930 in Mt. Pleasant. He served in Korea with G Company, 31st Reg. He was wounded by missile fragments on May 29, 1951, and died of these wounds the next day. He was buried at Mt. Olivet in Frederick.

PFC Samuel “Buddy” Frye

PFC Samuel “Buddy” Frye was born in 1933 in Frederick, and he enlisted in the army at age 17. He was sent to Korea with A Co., 5th Cavalry in the fall of 1950. PFC Frye died in combat in April 1951.

SFC Virgil Lee Stambaugh

SFC Virgil Lee Stambaugh was born to Samuel and Pauline Stambaugh in Union Bridge in 1925. He went overseas in January 1951 with A/19/24. He married Ann Wivell from Emmitsburg. SFC Stambaugh was killed in action on June 3, 1951, and earned a Bronze Star.

Pvt. Paul James Sewell

A grenade accidently exploded on Dec. 22, 1951, killing Pvt. Paul James Sewell of New Market. He was the son of Howard and Violet and was buried in the Simpson AM Church Cemetery.

PFC Irvin E. Lanehart

PFC Irvin E. Lanehart of Frederick was killed in action on June 12, 1952, while serving with G/180/45. He was preceded in death by both of his parents and was buried in Mt. Olivet.

Sgt. Harold Edward Lugenbeel

Although peace talks were being held for more than a year, the killing did not stop. Sgt. Harold Edward Lugenbeel. with C/1/31 was killed on Pork Chop Hill in April 1953. He was born in New Market in 1929. He was married to Dorothy Anna, and she had a daughter, Rhonda Harold, after her husband’s death.

With North and South Korea in the news recently, more Americans can see the results that the sacrifices of the UN forces made in the two Koreas. Frederick County lost many good young men in that “police action,” and they should not be forgotten.

If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Frederick & Washington Counties’

Lost in the Forgotten War (Part 2)

by Priscilla Rall

PFC Kenneth Lee Smith

In September 1950, while the United States was holding onto the southeast corner of South Korea by a thread, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was planning a surprise amphibious landing at Inchon along the western coast of Korea just west of Seoul. A shameless publicity hound, MacArthur’s PR men presented the invasion as “brilliant” and unparalleled in history except the plan was neither brilliant nor an extraordinary concept. It was standard army doctrine for peninsular warfare. In WWII, it was used at Salerno and Anzio. In fact, the Pentagon had produced plan SL-17 on June 19, 1950, that anticipated a North Korean invasion, a U.S. retreat to Pusan, and then an amphibious landing at Inchon! MacArthur’s headquarters requested 50 copies of SL-17 on June 26.

The invasion forces consisted of almost 70,000 men, including PFC Kenneth Lee Smith, from Cavetown in Washington County. who was a Marine with D/2/5. The amphibious attack began early Sept. 15. Lt. Col. Raymond Murray’s 5th Marines led the assault and landed on the northernmost Red Beach. After coming ashore, PFC Smith with D Co. marched inland. The next day, the 5th Marines were then ordered to drive through the southern section of Inchon. The 2/5 Marines led off that morning with D Co. Then, in the early hours of Sept. 24, the enemy began a counter-attack with their main effort aimed at the 2nd Bn.’s D Co. Unbeknownst to the Americans, they were facing 10,000 seasoned enemy troops. D Co. was hampered in their assault by a greatly diminished visibility caused by a combination of fog and smoke. Without warning, PFC Smith’s company came face to face with the enemy who soon had them pinned down. When D Company finally took the ridge, only 27 men of D Co. remained standing to savor their bittersweet victory. They had begun the battle with 206 officers and men. The fight had cost the company 36 KIA, 116 were wounded severely enough to require evacuation, including PFC Kenneth Smith, who died of his wounds two days later, on September. 26, 1950, after having been in constant combat since coming ashore at Inchon. He was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery in Hagerstown.

Cpl. Paul K. Carty,

Sgt. Roy Charles Delauter,

Cpl. Kenneth Lee Ridge

MacArthur was flush with victory after Inchon and taking Seoul and wanted to follow his victories up with an offense aimed to push out all of the North Korean troops north to the Yalu, the border with China. He discounted any intelligence which suggested that the Chinese were planning to join the North Koreans. With little thought, he divided his troops on the east and west side of the Korean peninsula with a high ridge of mountains between them. On the east was the large frozen Chosin reservoir. On its eastern shore were three soldiers with Task Force MacLean (later called Task Force Faith) from Western Maryland, Cpl. Paul K. Carty with the Headquarters’ Company, 57th Field Artillery Battalion; Sgt. Roy Charles Delauter with D/1/32; and Cpl. Kenneth Lee Ridge with M/3/31 who was born in 1930 in Hagerstown, the son of Melvin George and Mae Anna Funk Ridge.                                                                                                                 

Unbelievably, they had not been provided with wire, mines, or flares to create an effective perimeter with. At 9 p.m., a small Chinese patrol was discovered, and one enemy was captured. Col. Faith called a meeting of all of company commanders to review the offense scheduled for the next day.  While this was going on, the enemy attacked the 3rd Platoon of C Co. but were driven off.

At 8 a.m., the battalion took to the offense and managed to drive back the Chinese and recover most of the lost territory. During the day, Gen. Almond arrived by helicopter, and was told by Col. Faith of the Chinese attack. He discounted Col. Faith’s estimated size of the enemy forces saying, “Don’t worry. You’re only fighting remnants fleeing northwards.” About this time, the 3rd Battalion of the 31st Infantry with Ridge and the 57th Field Artillery Battalion with Carty reached their position four miles south of Faith’s 1/32. At 10:30 p.m., the Chinese again attacked. Sgt. Delauter’s D Co. held fast, holding back the Chinese. Finally, at 2:30 a.m., Nov. 29, the Chinese withdrew. Just one hour later, the battalion was ordered to withdraw south and consolidate with the 3/32 which had also been under similar enemy attacks.

As they struggled to ready the troops for the retreat, it began to snow furiously. The main withdrawal got underway at 5:30 a.m., Nov. 29. Soon MacLean was shot and captured; Col. Faith took command of the troops, now called Task Force Faith. They would need every ounce of faith to get them through to safety. He led his men in the attack of the unsuspecting Chinese encircling the 3/31. Finally, the Americans were together, hoping that they could fight their way south to Hagaru-ri. But the situation was dire. They were surrounded on three sides by the Chinese. Supplies were running low. The soldiers had been rushed forward with little preparation and few supplies. Their Medical Company had been destroyed in an ambush. As the troops were consolidated, Col. Faith’s drive and will-power strengthened the soldiers’ morale considerably. The Division Commander flew in to confer with Col. Faith. He was direct…there would be no help for Faith and his hardy band of men. They were on their own…written off by MacArthur’s high command. Worst of all, Faith did not know that the operation’s center of the 31st a few miles north of Hugaru had been hurriedly evacuated, without a thought given to Faith, who still believed that if they could get that far, they would find a haven of friendly troops.

Late on Nov. 30 at 10 p.m., the Chinese tried again. Then it began to snow, diminishing visibility and helping mask the American’s movements. Just after midnight, the Chinese penetrated the perimeter, and began to infiltrate many of the U.S. positions. Task Force Faith was fighting for its life. The medics were out of bandages and morphine. Few had eaten anything for two days. The cold was debilitating, particularly as the soldiers did not have cold weather gear. They had no first aid tents, so the medics slung a tarp over a railroad cut for shelter. They had no stoves to warm the wounded.

 While the Americans were finalizing their plans for the offense, Chinese attacked the Americans dug in around the inlet just after midnight, overwhelming K, L, and I Companies and the CP. Sgt. Roy “Bud” Delauter, with D/1/32, was at the northernmost point of Col. Faith’s position. From Wolfsville, he was the son of Roy and G. Rae Delauter and the husband of Shirley Viola Brown Delauter and was killed on Dec. 1 and is listed as MIA. His brother, Boyd was wounded at the same time, but recovered.

Cpl. Ridge and his Heavy Weapons Company was the only company that held fast throughout that first night. M Co. and a few small isolated units were not penetrated nor overrun. The Chinese withdrew at sunrise just as the battalion was near collapse. That night, the Chinese resumed their attacks. The next day, Col. Faith and his 1/32 joined the 3/31 and the 57 FAB. As Col. MacLean, who had been cut off with Faith, neared his position, he was wounded and then captured. Col. Faith took over the remaining troops. Faith led the soldiers through unrelenting enemy pressure south towards safety at Hagaru. The Army suffered terribly from the relentless cold, snow and winds. Unlike the Marines, the soldiers were not supplied with cold weather gear. From his heated headquarters in Japan, the army quartermaster decided in late October that “arctic items will not be necessary.” Contrary to the facts, MacArthur reassured the public that all those in the military were equipped with “suitable cold weather clothing.” In stark contrast, Gen. Almond on Nov. 17 wrote an urgent appeal for stoves and heated tents. “Soldiers are freezing for a lack of shelter.” On that day, the 7th Div. was short 6,700 mountain sleeping bags!     

As Col. Faith organized the final thrust to break through the Chinese blockades, the Air Force promised air coverage for the breakout beginning at noon, but they were one hour late. Just as the soldiers were setting out, the Marine planes came flying in, dropping canisters of napalm on the Americans! As many as 30 soldiers are believed to have been killed in this tragic act of friendly fire.

For the Ridge family, 1950 was a doubly tragic year. Kenneth’s older brother, Lauren Ridge, a Maryland State Trooper, was killed in the line of duty just four months before Kenneth died in Korea. TFC Ridge, an Army Air Corps veteran of WWII had survived Pearl Harbor, but died on the streets of Hagerstown, shot by a deranged man whom he was trying to disarm. TFC Ridge left behind a wife and 18 month-old son.

If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Kenneth Lee Ridge

Paul K. Carty

Photos Courtesy of Priscilla Rall

by Priscilla Rall

Frederick County’s Lost in the

Forgotten War (Part 1)

The Korean conflict is often called the “Forgotten War.” More than 36,000 men lost their lives in Korea, 27 from Frederick County. Seven thousand men are still missing, their remains in unmarked graves, many in North Korea where they died in POW camps.

PFC Harvey E. Luby

The first Frederick County native lost in Korea was PFC Harvey E. Luby. Born in 1930, he was one of the seven children born to John and Fanny Luby of East 5th Street in Frederick. After graduating from Lincoln High School in 1948, he joined the Army. Harvey wrote his sister, Elizabeth, on June 22 that he had left Seattle in May and had arrived safely in Korea. PFC Luby served in the all-black 24th Regiment I Co., part of the 25th Division. The 24th was one of the first units to arrive in Korea. It was still a segregated unit, despite the proven ability of African-Americans to fight, amply demonstrated in WWII.

After landing at Pusan on July 12, this green regiment was put on the line almost immediately. By July 20, the 24th was at Yechon, where it was soon attacked by an overwhelming number of North Korean soldiers. In the opening month of the war, with little training, few working weapons, and dubious leadership, many Americans from many units retreated in disarray, including the 24th. With the U.S. forces retreating time and time again, the brass looked for a scapegoat for the Army’s poor performance. The 24th with its African-American troops was the natural choice of a prejudiced Army, and the only unit identified as leaving the field of battle. The masses of white soldiers “bugging out” were ignored. The Medal of Honor, awarded to the African-American, PFC William Thompson with the 24th, was conveniently overlooked.

On July 22, the 25th took up the position southwest of Yechon, where the NKPA soon dislodged them. But the 3rd Battalion 24th courageously held its position in central South Korea until July 30, when it finally fell back. This courageous stand cost PFC Luby his life on July 26, 1950, one of the 23 soldiers in the 24th lost that day. PFC Luby was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Frederick.

Sgt. Charles W. Barton, Jr.

Sgt. Charles W. Barton, Jr. of Hagerstown was the son of Charles Barton, Sr. and had five brothers and three sisters. He attended St. Mary’s High School in Hagerstown before enlisting in September 1948 and serving in Japan. By January 1950, Charles had been promoted from PFC to corporal in E/2/7 Cavalry. But when the Korean War began in June, Sgt. Barton’s 7th Cavalry was sent into combat in Korea. The enemy crossed the Naktong River on August 9, and the 7th Cavalry was ordered to push the enemy back across the Naktong, which they did. But the enemy crossed the river once again and were again met by the troopers of the 7th Cavalry. It was on the enemy’s third effort on August 14, that Sgt. Barton lost his life.

The Barton family endured hard times. In 1940, Charles Sr. was working with the WPA. He had only a sixth-grade education, and his wife had left school after the fifth grade. One of their sons, William, had died in 1934, only four months old. Now they had lost their eldest son, Charles Jr. His parents were notified by telegram on August 22, 1950, that their son was MIA. They received no further news from the government until a registered letter arrived in January 1954, informing them that Sgt. Barton Jr. had been declared dead. His body has not yet been recovered. Charles Sr. died one year later, in 1955, only 44 years old. One can imagine that his death was from a broken heart.

PFC Charles Clark Roberts

One Frederick County family lost two sons in two wars. PFC Charles Clark Roberts was born in Frederick in December 1932 to Forrest and Grace Roberts. His older brother, Sgt. Clarence Roberts, had survived Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal but was killed in 1945 in the Philippines. Charles left school to work on a farm in Walkersville before enlisting in the Army in February 1950. Pvt. Roberts was assigned to B/1/29, attached to the 24th Division. In the last letter received by his father that was written on June 28, Pvt. Roberts wrote he would soon be shipping out to Korea from Okinawa. The 29th landed at Pusan on July 23. Not only had they not had the promised 16 weeks of training in Japan, but after docking, the 29th entrained to Chinju. They were sent immediately into combat with none of their weapons zeroed in, and their machine guns still covered in cosmoline. Before bedding down in and around a schoolhouse, the soldiers were greeted by a mess. Sgt. Meeks and a good, hot meal. The next morning, the area was searched for any enemy forces, but none were found. The following day, July 26, the 29th loaded into trucks, and the convoy drove towards the front, passing the withdrawing 24th Division. Then, without warning, the convoy was ambushed and cut in half. B and C Companies were hardest hit and forced to retreat. They fell back to the small town of Hadong, where the fighting went on throughout the night. PFC Roberts was one of the 91 percent of B Co. that was lost during this action. It was the deadliest firefight of the entire war, and his body was not able to be recovered. PFC Roberts was only 17 years old and had been in Korea for just four days. He left behind his parents, who had now lost two sons in service to our country.

PFC Charles Austin Brandenburg Jr.

The South Koreans and the Americans were being pushed into the southeastern corner of Korea, in an area bound by the Netcong River. The battle at the city of Taegu was part of a huge enemy offensive, meant to drive the Americans into the sea. PFC Charles Austin Brandenburg, Jr., called “Autie” by his family and friends, hailed from Frederick. Just 18 years old, a machine gunner with G Co. in the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, he had come to Korea on July 18, 1950. Only four days later, the 1st Cavalry and the 25th Division were deployed in relief of the 24th Division. By July 29, the 1st Cavalry was forced to retreat. The huge enemy offense launched on September 1 hit the entire 1st Cavalry. PFC Brandenburg’s 8th Cavalry was ordered to take a mountaintop near Taegu. The ill-planned mission, setting out on a wet and foggy day, had no chance of success. PFC Brandenburg’s D Co. and E Co. were decimated, incurring 50 percent casualties. PFC Brandenburg was killed in this battle on September 3, 1950. His loss was mourned by his parents, Charles Sr. and Helen Baker Brandenburg and six siblings. His mother, Helen, lived to be 104, dying in 2017, almost 67 years to the day that she lost her son in the Korean War. PFC Brandenburg was buried in the Harmony Church of the Brethren Cemetery in Myersville.

Cpl. Norman R. Thompson and PFC George W. Boyce

The UN forces were stretched thin as they tried to cover the entire front along the Pusan Perimeter. Cpl. Norman R. Thompson and PFC George W. Boyce were with G Company, 9th Regiment, trying to hold the line along the Naktong River. Cpl. Noman Rudolph Thompson was born in Ijamsville in 1924. PFC Boyce was born in 1931 in Garrett County to James and Bessie Bernard Boyce. His father began working in the coal mines as a blacksmith, but, by 1940, he was working as a miner for the Johnstown Coal and Coke Co. in Vindex. Bessie died in 1944 when George was 13. Times were hard, especially with four brothers and four sisters in the Boyce family. It was not surprising that George, or “Skip” as his family called him, enlisted in the Army in 1948 when he was just 17. G Co. had seen fierce fighting in August. The enemy attacked all along the Naktong Bulge on September 1, and the 9th was hit hard, losing 144 men, including PFC George Boyce and Cpl. Norman Thompson.

If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

“Farm Boy to Combat Engineer”

by Priscilla Rall

Robert “Bob” Clifford Mount, the son of Clifford and Violet Mount, grew up milking cows by hand and plowing with a team of horses, named Dick and Queeny. He lived in a home without electricity, phone, or plumbing. Bob was a farm boy, born in 1931 in the Great Depression. He went to a one-room school and knew little about what was going on in the world, as the family could only use their radio when they charged its battery at his grandmother’s house.

In 1948, Bob left school when he turned 18 and joined the U.S. Army.

He went to Fort Belvoir for training at the Heavy Equipment Mechanic School. Then he was sent to Hawaii, where he was able to complete his high school classes and get his diploma. In June 1950, the Korean War erupted unexpectedly, and Bob was sent to Korea in July. His unit, the 72nd Combat Engineer Company, was in the Pusan Perimeter, where the Americans were desperately holding onto a patch of land on the southeast Korean peninsula. When the company was in review one day, the commanding officer asked if anyone could type. No one raised their hand. So, the commanding officer asked again, and this time, Bob raised his hand, breaking the first law in the Army: NEVER volunteer for ANYTHING!
Bob then raced to the camp’s office and yelled, “Does anyone know how to type?” He managed to get a book on learning to type, and he was ready in a few days to become the company’s regimental clerk! But, soon, the company was sent to make roads, sweep for mines, etc. They didn’t have a demolition man, and Pvt. Mount ended up with that job, too.

Once, when they were checking a bridge for explosives, they descended a ravine by the bridge and, without warning, became the target of North Korean snipers. The GIs promptly called for artillery, which quickly ended the snipers’ attack.

Another time, they were passing through a deserted village on a lane with stone walls on both sides when the enemy opened fire on them from behind the walls, resulting in several casualties. The danger was never far away, even in the Pusan Perimeter.

After the successful invasion at Inchon, near Seoul, the troops in the Pusan Perimeter broke out and headed north. Pvt. Mount’s company was part of the 5th Regimental Combat Team that worked with the Turks, the British, the Greeks, the South Koreans, the 1st Cavalry, and the U.S. Marines. Again, they were making roads and also building pontoon bridges. The troops were buoyed by the pronouncement from Gen. MacArthur that they would be “home for Christmas.” The soldiers made their way north with few difficulties until those in on the west side made it to the Yalu River, which divides North Korea and China.

It was mid-November and getting colder by the day. Bob remembers standing guard one night; in the morning, when he was relieved, he got to camp just as the chow truck got there with tasty hot pancakes—the best meal Bob claims he ever had!

Tragedy loomed as the Chinese crossed undetected into North Korea and attacked the Allied troops, just as the soldiers had finished savoring their Thanksgiving dinner. The soldiers located on the east of the Chosin Reservoir and the Marines on its west took the brunt of the enemy’s forces. The northernmost troops in the west were decimated as well. Frederick County lost Cpl. Paul Carty from Thurmont, Sgt. Roy Delauter, Sgt. Joseph Trail (who was captured and died in a POW camp), and Sgt. Norman Reid. Washington County lost PFC Herene Blevins, Cpl. Kenneth Ridge, and Marine PFC Daily Dye, all at the Chosin.

The Allied troops retreated in haste, and most of those killed in the north still lie in that frozen wasteland. Bob recalls that his general ordered a retreat even before MacArthur did. The 8th Army fled in confusion, as did all the Allied troops. His unit finally stopped in Seoul, and they built a bridge next to the destroyed one across the Han River. He could hear friendly howitzers firing north all night long. Ironically, another Maryland boy, Rupert Spring from Dickerson, was with a company illuminating the area to help the engineers building the bridge.

Finally, Bob was sent home and discharged at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, in August 1951. Unbeknownst to Mount or the military doctors, he had contracted a case of malaria that didn’t flair up for two months. Few local doctors were familiar with this tropical disease, and it was some time until it was properly diagnosed and treated.

Bob soon crossed paths with a beautiful young lady, Winnie, who he had known slightly before the war. They were married in March 1952 and had two children. The GI Bill helped them buy their first home. Later, they lived on Fish Hatchery Road. Bob realized that to get ahead in business, he had to get as much education as he could. With the help of the GI Bill, he took classes at several different colleges and eventually became the Senior VP Auditor with the Bank of America. Pretty good for a boy who grew up without even electricity!

Bob doesn’t regret his time in Korea. The GI Bill helped him in his career, and his ambition did the rest. Bob has been very active in the KWVA Chapter 142, and he and Winnie now live in Country Meadows, enjoying a peaceful retirement that they have both earned. Bob, thank you for your service!

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Robert Clifford Mount

Don’t Take Any Wooden Bullets!

by Priscilla Rall

No doubt you have heard of wooden nickels, but have you ever heard of wooden bullets? Well, Lawrence C. “Abner” Myers learned about them the hard way. He was one of five children, born in 1920 in Unionville to Lewis and Evelyn Wetzel Myers. The family soon moved to Creagerstown.

Life was hard for the Myers family, as Lewis suffered from heart trouble brought on during his time in the military in WWI. When Abner was 13, he was “farmed out” to his aunt and uncle’s farm, as his parents could no longer care for their large family. There, he milked cows and drove a team of horses, plowing and cultivating the fields. He returned home every other weekend, and Abner remembers Creagerstown as a fun-loving community that had dances, picnics, and even boxing matches! Mr. Stull had a fine grocery store on the corner, and above it was Lewis’s harness shop. The community’s doctor, Dr. Birely, drove a spring wagon pulled by one horse and would drive to his patients’ homes when needed. There were bootleggers all around, and “you could get it anywhere,” according to Abner.

In July 1940, he joined the Maryland National Guard and trained every other weekend. That all changed in February 1941, when the National Guard was nationalized, and suddenly these fair-weather soldiers were in the 29th Division of the U.S. Army. Abner trained at Ft. Meade, and then at Ft. A. P. Hill in the “Carolina Maneuvers” under Captain Anders (whom he considered the best).

Soon the 29th was sent on the Queen Elizabeth for more training in England. Landing in Scotland, they soon entrained to Cardiff. From there, they could visit London, where Abner experienced the German Blitz, which killed thousands of British civilians. Then his regiment, the 115th, moved to Plymouth, where they stayed in an ancient castle and could watch the RAF planes constantly flying over.

As men, material, and machines crowded the small island nation, it came as no surprise that eventually an invasion of enemy-held France would soon begin. Abner was loaded on a troop ship on June 4, 1944, but the weather delayed the invasion until June 6. From the top of his ship, Abner could see the armada of ships, Allied planes, and barrage balloons strung from vessels to discourage enemy planes.

The 116th Regiment of the 29th Division went in first, and was decimated by enemy fire. The brass then moved the 115th planned landing area several miles to a more-protected area. Abner recalled with dismay seeing supposedly waterproof tanks circling, waiting to land. One by one they sank, taking their crews with them.

As his landing craft drew closer to Omaha Beach, Abner could see German soldiers running across the top of the cliffs and being felled by Allied guns. Only a few crafts were in front of his, but he could see the bodies of soldiers who had not made it off the beach. The water was red with blood. In this wave of 29th-ers were Donald Null, Henry “Pete” Ponton Jr., Richard Fox, Alton Schaff, James Marceron, and others from Frederick.

It was complete chaos, and Abner still marveled at “how we survived.” The men had to weave their way through a mine field, where scores of soldiers lay dead. At some point during his rush to get off of the killing beachhead, a wooden bullet fired from a German rifle struck Abner’s thigh. Finally off the beach, he rested in a German foxhole for the night, not daring to sleep. The next morning, his thigh had swollen up severely, but he continued on with his company. Someone told him that he had been hit by a wooden bullet, which he had never heard of. The wood splinters exploded on impact and caused massive infection and swelling. Apparently, as the enemy was short of ammo, they used wooden bullets for practice for the untrained soldiers dragooned from the countries that they had invaded.

On the third day, Abner was standing near a lieutenant colonel when a shell from an 88 mm hit the officer. He was instantly killed and Abner suffered a severe closed head injury, collapsing on the dead officer. Medics soon moved him to a field aid station, where doctors decided he needed to be evacuated by plane to a hospital in England; he stayed there for two weeks.

Instead of returning to his company, Abner joined Company C, 397th Railroad MP Regiment, marching into Paris as the Germans marched out. Later, he was sent to Holland and then Belgium. Eventually, he was assigned to the 794th MP Battalion before returning home on a Liberty ship.

PFC Lawrence Myers was discharged in October 1945.

Many men who had been in combat came home with both external and internal scars. Abner’s father had died at age 49 from the effects of WWI. His brother, Alton “Peanut” Myers, a machine gunner in the Philippines, never fully recovered from the trauma he experienced there. Abner also suffered from what we now call PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Fortunately, he received help from the VA at Martinsburg, West Virginia.

After WWII, it was tough to get a job, with so many ex-servicemen looking for employment. Abner worked as a mechanic at a lumber mill in Woodsboro, and after a time of unemployment, at Ft. Detrick.

He met Clara Dewees in Thurmont in 1945, and they were married in 1949. Together they had three children, eventually moving to Graceham, where he enjoyed his family, going to yard sales, and trips to the beach. Abner died peacefully on July 1, 2007.

So, take it from Abner, don’t take any wooden nickels and certainly no wooden bullets!

If you are a Veteran, or know a Veteran, who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Lawrence C. “Abner” Myers

Although Edward Bowman Coleman was born in Port Republic, Virginia, in 1924, he has lived most of his life in the Blue Ridge Summit and Sabillasville areas.

In the early 1920s, his father rented a farm in Virginia, earning $1.00 a month, two hogs, and a house to live in. Later, the family moved north and rented farms that the banks had foreclosed on during the hard times of the Great Depression. When the farm was sold, the Colemans moved on to another foreclosed farm. Once the Colemans lived next to the Browns, the mothers would do their Monday laundry together because Edward’s mother had a gas-powered washer! Edward did not notice at the time the Bowman’s 13-year-old daughter….but he would later!

Edward’s father worked at the Crown, Cork and Seal Co. until he broke his leg, resulting in one leg being shorter than the other. His father then moved to Baltimore to work at the Martin Marietta Plant and would return home to Sabillasville on the weekends. Edward attended the brick school at Sabillasville through seventh grade, and then went on to Thurmont High School, where he graduated in 1942.

Edward followed his father to Baltimore to work at Martin Marietta as well, but with war engulfing the entire world, the U.S. Army drafted Edward in February 1943. After training, he was assigned to Company A, 149th Infantry, 38th Division, nick-named the Cyclone Division. In January 1944, the division shipped out as part of a large convoy that traveled through the Panama Canal on its way to Hawaii. The wrecks of the ships the Japanese sunk on December 7, 1941, were still visible, and his company patrolled the beaches until they were sent to New Guinea for “mopping up” operations. Luckily, they did not encounter any enemy troops, but Edward did notice that the native women did not wear bras!

Then they traveled to the Philippine Island of Leyte, where the American troops first invaded the island nation. Ironically, Leyte is where a Japanese sniper severely injured Graceham native, Sterling Seiss. Before Edward arrived, they encountered a bizarre quirk of nature: a fine white powder that reduced visibility to zero suddenly engulfed their ship. Without warning, their ship beached on a coral outcropping just beneath the sea with no land in sight! Unable to get the ship off the coral, the troops boarded other smaller landing crafts. They eventually discovered a volcanic eruption miles away that caused the white cloud.

Once again, Edward’s company performed “mopping up” operations. The enemy had abandoned a strategic landing strip, and Edward’s company was there to protect it. Edward and a comrade dug a foxhole and two slit trenches to rest in while another soldier kept guard. They switched jobs every two hours. Edward had just finished his duty and was trying to get a little rest when a grenade exploded right in front of his buddy, killing him instantly. In the battle that followed, Japanese paratroopers attempted to regain the airstrips. They failed, but the Japanese killed 18 men in Edward’s company.

With Leyte finally secure, the 149th was loaded up and sent to Subic Bay in Luzon. Manila had finally fallen, and 100,000 Filipinos died in the horrific fighting there. Gen. Douglas MacArthur then declared the Philippines secure, neglecting to mention the thousands of enemy troops still in the mountainous north. Once more, Edward’s regiment was sent to “mop up” northern Luzon. They were still fighting when the Japanese surrendered after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Because of their battles on the Bataan peninsula, they are called the Avengers of Bataan.

After spending nearly two years abroad, Coleman was finally discharged in November 1945, having earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star. He returned home to meet his youngest sibling, a sister, born when he was in the Pacific.

Jobs were hard to come by after the War, and Edward worked at Fairchild in Hagerstown and at Martin Marietta. Then, using the GI Bill, he attended an aeronautic mechanic’s school. Martin Marietta rehired him, and he spent the rest of his career with the company, even moving to Orlando, Florida, in order to keep his job.

In 1949, he married the now-grown-up Doris Brown, whom he had met so long ago. They had three daughters: Denise, Donna, and Darlene.

When Edward’s father died, Edward bought his house in Sabillasville, where he now spends the summer enjoying the peace of the Catoctin Mountains. However, when the cool winds begin to blow, the family returns to their home in Orlando. In good health, Edward enjoys the mountains and still gardens with the help of his nephew. He revels in the love of his family that now includes four grandchildren.

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Respected CHS Shop Teacher Survived Korea and TB

by Priscilla Rall

Michael Massett immigrated from Italy with only a first grade education. He went to work in the coal mines of West Virginia living in Fairmont where he married Catherine Colorusso. Their first child, Dominick, was born in 1928 just as the Great Depression began its grip on our country. This was a time when the miners were striking for better wages and conditions. They were paid in script which was only good at the company store. Dominick went with his father to many of the strikes. Some of the workers became scabs or “yellow dogs” and helped hired thugs armed with rifles to break up the strikes. There were many accidents in the mines, and the Massett family lost several family members in them. In fact, his uncle was killed in one in the 1960’s.  Dominic felt like he was always going to funerals, either for men killed in the mines or for those who died from the effects of the coal dust. Times were tough for the families of the coal miners, and finally Michael was forced to go and ask for “relief.” The government worker there told him, “Go back to Italy and let Mussolini take care of you.” Michael resolved then and there never to ask for any assistance, and the family survived by raising a hog and a large garden. Dominick remembers being called “a hot-headed dago” many times. It was in great part due to the effort of Eleanor Roosevelt that conditions improved in the hills and hollows of West Virginia. Nearby CCC Camps employed many who were struggling to survive. Dominick started work when he was five, delivering newspapers and later at a bowling alley. Every penny he earned he gave to his mother. He also did a lot of hunting and fishing, furnishing the family with carp, suckers, groundhogs, rabbit and squirrel.

Dominick never saw his mother asleep. She was awake when he went to bed and awake when he woke up. First she worked at a restaurant, and then at Westinghouse. Theirs was a typical hardworking immigrant family. When his father finally became an American citizen he told his children, “Now we are Americans. We will no longer speak Italian.”

During WWII, Dominick’s uncle Tony, a medic, was listed as MIA, but he had been captured at the Battle of the Bulge and weighed only 96 lbs. when he was finally freed.  Dominick was determined to join the army, but at only 14, this just wasn’t possible.

At his high school graduation, the school charged $10 in fees to be allowed to cross the stage and receive your diploma. A friend learned that he did not have the necessary money and her father paid his fee allowing his proud parents to see their son graduate high school, the first in their family to do so.

After working a few different jobs, Dominick was drafted on December 7, 1950. Just days after finishing boot camp, his father died from a combination of black lung and heart failure. The Red Cross refused his request for a 10-day compassionate leave, finally giving him only three days. Then he shipped out to Japan and then to Korea, landing at Inchon. First he was assigned to a supply unit, trucking supplies north, then he joined a tank company, eventually becoming tank commander. The only training he had on tanks was from a WWII veteran tanker, “Arkie” (he was from Arkansas) who had served under Patton, but that was enough. Dominick named his tank for his sister, Antoinette. His tank company was detached and was sent to wherever they were most needed…Pusan, Taegu, Seoul, Chosen, the Kumwah Valley in the Iron Triangle and others. At one destroyed village, they found a number of small children huddled in an abandoned school house, most probably orphans. The tankers found five nuns to care and teach them, and would periodically send money to help.

Dominick was called “Biggun” due to his size and strength. Once a young lieutenant in a jeep pulled up to Biggun’s tank and ordered that he remove the small American flag flying from his tank’s antenna. He refused, and finally his captain radioed him to find out what was the hold up. When Biggun told him, the captain said, “Shoot the S.O.B. and pull out.”

Massett often saw wounded evacuated by helicopters to MASH units, tied into baskets on the sides of the chopper. Sgt. Wendell Murphy from Mt. Airy took a ride like that.

Finally, Dominick’s tour was up and he was discharged. He began working for the railroad. But one day, things went terribly wrong. Without any warning, he began bleeding profusely from his mouth and nose. He was eventually diagnosed as having TB, which should have shown up in the x-ray taken before his discharge. He spent two years in VA hospitals, going from 226 lbs. to 167 lbs. Rated as 100 percent disabled, he decided to continue his education, first at Fairmont College and then at WVA University with the goal of helping others in rehabilitation and PT. During this time, he married Janet, and in 1958, he landed a job teaching industrial arts at Thurmont High School. During his time at THS and then Catoctin HS, he worked with Ned Kerns (also a Korean vet), Bill Baker and Carlos Engler (both WWII vets). Dominick built the family a home in Thurmont on Radio Lane and the family increased with five children; Sabrina, Elisa, Myra, Robert and Matthew. Janet worked as a nurse for Dr. Morningstar in Emmitsburg.

Dominick now has seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and rarely follows his doctor’s advice to take it easy. After a long life of service to his country and community, he has certainly earned the right to do as he pleases. We in Frederick County, salute you and honor you as a true hometown hero.

Courtesy Photo of Michael Massett

by Priscilla Rall

The 35 Missions of a Rocky Ridge Flyboy

World War II took Americans to places they had never dreamed of going. Most had never ventured far from their farming communities. One of these rural youths was Vernon Keilholtz.

Born in 1923 near Rocky Ridge, Vernon took the train to school in Emmitsburg for seven years until it went bankrupt after a major snow storm. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Maryland for one year before enlisting in the Army Air Corps in August 1942. After training in Florida, he qualified for mechanics’ school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in Michigan. Just before being sent to the Pacific, he was ordered to San Antonio for cadet training where he qualified as a pilot or co-pilot. In April 1943, he first soloed in a Fairchild 19A (manufactured in Hagerstown). Vernon then was transferred to Arkansas where he shared his barracks with the future entertainer George Goebbels.

At last, Vernon was assigned as the co-pilot of a B-17 along with nine other crew members. They were to stay together for the duration of their service. They left in May 1943 to fly to England from Nebraska, refueling in Gander, Newfoundland, and finally reaching Scotland. In England they were assigned to the 100th Bomb Group (the “Bloody Hundredth”) of the 8th Air Force, with the 351st Squadron stationed at Thorpe Abbott in southern England. Vernon’s first mission was shortly after D-Day on June 12 with Harvey Dickert as pilot. It was supposed to be a “milk run” looking for “targets of opportunity,” but their flight path took them over Dunkirk where the Germans had a plethora of anti-aircraft guns. One plane was hit, caught fire, and plunged into the English Channel. Miraculously, four airmen were rescued, but the rest perished. Vernon and his crew flew many missions to support our ground troops. On June 25, they were ordered to load up with cannisters filled with equipment for the French underground. They flew just 50 feet above the ground and their drop zone was illuminated by flares. They were so low that they could see the French women and children waving at them!

Their plane, the “Mason and Dixon” (named for the previous pilot and co-pilot, and not for the crew members who were from Gettysburg and Maryland) flew many missions to Berlin.  They were part of what the military terms “maximum effort” as just one of over 1,000 planes flying from airfields all over Britain. The planes would enter Germany from Prussia where the marshy land precluded the placement of large gunnery batteries. Then they would turn south for their targets. Vernon made bombing runs over Nuremberg and Bremen where the enemy had military assembly plants and ball bearing factories.

The squadron’s most deadly mission was on September 11, 1944, when 36 planes successfully hit the industrial area of the Ruhr Valley but were ambushed by an estimated 100 enemy fighters who shot down 12 U.S. planes as there were no Allied fighters for protection. Once enemy flack hit an oxygen canister under the pilot’s seat. An explosion followed and filled the cockpit with dust and papers. Fortunately, that was the only damage and they continued home safely. The planes routinely flew at 26,000 feet with temperatures of -30 degrees. All of the crew had heated seats to take off the chill, but it was still a cold business. When they returned to their base, the crew would be treated to a shot of whiskey and a package of cigarettes.

Early in the war, the airmen only had to complete 25 missions to be sent home, but that increased to 30 and finally to 35. When Vernon reached that goal, he sailed home on the Queen Mary. She had a speed of 31 knots and zig-zagged to elude any German subs lurking in the depths. He was a happy man when finally reaching the New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty waiting to greet him. He was granted a 23-day leave, but after a quick visit home, he traveled to Detroit were his sweetheart, Bea Long, was stationed at a hospital. She had been a nurse cadet at FMH. On November 13, Bea and Vernon were married at a church in Mt. Pleasant. Vernon was later assigned as a flying instructor pilot, flying B-24s and B-26s. As his time was not yet up, he was sent to the Pacific, ending up in Tokyo. In Japan, he was placed in charge of the motor pool in Nagoya. Traveling throughout Japan, he saw the tremendous damage as a result of the fire-bombing and the two nuclear bombs. Finally, Captain Keilholtz flew home and was discharged on November 23, 1946. For his courage and service, he was awarded the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Bea and Vernon raised their family in a lovely brick home east of Emmitsburg. They had a daughter and a son while Vernon became a cattle dealer, and few knew of his war time heroics. Sadly, Vernon passed away in April 2013, mourned by his family and many friends. Not only was Vernon a friend of mine, but he was the first veteran that I interviewed for the Frederick County Veterans History Project. A true representative of the Greatest Generation, his experiences in WWII deserve to be shared, especially by those who knew him.

If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at priscillarall@gmail.com.

John Reever: New Midway to Normandy and Beyond

by Priscilla Rall

John Wilbur Reever was born in 1922 in Pennsylvania, but the family soon moved to Harney, then to Taneytown, then to Union Bridge, and finally, to New Midway, where Wilbur attended school through the seventh grade. The Great Depression affected every American, especially farmers like Wilbur’s father, John William. Wilbur was the next to the youngest of seven children, and the family’s hardships caused Wilbur to be “farmed out” to Jesse Renner, where Wilbur helped run Renner’s store.

New Midway was a bustling town a hundred years ago. There was a buggy shop, a saw mill, two stores, and a motorcycle shop. Renner even had the first airplane in Frederick County, a bi-plane he named “The Queen.”

Wilbur has fond memories of Jesse saying, “Mr. Renner did as much for me as my father.” Wilbur also helped Renner in making his famous Rose Salve, which, by the way, predates Woodsboro’s Rose Bud Salve.

Wilbur was drafted in early 1943, and, after training, embarked on the Queen Elizabeth, just one of 20,000 soldiers she was carrying to Europe. After seven days, they docked in Scotland, and Wilbur found himself part of the 5th Division, the “Red Diamond,” in the 2nd Battalion in an anti-tank unit. After more training, they were shipped to Normandy, landing on Utah Beach July 9, 1944.

The Americans fought fiercely in the hedgerow country, as they pushed on towards St. Lo. This is where James Austin Null from Frederick was killed. He is buried at Mt. Olivet by the WWII Monument. Once, Wilbur took refuge from German snipers in a small burrow under the hedgerow. He read passages from a small Bible with a metal cover inscribed, “May this keep you from Harm.” He eventually convinced his buddy in sharing the burrow to read a few Bible verses as well. When they finally got to St. Lo, Wilbur described it as “completely leveled.” Many French civilians had been killed, as well as the enemy.

Later, near the Argonne Forest, Wilbur recalls being “shelled like hell” while they were positioned behind an infantry unit and were taking out a German observation tower. Tragically, one of the enemy shells took out an entire squad dug in right next to Wilbur. Their bodies were laid out side by side, covered by tarpaulins, and Wilbur’s company had to walk by their deceased comrades to get to the mess tent for chow.

After liberating Reims, Wilbur saw the townspeople shaving the heads of the females who had fraternized with the Germans. Next, they took Metz where Wilbur saw his buddy, Johnny Baxter, up on the bridge over the river sniping at the Germans on the other side. Wilbur told him he was crazy, but later joined him. When the Americans finally crossed the Rhine, six soldiers, just a half a mile in front of him, were captured.

The Americans travelled quickly across Germany. The men slept in shell holes or on the ground. They were taking 30 to 40 miles a day, as they were fully motorized. They moved into a town by a small creek, and Wilbur had guard duty from 2:00 to 4:00 a.m. “It was colder than living hell,” he said. The next night, they stopped at a small farm with a manure pile by the barn. Wilbur dug a hole in the pile to sleep in and was as warm as toast that night. Later, his unit was stationed at a rest area, waiting for replacements to join them. Laying down in his sleeping bag, he was surprised to find four inches of snow covering him in the morning. In later action, Wilbur felt a sharp nick on his back. It turns out that a German bullet had ricocheted and hit his back. He kept the spent lead bullet as a souvenir.

As the war in Europe came to an end, Wilbur’s company liberated one concentration camp, and then had to guard it. They kept the prisoners from getting out and foraging for food or taking vengeance on the civilian German population. Wilbur will never forget the sight of the Jews and Poles in the camps who were just skin and bones, but were still alive. While they were there, Wilbur’s unit uncovered a huge mass grave that Nazis had dug quickly in an effort to destroy the evidence of their horrific crimes.

Wilbur also witnessed a huge column of German civilians, women and children and German Red Cross nurses, trying to reach the American lines to escape the Russians. Tragically, our agreement with the Russians was to turn over any Germans in their territory at the end of the war. The Americans tried to stop the column and turn them around, but they balked, knowing what their fate would be as the Russians thirsted for vengeance for the destruction of their country by the Germans. Wilbur was ordered to man a machine gun atop a jeep and to force the Germans to turn back. He asked what was he to do if they refused, and his officer told him, “Then shoot them.” Fortunately, he was not forced to follow that order. That night, the Americans could hear the screams of the women as the Russians ravaged them and the sounds of bullets as if in combat. Fires lit up the night. Wilbur pitied the Germans that night, as he knew that many of the soldiers had their families with them and the innocents were suffering along with the guilty.

Wilbur returned to the United States on a furlough, while waiting to be sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese. It was a great relief to learn of the dropping of the atomic bomb and the subsequent surrender of the Japanese. SSgt. Reever was discharged October 1945 with a Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and the European Campaign Ribbon with five stars. He returned home to New Midway, and, in 1949, he married the love of his life, Audrey Young. He continued to run the garage after Mr. Renner’s death. Audrey and Wilbur had two sons, Dwight and Dave, and four grandchildren. Sadly, Audrey passed away in 2008.

John Wilbur Reever is one of the last of the Greatest Generation, and his story told to me as part of the Frederick County Veterans Project is saved for posterity. Thank you, Wilbur, for your service to our country.

John Wilbur Reever, 1945.

John W. Reever, we thank you for your Service.

by Priscilla Rall

Sniper Wings Seiss

The Seiss family had settled in the Frederick area in the mid-1700s. Born in 1925 in Graceham, Sterling Seiss was a descendant of these first settlers. The family home, where he now lives, was built in 1825, near what is thought to be an ancient Native American trail. Sterling found many arrowheads in the fields by the house. The original stone spring house near the old home still stands. Sterling had six brothers and six sisters, and he remembers that his grandmother kept butter and milk cool in the spring house. When the kids were sent to get milk from there, they were allowed to bring up one bottle of homemade root beer that was also stored there.

Sterling’s father worked as a barn builder for Ralph Miller, and also farmed. The children were kept busy with daily chores. Sterling gathered kindling and eggs, while his older brother filled the wood box. The other boys cared for the horses, Prince and Bob, as his father never owned a tractor. For Christmas, the Seiss children got hard candy, oranges, and sometimes a new pair of socks. They enjoyed the many church festivals nearby. Family was everything to the Seisses. Their cousin, Russell, had lost his mother at an early age and he often stayed with the Sterling family; it was not unusual for the children to stay with aunts and uncles or grandparents for a time.

Sterling left school after seventh grade and worked for a time at the Gem Laundry in Frederick, helping to pick up and then deliver the cleaned clothes. At this time, he lived with his brother in Frederick and earned $6.00 a week. When the laundry closed, he rode his bicycle back to Thurmont, where his parents were living. At that time, Thurmont was quite a hopping town, with a movie theater that charged 17 cents a ticket. Even Graceham had a store, a warehouse, a post office, and, of course, the Moravian Church.

However, as the Depression loomed over the country, it affected the Seiss Famly. They lost all of their savings when the Central Trust bank folded and, consequently, lost their farm. Sterling’s father took any job he could find, and they moved from one rented farm to another. Sterling remembers hobos who rode the rails and would split wood for a meal. At one point, Sterling worked for John Zimmer on his nearby farm. He also helped deliver milk on a horse-drawn wagon.

When he turned 18, although he could have asked for a farming deferment, he decided to join the Army. He was inducted in January 1944, and after training, he shipped out to New Guinea. There, with Company F in the 34th Infantry, they searched for any Japanese still remaining in a “mopping up” operation. They were warned to beware of snakes and “head hunters.” Sterling recalls thinking “that doesn’t sound very good to me!” Thankfully, they found no enemy soldiers, snakes, or head hunters. Then they sailed off for the Philippine Islands, landing in Leyte, where again they were in a “mopping up” operation.

On December 11, 1944, as the company was digging in for the night, Pvt. Seiss felt a stinging sensation in his left shoulder. When his buddy called for a medic, the captain quickly came; stripping off Seiss’ jacket, he found a bullet hole through his shoulder and a burn mark made by the enemy sniper’s bullet across his back. He was ordered to report to the field hospital, but he had no idea where it was! Just then, a young Philippino boy spoke up, “Me know.” So, Sterling left his company and reported to the field hospital, where the doctor told him that he was going back to the states. The doctor told Sterling how lucky he was—an inch lower or an inch higher and he would be dead. After his recovery in Georgia and then at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he was discharged in May 1946, with a Good Conduct Medal and Purple Heart.

Sterling had always loved working with animals, so it is no surprise that for the rest of his life he was involved in farming. He had a brief first marriage that produced a son. He then married the love of his life, Mary Jean Harbaugh, in 1952. Together, they had three children, and farmed, raising heifers and pigs. Finally, in 1972, he was able to buy the home place where he lives to this day.

In the 1980s, I was one of many who bought piggies from Sterling, and I remember seeing him in his red pickup filled with crates of outdated milk he got from local dairies to feed his hogs. Sterling Seiss is one of the dwindling number of the “Greatest Generation,” to whom our country owes a great debt.

This quiet hero survived a Japanese sniper to return to his beloved Frederick County, where he lives out the last of his life in anonymity, few realizing the sacrifices he made in WWII.

Eric Smothers thanks Sterling Seiss for his many years of commitment and service to Graceham Volunteer Fire Company, during the company’s annual banquet held on April 27, 2019.

The Significant Signal Corps

by Priscilla Rall

Few people realize the importance of our Signal Corps, but one of our local citizens certainly does. He is George Harlis Bolling (pictured right), born in 1940 in Tennessee. His father met his mother while he was driving cattle through a small town. Motivated by the tremendous loss of life from the Spanish Flu epidemic, his father became a doctor, who during WWII served over four years in what is now Ethiopia.

After the war, the family settled in Tennessee on a small farm they called Cloverbottom Farm. George graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1962 and served in the ROTC there. After graduating, he married and was commissioned an officer in the Signal Corps. He served in Germany in telecommunications for more than three years and observed “the piles of rubble” and pillboxes, gaunt reminders of the war.

By late 1967, he was sent to Vietnam, leaving behind his wife and two young daughters. Captain Bolling served at the Tan Son Nhat Airbase, outside of Saigon. As the Systems Control Officer, he happened to be on the line to Washington when the Tet Offensive began at 2:00 a.m. He provided the Pentagon with the first report of the huge enemy offensive. Every base was reporting enemy attacks and, soon, Tan Son Nhat, itself, had rockets pouring over them. Over one thousand enemy soldiers infiltrated the airbase dressed as South Vietnamese. At one point, a nearby sniper trapped George in a shell hole for nine hours. When he related these experiences to me in his interview for the Fredrick County Veterans Project, he said, “I feel like I am there…bullets were whizzing thru the metal buildings…it is so vivid to this day.” Soon Gen. Creighton Abrahams took command and “things tightened up.” Everyone worked filling sand bags and making bunkers. While in Vietnam, George visited at least fifteen different outposts to secure their communications.

After one year, now Major Bolling returned to the United States and remembers being shocked at the new style of miniskirts! He was stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and trained with AT&T to learn more about running a telephone company. Later, the Bolling family, now complete with a son, moved to Alexandria, Virginia, and into their first real home. Major Bolling was now in charge of all telecommunications in the Western Hemisphere. His next move was to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. After one year, he was sent to South Korea as the Executive Commander of the Signal Battalion at Uijeongbu between Seoul and the DMZ. The next year as a lieutenant colonel, he went to the Pentagon to be on the staff of the Army Chief of Staff. He oversaw the difficult task of base closings and, in this capacity, met President Jimmy Carter, whom George recalled that, despite a soft exterior, started many difficult, important defense measures for which he is not recognized.

George’s next move was to Ft. Hood, Texas, where he commanded 1,000 soldiers of the 57th Signal Battalion. Then, it was back to the Pentagon, where he was assigned Inspector General. In this position, his team would spend a month at a base and examine its operating efficiency. Soon, he was selected for the prestigious War College at Ft. McNair, Virginia, as a Senior Research Fellow, where he wrote the seminal book on the breakup of AT&T in 1983.

Before his retirement in 1985, now Colonel Bolling was involved in what is described as the “Black World,” more than “top secret” and essential to our national security, and of which he cannot speak. George left no grass growing under his feet, and he was soon working for Martin Marietta in Bethesda, and then he was onto COMSAT as a vice president. He started his own consulting business in 1998, and has lived in Thurmont for the last thirteen years. George was a member of the Damascus American Legion for twenty-seven years and was its commander for two years. He is the past president of the Thurmont Lions Club and a Lions International Melvin Jones Fellow. Sadly, last July, his beloved wife, Mary, passed away. When you learn about this, then you should think about the introduction of gaming technologies, as do successful online gaming sites. Today, in essence, a game can be made from any task, and at the same time everything becomes more interesting and useful.

George has served his county with honor for more than twenty-three years, earning the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, and many more honors. Our community is fortunate to have such a dedicated Veteran in our midst.

It was an honor to interview George for the Frederick County Veterans History Project and to record his service to our community and country.

If you would like to help with the Veterans History Project, contact Priscilla at priscillarall@gmail.com.

Bernard “Bernie” Fink, Sr.

Moonshine to Ship Shine

by Priscilla Rall

One of the few remaining WWII Veterans from Thurmont is Bernard “Bernie” Fink, Sr.

Bernie was born in 1923, one of the six children of Margaret Elizabeth and Clarence Fink. Clarence was a tinner who owned a plumbing and heating business. As the oldest son, Bernie often accompanied his father onto Catoctin Mountain to make or repair moonshine stills. Bernie remembers soldering the coils of the stills and recalls the local youngsters washing bottles to be reused for the ‘shine. He has tried “mint gin” and found the dark green drink very palatable.

Growing up during the Great Depression, Bernie saw many hobos “riding the rails,” who would stop by his home where his mother had dishes ready to feed them a meal, often in exchange for repairing umbrellas or sharpening knives. Like many others, the family lost all of their savings with the collapse of the Central Trust Bank, and Bernie lost the $36.00 he had earned delivering newspapers.

At age seventeen, Bernie left school to take over the family business, as his father’s health deteriorated. His “Pap” was a hard taskmaster, no after-school sports for his children. The children had to come home after school to do chores.

In the first years of WWII, Bernie had a deferment because the family business was in charge of the Thurmont Water Works, but he eventually joined the Navy in June 1943. After basic training at Bainbridge, he went to Little Creek, Virginia, for amphibious training.

After training, he was ordered to Pier 92 in New York, where he joined the crew of the LCT 1012 (Landing Craft Tanks) that was loaded on LST 1048 (Landing Craft Troops). It left port with a convoy of ninety-six ships to North Africa. After twenty-nine days, the convoy landed in Bizerte, Tunisia. LCT 1012 was then loaded with five tanks and troops for the invasion of Southern France on August 15. As Bernie’s LCT reached the shores of France, two of the five LCTs hit enemy mines, which “blew everything to pieces.” The action was fast and furious as German shells came in overhead from artillery hidden in the hills above the beaches.

Bernie wondered “Lord, am I going to get out of this?” as he manned the vessel’s only .22-mm gun. His only order was to “point the gun and fire.” It took an excruciating thirty minutes to unload the tanks and men before the LCT was finally able to get off that deadly beach and out of range of the deadly shelling.

Next, the ship went to Marseilles and Naples, where the sailors went on leave. They travelled to Sicily, where Bernie transferred to a ship bound for the states. There, 2nd Class Coxswain Fink boarded the AKA 97, a troop ship that carried a crew of 200 and 1,000 troops. He was in charge of the galley.

Before he headed out to the Pacific, his sweetheart, Mary Ellen Saylor from Motters Station, met him at Newport News, Virginia, and they married on May 10, 1945.

Bernie shipped out on May 11, going through the Panama Canal and then on to Pearl Harbor, where they were greeted with the news that the war was finally over! Bernie spent the next four months ferrying troops from Guam, Saipan, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima to Pearl Harbor for the final leg of the journey home. Bernie remembers being shocked to see Marines accompanied by their war dogs. The crew was never able to leave the ship when it docked, as the government wanted the troops home ASAP.

While Bernie was in the Mediterranean, his mother had a stroke that he only learned of when he returned home in December 1945. Later, when his father died, Bernie bought the plumbing and heating business and continued it until his eyesight deteriorated, forcing him to sell.

Bernie and Mary Ellen raised their four children in the house his father built on the corner of Frederick Road and Howard Street in Thurmont, which was called Late’s Alley after the butcher shop located on the alley next to the old stone jailhouse.

It was an honor to interview Bernie for the Frederick County Veterans History Project and record his service to our community and country.


Bernard “Bernie” Fink, Sr.

by Priscilla Rall

Raymond Lloyd

Raymond Lloyd was born in 1921 in Hanover, Pennsylvania, and graduated from high school in 1939. He is a small, unassuming gentleman, who lives near Ladiesburg with his wife. He worked at the Naval Ordnance Plant in York, Pennsylvania, but left to join the Navy in May 1942. After completing basic training, he volunteered for the submarine service and received his training at the submarine base in New London, Connecticut. This included practice in the escape tank and pressure tank as well as extensive psychological screening.  Raymond then had further training at their sound school learning construction and the use of sound gear.

He was finally assigned to his first submarine, the USS Gunnel that left the United States, going through the Panama Canal on his way to Pearl Harbor and then onto Midway Island. The submarine’s captain was John S. McCain, Jr. (the father of the late Sen. John McCain). The Gunnel’s first war patrol was in the area west of Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan. Raymond described just one of the ship’s battles with the enemy when the crew sighted two freighters escorted by three destroyers.

“All aboard immediately went to their battle stations, although only three of their four engines were operating,” he said. “After closing to about 2,500 yards, the captain ordered the firing of three torpedoes at the closest freighter and three at the second one.”                 Unfortunately, the torpedoes left a blue smoke screen which gave away the sub’s position. The first torpedo hit home and within minutes the first freighter went down. Seconds later the second enemy vessel was hit as well. The Japanese destroyers lost no time in closing on the Gunnel’s position, and the Gunnel went into a step dive as the captain ordered to “rig for depth charges.” The Japanese dropped seven depth charges on the Gunnel at 150 feet, and according to Raymond, “they almost deafened us.”

A few exploded underneath the Gunnel, knocking out the lighting circuit and the bow and stern planes which caused the bow to rise toward the surface. Capt. McCain quickly ordered the safety chamber to be flooded in order to submerge the Gunnel. Raymond vividly remembers that “another attack of depth charges came down on us really tearing up the boat and the captain ordered ‘silent running’ while the crew stripped off all their shoes, keyrings, etc. … and secured all operating machinery” to prevent any noise that the enemy might hear. The crew operated the bow and stern planes manually.

While still at a depth of 150 feet, a grappling hook or chain rattled slowly down the ship’s port side. This was a method to try to hook a sub and then force it to the surface. The captain ordered the Gunnel to 300 feet and to run as close to the bottom of the sea as possible. After staying submerged for more than 30 hours, the sailors could no longer hear any enemy ships and using their last power, they slowly rose to the surface and immediately began to recharge their batteries and pump out the flooded bilges.

Lloyd continues, “Just 15 minutes later, a destroyer was sighted at about 5,800 yards. We went to battle stations and got two after-tubes armed with torpedoes. From a distance of about 1,500 yards, the Japanese destroyer began shelling the Gunnel with projectiles on both sides of us. We then sighted two other destroyers and all three began firing at us.”

With this, the captain ordered the two torpedoes on the stern tubes to be fired “down the throat” meaning that rather than aiming at the side of a vessel which is a large target, you aim for the narrow front, a dangerous and risky move. He then immediately ordered a deep dive as a torpedo hit the first destroyer which sunk. “But while we were only at 35 feet, five depth charges went off at our stern,” recalls Lloyd. The Gunnel soon leveled off at 200 feet as more charges exploded around her.

The captain called a meeting in the ward room to review the condition of the boat and crew. He explained that they had only 30 to 50 minutes of battery power left for propulsion, the crew was exhausted, foul air was making breathing difficult, carbon dioxide absorbents were used up, temperatures in the boat were reaching 120 degrees, and the humidity was 100 percent. McCain then told the crew his intentions; if they did not surface soon, they would never be able to. He wanted to ease the Gunnel to the surface with the 5-inch guns, 20mm, and machine guns manned in order to “shoot it out with the enemy.”

The other option (which he was dead set against) was to destroy all the classified material and equipment and bring the Gunnel to the surface and scuttle her. Then all hands would jump into the sea with the hope that they would be rescued and not shot. The captain wanted the decision to be a unanimous one by all hands. There was no discussion as all hands shouted “Let’s get going skipper and shoot it out!” As they surfaced, all hands swept the horizon but the enemy destroyers were nowhere in sight! The severely injured Gunnel was ordered to Mare Island, California for repairs.

When the Gunnel was ship-shape again, she was ordered to proceed to the approaches to Tokyo Bay and attack any Japanese warships, oil tankers, or cargo ships she might encounter. On this war patrol, they sighted a large passenger freighter heavily laden and running low in the water. At a range of 1,000 yards, the captain fired four torpedoes and all four hit home. The crew could hear many explosions as the freighter broke up and quickly went down. The enemy’s destroyer escort promptly attacked the Gunnel with at least 36 depth charges. The Gunnel suffered only slight damage, but the crew’s eardrums felt the effects.

Raymond was then transferred to a new submarine, the USS Moray, captained by Frank Barrows. It patrolled the seas around Japan in “lifeguard” duty, picking up crews of downed U.S. planes. When President George H. W. Bush was a young Navy aviator during WWII, he was shot down near Iwo Jima, and it was a submarine that rescued him before the enemy could get to him. LadyX.ch

The Moray’s torpedoes did hit an enemy tanker that erupted into flames and sunk during their 52 day war patrol.

Raymond Lloyd, First Class Petty Officer, was discharged due to medical reasons after spending 11 months in a Navy hospital. He later attended Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. Raymond was the assistant Commissioner, Division of Labor and Industry for the State of Maryland and retired in 1986.

Lloyd was just one of the almost 16,000 sailors in the Silent Service, 3,506 who never returned. Their casualty rate of 22 percent was the highest of any branch in the military. It took a certain kind of American to brave the depths in the close confines of a boat deep under the sea for months at a time. America owes these brave submariners a great debt of gratitude.

Raymond Lloyd

Drawing is the mascot of the USS Gunnel.

by James Rada, Jr.

James E. Shankle

James Shankle of Woodsboro began life behind the eight ball, as they say. He was born in Frederick on November 21, 1925.

“My mother abandoned me on the streets of Frederick,” Shankle said. “I was found by a policeman and taken to the hospital.”

The police officer took the baby to Montevue, which served as the city’s hospital at the time. An advertisement was placed in the newspaper, seeking a foster family for James. Mildred Roddick answered the ad and took the child home to live with her and her husband in Montgomery County.

Shortly after, Mildred’s marriage broke up, and she moved back in with her parents who lived on MD 550, north of Woodsboro. James suddenly found himself with a larger family, as Mildred’s mother, Minnie Nichols, became his primary caregiver. She would be the woman that James would come to call his mother.

He lived happily as Minnie’s foster son until the Children’s Aid Society got involved in James’s life. The organization, which was established to take care of foster children and assist with adoptions, had other ideas for James.

“That wasn’t very good,” James said. “They farmed us out to work.”

At the age of eight, James was told he would have to get up each morning at 4:00 a.m. and walk to a nearby farm to milk the dairy cows. After, he would hurry home to eat breakfast and go to school.

When James was twelve years old, a fourteen-year-old boy named Bill showed up from Thurmont and told James, “I’m your brother.”

James also learned that he had three sisters, that not only had he never met but didn’t even know he had.

“Two weeks later, after meeting him (Bill), my sister got killed on a farm,” James said.

James’s siblings had also been farmed out to work, as he had been. His sister, Betty, who had been sixteen years old at the time, had been working as a cook on a farm in New Market. Part of getting the cook fire ready each morning was to add coal oil to the stove.

“She got up late one morning and picked up the wrong can,” James said.

Betty picked up a can of gasoline and added it to the fire. The resulting explosion burned the girl over 80 percent of her body, killing her.

It was only at her funeral that James first met his mother, Edith Shankle. He never did meet his other sisters, Alma and Gladys.

When James finished the seventh grade—all the schooling required by the State of Maryland at the time—he wanted to go to high school. The Children’s Aid Society didn’t want to allow this, but James persevered. Finally, he was told that he could attend Walkersville High School, but he had to “earn his way.” He began doing any and all jobs that would pay him, such as setting up pens and mowing. When he turned sixteen, he got a job at a bakery in Walkersville, where he worked after school until 11:00 p.m. each evening.

By the time he turned seventeen, the United States had been fighting in World War II for nearly a year. James tried to enlist in the Navy. Since he was underage, he was told that he would need a parent, not a foster parent or guardian, to sign his enlistment form.

So, James set out to find his father, Irving Shankle. During the search, James discovered that his father was “a drunk and a criminal.”

“I found him in a bar someplace on West Patrick Street,” James said.

He told his father what he needed. The man was a WWI Veteran, so he had no problem signing the enlistment form. James then bought his father a beer and left.

While James had been working to enlist, his brother Bill had been drafted into the Army.

“I saw him off at the train station on a Sunday, and I left by bus on Monday,” James said.

He reported to Bainbridge Naval Base at Port Deposit, Maryland, in 1943. The base was on the bluffs, overlooking the Susquehanna River. Originally a boys’ school, it had become a Navy training camp only months before James had enlisted. During WWII, 244,277 recruits trained at the camp in ordnance and gunnery, seamanship, firefighting, and military orders. When it was discovered that James had lifeguard training, he was given a job of training other sailors to swim.

During his basic training, he recalled once having to jump off a 70-foot-tall tower into a pool while wearing a life vest. Another training exercise was held in a repurposed theater. A large screen was set up, and planes were projected onto it flying in different directions. Recruits got behind a special .50-cal. gun connected to the screen. They were given 1,000 shots each, and they had to see how many times they could hit the planes.

“I scored 800 and something,” James recalled.

His accurate shooting earned him his first assignment. He was sent to North Carolina to patrol the coastline in a blimp, searching for enemy submarines. When he would sight a submarine off the coast, which “looked like a big cigar underwater,” he would notify the Coast Guard. James would track the submarine until a Coast Guard ship arrived to drop depth charges on the U-boat.

Once, a U-boat surfaced, and a small boat left filled with men. “They picked the guys up when they hit the beach, and we sunk the sub,” James said.

Landing a blimp was not easy. It involved a lot of men grabbing onto cables dropped from the gondola and pulling the blimp down to the ground. During one landing, a storm was approaching and brought with it high winds. The winds made it too difficult to land, and the order was given for the men to release the cables.

One serviceman got caught in the cables, and the wind lifted him and threw him across the landing field into high-tension lines. He was electrocuted.

The accident so scared James that he decided he needed to transfer someplace else. The amphibious force had been formed and was recruiting. James didn’t realize that it was a forerunner to the Navy Seals. He and his friend just wanted out of the blimp patrol.

“We jumped out of the frying pan into the fire,” he said.

He trained in Little Creek, Virginia. At the end of his advanced training, he left Boston Harbor on a landing ship tank (LST). It was a ship built for amphibious assaults because it could carry tanks, vehicles, and cargo. It had a large door on the bow that could be lowered and used as a ramp to unload or load whatever was aboard. It was not a fast ship, though, and James traveled across the Atlantic at 6 knots, which is just under 7 mph.

His ship took part in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. More than sixty years later, he still teared up as he told how his ship lost 110 men out of a crew of 180 to land on Omaha Beach.

Following that mission, he transferred to another LST that was tasked with delivering tanks to the French Riviera. His ship was one of three to be sent in to make a landing on the beach. The other two ships snagged on sandbars, but James’s ship not only hit the beach, when the ramp lowered, the tank was able to roll right out onto a road.

Germans, who were about 100 yards away, peppered the tank with small-weapons fire. The tank turned and went after them. A few minutes later, thirty-five Germans came back to the ship, running ahead of the tank with their hands over their heads.

James served on thirteen missions in Europe and the Mediterranean. They weren’t all troop movements. On one occasion, his ship had to deliver mules that were needed to take supplies over the Alps.

He was part of a mission to deliver supplies to a station in Italy, where PT boats were repaired. He only found out afterward that his ship was the fifth to attempt the mission, but he could believe it. U-boats torpedoed the other four ships. However, James’s captain had removed everything from the boat that he could so that it sat higher in the water.

James was manning a 20-mm. gun during the mission; he saw torpedoes glide toward the boat only to pass beneath it because it was sitting too high in the water for the torpedoes to hit.

They were also lucky because there was a dense fog that they could hide in so that U-boat periscopes couldn’t see the ship.

On his last mission in the Mediterranean, his ship was severely damaged. It was sent back across the Atlantic as part of a 300-ship convoy. His ship only had one working engine and screw, though, and it limped across the Atlantic at a snail’s pace, unable to keep up with the convoy.

They eventually made it to Norfolk Naval Base, only to be hit by a Liberty ship while they were at anchor. The crash damaged the ship’s magazine, and James and his fellow crewmates had to dump their munitions rather than chance fire setting off an explosion. Then the shipyard refused to repair the ship, telling the captain that the ship had to go to New Orleans for repairs.

James did get a thirty-day leave in New Orleans, and he returned home for a visit. When his leave ended, he was assigned to a different ship and sent through the Panama Canal to San Diego, California.

From there, his ship began traveling to various ports: Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Russia, Alaska, and Iwo Jima.

He took part in one of the later landings to wrest control of the island from the Japanese. He could see the pillboxes where the Japanese holed up and fired on the Marines.

“I don’t think they would have taken that island if it wasn’t for flamethrowers,” James said. The flames could penetrate where bullets couldn’t and forced the Japanese into the open, or they died in the pillboxes.

One night, the Japanese launched an air raid. Five planes tried to sink James’s ship. Four were shot down, but the fifth did a lot of damage. That attack also injured James, who was manning a 20-mm gun. The concussive force of an explosion threw him face first into a bulkhead. He had broken ribs and shoulders, but he also needed to have his nose rebuilt. Unfortunately, the ship’s doctor didn’t have any anesthetic. James had to endure the 15-minute procedure in excruciating pain, being held down by other sailors.

After Iwo Jima, his ship was sent to Saipan to prepare for the expected invasion of Japan. It was a scary time. James could tell by the training exercises, “When we hit the beach, we were probably never getting off.”

However, on August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. When word reached the sailors at Saipan, “You could have heard a pin drop,” James said. “All day long, nobody was talking.”

After the war, he went back to work in Woodsboro, learning to be a Mason, but it didn’t interest him. He used the G.I. Bill to attend York Technical Institute and study electronics. However, he couldn’t find work in his field at first and had to take a job at a sawmill.

He married June Bostian in 1951, and they were together for fifty-six years.

James eventually found work at Fort Detrick as an engineer and worked there for more than thirty years until he retired in 1987.

James died at age 83 on June 24, 2009. He is buried in Rocky Hill Cemetery.

Note: This spotlight is based on an oral history collected by members of the Frederick County Veterans History Project. The group is interested in interviewing any local Veteran for inclusion in the Library of Congress Veteran History Project. If you would like to volunteer to help or know a Veteran who could be interviewed, contract Priscilla Rall at priscillarall@gmail.com or 301-271-2868.

James Shankle, 1943

James Shankle, 2006