Currently viewing the tag: "Veteran Spotlight"

Seaman John Ballenger

by Richard D. L. Fulton

Four years on the Saratoga

John Ballenger’s adventures aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga, the sixth ship in the Navy that had been named after the 1777 Battle of Saratoga – which marked a turning point in the American Revolution – began in 1960 when he sought to avoid the draft, and thus… the Army, and instead he then volunteered to join the Navy.

It was a close call, soon-to-be Seaman Ballenger stated. Within two weeks of entering basic training, he received a draft notice. The advantage of not being drafted, he said, was that if an individual was drafted, the draftee had to do whatever the Army assigned to them, but if an individual volunteered, “You got to do what you wanted to do.”

Ballenger resided in Laurel at the time with his parents, where his father also owned and operated the regionally renowned Ballenger Buick (Seaman Ballenger worked at the dealership before ultimately inheriting it, upon his father’s death.). 

Following his induction into the Navy at Andrews Air Force Base (the home of “Air Force One” since 1961), he ultimately was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, in Michigan, for basic training, and then on to the Mayport Naval Station, Jacksonville, Florida, where he was assigned to the Saratoga

The command wanted Ballenger to serve on the flight deck crew, but he wanted and was approved to serve as a catapult-and-arrest mechanic—the catapults being the means by which the jets are launched from the carrier, and the arresters are the means by which the incoming planes are stopped on the deck. He was also responsible for assuring that jets preparing to take off had the appropriate load of fuel and confirmed that the plane’s load met weight standards.

In 1962, the Saratoga was ordered to proceed to Guantanamo Bay along with two other carriers during the “Cuban Missile Crisis”—a 13-day standoff between the U.S. and the USSR over nuclear missile bases being installed by the Russians in Cuba. Ballenger said the Saratoga and the others were prepared for the worst. They all had nuclear missiles onboard.  If the carriers had been forced to arm the jets and use the missiles, “Cuba (as we know it),” he said, “wouldn’t exist today.”

After the Russians backed down, the Saratoga was off to the Mediterranean, during which time Ballenger was able to witness the kind of things that could happen on deck when things went wrong. 

During one incident which turned out to be more heart-stopping than catastrophic was when an improperly secured bomb dropped off the wing of one of the jets during its take-off and landed on the deck.  Fortunately, it didn’t detonate.

If the catapults did not function properly, a plane could nose-dive into the sea off the bow of the ship, and if a jet—generally coming in at 150 miles-per-hour—missed the arresters, it could result with fatal outcomes. 

Ballenger said that one plane attempting to land missed the arresters, and the pilot throttled up and took off, enabling the pilot and co-pilot to eject (having lost their landing gear). Somehow, he said, the co-pilot was killed in the effort.  During a second incident, another jet came in and missed the arresters and crashed into a line of jets on the flight deck, setting them afire.  Fortunately, Ballenger stated, the planes had their bombs removed and taken below deck before the crash.  “It was a terrible crash,” he said.  “We lost a few people.”

But the Saratoga did avert being deployed to Vietnam during Ballenger’s service, and the sailors aboard, were instead given opportunities to enjoy a number of Mediterranean countries, including Venice, Italy, France, and Turkey.

Ballenger was discharged in 1964, and married his wife, Linda Ballenger in 1977, and sold Ballenger Buick in 1989, subsequently buying the farm upon which they presently reside in northern Frederick County. They have three daughters, Jessica, Cynthia, and Emily, and one son, John III. Ballenger retired from Lonzo Bioscience in 2017 after having been employed at that facility for 12 years.

Seaman John Ballenger

PFC Clyde Jacob Smith

by E.A. EYLER

Photo Credit to Richard Starbird

When I was six months old, my uncle Jake moved in with us. We lived in a small house alongside Rt. 491 in an area called Lantz. At least it was Lantz until the1960s when the Lantz Post office closed, and our postmark became Sabillasville. The truth was we lived in neither. Just out in the country on a mountain saddle between the South Mountain and Catoctin ranges. My grandparents’ farm was a half mile back the road, where, on maybe 15 acres of tillable land, they raised a family of twelve children. Jake and my mom, Mildred, were born somewhere in the middle. And now, Jake had fallen out with his parents and left home.

Jake had knocked around after leaving school. He worked at Victor Cullen Sanitorium as a dishwasher and occasional projector operator, but, mostly, he had worked on the family farm and for his brother-in-law, Glenn (Junior) Willard, on his farm a mile back the road.

But, Jake was dissatisfied. He wanted to do something more with his life. He wanted to see the world and start a career. It was 1951 and there was a war in Korea. He wanted to join the Army. Trouble was, he was only 17. And, at 17, you needed your parents to sign off, and they refused. Likely, my grandmother put her foot down. She ran the roost. So, Jake moved in with my parents.

Jake was persistent, however, and after six months, tempers cooled, and his parents reluctantly agreed to sign.

He took basic training at Fort Meade and then shipped out to Germany. Unhappy with his assignment there, he requested a transfer to Korea and arrived there on July 14, 1952.

On August 7, 1952, he was assigned Fire Direction Liaison Operator with the 57th Artillery Battalion, Charlie “C” Battery. Finally, he requested to join a Forward Observe Team and was assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment 3rd Battalion “K” Company as a Wire Corporal. His duties were to keep communications open via radio between his Forward Observation team and the gun battery.

Per a letter received by Jake’s parents from Colonel R.A. Risden, Major General Wayne Smith’s chief of Staff:

“On 17 October 1952, (during the battle of Triangle Hill in the Iron Triangle), friendly forces engaged in an extensive offensive action against a strategic enemy-held hill, were subjected to an intense enemy mortar and artillery barrage. Private Smith was with the Forward Observer Party relaying vital communications when the radio suddenly failed. Ignoring the fierce enemy fire, Private Smith left his position of relative safety, and, moving through the impact area, secured additional batteries so communications could be restored. Upon his return, Private Smith, noticing several wounded men in danger of falling over a cliff, rushed to their aid and helped in evacuating them. Again returning to his position, Private Smith, with complete disregard for his personal safety, answered a call for volunteers to help defend the friendly positions and moved in to the forward trenches (with Riflemen of the Infantry units), where he valiantly fought off numerically superior enemy forces until he was mortally wounded by enemy fire (an artillery shell landing close to his position).”

He received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, posthumously. He was buried January, 8, 1953, in Germantown Bethel Church Cemetery.

 According to Lt. Richard Starbird and Sgt. Howard Nease, who served with him, “Smitty was a good soldier, well-liked by his buddies. He chewed Plow Boy brand tobacco and loved the Hershey Bars in his rations. Clyde was a strong man who was good at “Tapping the Box” (keeping the radio working). He loved being a soldier. He looked forward to mail from his family and a girl named, Jennie.”

How I Came to Know My Father ~ Part 4

by Sally T. Grove

Courtesy Photo of Chester L. Grove, Jr. in Uniform

Dad and Mates

Courtesy Photo

I started to understand my father, Chester Grove when I was 20 years old in 1977. That’s when I found the journal he kept during World War II. I read about experiences he didn’t talk about…fighting in war.

A cold March rain came to add to our discomfort…my arm was now stiff but the bleeding had stopped. My buddy’s head and legs were giving him plenty of trouble…we had to slow the pace and take turns helping him along…we often went through the forest on trails and dirt roads, tanks and guns concealed in the forest…we were constantly wet and chilled.

Our guards stopped at a house in the next town and ate while our stomachs just growled with hunger. At 4:00 p.m. we came to a little German town and sat down while the guards talked to a German captain. We had been walking since 5:00 a.m. and we were a tired and hungry bunch of Joes…

Dad had been going for at least 20 hours straight. I doubt anything that life dealt my father after the war could compare with what he had experienced in Germany. No wonder my father was always grateful for the small blessings in life. He taught us to stop and savor the view, to hear the calls of Bob Whites and Whip-Por-Whils echoing in the air at sunset, and to know that in our family we were rich beyond money.

...one at a time into the house… the Jerry’s captain interrogated us… I was next to be questioned and was glad my time had come, for the uncertainty of waiting was terrible. I went into the room and the officer behind a large desk asked, “What’s your name?” I answered with my name, rank and serial number. He then asked my outfit. I wouldn’t answer so he told me the answer, the division and also the regiment I was from… I was not surprised that he knew the division but I was given a great surprise when he also named the regiment. I still cannot understand how he found out unless he forced one of the fellows to talk (which I doubt) or found the answer on a letter or paper of some kind someone was carrying. He then asked whether we were Panzer’s troop, flyers, or infantry, and I guessed then that he didn’t know much about our outfit. I refused to tell him and he got very mad and threatened to hit me unless I talked. He even drew back his arm in a motion to strike me but it turned out that he did not strike. I was very mad when he threatened me and I’m sure that if he had struck me I would have gone over the desk after him and killed him, for I know I could not have taken a slap without fighting back. It is good that he didn’t for I surely would have been killed if I had tangled with him.

I cannot even imagine my father having the thought of killing someone. He was the gentlest soul I have ever known.

After he had finished questioning all of us, he said that since we would not talk we would have nothing to eat until we decided to talk… We waited for about two hours in the rain and cold March wind, while the guards ate and we looked on with watering mouths and hungry eyes. Finally we were told to go in the house… we were brought in a small bowl of cold potatoes, about one apiece. But they vanished in a flash, serving only to sharpen our hunger.

Dad hadn’t eaten since 8:00 p.m. the night before. He had gone 24 hours without food.

About half an hour later, the three of us that were wounded were told that a truck was waiting to take us to a hospital and the rest would march on to the concentration camp. I almost wished to go on to the concentration camp rather than split up with the rest of the fellows, but I wouldn’t have been allowed… so we parted our little group that had been through so much together.

What would have happened had he gone to the concentration camp? Would things have turned out differently? Thank God his life took the turns it did or I would not be here to tell you my father’s story.

It was dark and we rode for ages in the small truck and went through countless towns. Finally, about 11:30 p.m., we were taken into a large German house, which was being used as a Jerry field hospital. We gave our name, rank, and serial number to a Jerry orderly at a desk and then sat down among half a dozen wounded Jerries to wait our turn with the doctor. I was taken into a room equipped for operating. A radio was playing an American song. The first American music I had heard for months… A beautiful, young blonde-haired girl was helping the doctor. He told me it was his daughter. I laid on a table and was stripped to the waist then strapped down hand and foot. The doctor drew out a large scalpel and laughed as he drew it across my throat in a motion to cut it. If he had not been laughing, I would have been very much afraid, but I knew it was a joke so I laughed back.

My father had a great sense of humor, a gift he gave us all. We still laugh when we think about Dad learning to play tennis. For all of our lives, my father came home from work and changed from his suit into blue jeans. Blue jeans were his primary play clothes. So, when Dad played tennis, he played in jeans. That was fine in cool weather, but when the mercury skyrocketed along with my father’s passion for tennis, the problem had to be fixed. For Father’s Day, my siblings and I bought Dad tennis shorts. My father appeared in the hallway, boxers hanging inches below the shorts. Being a time before it was chic to have boxers showing beneath shorts, the whole family dissolved into laughter. Dad not only graduated to shorts that summer, but was introduced to briefs as well.

The doctor said, “Don’t feel so good now do you?” He told me in broken English that he had studied medicine in Chicago and I felt a little better.

Sadly, this is where Dad’s war diary stopped. He didn’t explain how long he was held captive, when he was liberated from the Germans, where he recuperated from his wounds, or when he returned to the states. Thankfully, my father had lived through these horrendous events and lived to write a part of his story.

Slowly, after reading the last page, I closed the stenographer’s notebook. Dad was a writer. This was my father but outside the lens of my experience. Were his memories too horrible to speak? Did Dad write this journal to have an outlet to express his feelings, hoping that in the writing of the words, the horror would be erased from his memory?

My mind’s camera had always framed a gentle, quiet man. The man I had known came home each afternoon by 4:30. He took a nap, his eyes closing and his body surrendering to a fast, deep sleep, the very moment his head made contact with the mattress on my parent’s carved-pineapple post bed. As kids, we rushed to see Dad when he came home; if we were two seconds late, our sharing had to wait until dinner at 5:00.

I clutched the notebook to my chest, my heart racing as I slowly ascended the stairs. Now that I knew all of this, I could not pretend that I didn’t know.

I opened the door and found various members of my family sitting around our house. I relaxed my grip on the notebook, looked at my mom and each of my siblings, knowing that I knew what they did not. I don’t remember how it happened, but I shared Dad’s notebook with my family that day.

You see, my father died when I was twenty, the day after Thanksgiving. He had gone hunting, fell out of a tree stand, and hit his head, dying instantly.

I remember vividly, too vividly, the night that my father’s station wagon, along with another car, pulled into the driveway and my Aunt Kitty got out and walked to the door. I assumed that Dad had finally gotten his deer.

When, in anticipation, I opened the door to my aunt and uncle, I knew that I was wrong. Their faces said everything. I don’t know how I held it together that night. I told my aunt I would tell my mother when she returned home from her quick grocery run. Somehow, my family made it through the night, and the days and nights that followed.

The next day, the day after my father died, I would descend the stairs to the basement. I would go through my father’s belongings, wanting so much to touch him, to hear him, to know he was there. I would open a trunk and find a small stenographer’s notebook, its brown cover worn, well-traveled, the edges frayed—my father’s war diary.

I would learn things about my father that I had never thought to ask him. Some questions to this day remain unanswered. Still, the journal provided me a glimpse into a man I did not know, and it is how I came to know my father.

How I Came to Know My Father ~ Part 3by Sally T. Grove

Courtesy Photo of Chester L. Grove, Jr. in Uniform

Courtesy Photo

I started to understand my father, Chester Grove when I was 20 years old in 1977. That’s when I found the journal he kept during World War II. I read about experiences he didn’t talk about… fighting in war. About the assault on the Rhine, he wrote:

Where I lay, there were two more of my buddies, so I crawled back along the wall trying to locate the rest but could not do so… The Jerries must have heard me for just then a pebble dropped from the wall about ten feet away… I realized that it might not be a stone after all. I hugged the ground as tightly as I could, pushing my body against it. I also, in that split second, turned my face against the wall. Then it happened, a blinding flash and a deafening noise. I could neither see nor hear. Dirt flew all over me.

A grenade had taken my father’s sight and his hearing. A dark veil hanging over his bright blue eyes. How it must have magnified his fear!

I felt my face for I was sure it must be bleeding, but then my sight returned and gradually my hearing, although my ears kept ringing… I looked at my buddy in front of me and his head was smeared with blood as well as his foot and legs. I shook him thinking he was dead but he moved, then another grenade not quite as close hit the ground. A blinding flash and blast followed, however it did not touch us.

Concern for others, even in the face of adversity does not surprise me. Although my family didn’t have much growing up, we never did without, thanks to my father. Dad had just three suits: one for winter, one for summer, and one to wear when the in-season suit was getting cleaned. His children, on the other hand, went shopping each September for new school clothes, and each spring, we shined in our new Easter outfits.

I knew then that they would keep grenading us till we were dead or came out. I never prayed so hard and so desperately in my life, I know that I could never be an atheist, ever, and that anyone no matter what his feeling, put in the same situation would ever deny God.

Dad never talked about religion, he lived his belief. Mom was the one who took us to church on Sundays. Dad came for Baptisms, First Communions, and Confirmations, but Sunday mornings were always Dad’s time at home, while we went to mass with Mom. I have never known a more-loving man than my father, so I am not surprised that he professes his belief in God, still he never talked to us about his faith.

In those few minutes, which seemed a year, I saw visions of my favorite fishing places and hunting territory… saw them clearly as if I were there. I pictured mom, dad, and all the family, as well as all my friends who I was sure I would never see again.

My dad’s sister, Aunt Kitty, told me that Dad was always her best friend. They were closest in age of all their siblings and played together as children. They fished in Carroll Creek and rode their bikes through the streets of Frederick. I once read a letter that Dad wrote to his father; he signed his letter, “Love, Your Fishing Buddy, Tommy.”

Again a grenade dropped within 20 feet and I pressed into the earth… a voice spoke in broken English “Hello boys, come out, ve know you are there.”… I scarcely breathed for each breath sounded like a bellows, at least in my ears… I was soaked to the skin in blood and water and was shaking like a leaf in the wind. I thought of my first-aid kit with its sulfa drug to keep my wound from infection, yet I dared not move for every move brought a grenade.

The waiting must have been torture. Dad knew that the Germans were close, and they had his life in their hands.

Night started to fade… empty boats floated by… then we heard footsteps on the beach… the Jerries were afraid to come down in the darkness for fear of ambush. They had waited until they had light enough to see and then investigated. We were prisoners.

Dad’s fear must have been great when he heard footsteps approaching. The soldier became a prisoner.

At least the constant fear of uncertainty and falling grenades was now over. We had lain under the wall from 12 p.m. till daylight… four and a half hours of terrible uncertainty, awaiting death or capture or possibly help.

Dad relinquished one state of uncertainty for another. Perhaps being a prisoner of war was better than lying in wait for an unknown fate.

We were searched and stripped of all equipment but our clothes, even our first-aid pouches were taken, as well as our cigarettes, water, rations, and anything the Jerries decided they wanted. I refused to give up my pay book and finally they agreed to let me have it… I then tried to get the other fellow’s books back but they would not allow this.

Why was his pay book so important? What did it mean to a soldier?

Certainly a soldier got paid whether they presented a pay book or not.

Thankfully, by the time I knew my dad, he had given up cigarettes for a pipe. I know that pipes are bad for you, but to this day, pipe smoke makes me think of my father.

We had four guards for the eight of us and we were forced to carry a fifty pound box with us. We climbed up a steep, rocky ridge just before the sun peeped over the horizon. The going was rough…those hills were hundreds of feet high and very steep. Our (the U.S.) artillery had begun firing again and we were in constant danger from our own shells…We were really scared and I never thought we would make it through there alive.

I had seldom seen my father show raw emotion, except, that is, when Dad made a decision to reverse a doctor’s recommendation for our family. I was 10 when my brother Craig was born. We didn’t know it for several years, but Craig’s brain had been damaged during the birth process—Craig was developmentally disabled.

The doctors told my parents that Craig and our family would fare best if Craig moved into a group home.

Unfamiliar with the plight ahead, my parents placed Craig in Kemp Horn Home.

Our family was not allowed to see Craig for a month. When we finally visited, it was raining. “Song Sung Blue” played on the radio. My family’s hearts mirrored the rain as we visited with Craig. My father decided that doctors do not know best, and Craig came home with us that very day. My family never looked back.

How I Came to Know My Father ~ Part 2

by Sally T. Grove

Using Her Father Chester L. Grove, Jr.’s Diary and Reflecting on What He Had Written

I was 20 years old when I first came to understand my father. He invited me to return home to live with him on Thanksgiving Day 1977 as a way to relieve the financial pressures I faced as a newly graduated college student. It was then that I found a small stenographer’s notebook in a trunk in the basement. As I read through it, I learned about a part of my father’s life during World War II that he, like many Veterans of that war, didn’t share easily.

 “January 11th, we left the good old Terra Firma of the U.S.A. for Europe … January 21, 1945, we landed at Le Havre, France… We had a cold reception on landing. The temperature was below zero… We rode 60 miles in open trucks to Camp Lucky Strike, the coldest ride of my life. We arrived at camp at 2 a.m. frozen stiff. Our night was far from over yet, as we had to pitch tents in the snow and, when we finally did get to bed, we were too cold to sleep.”

I took U.S. History in high school, and I guess I should have known Dad fought in WWII. Still, Dad never talked about the war.

“The camp of former German airfields with a large concrete runway was infested with mines and booby traps. We trained in snow and then knee-deep mud for about a month, making very hard marches. During that time, my feet were frozen so badly that I couldn’t wear shoes for several days.”

Studying history is nothing like reading a journal from WWII. They didn’t talk about the cold and the suffering in our textbook—feet frozen so badly that you couldn’t wear shoes! Thankfully, that is a cold that I have never known.

“On March 25th, we moved up to the west bank of the Rhine. We arrived at 8 p.m., ate, and at 10:30 p.m. with but two hours’ sleep, we started our assault crossing. For hours, our artillery had been hammering the east bank and now the forest was a blazing inferno. Our company crept down the twisting trail to the river’s edge. As we reached the riverbank, we were fired upon by a hail of machine guns and 20 mms, which pinned us to the ground for half an hour. The railroad station to our front was ablaze as a result of the firing… The second platoon tried to launch several boats but was mowed down before they could load them. Finally in desperation, Captain Brown asked for a boat load of volunteers to try to make it across… our whole squad stepped forward…”

Dad was a part of the assault on the Rhine! We learned so little about WWII in my high school history class. We learned almost nothing about the Holocaust or how the United States declared neutrality at the start of World War II in Europe. We did learn about troop movements, and my limited memory tells me that the assault on the Rhine was a big deal. It precipitated the beginning of the end.

“… we got out only about thirty yards before they spotted our boat. Everything broke loose at us but we kept going… halfway across and by this time about two blocks down stream, we again received heavy fire but again paddled through it. Finally we were about 40 yards from the Jerry side, right opposite a high wall on which the machine guns were mounted… this time the jug-heads had our range and were peppering the boats so we decided to swim for it. Stripping off all equipment but our guns, we dove overboard…I was in mid-air when I felt a hot sear in my shoulder…I found that I could not use my left arm, but I managed to swim with one arm to shore…I was the only one of the seven in our boat that was hit…as we hit the sandy beach, they resumed firing on us and the engineer in the boat with us was hit and fell at the water’s edge. The rest of us took cover at the base of a wall about 25 to 30 feet high.”

I have seen that scar on Dad’s shoulder since I was a kid. The scar is as much a part of Dad as the dimple on his chin or his chipped front tooth. I knew his tooth broke during a childhood flight over the handlebars of his bike, and Mom always said Dad’s dimples made him look like Robert Mitchum, a movie star from their generation. But the scar on his shoulder—I had not known the event that had caused it.

“The engineer was in terrible agony and laid groaning and praying in a blood-chilling voice. We could not go to his aid as the Jerry’s kept showering the area with lead. A little later, however, we crept over to him, but it was too late. A bullet had hit his spine and he was dead.”

My father saw a friend die. I cannot imagine my father enduring such a tragic loss. Did a soldier’s training prepare them to go on when they had lost a friend? 

“… We made our way back to the safety of the wall, as shells were hitting directly out from us in the water about 20 yards away. We were pinned between two lines of fire, one from the Jerry’s and one from US troops.”

This sounds like a scene from an old war movie…

“Pain seared my body. I don’t know why but one of my first impulses was to spit to see if my lung was hit, which I guess it was not, as I did not spit blood. I could see the bullet holes in my jacket right at the point where the sleeve and shoulder seam is, but could not find where the bullet left, although my chest at the heart area was very sore and full of blood as well as swollen. My whole shirt was blood-soaked and I feared I might bleed to death although the blood did not now seem to be running from the wound. We lay very still along the wall, the hob-nailed boots of the Jerries sounded just above the wall and we could hear them loading their machine guns and talking in low voices. My arm was stiff and throbbing now like an engine.”

This wasn’t an old John Wayne war movie. This battle was real, and my dad was the main character. How frightening it must have been for him, bleeding and in pain, waiting, not knowing what would happen next. The design of his future was out of his hands.

Sally Grove pictured with her father and mother in 1972.

Courtesy Photo of Chester L. Grove, Jr. in Uniform

How I Came to Know My Father ~ Part 1

by Sally T. Grove

Using Her Father Chester L. Grove, Jr.’s Diary and Reflecting on What He Had Written

I was 20 years old, fresh out of college, and in my first year of teaching, a difficult first year. Why did college prepare me so little for my own classroom?

Finally, a break, a time to breathe. I went home for Thanksgiving. At home, I talked with Dad about my living situation and my finances, both in dire straits. A basement apartment, a bathroom that leaked water into the kitchen, and a landlord who lived richly and didn’t care about the problems of his tenants, even as they lived in his own basement. What should I do? Car payments! Dad had warned me not to buy a new car. Not one to listen, I bought a new Honda and was now living the consequences. I loved my shiny red Honda, but the car payments on an $8,000 per year teaching salary were a killer.

On Thanksgiving Day 1977, my father invited me to move back home to relieve the pressure. I could save some money and have some support from my family as I got my feet wet teaching. I cried that Thanksgiving and gave Dad a big hug and kiss, telling him how grateful I was and much I loved him.

A day later, while sifting through a trunk in my family’s unfinished basement, I found a small stenographer’s notebook, its brown cover worn, well-traveled, edges frayed. I opened the notebook slowly, deliberately. Its contents were gradually revealed, like the plot of a mystery novel. As the practiced and perfect handwriting came into focus, I knew this writing to be my father’s.

 “On April 15, 1943, I took my examination for the U.S. Army. It was on this day that I ate my first sandwich consisting of baloney.”

Was that my father? I had never seen him eat a baloney sandwich. In fact, I know his menu by heart: vegetables consisting of peas, corn, baked beans, and any kind of potato; meats, always dry and over-cooked—these were his meals and ours—and Friday night was tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. These are the foods that Dad liked, and these are the foods that we ate and loved. We ate like our father, all six of us, much to my Mom’s chagrin.

“The morning of April 22, my last day home, I went up Carroll Creek and caught seven beautiful trout, my last as a civilian.”

When our family visited “Poppy in Frederick” when I was small, I used to stare at the stuffed fish that adorned his dark, dusty, shadowed walls. The fish hung as a testament to his youth and his sense of adventure. My grandfather was a fisherman, and he taught my dad to fish. I have a great picture of my father (shown left), standing with a fist full of fish fanned out for the photographer’s film. Was this a picture of Dad on the day my grandfather caught the big one?

“Our train ride took us through Western Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama… We arrived at our new station, Fort McClellan, a very tired bunch of rookies… I got along very well eating most everything we got for meals, although not liking it very much…”

His first big adventure via train—how exciting! With six kids, our family’s adventures now consisted of camping in Western Maryland or a week in Ocean City. We rode bikes each morning on the boardwalk and had pancakes at Happy Jack’s Pancake House. At least in Ocean City, Dad ate what he wanted.

“I took the Air Cadet exam the 12th week of basic. The passing grade for the cadet exam is 83 and I made 100%, the 3rd highest grade… On February 16th, 1944, I made my first flight at the school and by March 11th, I had completed 10 hours of flying. I really loved flying…”

Twenty-one years old and learning to fly. I didn’t know Dad had flown planes! Why didn’t he tell us? I remember when we were little, Dad took us to “Penny-A-Pound” Day at the local airport. For a penny a pound, we could go on an airplane ride. I remember being frightened and not wanting to go. Dad convinced me it would be okay. Once in the air, I couldn’t get enough of flying. The houses and streets looked like a miniature Christmas village below. No wonder Dad loved flying.

“… arrived at Santa Anna Army Air Base on the 23rd, after a very exciting trip across the U.S., my first. After taking the test for three straight days, I was a classified pilot but then the tragedy came. An order came from Washington, calling back all cadets who were former ground force students and so my dreams of flying were crushed on April 1, 1944 by a single piece of paper.”

I guess that’s why my father didn’t tell us…his dream was shattered. What other dreams did Dad have for his life? Most of what I know of my father revolves around the time he spent with his family. Were we part of his life dream?

Courtesy Photo of Chester L. Grove, Jr. in Uniform

Courtesy Photo

Raymond Sanders

by Deb Abraham Spalding and James Rada, Jr.

Photo by Richard L. Dougan, Jr.

When Raymond Sanders first came to Sabillasville, it was because his family was growing and they needed space to expand. They found a two-story home at the end of a dead-end road and set down roots.

“It’s a nice place to live”, Sanders said. “The dead end road was good for the children, and my wife’s father and stepmother lived nearby.”

His children started attend Sabillasville School when it was still in the building that is now Walkersville Christian Fellowship Church. At that time, local students up to grade six all fit into a four room school. For high school, the students were bussed down the mountain to Thurmont High.

“I didn’t worry about them going down to Thurmont,” Sanders said. “People were careful on the road, and there were no accidents.”

Sanders was born December 11, 1923, in Iron Springs, Pennsylvania. He is one of eight children to Lloyd and Ruth Gertrude Riley Sanders. His family moved to Fountaindale, Pennsylvania, when he was six. From there, they would eventually move to Charmain, Pennsylvania, and Highfield, Maryland.

Although his military service would take him far from Catoctin Mountain, all of his homes are no more than a 10-mile round trip.

“I’ve been working since the time I was twelve,” Sanders said.

His early work was with Mr. Leisinger on a huckster truck hauling and selling vegetables, but he has also been a fruit picker, worked at the pipe and nipple factory, Landis Machine, and Frick Company. His longest lasting job was as a heavy engineer equipment mechanic at Fort Ritchie. He worked there for 22 years, retiring in 1975 because off a back injury. He said, “They wouldn’t give me another job and I couldn’t work anymore because I couldn’t pull wrenches.”

Instead, he wound up retiring at age 52. He was also a member of the Maryland National Guard and was able to continue his service for five more years before he needed to retire from that as well. Together, his service in the National Guard and in the Army, Sanders served 33 years in the military.

Sanders is also a Veteran of World War II. He was never drafted. His son, Larry, explained. “He didn’t get called up for the draft while his friends and brothers were being called. His mom took him to Hagerstown to ask why and they couldn’t find his records. Turns out he was in the dead file – they would never have called him up.”

He enlisted in the Army on March 18, 1943, and trained with the 8th Armored Division. However, when he shipped out to Europe, he was sent as part of the green troops, being sent to replace the soldiers who were dying in the war. Once in Europe, though, he never saw combat. “I was close to being called up a couple of times, but it never happened,” said Sanders.

He mustered out after three years and returned home, which at the time, was in Highfield. About his service, he said, “It has done me a wonderful good.”

The following year, he “really met” Betty Jane Fox. He had first met her when she was 10 and he was 15, but that was just in passing because he was friends with the boys in her family. 

Sanders was in Waynesboro one time with Betty Jane’s uncle, when her uncle tried to convince Sanders to come to Frederick with him to a dance. Sanders wanted to go, but said he didn’t have a date. Betty Jane’s uncle then fixed her up with Sanders and the two hit it off. They were married on September 13, 1947.

Together, they raised seven children (Debbie, Rita, Becky, Larry, Mary, David, and Jim), and one grandson (Jeffrey). They also have 12 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, 1 great-great grandchild, 2 step-grandchildren, 5 step-great-grandchildren, and 5 step-great-great-grandchildren.

“When we had family picnics, we would have 45 to 80 people show up,” Sanders said.

Raymond tells a humorous story about delivering a bowling ball to his grandson, Jeffrey, who was stationed in Germany while in the military. Jeffrey told Raymond that he could bowl a better game if he had his own bowling ball from home. Raymond hopped a military transport plane in Dover, Delaware, and flew to Jeffrey with the bowling ball. Raymond said, “Oh, he was surprised!”

Raymond has always enjoyed living in Sabillasville and says that he has pretty much anything he might need nearby. He attends church at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Blue Ridge Summit. He belongs to the Cascade American Legion, Waynesboro VFW, and Knights of Columbus.

“I think we have the nicest people that any community could have up here,” expressed Sanders. “They make great neighbors.”

Betty Jane passed away in 2016, and while Sanders now lives alone, he still has plenty of family looking out for him and plenty of memories.

He clearly remembers, “I have a good family and I’ve had a good life!”

Raymond was honored at a recent Veteran’s event at the Cascade American Legion where he was a founding member. Following his military service in addition to Jeffrey, mentioned above, are three grandchildren who are also war Veterans. Raymond was the recipient of the Legionaires Award at the Veteran’s Day event at the Cascade American Legion

Robert McPherson Gardiner

by Terry Pryor

Lt. Robert McPherson Gardiner in uniform. Courtesy Photo

Although born in Denver, Colorado, Robert McPherson Gardiner spent his childhood and youth at the Auburn home in Catoctin Furnace. It was from here that he joined the Army in 1943.

This is, in part, his story. I did not know him, but I am married to his nephew, Christopher Orth Gardiner, who has regaled me with wonderful stories of this man and his lifetime accomplishments.

Headquarters

308th Field Artillery Battalion

APO 78, U. S. Army

GLH/hip

8 August 1945

Subject: Recommendation for Award

To:  Commanding General, 78th Infantry Division, APO 78, U. S. Army.

1. Under the provisions of AR600-45, as amended, it is recommended that ROBERT. M. GARDINER, First Lieutenant, 0528776, Field Artillery, Battery “C”, 308th Field Artillery Battalion, present for duty, be awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action in connection with military operations against the enemy on 17 January 1945.

2. Detailed Description of Incident: Lt GARDINER, a Field Artillery Forward Observer, was with an Infantry company assigned the mission of holding a piece of high ground and a pill box in the vicinity of Rafflesbrand, Germany. On 17 January 1945, the Germans attacked in force to retake this ground and to reoccupy the pill box. The Infantry Lt GARDINER was supporting was driven from the dug in positions in front of the pill box, leaving it exposed to the enemy. Realizing the importance of the position, Lt GARDINER held his ground and continued firing on the enemy in spite of the fact that his position was overrun. The Germans subjected the pill box to heavy artillery and mortar fire, wounding Lt GARDINER and killing his radio operator. Lt GARDINER then himself operated the radio and continued to observe the enemy. The results of his accurate calls for artillery fire were devastating and were greatly responsible for the disorganization of the planned attack by the Germans. He continued to call for and adjust fires for a period of six hours until the ground was again secured by our own Infantry. This artillery played an important part in repulsing the enemy and driving them from the hill. Although wounded, this Officer remained at his observation post for 48 hours, continuing to bring artillery fore down on the enemy at every suspicious move. Lt GARDINER distinguished himself throughout combat as being one of the most dependable, aggressive, and courageous forward observers in the 308th Field Artillery Battalion. His aggressiveness, personal courage and heroic action are in accordance with the highest military traditions.

* Unfortunately, this letter is missing the last part of the page, but he was awarded that Silver Star that he so deserved.

The following is from the November 16, 2018, Wall Street Journal, by James R. Hagerty.

Robert Gardiner, Wall Street Giant, Helped Sears With ‘Socks and Stocks’ Strategy

Army veteran was part of building Dean Witter into a powerhouse and launching Discover credit card.

Stay put or flee? Atop a hill in Germany’s Hürtgen Forest in January 1945, Robert Gardiner, a 22-year-old Army officer, had to make a quick decision.

As his unit faced swarming German troops, he was in a concrete pillbox and responsible for directing artillery fire. He stayed, even after mortar fire briefly knocked him out and killed his radio operator. With blood trickling down his back, Mr. Gardiner took over the radio duties to provide cover for his troops.

The 6-foot-7 Army officer, nicknamed “Stretch,” might have made an easy target, but he survived and returned home to launch a career on Wall Street, where nothing ever seemed to fluster him. He was deeply involved in two mergers that helped transform the securities industry from a gaggle of small partnerships into a business dominated by global companies.

Mr. Gardiner, who died Nov. 3 at the age of 95, headed Reynolds Securities when it merged into Dean Witter in 1978, creating one of the largest Wall Street firms. In 1981, he was president of Dean Witter Reynolds when Sears, Roebuck & Co. paid about $610 million for the firm as part of its strategy of offering financial services—including insurance, real-estate brokerage and investment funds—alongside refrigerators and underpants.

Robert MacPherson Gardiner was born Nov. 17, 1922, in Denver. His family had a candy business in New York but had moved to Colorado with the hope that cleaner air would help his father, Clement Gardiner, recover from tuberculosis. The elder Mr. Gardiner died when Robert was 9, and the family relocated to a dairy farm near Frederick, Md. (Auburn) He attended the Trinity-Pawling boarding school in Pawling, N.Y., where he was on the basketball team.

At Princeton University, he majored in history and participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He wore an Army uniform and marched to classes and meals.

“I remember practicing slouching and bending my knees to appear shorter when measured so that I would qualify for the Army’s height limit,” he wrote later. After graduating from Princeton in 1943, he was inducted into the Army. In October 1944, he was shipped to Europe. As an artillery forward observer, he wrote, “I served as the eyes of the gunners.” He was awarded Silver Star and Purple Heart medals for remaining in the exposed pillbox in the Hürtgen Forest. He also won a Bronze Star and a Belgian Croix de Guerre.

After the war, he became a research analyst at the Wall Street firm A.M. Kidder & Co. Five years later, he jumped to a bigger firm, Reynolds & Co. He soon found he was unhappy there and wrote a letter of resignation. The firm’s founder asked why he was leaving. “I told him it was a lousy firm, and I told him why it was a lousy firm,” Mr. Gardiner recalled in a 2005 oral history. “Instead of throwing me out on my ear, he said, ‘Why don’t you become my assistant?’ Maybe we can do something about it.’”

By 1958, Mr. Gardiner was managing partner of Reynolds as it opened offices across the U.S. and in Canada. Reynolds eventually merged with Dean Witter, which was strong on the West Coast, creating a national firm to rival Merrill Lynch.

The 1981 takeover offer from Sears was too generous to refuse, he said later. Sears soon promoted him to CEO of Dean Witter. Financial-services kiosks popped up in hundreds of stores. By the time Mr. Gardiner retired in 1986, however, the kiosks still weren’t producing much business for Dean Witter. The retailer abandoned its “socks and stocks” strategy in the early 1990s. Dean Witter ended up as part of Morgan Stanley.

Though investment kiosks in Sears stores didn’t work out, the idea of combining a securities firm, an insurer and a real-estate broker was sound, Mr. Gardiner said in the oral history. The best solution, he suggested, would have been to keep them together and spin off the Sears stores. One lasting business that emerged from the combination was the Discover credit card, which he helped launch.

In his later years, he served as an adviser to Morgan Stanley and had an office in the World Trade Center. He tended to show up early at the office and start his day by tipping his fedora to the receptionist. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was stuck in traffic near the Holland Tunnel, saving him from the terrorist attack.

Mr. Gardiner was a longtime trustee of the Boys’ Club of New York and endowed a school at a Boys’ Club summer camp. He also supported the Guggenheim Museum and the Trinity-Pawling School, among other causes.

Mr. Gardiner is survived by Elizabeth Walker Gardiner, whom he married in 1975. An earlier marriage ended in divorce. He is also survived by three of his four children and two grandchildren.

Friends recalled his relentless optimism. When the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 23% in one day in October 1987, he assured colleagues it would quickly rebound. In his early 80s, he was still hoping to improve his golf score. After he had a stroke on his 89th birthday, doctors didn’t expect him to walk again. “I disregarded their prognosis,” he said later in an interview with a Pawling school publication.

He regained mobility with help from a walker and enjoyed six more years of shuttling between homes in Gulf Stream, Fla., and Far Hills, N.J. “I like to be in New Jersey when the tulips are blooming,” he said. “I’m a big fan of tulips.”

by Priscilla Rall

WWII Thurmont Nurse Follows Troops: Part 3

We continue with the story of Army nurse Mary Catherine Willhide as she nursed wounded American soldiers after the Battle of the Bulge. While stationed in Malmedy in Germany, Mary endured the explosions from German bombs for months in late 1944.

She was on night duty on December 16, sitting near a stove as she wrote a letter home. A bomb hit so close that it knocked the pen out of her hand. This is how she found herself in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge.

According to Mary, “you couldn’t hear anything for the terrible explosions…one knocked out the corner of one of our buildings. About a dozen people were killed in Malmedy about a half-mile away.” On December 17 at breakfast, the colonel told the nurses that paratroopers had dropped between Malmedy and Eupen, 30 miles away. There was to be a counterattack, but no orders had been received so far.

Around noon, infantry troops began jumping out of trucks right at the hospital’s front gate! Mary could hear the fire of small arms in the direction of Malmedy. At three in the morning, a nurse tore into Mary’s room to tell her that there was fighting in the streets of Malmedy and there was to be an emergency nurses’ meeting.

For the next two days, the casualties were heavy and her hospital had nearly 300 patients. Then, Mary noticed a very unsettling activity. All the traffic was now in reverse, including the tanks!

The nurses’ meeting took all of three minutes! The hospital staff was ordered to pack, and Mary wisely dressed as warmly as she could. Fifteen minutes later, they got the word that they were to be evacuated, and the colonel asked for five volunteers to remain at the hospital. Apparently, there were no orders from headquarters, as there was another hospital in Malmedy and no nurses were left behind when they evacuated. The patients were being evacuated as far as possible in “trucks, ambulances, or anything we could get.”

As luck would have it, all nine of the trucks assigned to Mary’s hospital were still there. Forty nurses were placed in one truck. In the afternoon, the nurses from the field hospital at Waimes arrived with a harrowing tale to tell. They had just gotten out ahead of the Germans. Apparently, Mary’s headquarters had called the corps commander four times before they were given the order to evacuate. Mary wryly noted that if they had been told on the morning of the 17th, they would have had time to pack up all of the valuable hospital equipment. Unfortunately, they had to leave all of their medical equipment behind with seven enlisted men and one officer as guards. They worked through the night and had everything packed by 6:00 a.m. on the last truck, also carrying the last load of patients. According to a letter sent to her parents, Lt. Willhide was forced to move three times in one night during the worst of the Battle of the Bulge.

“Fortunately an engineer battalion held the Jerrys back after they had orders to retreat,” Mary wrote. An infantry division and an armored division had already started from above Aachen, but they didn’t arrive until Sunday afternoon and the rest the next day. It was too late. According to Mary, that was the trouble. If they took our troops out of the Aachen area, then the enemy could break through there. “In other words, we were biting off more than we could chew.”

Soon, the British moved into Aachen and the U.S. brought our troops south. According to Mary, “it was the airplanes that defeated the Germans who didn’t have enough support, and the Americans tore up their supply lines.”

A colonel from headquarters came and asked for three volunteers to come with him. Of course, Mary volunteered! She claims that the nurses weren’t too scared until the colonel asked them if the German strafed their jeep, could they make it to the gutter! “We said, brother, you won’t have to tell us more than once!”

He took them to Spa, Belgium, just 10 miles from Malmedy. They met the rest of the unit there. The main drive was towards Stavelot, Belgium, and then further south through St. Vith toward Bastogne. On Monday, December 18, we moved again to Hartze “where we had our closest call.” They stayed there just one night as the battle raged on only 10 miles east of them. Luckily, they moved out just two hours before the Germans took the place. “Thank God we were always just a jump ahead of them.” She realized just how fortunate they were when she saw the ragged and starving POWs from the concentration camps. On the 19th, they moved to Huij, Belgium, where they helped the 102 Evacuation Hospital, which was inundated with the wounded. “It was like Normandy all over again.”

Although Lt. Willhide doesn’t mention it in her letter, she received the Bronze Star with a citation for meritorious service on January 4, 1945. The citation reads “For meritorious service in connection with military operations as an anesthetist, 67th Evacuation Hospital, semimobile from 17 June 1944 to 27 November 1944 in France, Luxembourg and Belgium.”

Then, most of the hospital staff went on to Namur, where the Germans made their deepest penetration. Mary stayed there until January 7 and then went on to the 51st Field Hospital. From there, she went to Duren, which was in complete ruins. It took the men three days to clean it out. “There were dead Germans in the cellar and in the attic where they were housed.”

On March 25, Mary moved to Bonn, where she stayed at the Pathological Institute by the Rhine River. Next stop, Huborn, the next largest hospital since St. Mere Eglise. There, they cared for 30 Russians, all with head injuries. “If you ever saw a mess, that was it. No one spoke Russian, and they were afraid of us and wouldn’t stay on the operating room table, so I put them to sleep on the run!”

On May 4, they moved to Bayreuth, Bavaria, 280 miles by truck, taking 12 hours.

Mary went through Frankfort to Nuremberg, where she saw Hitler’s Stadium. Finally, the long-awaited V-E Day came. But there was still work for Mary. She moved to Marienbad, Czechoslovakia, a lovely resort town, where they set up yet another hospital on June 1. As time went on, Mary noticed that the Germans were less hostile towards the Americans. “Never have I seen a more bedraggled, dirty, sullen people than the German soldiers, who were all along the road. They were walking, riding in horse-drawn vehicles, trucks, and every imaginable mode of travel.” They had thrown the dice and lost.

Now Capt. Willhide, Mary Catherine finished out her tour of duty and then served in the Maryland State Department of Health. She died on February 15, 2001, at her home on Flanagan Road and is buried in Weller’s Cemetery in Thurmont.

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