Over the past 100 years, Roger Atkins has been on quite the adventure!
Roger was born in the big city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 6, 1919. He recalled his first job, which was making nuts and bolts, followed by working at the Pittsburg Steel Mill.
Roger is a graduate from Purdue, with a degree in metellurgy. He also worked a summer as a lumber jack up north. A Veteran of the U.S. Army, he served in World War II. After his tour, he settled down for a career in government working for the U.S. Army, which included a tour in Vietnam, finally retiring in his mid-60s.
He has been a resident of his favorite little town, Detour, for 50 years. He has three children—two sons (Thomas and Kevin) and a daughter (Sheila), plus two grandchildren (Jason and Rebecca) and two great-grandchildren (Brady and Hudson). He enjoys getting his exercise at physical therapy, and spending time calling and speaking with his sweetheart of 35 years, Darleen.
Over the past 100 years, Roger Atkins has been on quite the adventure!
This Fourth of July weekend, millions of Americans will huddle around outdoor pits, ovens, and grills to slowly cook themselves meaty, patriotic dishes, slathered in sauce. Barbecue is about as red, white, and blue as American cuisine gets.
The history of grilling begins shortly after the domestication of fire, some 500,000 years ago. The backyard ritual of grilling as we know it, though, is much more recent. Until well into the 1940s, grilling mostly happened at campsites and picnics. After World War II, as the middle class began to move to the suburbs, backyard grilling caught on, becoming all the rage by the 1950s.
4 pounds bone-in country-style pork ribs
1 cup water
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Preheat oven to 325°. Place ribs in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, covered, 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is tender. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour 1 cup sauce over ribs; turn to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.
Drain and discard sauce from ribs. Grill ribs uncovered, over medium heat 10-12 minutes or until browned, basting with 1 cup sauce and turning occasionally.
Serve with remaining sauce. Yields 4 servings.
by Priscilla Rall
The 35 Missions of a Rocky Ridge Flyboy
World War II took Americans to places they had never dreamed of going. Most had never ventured far from their farming communities. One of these rural youths was Vernon Keilholtz.
Born in 1923 near Rocky Ridge, Vernon took the train to school in Emmitsburg for seven years until it went bankrupt after a major snow storm. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Maryland for one year before enlisting in the Army Air Corps in August 1942. After training in Florida, he qualified for mechanics’ school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in Michigan. Just before being sent to the Pacific, he was ordered to San Antonio for cadet training where he qualified as a pilot or co-pilot. In April 1943, he first soloed in a Fairchild 19A (manufactured in Hagerstown). Vernon then was transferred to Arkansas where he shared his barracks with the future entertainer George Goebbels.
At last, Vernon was assigned as the co-pilot of a B-17 along with nine other crew members. They were to stay together for the duration of their service. They left in May 1943 to fly to England from Nebraska, refueling in Gander, Newfoundland, and finally reaching Scotland. In England they were assigned to the 100th Bomb Group (the “Bloody Hundredth”) of the 8th Air Force, with the 351st Squadron stationed at Thorpe Abbott in southern England. Vernon’s first mission was shortly after D-Day on June 12 with Harvey Dickert as pilot. It was supposed to be a “milk run” looking for “targets of opportunity,” but their flight path took them over Dunkirk where the Germans had a plethora of anti-aircraft guns. One plane was hit, caught fire, and plunged into the English Channel. Miraculously, four airmen were rescued, but the rest perished. Vernon and his crew flew many missions to support our ground troops. On June 25, they were ordered to load up with cannisters filled with equipment for the French underground. They flew just 50 feet above the ground and their drop zone was illuminated by flares. They were so low that they could see the French women and children waving at them!
Their plane, the “Mason and Dixon” (named for the previous pilot and co-pilot, and not for the crew members who were from Gettysburg and Maryland) flew many missions to Berlin. They were part of what the military terms “maximum effort” as just one of over 1,000 planes flying from airfields all over Britain. The planes would enter Germany from Prussia where the marshy land precluded the placement of large gunnery batteries. Then they would turn south for their targets. Vernon made bombing runs over Nuremberg and Bremen where the enemy had military assembly plants and ball bearing factories.
The squadron’s most deadly mission was on September 11, 1944, when 36 planes successfully hit the industrial area of the Ruhr Valley but were ambushed by an estimated 100 enemy fighters who shot down 12 U.S. planes as there were no Allied fighters for protection. Once enemy flack hit an oxygen canister under the pilot’s seat. An explosion followed and filled the cockpit with dust and papers. Fortunately, that was the only damage and they continued home safely. The planes routinely flew at 26,000 feet with temperatures of -30 degrees. All of the crew had heated seats to take off the chill, but it was still a cold business. When they returned to their base, the crew would be treated to a shot of whiskey and a package of cigarettes.
Early in the war, the airmen only had to complete 25 missions to be sent home, but that increased to 30 and finally to 35. When Vernon reached that goal, he sailed home on the Queen Mary. She had a speed of 31 knots and zig-zagged to elude any German subs lurking in the depths. He was a happy man when finally reaching the New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty waiting to greet him. He was granted a 23-day leave, but after a quick visit home, he traveled to Detroit were his sweetheart, Bea Long, was stationed at a hospital. She had been a nurse cadet at FMH. On November 13, Bea and Vernon were married at a church in Mt. Pleasant. Vernon was later assigned as a flying instructor pilot, flying B-24s and B-26s. As his time was not yet up, he was sent to the Pacific, ending up in Tokyo. In Japan, he was placed in charge of the motor pool in Nagoya. Traveling throughout Japan, he saw the tremendous damage as a result of the fire-bombing and the two nuclear bombs. Finally, Captain Keilholtz flew home and was discharged on November 23, 1946. For his courage and service, he was awarded the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bea and Vernon raised their family in a lovely brick home east of Emmitsburg. They had a daughter and a son while Vernon became a cattle dealer, and few knew of his war time heroics. Sadly, Vernon passed away in April 2013, mourned by his family and many friends. Not only was Vernon a friend of mine, but he was the first veteran that I interviewed for the Frederick County Veterans History Project. A true representative of the Greatest Generation, his experiences in WWII deserve to be shared, especially by those who knew him.
If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by James Rada, Jr.
James E. Shankle
James Shankle of Woodsboro began life behind the eight ball, as they say. He was born in Frederick on November 21, 1925.
“My mother abandoned me on the streets of Frederick,” Shankle said. “I was found by a policeman and taken to the hospital.”
The police officer took the baby to Montevue, which served as the city’s hospital at the time. An advertisement was placed in the newspaper, seeking a foster family for James. Mildred Roddick answered the ad and took the child home to live with her and her husband in Montgomery County.
Shortly after, Mildred’s marriage broke up, and she moved back in with her parents who lived on MD 550, north of Woodsboro. James suddenly found himself with a larger family, as Mildred’s mother, Minnie Nichols, became his primary caregiver. She would be the woman that James would come to call his mother.
He lived happily as Minnie’s foster son until the Children’s Aid Society got involved in James’s life. The organization, which was established to take care of foster children and assist with adoptions, had other ideas for James.
“That wasn’t very good,” James said. “They farmed us out to work.”
At the age of eight, James was told he would have to get up each morning at 4:00 a.m. and walk to a nearby farm to milk the dairy cows. After, he would hurry home to eat breakfast and go to school.
When James was twelve years old, a fourteen-year-old boy named Bill showed up from Thurmont and told James, “I’m your brother.”
James also learned that he had three sisters, that not only had he never met but didn’t even know he had.
“Two weeks later, after meeting him (Bill), my sister got killed on a farm,” James said.
James’s siblings had also been farmed out to work, as he had been. His sister, Betty, who had been sixteen years old at the time, had been working as a cook on a farm in New Market. Part of getting the cook fire ready each morning was to add coal oil to the stove.
“She got up late one morning and picked up the wrong can,” James said.
Betty picked up a can of gasoline and added it to the fire. The resulting explosion burned the girl over 80 percent of her body, killing her.
It was only at her funeral that James first met his mother, Edith Shankle. He never did meet his other sisters, Alma and Gladys.
When James finished the seventh grade—all the schooling required by the State of Maryland at the time—he wanted to go to high school. The Children’s Aid Society didn’t want to allow this, but James persevered. Finally, he was told that he could attend Walkersville High School, but he had to “earn his way.” He began doing any and all jobs that would pay him, such as setting up pens and mowing. When he turned sixteen, he got a job at a bakery in Walkersville, where he worked after school until 11:00 p.m. each evening.
By the time he turned seventeen, the United States had been fighting in World War II for nearly a year. James tried to enlist in the Navy. Since he was underage, he was told that he would need a parent, not a foster parent or guardian, to sign his enlistment form.
So, James set out to find his father, Irving Shankle. During the search, James discovered that his father was “a drunk and a criminal.”
“I found him in a bar someplace on West Patrick Street,” James said.
He told his father what he needed. The man was a WWI Veteran, so he had no problem signing the enlistment form. James then bought his father a beer and left.
While James had been working to enlist, his brother Bill had been drafted into the Army.
“I saw him off at the train station on a Sunday, and I left by bus on Monday,” James said.
He reported to Bainbridge Naval Base at Port Deposit, Maryland, in 1943. The base was on the bluffs, overlooking the Susquehanna River. Originally a boys’ school, it had become a Navy training camp only months before James had enlisted. During WWII, 244,277 recruits trained at the camp in ordnance and gunnery, seamanship, firefighting, and military orders. When it was discovered that James had lifeguard training, he was given a job of training other sailors to swim.
During his basic training, he recalled once having to jump off a 70-foot-tall tower into a pool while wearing a life vest. Another training exercise was held in a repurposed theater. A large screen was set up, and planes were projected onto it flying in different directions. Recruits got behind a special .50-cal. gun connected to the screen. They were given 1,000 shots each, and they had to see how many times they could hit the planes.
“I scored 800 and something,” James recalled.
His accurate shooting earned him his first assignment. He was sent to North Carolina to patrol the coastline in a blimp, searching for enemy submarines. When he would sight a submarine off the coast, which “looked like a big cigar underwater,” he would notify the Coast Guard. James would track the submarine until a Coast Guard ship arrived to drop depth charges on the U-boat.
Once, a U-boat surfaced, and a small boat left filled with men. “They picked the guys up when they hit the beach, and we sunk the sub,” James said.
Landing a blimp was not easy. It involved a lot of men grabbing onto cables dropped from the gondola and pulling the blimp down to the ground. During one landing, a storm was approaching and brought with it high winds. The winds made it too difficult to land, and the order was given for the men to release the cables.
One serviceman got caught in the cables, and the wind lifted him and threw him across the landing field into high-tension lines. He was electrocuted.
The accident so scared James that he decided he needed to transfer someplace else. The amphibious force had been formed and was recruiting. James didn’t realize that it was a forerunner to the Navy Seals. He and his friend just wanted out of the blimp patrol.
“We jumped out of the frying pan into the fire,” he said.
He trained in Little Creek, Virginia. At the end of his advanced training, he left Boston Harbor on a landing ship tank (LST). It was a ship built for amphibious assaults because it could carry tanks, vehicles, and cargo. It had a large door on the bow that could be lowered and used as a ramp to unload or load whatever was aboard. It was not a fast ship, though, and James traveled across the Atlantic at 6 knots, which is just under 7 mph.
His ship took part in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. More than sixty years later, he still teared up as he told how his ship lost 110 men out of a crew of 180 to land on Omaha Beach.
Following that mission, he transferred to another LST that was tasked with delivering tanks to the French Riviera. His ship was one of three to be sent in to make a landing on the beach. The other two ships snagged on sandbars, but James’s ship not only hit the beach, when the ramp lowered, the tank was able to roll right out onto a road.
Germans, who were about 100 yards away, peppered the tank with small-weapons fire. The tank turned and went after them. A few minutes later, thirty-five Germans came back to the ship, running ahead of the tank with their hands over their heads.
James served on thirteen missions in Europe and the Mediterranean. They weren’t all troop movements. On one occasion, his ship had to deliver mules that were needed to take supplies over the Alps.
He was part of a mission to deliver supplies to a station in Italy, where PT boats were repaired. He only found out afterward that his ship was the fifth to attempt the mission, but he could believe it. U-boats torpedoed the other four ships. However, James’s captain had removed everything from the boat that he could so that it sat higher in the water.
James was manning a 20-mm. gun during the mission; he saw torpedoes glide toward the boat only to pass beneath it because it was sitting too high in the water for the torpedoes to hit.
They were also lucky because there was a dense fog that they could hide in so that U-boat periscopes couldn’t see the ship.
On his last mission in the Mediterranean, his ship was severely damaged. It was sent back across the Atlantic as part of a 300-ship convoy. His ship only had one working engine and screw, though, and it limped across the Atlantic at a snail’s pace, unable to keep up with the convoy.
They eventually made it to Norfolk Naval Base, only to be hit by a Liberty ship while they were at anchor. The crash damaged the ship’s magazine, and James and his fellow crewmates had to dump their munitions rather than chance fire setting off an explosion. Then the shipyard refused to repair the ship, telling the captain that the ship had to go to New Orleans for repairs.
James did get a thirty-day leave in New Orleans, and he returned home for a visit. When his leave ended, he was assigned to a different ship and sent through the Panama Canal to San Diego, California.
From there, his ship began traveling to various ports: Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Russia, Alaska, and Iwo Jima.
He took part in one of the later landings to wrest control of the island from the Japanese. He could see the pillboxes where the Japanese holed up and fired on the Marines.
“I don’t think they would have taken that island if it wasn’t for flamethrowers,” James said. The flames could penetrate where bullets couldn’t and forced the Japanese into the open, or they died in the pillboxes.
One night, the Japanese launched an air raid. Five planes tried to sink James’s ship. Four were shot down, but the fifth did a lot of damage. That attack also injured James, who was manning a 20-mm gun. The concussive force of an explosion threw him face first into a bulkhead. He had broken ribs and shoulders, but he also needed to have his nose rebuilt. Unfortunately, the ship’s doctor didn’t have any anesthetic. James had to endure the 15-minute procedure in excruciating pain, being held down by other sailors.
After Iwo Jima, his ship was sent to Saipan to prepare for the expected invasion of Japan. It was a scary time. James could tell by the training exercises, “When we hit the beach, we were probably never getting off.”
However, on August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. When word reached the sailors at Saipan, “You could have heard a pin drop,” James said. “All day long, nobody was talking.”
After the war, he went back to work in Woodsboro, learning to be a Mason, but it didn’t interest him. He used the G.I. Bill to attend York Technical Institute and study electronics. However, he couldn’t find work in his field at first and had to take a job at a sawmill.
He married June Bostian in 1951, and they were together for fifty-six years.
James eventually found work at Fort Detrick as an engineer and worked there for more than thirty years until he retired in 1987.
James died at age 83 on June 24, 2009. He is buried in Rocky Hill Cemetery.
Note: This spotlight is based on an oral history collected by members of the Frederick County Veterans History Project. The group is interested in interviewing any local Veteran for inclusion in the Library of Congress Veteran History Project. If you would like to volunteer to help or know a Veteran who could be interviewed, contract Priscilla Rall at email@example.com or 301-271-2868.
James Shankle, 1943
James Shankle, 2006
James Rada, Jr.
Harry English put his life on the line just to join the U.S. Army, and because he did, many other men survived World War II.
English, a Hagerstown native, liked to spend his summers by himself on a small island in the Potomac River.
“All I had was a knife, a hatchet, and a .22,” he said. He would take some produce from a nearby farmer’s farm, with the farmer’s permission, and he would fish.
When war broke out, English knew it was his patriotic duty to join the military. He and a friend rode with English’s father to Baltimore when English was only eighteen.
English went to enlist in the Merchant Marines. During the physical, the doctor had him jump up and down. Then the doctor listened to his heart.
“He told me to lay down and lay still until my father came,” English said. “He said I had a bad heart and excitement would kill me.”
He thought that was a bunch of bunk and tried enlisting in the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard. They all turned him down because he supposedly had a bad heart.
With no other choice, English returned to school only to receive a draft notice in April 1944. He reported to Camp Meade, thinking that he would just be sent home. Instead, he became a soldier.
“They never said a word about my problem,” said English.
He went through sixteen weeks of infiltration training in South Carolina, and was then sent to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin. A doctor at the camp discovered English’s supposed heart condition and wanted to give him a discharge. “I told him, ‘The Army trained me, and the government spent a lot of money on me. My unit needs me. What difference does it make whether I die here or over there?’”
His argument was convincing, and he was sent to fight in Europe.
For the next two years, he traveled with Gen. George Patton’s Army and fought the Germans in the Battle of Bulge, as well as other battles. He drove Jeeps and cooked for his unit. He chauffeured the soldiers who were tasked with setting up the telephone communications.
During one battle, English volunteered to go into enemy territory with a chaplain to pick up wounded prisoners, no matter which side they fought on. He didn’t see it as doing anything special, but the chaplain put in for him to receive a medal for his actions.
He never received it because his unit moved around so much. He didn’t even realize he had been recommended for commendation.
He said his scariest moment in the war was when he realized that someone was shooting at him with a 20-mm gun. One shell flattened the spare tire on his Jeep, and shrapnel raked across his knuckles.
“I just kept thinking, ‘Man, that was close,’” recalled English.
By the time the American crossed the Rhine River in Germany, it was obvious the war was over, although there was no official word. German soldiers were laying down their weapons and surrendering.
Even after the war had ended, English stayed on to the help with the Nuremberg Trials. He drove vehicles for officers and lawyers. He heard parts of the trials that were broadcasted, and he saw Hermann Goering being led in for his trial.
Throughout the war, his heart never gave him any trouble.
Once he came home, English went on with his life. He married and worked thirty-seven years on the railroad. After his retirement, he and his wife moved to Florida, but later returned because they wanted to be able to watch their grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up. English now lives in Sabillasville with his granddaughter Ann Seiss and her family.
Having earned it seventy-four years earlier, he finally received his Bronze Star Medal in July 2018 during a special ceremony at the Thurmont AMVETS. Maryland U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin pinned the medal on English’s sports coat.
It was a long overdue honor for the ninety-two-year-old Veteran, and one that he was able to share with his family and fellow Veterans.
Harry English is shown with his Bronze Star Medal in July.
Harry is pictured with his Jeep during WWII.
The Reason I Write About Veterans and Why They Mean So Much to Me
This month’s column was originally featured in the February 2013 issue of The Catoctin Banner.
The picture to the right is me at a young age, posing with my grandfather, Harry Wantz, who is making sure the rifle and I’m holding didn’t fall over. This picture was taken in 1945, while World War II was still being fought. My father, James A. Houck Sr., was somewhere in Germany, serving our country. I hadn’t met him yet, because he was deployed before I was born. I was three years old when I finally got to meet Dad. My mother, her siblings (there were thirteen of them), and her parents told me about Dad and showed me pictures of him. I was told that when he stepped off of the train, I recognized him and ran straight to him.
When I was about three-and-a-half years old, my grandfather Wantz went for a walk in the woods behind his house—as he often did—and sat down on a rock and passed away. This was very hard on me, as he was like a father to me the first three years of my life. He was the one who gave me horsey rides and got down on the floor and played with me, and now he would no longer be in my life. Granddaddy was a railroad mechanic for the railroad that ran through Emmitsburg. Now Granddaddy was gone, and my grandmother Annie (I called her Nanny) was left to raise my aunts and uncles alone. Her son (my uncle), John Joseph Wantz, was in the army, and since he was the oldest, he felt it was his job to now help Nanny raise the family. He asked for a hardship discharge and received one, and he came home to help support his mother and the family. He did a great job of helping the family survive, and the rest of the siblings and their spouses pitched in and helped where they could.
The Korean War broke out around 1951, and two of my uncles—David Bernard Wantz and James Edward Wantz—were old enough and were drafted into the Army to fight in the Korean War. I can still remember my uncle Ed—he was the baby of the family and twelve years older than me—inviting Mom, Dad, Nanny, and me to Fort Indiantown Gap, where he was taking basic training, to watch him graduate. While we were there, he took me to the firing range and let me shoot a rifle. He then treated us to a movie at their post movie theater. That visit made quite an impression on me, and I thought that when I was old enough, I was going to join the army. I had quite a few uncles on my grandmother’s side of the family (Eylers) that gave service to their country in the armed services, and I would enjoy listening to their experiences while serving. I was full of questions; some would provide me with answers, and some did not want to talk about it, and I respected that also. The men on the Houck, Blessing, Grabel, and Frounfelter sides served in the armed services, too. I had plenty of family members to keep me excited about serving our country. I wanted a good education, so I stayed in school until I graduated. I was going to enlist after graduation, but the draft was still in and they called me. So instead of enlisting, I accepted the draft. The day came for my physical exam, and I was on a bus to Fort Hollabird. That day, I came back with probably the biggest disappointment of my life. I was classified 1-Y (in case of emergency only). I asked why, and they said due to high blood pressure. I waited a few months and then tried to enlist, because I was told that even though I was turned down by the draft physical, if I enlisted, they would take me. Well, they didn’t, and that was another great disappointment to me. My brother, Robert Dennis Houck, was drafted into the Army about four or five years later, and served. I have nephews, great nephews, and even a granddaughter who served, or are serving, our country in the military. I now serve the best way I know how: by honoring our military Veterans in print, and by having the privilege of interviewing our armed service heroes and informing our community about their lives. I belong to several Veteran organizations (Sons of AMVETS, Sons of the American Legion, and VFW Auxiliary), and participate in every function for honoring Veterans that I am able to attend. Folks, I hope you enjoy the articles I write about Veterans, as much as I enjoy writing them. I plan to write Veteran stories until I am too senile to control my thoughts (I have been told by a few that I’m already there). I have received a lot of positive feedback about my column, and I appreciate it. So, if you should have any comments (pro or con), send them to The Catoctin Banner, and they will see that I receive them.
God Bless America, God Bless the American Veteran, and God Bless You.
by James Rada, Jr.
1965 — Training the Unemployed from the Catoctin Mountaintop
Catoctin Mountain can boast a lot of interesting history from Camp David to the Blue Blazes Still raid. From an Office of Strategic Services training camp during World War II to Camp Misty Mount for children.
“Also on the Government side is the ‘mother’ camp of President Johnson’s Poverty Program,” the Frederick Post reported in 1965.
President Johnson had been the Texas director of the National Youth Administration. It was a New Deal program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, similar in objective to the Job Corps. Johnson convinced Congress it could work again, according to Barbara Kirkconnell in Catoctin Mountain Park, An Administrative History.
The camp, called Camp Round Meadow, opened in January 1965 and served as the place to train people who would be sent out across the country to depressed areas to open and operate other similar camps.
At the camp, 75 people were hired and trained on how to run a poverty training camp. “While these people are being instructed, some 20 persons accepted as trainees by the new program, will be working in the area,” Kirkconnell wrote.
Consideration of using the park for such a site began in May 1964. Federal government officials visited the park and inspected possible sites for the camp. Within a month, the government began converting the 60-acre Central Garage Unit Area in the country’s first Job Corps Center, according to Kirkconnell.
Besides building the camp, officials met with residents of Thurmont, Hagerstown, and other communities where the camp attendees might spend their off hours. They wanted to make sure that there would be a good relationship between the camp and towns.
“Thurmont merchants were wooed by an expected $200,000 in revenue from supplies, equipment and food sold to the camp for the program,” Kirkconnell wrote.
Camp officials spoke at civic meetings and invited officials and organizations out to tour the camp.
“On January 15, 1965, 85 young men between the ages of 16 and 21 arrived at Catoctin MP to inaugurate the job Corps Program at a site ‘largely unimproved’ since the CCC left in 1941,” Kirkconnell wrote.
The Jobs Corps Center was dedicated on February 27.
The center got off to a rocky start, with staffing problems and too many visiting dignitaries, not only from the federal government but also foreign governments, such as Japan, Canada, British Guinea, England, Israel, the Philippines, and the Ivory Coast.
“Continual recruitment brought a total of 157 recruits into the program but 57 left before the end of June. The bleak winter contributed to homesickness; stark conditions of the camp without indoor recreation facilities and high expectations added to the general ‘depressive atmosphere,’” Kirkconnell wrote.
Camp Director C. A. Maxey blamed the high drop-out rate on the recruits who had “temperamental and emotional problems in boys who had known little but failure,” according to a Baltimore Sun article.
The boys had been recruited from families earning less than $3,000 a year (around $23,000 today) and had an average of a ninth grade education. At the camp, they earned $32 a month plus $50, which was put in a bank account for them. “If they made a family allotment of $25 from the $50, the government matched it with another $25,” Kirkconnell wrote.
The program included a half day of work and a half day of education in the winter. The work time increased and the education time decreased as the weather warmed up. The work consisted of park projects, such as building trails, picnic tables, and needed buildings. They also did work improving the Gettysburg Battlefield.
As they mastered basic skills, they were given more-complex work.
“A sign construction program teaching printing, mechanical drawing, hand routing, measurement skills, painting, and organizational skills produced 225 signs for Catoctin, Greenbelt, Cunningham Falls State Park and Antietam Parks in Fiscal Year 1965-1966,” Kirkconnell wrote.
They also performed work in the surrounding community, such as building a ball field and picnic pavilions for Thurmont parks.
By 1966, things were running far more smoothly. By the end of eighteen months of operation, 439 men had been recruited to the camp. And 102 had transferred out, 165 had resigned, 24 graduated, 16 went back to school or jobs, leaving 111 Corpsmen in camp at the end of June 1966, according to Kirkconnell.
By that time, it became an election year issue. Congress criticized the program and cut funding. Discipline was a problem and so were community relations.
The Job Corps Center finally closed in May 1969.
James Rada, Jr.
It is estimated that more than 1,100 World War II Veterans die each day. The United States and Frederick County is quickly losing its “greatest generation.”
The Frederick County Veterans History Project is working to make sure those important histories are not lost. Working with the Library of Congress, these county volunteers have set out to record interviews on DVD with every Veteran they can find in the county. Their primary focus is WWII Veterans, but they are also interviewing any Veteran who is willing to share his or her story.
“We interview any Veteran,” said Priscilla Rall, director of the Frederick County Veterans History Project. “It doesn’t matter whether they were stateside, in the Cold War, anywhere.”
The group of volunteers was founded in April 2003 and, at this time, has interviewed more than three hundred twenty-five of Frederick County’s Veterans. Members currently meet bi-monthly in Rall’s Rocky Ridge home.
While there are committees with other organizations, such as the DAR, that also conduct interviews, Rall said, “To my knowledge, we are the only organization formed in the country just to do Veterans History Project interviews.”
The National Veterans History Project was formed in 2000 as part of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. The goal of the project is to collect, preserve, and make accessible as many personal accounts from Veterans as possible so that their first-hand knowledge is available to future generations.
Rall, who has conducted more than one hundred interviews, said that her most-interesting interview was when she sat down with Howard Baugh, who flew one hundred thirty-five missions with the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military pilots in the armed forces.
“The white corps had a limit on the number of missions they would fly before they went home,” Rall said. “The Tuskegee Airmen didn’t have a limit and so they flew a lot of missions.”
Rall said that she was also very impressed with the Veterans who fought in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
The Frederick County group is always looking for the names of Veterans who are willing to share their stories. A volunteer will schedule a time to sit down with the Veteran and record the interview on a DVD. Copies of the interview are then sent to the Library of Congress’ Veteran History Project, the Maryland Room in the C. Burr Artz Library, and to the Veteran who granted the interview. A copy is also kept with the group.
“These Veterans have opened their hearts to us, usually painfully,” Rall said. “We should continue to give them our thanks and gratitude.”
The Frederick County Veterans History Project is always seeking volunteers to help conduct interviews, as well as the names of Veterans who would be willing to share their stories.
To help out, call Rall at 301-271-2868 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
James Rada, Jr.
As an eighty-five-year-old man, it wouldn’t seem that Mark Strauss would be able to relate to modern teenagers. However, when he recently sat down before a group of students at Catoctin High School, Strauss didn’t tell them about his adulthood. He took them all the way back to 1941, when he was just a boy of eleven, living in Lvov, Poland.
“I was hunted to be killed, and almost my entire family and community were,” said Strauss.
He lived in a small three-room apartment with his parents and grandparents. When World War II started, his town came under control of the Soviet Union; however, in 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and took control of Poland.
Strauss watched the German army roll into his town in their tanks and troop transports. The soldiers were all in high spirits, which shouldn’t be surprising since they were winning the war.
Yet, the next day, problems began. Strauss was walking on the street when he saw a mob of people attack a man and beat him to death.
“Two thousand people, mostly men, were killed in the next couple days,” recalled Strauss. “My uncle went for a walk on the street and never came back. Temples were torched, sometimes with people inside.”
These people were Jews, who made up about one-fifth of the town’s population. The Jewish community lived in fear as soldiers began going door to door, looking for Jewish citizens. Even if a Jewish family lied and said that they weren’t Jewish, there was always the possibility a neighbor would turn them in.
Jews were taken from their homes to be interrogated or simply shot on the street. Others were loaded into a truck and taken to a mass grave outside of the town, where they were shot.
“In one year’s time, almost all the Jews in my town had been murdered,” Strauss said. “My family—thirty to forty people—were killed, except for me and my parents.”
Strauss would hide himself from people to avoid the Nazis on the streets. His grandparents weren’t so lucky. He saw them being taken away, presumably to be killed, since he never saw them again.
Eventually Strauss’s luck ran out when a group of soldiers and local police broke into his family’s apartment. Strauss was there with his mother. His father was working at his job. The local policemen ransacked the apartment, looking for money.
“I was scared, because I knew I was going to die,” Strauss said.
Strauss and his mother probably would have been killed if one of the soldiers hadn’t found a picture of Strauss’s father in his Polish army uniform. The sight of the soldier in the picture changed the man’s mind about what he was doing, and he ordered his men to leave.
The remaining Jews in Lvov were eventually forced into a Jewish ghetto, an area of the city that was far too small a space, even for the few remaining Jews. Strauss and his parents had to share a room with twenty people. There was no greenery, no place to go to the bathroom, and little food and water.
A Catholic woman eventually wound up hiding Strauss in a 10 x 12 room for a year and a half.
“I was in jail, but a jail where you fear you could be executed every day and not just wait out your time,” said Strauss.
A jail it may have been, but it allowed him to survive, as the few remaining Jews in Lvov were killed or died from starvation. He still had little food, but at least he had a certain degree of safety. Strauss said he appreciated the family’s bravery in hiding him since he knew that they could have been killed for hiding him.
Strauss and the other Jews in Lvov were liberated by the Soviet Army in 1944. He moved to New York in 1947. He worked at MIT and became a painter and author. He also shares his story with groups like the students at Catoctin High School so that they can better understand what it was like during the Holocaust, and that something like that never happens again.
Holocaust Survivor, Mark Strauss, speaks with students at Catoctin High School about his personal experience and what it was like at that time in history.
Photo by James Rada, Jr.
by Jim Houck, Jr.
PRIVATE JOSEPH CONROY JOY
Born in 1927, at home in Emmitsburg to Gertrude and Hubert Joy, was a baby boy they named Joseph (Joe). Joe was one of eleven children: Bobby, Johnny, Kenny, Donald, Mike, Gloria, Patrick, Delores, Jerry, and Rosemary (passed away at three days old). Joe went to school at Saint Euphemia’s in Emmitsburg; he quit school at the age of fifteen and moved to Baltimore, Maryland. He went to work as a painter’s helper at S&A Williams, a painting contractor. He worked for them for about five years, when he decided to go work for his father, who went into business for himself. Joe liked to hunt and would make trips to Emmitsburg, where he would hunt rabbits, pheasants, and squirrel. He said he was not much of a deer hunter and has never killed one. He said he remembers his first automobile was a 1950 Pontiac. He stated that he doesn’t know how many cars he has had, but he’s still driving the one he bought in 1992, and at his present age of eighty-eight, he plans on driving as long as he is able.
Joe was drafted for the army in 1951 at the age of twenty-four. He was sent to Fort Ord Army Base in California within a couple of days after reporting to Camp Meade. He said it was a long ride, and refers to it as a slow boat to China. He was sent to Camp Cook, a couple hundred miles down the road, after his basic training at Fort Ord and spent an entire year in California. He then received orders that he was being shipped overseas from fort Monmouth, New Jersey. He was in New Jersey for three or four days before being put on a ship to Bremerhaven, Germany. Joe said he was asked where he would like to go in Germany, and he said Berlin because his brother was stationed there. They then explained to Joe that they don’t just send someone where they want to go, but just thought they would ask. Then they further explained that they were already planning to send some men to Berlin, so Joe was sent there. He was sent to Berlin for a year; in 1953, his time was up.
Joe was a tower guard for a month at Spandau Prison, where World War II war criminals, Albert Speer, Erich Raeder, Karl Donitz, and Rudolf Hess, were held. While in the tower, He said he saw the prisoners walking around in the yard when they were exercising, but they had German speaking guards that were inside with them. There were seven towers where they watched to prevent escapes from happening. Joe said they had spotlights at night that kept the walls and grounds lit up so they could see all movement. They also did a roving patrol to check the wall; Joe said he did not like that duty. Even though there was no war on, there was always the chance of being mistaken for a prisoner and being shot. Joe was fortunate enough to see his brother (Kenny) while in Berlin, and was very glad they found each other four thousand miles from home.
The prison was torn down in 1987, after the last prisoner, Rudolf Hess, died, so as not to become a shrine for Neo-Nazi’s. It was later rebuilt as a shopping center.
Joe came back to Baltimore after being honorably discharged from the army, and he went back to work painting for his father.
Joe met Betty Ruth Luster, who lived across the street from where he was residing in Baltimore, and they later were married. Betty and Joe had three children: two girls and one boy—Karen, Kathy, and Steve. They raised their family in southwest Baltimore, close to St. Agnes Hospital. Betty passed away at the age of seventy-three from cancer while they were living in a basement apartment at their daughter’s house. Their daughter was a nurse and was helping to take care of Betty. Joe’s daughter was murdered by a male friend of hers, and Betty died about three months later. The house was sold, and Joe went to live with his son, Steve, for three months; Steve’s house wasn’t large enough to accommodate everyone. Joe has resided (for the past six years) in that area at an apartment complex run by Catholic charities, called DePaul House.
When Joe was young, he was an amateur boxer, with the nickname of “Canvas Kid.” He said he had ten fights and won half of them boxing at the YMCA. He played for the town baseball team of Emmitsburg. But the sport that he was really good at and stuck with was duckpin bowling. Joe bowled on a bowling league for eighteen years, and carried a high average for duckpin bowling. He said he taught his son, Steve, to bowl duckpins, and Steve carried a higher average than Joe. Joe said he bowled for over forty years all together, including ten years for the American Legion in Baltimore.
I received a phone call from Gloria Joy Bauerline one evening telling me her brother Joe was going to be in town for the VFW meeting, being held at Kump’s Dam Park (owned by VFW Post 6658 ). She asked me if I would like to talk to him and interview him. I did not hesitate, and told her I would be honored to both talk to and interview him.
I am so glad that Gloria called me. I found him to be a very interesting man, and I enjoyed every minute of my interview with him. Thank you, Gloria, and thank you, Joe. I am so proud to have met you.
God Bless the United States of America, God Bless the United States Veteran, and God Bless You.
This article includes excerpts from Karen Gardner’s article in a 1991 Frederick Post titled The History Behind the Doughboy and Joan Bittner Fry’s research in her compilation of local history titled, Did You Know? published in 2013.
A doughboy is the popular name for a World War I foot soldier. A statue commemorating the doughboy and called the Doughboy is located on West Main Street in Emmitsburg. One can’t help but feel pride and sorrow when noticing a statue that commemorates sacrifices in war. Emmitsburg’s Doughboy was created by E. M. Viquesney, a French sculptor who lived in Spencer, Indiana, to honor Veterans and casualties of World War I. Visquesney was, perhaps, the most popular Doughboy designer. It is interesting to know that not only are there other Doughboy statues around the nation, but that Emmitsburg’s Doughboy statue has an identical twin.
In her book, Did You Know?, Joan Bittner Fry said, “…supposedly, there are seven Doughboys in Maryland. They are made of copper, bronze, granite, or marble. Emmitsburg’s Doughboy statue’s twin is located in Crisfield, Maryland. Other Doughboys in Maryland are located in Funkstown, Elkton, and Williamsport. After research, Joan could only account for five.
In her article, The History Behind the Doughboy that was published in the Frederick Post in 1991, Karen Gardner references the late T. Perry Wesley of Spencer, Indiana who set out to remind people of the importance of these doughboy statues and located 110 of them around the nation but also indicated that he believed that several hundred actually exist.
Joseph Boys, who published an article about the Emmitsburg Doughboy statue in 1981, said, ‘There’s one in practically every small town.’ The statue stands on the lawn of the Emmit House, once a hotel that frequently hosted Maryland governors, but is now an apartment house. It was erected in 1927. The Emmitsburg monument was in its heyday before World War II. Since then, other monuments at the town’s American Legion have gotten considerably more attention, Mr. Boyle said.
Emmitsburg’s Doughboy is walking between tree stumps, left boot firmly on the ground, right toe touching the ground, and the rest of the boot upraised in a marching pose. The right arm is raised, holding a hand grenade, and the left hand clutches a rifle with bayonet pointed horizontally.
Other doughboy statues are missing the tree stumps, and often have the right foot in the air, held aloft by a bar.
For more information, Joan Bittner Fry’s books of local and regional history are available by calling her at 301-241-3295 or emailing email@example.com.
An Honor Roll at the Emmitsburg Doughboy, * indicates killed in action:
Adelsberter, Joseph Dwen, Althoff, C. Raymond, Alvey, James McSherry, Annan, Louis L., Annan, Samuel McNair, *Bentzel, Arthur H., Barrick, Moffis, Baumgardner, Raymond, Baumgardner, Clarence, Beatty, Albert, Bishop, James Lloyd, Bowling, J. William, Brown, D. Irwin, Brown, Ward, Butler, Charles E., Byard, James A., Byard, Sidney C., Byers, Harry Bryan, Cadle, W. R., Click, Earl Norman, Cool, John, Coombs, C.C., Coyle, Edward J., Damuth, Lester, L., Coyle, Edward J., Damuth, Lester L., Dodd, Rev. Francis J., Duffy, William H., Eckenrode, Henry B., Jr., Eichelberger, Charles D., *Elder, Francis X., Eyler, Cleo M., Eyler, Roy, Felix, Joseph Webb, Ferguson, Russell David, Fitez, Robert Glenn, Florence, George, Florence, Vincent, Fox, Leslie, Frailey, Clarence G., Frailey, Thomas J., Frailey, William A., Galt, Sterling, Jr., Gelwicks, Albert, *Gelwicks, Charles, F., Gelwicks, Lillian, Gelwicks, Roy, Gelwicks, William R., Gillelan, Charles D., Gillelan, Rhoda H., Glacken, Joseph J., Glonneger, John R., Gruber, Charles, Hahn, Charles A., *Hahn , Martin Luther, Harbaugh, Charles E., Harbaugh, Charles L., Hartdagen, LeRoy, Harting, John Mark, Hays, James T., Hobbs, John, Hoke, Clarence, Houser, Jacob W., Kelley, Luther, Kerrigan, J. Ware, Kerrigan, Robert V., Knight, Harry, Kreitz, Allen A., Kreitz, John C., Kreitz, Joseph W., Kugler, Martin L., Kump, Charles Wm., Liday, Edgar R., Malloy Arthur, Marshall, Thomas, Martin, Maurice C., McCullough, Richard, McNair, Charles A., Miller, William, Moser, Allen E., Moser, Maurice H., Moser, Roy Jacob, Myers, Clarence, O’Donoghue, D. Allen, O’Donoghue, John A., O’Donoghue, Sidney E., Ohler, Charles F. Ohler, Glenn E., *Ohler, Vernon Ross, Ott, George L., Pittinger, Harvey, *Reifsnider, Robert B., Rauth, Carl M., Rauth, John W., Rosensteel, Allen C., Rosensteel, John H., Rowe, Charles J., *Rowe, Francis Edward, Ryder, Gerald N., *Schley, Reading J., Sanders, J. Basil, Saylor, Roy W., Schildt, Elvin R., Sebold, Felix B., Saffer, J. Albert, Sellers, Charles E., Sellers, Robert R., Seltzer, Earnest T., Seltzer, James E., Sharrer, Charles L., Sherff, William C., Shuff, Joseph, Staker, Arthur, Sterbinsky, William, Stinson, O.H., Stokes, Arthur M., Stokes, Charles K., Stokes, George H., Stone, David E., Stoner, Louis H., Topper, Benjamin M., Topper, Francis S., Topper, Joseph M., Troxell, Charles, Turner, Joseph M., Valentine, Harry E., Valentine, Robert, Wagerman, George, Walter, John W., Warthen, Henry W., Weant, Frank W., Wetzel, John S.
Emmitsburg Doughboy Statue Postcard
Elkton, MD Doughboy Statue Postcard
Funkstown, MD Doughboy Statue
Donald Lewis stood crammed among a group of friends and fellow soldiers, trying not to lose his balance. The landing craft they were on was pushing toward its destination on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France. A strong current threatened to pull them away from their destination.
Lewis was a long way from his hometown of Thurmont, but he, along with millions of other young men, had been drafted to serve in the armed forces during World War II. Though he had entered the army as a private, he had risen to the rank of staff sergeant.
Lewis stood at the front of the landing craft hanging onto the edge of the wall. Around him, he could hear the explosion of artillery and see the explosions on the water and beach. Things seemed a mass of confusion, but it was all part of the largest seaborne invasion ever undertaken: the coordinated D-Day attack on German forces at Normandy, France. The invasion involved 156,000 Allied troops. Amphibious landings along fifty miles of the Normandy Coast were supported by naval and air assaults.
Lewis’ job in the invasion seemed simple. He was to go ashore first and mark safe paths across the irrigation ditches that crossed the beach.
However, the landing craft couldn’t make it to the beach. It grounded on a sandbar.
Lewis and the other men were still expected to take the beach, though. The front ramp of the landing craft was lowered and Lewis ran into the water. He suddenly found himself in water over his head, weighed down by a heavy backpack.
“I just had to hold my breath and walk part of the way underwater until my head was above water,” Lewis said. Though amazingly he was not wounded during that invasion, he was later wounded in the leg during an artillery barrage. His wound was near his groin, barely missing his groin. Lewis remembers laying in a hospital in England waiting to be taken into surgery.
“A big, ol’ English nurse comes walking up and she pulls back the sheet and looks at the wound,” recalls Lewis. “Then she says to me, ‘Almost got your pride and joy, didn’t they?’”
Another time, Lewis barely escaped being killed. He and other soldiers were up in trees along a road, waiting to ambush the Germans. However, the Germans were being careful that day.
“A sniper must have spotted me up there,” Lewis said. “I knew he hit my helmet. I started down that tree as fast as I could, grabbing limbs and dropping.”
When he got to the ground, he took off his helmet and saw that there was a hole through the front of it and a matching one through the back of it. Only the fact that his helmet had been sitting high on his head saved his life.
“People wondered why I didn’t bring the helmet home as a souvenir, but I didn’t want anything to do with it,” said Lewis.
Perhaps his most-pleasant memory from the war was when he was discharged from the Army. He was in line with other soldiers being discharged after the end of the war. The soldier at the front of the line would walk up to the officer at the front of the room, receive his discharge papers, salute, and walk away.
“When I got my papers, I let out a war whoop and woke that place up,” Lewis said.
Once back in Thurmont, Lewis went to work on the family farm. He met his wife, Freda, who was a farm girl, also from Thurmont, and they married in a double ceremony with a couple they were friends with.
Lewis also had a political career. He served two terms as Mayor of Thurmont and one term as a Frederick County Commissioner. He said a group of people tried to talk him into running for governor, but he turned them down, saying, “I’m too honest for that.”
Lewis and his wife ran a sporting goods store and greeting card store on the Thurmont square for many years. He is now ninety-six years old and still living on his own. “I want to live to be one hundred,” he said. “After that, I’ll take what I can get.”
Veterans Day is on November 11. Make sure to thank any Veterans you know for their service, and attend one of the special Veterans Day activities going on in the area.
The Germans started firing on the beach and the landing craft. Lewis focused on his job and began marking the paths where troops could cross.
“When I looked back, men were laying everywhere,” Lewis said. “Just about everyone on the boat was dead.”
After the war, when he was invited back to Normandy for the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Lewis always turned down the invitations. Now ninety-six years old, he has never returned to Omaha Beach.
“I’ve seen all I wanted to,” he said.
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