James Rada, Jr.
Marines marched through Emmitsburg in 1922 on their way to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. They were fully outfitted in preparation for a historical reenactment and training maneuvers on the battlefield. The event turned tragic for two of the Marines when their plane crashed on the battlefield, killing both men on board.
On June 26, 2018, a memorial wayside, erected in Gettysburg to honor Marine Captain George W. Hamilton, a highly-decorated World War I Marine officer, and Gunnery Sergeant George R. Martin, was dedicated before a small crowd.
Marine Captain Hamilton, of World War I fame, survived the bloody Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918 (also known as the “Germans’ Gettysburg”), with honors, only to perish in a dive bomber crash on the Gettysburg Battlefield during Marine maneuvers held in 1922, along with Gunnery Sergeant Martin, a veteran of the Santo Domingo campaign.
On June 26, 1922, Captain Hamilton was piloting a de Havilland dive bomber over Gettysburg battlefield, with Martin, at the head of the column of 5,500 Marines arriving for training maneuvers and Civil War reenactments, when their airplane crashed while attempting to land on the Culp Farm, killing both aviators.
The deaths of the aviators were declared as line-of-duty deaths, resulting in their being the last such deaths to have occurred on the historic battlefield since the 1863 battle itself.
As part of the event, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has issued a proclamation declaring June 26, 2018, as Captain George W. Hamilton and Gunnery Sergeant George R. Martin Remembrance Day “in grateful recognition of their military service.”
Tammy Myers, president of the Gettysburg Heritage Center, said that the project to erect the memorial “was initiated and brought to us by our neighbors.” She said that the Heritage Center supported the project because it “tells a story beyond the typical Civil War story.”
The memorial is on property near the crash site and donated by the Gettysburg Heritage Center. The project began when Richard D. L. Fulton, co-author of The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg, happened to run into his neighbor, Ronald Frenette, who became the project manager of the memorial wayside. Both men live near the crash and talked about it. “Rick said we really should have a memorial for them, and the project was born,” said Frenette.
The memorial’s creation is the result of the efforts of Frenette, Fulton, Mike Tallent, Marine Corps League Gettysburg Battlefield Detachment #705, and the Gettysburg Heritage Center.
The memorial wayside is located at the corner of Culp Street and Johns Avenue, near the 1922 crash site.
Photo taken of Memorial Wayside near the 1922 crash site in Gettysburg, Courtesy of James Rada, Jr.