Friday, August 15, 2014

Pictured above are four Pennsylvanians.  Members of a 4th Marine division Tank Battalion on Iwo Jima, Two of them are Schuylkill County Boys.

As you can see the Sherman Tank is named “ASHLAND”. The tank crew consists of:  Upper left too right, Marine CPRL, Joe Vegso, Phoenixville, Joe Czach, Chester; Lower left and right, Marine Cpl. John Hozella, Pottsville RD2, Jonestown, and Marine Sgt.  And Tank Commander William J. Kellagher, Ashland, Pa.. The tank is named after Kellagher’s home town. Ashland.

Hozell is known to many as “Monk” he has been in the Marines for several years. Sgt.  Kellagher was a former Ashland H.S. and Fordham University football athlete. He has been in action in a number of battles  in the pacific area.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Miners Journal, Pottsville, Pennsylvania June 1863.

The Dying Soldier


A soldier’s life is not all made up monotonous military duty, and fatigue work, and shrewd pranks. There are frequent occasions where the better are roused, the greatest and most abandoned show that the lessons of you in their hearts, and have not been faced by years of neglect, and carelessness and perhaps the dissipation. A short time since I visited a camp searching for the officer I was in quest of, past the hospital of the Regiment and my attention was attracted by a group of solemn looking soldiers near by and the sound of low voices within. The chaplain beckoned to me and I entered. Stretched on a couch was a dying man, his eyes lit up with the unnatural brilliancy which in cases like his indicate the approach of death: he breathed in low gasps one arm was by his side, skinny fingers extended, but too weak to hold a letter, perhaps from his mother, which lay behind in the other hand in the class of a beloved comrade knelt by his side’s bronzed cheeks occasionally moisten right tears which he could not repress.


Another fellow soldier rough in appearance, But tender as a girl in his attention to his dying friend, occasionally moisten the lips of the sufferer. The Sgt. had just made his final visit, seeing the futility of any further attempts to stay the hand of death in his last directions, and gone out tearless perhaps, but with sympathy in his face. The chaplain sat in a chair where the dying one could look in his face the prostrate soldier, after a severe effort, gave the attendance to understand that he wished his head to be raised this was done, and a spoonful of stimulant administered he then, much difficulty, whispered a few broken words to those about him . “John” said he, “you’ve been very kind the good don’t get wild, always keep, the ring right to mother and Clara, don’t forget what I told you, God bless you.” Then he seemed utterly exhausted, but rallied again, after another notion were to have been administered and addressed his other comrade, “you’ve been good to me wish I had something better to give you the good. Many must die perhaps soon.” And then, after resting for a moment, he motioned to the men who were clustered about the door, they un covered their heads,the canvas front of the tent was pulled aside, he made an effort to wave his hand and failing in this, whispered audibly for their perfect silence “God bless you all good by buy:” and they went away sadly some of them actually sobbing then the dying man address the chaplain. “Thank you thank you no fear of death better to be shot God knows best another and Clara and hear the dying man’s voice failed he did not speak again, but a heavenly smile radiated his countenance and did not leave it the gasps grew longer the intervals greater.


The chaplain, with a husky voice and tearful eyes spreading his hands over the bed, said, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord,” and raising his eyes to heaven praise God receive this soul when it leaves this earthly clay, and may this lesson not be lost on us who are left in this world of sin and temptation.” When he had ended his prayer, the soldiers eyes and had lost its luster. The breast had ceased its motion, the gasping had stopped the still smiling countenance was fixed in death, and the soul of the poor suffer had flown to heaven. “I love the camp and the soldiers, said the chaplain: “ they are not so bad at heart as we think them, but I never expected to find such a saint, so i imbued with holiness, on a private soldiers sick couch. I feel as God had sent us this  message from himself; and let us not, my friends, forget it in other scenes, but try and profit by it.


And so we left that bed of death, all influenced by an impression which will not soon be effaced. I never witnessed so solemn and affecting scene as at that. Which I have so poorly described. For it is impossible to give an adequate idea of the occasion in any language of mine. Not in the din of battle, and the rushing and scrambling and tumult of war and a fight, went out this soldiers light of life. He did not die as he would have chosen, for he was brave as the bravest, full of patriotic ardor, once in the most lively and he would have died on the battlefield as brave soldiers wish to die but with saintly resignation, he did not murmur when he found it was wiled thay he should waste away with disease.



Sunday, December 16, 2012


Seaman Charles Leibig


Charles Leibig, Member of a tanker crew, Arrived in Norfolk after sinking. Says men of submarine spoke to them in German.

Norfolk Jan. 31, 1942: Thirty survivors of the the Tanker Rochester told today how a yellow trimmed light blue German submarine sank their vessel with torpedoes and shells at short range.
Three of their shipmates, in the engine room at the time of the attack apparently were lost. The survivors escaped in two life boats.  One of the life boats approached so close to the Axis raider that an oarsman had to take his oar from its lock and fend the off from the submarine.
The 6,836 ton Socony-Vacuum tanker was attacked about noon yesterday while enroute empty from New York to Corpus Christi, Texas, The survivors escaped in two life boats when they launched after the submarine fired fired a torpedo and then rose to the surface and began firing shells.
They were brought to shore by a naval vessel. After more than four hours afloat. In their lifeboats.
The Rochester was the 11th merchant ship sunk and the 10th attacked by German submarine prowling the Atlantic coast, seemingly with tankers as their primary objective. The submarines have been reported from Nova Scotia to Florida.
Survivors stated the first torpedo hit near the Rochester’s propeller then circled the ship and sent in another torpedo. The tanker sanl about an hour and a half after the attack started.
T.C. Watts of Elizabeth N.J. chief cook, ruefully remarked that “Davy Jones got a good dinner” because he was preparing dinner when the first torpedo landed and “soup, bread, meat and coffee were sprayed al over the place.
Charles Leibig, a seaman from Pottsville, said the submarine was not more than 50 feet away when it began shelling from the surface.
“We could smell the gun powder and hear the gunners talking,” he said.
In trying to get away we pulled toward the sub and at the same time the sub was approaching us. We got so close that one man pulled out his oar out of the lock, struck it against the side of the sub and pushed away.
“The sub was light blue, trimmed in yellow, the men spoke to us in German.”
Floyd W. May, of Galveston Texas a seaman explained that it took about fifteen minutes to abandon ship. He said he was in the number two lifeboat and that the boat, “stayed near the sinking ship top see if the men in the engine room would ever come up. The submarine also stayed around for 30 minutes, all the time on the surface with the men out on deck., “ he said.” They made no attempt to get any closer to us. As a matter of fact they seemed to pay no attention to us.. We saw no machine guns.:”
A.D. Lewis, seaman from Beaumont. Tx. Said “I was knocked out of my bunk by the first torpedo. He said he went up on deck and, deciding he had time, ran to the forecastle for his clothes and papers. When he returned he said the first life boat already had been lowered, “but I made it in the second boat.”

Charles Leibig enlisted in the Navy 1939.


At 18.05 hours on 30 Jan, 1942, the unescorted and unarmed Rochester(Master Alden S. Clark) was hit by one stern torpedo from U-106 while steaming on a zigzag course at 10.4 knots about 85 miles east of the Chesapeake Lightship. One torpedo struck aft in the engine room, killed one officer and two crewmen on watch below, destroyed the engines and communications and damaged the rudder and propeller. The survivors among the eight officers and 27 crewmen abandoned ship in two lifeboats when the U-boat surfaced nearby. The Germans waited until both boats were clear of the tanker to finish her off with the deck gun, but it jammed after firing eight rounds from about 500 yards. At 18.38 hours, a coup de grĂ¢ce was fired that hit amidships on the starboard side. The tanker immediately developed a list to starboard and sank after one hour.
The Samuel Q. Brown had observed the attack and sent radio messages that forced the U-boat to leave the area. The survivors were picked up after three hours by USS Roe (DD 418) off the Virginia Capes and landed in Norfolk the next morning. They had been spotted by an aircraft that dropped smoke bombs to lead the destroyer to them. One fireman died from burns on 14 February.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Coaldale Marine the first Marine killed in Action in World War ll.

Wake Island was an American outpost in the central Pacific. Wake is a coral atoll, made up of three islands. Wake Island itself is the largest, and forms two sides of a triangle. Peale Island and Wilkes Island extend the two arms of Wake Island. The three islands are tiny – only 2.5 square miles in area, but their location in the central Pacific gave them a strategic significance far beyond their size. The Marshal Islands to the south and most of the Marianas islands to the west had been in Japanese hands since the First World War, when they seized them from the Germans.
Wake Island was an American outpost in the central Pacific. Wake is a coral atoll, made up of three islands. Wake Island itself is the largest, and forms two sides of a triangle. Peale Island and Wilkes Island extend the two arms of Wake Island. The three islands are tiny – only 2.5 square miles in area, but their location in the central Pacific gave them a strategic significance far beyond their size. The Marshal Islands to the south and most of the Marianas islands to the west had been in Japanese hands since the First World War, when they seized them from the Germans.

On December 8th, 1941 between 20 and 30 twin engine bombers in the opening attack on Wake Island, caught 12 planes on the ground  and put eight out of action and killed 25 Marines and some civilians.  Among those Marines was Pvt. John Katchak from Coaldale, Schuylkill County.
John joined the Marines in 1941 and was stationed at Wake Island.

On December 9, there were two more raids by planes which also carried incendiaries, but due to vigorous plane and anti aircraft fire damage was less severe than on the 8th.

A week before Christmas Katchaks parents received the telegram telling them that their son was killed in action on the attack on Wake Island.

From the book entitled, “Wake Island” by James P.S. Devereux  I take the account of burying private John Katchak, USMC.

Private John Katchak
Marine Detachment
First Defense Battalion, FMF , Wake Island

One grave was apart from the others . It was in the middle of Barningers’s battery position. It held the body if the first man of the First Marine Defense Battalion killed in action. In the air attack of December 9, a bomb had landed on the lip of the foxhole, killing him instantly. All they could do was make his foxhole his grave.
They made a small mound and pit some chunks of coral in on it. They didn’t have a book with the burial service in it, but they gathered around the grave. The lieutenant said they would say the Lord’s prayer for his soul. Some said the catholic version, some said the protestant version and some only moved their lips when they came to the parts they were npt sure of.. Then they went back to work. That was how they buried Private John Katchak, of Coaldale, Penna. Who was nineteen years old. Lieutenant Barninger, an unsentimental young man, noted in the battery journal: “ His grave in the middle of the battery position, serves as continuous reminder of the task before us, and a source of inspiration to us all.”