Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chasing Villa, A Schuylkill Haven Cavalryman in Texas

Schuylkill Countians at Camp Stewart Texas, 1916

The following letter was written by Earl C. Roeder, from Schuylkill Haven a member of Troop H, 8th U.S. Cavalry, stationed on Hester’s Ranch, at Cierra Blana , Texas.


Schuylkill Haven Call
November 30, 1917

“We arrived at our new quarters from Fort Bliss, a distance of 225 miles having covered the entire distance o n horseback. Maybe we were not tired. We rode during the entire day and at night would assemble in groups and carry brush together upon which some of slept, while others slept on the hard sand. It took us six days to make the hike down into the Big Ben Valley; two of our mules died enroute as the days were terribly hot and the nights almost freezing. The entire 8th Cavalry is here for patrol duty and it looks as we might be here until next summer. We relieved the 7th Cavalry while the 5th Cavalry took our place at Fort Bliss.
One of the first things we did after arriving was to divide the troop and send a company to each ranch along the entire Texas border. It certainly is a dead place and hardly fit to live in. If the Lord ever forgot to complete the creation of a place, it is some parts of this state. There are quite a; large number of wild animals strolling the plains and brush hills. It reminds me of a zoological ranch with raccoons, foxes, squirrels, wild doves, wild cats, jack rabbits. White wild geese are abundant along the river front and lakes. If we want any fresh meat, we shoulder a gun and in a short time the boys are preparing some of the above mentioned for a glorious meal.

As the Mexicans are fighting almost continuously among themselves we must patrol the entire border. Corp Labett and myself were compelled to patrol and we rode a distance of 44 miles return. It is evident that the Mexicans are preparing for a big battle among themselves as we could plainly see the Mexican Yakki Indians going down their side of the river to give battle to a crowd of Vila men, who were located about 80 miles from our camp. We can hear them shoot and on Friday, Nov, 2 they had a battle about 15 miles away from our camp. With the aid of a pair of field glasses, we could see their cavalry charging one another and watched them until dusk, but could not tell which side won the day’s conflict.
On our return back from patrol, we met our entire troop of 268 men. They had heard the shooting and believing we were attacked, were on their way down to assist us. We camped in the brushes until morning, and then returned to our camp or headquarters. We could observe a few of the fighters on the other side of the river. Again on Sunday our captain received a telegram that 600 of Vila’s soldiers were coming south. A new patrol was immediately made up and we followed the 600 Mexicans down the river so that they would attempt to enter upon American soil. The patrol followed them until it was observed that the Mexicans were watering their horses and were going to camp for the night. A second patrol was made up to relieve the first, as they had neither food, for themselves or their horses. I was in this second patrol. We started at nine o’clock at night, just as it was getting real cold.
During the night we were compelled to sleep on the sand, with no blankets or sweaters and we dare not make a fire for fear of them spying upon us from the other side. It was midnight when we arrived were the other patrol was stationed. We had taken food along to last three days. The following morning we had breakfast early. The Mexicans never rise until the sun comes out and it’s nice and warm. Long before they ready we prepared to follow them still further south. We had trailed them from Sunday night until Tuesday noon when we met troop F, who patrol the district south of us.
IN the afternoon we started back to our camp, a distance of 120 miles. Maybe our dinner after arriving at camp didn’t taste good, following several days with nothing to eat but hard tack and sleeping on the ground. We were in camp but a few hours when ordered patrol again. However this order was recalled when it was ascertained that we had arrived but a few hours before. When we go on patrol each man has a horse and a mule, one mule carries food and the other oats. This branch of the service I like as one can ride on patrol, and is not compelled to walk.
The YMCA is doing a splendid work here in Texas in the border; many soldiers have been with out money and have gone to the YMCA where they have supplied him with stationery and supplies in order that he might send a few lines home.

Chasing Vila Cavalry Style.

Editors Note:
Men from Schuylkill County served along the Border “Chasing Vila” as it was called in a few different Pennsylvania State Regiments. Notably the 8th Pennsylvania.
Doroteo Arango, alias Francisco “Pancho” Villa, was born in 1877 (1879 according to some sources) in San Juan del Rio, State of Durango, Mexico. During his lifetime, he was a ruthless killer (killing his first man at age sixteen), a notorious bandit (including cattle rustling and bank robbery), a revolutionary (a general commanding a division in the resistance against the 1913-14 Victoriano Huerta dictatorship), and despite his bloodthirsty nature, an enduring hero to the poor people of Mexico. In their minds, Villa was afraid of no one, not the Mexican government or the gringos from the United States. He was their one true friend and avenger for decades of Yankee oppression.

Schuylkill County Boys In Texas 1916

Villa and his “pistoleros” launched raids along the U.S.- Mexico boundary to frighten the Americans living in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona border towns. Concerned for the safety of Americans, President Wilson ordered the War Department to begin deploying troops to Texas and New Mexico. In April, 1915, Brigadier General John J. Pershing and his 8th Infantry Brigade were sent to Fort Bliss, Texas with the mission of guarding the U.S.- Mexico border from Arizona to a bleak outpost in the Sierra Blanca mountains ninety miles southeast of El Paso

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And Once Again More World War 2 Heroes

I just keep finding more and more of these great little stories of Schuylkill County World War Two Heroes.

Schuylkill County Heroes of World War 2


In the Second Wave at Okinawa
Cpl. Edward Gober
April, 1945

A former Pottsville Journal correspondent writes from the battlefield on Okinawa Island, Pacific Area. He landed on the beach at 8:30 a.m. Easter Sunday and his tractor was in the second wave to land. “We expected to draw a lot of fire when we approached the beach but the Navy had silenced anything that could be used against us, he states. He Continued” It was really a great sight when our convoy sailed into the bay. The heavyweights of our fleet and the naval air corps were already working the landing area over when we arrived. Every gun that could operate was firing. The navy fire continued until the first wave was a few hundred yards from the beach. At times the beach was hardly visible from the smoke and fire caused by our shells. There were very few enemy planes over our convoy on the morning of the landing. The ones that did appear were quickly eliminated. We are only three hundred miles from Japan and China.
“The fighting has become much tougher on the infantry. The Japs have caves dug in all over the hills and it takes time to clean them out. Each dugout has to be completely gone over before an advance is made. The initial landing was a lot easier than the one on Leyte in the Philippines but the inland fighting is a lot rougher. I was receiving the Journal regularly on Leyte. It has slowed up again due to the change. It was great to read the news way out here in the Pacific. His brother Sgt. Francis Gober, is seeing action on Luzon, P.I.

Note: The Assault Goes In
Admiral Kelly Turner gave the order to "Land the Landing Force" at 04.06, 1 April 1945 - Easter Sunday and April Fool's Day. The pre-invasion bombardment started at 05.30 and as the sun rose at 06.21 the soldiers and marines who would shortly be landing on it, saw Okinawa Gunto for the first time. Gradually, the amtracs formed into groups and started to circle, awaiting the order to head towards the beach. Carriers planes and gunboats bombarded the beaches and as the control craft pennants came down, an eight-mile line of amtracs began their 4,000 yard dash to the beach. At the same time, the 2nd Marine Division began their feint and ironically suffered the first casualties as kamikazes slammed into a transport and LST (Landing Ship, Tank or Troops) - apart from these air attacks the demonstration prompted no other Japanese reaction. Ushijima had few troops near the Hagushi Beaches anyway and the remainder were positioned exactly where he wanted them. The assault force churned their way past the Battleship USS Tennessee and formed into the regimental assault waves of two battalions abreast in eight waves:
• Wave 1 - twenty-eight LVT(A)(4) amtracs with 75mm howitzers;
• Wave 2 - sixteen LVT(4) amtracs with assault troops;
• Wave 3 to 6 - twelve LVT(4) with assault troops and crew-served weapons;
• Wave 7 - varied numbers of LSMs or LCMs with floatation-equipped Sherman tanks;
• Wave 8 - LVT(4)s with support troops.
There was only sporadic mortar and shellfire as the assault troops landed - resistance from the 1st Specially Established Regiment was light as it had only rudimentary training and few heavy weapons. Okinawa was not to be a repeat of Peleliu, Tarawa or Iwo Jima with the assault waves meeting fierce and coordinated resistance upon landing. Some 50,000 American troops landed in the first hour and the larger landing ships started to deliver heavy weapons and armoured vehicles at 14.00. By nightfall another 10,000 troops had come ashore and a 15,000-yard beachhead had been established with 6th Marine Division on the left, then 1st Marine Division, then 7th Infantry Division and 96th Infantry Division on the right. A 600-yard gap existed between XXIV Corps and IIIAC but this was closed on L+1. The first day saw the 4th Marines on the edge of the Yontan Airfield and 17th Infantry on the perimeter of Kadena. It also saw twenty-eight dead, twenty-seven missing and 104 wounded for the opening day of Operation Iceberg.

The landings on Okinawa was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of World War II.[1][2] The 82 day battle lasted from late March through June 1945.
The American casualties were:
12,513 killed in action,
38,916 wounded,
33,096 non-combat losses

Gunner on B-24 Liberator Flies 25th Mission

S/Sgt. Joseph L. Alessi,
April 1945
St. Clair.

Alessi a 19 year old aerial gunner on a B-24 Liberator, recently flew his 25th Combat mission to an enemy fighter field near Prague, Czech. Although no enemy fighters were encountered in the air many that were parked on the field were destroyed. Since arriving over seas last October he has participated in bombing missions attacking vital harbor installation, raided enemy airfields and industrial targets in Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Sgt. Alessi wears the air medal with two oak leaf clusters and also the distinguished unit badge as a member of a heavy bombardment group cited for “Outstanding performance of duty while in armed conflict with the enemy”

Orwigsburg Soldier Crosses the Sauer River
And Spends Christmas In A German Pill Box

76th Division Patch

Pfc. Emerson W. Kauffman
76th Infantry Division
April 1945

Christmas was a little late this year for the men of the 76th Infantry Division, holed up in pill boxes which less than two weeks ago were part of Hitler’s impregnable Siegfried Line. Christmas mail and packages which had followed the division across France and Belgium were given out at mail call the night before the division began its crossing of the Sauer River, and for the next six days and nights no one had any time to unwrap anything not containing ammunition. The river swollen twenty inches above normal by melting snows was crossed in inky blackness and under a concentrated hail of machine gun fire. Men of the 76th, although fresh from the states and untried in combat, were the first troops in this latest invasion of the Reich to achieve both the crossing and their initial objective a steep hill overlooking the town of Echternach. In the pillboxes scattered along the hill, men resting from their ordeal are enjoying the considerable comforts of the Germans vacated lodgings-stout concrete bunkers- some of which contained several rooms with stoves, ventilation apparatus and bunks fitted to the walls.
Pfc. Kauffman and three other Yanks moved into one of the pill boxes they helped capture. The tang of fresh coffee, the gay Christmas cards, the opened packages containing American things like candy bars and gum and “Do not open until Christmas” stickers are a far cry from the six days and nights these men have passed through. The four, held up by a mine field on the river bank the night of the initial crossings came over the Sauer next morning in broad daylight, perfect targets for the Nazi guns trained on them from the hill. Landing on the German side, they fought their way to a wrecked house where for two days and night were pinned down by a torrent of machine gun, mortar and artillery fire. Protecting themselves from the incessant shrapnel and bursting white phosphorus bombs, required every effort. During the first night American soldiers began stumbling into a Nazi mine field near the house. The four men organized themselves into volunteer rescue party, repeatedly risking the murderous fire and immediate danger of tripping over wires and being blasted, they brought the wounded into the house.


Pottsville Bombardier Earns Oak Leaf Cluster to The Distinguished Flying Cross.

1st Lieutenant Charles Zalonka
April 21, 1945

“Target time in two minutes,” came over the interphone. A shower of steel peppered against the wing and fuselage of the Flying Fortress that was leading the mission. The weather was hazy and the smoke pots set up a screen that further obscured the target. First Lt. Charles C. Zalonka of Pottsville, took a final look at his target chart and bent over the bombsight. His skilled hands set meters, turned knobs, last minute corrections were made. A dozen 500 pound bombs tumbled from the belly of the 15th Air Force B-17 Flying Fort. Crewman’s eyes strained as they followed the course of the explosives. Someone laughed and yelled, “Mr. Hitler, recount your oil refineries”. Smoke and flame billowed heavenward. The planes came off the target, rallied and headed home. Tail gunners watched the smoke and flame grow to 20, 000 feet and could still see it a distance of 250 miles. It was the last gas producing target within the operating area of the 15th Air force in Italy. Following this mission Charlie added one more oak leaf cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The Citation read in Part.” On this and many other occasions, Lt. Zalonka has displayed superb skill and inspired leadership.” The man who wrote that citation has seen Zalonka records. There was Schwartsheide Synthetic Oil Refinery, 15th March, 1945 “good Results” Sopron Hungary, railroad Yards, “Very well hit” Linz Austria, railroad Yards “well Hit” in Italy. Zalonka has flown 23 missions; Five times he has lead his squadron as lead bombardier.


Tragically in 1955, then Captain Charles Zalonka was killed in an accident while flying as a navigator on board the B-36 Bomber.
A B-36J-5-CF Tail Number 52 2818A assigned to Walker AFB New Mexico, crashed on a training flight. They encountered sever turbulence and weather over Texas while flying at 25,000 feet.

The Aircraft began to disintegrate in flight resulting in the loss of control and went into a flat spin, and struck the ground at high impact resulting in the aircraft exploding. This made location of the bodies and identification very difficult.
Zalonka was the 2nd Navigator on board the aircraft.
One theory stated that the Fifteen airmen died in the flaming crash of the B-36 bomber in rugged territory 60 miles from San Angelo, Texas. Air Force spokesmen said apparently the big craft was snapped up by a howling tornado skipping high above the ground.

Navy Pilot Earns Gold Star on the Air Medal

Lt. J.G. Robert A Horn
April 25, 1945


Lt. JG Robert A. Horn was awarded the gold star in lieu of a second Air Medal at an East Coast Navy Air Field recently.
He holds the Navy Cross in addition to his two air medals, and was cited by his task force commander for courage and skill displayed as a pilot of a dive bomber in the strikes on Palau and the Philippines last September. In spite of intense anti aircraft fire he scored direct bomb hits on a large enemy vessel, which is known to have sunk later. He is a veteran of 41 missions against the Japanese and is a graduate of Pottsville High School and Oregon State University.

From the August 22, 1944 Pottsville Republican
Lt. Horn has been in the South Pacific for the last eight months and he particpated in all the major campaigns in the area during ththat time and two months ago he and his crew were afloat on the Pacific for a day in a ruber raft after their plane was forced down following a long distant assignment.
Lt, Horn has participated in the bombing and strafing of the japs on Saipan, Guam and other hot beds of battle activity and is due to be returned home in October for rest.

The Navy Cross is the highest medal that can be awarded by the Department of the Navy and the second highest award given for valor.

Wounded in The Phillipines

PFC. Ernest Keifer
April 14, 1945

For wounds received in action east of Olongapo during the 38th (Cyclone ) Division fight to avenge Bataan, Pfc. Ernest Keifer was awarded the Purple Heart, he is a member of Company I, 152nd Infantry Regiment and saw action with his regiment’s 16 day battle for strategic and heavily fortified Zig Zag Pass, which opened another route to Manila. He has recovered form his wounds and is now returned to active duty with his company. He has been overseas 15 months. He served previously in Hawaii, New Guinea and Leyte.

"The Avenger's of Bataan"

Commissioned by the 38th Division Association in 1999 to commemorate one of the most important events in the 38th Division's history, The Battle of Zig Zag Pass. Fought in the Phillipines during World War Two, The Battle of Zig Zag Pass was the turning point that led to the surrender of Japanese forces in the Phillipine Islands. As a result of the 38th Division's heroic performance during this battle, General Douglas MacArthur dubbed the 38th, "The Avenger's of Bataan". The painting was done by the renowned military historical artist Rick Reeves.

Note: The 38th Division History
Spearheading the drive which annihilated Japanese forces on Bataan, in the battle that liberated Luzon, is an achievement of which men of the 38th are justly proud. The division first saw action in Leyte December 1944, when the 149th Infantry Regiment was sent into Leyte P. I., for a month of mopping-up campaigning. It then moved on to Luzon, P. I., to make its now famous Subic Bay landing on Bataan Peninsula on 29 January 1945. Division troops poured in for 16 days of fierce action to smash through an intricate maze of Japanese fortifications at Zig-Zag Pass, key defense to the rapid reduction Bataan Peninsula. While one division regimental combat team made an amphibious landing at Mariveles, on the tip of the Peninsula, another force struck swiftly down the east coast through Balanga, Pilar and across the neck of land to Bagac the March of Death route – - to gain control of the entire peninsula. Some units of the 38th then landed at D plus 4, on Corregidor to assist in the defeat of the strong Jap garrison there. The division was then divided up into three regiment combat teams. One force mopped up remnants of enemy troops on the Bataan Peninsula. Another regimental combat team plus a provisional company organized from the 38th division artillery, struck north and west of Zig-Zag Pass against powerful Jap defense in the Zambales mountain ranges, while the third regimental combat team was charged with the reduction of enemy defenses on the remaining three islands – - Cabello, Fort Drum and Carabao – - guarding the entrance to Manila Bay. Later sent to the Marakina watershed, the Cyclone boys worked in May 1945, to free Eastern Luzon from the Gaps and helped preserve Manila’s water supply. This involved fighting in the Sierra Madre mountains northeast of Manila to oppose Jap forces drawn up behind the Shinbu Line, an area defended by almost impassable terrain in addition to a well developed and interlocking series of caves, pillboxes, tunnels and artillery emplacements. Here division troops defeated the Japanese in a series of bitterly contested engagements culminating in the seizing of the Marakina River line and the capture of strategic Wawa Dam, an important source of water supply to Manila. Division troops engaged in combat with the Japs in the bamboo thickets and mountainous terrain of the Marakina area up to and after V-J Day. The division was alerted for home in late September; elements arrived during October with inactivation shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Tag on Photo to enlarge

The Cannon on the left is the one made by Shalk the Gunsmith of Pottsville. The other is an Ager Gun. The men in the photo are all officers of the 96th. Col. Cake is the officer with the large feather on the Hardie Hat, looking at the Ager gun. There is no record of the 96th actually using this gun, nothing in any diary or letter I have read refers to this gun. This picture was taken at Camp Northumberland, in 1861.

The Ager Gun


Patriotism runs deep in the blood of Schuylkill County and when the southern traitors fired their guns on Ft. Sumter Schuylkill Countians by the hundreds volunteered their service for the defense of the Union. The issue of slavery was hardly thought of by the common man in the county. The men went of to war with a burning feeling of patriotism and a desire to preserve the Republic as their forefathers had. Bands played military marches, citizens made rousing speeches, women and children paraded in the streets waving flags and handerchiefs. What man could resist the call to volunteer and to fight for the Union?
Preserving the Union was one reason to fight but many Schuylkill County boys went for other reasons. Working in the mines, on the canals, or as laborers weren't jobs that many of the boys wanted. The adventure of marching off to war with flags waving, people cheering while wearing fancy uniforms enticed many of the men to join.
Poverty was a major fact of life in rural Schuylkill. Posters showing a fifty dollar bounty, and an advance of thirteen dollars, the monthly pay of a private soldier, and with bonuses of up to one hundred dollars certainly encouraged some of the men to enlist. For whatever reason the men of Schuylkill did enlist and went off to war with pride and a sense of honor. They fought and died on the bloody battlefields of America for the next three years.
Many of these men were local members of volunteer fire companies. One of these companies was "Pottsville's Good Intent". On April 17, 1861 twenty three men from the Good Intent enlisted in volunteer companies from Schuylkill. The majority enlisted in the Washington Artillerists and the National Light Infantry, the famed First Defenders. Subsequently, they marched off to Washington to defend the Capitol.
On September 7, 1861 at a meeting held by the Good Intent a resolution was passed that, due to the large number of men serving in the volunteer regiments from the fire company and the depressed state of finances, each member would be credited with six months dues. A committee, consisting of I.E. Severn, John Lesig, Samuel R. Russel, Wm. Lessig, Wm. B. Severn and Geo. Foltz, was appointed to procure a light rifled cannon for the company. On that day in the Miners Journal a short article appeared.

Good Intent Light Artillery is the name of a new military organization intended to be connected with Col.Cake's Regiment. It was started by members of the Good Intent Fire Company of this borough. Quite a large number of names are involved. A brass field piece intended for use of the company will be cast by G.W. Snyder and rifled by Mr. Shalk. It will have a point blank range of 2 miles.

Mr. Hugh Stevenson of 332 E. Arch St. and a former member of the Good Intent Light Artillery shared an interesting story regarding the service of many of these boys. It appeared in the April 18, 1900 Pottsville Daily Republican.

The members of the battery were mostly firemen of the Good Intent Co. after which the battery was named. The battery which was first commanded by Capt. Wm. Lessig; First Lieut. Isaac Severn; Second Lieut. Samuel Russel and First Sergeant Edward L. Severn, was to be short lived, that is as far as the name was concerned. The members were unable to secure any ordnance to drill with and finally the "boys" decided to swipe brass and make a cannon themselves. Piece by piece they scraped together the brass while some poor, unsuspecting victim scratched his head and wondered at the mysterious disappearance of some article of brass from his shop or household. When enough had been secured the brass was melted and molded into a fine cannon by Geo. W. Snyder. The cannon was the "only one" in the eyes of the boys and carefully guarded. The battery camped on Lawton's hill and awaited a call to the front. The Good Intent Battery would undoubtedly have become famous, as the members did, but for an unlooked for occurrence. The 96th regiment had been recruited and lacked but one company. The Good Intent Battery was mustered into this regiment and the members then became infantrymen and "shouldered the cannon" as they remarked for ever afterward. The precious cannon was taken along with the 96th Regt., but was finally turned over to a New England Battery, and that was the last seen or heard of it, although the members of the old battery after the war made many an attempt to discover its whereabouts, the cannon accomplished valuable service and the men feel confident that they have been forgiven for pilfering the brass with which it was made.

The cannon was a centerpiece of pride for the citizenry of Pottsville. In the Miners Journal for October 5, 1861 it was reported that.

The Good Intent Light Artillery Company, attached to Col. Cake's regiment pitched its tents on the hill this week. A cannon for this company is being cast by Geo. W. Snyder and the gun carriage is also being made here. This company has some thirty men encamped on the hill.

From the Miners Journal of October 19, 1861 this interesting article appeared:

The Good Intent Light Artillery Co. took a brass field piece up to their camp on Saturday last. It was cast by Mr. George W. Snyder and rifled by Mr. Schalk. A trial of the gun was held last week at Tumbling Run and was satisfactory. At 500 yards it planted a ball one pound and a quarter in weight within three inches of the center of the target. With a couple of these guns, and three or four howitzers this company could bring an effective battery into the field. We understand that it is rapidly filling up.

The men of the Good Intent Artillery now attached to the 96th P.V.I. as company C (The Color Company) would make their mark throughout the war with the 96th and famed Sixth Corps. Because they were an infantry regiment, the men would lose their cannon to a Massachusetts Battery while attached to the First Brigade of the Sixth Corps in July of 1862. The only Massachusetts Battery attached to the first Brigade was the 1st Mass. Artillery. The Miners Journal of August 2, 1862 reported the transfer of the cannon to the 1st Mass:

The small rifle cannon cast by Mr. George Shalk, for Company C 96th Regiment is now in a Mass. Battery and the men think so much of it that they would sooner part with any other pieces than it. This speaks so highly for its quality.

Where is the cannon? Did it survive the war? We may never know the answers to these questions. The whereabouts of this cannon still remain a mystery one hundred and thirty seven years after it was turned over to the 1st. Mass. Battery..

96th at Camp Northumberland

Monday, October 13, 2008

Once A Warrior Always A Warrior

How A Soldier looked during the Seminoe War
From the "Florida Frontier Guard" Seminole Wars Living History Association, 1835-1842.

In the Pottsville Miners Journal for April 13, 1867 the following obituary is listed. This is the first soldier from Schuylkill County who I have found that fought in the Seminole War in Florida in the years 1837 -1838.
Pennsylvania sent 510 men from the Pennsylvania Battalion of Infantry volunteers to the war.

Patrick Campbell, a native of Ireland , but for the last 39 years a respected citizen of Schuylkill County, died at his residence in West baranch valley, near Cressona, on Sunday last, aged 83 years. His remains were brought to Pottsville on Tuesday afternoon last, attended by a large concourse of friends and relatives and interred in St. Patricks Cemetery.
Mr. Campbell was a soldier in the United States service during the Florida War. Being always patriotic, during the Rebellion not withstanding his advanced age, he enlisted in a Schuylkill County Company and proceeded to Harrisburg to be mustered in, but was rejected by the mustering officer on account of his age.

Andrew Jackson’s campaign in the First Seminole War (1817-1818) did not succeed in subduing the Floridian natives. The United States government would decide later that removal of all Indians in Florida to the Indian Territory in the West (present-day Oklahoma) was the best solution for persistent conflict between the Seminole and encroaching white settlers.
By the terms of the Treaty of Paynes Landing (1832), the Seminole were supposed to migrate west of the Mississippi River within 36 months. By 1834, 3,824 Indians had made the move. The largest faction of Seminole, led by their chief Osceola (1804?–1838), refused to go. Osceola vowed to fight "till the last drop of Seminole blood has moistened the dust of his hunting ground." In response to his resistance, Osceola was briefly imprisoned. A few months following his release, he commenced attacks on the Americans.
On December 28, 1835 Osceola murdered Indian agent Wiley Thompson. The same day, Major Francis Dade and his U.S. soldiers were ambushed by 300 Seminole warriors near Fort King (Ocala). These incidents began the Second Seminole War. The natives retreated into the Everglades, began guerilla tactics against U.S. forces and fought desperately for more than seven years.
By 1837, the Seminole apparently had managed to force a truce. During negotiations, however, Oceola was arrested and confined first at Saint Augustine, then Fort Moultrie at Charleston, South Carolina where he died on January 30, 1838. His followers fought on. By 1842, they were nearly exterminated. Some 4,420 Seminoles surrendered and were deported to Oklahoma. A few hundred managed to remain in the Everglades under the leadership of Billy Bowlegs, their principal chief. The Third Seminole War would ensue.
The Second Seminole War proved to be the most expensive of the Indian Wars in which the United States was involved. It cost the lives of thousands of Seminole and 1,500 U.S. soldiers, as well as more than $30 million.

The citizen soldiers of the 2nd Seminole War included state militia units, and US Army volunteer units. Among the militia's of the several states in the 1830s there were the "common" and the "volunteer" militia. The common militia were average citizens organized into their local "beat" companies. In contrast, the volunteer militia companies included men willing to procure the adopted uniform of an "elite" volunteer militia company. These uniforms were often ornate, and occasionally rivaled the livery of the United States regulars in martial splendor. Regardless, of the tens of thousands of citizen soldiers who served in the 2nd Seminole War, only a few hundred belonged to such uniformed militia companies. The majority were from among the common militia, though some of these procured simple uniforms for service as US volunteers in Florida.
While many militia units in state service, principally Floridians, did service in the 2nd Seminole War, the overwhelming majority of the troops employed were US Army volunteers. These troops were raised within the several states following requests of their governors for volunteer units for Florida service. Some "volunteer militia" companies enlisted for muster into these US units, bringing with them their distinctive dress, but most were simply organized from scratch from among the common, un-uniformed, militia.
The documentary evidence suggests that the overwhelming number of militia and volunteer units of the 2nd Seminole War were armed with United States muskets or rifles, and corresponding accouterments.

From the web site of the The "Florida Frontier Guard" Seminole Wars Living History Association, 1835-1842.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More Schuylkill County World War Two Heroes




Local Pottsville Flier Has A Thrilling Trip to Italy

S/Sgt Charles Brokhoff
15th Air Force
April 24, 1944

S/Sgt. Charles Brochoff was one of ten members of a Flying Fortress crew who bailed out at 800 feet and landed a few miles back of the foxholes of the Fifth Army infantry men in Italy.
This is the story of the ten men and a 15th AAF Flying Fortress. The pilot didn’t have a chance to bail out. He rode the plummeting Fort, which had one engine running down into the mountains and escaped unhurt. He is Lt Carol Underwood, of Texas. They were over a target in Northern Italy. They didn’t remember the name-just some bridge over a river; nobody knew what river. Four burst of flak chopped them down.
They feathered the No 1 engine. The No 2 engine was ok- it brought them in. The No. 3 was flaming and wind milling as the Apennine gales smashed against it. No. 4 wasn’t running Flak cracked through the tank and spilled 100 octane gasoline over the landscape.
Now it all seems like a drama, at least to 19 year old James Dobrin, of Minnesota, but until half of the bomb load which wouldn’t fall had been salvoed it was a night mare. Beyond the German lines they sought to put the wheels down, one worked. The Engineer, S/Sgt Charles Brockhoff, Pottsville tried to crank the other but something went wrong, gasoline was all over the place. The fumes were terrible. The Fort began to lose altitude, everyone threw things out. Sgt Ralph W.Blades, Michigan even tossed his gun overboard.
At 800 feet, no one found that out until later, the pilot, Underwood gave orders to bail out. The navigator thought the plane was across our lines and hallowed they better try it, then or never. The Navigator was Lt. Tom Hyndnen, of Philadelphia. He walked down the catwalk and saw that everyone had got out, then he bailed out from the waist. The Co-pilot Lt. Ken Woodruff, of Colorado, hit the silk so low that his chute barely broke the shock of impact. The Pilot didn’t jump. It was to late, he rode the plane down into the jagged mountains and somehow came away unhurt. It was a miracle because the rest of the plane except his compartment was smashed. Brockhoff entered the Army Air Forces on September 23, 1943.

Trapped For Three Days and Nights in a Pill Box

Pfc. Alvin Barto
76th Infantry Division
April 25, 1945

Trapped for three days and nights in a German Pill Box, with one K ration, a canteen of water and a uncertain “Walkie Talkie” radio, four soldiers of the 76th Infantry Division held a large number of Nazis at bay until the arrival of reinforcements. First Lt. William E. Hinkley, Mass, Col Arnold Cohen, Ill. Pfc Royal D. Rothe, Utah and Pfc. Alvin Barto , Pottsville all members of a forward observation party, were making their way through Siegfried Line when a sudden artillery barrage forced them into the shelter of the empty pill box.
When they attempted to leave a hail of machine gun fire from an enemy held pill box less than 100 yards away met them. In spite of the fact that the Nazis opened fire any time members of the patrol showed a sign of movement. Pfc. Rothe and Cpl. Cohen managed to slip out and started running a telephone line across an open field. Each time they had it laid the Germans would blast it with mortar fire and the men were forced back to the shelter. The next day a patrol sent out by the regiment was fired upon and had to leave one of its wounded in the field directly below the hill on which the Americans were besieged. The leader of the patrol returned for the wounded man. They were fired upon and took shelter in the badly crowded pill box held by the yanks.
Their small water supply was almost gone and Pfc. Rothe braved the Nazis fire again to locate a shell hole containing muddy water which the men purified and drank. Although the walkie talkie operated at times, Lt. Hinkley was finally able to locate his unit and call for artillery fire to clear the woods of the Nazis. On the morning of the third day a platoon of Germans began an assault on the trapped Americans. The men inside were preparing for a last stand when in true Hollywood fashion a company of the 76th Division troops led by Capt. Terrance Vangen, Minn. Appeared on the bottom of the hill and proceeded to dispose of the Germans in short order. “It sure was good to see that company coming up the hill, I could have kissed every last one of them.” Said Pfc. Rothe.

Kaska Soldier Saves Three Comrades in Battle

S/Sgt Charles F. Govern
135th Infantry regiment Company C 34th Division
April 25, 1945

Recently S/Sgt Charles F. Govern was awarded the Bronze Star for heroic achievement in action on the Fifth Army front in Northern Italy. He is a member of Company C, 135th Infantry regiment, 34th Division. Observing an enemy shell hit a house occupied by the mortar section of his company. Govern ran to the house, where he discovered that the roof of the building had collapsed and buried the entire mortar crew. He instantly began digging through the wreckage and disregarding hostile shell fire, succeeded in extricating three of his comrades. Calling for aid, Govern organized and directed a rescue party in the attempt to remove more of the men until it became apparent that all hope of further rescue was futile. “Sgt. Govern’s initiative and courage aided in saving the lives of three men and his action reflects great credit on himself and the military service.” The citation said. It reflects credit upon himself and the Untied States Military Service.

B-17 Tail Gunner Position

Kaska Hero A B-17 Tail Gunner Receives the Air Medal

S/Sgt John S. Burkot
334th Bomb Squadron
Kaska April 21, 1944

S/Sgt Burkot of the Army Air Corps is the first young man from Kaska to Receive the Air Medal, Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart Award for distinguishing himself by heroism in an aerial fight, over enemy territory. He was a tail gunner on a B-17 during the operational mission over Wilhelmshaven, Germany on November 3, 1943.
The Citation signed by Major Harry M. Conley, commanding 334th Bombing Squadron stated: “while flying at very high altitude, Sgt. Burkot was subjected to extremely low temperatures while fighting of enemy aircraft encountered on this operational sortie. Though suffering sever pain, he remained at his guns and skillfully assisted in defending his aircraft from repeated attacks, aiding the fire power of the entire formation. Performing his duties in an exemplary manner, with three fingers of his left hand frostbitten. Sgt. Burkot remained at his position until all the danger had passed and his crew was safely at home base. Sgt. Burkot on two previous missions had suffered this same experience in spite of the fact that adequate heavy flying garments were worn. He has without a moments hesitation, exposed himself to permanent disability in order to perform his duties. Sgt. Burkot, by incurring another such injury, has been removed from further combat flying. He has set an inspiring example for his fellow flyers. The heroism displayed under such conditions reflects the greatest credit upon himself and the Armed forces of the United States.
Sgt. Burkot received the Air Medal for completing five missions over enemy territory and the Oak Leaf Clusters for destroying enemy aircraft on September 6, 1943 and again on October 8, 1943, and for completing fifteen or more dangerous missions. He received the Purple Heart Award when he was wounded in action on November 3, 1943.

Pilot of B-24 Flies 50th Mission

1st Lt. Joseph Shellick
450th BG 15th Air Force

Lt. Joseph Shellick has flown his 50th mission in aerial combat as pilot of a B-24 Liberator Bomber. Shellick is a member of a veteran group of the 15th Air force that is playing a leading role in the strategic air offense against the Reich. In the course of rounding out 50 missions he has taken part in such important attacks on the Ploesti Rumanian oilfields , industrial areas of Vienna and Munich and Friedrichshafen. He also participated in the pre invasion hammering of coastal installations and gun emplacements in Southern France.
For meritorious achievement in sustained activities Shellick has been awarded the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

Minersville Boy a member of “The Battling group of Engineers”

Pfc. William Zubroff
Combat Engineer Battalion
January 8, 1945

A battling group of engineers, who would rather trade shots with the Germans from slit trenches on the battle line than build bridges into the rear areas, has built up a reputation for itself as a “bunch of dare-devils who can really fight”. These soldiers, veterans of North Africa and Italy before they came to France got their first taste of infantry fighting at Salerno when they spent 12 days on the line. Then they returned to engineer work. But when the Fifth Army hit Anzio the engineers went back to the front line. They hit Anzio on D-Day and stayed in the line for 45 days with the British divisions on the left flank of the beachhead. Men of this group were among the first to establish contact with the Fifth Army fighting its way northward to end the fierce battle of Anzio. A member of this group is Pfc. William Zubroff, Minersville who is now back in the states recovering from wounds received during part of the fighting in Italy

C-47's Towing Gliders

C-47 Flight Engineer Promoted

T/Sgt Anthony Drula
Troop Carrier C-47’s

Anthony Drula has been promoted the grade of T/Sgt. He is a veteran of the Holland invasion in which his ship a C-47 hauled a glider loaded with men and material into battle. As an aerial engineer, Sgt. Drula is completely responsible for the maintenance and operation of his ship. When not flying, he is chief of a maintenance crew which keeps the airplane in top notch condition. Sgt. Drula entered the Army Air force on June 12, 1941

Pottsville Soldier Awarded Bronze Star for Heroic Duty.

Pvt. Francis X. Wilson
Engineer Combat Battalion
January 5, 1945

Private Wilson serving with an engineer combat battalion, recently has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroic service in connection with the military operations against the enemy in France.
His Citation Reads ”Private Wilson displayed remarkable devotion to duty when taking part in an assault on a fortified enemy position. Laden with 100 pounds of TNT plus his personal arms and equipment he moved forward in the face of enemy mortar and small arms fire over comparatively open terrain, and successfully placed the charges that destroyed the obstacle. His unflinching courage and extreme devotion to duty reflect great credit upon himself and the military service.”


C-47 Pilot Earns Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster

Lt. Robert J. Webb
Pine Grove
January 19, 1945

At an airstrip in liberated France the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster was presented to Lt. Robert Webb in recognition of “Meritorious achievements while participating in hazardous aerial flight against the enemy”.
Webb is the pilot of a Troop Carrier “Dakota” C-47 aircraft. Lt Webb was one of the first American fliers over Cherbourg on the opening night of the continental invasion. He also participated in the Para drop and glider operations in Southern France and in the gigantic airborne invasion of Holland.” Flak was bursting all around us as we came over the drop zone.” Said the Pennsylvania airman, describing the Holland mission, “but we were lucky enough to dodge through it without being hit, as we dropped our paratroopers there seemed to be a sea of parachutes opening below but we couldn’t stick around to watch the rest of the show. For my money Holland was tougher deal than either Normandy or Southern France. “ Lt. Webb was graduated from Bloomsburg College before entering the Army Air Forces in June 1942.

Airman earns 2nd Oak Leaf Cluster Air Medal

T/sgt Austin D,. Brommer
January 10, 1945

The 23 year old has been awarded the 2nd Oak leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for “Courage, Coolness and Skill” displayed while on bombing attacks over Germany. The airman is a top turret gunner in the 490th Bomb Group, a B-17 Flying Fortress unit of the Eight Air Force.

Cressona Boy Gunner on Navy TBM

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class
John Harry Richards
January 10, 1945

Has recently returned from a tour of combat duty in the Pacific where he served as an air crewman with the Navy’s Air Group 51. Richards was a gunner aboard a General Motors Avenger (TBM) torpedo plane, which can attack with Bombs, rockets and machine gun fire as well as with torpedoes.

The Air Medal for Flying the “Hump”

Corporal George Vanagaitis
St. Clair
January 15, 1945

Vanagaitis is serving with the Air Transport Command in India. He recently wrote home that he received the Air Medal for having complet3d the required number of missions flying over the “Hump” in China. He has been granted rest leave which will be spent in a rest camp somewhere in India. He went overseas in January 1944, he was stationed in South America and Africa before moving to India.

Combat Mission on the B-24 Liberator “Stinky”

S/Sgt. Joseph M. Zeall
Palo Alto
January 15, 1945

S/Sgt Zeal has been awarded the fourth Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal. This has been announced by the 2nd Bombardment Division Eight Air Force, England. Zeall has been flying with the well known veteran 398th Bombardment Group and has participated on 32 aerial combat missions bombing such strategic targets as Cologne, Strassburg, Brunswick, and Dusseldorf. In all his 32 missions, his trip to Bingen, Germany, proved to be his most exciting. That day “Stinky”, his liberator, was hit by flak knocking one engine out of commission just before “bombs away”. Nevertheless they continued the bomb run, dropping the deadly missiles and then started for home. When crossing the English, Channel the crew was ordered to prepare to make a landing in the water. Fortunately, they were able to make the English coast when the pilot brought the wounded giant down for a safe emergency landing with the entire crew intact.

The 339th Polar Bears

January 15, 1945
Pfc. Edgar C. Machamer, ammo bearer, of Middleport; Tsgt Byron G. Robertson, Pottsville, and Pfc. John J. Callahan, truck driver Heckscherville, are members of the 339th “Polar Bear” Regiment which recently shattered the vitals of the vaunted Gothic Line, taking Italian peaks as high as 3,400 feet east of Highway 65 and Futa Pass. The regiment landed in Italy last March 15 after a training period in North Africa and was the first unit of the 85th Division in the line when it was committed to action the following day. It passed through Rome June 5, crossed the Tiber River and took a brief rest. It went back into line to hold a stretch along the Arno River near Florence. The “Polar Bears” got their name in WW1 when they fought in waist deep snow along a 400 mile front between Archangel and Leningrad in Russia. They battled on five months after the Armistice had ended in Europe.

M-10 Tank Destroyer

M-10 Tank Destroyers

Pfc. William G. Davis
Tower City
7th Army Tank Destroyer Battalion
January 15, 1945

A brilliant record established in North Africa and Italy is being lived up to by the men of the tank Destroyer battalion, of the Seventh Army in the southern Saar Basin of Germany. The Battalion came into Southern France on D-Day and took part in the chase of the German 18th Army north through the Rhone Valley. When the Germans made a stand in the Vosges Mountains, the battalion turned the heavy guns of the M-10 tank destroyers against the strong points and played a large part in the drive that smashed the Nazis line and drove them out of Alsace-Loraine and behind the Seigfried line. Elements of the battalion landed on D-Day in North Africa and first established its reputation as a (Bull Dog) outfit when it played a large part in the finally stopping the German at Kasserine Pass and then leading the way back when the Yanks retook the lost ground and went to bottle up the Nazi Army in Tunisia. D-Day at Salerno found the men again living up to their motto of “Seek, Find and Destroy” When the Anzio Beachhead was seized, the battalion again went in on D-Day and held its sector firm for four months. When the breakout finally came, the tank hunters led the way and out the German escape route from southern Italy to Rome. Evidence of the valor and ability of the men of the battalion is found in more than 600 decorations its members have received. Included in these are seven Croix de Guerre and a Legion of Honor, awarded by the French.

Port Carbon Soldier Wounded In Action

Pvt. Lewis M. Krebs
Port Carbon
Jan 10, 1945

Krebs who is serving with a Tank Destroyer Battalion with the First American Army, in Germany. He was wounded in action at St. Lo France on August 14, and after several weeks of hospitalization in England was returned to active duty on November 16, the day of his 20th birthday. In his letter he explained a day of war. He Wrote: We are in a log house about three feet high, eight feet wide and eight feet long. On one side are our rifles and above them is an empty ration box which we use for mail. In a corner is a Jerry stove, which we helped our selves to, and a pile of wood. In front of me are two telephones, one from which we receive firing orders and the other I have to my ears listening to music. Only six of us sleep in this match box. Around us we hear guns cracking while outside one of the men is chopping wood. We had a company the last three nights in the form of German Air Force, (forgotten by U.S. Civilians), which had been raising hell. Night is approaching and everyone is getting ready for the thoroughly disliked night. The boys are getting ammunition around to tank destroyers and putting in on deck for our firing missions. I hope that helps you understand a little about it but picture all that and one more thing, _Mud- Knee- Deep.

Baptism of Fire

Pvt. Donald H. Wertz
Pine Grove.
398th Infantry Regiment, 100th Division.
January 18, 1945

Baptism of fire is an experience few soldiers ever forget, and the men of the 398th Infantry Regiment of the 100th (Century) Division have special reason never to forget theirs. For they went into action for the first time in one of the toughest sectors of the long Sixth Army group front in Eastern France. The enemy held prepared positions in dense forests. Their dugouts were deep, covered with logs, and well camouflaged. Their artillery was placed on the mountainous heights that rose above the forest level. Tank traps, booby traps and land mines, many of the latter ingeniously fitted with trip wires, blocked the narrow routes and paths, through the forest. Still against military obstacles like these, against a fanatic enemy, and weather conditions that included rain and snow and ankle deep mud, the 398th proceeded without delay to help take Baccarat, to cross the swift, flooded Meurthe River, and to press the Nazis further backward to the Rhine. It proved that it had learned its lesson well, for in the drive on Raon L’Etape, a strategic town on the 7th Army front the regiment skillfully out maneuvered the Nazis, prepared defenses and took the high ground which surrounds the town and commands a stretch of open terrain to the east in the direction of the Rhine.

Editors Note:
The 398th Practically destroyed the brand-new, full-strength German 708th Volks-Grenadier Division in the process of penetrating the Vosges Mountains by assault for the first time in history Since the 1st century BC, Romans, Huns, Burgundians, Swedes, Austrians, Bavarians, Germans and even French forces had tried and failed, but in the late autumn of 1944, in the face of nearly constant rain, snow, ice and mud, the US Seventh Army did what no other army had ever done before. For its success in ripping the Germans out of their trenches on the formidable heights overlooking Raon L'Etape, the 1st Battalion, 399th Infantry Regiment was awarded the Division's first Presidential Unit Citation, the collective equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross for individual valor. Lieutenant Edward Silk, of the 2d Battalion, 398th, won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during the rout of the German forces.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


The Pottsville Continentals

I found this fascinating article in a copy of a paper magazine published by the S.H. Daddow & Co. Pottsville, Pa. Vol. 1 No. 1 it sold for 25 cents entitled.



This fine body of men was originally organized as a military company under the name of the “Pottsville Light Infantry” in the year 1830, and is one of the oldest companies now in existence in the state. The company was formed under the command of Captain William F. Dean, who was considered one of the best drilled officers outside of the army; John J. Shoemaker was 1st Lt; James M. Beatty 2nd Lt; and John C. Flanagan, 3rd. The number of muskets averaged about 28.
In 1832 the company made the first excursion to Reading, under the same officers, and took their Fourth of July Dinner on the Island.
In 1836 the “National :Light Infantry” made an excursion to Northumberland and visited Sunbury, Louisburg, Milton etc. and took their Fourth Of July Dinner at Danville; during the excursion the officers were Wm. F. Dean, J,M. Beatty, Col. J.M. Bickle and Benjamin Bannan. Capt Dean at this time resigned and William Shoenfielder took his place, and was shortly after succeeded by Capt. Baird, with D.J. Ridgway as 1st Lieut., Edward E. Bland as second, and John H. Downing as third.


Captain, William F. Dean

1st James M. Beaty, 2nd., Daniel Ridgway, 3rd., Edwqrd E. Bland

1. Richards, 1st. 2. Nagle, 2nd, 3 Falls, 3rd., Lawton, 4th.

5. Rose, 1st., 6. Shappell, 2nd 7. Reichard, 3rd. 8. Penrose, 4th

9. Russell. 10 Pollock 11 Barr 12. Severn. 13 Rodgers. 14 Yeager 15. Lippincott, 16. Jacob Reed. 17, Fitsimmons, 18. J. Johsnon, 19T. Johnson. 20. Minig, 21. Gies, 22. Stropub, 23. Foster. 24. McDonald. 25. Eicholds. 26. Dreher. 27. Joseph Reed. 28. Adams. 29. Siders. 30. Russel. 31. Ebert.

On the 18th of May 1842, the company made their second excursion to Reading in the cars, and escorted General Scott back with them to Pottsville. On the 5th of April 1853 the company under the command of Edward E. Bland, and Captain Partridge, one of the oldest officers of the State, was excerpted into town by the National Light Infantry, Pottsville Blues, German Yeagers, National Grays from Orwigsburg, and the First City Troop of Schuylkill County Cavalry, Col. Jackson and others in attendance.
Capt. Bland held his place until the war with Mexico and then resigned to Capt. Frank Pott. About this time the uniform of the company was changed from Grey to Blue. Various other changes and incidents marked the history of the Company up to the present period, which again witnesses a change of dress from the usual United States Uniform to the old Continental style, as worn by Washington and other heroes of the War of Independence; which can be seen to advantage in Lossing’s field book of the Revolution, and consists of a cocked hat, ruffled shirt, knee breeches, and high top boots. The present officers, as shown in the illustration engraving are Captain Frank Pott, Lieutenants Cake, Brow and Lord. Under these officers the company has just returned from their last and most pleasant excursion to Philadelphia and New York, where they were most agreeably received by friends, the military and civil authorities. They were met at the Broad st. depot by the courteous Col. Page and the State Fencibles and conducted to Independence Hall where they were received by the Mayor amid ;loud acclamations of the welcoming citizens. They afterwards vested New York, and were as much the subject of exhibition and admiration as the wonderful Place and it extraordinary novelties.