Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The Aircraft Mechanic at his job.
Todays Blog is dedicated to all the aircraft mechanics from Schuylkill County who have worked on aircraft while in the U.S. Armed Forces, From World War 1 to the War on Terror. This article is about my time spent as an Aircraft Mechanic in the USAF 1968-1972.
Recently I was thinking about my time spent in the Air Force, a very enjoyable time doing something that I always wanted to do. AN AIRCRAFT MECHANIC. In 2004 I was at the Reading World War 2 event held every year in June. At this event a few of my hero’s were present, you know those old ww2 soldiers, pilots etc. Sitting at one of the tables and signing one of his books was
Maj. Gen. Frederick C. Blesse. General Blesse graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1945, flew two combat tours during the Korean War, completing 67 missions in F-51s, 35 missions in F-80s and 121 missions in F-86s. During his second tour in F-86's, he was officially credited with shooting down nine MiG-15s and one LA-9.
At the time of his return to the United States in October 1952, he was America's leading jet ace.
General Blesse remained with fighter aircraft for practically his entire military career. During the 1955 Air Force Worldwide Gunnery Championship, he won all six trophies offered for individual performance, a feat never equaled. During the Vietnam Conflict, he served two tours in Southeast Asia; while on his first tour in 1967-1968, he flew 156 combat missions.
He retired from the USAF in 1975, with more than 6,500 flying hours in fighter-type aircraft .
What an amazing individual, I could have stayed there the whole day talking to this man. Anyway, I was wearing a hat that stated that I was with the C7A Caribou transport in Vietnam. General Blesse glanced at my hat and said, “ I see your hat there, were you a pilot on the Caribou? I said, “Oh no, I was just an aircraft mechanic,” He looked right at me grabbed my hand and shook it and said, “ Son, without you guys we pilots would have been nothing, we owe all the flights to you and your hard work.”. Well to me that was the greatest compliment an aircraft mechanic could ever receive, I felt great. I bought his book and he signed with,
My best wishes to a guy who kept our aircraft flying. Boots Blesse.
Maj. General Frederick "Boots" C. Blesse
Well that made all the hours of crawling in airplanes and knuckle busting my hands, hitting my head on wings, landing gear, engines, or wearing out my hearing while exposed to high pitched screaming engines trying to troubleshot and repair broken birds sitting on the ramp or out in the field. His compliment made it all worth it.
Thank you General Blesse!
In reality the pilots have there poem, it is called High Flight, it has become a mantra to pilots over the years.
Well here is my mantra for all the aircraft mechanics out there..
In The Docks:
Oh I have slipped on puddles of engine oil.
And slipped and fell on cursed silver wings;
On engines I have climbed, and cut my hands on
Broken pieces of safety wire, and little metal things;
You’ll never know the pain of a double engine change
Down in the docks dim lit lights glowing strings.
I’ve fought with the engine mechanic, and threatened
To hit him with my wrench. Shouting foul curses in the air;
Up, up on the engine stand, shining bright and yellow
I’ve stood on its teetering rails, hooking up wire harnesses there.
The docks is a place where a pilot never dares to go
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve worked for him there,
In the high untresspassed sanctity of aircraft maintenance,
And I put out my hand and touched the face of JOE PATRONI.
Joe Patroni, The famous aircraft mechanic from the movie Airport, played by George Kennedy. Our famous of all movie aircraft mechanics, jeez now that I think about it, he is the only one!
Oh yea the Docks … The place were an aircraft undergoes its periodic tear down and maintenance.
It is a known fact that when any one thinks of aviation, airplanes, high flying combat, the glamour of airline flying or just the sky and clouds in general the first thing that comes to mind is the pilot, that God like creature that guides the sleek jet fighter flashing through the sky or the large airliner passing from city to city. But little credence is ever given to the aircraft mechanic. That not so glamour’s job in aviation, The USAF mechanic, whether he is a crew chief, APG, electrician, hydraulic, engine, or instrument type, those long forgotten about men and women of field and organizational maintenance squadrons.
There are hundreds of books and movies written about the pilots and their feats of daring, but absolutely nothing but a paragraph or two written about the hard working aircraft mechanics. The guys who keep the aircraft flying. There are no slick form fitting flying suits adorned with mission patches and squadron emblems or silver wings adorning the uniform of the aircraft mechanic. Our badge of honor is the hydraulic, engine oil stained uniform, with an occasional tear in the knee or the hat so greasy you could lube a landing gear strut with it. . Kids growing up in my generation had the ambition to be like the movie star pilots, like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Jimmy Cagney or Earl Flynn, or the real war time hero’s like Eddy Rickenbacker, Dick Bong, Chuck Yeager, or Thomas B. McGuire to name a few. I really can’t recall any famous cargo hauling pilots except the Duke in “No Highway in the Sky” or the "High and the Mighty" one of my all time favorites.
John wayne as the Pilot in the High and Mighty
Did you ever wonder who the mechanics were for the “Red Baron”? Who kept his aircraft serviced and maintained? How about the mech’s for the aces in WW2, or the guys who kept those B-17’ B-24’s and B-29’s flying those long missions to targets, or the guy’s who worked on the C-46’s and C-47’s that flew the long and dangerous missions on the Hump.
Mech's at work WW2
What about the mechanics that spent long hours on the flight line keeping the aircraft flying while freezing their butts off in the cold of the Korean War? Its not that I am complaining or anything but aircraft mechanics have been in the background since the Wright Brothers took to flight in 1903 and I am very proud of what we have done over the years.
C7A Caribou "The Bou", Trash Hauler
While serving in Vietnam in the 483rd FMS as a 20 year old buck Sgt. working as an aircraft electrician, I worked on the C7A caribou a twin engine cargo aircraft made by Dehavilland Aircraft Company of Canada. Of all the aircraft I have worked on in 15 years of working on aircraft the caribou was the best.
The Caribou was one of the hardest working aircraft in Vietnam, It flew into some of the hairiest places you could fly into in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
While in Vietnam I worked with some of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. The engine mechanics, hydraulic men and the APG guys. I worked the nerve racking early morning launches at Cam Ranh Bay and Bien Hoa, riding in that old blue FMS metro truck full of oily engine rags, hydraulic oil and engine parts with greasy engine mechanics. We towed a couple of tanks of nitrogen to blow those old damp engine mags out because of that damn hot humid air of South Vietnam. We worked hard trying to get those old wornout engine generators to come on line etc. This was A time when your skills as a mechanic were tested at the highest in trying to troubleshot and repair all types of maintenance flaws.
In Vietnam I worked with some of the greatest pilots I ever had the chance to meet, men who really treated the mechanic types like we were important. I have no complaints about them at all,except for some of their write ups in the form one. And you know they were mostly all Lieutenants and Captains who flew the hell out these old “Bou’s”. During my time spent in Vietnam I gained the confidence in my skills as an aircraft electrician while being required to go out in the field to repair a broken bird sitting on some dirt strip at a desolate looking fire base while the grunts living there were calling it a mortar magnet and wanted it out of the area. We aircraft electricians were beholding to all the different types of mechanics that work on aircraft, it is a known fact that electricity runs everything on an aircraft! well almost everything. But almost every major job requires the special expert thinking and skills of the Aircraft Electrician.
The one thing I will always give created to is the U.S. Air Force. They take an inexperienced young kid, train him/her, send them to a specialty school and within one year they hand them the responsibility for the lives of others and the skills to maintain, work on and keep in the air multi million dollar aircraft. Where on the outside can you give the responsibility of the safety of an aircraft, carrying valuable cargo, or the lives of passengers to a young 19 or 20 year old? Go Air Force!
The DeHavilland Caribou (BOU) entered service with the US Army in the 1960’s The Air Force took over the responsibility of the Caribou in late 1960’s over a dispute of the Army flying bigger fixed wing cargo aircraft.
During my time spent in the U.S. Air Force I worked on a variety of aircraft, The Douglas C-118,
Each and everyone of these aircraft had their own special annoying problems, but man was it fun working on these great aircraft. After the C7A Caribou in Vietnam, I was transferred off of cargo aircraft and spent my last year and a half on the famous old F-106 Delta Dart , in the 83 rd FIS at Loring Air Force Base Maine.
Here is a few photo’s of what I did in Vietnam, Thailand, not much of a war story but a lot of hard, hard, work.
A series of Photo's of a crashed C7A Caribou that I worked on in Cheng Mai Northwest Thailand, They say the top hatch blew open and the pilot set her down with the gear already going up. We changed both engines, did some sheetmetal repair and had it back in service in a couple of weeks.
Our Operations shack after a near hit by an enemy 122mm rocket attack. Bien Hoa Vietnam. I Remember the night very well!
The other side of the shack, Bien Hoa, Vietnam
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
In todays blog I am including more stories from the Pottsville Journal during World War 2. They will consentrate on infantrymen and sailors in combat. We must remember to write these men and women back into history, their stories cannot be forgotten.
Frackville Soldier Helps Maintain Repeater Site.
Armed only with carbines, while German 88 shells whined overhead and the enemy encircled their installations, operators of the U.S. Army Signal Corps repeater station on a vital communications line in Belgium stuck to their posts at the height of a Nazi counter attack. Among these soldiers who were later rescued by an American infantry platoon and unit of tank destroyers was Sgt. Vincent Banonas, of Frackville. “We had heard the increasing noise of the 88’s fire and the enemy planes had been after us a time or two, but we were busy and someone had to operate the repeater station, “ Sgt. Banonas said. “ When we received orders to abandon the installation, taking some equipment with us on a truck and destroying the rest, only one road was open, and the platoon of infantry and tank destroyers had just cleared that.” Before entering the service in December 1942 Sgt. Banonas was an inspector in the factory of the City Shirt Company Frackville. In December 1943 he came overseas to England, and in July 1944 landed in France.
Mess Sergeant Helps Evacuate Hospital
Tech Sgt. William F Stephenson, Pottsville a mess Sgt. With the 130th General Hospital in Belgium, was one of the volunteers selected to keep that institution in operation during the recent German offensive. When allied and enemy gun fire threatened the safety of the patients, Col earnest H. Parsons commanding officer ordered all communications stopped, patents evacuated and the hospital stripped to bare operating necessities and called for battlefield casualties. Nine doctors and 33 enlisted men, cooks and maintenance men comprised the volunteers. On Christmas Day in the center of hotly contested territory Stephenson’s staff of cooks prepared a turkey dinner for the hospital personnel patients and invited some tank and infantry soldiers from a nearby field. “They were the most surprised men I ever seen,’ Said Stephenson. “No one ever expected a General Hospital to operate in the middle of a battlefield.” During the emergency he doubled as a litter bearers, and a shock team aid.
Frackville Marine Receives Bronze Star For Heroism.
Somewhere in the Pacific Marine Corps Corp. Weldon J. Rupert of Frackville was presented with the Bronze Star at A Pacific base. Rupert bravely drove some heavy equipment to the front lines on Saipan and Tinian despite being subjected to heavy enemy fire.
Rupert a member of an engineering company of the Fourth Marine Division enlisted d in June of 1942. A former truck driver he has served with the Fourth Marines Division during both the Marshalls and Marianas Campaign.
His Citation Reads:
“For meritorious achievement in action against the enemy on Saipan and Tinian, from June 15 to August 1, 1944. As a driver of a truck crane and heavy machinery trailer combination, Rupert was constantly engaged in hauling heavy equipment, particularly large bulldozers to urgent the front line engineering projects. Despite the difficult terrain, bad roads and the excellent target which the equipment presented to frequent heavy enemy fire, he disregarded his own safety in order to accomplish his hazardous missions. His unusual ability and imitative, courage and tireless energy were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Army Nurse from Pottsville Sick in Hospital.
Lieut. Margaret Cake, of the Army Nursing Corps, one of the first Army nurses to land in France after the invasion, and who has been on duty with the Armed Forces in France and Germany is now a patient at a General Hospital in England suffering from infectious jaundice. Lt. Cake was taken from Germany and moved to a base hospital in Belgium before leaving by plane to England on December 31.
Lt. Cake and her husband Jack, VanGundy, also an officer in the Medical Corps were in the same medical unit in France and Germany.
Lt. Cake hopes to return to her unit after a rest of six weeks.
Landing In Leyte
Mary D Soldier sees heavy fighting on Leyte, PI.
One of the longest combat records of this war was made by the 12th Cavalry regiment 1st Cavalry Division of which PFC Louis P. Zalusky, of Mary D is a member. Landing on D Day on Leyte, his regiment struck off through the swamps and rice paddies, meeting little opposition as they went. Then the regiment went up into the mountains where resistance was often fierce and prolonged. For days the weary mud covered soldiers plodded forward hacking their own way across jungle covered ridges. Often food was dropped to them men by airplane. At other times it was carried on the backs of men who had to fight at the same time, Pvt. Zalusky is a Browning Automatic Rifle man in a troop which fired upon almost point blank by a Jap field piece. There Pvt. Zalusky had plenty of opportunity to use his rifle against the well dug in Japs. Despite these many difficulties, on the seventy second day on Leyte, the regiment reached the opposite shore of Leyte, having fought their way completely across the island.
Fighting in the Mountains of Italy
Port Carbon Soldier Under Fire while resupplying the Infantry.
Corporal Lewis Madenfort, Port Carbon helped carry vitally needed rations, water and ammunition to a unit of the 349th “Kraut killer” regiment, 88th Division “Blue Devils” while fighting in the Apennine Mountains on the fifth army front in Northern Italy recently. Members of the carrying party, with the heavy supplies on their backs, followed the doughboys as they pried the fanatical Germans from the heights. One of their toughest assignments was scaling jagged Mt. LaFine, where the doughboys had exhausted their food and ammunition. As the troops fought it out on one side of the peak, the supply men were dodging mortar and artillery fire while scaling the other side.
From the 88th History
(Moving up the "Blue Devils" concentrated in the San Piero area north of the Sieve River and prepared to go in on the Corps right flank, on the right of the 85th and passing through units of that division. The 349th and 350th went into assault positions during the night of 20-21 September and kicked off against the Gothic Line at 0500 hours on the 21st - the 351st being held in reserve.
Comparatively light resistance, encountered in the first few hours when the 349th took Mt. Frena by a surprising flanking movement, stiffened as the day and advance progressed. Early on the 22nd, the 1st Battalion, 350th, command post was raided and Lt. Col. Walter E. Bare, Jr., and all of his staff except the S-2 were taken prisoner along with operations maps and journals. This occurrence did not materially hamper the advance, however, and other favorable gains were made during the morning.
By 1700 hours on the 23rd, the 349th had taken Mt. La Fine, a commanding terrain feature, and beaten off three Kraut counterattacks -- one of which was of two-battalion strength which had been forming in a valley until smashed by accurate and heavy 337th and corps artillery concentrations. )
Pottsville Chaplain Dean Stevenson, Captures four German Soldiers. February 1945
Four German soldiers surrendered to Chaplain Dean Stevenson a Pottsville native on the Fifth Army front in Northern Italy recently. Stevenson who serves in the 91st “Powder River” Division was driving along a road when two Nazis appeared brandishing white flags. He stopped, loaded them into his jeep and turned them over to the POW enclosure. On another occasion, Stevenson entered a barn looking for a wounded American soldier. Instead he found three “jerries” two of them wounded. The wounded pair surrendered, the third escaped. Chaplain Stevenson was assistant pastor of the church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, for three years before he entered the army
Schuylkill Haven Soldier Earns Bronze Star for Bravery
Tech 5 Lewis D. Krammes, of Schuylkill Haven. Has been awarded the Bronze Star for heroic achievements in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States in France on November 9th 1944. The citation reads :
“During the attack on Moyenvic, France, on November 9, 1944, Company A, 101st Engineer Combat Battalion, advanced on the town, swept the roads for mines, and constructed a footbridge top facilitate the progress of our infantry units. Enemy fire caused many casualties. T5 Krammes, Company a aid man, in utter disregard for his own safety and under strong enemy artillery fire went about rendering efficient first aid to the wounded and dressing numerous wounds. Later, though not called on to do so, he entered the town of Moyenvic which was being intermittently shelled and administered first aid to the wounded infantrymen, and organized their evacuation to the battalion aid station. His initiative, his unusual devotion top duty, and his commendable solicitude for his wounded comrades reflects high credit upon Tech 5 Krammes and the Armed Forces of the United States.
Mt Fighting In Italy
Minersville Soldier Earns Bronze Star For Bravery
Pvt. Peter P. Bertasavage, Minersville recently was awarded the Bronze Star for heroic achievement in action in Northern Italy. He serves in the 168th Infantry regiment of the 34th “Red Bull” Division. When communication wires were broken by German artillery fire during an attack on a key town, Bertasavage and a comrade volunteered to lay new wire and maintain it during the action. Although repeatedly told by battalion commander to seek safety, they remained exposed for more than three hours until the mission was completed.
DSC Awarded to New Philadelphia Squad Leader…………… February 1945
Because Sgt. Peter Armstrong of New Phila, moved his heavy 30 caliber machinegun unaided to within 15 yards of Japanese position and enabled his platoon to disperse and knock out the position, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the commanding General of the 10th Corps.
Sgt. Armstrong is a squad leader in machine gun platoon of the 1st Cavalry Division now fighting in Leyte. He landed in one of the first waves to hit Leyte. And also participated in the Samar invasion. He was awarded the DFC for action during the Admirality Islands Campaign early in 1944. During an advance on Japanese positions his unit suddenly received vicious fire from enemy machine guns and small arms, from hidden positions. One of the gunners in his squad was wounded so Armstrong, also wounded, seized the machine gun and carried it into the face of the enemy to a spot where he could do material damage to the japes. His heroism enabled his platoon to place mortar fire which eliminate the Jap position.
His family was notified in April that he was wounded March 19 on Manus Island, of the Admiralty Group, in the South Pacific. The telegram stated his wounds were slight.
Distinguished Service Cross
a. The Distinguished Service Cross, section 3742, title 10, United States Code (10 USC 3742), was established by Act of Congress 9 July 1918 (amended by act of 25 July 1963).
b. The Distinguished Service Cross is awarded to a person who while serving in any capacity with the Army, distinguished himself or herself by extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor; while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing or foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing Armed Force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.
The German Soldiers in the Field
Mt. Carbon Soldier tells of Narrow Escape From Germans
Corporal James W. Ebling, Mt. Carbon, who is serving with the American forces in Belgium, wrote an interesting letter to Tom Dee, of Mt. Carbon, telling of a narrow escape from the Germans.
“My buddy and I had quite an experience which we will never forget, “he wrote, “This incident occurred near the Siegfried Line about three weeks ago, (the letter was written on January 1, 1945). Somehow we got trapped in our fighting hole by the jerries. No possible means to escape except to wait for darkness. The Germans moved in on us before we realized what had happened. We huddled in our hole sweating the hours which seemed like days. The night was foggy, damp and rain fell continuously. We had no sense of direction and we had no compass. We could see the Germans walk past our hole and we watched and we waited for one of them to look in and see us. I will never know why none of them ever looked in. I knew God was with us every minute of the day. As we waited patiently for darkness we were afraid to smoke or even move a muscle. We had one K ration between us and we shared it. And it tasted just like a chicken dinner with all trimmings. As the hours passed slowly we could hear various pieces of equipment moving, also the boom of guns and whistling of shells. We prayed that one would not hit our hole.
As my buddy and I lay huddled in our hole afraid even to talk. I thought of a lot of things I did in the past and prayed that God would see us through. About 2 a.m. we decided to make a break for our lines. With artillery as our only guide we started across no mans land. We left behind everything except the clothes we needed to wear. We were unarmed, hoping if we ran into any Germans they would give us have a chance of coming in alive. We walked as fast and quietly as possible, going through mud and water, snow and rain; crawled through barbed wire and hedges until we ran into a heavy machine gun emplacement of our own. We were never so glad to see an American soldier. I have sent home a Purple Heart from a wound received on the left arm from apiece of shrapnel, It was only a small cut.
Pottsville Naval Officer Survives Sinking of Destroyer U.S.S. Reid
Unharmed crew members struggling in Pacific Water off Leyte after U.S. Destroyer Reid sank December 11, performed just as American T4adition demanded, shouted cries for help for wounded fellow sailors and forgot their own troubles.
Lieut. Wayne F. Haviland is the Chief engineer of the Reid, he was one of those who struggled in the water for more than a half an hour after Japanese planes scored three direct hits on the destroyer and sank it within a short time.
“The attack off Leyte was nothing new for the Reid, “ He declares, “We had been under air attacks before but our gunners were good, our crew and engineering gang were the finest, opur morale was the best.”
“we were steaming full speed with guns blazing when the attack occurred.” Lieut. Haviland relates, “Some 10 or 11 Jap planes came in and we exacted a heavy toll before the bomb hits splashed across their mark. Even when the anti aircraft crews continued firing with water up to their waists.”
The local officer climbed up on the side of the ship, jumped off and swam swiftly away to avoid wreckage suction. A strafing Jap planes splashed bullets across the water among the struggling victims before it to was downed.
“There was no example of panic,” Lieut. Haviland says, “I heard no shouts of any kind except those directing the rescue crews to wounded men. The rescue work was efficient and I wasn’t in the water more than a half hour, though it seemed a great deal longer of course.”
The life and death of the 1480 ton destroyer of the Mahan class commissioned in 1930, reads like the hero ship of Noel Coward’s “In Which We Serve’s. which saw extensive action before its destruction.
The Reid participated in a bombardment of Kiska, operated during the hot days of Guadalcanal and underwent air attacks in sorties in the Coral Sea. It also operated in the New Guinea campaign, and captured a Jap vice admiral’s flag at Holianda.
Lieut. Haviland graduated from Pottsville High School in 1934 and Lehigh University in 1938. He enlisted and was commissioned an ensign in July 1942. He had been the chief engineer of the Reid for the past year and a half.
In the summer of 1944 the REID returned briefly to Pearl Harbor, before rejoining the Seventh Fleet and MacArthur's return to the Philippines at Leyte. The Japanese defense of Leyte was intense by air and by sea. The last major naval engagement in the Pacific was fought in the Leyte Gulf when the Japanese marshaled its remaining warships in a showdown battle. The decisive defeat in this battle rendered the Japanese Navy ineffective for the remainder of the war.
But the Japanese still had an awesome and increasingly effective weapon remaining: the Kamikaze or suicide plane. The U.S. Navy acknowledged that "if the [suicide] plane is not shot down or so severely damaged that its control is impaired, it almost certainly will hit its target."
In the REID's final two weeks in the waters around Leyte, the crew was able to sleep only an hour or two at a time. They were called to battle stations (condition red) an average of 10 times a day. It was a period of near constant combat.
In her final hours on December 11, the REID was protecting a re-supply force of amphibious craft bound for Ormoc Bay off the west coast of Leyte. About 1700 twelve enemy planes approached the convoy. The REID was the nearest ship to the oncoming planes. Planes 1 and 2 were shot down by the 5" battery. Plane 3 exploded about 500 yards off the starboard beam. Plane 4 hooked a wing on the starboard rigging, crashing at the waterline. His bomb exploded, doing considerable damage forward. Plane 5 strafed the starboard side and crashed on the port bow. Plane 6 strafed the bridge from the port side and crashed off the starboard bow. Planes 5 and 6 apparently had no bombs or they were duds. Plane 7 came in from astern strafing and crashed into the port quarter. His bomb exploded in the after magazine blowing the ship apart. All this action took place in less than a minute.
The ship was mortally wounded but still doing 20 knots. As the stern opened up, she rolled violently, then laid over on her starboard side and dove to the bottom at 600 fathoms. It was over in less than two minutes. 103 shipmates went down with her. The survivors were strafed in the water by Japanese planes before rescue.
The REID was in the war from the very first day at Pearl Harbor. She participated in 13 amphibious landings, 18 shore bombardments, shot down 12 enemy planes, sank one submarine, captured eight Japanese prisoners, steamed over 220,000 miles and expended over 10,000 rounds of 5" projectiles.
The USS REID DD-369 was a 1500 ton destroyer of the MAHAN class, 341' in length and almost 35' in the beam. She was originally fitted out with five 5" dual purpose guns, 50 cal. machine guns and 12 torpedo tubes. Later, one 5" gun was traded for twin mounted 40mm guns and the machine guns gave way to 20mm guns. A crew of 168 put the REID into commission, 268 were aboard when she went down, of whom 165 survived.
The Greatest Experience of His Life
With three of his tanks destroyed in battle following the Normandy invasion on historic D-Day T/5 Melvin C. Lewis, 30 of Pottsville has recovered from his wounds received in July 1944. Lewis has returned to the United States after serving a year in the European theatre of operations. As a reward for his bravery he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. He also has the Purple Heart award, European-African Middle Eastern campaign ribbon with three battle stars.
Lewis was a tank retriever. His job was to salvage American tanks that had been disabled by dragging them away with one he was operating. He received the Bronze star award as a token of recapturing a tank from the Germans. Later Lewis drove tanks into battle. But operating them was nothing new for him. Before the war he was a tank test driver for the U.S. Army. Lewis participated in D Day invasion in an LST boat, which departed from England. He said he was slightly sea sick. The enormous amount of men, equipment and supplies that he saw bewildered him. “It was the greatest experience of my life.” He confided.
German Soldiers in Action
Local Soldier Helped To Beat Off Nazi Drive.
April 10, 1944
With the Fifth Army Italy, A small force of German Infantry men recently filtered behind the left flank defenses of the Allied Fifth Army’s Third Division in the Cisterna sector in an effort to soften up resistance and pave the way for a major frontal assault. The operation failed, but the fighting which was among the bitterest to take place on the beachhead, lasted over 12 hours.
A member of the company who, together with his buddies shared the brunt of the flank attack and finally turned it into a costly setback for the enemy is Private George Hartstein, Pottsville. An infantry rifleman who has been with the division through the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and finally with the 3rd Division regiment that spearheaded the landing s on this beach head.
The German infiltrations, which constituted a striking force of some 50 men, were spotted by artillery observers further in the rear. They immediately notified and alerted the company. Most of the frontline riflemen fell back to cope with the sudden threat to the stability of their position, but the element of coordination was not lacking in the German Strategy. At that moment Tiger Tanks came roaring down the road just left of the company;\’s flank, firing into the small barricaded farm houses along their lines, which were used as combination artillery Ops and sleeping quarters for some of the men of various platoons.
The tanks, which had clear coasting and firing for the first 15 minutes, suddenly caught a blasting barrage of heavy artillery, together with mortars and 75s and drove them back, one tank catching fire and stalling about 70 yards up the macadam road.
“We have three machine guns raking the road and they blasted every kraut that climbed out of the tank.” Harstein Said. “What’s more , that tank was a godsend. It blocked the road and the other tanks wouldn’t veer into the field because they knew we had it mined.”
Meantime, the German company in the rear was virtually encircled and had taken refuge in an irrigation ditch. Every time they attempted to fight their way out they were driven back by withering automatic weapons and rifle fire, and finally decided to establish a temporary defense in the ditch and hold it until their infantry units broke through and rescued them.
About 11:30 after the enemy tanks had succeeded in leveling everyone of the company farm houses and killing some of the men who were in them, German artillery threw smoke shells all along the Fifth Army company’s forward line while half tracks came down the road carrying cargoes of troops, unloading them 200 yards in front of our own defenses. Many of them stepped on mines and perished instantly in the explosions that followed s, while mortars and artillery continued to fire into their ranks, inflicting many casualties and successfully breaking the back of the assault.
“Five krauts got into the draw just in front of one of our machine guns, the hard hitting infantryman said, “and the gunner had to drive them out with hand grenades before he was able to use the machine gun on them. He got everyone of them at point blank range of 25 feet.”
“At 3:30 in the afternoon riflemen got up within grenade throwing distance of the entrapped Germans and tossed two grenades into the ditch before they surrendered. Ten were dead, and the others were injured and fiercely beaten.”
By sundown under an intensified hammering from mortars and artillery and searing machine gun fire, the German armored vehicles and remaining infantrymen retreated in to their own second lines of defense. The attack was over. Strewn over the battlefield were numerous charred and riddled bodies and scattered limbs. The road was hazed over with smoke from a smoldering tank and two half tracks.
“They told us we killed and wounded over 50 percent of their entire attacking force.” Harstein declared, “and we captured many of them. The next day we watched the Kraut litter bearers spend all morning picking up their dead.”
New Philadelphia Youth Missing in Italian Sector
Private Martin P. Toomey, 19 from New Philadelphia is reported missing in action since January 30, 1944 in Italy.
Toomey is an infantryman attached to a famous Ranger unit, It is believed he was one of 900 rangers who were caught in a trap above the Anzio beachhead, near Rome. Toomey was a buddy of PFC Joseph Alabek of New Phila. Who is also listed as missing in the same area. The two soldiers left New Phila together to enter the service, were assigned tot eh same camps, went overseas together, both received Holy Communion in Italy on Christmas morning and both were reported lost since January 30.
Pvt. Toomey entered the service March 30, 1943.
Pottsville Soldier Earns the Silver Star
Technical Sgt. George L, Harvey, 27 from Pottsville has been awarded the Silver Star for heroic action during the invasion of Italy. Technical Sgt. Harvey risked his life to help save the lives of American sailors when their ship was bombed by enemy planes while unloading cargo at an unidentified port in Italy. Harvey helped pull out sailors blown into the water until he was knocked unconscious when he struck his head against the side of a ship while swimming toward shore with a wounded sailor. He was revived on the beach and rejoined the soldiers in the rescue work.
Harvey entered the service in May 1940, and was assigned to the Army Air Corps as a mechanic. He left for overseas in May 1942 and was stationed in England until the invasion of North Africa. Following the campaign in Africa he went into Italy.
Two Pottsville Brothers Meet Overseas.
Weathering storms and U boats in the Atlantic Ocean, fighting of a night attack by Nazi fighters in the Mediterranean Sea, climaxed by a reunion with a wounded brother at a base hospital somewhere in Italy, are some of the thrilling incidents experienced by Seaman First Class Reynold Davis of Pottsville.
A member of a gun crew aboard a ship carrying vital supplies to our fighting men, he was at sea for four months. The most thrilling part of the trip was meeting his brother whom he had not seen for more than six years. Technical Sgt. Robert Davis, the brother, was wounded in action in North Africa and was recuperating at a hospital in Italy.
“After learning from an M.P. that my brother’s unit was located a few miles away from the port in which we landed. I received permission to try and find him,” Reynold said. “When I located the outfit they told me he was at the hospital. Bob was up out of bed and doing some chores when I came up on him. I walked up cautiously and tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hiya Bud” when he turned around and saw me he almost fainted.”
The two brothers spent a five day furlough together seeing the sights of Italy.
Bob told his brother he was wounded in North Africa when his unit was caught in a trap by the Germans and they had to make a run for it. It was every man for himself. While running he was hit in the left leg by several machine gun bullets but kept on running. Then there was a hollow thud and the next thing he remembered was being lifted on a stretcher. He had been hit by shrapnel in the other leg and forehead. He gave his brother a souvenir which he prized greatly, a carton of cigarettes with a piece of shrapnel lodged in one of the packs of cigarettes.
Bob was carrying the carton of Cigarettes in the pack on his back. The jagged pieces of shrapnel went through the pack and ripped through nine packs of cigarettes and lodged in his pack. The cigarettes saved his life. He has fully recovered from his wounds in both legs but is expected to undergo an operation for the shrapnel lodged in his head.
The adventure experienced by Reynold on his first trip is one he will never forget. He visited eight ports including one in the Caribbean area, before leaving his cargo in Italy. The convoy fought off attacks by U-Boats. He was later told that according to a British report two enemy U-Boats were sunk. Upon reaching the Rock of Gibraltar the convoy was escorted into the Med. By English corvettes. On February 7, the Germans made another attempt to sink the convoy, this time sending as swarms of fighters and bombers. “The attack was expected” Reynold said, “and we were all set for them when they came over. It was about seven o’clock in the evening when they came over. Our fighter protection consisting of Spitfires, was in the air all afternoon, and went after the Germans as soon as they spotted them. I was manning a 20 mm gun during the fight. The attack lasted well into the night and both sides scored hits. I saw one enemy plane just off our port bow disintegrate in a huge ball of smoke and flame. Another plane could be seen falling in the darkness leaving a trail of fire behind it. No bombs struck our ship but a ship not more than 200 yards away was hit. In the darkness we were unable to see the attacking planes but kept firing to put up a protective barrage. The Nazi method of attack was to send in planes at low height to strafe our ship and draw our attention from the bombers which flew at great height.
The convoy got through safely and we unloaded at a port in Italy and after seeing my brother I was glad to head home, “ He said. “ The air attack was two days before my wedding anniversary and was my baptism of fire.
The greater part of the journey home was made in bad weather. Although to an experienced sailor it is heaven against U-Boat attacks. Reynold expressed greatest admiration for his captain, a typical sea veteran who has been at sea for forty years and during World War 1 had been torpedoed several times and under fire scores of times. The captain wears an old battered Navy cap which is all he managed to salvage after a torpedoing and will not part with it for love or money. Seam Davis said it’s a pleasure to serve under him.
Seaman Reynold entered the Navy September ,1943, he was assigned to an armed guard unit and went to sea in January, There is also a third brother in the service a member of the Merchant Marine.
Tower City Soldier Spent Several Terrifying Hours in A Castle In Italy.
Enduring American and German artillery by night and Yankee dive bombers attacks by day Staff Sgt. Alex McCammon, 27 of Tower City spent several hours in an ancient castle on the Fifth Army front in Northern Italy.
McCammon a squad leader and seven comrades from the 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th “Red Bull” Division were trapped in the castle after they wrested the strongpoint from the Nazis in a daring assault through withering machine gun and artillery fire. McCammons men gained entrance to the castle by crawling through a waist wide breach in the lofty, sturdy wall which surrounded it. Inside they were confronted by more than 20 hysterical Italian men, women and children who had converted the building into a shelter against air attacks and shelling.
During the night the enemy shelling was augmented by terrifying artillery and rocket fire from American positions. Some of the men suffered minor injuries from falling stones, timber and plaster.
“We couldn’t blame our artillery for shelling us, because they thought we had been captured.” McCammon said.
Early the next morning American dive bombers attacked the castle and its solid walls cracked from the violent concussions. Both sides unleashed furious artillery barrages. In the morning the American troops approached the castle.
McCammon said, “We almost mistook them for Krauts, Boy I was never so happy to see anyone in all my life. All of us had given up hope of ever getting out alive.”
The 133rd Regiment was instrumental in the fight for the Cassino.
.1 The Regiment occupied positions in preparation for the attack across the Rapido river to Cassino. Cassino was extremely well fortified, the enemy skillfully employing the terrain features to best advantage.
Jan 24 - Feb. 21, 1944 The Battle for Cassino. The Regiment played a leading role in this famous battle which was one of the toughest of the war. There were many cases of outstanding valor and the fierceness of the battle can be gauged by the over 50% casualties suffered by the three Battalions.
Minersville Soldier Makes a Strange Capture.
Pvt. Daniel Weiderhold of Minersville, captured a German who literally pulled his leg on the Fifth Army Front in Italy recently. Weiderhold serves in Company L, 362nd Infantry regiment of the 91st Powder River” Division. Behind a bank in a prone position, he was scanning the area to his front when he felt a tug on his foot. He paid no attention until the tug was repeated. Turning around he saw behind him a 6 foot Jerry, cradling an automatic pistol in his arms. The Nazi gave an embossed grin and Weiderhold escorted his prisoner to the rear. “I guess he was just tired of the whole works” said Weiderhold, whose home is on Twin St. Minersville.
Tower City Soldier Awarded Medal for Heroic Achievement
Corporal Walter P. Kauffman, Tower City was recently awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Heroic Achievement in action on the Fifth Army Front in Italy. The action for which the Corporal was decorated took place in the vicinity of Mount Trocchio on January 21 and 22, 1944. Kaufman a range Corporal in an anti aircraft battalion fighting under ll Corps, was in an assembly area prior to an attempted crossing of the Rapido River, when the unit was heavily shelled by the enemy, causing the death of one man and the wounding of several others.
Although slightly wounded himself, Kaufman declined medical attention until assured all others had been treated. Refusing to be evacuated, he proceeded to the river with his battalion and assisted in digging gun emplacements. Not until the following morning and upon orders from his superior officer did he leave the area. Kaufman already wears the Purple Heart Medal for combat wounds.
Minersville Soldier Keeps the Army Moving
Sgt. Joseph Sitkus of Minersville is serving with the Fifth Army on the Italian Front. Recently during a blizzard Sgt. Sitkus was a very busy man. He wheeled his ten ton wrecker up and down the Futa Pass, the snow basket of the Appenines, helping tanks up and down the steep grades, a nudge here, a shove there. He picked up 15 disabled vehicles in his four mile beat and towed them back to a snow post.
PT Boat on the Move
A Gunner On A PT Boat
Southwest Pacific Area. Feb 8, 1945 Blazing away almost simultaneously to the right and left at enemy luggers west of Cebu Island in the Central PI, a Seventh Fleet PT destroyed four of the small enemy coastal freighters in a running moonlit night battle December 29.
At his battle station the 37 mm cannon, aboard PT 190 was Joseph Robert Dallago, 19 a Gunners Mate third class, USNR from Schuylkill Haven.
“To Dallago and his mates aboard the “Jack of Diamonds” the action wasn’t something new. Their boat is a veteran of the battle of South Leyte Gulf. In the fight they were under the gunfire of a Jap battleship, several cruisers and destroyers.
In the latest action the PT patrol made a clean sweep of a Nip inter Island convoy. Closing to a few hundred yards, they poured steel and incendiaries into the largest lugger until it caught fire.
The Jap crews returned the fire but were no match for the speedy PT’s. When Dallago’s boat came around to make a run on the second freighter, a third was detected on their port side. Gunners shot up one and then whirled their guns around to bear on the other.
Bothe were left dead in the water. Meanwhile the remaining Nip ship was racing off in a vain attempt to escape. At full throttle the PT took chase. Under light gunfire from the enemy craft two strafing runs sufficed to set the lugger ablaze and leave it sinking in the water.
The entire enemy convoy had been destroyed. A few small bullet holes in the PT was the only damage suffered.
Dallago enlisted in the naval reserve Nov. 17, 1943. He has been in the South west Pacific area for four months and has participated in 16 combat patrols in the New Guinea and Philippine area.
St. Clair Boy Fought Hand to Hand Battle With 4 Nazis
March 4, 1944
Pvt. Joseph B. Porter of Shaft Hill, St. Clair a member of the anti aircraft artillery school at Camp Davis knows how it feels to tangle with the Nazis in close fighting. In the cold wastes of Spitzbergen, above Norway, with three other Americans, he bumped into four Germans, and when the ensuing hand to hand fighting ended there were three dead Jerries and one prisoner.
Porters back still hurts from a Nazi rifle butt, but it turned out to be a very lucky blow-one that he wont forget in a hurry. As his elbow struck the ground, his automatic rifle discharged and mowed down two of the Nazis
This all came about when Porter volunteered with six other paratroopers to wipe out German communications to pave the way for the main task force. Just a short time before, he had also volunteered with three troopers to destroy a German radio station which was making a nuisance of itself in Greenland. As a result of this venture he was snow blind for 15 days, during which time he lived on dehydrated food, which eventually grew very distasteful to him. During this expedition, the temperature dropped to below 50 below, three dogs died, and Porter and his party had to take refuge in an ice cave.
During the fortnight in the cavern, the band supplemented its rations with polar bear steaks and an occasional snow shoe rabbit. Joe recalls that the meat was quite a relief from the GI issue even though it did taste a little gamey.
As if he hadn’t experienced enough excitement, his ship was torpedoed on the way back to the states, and pieces of shrapnel bit into his hip and one leg. He got back January, 8 1944 after a period of hospitalization the 20 year old veteran was once again assigned to the AAA school, from whence he had got his start in military life.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Last Schuylkill County Civil War Veteran.
Found this article in the Pottsville Journal of April 24, 1944 while researching soldier stories from World War 2. How I ever missed this important story is still a mystery to me. Anyway Thank you Private John J. Kohler, I wish I could have talked to you.
On April 23, 1944 Schuylkill County lost its last Civil War Veteran. John J. Kohler, 97 was Schuylkill last surviving veteran of the Civil War. He died at 3:05 a.m. at the Pottsville Hospital where he had been a patient since February 12. For twenty years Mr. Kohler has lived with the Dechant family, at 13 north sixth street.
He was the son of the late Jacob and Dorthea Super Kohler and was one of eight children. He was born in Pottsville and for a number of years was employed as a blacksmith and machinist for Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, and for a shipping company.
He was the oldest member of Trinity Lutheran Church. His wife, the former Miss Jane Robson, preceded him in death thirty three years ago. He is the last of his immediate family. Dr. James B. Heller is the only surviving nephew. The following nieces also survive; Mrs. D. W. Kaercher, Mrs. W. J. Schmidt, Mrs. Clarence Meade, Miss Helen Krebs, Mrs. Emma Kohler, of Pottsville; Mrs. Alice Foster and Mrs. A. E. Ballentine.
The funeral will be held on Wednesday afternoon from the Chapel of the Resurrection, Charles Baber Cemetery, at 2:30 o’clock, with the Rev. Dr. Emil Weber of Trinity Lutheran Church officiating... Friends may call at Oliver A. Bittle Funeral Home on Tuesday evening. Burial will be made in Charles Baber Cemetery.
Members of the Robert Woodbury Post of the American Legion, and members of the veteran’s organizations in Pottsville will accord Mr. Kohler in military honors.
He first entered service in the Union Army at the age of 14 years as a drummer boy and was sent home when his real age was revealed. Later when he reentered the service he was a member of Company C, 194th Regiment and participated in several important engagements in the Civil War.
When survivors of the 48th Regiment, Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry Association met in Pottsville annually until the death of Charles W. Horn the last survivor, in 1941. Comrade Kohler attended the reunions as a guest. Though not a first defender, he attended that groups annual banquets for years as a Civil War survivor.
Mr. Kohler was closely associated with Robert B. Woodbury , Post No. 67 American Legion, and was the guest of post members at the time of his birthday each December 23.
Symbol of the swindling ranks of the “boys in Blue”; he rode in an open automobile in patriotic parades, touching his cap in response to salutes by bystanders. For a number of years he was a special guest at community patriotic meetings and veterans banquets, invariably responding to the call of his name with a hearty salute.
Within the past year he became more feeble and was assisted in walking. He attended the annual Legion party at the Armory last fall, however, and maintained lively interest in the activities.
John Kohler's Pennsylvania Card File For The 6th Pa Militia, as a Drummer Boy , says he was 15 but was only 14 and only 4' tall?
Sunday, August 10, 2008
How the execution of Dormady and Clark would have looked like.
THE EXECUTION OF A SCHUYLKILL COUNTY SOLDIER DURING THE CIVIL WAR.
Between the years 1861-1867, 267 Union Soldiers were executed either in front of a firing squad or they were hanged. The soldiers were court martial under military law. The common soldier swore an oath to defend the constitution, but in reality he was denied a lot the basic rights of the constitution.
Soldiers were denied the right to” Free Speech”, “Immunity from search and seizure”, “Double jeopardy”, and a speedy and public trial. They were also denied “the right for obtaining witnesses on their own behalf and the assistance of counsel.” And also “Avoidance of cruel and unusual punishment.” According to Dr. Robert I Alotta, in his book Civil War Justice.
Dr. Alota also states “there was no precedent for the Civil War in American judicial system. Military men, just like those steeped in the law, were unprepared for the adjustment to wartime reality. And their was no desire, at least on the part of the military to come to grips with the situation.”
Of the 267 men listed as executed, there were actually many more that were not listed according to an 1887 report by the military. A certain bias toward ethnicity, race and religion played a major roll in who was to be executed.
There was also an extreme difference in the character of a court martial for an officer versus that of an enlisted man. Enlisted men were really doomed because of their lack of sophistication and lack of political pull.
The major reason for execution in the Union Army was for that of desertion. A major problem during the Civil War. Under the Articles of War desertion is possibly the worst of the crimes a soldier could commit. Although desertion stood as the largest reason for execution, men were also executed for murder, mutiny, stealing, assault, striking an officer, rape, and highway robbery.
On 5 September 1862, Private William Dormady a 19 year old canal boat man from Pottsville serving in Battery H, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery along with Pvt. Charles Clark a 29 year old private of the same battery, and regiment were charged by a Military Commission with 1st charge: Quitting their post to plunder and pillage, 2nd charge: “Assault with intent to kill” and the 3rd charge.” Murder” A unique aspect of this crime is the fact that other men of the same regiment were involved in this act, but none were ever charged.
Both William Dormady and Charles Clark were members of Battery "H", 1st Regiment Pennsylvania Light Artillery (43rd Volunteers)
Organized at Philadelphia August 5, 1861, and ordered to Washington, D.C. Attached to Defenses of Washington to October, 1861. Buell's Division, Army Potomac, March, 1862. Artillery, 1st Division, 4th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to July, 1862. Reserve Artillery, 4th Army Corps, Yorktown, Va., to June, 1863. Camp Barry, Washington, D.C., 22nd Army Corps, to May, 1864. 1st Brigade, DeRussy's Division, 22nd Corps, to June, 1865.
Their service included duty in the Defenses of Washington, D.C., until March, 1862. Advance on Manassas, Va., March 10-15. Ordered to the Virginia Peninsula. Siege of Yorktown April 5-May 4. Battle of Williamsburg May 5. Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) May 31 June 1. Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1. Bottom's Bridge June 28-29. Glendale June 30. Malvern Hill July 1. At Harrison's Landing until August 16. Moved to Yorktown, Va., and duty there until June, 1863 when and where their crime was committed.
THIS IS THE STORY OF THE CRIME AND EXECUTION OF WILLIAM DORMODY AND CHARLES CLARK.
Privates William Dormady and Charles Clark, of Battery H, 1st Penna. Artillery, convicted by General Court Martial of the murder of Hesekiah Stokes, a citizen of York County, Va. Were hung outside of the walls of Fort Yorktown, yesterday, at 1 ½ o’clock, P.M. March 2, 1863.
Particulars of the murder.
The day previous to the murder, Dormody and a companion-their battery then encamped two miles below Fort Yorktown went about three and a half miles south of their battery camp, and fell in with two citizens of York County, Patrick Dawson and Thomas Hogg, at work near an orchard. They asked these citizens for apples, and were told to take as many as they pleased. After leaving the orchard they proceeded to a corn field and commenced stripping off the corn. Dawson and Hogg left their work and approached and expostulated with them. An angry altercation followed, succeeded by a fight, in which Dormody and friend were soundly flogged, and from which they were glad to retire and seek their camp with all possible speed. The next morning Dormody, sore in body and mind told, the affair to Clark, who proposed to raise a posse on the ground that they had been abused by Secesh for being Union soldiers. And go down and take revenge. Dormody agreed, and a posse was formed. Going to the neighborhood they searched two houses without finding the men they sought. They attempted to enter a third, but were driven away by a Union Soldier guard. They turned toward camp, when they espied Stokes coming in a “Virginia tumb’er,” or a one horse cart. Dormady cried out, “here comes one of them,” on which Clark started full speed towards him; coming up to the cart, he sprung in and knocked Stokes out and flat upon the ground at the first blow. He sprung on him and after striking him a few times, said, “will you promise never to assault another Union soldier?” Stokes replied, “ I never have assaulted a Union soldier.” This enraged Clark, and he struck him a number of times” He then repeated the question. Stokes said he would promise, for there was no reason why he should not, as he had never done such a thing, and never intended to. This enraged Clark still more, who lifted him to his feet and then knocked him down. This operation was repeated three times. He then left, and the others abused him at some length, and dragged him to the side of the road. As they turned away, Dormody said, “I'll knife him, “and suiting the action to the word, plunged a knife into his body. Stokes lived about two weeks after receiving the wounds. He left a wife, one son and two daughters. The wife was present at the execution, in what, we are told, is the same cart her husband was in when assaulted on the 5th of September. Her driver was a Negro woman.
Actual Photo of a Civil War Execution
Adjutant General’s Office
Washington , Feb. 3, 1863
General Orders No.28
At a Military commission which convened at Yorktown, Va. October 18, 1862, pursuant to Special Orders No. 131, dated October 10, 1862 from HQ 4th Army Corps, Yorktown Va. And of which Brig. Gen Henry M. Naglee, U.S. Volunteers, was president, were arraigned and tried.
1st. Private William Dormady, Battery H, 1st Pennsylvania volunteer Artillery
Charge 1st. “Quitting his post to plunder and pillage.’
Specification.” In this, that private William Dormady, Battery H, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Artillery, did on the 5th of September, 1862, quit his post for the purpose of plundering and pillaging the citizens of the United States in the county of York, Va. This at post of the battery near Yorktown, Va.
Charge 2d. “Assault with intent to kill.”
Specification. In this the private William Dormody, Battery H. aforesaid, did on the 5th of September 1862 offer violence to the person of one Hezekiah Stokes, of York County, Va., a citizen of the United States, while in the peaceful pursuit of his lawful occupation, and did strike, beat and stab the said Stokes, of which the violence said Stokes did there after die. This at the camp of his battery, at Yorktown, Va.
Charge 3d. “Murder”
Specification 1st. “In this, that private William Dormady, Battery H 1st Penna Vol. Art. Aforesaid, did on the 5th of September, 1852, with clubs, pistols and knives, beat, shoot and stab one Hezekiah Stokes of York County, Va. A citizen of the United States, while in the peaceful occupation of his lawful pursuit, and of his own malice did him violence, of which the violence the said Stokes did thereafter die.
Specification 2d. “In this, that private William Dormady, Battery H 1st Penna Vol. Art. Aforesaid, did on the 5th of September, 1852, while divers malicious persons were assaulting with clubs, pistols and knives Hezekiah Stokes aforesaid, and doing him great personal violence, was present aiding, abetting and assaulting the same, of which violence the said Stokes did thereafter die. This near the camp of the said William Dormody, at Yorktown, Va.\
To which the charges and specifications the prisoner pleaded as follows.
The Prisoner William Dormody plead … “Not guilty to all specifications and charges.
The Court after mature deliberation upon the evidence adduced, finds the prisoner as follows: Guilty on all charges. The charges and specifications were the same for the said Charles Clark as in the case of Dormady.
In compliance with the 5th section of the act approved July 17, 1862, the proceedings in the cases of the privates William Dormady and Charles Clark have been submitted to the President of the United States, and the sentences are by him approved, and will be executed under the orders of Major General Dix, Commanding the Department of Virginia.
Description of the Prisoners
Dormody was 19 years old, a native of Ireland; was a medium sized man, brown hair, blue eyes and fair complexion. He has two brothers in the United States Navy, and one brother at Pottsville, Pa. His forehead was contracted and his countenance rather down cast and difficult to describe, but his voice was mild and agreeable.
Clark was 29 years old, might be called large, dark brown hair, light grey eyes. His father and mother have both died since he has been in the United States service; has one sister in Vermont; no other relations that he knows of; calls himself a Vermonter.
After the trial they were confined in fort Norfolk until a week ago, when they were brought up here and confined on the Mahaska.
Place of Execution.
The gallows was erected in a hollow outside of and facing the walls of Fort Yorktown, at the right of the south or middle gate.
Position of the Troops.
By order of Major General Keyes, the troops, after being paraded at 11 ½ o’clock A.M. at 12 o’clock took position as follows.
The troops of all the light batteries except Battery M, 5th U.S Artillery were at the ramparts together with the 172d Regiment P.V. The troops outside under command of Brigadier General Bustead, were formed about the gallows. The 178th Regt. P.V. and Battery M, 5th U.S. Artillery, on the right, the 179th P.M. on the left, and the 178th N.Y. Volunteers in the centre of the square. A squadron of the 6th N.Y Cavalry under Major Hall was distributed at intervals entirely around the other troops.
At five minutes past 2 o’clock all was in readiness. Soon after, General Busteed rode round to various regiments of his brigade, and addressed each and every appropriately and ably.
Major General Keyes and staff were present, taking their positions at some distance in front of the scaffold. There presenting an imposing military appearance, they remained quietly observing everything for two long hours. Not till after the bodies were pronounced dead, did a man leave his place. We have seldom seen anything conducted throughout with such perfect order.
Spiritual Advisers and States of Mind of the Prisoners.
Everyday after the arrival of the prisoners at Yorktown, they were visited by Father Hunt, Chaplin of the 178th P.M. up to Sunday. He found them at first expecting to be pardoned or et all events granted a respite. Dormady professed to be a catholic, and was sly. As the certainty of death stared them in the face they became anxious about their future state. Clark read such portions of scripture as Father Hunt advised, and on Sabbath after he had talked with Father Hunt advised he said he would read a chapter of his own selection, and then he prayed and Father Hunt prayed. He read the 16th of St. John’s Gospel. In the course of his prayer, as tears rolled down his cheeks he said. “O God forgive me the wicked, cruel murder of a man that had never injured me. I am about to suffer punishment, and I deserve it; it is all right. Have mercy upon the widow, made such by my rash and cruel act; let her not suffer and put into her to forgive me for making her a widow. O God bless her six children (he supposed there was that number) made orphans by me, and may the mother not teach them to curse my memory, but to forgive the murderer of their father. O God bless my comrades who will escape this punishment (there were 13 of them) and let my example be a warning to them.
As Father Hunt left them both urged him to come again in the morning. But about this time, by steamer Thomas A. Morgan, from Fortress Monroe, where he had celebrated mass that morning, arrived Holy Father Paul e. Gillen, Chaplain of the 170th Regiment N.Y. Volunteers one of the regiments of Cocoran’s Irish Legion. He is a native of Illinois and was formerly Volunteer Chaplain of N.Y. Engineer Corps serving without any pay from the Government. He had been sent for by Col. R.M. West Chief of Artillery, to whom as well as Lt. Col. Blood, he was well known, having visited their regiments heretofore, and spent Christmas with them in 1861. He met a warm reception from these gentlemen and from General Keyes and his estimable lady. Going on board the Mahaska he was welcomed by the prisoners. Dormody was a member of the Papist church, and Clark received baptism as one of that communion. On coming ashore the night he sent word to Father Hunt that he desired him not to visit them any more, as he had taken them both under his special spiritual care.
On visiting them next morning, he administered to both the sacrament of the Eucharist. He afterward accompanied them to the place of execution.
Escorted by the provost Marshal and two companies of the 4th Delaware Volunteers, they rode in an army wagon, each sitting on his coffin, and the good father between them. They arrived within sight of the scaffold twenty-five minutes before one o’clock.
On arriving at the scaffold all dismounted and knelt on the ground. The venerable Father, with his black santon, purple stole and gray hair waving in the wind, appeared very …………… as he led them in general confession and had them repeat acts of contrition, faith, hope and charity.
Fifteen minutes past one o’clock, accompanied by Capt. Raulston and a sergeant of his guard, they mounted the scaffold.
The general orders, embracing the charges, verdict and sentence, were read by Capt. Raulston. They then made their remarks, which we give below. After this they knelt in prayer, about two and a half minutes. Arising, they kissed the crucifix and said, “Jesus and Mary”.
The ropes were adjusted about their necks by the provost Marshal and his Sergeant, and the caps drawn over their faces. Capt. Raulston touched the drop, and they fell about six feet. They struggled very little, both their necks being broken.
After the charges and sentence were read by Capt. Raulston, the prisoners were told if they had anything to say to speak. Clark stepped calmly forward and said:
“Fellow soldiers I do not want to be set down as a cold blooded murderer. That was never my intention. I had a revolver containing six loads, and with any of these I could have killed him in a minute. I merely went out with the intention of assisting a fellow soldier against what I knew to be a rebel. Of this I offered to bring evidence on the trial, and they would not let me.
“Fellow soldiers, from me take warning. I put my trust in my savior, Jesus Christ. Fellow soldiers , farewell.”
Dormady then said:
“Fellow soldiers I confess, what I have before, that I inflicted a blow which, if it caused his death, makes me guilty. I beg pardon of God for my sins. Fellow soldiers, farewell.”
At six minutes past two o’clock the bodies were cut down, and by order of Major General Keyes, turned over to Dr. James B. Reilly, Chief Surgeon of the Brigade, and at the time of our going to press, 1 o’clock this morning, are in the dead house of Nelson Hospital. At 10 o’clock to day, they will be taken to the headquarters of the reserve artillery, where mass will be celebrated preparatory to their burial.
The name Dormady is also spelled in other records as Dormady. I used Dormady for the article. Dormady is what is on his grave marker.
It is interesting to note that there were actually thirteen men involved in this incident, as Clark had stated in his prayers with the Priest. It sounds as though he was wondering why only he and Dormody were charged. Also Clark made the claim that he was not allowed to bring out the evidence that he was only helping a fellow soldier and that he had a revolver and never used it. As Dr. Alota had stated in his books a lot of the rights a soldier should have under the constitution were not granted to them. Now Dormody, well murder is murder as he had confessed.
It is also interesting to note that there was never anything written about this execution or the fact that Dormody came from Pottsville and his brother lived there. I wonder was it shameful or did they kust not know about it? There were certainly men from the
I was able to locate the grave of Charles Clark as follows:
Charles Clark Pvt. 1st Pa. Res. Light Artillery, Buried Yorktown Battlefield National Cemetery in plot 238
William Dormady Pvt. 1st Pa. Res Artillery, Buried Yorktown Battlefield National Cemetery in plot 236
It seems Clark and Dormady still lie side by side.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
95th Fighters in line
In today’s blog I want to take the time to pay tribute to the known pilots from Schuylkill County who flew and fought in World War One. 1st. Lieutenant Lawrence Richards, Pottsville who flew with the famous 95th Aero Squadron U.S. Air Service, “The Kicking Mules”. Lieutenant Stanley Davis from Pottsville who went to Europe and flew with the French Aéronautique Militaire with the 77th Aero Squadron flying Nieuports and Spads and fought against the famed Richtofen Flying Circus. And Robert Mills another Pottsville boy who went to Canada, and then to England where he flew for the RAF on a Felixstowe F3a flying boat, he was shot down and wounded numerous times. And also Douglas Crater who flew for the RAF in anti Submarine Warfare. I have taken the liberty to borrow from my book” Pennsylvania Voices in the Great War”, the letters written by Davis and Mills and Crater to the local Pottsville Journal and Republican. They will give a good look at two American Pilots who served in the RAF (Royal Flying Corps) and one in the French Escadrille Services.
I unfortunately have no letters from Lieutenant Richards, by utilizing the excellent books “First to the Front”(FTTF) and “ Echoes of Eagles”(EOE) by Charles Woolley, both books are about the 95th "Kicking Mules”. I can put together some kind a brief history and tribute to Lawrence Richards.
1st Lieutenant Lawrence Richards, came from Pottsville, he entered the military in 1917 and by October 1917 he was in flight training with the French Air force.. By the time he completed his war time service he had flown 53 sorties, shot down one combat action and had a total flying hours of 50:23. On July 20, 1918 Lt. Richards was wounded in an aerial combat. He began his flying career at Tours and Issoudun, France. Issoudun was the American Army’s first training facility for its up coming fighter pilots. Learning on a Caudron G4 and Nieuport Type 23 aircraft with French Flying instructors Richards began his flying career. The men who would become the famed pilots of the 95th were all college men, a large portion of the men were former Ambulance Drivers with the American Field Service.
Initially the men of the 95th were taught to a contraption called a “penguin”, they were Bleriot monoplanes with the wings clipped off so that they could never get airborne. The pilots steered them with foot pedals connected to the rudder. The pilots were taught to roll along the ground and gain the ability to steer it in a straight line. Easier said than done according to the pilots.
After the “penguin” the pilots moved on to the two seat Nieuport type 23, French instructor in the front seat and pupil in the rear.
The Caudron G3, G.3 equipped Escadrille C.11 of the French Aéronautique Militaire at the outbreak of war, and was well-suited for reconnaissance use, proving tough and reliable. As the war went on however, its low performance and the fact that it was unarmed made it vulnerable in front line service, and so the French withdrew it from front line operations in mid-1916. It continued in use as a trainer after ceasing combat operations until after the end of the war.
After many hours of training and flying mock combat the orders finally came and on February 14, 1918 Richards and 17 other 1st. Lieut’s were assigned to the 95th Aero Squadron. The men were assigned to Villeneuve les Vertus airfield.
The month of March 1918 was spent flying and training in the Nieuport 28’s on March 6, 1918 Richards along with 14 other pilots took off from Paris on a ferry flight with fifteen new Nieuport 28’s . Richards ran out of gasoline and landed at Pierre Morains. A majority of the other pilots had problems also, cylinders broken, magneto troubles. 6 arrived safe. (FTTF)
On the 7th the men drew their flying clothes, heavy fleece lined boots, gloves etc. On March 12, Richards was assigned to the 2nd flight under Lt. Waldo Heinrichs and assigned to aircraft # 6148
On March 15th the 95th was assigned to fly its first mission over the lines, 3 patrols of 3 aircraft each. Larry Richards was assigned to fly the 2nd patrol. So in the history of Schuylkill County we have another interesting feat. 1st Lt. Larry Richards flew the second patrol of American Aircraft over the enemy lines during WW1. On the 16th Richards went up with his section and practiced turns right and left faces and formation flying. Late March and early April were spent once again in gunnery school at Cazeaux, March 26-April 25.
On April 24 the 95th was back at the front at Epiez-Toul-Touquin. While at Toul Richards shared a room with Lt. Stuart McKeown. While here he flew alert type missions. On May 10 and 11 the 95th boys had their planes painted in American cocade of Red, Blue, and White changed from the french of Red, White and Blue. Richards went on patrol on May 15, they took some heavy anti aircraft fire. On the 17th Richards was to fly a mission to over fly a photo recon flight a CAP flight., but his engine had problems and he had to land. While at Toul Larry Richards flew Nieuport 28 , number 9.
On May 29, Larry Richards was on a patrol with the second flight, at 4p.m. came word that the Boche were attacking at Montanville . Jones and Richards broke from the patrol and went very low and strafed the trenches.
On May 31, Richards was on a patrol near Thiaucourt and at 2,500 meters was taking archie fire. He got hit under the tail but got home ok.
On June 2, Richards was on a 4 plane patrol from 11:30-13:00. with Waldo Heinrichs
they sighted enemy planes they claimed an Albatross destroyed but it was not confirmed the other aircraft were to far away. 7 July Richards and his section engage five Fokker’s; His room mate makes a kill. Stewart McKeown.
On 9 July the squadron moves to airdrome at Saints.
On he 14th Quentin Roosevelt is shot down in flames by Sgt. Thom of Richtofens Circus, near Château-Thierry.
On the 19th of July Larry Richards engages 7 Fokker’s over Chateau Thierry and is wounded on the thigh; he makes it back to an airdrome and is immediately rushed to a hospital.
On November 29, 1918 Lieutenant Lawrence H. Richards was awarded the French Croix de Guerre Medal.
RICHARDS. LAWRENCE H.
FIRST LIEUTENANT, 95TH AERO SQUADRON, AIR SERVICE
AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES.
French Croix de Guerre with gilt star,
Under order No. 12.058D dated November 29, 1918.
General Headquarters, French Armies of the East.
With the following citation:
“An excellent pursuit pilot who possessed great skill and remarkable coolness. Was wounded in combat on July 19, 1918, by a bullet in the thigh.”
Residence at appointment: 1311 West Howard Avenue, Pottsville Pa.
The 95th Kicking Mules
I had the funniest experience you could imagine.
October 21, 1917
Lieut. Stanley Davis
U.S. Air Service
You probably noticed in my other letters that I was constantly complaining about the bad weather and not being able to get aloft. Well, that is all over now and never again will I complain about the good weather. But this morning is damp and densely foggy and we can not work, so we all slept till ten o’clock. In fact my two roommates are still sleeping but I got up on purpose to write you a little word before lunch.
I have finished all my brevet tasks and now just finishing up with my time. It was very exciting all the way thru and I have never gone thru anything like it in my life. Some six or seven hundred miles in an airplane is no easy matter and especially as one does it all in different kinds of weather and times.
I had the funniest experience, which you could ever imagine on one of my triangles. A ‘Triangle” is one of the voyages which is necessary for the brevet, and simply means that you start at one point, say this field and then go to another town some 20 miles away, and then to another place some 80 miles away from the second and in a different direction, so that when you take your map of the district and draw lines connecting the three points, the result is a triangle. All the work is by map of course because none of us know the country. But when you get up to 3000 or so and have the map in a holder case in front of you, the entire earth looks almost identical with the map. It is almost to difficult to imagine until you have had the experience of looking down on actual living map and passing rapidly along roads, over towns, rivers, forests etc. etc.
Well, I did the one triangle successfully in the morning of a beautiful day. As the tests are official, one sets out with all sorts of papers that must be signed and officially stamped at different regular stations or landing points. Well, I started out on my second triangle late in the afternoon with directions to go to the first aid station and have my stop recorded etc. reset my barograph and then proceeded to the second stop and rest there all night in the hotel. Everything was all fine except that they had a little difficulty getting my motor running properly and it delayed me to such an extent that when I finally left for my nights stopping point, it was about 4:30 P.M. That left about an hour ordinarily before it started to get dark, and we allowed about that time for me to make that second leg of the triangle provided I went in a straight line.
Cockpit of Nieuport 28
Everything was wonderful. In the cool of the evening, at sunset, with the motor buzzing along at 1150 turns per minute and up to 2500 feet, following a course directly over a long straight road, bordered by trees on one side and white concrete telephone poles on the other. I won’t take time to tell you my feelings, in fact I could not do it, for one feels so different being lulled to sleep by the buzz buzz of the motor, and with the cold air on your cheeks and face, suddenly I am awake however for it began to get dark, so soon and I could hardly see my friendly guide road below me. So I came down to 2000 feet and then in the darkness grew to 1500 and finally to 1000 and there I stuck as it was not safe to travel under 300 or 400 meters over strange country because you surely would be out of luck if your engine went bad and you had to pick a landing field with only several feet to glide in.
I was then as low as was safe and my hour was about up I thought I must be near my destination, and I began to look around and just about that time it started to rain buckets full and got dark as pitch, and the wind blew a regular gale, at least that’s how it seemed to me. Then I couldn’t find the road with the telephone poles, and I pretty nearly passed out in my predicament. Heavens only knows it is bad enough making landings in fine weather and when you know your fields. The wind and everything favorable to you. But here I was, at night or nightfall, in a strange place, with rain besides and absolutely compelled to come to earth or crash into something in the dark or fall down. I don’t know how under the sun I did it but I got down, in a farm, and my wheels and skids came shooting along over a field, which loomed up under me, filled with little piles of hay, drying. I just managed to pass in between two apple trees, and came to a dead stop, with a jolt as my wheels struck the furrows of a plowed field at right angles. To say that I was happy at being down to earth again would indeed put it mildly. I was petrified and paralyzed and just sat in my seat, still strapped in, and sweated, and thanked the Lord he brought me down, for I knew I never did it myself. When I finally got myself together again, and the straps undid, and my gas and oil and one thing after another tended to, I was greeted by a flock of hurrying pheasant men, ( old men ) women and children, all hurrying across the fields, slopping along in the rain in their wooden shoes, and wildly chattering and waving their arms, and as they came at me with a million words a minute in French and I stood there like a post with all my flying mitts, helmet, goggles etc. still on, they probably thought I was a dummy or a person from a strange planet. After they had all gathered around and looked the machine over and talked and waved the entire outfit finally. I pulled off my head gear they congregated around me and waited and watched every single thing I did until I finally got myself out of my helmet and then you should have heard them-oh-oh-oh Anglais, Anglais. I heard the words and then more and more chatter and then an abrupt silence as an old man took center of the stage and looked into my face. Well the rest of the story you can fill in for yourself, mother, as I finally conveyed the information to them, that I was an American Volunteer, flying for France, “Pour la Patrie” and that I had lost my way and all I wanted was a place to couche ( sleep) and something to eat. Then I felt the need for a little protection for the night for the plane and I got the entire assembly to help push the machine over the plowed field and against a little woods which offered as a sort of wind break for the wings. Then I warned them about touching the airplane and gathering up my things, the old man and I started out in the dark. I didn’t know where we were going, he couldn’t understand me and I certainly couldn’t understand him. But in a little time we struck a road and about twenty minutes later came into a little village all dark and gloomy and drizzly with rain, and it was so late by this time that I was quite willing to try my French on anyone and when the old man mentioned the word “Maire” which means Mayor the town boss, I knew I was safe and sound.
I was only about six miles from my proper place and the mayor telephoned the next morning and a mechanic came out in a motor cycle and fixed a broken wire and we pushed the plane out of the mud and on to some dryer ground and I had a little runway off into the wind. It was a little dangerous getting off, due to trees and the short strip of the length of the ground, and the wind was still pretty high, as it had been raining most of the day. But the natives were all there fifty or more of them, and we had quite a time getting the dogs and kids away from the front of the machine and out of the road from the whirling propeller as we started the engine. But again providence was with me, and I got of and waved good bye to my friends and in ten minutes more was safely at my point and with some other boys who had arrived there and were stopping over night at the hotel. Snook my room mate happened to be one of the four and you will guess that we had a happy evening as we sat around the fire, over coffee and cigarettes and I told them of my luck, and then I heard what they would have done had they been in my place. It is always quite easy to tell a fellow what he has done wrong, but it is a different matter when you are in the air and things are coming thick and fast.
Yes I am through my tests now but still have a little time to kill to make up the required 25 hours and 50 landings, but the rest is simple and will only take a day under good weather. So I am ready for a three-day pass to Paris, and a good bed in a big hotel, and a little rest and a few letters to you and then down to another school for final perfection work on fast planes. No one can tell what will happen there after that but I will write to you and tell you everything promptly.
You’re loving son,
Richard Stanley Davis.
It was said during World War 1 that becoming a pilot required a young body, high spirit, quick wit, personal initiative and unshakable nerve. Thus the best and brightest of America’s sons are the ones who take to the air with its perils and joyous ardor. The required 25 hours and 50 landings, along with the various cross country flights still would not qualify a pilot for the rigors of aerial combat, especially against the hardened German Aviation Service, As Lieutenant Davis would soon experience.
Off for the front.
June 19, 1918
Lieut. Stanley Davis
77th Aero Squadron,
French aviation Corps.
Somewhere in France.
Yesterday Saturday I got so that I thought I’d go crazy if I didn’t get somewhere. So I took my plane about 4:30 P.M. as it seemed to be clearing up and flew for one hour and 40 minutes, and I had fog and clouds and rain but landed carefully in one of the fields they have for the defense of Paris, a large aviation field. Then I came into the city in an American truck and last night alone went to hear “ Thais “ at the Grand Opera House which is wonderful. Then I slept the sleep of a tired man and the day Mothers Day dawned with your son in between clean white and fluffy sheets, elder down quilts and a hot bath being drawn in the tub. Then I hopped out at 10:30 and tried to get my uniform which I gave them to have cleaned during the night. Well, I had a fit ! The garoon told me it would take six days as they sent it to the cleaners. Think of it, Mother but then I got an English speaking man and finally got my uniform. Think of it six days in bed without a uniform, because it is my only one, as I flew up here without even a toothbrush.
Then the following Sunday we were enroute between two places and spent another Sunday in church in Paris. There was a fine sermon by a minister from Pittsburg, pretty near home, how about it. Well after that we had lunch with some girls from Bryn Mawr who are over here in Relief Work or something and then we all went to the movies and what do you think we saw? Bessie Barriscale and a dandy Triangle picture, once more my thoughts went flashing home. And just as we were going in the cinema we heard a distant boom! And knew the long-range gun was again in action and another shell had landed. The long-range gun really does shoot there as the paper say and sometimes does some damage to innocent people and kids, but it is really quite rare.
While there we met a chap, a friend of Walt Snooks, my pal, and he had just come into Paris on 24 hours leave, due to bad weather. He is in a French bombing escadrille and told us of a recent trip he took into Germany, along with about 20 other bombing planes. They knocked the deuce out of things around large munitions works etc. Just imagine that and he has the Croix-de- Guerre for faithful service and being always on his toes I guess. He told us a lot of other stories, too, but I guess I better not write them because of their military value.
The other day the orderly came to my quarters and told me HQ wanted me on the telephone. Well, a general was going to visit the camp today and they suggested that we have some formation flying for his pleasure. I got busy and this A.M. We had our show for the general, a formation of 15 planes and we circled round and round just as it is done at the front as some of these chaps will soon be doing and as I hope to do, too, when they think I can be spared, I guess. It was really pretty and I got quite excited at times, going chasing up and down along both sides and weaving one after another to close up and get together and then dropping down in front to take the lead and steady things up. It sounds like drilling men doesn’t it, or forming boats or something. I guess you can hardly imagine chasing airplanes into a formation but it all seems sort of common place to me now and not at all unusual although I will admit that eight months ago I would strain my neck and eyes for an hour trying to find a plane in the sky. And in those days an airplane was an airplane to me. I never thought of the different types and makes and varieties in each make. Why, I swear there are almost as many different kinds as there are automobiles and one gets to name them as readily when they pass high overhead, Nieuport, Spad, Farmer Caudron, etc. Innumerable to say nothing of the German planes of which I know little and of which I have got learn or meet the fate of the gods. For each type has its weak points and points of attack and one must be well versed.
June 19, 1918
It is a rainy morning and so there is no chance to fly until this afternoon at any rate. I just stopped here to think a minute whether I had better write what I first intended writing or not and as I glance back over the first part of these letters I find I am becoming worse and worse in my penmanship. I wonder if you can really read my writing at all. This mixture of letters reminds me of my flying. I never try to fly in a straight line but always zig zag up and down, around and over and over. One great long S S S S in the sky. That’s for safety only I can’t understand why my letters should be this same way. Now I’m going to write one good line, there just to show you. I can do it.
Well, mother I have some good news to tell you this trip, you can guess it, of course, but I am going to tell you anyway for they are such sweet words to me. And I have waited so long to receive the orders containing these precious words. “ I am on my way to the front. “ Yep honest to John and here is how it is. The man at the head of Aviation decided that if some of the men who had been acting as training officers were given a chance to go to the front and then made good and were recalled at the end of a few months they would make all the better instructors and the students would, of course, respect them 100 % more for advise gained through experience. And so three of us are here with some other Americans about a score or more, all great chaps, most of whom passed through the field in the course of their training.
We are all happy and I will write to you real often as soon as we start moving again. There are some airplanes, now I wish I dared describe one. Maybe next time I write you will be able to hear the big guns. In my letter who knows. We heard them last night way, way off and soon I guess the shells will be whistling as they did a year ago, over my head at the front.
You’re loving son.
It was said during World War 1 that becoming a pilot required a young body, high spirit, quick wit, personal initiative and unshakable nerve. Thus the best and brightest of America’s sons are the ones who take to the air with its perils and joyous ardor. The required 25 hours and 50 landings, along with the various cross country flights still would not qualify a pilot for the rigors of aerial combat, especially against the hardened German Aviation Service, As Lieutenant Davis would soon experience. Davis went to Europe and joined the French Air Service and flew Nieuports , actually shooting down a German aircraft and getting full credit for it.
The propeller stopped dead and my heart did too.
July 18, 1918
Lieut. Stanley Davis
77th Aero Squadron,
French Air Service.
Somewhere in France.
Another month has rolled around since I left the old Estats Unis and when they ask me how long I have been over here, I say in an off hand sort of way…”Oh only seventeen months.” But it is some time, some long, long time, and I’m heartily fed up on the whole business.
But I must not tell you my troubles, when I am really very happy and full of pep, and feeling that I’m doing something-yes- yesterday I felt that I earned all the salary the government ever paid me.
I’m still in the French Army, and our group has been moved bodily from one section of the line to another., the very worst in the entire outfit, I guess. I have been having considerable trouble with my motor in different planes, and while they were installing a new motor in my plane, I flew a different plane down to the new location, and then they sent me back to the first place via Paris for my original plane, and so I had two days and nights in Paris again. Saturday morning at 6:30 I left our old aerodrome in my plane and the new motor went dead and I managed to creep along until I saw a large aviation field and I landed there. It was right outside of Paris and saw the wonderful fete of July 14th the French National holiday, never have I seen such troops in parade, they were from everywhere, and our boys would do your heart good.
I got back to this place Sunday evening in my plane and yesterday morning at 4:00 a.m. we were awaken by an alert, the Boche had pulled a grand attack at daybreak, and it was no fun, another chap and myself got off, he is an ace, 24 Boche to his credit, and did a patrol at 500 meters, due to the deep low hanging clouds, never have I been so scared in my life. Everything was in an uproar and the great guns burst right under your plane, you’d think a powder mill blew up or something-and the vivid flashes of red and all the time, one rush up and down, and I was completely lost and you could see the Huns crossing the river on specially built bridges, and all the Spads were going up and down, diving at them and shooting at them as they tried to cross, and the earth would go leaping up in big clouds of dirt and dust and water as the big shells landed up and down around the advancing troops.
We flew up and down along the river, it was the old line of the night before, and by George, when we got back to our aerodrome, we found we were at least five kilometers inside the Hun lines, they had advanced so quickly, golly it was some excitement.
In the afternoon we were off again, a big formation of seven this time as the clouds were very high 3,000 meters, and never have I seen such a sight as below and above. We got in several mixups and I am not sure whether I got a Hun or not. I never waited to see, because as I pulled both triggers with all my might shooting between two big crosses one on each wing, I saw four other crosses and two other planes moving around, and well, it was a thriller, and I was one happy boy. When the leader, I found him after the scrap, pointed down and dived and we were comfortably heading north for home, and I was all smiles and riding close to him, sort of snuggling under his left wing, because my wing was up a little after the thing was over. Just about that time I felt a lot of hot oil on my legs, the crank case had sprung a leak and my motor stuck fast, the propeller stopped dead and my heart did too. But I managed to hit a good field somehow, and a second later the leader of the group number 3, shot down over me and waved and a second later another one came whizzing down and loomed up again, and I knew they would soon come and get me. I read and smoked and thought it all over, and then the auto came. They had to leave my plane there under the trees and we got home in time for supper at 8:15.
Our next patrol got moved up with the famous Hun outfit, Richtofen’s Ciricus. I had two Huns on my tail before I knew I was alive, there were three others above me and my guns stuck. I dove almost 8000 feet vertically and managed to cross the Marne into safety when I landed, lost, at a strange aerodrome. We found the plane pretty badly shot up, to say nothing of a number of holes through the wings and fuselage. One bullet cut half through my control rod that works the ailerons on the wings, one cut half through a hollow steel rod that works the elevation of the tail, it stuck there. And about six others in a group severed the main spar of my lower right hand wing. I guess I earned that two days rest in Paris, while mechanics practically rebuilt my plane. I didn’t sleep much the first night after the scrap, every time I’d doze off I ‘d hear the bullets whiz pass my head and ears. And that long dive, I’d still be going, if the Huns hadn’t started shooting from low, I came that close to the ground and it brought me to my senses with a rush.
Now we are waiting, the French and Americans are going, perhaps it is on now, for the cannonading is terrific, to push the Huns back again onto the river. We are waiting orders any moment to come and do our part, perhaps keep the Hun planes off, perhaps dive on the Huns as they try to re-cross the river. Think of it, mother, having to drive the devils into a river, but don’t be scared, it is only a day or two days work, perhaps after this is over, we will be around for a week, but by George, we have earned it.
It is getting fine out of doors, I wonder how soon we are going off, I get nervous waiting.
Your Loving Son,
Lieutenant Davis’s aerial victory was confirmed and on October 30, 1918 he was awarded the Croix de Guerre for this action.
French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
Under order No. 11,054 “D”
October 30, 1918.
General Headquarters, French Armies of the North and Northeast, with the following citation:
“ A very spirited pursuit pilot who volunteered for all the perilous missions. On July 17, 1918, he shot down an enemy airplane. (First victory)
First Lieut. Robert Mills enlisted in December 1917 and trained at Benbrook field, Fort Worth, Texas. In March, 1918 he went to Beamsville, Ontario, Canada, and took a course in aerial gunnery. He sailed for England, May 1918.
He was stationed at the seaplane base at Felixstowe, near Harwich harbor England. He was engaged in the “silent navy” work, a series of brilliant strategic moves in and around the North Sea. Mills was in command of a 7 ½ ton flying boat, with a crew of 7 and armed with 12 Lewis machine guns. The aircraft carried six 230 pound bombs and over 900 gallons of fuel. The aircraft had an endurance of over 12 hours flying time. The aircraft carried two machine gunners on the top side of the aircraft, a machine gunner, observer, and bomber in the front, and two more machine gunners in the rear along with a wireless operator. During his flying career Mills lost 17 crew members.
During his time in the British flying service being ,over one year he was shot down into the sea three times and was wounded during an engagement at Hellgoland Bight. He also took part in the famous raid on Zeebrugge and covered other well known German bases, including Borkum, Trescheklling, Zeebrugge, Ostend.
Flying Boat Felixstowe F3 the type Mills Flew.
My heart was bouncing like an old Vickers gun.
August 5, 1918
Lieut. Robert Mills
Royal Flying Corps
Isles of Wright.
My Dear Dad:
Trusting that I may not rile the wrath of our most noble and venerable censor. I take this liberty to relate a narration of our patrol of July--. The day was perfect and most of our machines of the War Squadron were out on patrols, when suddenly a pigonierre ( messenger) dashed into the orderly room with a wireless message, stating that a hostile submarine had been sighted at ____longitude____lattitude___proceeding, etc. etc.
Immediately our famous bomb sprinkling patrol was ordered out to locate and destroy this monster of the deep, and within a few minutes we were under way. The weather was ideal. Visibility about eighteen miles, which is excellent, and the whole show was going like a dream. For hours we steered a due course cruising about 90 mph, constantly watching for this submergible custodian of Boche Kulture. But here our course suddenly changed to due south; for our bowgunsman had sighted this ghastly object. As we advanced, we flashed our recognition signal; awaiting their reply of identification, there was no reply. It was this mysterious raider of the high seas. With phenomenal accuracy our bombs were released with a vengeance and in an instant our objective was pulverized.
But lo and behold, this supposed to be pride of the German Navy, which disfigured the sea with its utmost impunity, was only a camouflaged launch. Our death deal bombs which had been released with the greatest caution and pride had only destroyed a suppositious float.
And the battle started. Their lure had been a success and from all the four corners of the sky came August and Heine and Fritz, until we were out numbered three to one. “Twas then that we realized, we were playing the hazardous role of a fly caught in the spiders web. For we were in the inner ring of Christiansonn’s famous circus.
There were only a few of us and we new it was a case of fight and shoot, as Quinlin never could _____, for Mister Boche was showing his tracer affections all about us. They whistled and spluttered every where we turned. Our guns also spitting back streams of fire and white wax in colossal defiance.
Then through a cloud of smoke; I saw the first Hun descending in a nose spin and crash upon the water and immediately after, through the flare of an explosion, I saw the second black cross go down in flames and the smoldering debris floating about the sea.
My heart was bouncing like an old Vickers gun, and being accompanied by whistling projectiles and chronic cold feet; I nearly upset the good old ship, which the blooming beggars had looking like a sieve.
I was wondering how much longer we would last, when faithful old engineer came up from behind, just like a thunder storm in England, and bellered in my ear, with a frigid air, “ Your petrol will only last three more hours sir!” Well I am wondering, whether it was his voice or the thoughts of being a flying target for one hundred and eighty minutes, that annoyed me, but I felt as tho I had lost my sugar card and Eddie had left me flat.
Possibly it would have been just as well, if he had mentioned this fact, for the next moment I felt a slip, yea, a wild side slip and I knew we were departing from our precarious position in the clouds, to one more appalling upon that glittering sea a few thousand feet below.
Our motors had knocked out completely, without the slightest provocation, we were left helpless. Fritz followed us down with his insalubrious attentions, until he felt certain that we were going to crash. Then he left us and returned to the show above, only to meet his eternal doom, for several hours later as a destroyer was towing us home, we saw his wrecked machine floating on the water.
All was tranquil and unconcussaive, there in that mass of twisted wings. We beat them at their own game! Christiansonn’s circus is no more!
Your loving son,
Three cylinders is rather unpleasant.
September 14, 1918
Lieut. Robert H. Mills
Royal Flying Corp.
My Dear Brad:
Am enclosing some newspaper clippings to let you know what the people thought of the Yanks doings over here yesterday. ( Friday the 13th). This old town went wild and last night as the news was coming in, it seemed as though peace had been declared. Everybody was cheering! The Yanks are certainly “top ole” (Ace High) now, both there and in France.
In the last three days I have had the extreme pleasure (?) of taking three new machines each day from here to ……. And returning in old ones ( for repair) is awful. Going over it is ok but coming back on one, two and never more than three cylinders is rather unpleasant and I am glad I only had to do three days of it. (as I was a nervous wreck), but as I am now considered an expert on crippled machines, I might get more of it ( lets hope not).
With kindest regards to all I am.
Lieut, Douglas Crater was also a flying boat pilot, flying out of Felixstowe England.
It’s a great game and we all liked it.
November 22, 1918
Lieut. Douglas Crater
Royal Flying Corps
R.A.F. Station, Felixstowe
Now that the war is over, everything is going along smoothly. I must tell you of a very peculiar coincidence. While in Texas U.S.A. training in the British Royal Flying Corps, I chanced to meet a young fellow from Pottsville, Bob Mills do you know Him? Well, when we left there in April, I lost track of him and then sailed to England in July. Upon arriving here I was posted to seaplanes here at Fellstowe. After being here about three weeks, one day while walking down the road, along came an officer. I didn’t recognize him at first. As I neared him who was it but Bob again.
It sure was a happy meeting, we had a long talk of days gone by. I inquired where he had been, answering me, saying he had just returned from hospital, being partly mended up from his wound. He felt fairly well, but after a few days he had to return, to be dressed. I then inquired around the station about him, and was informed he was one of the best pilots around the station, until being mixed up with a flock of Huns one day and shot in the leg. They say he had been in quite a few scraps, being extremely lucky in all but this. He came back a few days later, and after resting or rather being off duty for a week, he resumed his piloting duties. Since then, he had been shot down out of control a couple of times at sea, but being fortunate enough to be picked up by our boats, after being out a few hours. I have heard him say, that he was sorry now, for he wouldn’t be able to get another crack at the devils.
We see lots of them just now, for they are turning over their submarines to us now, and for the past three days, they have been coming in our harbor. Upon arriving here, their crews are taken off not allowed to land, but put on our ships, and taken back to Germany immediately. We fellows fly right over them as near as possible, getting a good look at them. Happy looking devils too. All seem very contended. We aren’t doing much flying now, but it’s a great game and we liked it while the war was on, but now we want to get back. Have had some very lucky experiences my self, but have gotten away with it so far.