Wednesday, August 31, 2011



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

1st Lieutenant Charles Zalonka
April 21, 1945

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

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

On March 25, 1945 1st Lt. Zalonka was promoted to Captain.

Captain Zalonka is known as the "The Silent Success-O-Meter", Officers who know him insist that he is a born bombardier. When a flight is in the preparation he studies the maps, target charts and photographs, memorizing all identifiable buildings, landmarks and approaches within several miles of the target.And on the bomb runs he watches for these points. That is why he is considered one of the outstanding egg droppers in the Mediterranean theatre and is credited with hitting the target point blank out of 22 times.

Captain Zalonka is flying from a 15th Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress base in Italy, and has led his squadron many times over oi refineries, rail yards and such important targets many times. He says he prefers not to wear a flak suit because it is so bulky and a touch of it against the adjustments of the bomb sight throws it out of calibration. This he thinks has some bearing in his success. His citation reads: "On this and many other occasions Lt. Zalonka has displayed superb skill and inspired leadership"


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

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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Schuylkill Counties 33 Casualty During the Vietnam War Pfc. Thomas P. McKerns, Mahanoy City.. August 28, 1969.

Three days after Sgt. Paul F. Kostick was killed at Tay Ninh August 25, 1969, Schuylkill County once again suffered another casualty in the Vietnam War. On August 28, 1969 at Quang Tin Province South Vietnam, while sprinting through an open field to help wounded members of his platoon who were pinned down by the North Vietnamese. Pfc Thomas P. McKerns was hit with a hail of machine gun fire and killed. Pfc. McKerns was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V device and Oak Leaf Cluster, among other medals.
Tom was from Mahanoy City, he was 21 years old at the time of his death. He was a member of Company B, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry.
The 4th Battalion went to Vietnam in the spring of 1966, operating initially in War Zone D and around Tay Ninh near the Cambodian border. In 1967, the battalion moved north to help form the 23d "Americal" Infantry Division. Operating at Quang Ngai, Chu Lai, and the Que Son Valley for most of the rest of the war, the 4th Battalion fought to keep Viet Cong guerillas and the North Vietnamese Army from capturing the coastal lowlands. Two of the battalion's members earned the Medal of Honor almost a year apart near the bitterly-contested village of Hiep Duc. When American forces departed, the 4th Battalion 31st Infantry was part of the last brigade to leave Vietnam. It was deactivated in 1971.

Friday, August 26, 2011

96th P.V.I at Camp Northumberland. Virgina. 1862

The 96th in Regimental Formation At Camp Northumberland, Wearing Their Regulation Frock Coats, Dark Blue Trousers And Hardee Hats. A Fine Example Of A Fighting Regiment During The Civil War.

Pottsville Miners Journal
January 14, 1862

Camp Northumberland

Here is an interesting article written to the Miners Journal concerning the 96th P.V.I.'s camp in the Virginia country side outside of Washington.

Camp Northumberland, Jan. 4 1862

Dear Journal- It being sometime since a communication has appeared in your valuable columns from the 96th. I thought that a few lines would not come amiss at this present instant. The more especially as many in and around your borough have relatives or friends serving in the ranks, for whose personal welfare they have and feel a warm interest.
We are at present encamped about 2½ miles from the city of Alexandria , and about the same distance from the Long Bridge, near the line of the Louden and Hampshire Railway, where it crosses Four Mile run, which is about three hundred and fifty yards below us.
The spot is a most admirably adapted for the purpose intended, situated as it is, near to good water, and completely sheltered from the weather by hills which are well wooded.
The streets are laid out with mathematical precision, and the tents of the men are, in their way, models of comfort. They are placed on good log foundations, the inter-space plastered with clay, and are as a general thing floored. Each tent contains a fire place built of brick, which our efficient Regimental Quartermaster was so fortunate as to obtain for the hauling at no great distance from the grounds. Altogether we have one of the handsomest, best regulated, and cleanest camps on this side of the Potomac.
Each man has been supplied with two blankets and an overcoat which though in some cases of rather inferior quality is sufficient to make them comfortable. The provisions provided for the men according to regulations are good, and as to quantity, ample, as many of your citizens who have visited us can testify to.
The health of the men is most excellent, but few being at present in the hands of the surgeon, and the majority of those who are there, being so from their own indiscretion.
Some two weeks ago we had a trial of picketing on the Little River Turnpike, our outposts being within cannon shot of the rebels The officers and men seemed to like this duty so much that they were sorry when they were relieved, wishing that they may be detailed for especially for that purpose. Nothing of special note occurred during the trip; but the stories of hair breadth escapes, gallant forays, and daring adventures that circulated among the men on their return, would excite the admiration and envy of Sylvanus Cobb, Emerson Hounett, and the other storiests of the New York Ledger, generally.
The health of our Colonel has for some days past been delicate, but we are most happy to say that he is now convalescent, and will be able, shortly to resume the arduous duties of his new profession. The health of the other officers as a general thing is excellent. Lt. Col. Frick never looked better, and Major Martin flourishes finely. Our kind and most respected Chaplain seems to endure the hardships of the camp well., and our Surgeon who by the by is in common parlance, a splendid fellow. He cures the many pains that our human flesh is heir as much by his exuberant humor and attie wit, as he does with his strengthening compounds.
We have lately been furnished with new Austrian musket, which though rather clumsy in construction, owing to the imperfect finish, is a most efficient weapon.
As yet the majority of the men have not been paid since we were formed into a regiment, why, I know not. Neither will pretend to say, doubtless good reasons could be assigned, if it were necessary. John Bruns Esq., has been appointed paymaster, and the probability is, though uncertain, that we will be paid off.
We have had several attempts to snow lately, but until last evening they did not amount to much. At present there is about inches of snow and sleet on the ground.
Owing to the continued inclemency of the weather, we have done little duty lately; but prior to this, we were kept steadily to work. Our men begin to drill well and bid fair at rival the crack regimental of the reserve. Brig. General Slocum, who, by the by, has won the hearts of the men by his humble and soldierly bearing, honored the regiment a short time ago with his special attention, trying that they did honor the brigade; and that they were fit at any moment to be led into action; hinting that the same time, that the day was not far distant when they would have a chance to display their loyalty and show their mettle.
There are rumors of an onward movement, and report says, that we are to be in it. How soon we know not, but wait in expectancy. The Potomac is to be opened; Richmond is to be occupied; so look for stirring times shortly. When the time does come, your readers can rest assured, that good old County of Schuylkill will not be disgraced by her children of the 96th.
Yours Ninety-Sixth.

Pottsville Miners Journal
January 19, 1862

Camp Northumberland

This is a letter from Major M. Edgar Richards the Adjutant of the regiment describing the conditions of the 96th's camp at Camp Northumberland. The letter was written on January 19, 1862 while the regiment was still encamped.

I thought I new what muddy was were from traveling experiences, but I find since my introduction to the sacred soil that I am commencing to learn. It is a soil that readily becomes mud- the water is not absorbed, nor does it seem to run off. There is also no limit to the depth of Virginia mud- It is difficult to find a hard place..
We are noted for having the cleanest and driest camp in the division, and from personal experience I should judge, tat the mud in our camp is the thinnest place it must be about three inches judging from what I saw riding through them to headquarters this morning, the mud in the other camps must be about knee deep, and how they walk about at all is a marvel to me.
We are situated with our camp, on a side hill, and have taken care by grading and leveling and rolling with a very heavy iron roller, to get the ground firm and hard before the rainy season came on, but the water absolutely refuses to run off, even down a pretty steep grade. We are infinitely better off than our neighbors on the flat, who have no grade, and did not take the trouble we did. The ground is best described by comparing it to a sponge.
It is surprising how people accustom themselves to circumstances, here we walk about through the mud and pouring rain, with the same non chalance and indifference as if we were walking on Brussels carpet in the parlor at home. I have to laugh at it every day, and although I have come accustomed to doing it myself, I can't help noticing it in others- You see them wading about in it like ducks, never even looking for shallow places.
Every day or two it clears up for an hour or so, and then takes a fresh start, and rains with renewed energy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011



Paul Francis Kostick

Home of Record: Gilberton, PA
Date of birth: 01/10/1948

Service: Army of the United States
Grade at loss: E4
Rank: Sergeant
Note: Posthumous Promotion as indicated
ID No: 172409241
MOS: 11C20: Indirect Fire Infantryman
Length Service: 01

Start Tour: 12/14/1968
Incident Date: 08/25/1969
Casualty Date: 08/25/1969
Age at Loss: 21
Location: Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam
Remains: Body recovered
Casualty Type: Hostile, died outright
Casualty Reason: Ground casualty
Casualty Detail: Artillery, rocket, or mortar


ON THE WALL Panel 19W Line 113

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Charles N. Taylor Co. E 84th Indiana Volunteers..."Oh the life of a soldier is the life for me"

The following letter was written by Charles N. Taylor a young man who lived in Minersville before moving to Indiana. During the Civil War Taylor enlisted in the 84th Indiana regiment and wrote many letters to the Miners Journal.

This letter is such a good example of the life of the common soldier in the civil war. This letter could have been written by a soldier from any war past or present.



2nd Div, 2nd Brigade, 4th A.C.
Okrrwah Station, Feb. 4th 1864

Editors Miners Journal: Since my last letter to you I have taken a long march and changed my place of encampment. We were seeing easy time and had good and comfortable dog house erected: were drawing full rations and had drawn light bread three times. After we had drawn twice, the boys said we would leave in a few days. Why? Because we are drawing light bread? It is ever so. I have ever known it to fail, that when ever we draw light bread, and had good and comfortable quarters, that we were sure to leave in a few days. Such was our day when we were at Shell Mound. On the morning of the 25th ult. At reveille we had orders top be ready at 10 a.m., to march. After breakfast all was in an uproar in the camp, packing boxes. At 10 a.m. the brigade took up the line of March., the 1st brigade in the advance. The 2nd Brigade only marched 3 miles. The weather clear and pleasant. Early the next morning we took up the line of march again. Today our road runs through what is called the narrows. The dirt road runs between the railroad and the river. And is only wide enough for one wagon to run on. The first brigade being in the advance with their teams, together with Division teams they cut up the road so badly that it was almost impossible for teams laden as ours were, to come through, therefore we made slow progress the first two days having only marched about six miles. The next morning early, we again took up the line of march and passed through Whiteside. This is a small station on the K&C R.R. and before the taking of Lookout Mountain. Was a post of the utmost importance and extreme danger though it was fortified and garrisoned by old and experienced soldiers, viz: 36th and 30th Indiana , 77th Pa. and 84th Ill. With the 4th U.S. Battery, Col. Grosse, of the 36th Ind. Commanded the Brigade. The troops here also had good and comfortable quarters erected and like ourselves had to leave them. So it is with the soldier. After he has himself comfortably fixed and about to compliment himself upon his good workmanship upon his dog houses he receives orders to leave. He takes it all easy and thinks that if he has to go some of his brother soldiers will receive the benefits of them.

Oh the life of a soldier is the life for me,
He takes his duty merrily,
The winds can whistle, while he can sing,
Still faithful to his friends and kin.

We marched until about 4 p.m. when we went into camp for the night, on the bank of Lookout Creek, we having marched 12 miles today. Moccasin point is plainly to be seen and as I look across the Tennessee River and see our old camping ground, it recalls to my mind the dangers and hardships we endured while there. There are built there now good and comfortable barracks. While we lay there five weeks without blankets and tents and on half rations, our duties were so heavy we had no time to erect barracks. There is Lookout Mt. how different it looks now. How different this place looks now from that it had in Sept. 1863. The railroad has been completed and the trains loaded and rations and running daily. The commissary stores are stored away in all directions, and in general it presents quite a military appearance. We marched some tree miles south of town, where we went into camp for the night at the foot of mission ridge, on the battleground of November last.
The next morning we took up the line of march, crossed the ridge, Chickamauga creek, and then went into camp on a ridge among the trees. We lay here in camp for three days, when we again took up the line of march for this place, distance from our camp some 8 miles. It was about 10.a.m. when we started, and we went into camp here about 2 p.m. pretty fast march8ing I thought. And all of use obliged to labor under great disadvantages .viz: knapsacks or all our wardrobe and furniture, an advantage we posses that when we move we are able to take all our goods and chattels with us upon our backs. We are now lying at the above mentioned station. Enjoying ourselves as all soldiers should. The rebels are only seven miles distant, but what cares the soldier for them? We fear them not.

“Tis much he dares
And to that dauntless temper of his mind
He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valor
To act in safety”

There is a small stream here named Wolf-teaver. The railroad crosses it by means of a bridge, built mostly of stone. The wood work has been destroyed by the rebels, but as I am writing, I look down toward it and see an engine is there and competent hands at work who will so repair the same in six hours that the cars can run across in safety. In the course of a few days, should nothing unexpected turn up the cars will run through to that contested place, Knoxville.
How does the war fever rage in your peaceful town? Is there a prospect of this cruel war being over? As I am, writing how my memory wonders, I am away there in your quiet town, then at home with my parents. Then in another moment all is over, and I find myself here in east Tennessee, in my dog tent. Paper, pen and ink before me and surrounded on all sides by brother soldiers, who like, myself, have responded to their country’s call and to protect that flag, which in the opinion of a few mean an unprincipled politicians and demagogues, ought to be trampled into the dust. Never shall that be done though, while there are left a few young patriots, though many have fallen and are now quietly sleeping beneath the green sward. Yes, many a brave companion I have lost, but they were fghti9ng for a good and just cause, the maintenance of the constitution, and for that blood bought emblem the stars and stripes bestowed on us by or forefathers. Still these stay at home cowards and politicians would fain see it go down. That never shall be, No never !
Prate on vile traitors,
Thou can’t hurt no soldier’s fame with thou ill words,
Though tongues are as harmless as thy swords,
But keep clear of us boys
I will close this letter by stating that the heath of the regiment is good and mine also.

C.N.T. 84th Co. E Indiana Volunteers