Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Graduation From The USAF Aircraft Electrician School January 28, 1969

My graduation from Aircraft Electrician School Chanute AFB January 29, 1969
I am the Airman kneeling on the right. In front of a TF-102
Tag Photo to enlarge

January 28th, 2009 will mark the 40th anniversary of my graduation from United States Air Force Aircraft Electrician Technical School at the great old Air Force Base at Chanute, Rantoul, Illinois.
On this day all 9 Airmen in the photo graduated from the course. We got to choose our favorite instructors to pose with us on the left is T/Sgt English and the right S/Sgt Addis. We now were full fledged 3 level Aircraft electricians.
To graduate we had to take a practical test in troubleshooting on an actual aircraft. That aircraft was an old B-66 in one of the hangars. To this day I remember my test.. The work order stated that the “Nose Gear Taxi light was inop” So armed with my tech Order Wiring Diagram for the B-66 I began my troubleshooting, completely beside myself and worrying the whole time I would be the only airman to flunk the test. But fortune smiled upon me that day and I found after many minutes of reading and tracing the wiring diagrams, taking voltage readings, and going from cockpit to nose gear a few items, I finally found the problem… A POPPED CIRCUIT BREAKER BEARING THE NOMENCLATURE… TAXI LIGHT. I was so proud of myself! I now was a full fledged Aircraft Electrician. Well not really. A few months of training on the C-124 and a test for the Journeyman 5 level then I was an Aircraft Electrician, a job I truly liked.
I remember shortly after this picture was taken we went back to the barracks and found our assignments on our bunks, almost everybody that graduated with me got the base they requested but I didn’t! I had put in for McGuire AFB N.J. or Dove AFB Del. Close to home bases but I got sent to my first base at Kelly AFB, Texas and began my career working on C-124’s. It was a great assignment. From there I was assigned to McGuire AFB. After a short period I was sent to Vietnam I was stationed at Bien Hoa, Cam Ranh Bay and Can Tho working on C7A's a great bird. After serving in Vietnam it was said you will get your base of choise. I put in for all the Air Force bases in Florida I could find and true to the military way I got assigned to Loring AFB in Northern Maine. Oh well it was fun anyway. Working on F-106 fighters in the 83rd FIS. A little strange at first because all I ever worked on was recip aircraft.. C-124, C-118’s at Kelly, C-7a’s in Vietnam, C-131, T-29’s at McGuire along with the C-141A’s my first jet. And then the F-106. The six was a big change. Anyway I really enjoyed my time working in the USAF.

My Diploma..

Monday, January 26, 2009

Schuylkill County Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors World War 2


B-17 Flight Engineer Now Training for the Pacific.
June 5, 1945
T/Sgt Harry P. Hoffman, Pine Grove an engineer and top turret gunner on the Flying Fortress B-17 “Knockout Dropper” is a veteran of more than 26 heavy bombing missions. He has taken part in missions to attack such well known centers of Nazi industry as Berlin, Munich, Hanover and Hamburg. With the end of the air war over Germany, during which the 8th Air Force heavy bombers dropped an average of a ton of bombs every minute of the past year in paving the way for the march of allied armies across Europe, Sgt. Hoffman has now begun a phase of combat training designed to equip him for service in the pacific. He holds the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

June 5, 1945
Radioman 2/c Paul A. Sheaker, Auburn is expected home in June after serving 18 months with Admiral William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet in the South Pacific. He writes that his ship “Took part in the invasion of the Marshall Islands and Admiralties; raid on Rabul and New Ireland; first raid on Formosa; First, second, and third raids on Peleaus, the invasion of Leyte, Mindoro and Luzon, first raids on the China coast and Singapore; raids on Iwo Jima and the invasion of the China Sea and very hazardous passage through Philippine straits. This was back in December just before our troops landed in Luzon and it was quite a trip. We passed through one straight that was only three miles wide with Japs on both sides. We could see the small towns peeping through the trees and the church steeples higher than the rest. On the second afternoon we all flocked to the rail to watch a couple of Liberator’s bombing a Jap oil dump. When they ran out of bombs they came in low on strafing runs just for good measure.
“They were having a wonderful time and I’m sure glad we are ion the winning side. But all is fair in war and just to prove it the Japs gave our positions a going over on Mindoro a few nights later. We crossed the international date line four times and the Equator nine or ten times. We were in very bad typhoon and two lesser ones. We have sailed in every kind of water and climatic condition the Pacific can dish out, with air and sub attacks. We’ve run around on coral reefs and have been rammed by other ships and were the first ship in the whole navy to fuel two battleships at one time.”

B-26 Marauder
JUNE 5, 1945
Serving with the 1st Tactical Air Force Marauder “Boomerang Group” in France , Pfc. Kienzie, Pottsville recently saw the Boomerangs, fly their 500th mission in a series of six major campaigns from Africa to Germany. He is an Airplane Mechanic, and has been overseas since February, 1944. He also has three brothers in the service.

JUNE 5, 1945
S/Sgt. Clarence M. Krammes, an 8th Air Force waist gunner on a B-24 Liberator, has recently been awarded a fifth oak leaf cluster to his Air Medal. Prior to VE day Sgt. Krammes flew 35 missions participating in attacks on Karlsruhe, Hamm, Ulm, Berlin, Dresden, Saarbrucken, Bremen, Kiel and military installations in conjunction with allied ground advances. Sgt. Krammes has been in the service 12 months, he received his wings at Laredo, Texas.

JUNE 5, 1945
Pfc. George Holauchook, Pottsville recently participated in an aerial sight seeing tour over European battlefields. Pvt. Holauchook is a mechanic in the 4th Fighter Group and has been part of its non flying personnel for 20 months in England. While flying at 1,000 feet over Germany in a four engined Liberator, Pfc. Holauchook was able to view the grand scale of destruction of a railroad yards, bridges and factories. It was a six and half hour flight, beginning and ending at his 4th Fighter Groups base in Essex County , England.

JUNE 6, 1945
Sgt. Claude H. Bressler, 25 year old Flying Fortress radio operator and gunner from Hegins, has been awarded the second oak leaf cluster to his air medal while participating in the 8th Air Force bombing attacks on vital German industries and military installations. Sgt. Bressler is a member of the 447th Bomb Group, which was coordinating most of the bombing attacks with the allied ground offensive in Germany.

JUNE 6, 1945
S1/c Martin Fox, St. Clair is home from duty in the Pacific, where his ship a destroyer was sunk off the coast of Okinawa. A Japanese suicide plane struck amidships and she sank soon after. Two other county boys were on the ship, one of whom lost his life. He was Allan Bixler, Pottsville. The other seaman is Robert Frantz, of Minersville who escaped uninjured. Seaman Fox was an anti aircraft gunner aboard the ill fated destroyer. He was in the water only half and hour after his ship went down until he was picked up by another ship and returned to California.

JUNE 7, 1945
S/Sgt. James J. Bedway, Pottsville has been awarded the Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters, A Bronze Star and Silver Star. He wrote home telling of his landing near Carenton, France, (Normandy) and his entrance into action. He said in part, “It was really tough fighting in the hedgerows. I mean every word of it. There gaining ground meant hard fighting and after a breakthrough we were one happy bunch of Yanks. I have seen plenty and I mean plenty. I slept in holes next to our boys who were killed.” Sgt. Bedway had many narrow escapes among them a time when he left his fox hole to visit another group of Yanks dug in nearby, a shelling occurred and after he returned to his fox hole he found his gun and things all shot up.

June 7, 1945
TSgt. Thomas Toth, Pottsville, radio operator and gunner on the 452nd Bomb Group’s B-17 Flying Fortress “Lady Gay”, 8th Air Force, England recently assumed a different role when he flew with formations of the 8th Air force Third Division on a shuttle flight to Linz, Austria to return liberated allied prisoners of war to their native countries. The flight to Austria was made at the low level of 2,000 feet and the combat airman had an excellent view of the tremendous destruction wrought upon the Nazi hordes by the incessant heavy bombing attacks on vital German War and Nazi Industries and transportation lines prior to VE day. Sgt. Toth’s Fortress landed at an airfield on the out skirts of Linz, Austria, and he immediately began to aid in the loading and handling of the lonf imprisoned Allied troops many of them sick and injured. “The liberated Allied prisoners wee carried to Belgium and France jumped with joy and excitement as we flew over their native countries,” said Sgt. Toth.

JUNE 12, 1945
A well known Cumbola Baseball player, previously reported missing in action is now reported to have died in the line of duty.
He was Sgt. Scott E Drum who was reported lost on February 23, 1945 in Germany. Official word was received from the War Department saying he died in action.
Sgt. Drum had once been wounded in action on July 17, 1944 in France. He had many thrilling experiences and narrow escapes during his 18 months overseas, however his luck did not hold out. A member of an Artillery unit, he entered service in September, 1942.
A native of Morea, he was educated in Beaverbrook and Maryd Schools and was a member of St. Pauls Lutheran Church Prot Carbon. He was well known in the county sports world having been a star performer with the Cumbola Baseball team.

Jap suicide plane

JUNE 12, 1945
A Frackville seaman serving aboard a destroyer in the Pacific area, has been commended for helping to destroy two Jap suicide planes making attacks on his ship. GM2/c Lawrence Morgan is serving aboard the destroyer USS Harrison, and received a commendation from his commanding officer.
It Read as Follows: “You are here by commended by the commanding officer for your very exemplary performance of duty in assisting to destroy two enemy planes making suicide attacks on this vessel on the afternoon of April 6, 1945. The excellent manner in which you directed your gun crew and averted not only possible but certain damage to this vessel and her personnel, is highly commendatory.”
“Because of you and of the men of your caliber serving onboard this vessel, the commanding officer entertains a feeling of highest confidence in this command and is consequently eager to take this ship into battle at any time and anywhere.”
Morgan enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and has served in both theatres of the war.

Editors Note:


JUNE 12, 1945
Pfc. Joseph V. Fronza of Pottsville, now in action against the Japanese on Okinawa with the Bisons Artillery Battalion of the famed 27th Division. The big guns of Pfc. Fronza’s outfit are blasting fortified enemy artillery, mortar and machine gun positions in support of Army and Marine troops meeting stiff Jap resistance in the southern portion of the Island.

Aircraft from the "Sun Setters"
JUNE 12, 1945
S/Sgt. Donald Keefer of Pine grove is returning to the Pacific air base after completing 40 months overseas service in the South west Pacific Area with the 38th Bombardment Group famous “Sun Setters” of the 5th Air Force. He has been relived of duties as a B-26 communications specialist. HE entered the US Army Air Force in 1941.

JUNE 12, 1945
Dominick A. Marrazzo F/2c Fireman Second class took part in the invasion of Okinawa. Marazzo manned his battle station as his ship participated in the invasion bombardment. Preceding the invasion itself, Marrazzo’s shipmates beat off the attacks of Jap planes, and shot down three of them within 10 minutes.

32nd Division Insignia
JUNE 12, 1945
Pvt. Mark H. Gongloff, Orwin has been assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion of the 32nd (Red Arrow) Division crack 126th Infantry Division. He entered the Army in October 1944 and came overseas in April 1945. He is now fighting with the veteran (Red Arrows) in Northeren Luzon, among the mile high ridges of the Caraballo Mountains.

M-36 Tank Destroyer

JUNE 13, 1945
Sgt. Warren P. Wildermuth is commander of a tank destroyer has been overseas for the last nineteen months. And wrote this letter to his family. Excerpts of the letter:
“It took us three days to cross the English Channel. We hit the Normandy Beach on July 4th some days after the invasion. Those were rough days. We came up from the beaches in our tanks and there the Jerries were. I was in combat ten minutes when I was strafed by a Nazi plane. It was some experience. Days passed and we pushed them back and back. We were strafed and shelled plenty.
“In Mortain, my first real combat. I went from assistant gunner to gunner to commander, I lost some good buddies there.
“After we won that fight. It went easy. We shoved them across France and took Paris. I was in the victory parade there, the first victory parade of the war and I will never forget it or the happy free people. After Paris we hit the Siegfried Line and there in one day we knocked off thirty six pill boxes. On our way to the Siegfried Line we were the first to officially free Luxembourg. Can you imagine me directing fire into the famous city, shooting at Jerry Tanks and 88’s. We were ambushed on the other side by 88’s but we came through somehow, and that’s what counts.
“From the Siegfried Line we went to the Hurtgen Forrest, the coldest bloodiest place I have ever seen. We sweated out that one and were ready to take Durin when the Heinies broke out ion Belgium, (The Bulge). It was hell there, and there I was the where I had my closest call.
“Two of my men had frozen feet one morning, and my driver was eating with the infantry. It was barely light and my gunner and I were drinking cold coffee in our tanks, when the S.S. Troops attacked before our very gun muzzle. They got my neighbor tank first shot but we waited until two of them got into the open, and though we could not see them very well, we got both tanks. But in doing so the Heinie infantry had surrounded us and the machine gun fire was terrific. My driver managed to get inside and we held them off until we got the motor started and then we took off. Our motors stalled just as we were getting away and my machine gun was frozen. (God it was cold). They were almost upon us as our motors finally started again and I emptied my carbine into their ranks as we made our getaway. We called for artillery and got more tanks to support us and finally killed them all. It was a terrible battle.
“After the Bulge we crossed the Rhine, in fact we were the first tank destroyers to cross. One of our tanks fell through the Remagen Bridge. Good friends of mine were killed in that wreck. We crossed under fire but we made it.
“After the Rhine we shipped to the Rhur Pocket. I got another Jerry tank there, and had the pleasure of seeing the Whole German army surrender there. It was the beginning of the end.
“That was my last fighting with the First Army. We joined Patton’s Third Army and spearheaded to the Czech border where the war ended.
‘All in all, I had almost ten months of combat and was in five major campaigns. I was never scratched and was lucky for I have dodged tons of artillery, not to mention direct enemy fire. I have fought with almost every division in the First Army, even the 82nd Airborne. I have left out so much that I could never begin to tell you, but this will give you a good idea in case you wanted to know.
“ I am proud of my outfit and its men. They were about the best in front line troops and it was a privilege to fight with them. Our outfit is indirect shock support of infantry and tanks and many times are ahead of them both. Unfortunately the press gets us all mixed up, and the tankers get credit for much of our work”

JUNE 14, 1945
This is the story of Pvt. Milton B. Long Pottsville, who was killed in a plane crash January 18, 1945 in Casper, Wyoming. Through his heroic actions he saved the lives of his fellow crewmen.
By special instructions from the War Department the presentation was made by Major Lawrence a Flor, Commanding Officer, Recruiting Station Harrisburg.
Standing in the parlor of her home Mrs. Long accepted the DFC Medal, (Distinguished Flying Cross) in his name. The Citation accompanying the award reads:
“Mrs. Long by direction of the President of the Untied States, I present you with this Distinguished Flying Cross Medal awarded to your son Pvt. Milton B. Long for heroism while serving as an engineer of a B-24 type aircraft on a training flight on 18 January 1945.
“Immediately after take off the No. one engine blew a cylinder head causing the engine to catch fire making it necessary to prepare for an emergency landing. With complete disregard for his own safety and with full knowledge that the airplane was flying an extremely low altitude. Pvt. Long left the comparative safety of the flight deck and proceeded to turn off the fuel supply to the burning engine. The heroic efforts of Pvt. Long were instrumental in saving the lives of his fellow crew members and reflect highest credit upon himself and the military service of the United States and may his soul rest in peace.”

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bernard Reilly A Cavalry Trooper

Bernard Reilly With the 7th Pa. Cav.


Ber Reilly as he was known by the men who served with him is one of Schuylkill County’s greatest cavalry soldiers. The U.S. cavalry is my most favorite of all the branches of the military, especially during the Civil War and the Indian Wars.

This sketch is to honor one of Schuylkill’s famous cavalrymen Bernard Reilly.

Reilly served during the Civil War as one of the First Defenders, a member of the famed Washington Artillerist of Pottsville. He later became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry from November 18, 1861 to July 1, 1863, when he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant of the same regiment. Reilly wrote many interesting letters to the Pottsville Miners Journal during the war. He resigned his commission on April 21, 1864, when he returned to civil pursuits. He was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga.
I sometimes wonder what drove Reilly to reenlist in the U.S. Cavalry once again. His close friend and comrade from the Washington Artillery Captain Edward Lieb, may have been an influence in his joining the 5th U.S. cavalry. As Lieb was still serving with the regiment. But be it as it may on May 4, 1868 four years later Ber Reilly was appointed as a Second Lieutenant in the famed “Dandy Fifth” 5th U.S. Cavalry. And was soon promoted to First Lt. on March 1, 1870.
He joined the 5th at Washington on the 8th of September and was stationed there until March 1870. He was then transferred to the frontier and served at ft. D.A. Russell, Wyo. And Ft. McPherson, Neb. Having occasional periods of field service , until November 1871, when he accompanied the first detachment of the regiment , by way of San Francisco and the Gulf of California , to Arizona and arrived at Camp Grant in January 1872 where he was stationed until the following October.
He was on leave of absence until January 1874, when he once again rejoined the regiment at Camp Apache and participated in the Apache campaign f 1874. Reilly was promoted in the Pinal and Santa Teresa Mountains campaign. Near old Camp Pinal, near Pinal Creek he was mentioned in the official dispatches. He was also involved in seven different minor affairs, during the month of April, in the same area.
On the 23rd of October 1874 he commanded an expedition to the canon of the Chevlon’s Fork of the Little Colorado River, where he inflicted sever punishment on a band of renegade and predatory Indians. During this time period he was twice nominated by the U.S. Senate to be a Brevet Captain, to date from April 1, 1874, for gallant conduct in action with the Apache Indians at Apache Creek.
From April 1874 to February 1875, Reilly served at Camp Apache and the San Carlos Agency, commanding Indian Scouts and performing the duty of commissary and Quartermaster officer. In Late February he was on sick leave, he later rejoined his regiment at Fort Lyon, Col. and then proceeded to Fort Gibson, I.T. where he arrived on the 9th of September and served as adjutant of his company. In June of 1876 he proceeded top Cheyenne and participated in the Sioux War in Northern Wyoming, Dakota and Montana and was engaged in the affairs near the South Branch of the Cheyenne River and at the famous War Bonnet Creek, Slim Buttes fight at Slim Buttes, Dakota Territory.
During this fight Ber Reilly was with the famous Scout Buffalo Bill Cody, and incidentally Cody referred to Reilly in his book as one of my friends and my attorney who always helped me in times of need. My Friend Ber Reilly of the 5th U.S. Cavalry. Another interesting aspect of this time period after Bill Cody resigns as Chief of Scouts; another Schuylkill Countian takes his place. “Captain Jack Crawford” from Minersville.
After the expedition against the Indians in Wyoming in October 1876, Reilly was stationed at Fort D.A. Russell until 4 June 1878 when he resigned his commission and went to practicing law in Topeka, Kansas.

This is a letter written By Reilly During the Civil War, written to the Pottsville Miners Journal.
Pottsville Miners Journal
March 22, 1862 From the 7th Reg. PA Cavalry, Col. G. C. Wynkoop, Commanding Camp Wood, Mumfordsville,Ky March 6, 1862 EDITORS MINERS' JOURNAL: We are getting nearer the enemy gradually, having marched 50 miles during the last week, and such a march. The famous retreat from Moscow hardly equaled it. We left Camp Thomas, Bardstown, Thursday, Feb. 27th. That day's march was rather pleasant. We made 18 miles, camping in a delightful spot, within 200 yards of the place that President Lincoln learnt his alphabet. Friday we laid over getting our horses shod. Saturday, March 1st, we started off in a storm of rain and sleet. This day's march was a terrible one, as the rain froze as it fell, nearly freezing some of the men. We made 18 miles, and pitched our tents at 3 P.M. This night we lost a man of Company A, named John Canfield, of Mount Carmel. He died from exposure during the march. We was buried early next morning. This was a melancholy scene. It was done in a drenching rain. We started on the march as soon as he was buried. This day's march even worse than the day before as it rained in torrents all day. We only marched three miles this day, we couldn't march any further on account of the roads. We went into camp at 5 P.M., half the train being stuck fast. Some of the companies had no tents so they stood around fires, one of the worst nights I ever remember seeing. Monday we started off again in a snow storm. This day's march was a scene, as the men learned by the night be fore’s experience, not to trust the baggage wagons. So the Sibley tents, sibley stoves, picket ropes, mess pans, kettles, & c., were strapped to the horses' backs. There was many a laughable scene, as sometimes, some poor fellow's load would slip around on the horse, which would set the animal kicking, and it would be quite some time until they could quiet him. We marched 6 miles this day, going into camp at 2 P.M. Tuesday we started again, carrying our camping utensils the same as the day before. We marched 12 miles this day, and reached this place at 4 P.M., some of our teams not getting in until Wednesday night. So the wisdom of carrying our tents as we did is very apparent. We are camped on a hill over looking you can imagine from that what kind of place it is. We are expecting carbines and revolvers, and when they arrive, the 7th will be fully equipped and armed as any Cavalry Regt. in the service, and an honor to the old Keystone State. B. R.

Pottsville Miners Journal
March 29, 1862 From the 7th Reg. Pa. Cavalry, Col. G. C. Wynkoop Commanding Bowling Green, Ky. March 14, 1862 EDITORS MINERS' JOURNAL: We left Munfordsville Tuesday, March 11th, and at 9 A. M., crossed the Green River. We marched all day Tuesday, and bivouacked within one mile of the celebrated Mammoth Cave. Of course we visited it. We walked over there, and after looking at the Hotel, which the rebels completely robbed, proceeded to see the elephant. We each paid one dollar entrance for a guide. After procuring him and getting good lamps, we proceeded. We were in the cave some seven hours. We could only go some tight miles, as the river in the cave was to high, so we had to content ourselves crossing the River Styx. The curiosities in the cave are well worth seeing, but they have been described so often and by such good writers, that I will not attempt to describe them. We had quite an interesting march from Munfordsville, as the 3rd Ohio Cavalry received marching orders at the same time we did, and the tug was, who should have the lead. They had four hours start of us, as they were on the other side of the river, encamped, and it takes fully four hours to cross the Green River at Munfordsville. We marched all day, until 9:30 P.M., passing the 3rd Ohio, as they lay in camp, at 7 P.M. We bivouacked, (as our teams did not catch up) all night. The 3rd passed us the next morning at 9, as we were waiting for our baggage train. We got started at 1 P.M. and passed the 3rd at 9 P.M., who were in camp. We camped two miles further on. We started at 2 A.M., yesterday morning and marched thirteen miles, before daybreak, thus leaving our opponents 15 miles in our rear, having caught them napping. We arrived in Bowling Green six hours to cross the pontoon bridge here, as the rebels destroyed all the bridges. We are camped very near the principal works of the rebels and have been all through them. They are extensive and strong. They command the surrounding country, for miles. The scenery from there is beautiful. The town is deserted, and might be called the city of the dead, as there are some four thousand rebels buried here, who died during the rebel reign over the country. We leave for Nashville, Tenn., this afternoon. We expect to march there in four days, and will keep ahead of the 3rd Ohio. You will hear from me again from Nashville. B. R.
Bernard Reilly

Reilly is buried in Charles Baber Cemetery Pottsville, Pa.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Following is a letter written by the Surgeon of the 96th P.V.I. Dr. D. Webster Bland to his friend in Schuylkill Haven, Dr. Koehler. It is in turn given to the Pottsville Miners Journal. The letter descripes the action the 96th took part in near Rappahannock Station on November 7, 1863.
This is one of the finest letters written about a battle that I have ever come across. One can almost hear the sounds and sights of the battle.

Headquarters 96th Reg. P.V.
Camp Near Brandy Station, Va. Nov. 13, 1863


My Dear Doctor and Family, As you are doubtless aware of the late fight of the noble old 6th Corps, I hasten to write you a letter, not only to give you an account of the battle, but as an answer to your last, that was handed to me today after my return from Washington.
On last Saturday morning we broke camp near Warrenton, and took up the line of march for Rappahannock Station. The day was clear and cool, and a bracing air. The distance marched was nearly fourteen miles. The orders were to take possession of the Station and go into camp. We reached the point designated about 2 p.m. The troops were halted in the woods in line of battle.
A line of skirmishers deployed to the front. No one was suspicious of an engagement until we observed the line of pickets of the enemy. Things now looked ominous. We soon realized there was hot work before us and in order to accesses the station a battle must be made. Strategy was immediately commenced. The corps was arraigned in battle array, the first division resting on the railroad and their followed the second and third divisions to their respective positions. Artillery was ordered to the front. I at once set about organizing my field hospital, and collecting the detail of medical officers. This was no ordinary duty, as houses and barns are not to be observed within miles of each other.
Having succeeded in securing a comfortable house which for a time was rather unpleasantly situated, we were in readiness to receive the unfortunate wounded. Profound silence reigning for a time along the line, I rode down the line in search of information, and to observe the work before our brave boys. On my way I overtook General Wright, who that day was in command of the Corps. Upon exchanging the compliments of the day, he laughed, and at the same time remarking, “We shall have some fun in few moments”. Sure enough such were the indications. The line of skirmishers were ordered to advance. The column of infantry were in line of battle. The sight was magnificently grand. The clear blue sky, the clear cold air that nerved every man to action, rendered the picture one for an artist.
Steadily forward went the line of skirmishers, and as rapidly did the enemy’s line retire until they fell within the limits of their rifle pits. Rapid firing now commenced along the whole line of skirmishers, Pop, Pop went the muskets when all at once the boom of the cannon was heard, which announced that a battle had begun.
There was hurrying to and fro. “The rattle of musketry continued and increased. The roar of might guns shook the earth from “turret to foundation of stone”. Ambulances were going in long lines to the hospital, flags were waving from different parts of the field, orderlies were galloping in every direction, and still the war of destruction went on.

The wounded were coming in rapidly, and mostly from our own division. It was fast growing dark. The fire belched from the cannons mouths, illuminating the heavens by their flash, while the fuse of the shell fled through the air lighting rapidity, resembling meteors in their fall. The flash of musketry could be distinguished. Up to this time we had been gaining ground, when the order was given for a charge upon the rifle pits and fort. The men may have surveyed the work for the moment, but did not falter. The 6th Maine and 5th Wisconsin, supported by the 119th and 49th Regt’s P.V., on the left, while the 5th Maine and the 121st New York supported by the 95th and 96th P.V. charged on the centre. One wild shout rent the night air, and these gallant boys went forward to conquer or die. They were victorious beyond expression, but their comrades covered their pathway with their bodies. The fort with seven guns and the rifle pits nearly one mile in length were taken.
Night had now thrown her sable mantle over mother earth, and over the honored dead that were strewn over the ground. It was so dark that friend and foe could only recognize each other by coming in contact. The fight inside of the fort was severe. Bayonet wounds and contused heads were admitted into the hospital. In one case a rebel officer who refused to surrender, his brains were scattered to the four winds of heaven by a powerful blow fro a musket.
The gallant 96th, ever true to her colors and her hard earned prestige, were prominent in the fight. Under the leadership of the dashing Col. Lessig, we took and held the enemy’s bridge, and were first to cross the river capturing two prisoners and killing one, who refused to halt. We had only one man wounded by a shell, Our escape was indeed a miracle.
By ten o’clock at night we had nearly two hundred wounded in our charge. The surgeons were busy at work among the wounded. Many amputations were performed, and many were allowed to become secondary cases.
Among the wounded were many serious cases. Many of them died during the night, quite a large number will never recover from their wounds.
The brunt of the fight was sustained by the 6th Maine and 5th Wisconsin Regiments belonging to the third brigade, commanded by General Russel. Our forces captured about two hundred more prisoners than we had, men engaged, this at least proving that we are equal, if not superior in our metal.
Sunday morning broke upon us in all its brilliancy. The order was given for an advance. We were tired being up all night and busy with the wounded. At 10 a.m. I received orders from the Corps headquarters to load the wounded and proceed to Washington, taking with me what assistance I required. I left the hospital with seventy ambulances at 11 a.m. and reached the junction at 3 p.m. At 4:50 we were on our way to Washington, where we arrived at midnight. The ride was tedious and cold. Eight of the seriously wounded died before we reached Washington. By Monday morning at daylight I had the wounded all sent to their respective hospitals, and at 5 a.m. I was snugly ensconced in bed at the National Hotel.
I do not know how beautiful, nor how powerful language could express the pleasure I realized upon creeping between two cleans sheets, but one thing is certain, It was a luxury. I soon fell asleep, and when waking found myself too late for the first breakfast, consequently came in at 10 ½ A.M. rather a fashionable hour for a soldier.
I “riz” dressed, took a little wash, went down to breakfast, and oh ye Gods! If I ever astonished my stomach, I did that morning. I applied a perfect poultices of good buckwheat cakes, broiled steak, and so on. Heavens, what a luxury! A breakfast that I would have often given ten dollars for. I then went in to the boot black, from thence to the barber, had a shave, a smattering of pomatum, and then struck a line for the bath. Did I say a Bath? The Metropolitan furnishes the ablution tub, and good style. I for the first time in more than two years, stood a la Adam, in a tub filled with warm water. It was grand-perfectly elegant. This over, I called at General Martindale’s office for a carte Blanche during the stay in the city. I then called upon Doctor Sheldon and reported the condition and number of wounded, which met with his approbation.
I appreciated the indulgence in my getting to Washington, and determined to prepare my stomach for a good dinner. At 4 ½ P.M. we went to the table and at 6 ¼ we vacated our seats. We astonished the guests, nonplussed the waiters, and almost killed ourselves.
On Tuesday morning we bid adieu to the city of magnificent distances, and after partaking of inconveniences we arrived safe at our respective camps in the vicinity of Brandy Station.
On my return I had the pleasure of meeting and caring for the reputable Dr. MacGouan, of world wide notoriety as a traveler and explorer. He is a polished gentleman in every respect.
The weather has been intensely cold during the past few days, but since the little visitation of snow seems to have moderated.
We may in all probability, remain here for a week, or ten days. The indications are that Acquia Creek will be the next depot of supplies.
The enemy had already erected winter quarters at this point, which we are now being burned by our men.
General Bartlett has assumed command of a division in the 5th Corps and Richards has gone with him.
Dr. D.W. Bland

After the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the Union and Confederate armies drifted south and for three months sparred with one another on the rolling plains of northern Virginia. Little was accomplished, however, and in late October General Robert E. Lee withdrew his Confederate army behind the Rappahannock River, a line he hoped to maintain throughout the winter.
A single pontoon bridge at the town of Rappahannock Station was the only connection Lee retained with the northern bank of the river. The bridge was protected by a bridgehead on the north bank consisting on two redoubts and connecting trenches. Confederate batteries posted on hills south of the river gave additional strength to the position.
The bridgehead was an integral part of Lee's strategy to defend the Rappahannock River line. As he later explained, by holding the bridgehead he could "threaten any flank movement the enemy might make above or below, and thus compel him to divide his forces, when it was hoped that an opportunity would be presented to concentrate on one or the other part." The Union Army of the Potomac's commander, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, divided his forces just as Lee expected. He ordered Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick to attack the Confederate position at Rappahannock Station while Maj. Gen. William H. French forced a crossing five miles downstream at Kelly's Ford. Once both Sedgwick and French were safely across the river, the reunited army would proceed to Brandy Station.
The operation went according to plan. Shortly after noon on November 7, French drove back Confederate defenders at Kelly's Ford and crossed the river. As he did so, Sedgwick advanced toward Rappahannock Station. Lee learned of these developments sometime after noon and immediately put his troops in motion to meet the enemy. His plan was to resist Sedgwick with a small force at Rappahannock Station while attacking French at Kelly's Ford with the larger part of his army. The success of the plan depended on his ability to maintain the Rappahannock Station bridgehead until French was defeated.
Sedgwick first engaged the Confederates at 3 p.m. when Maj. Gen. Albion P. Howe's division of the VI Corps drove in Confederate skirmishers and seized a range of high ground three-quarters of a mile from the river. Howe placed Union batteries on these hills that pounded the enemy earthworks with a "rapid and vigorous" fire. Confederate guns across the river returned the fire, but with little effect.
Maj. Gen. Jubal Early's division occupied the bridgehead defenses that day. Early posted Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays's Louisiana brigade and Captain Charles A. Green's four gun Louisiana Guard Artillery in the works and at 4:30 p.m. reinforced them with three North Carolina regiments led by Colonel Archibald Godwin. The addition of Godwin's troops increased the number of Confederate defenders at the bridgehead to nearly 2,000.
Sedgwick continued shelling the Confederates throughout the late afternoon, but otherwise he showed no disposition to attack. As the day drew to a close, Lee became convinced that the movement against the bridgehead was merely a feint to cover French's crossing farther downstream. He was mistaken. At dusk the shelling stopped, and Sedgwick's infantry rushed suddenly upon the works. Col. Peter Ellmaker's brigade advanced adjacent to the railroad, preceded by skirmishers of the 6th Maine Volunteers. No Union regiment gained more laurels that day nor suffered higher casualties. At the command "Forward, double-quick!" they surged over the Confederate works and engaged Hays's men in hand-to-hand combat. Without assistance, the 6th Maine breached the Confederate line and planted its flags on the parapet of the easternmost redoubt. Moments later the 5th Wisconsin swarmed over the walls of the western redoubt, likewise wresting it from Confederate control.
On the right, Union forces achieved comparable success. Just minutes after Ellmaker's brigade penetrated Hays's line, Col. Emory Upton's brigade overran Godwin's position. Upton reformed his lines inside the Confederate works and sent a portion of the 121st New York to seize the pontoon bridge, while the rest of his command wheeled right to attack the confused Confederate horde now massed at the lower end of the bridgehead.
Confederate resistance dissolved as hundreds of soldiers threw down their arms and surrendered. Others sought to gain the opposite shore by swimming the icy river or by running the gauntlet of Union rifle fire at the bridge. Confederate troops south of the Rappahannock looked on hopelessly as Union soldiers herded their comrades to the rear as prisoners of war.
In all, 1,670 Confederates were killed, wounded, or captured in the brief struggle, more than eighty percent of those engaged. Union casualty figures, by contrast, were small: 419 in all.

Dr. Bland was commissioned Surgeon, October 12, 1861, by Governor Curtin, and assigned to duty with the 96th Penna. Regiment, by order of Surgeon-General Henry R. Smith. He reported for duty, October 19. and arrived in Washington, November 11. On the 25th of November the Regiment was assigned to the Brigade of Gen. H. Slocum, and remained in camp during the winter of 1861-2. In January, 1862, Dr. Bland was
detailed by order of Gen. Franklin, as a member of a Medical Examining Board, to examine recruits. At the Battle of West Point, May 7, 1862, Dr. Bland was detailed as an assistant to Dr. Frank Hamilton for operative duties. He was with the Regiment during the memorable seven days before Richmond, sharing the hardships incident to that campaign. He was present at the Battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, White Oak Swamp, Charles City Cross Roads, Chick hominy, Glendale, Smith's Farm, and Malvern Hill. He was on the Peninsula during July and part of August, and at Second Bull Run, Crampton's Pass and Antietam. At the First Battle of Fredericksburg he was detailed as one of the operating surgeons of the 1st Division, 6th Corps. He was present at Gen. Burnside's move, January, 18(at Second Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. After the latter engagement he was detailed to take four hundred wounded to Washington. After his return he was placed in charge of flag of truce at the Lacey House, to receive
our wounded that had been left in the hands of the enemy. In May, 1863, Dr. Bland
was appointed Acting Medical Director of the 1st Division, 6th Corps, Gen. Brooks, of the field hospital of which he was Surgeon-in-Chief during the Gettysburg campaign. He continued Medical Director of that Division during September and October, and was President of an examining Board for admission into the Veteran Reserve Corps. He was
Surgeon-in-Chief of the 1st Division, 6th Corps, during the brilliant movement and complete victory over the enemy at Rappahannock Station, Nov. 7, 1863. On the following day he superintended the removal to Washington, of 376 wounded of his Corps. He was Surgeon-in-Chief of the 1st Division, 6th Corps, during the memorable Mine Run affair, December, 1863. Was in winter-quarters at Brandy Station, 1863-4, he was detailed as a member of examining Board of his Division, for general and special duties connected with the Medical Department. On the 12th of April, 1864, Dr. Bland was detailed by order of General Meade, as Medical Inspector of the 6th Corps, and assigned lo duty on the Staff of Gen. John Sedgwick. He was with the
Corps during the historical campaign of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg and the Weldon Rail Road. On the 19th of July the Corps was ordered to Washington; Gen. Wright assumed command of the Middle Military Division, of which Department Dr. Bland was made Medical Inspector. When Gen. Wright was relieved and Gen. Sheridan took command, Dr. Bland remained Medical Inspector of the
Corps, and was present at the brilliant battles in the Shenandoah Valley. He left the field, Sept. 23, 1864, and was mustered out by reason of expiration of term of service, on the 21st of October.

Dr.Bland's Tombstone in front of the Chapel at Charles Baber Cemetery Pottsville

Monday, January 5, 2009

T5 Francis "Choc" Piacine 153rd Engineers

Francis “Choc” Piacine
153rd Engineers

Today January 5, 2009 is a sad day for me because Choc is gone. Now I must try and write this little blog story about one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. A man who in the forty some years that I had the pleasure to know was about as straight as you could be. I can’t think of time I ever heard him denigrate or say horrible things about any person. A man who helped me over the years with the things I could not do, like plumbing, cementing etc. He was always there for us. Choc always treated me great! And in the words from time gone by I can truly say “I knew Choc Piacine and I have no complaints”. He was my father in law.
I find it hard when I try to write up these blogs about all the men who served our country. Because its hard to get all that they did and what they stood for in a few paragraphs. I wanted to write his story up a few months ago, but as usual I let it go to long. But today I want to write up his story for he to is a hero, a hero to me and his family, another of that “Greatest Generation” who are leaving us at a too fast a rate.

T5 Francis “Choc” Piacine lived his whole life in Palo Alto. He served with the 153rd Engineers Company C, a heavy construction battalion from April 1943 until January 1946. Choc served in the Pacific Theatre of operations at New Guinea, Phillipines, and the occupation of Japan. Choc trained at Ft. Lewis Washington before shipping out the Pacific and landing in New Guinea.
The following narrative was recorded by me in an interview with Choc about 12 years ago.
“We shipped out as a battalion and were by ourselves. The troopships took the southern route, leaving San Francisco and arriving in Australia about thirty days later. From Australia, we went up to New Guinea and further on up to the northern coast, a place called Mathan Bay. They were still fighting in this area and when we landed the perimeter was right off the beach. You couldn’t go beyond the beach or you were in the jungle and that’s were the Japs were. We could see our aircraft bombing the Japs in the jungle. Most of the heavy bombing took place about a mile north of our position on the perimeter line. At this time there were no American troops north of the perimeter. It was a strange place, some of the local natives were head hunters so you couldn’t just walk off by yourself.
The main type of work we did in New Guinea was the building of runways, and air strip maintenance, road repair and what ever else was necessary to maintain an airbase. The famous P-38 pilot Dick Bong was there and flew out of the airfield we repaired. We stayed in New Guinea from May 1944 to September 1944, and then we boarded LST’s and landed in Leyte in the Philippines. The Philippines were stilled occupied by the Japs and there was a lot of fighting going on there. We once again were assigned the duty of maintain the airfields and landing strips for P-38’s. Our field was bombed by the Japs pretty hard and there was a lot of bomb damage that needed constant repair. While in Leyte, we also maintained the docks, ran a rock quarry and built a reservoir that supplied fresh water for the ships. We built floating docks for the invasion of Manila, and also lots of barges for the troops to use in the invasion of Luzon. After staying in the Philippines for a few months my unit was slated for the up coming invasion of Japan. We were taken out of the heavy construction and put into the Combat Engineers. Our responsibility was the clearing of mine fields when we got to the beaches. Fortunately the invasion of Japan never took place, because we dropped the atomic bomb. But then they sent us to Japan as an occupation force.
On the way to Japan we were on a ship [that was damaged in a typhoon. We had to abandon the ship and were transferred to a destroyer. We went over to the destroyer on a boatsin chair. That was a pretty hairy event in the rough seas. We landed in Yokohama and were near the Jap sub base that was located there. It was never touched by all the bombing raids, they actually kept the torpedoes up in the mountains in caves. We stayed in Japan for a few months and then we returned home to the states and the war was over.”

Choc worked all of his adult life as a Pipe Fitter/ Welder working for Wertz Engineering out of Reading Pa. Hre was a life member of the Amvets and Post 2198 VFW Orwigsburg, Pa. He was married to Margaret Wood Piacine and had two children, Danielle, and Francis. His son Francis retired as a Lt.Col in the Army having served in Iraq. Franks story is in another blog on this site.

Choc, his Daughter Danielle, Son Frank and Great Grandson Nathaniel

You are sadly missed by all Choc.