Category Archives: Misc Newspaper Articles

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

One of my favorite artifacts in the Tipton County Museum is a Nazi flag.

Yes, you read that right… A 5.5′ x 3.5′ Reichskriegsflagge  –  a German Imperial War Flag.

But no, it’s probably not for the reason you may be thinking of.

Many people when they come into the Museum, steer clear of the flag. They seem to be afraid of it and they actually go around it, trying not to let their eyes be drawn to it. But when I see that, I have to go up to them and introduce them to my favorite artifact.

To most people, the flag represents one of the most heinous periods of human history, but by the same token, if you ignore the flag, you miss out on one of the most amazing stories of perseverance and righteousness.

On the flag, hidden in plain sight, are the names of the 74 soldiers who captured the flag as a war trophy and brought it back to America, as proof of their defeat of the Third Reich. The soldiers, the majority of them no older than boys, were members of companies A, B, C, and D, later designated as the 382nd, 383rd and 384th, respectively, Medical Collecting Companies (also known as Ambulance Motor Companies) and the 684th Medical Clearing Company. The companies were a part of the 53rd Medical Battalion, 136th Medical Regiment, 34th Division. 

The 53rd Medical Battalion departed the United States on Feb. 19, 1942, from New York on the USS Neville (APA-9), a United States Navy attack transport ship. Built for duty during World War I, her departure from the New York Port of Embarkation was her first trans-oceanic run of the second world war and she had on board hundreds of young Americans, many who would not return to her shores.

The battalion arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland on March 2, 1942, where the various units and detachments of the battalion were sent where they were needed. The 74 men named on the flag, landed as a part of the 53rd Medical Battalion in Normandy, France between D plus 1 and D plus 7 in support of V Corps, where they served for the duration of the war.  They saw action during the Battle of Saint-Lo, and participated in the liberation of Paris, where they helped evacuate over 300 Allied casualties who were being held as prisoners of war in hospitals within the city. They followed troop movements to the West Wall, or Siegfried Line, as the Allies called it, and were able to evacuate more than 180 patients and escape capture when they found themselves isolated at Heppenbach, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

The battalion marched hundreds of miles through France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Germany. Their daily routine consisted of scheduled ambulance runs and the treatments of minor sick and wounded. In March 1944 alone, more than 775 patients were transported through war torn battlefields and over 600 patients treated. That same month, the men of the 53rd Medical Battalion covered a distance of 431 miles. They participated in the Battle of Germany, (Sept -Dec 1944) where they learned that supplies coming from the rear were often non-existent, and had to rely on captured German medicinals, blankets and litters to keep the chain of evacuation moving. In February 1945, the companies were assisting an average of 99 patients a day and they helped evacuate and treat POWs when they were liberated from German POW camps.

The 74 men of the 53rd Medical Battalion came from all walks of life. When you read their names, you’ll see that many are Italian and Jewish names. The majority of them were immigrants or first generation Americans. Some served because they were drafted and some because they wanted too. But they all served their country because they understood that Adolf Hitler had to be stopped.

The 53rd Medical Battalion was awarded the Meritorious Service Unit plaque for superior performance of duty in the accomplishments of their exceptionally difficult task, as well as Bronze Service Stars for the Normandy Campaign. Many of the men also received individual awards for their bravery.

The flag on display at the Tipton County Museum is not one to be feared or repelled by. It has history and lessons that need to be remembered. One, that we never forget the atrocities that occurred during WWII and continually take steps so they are not repeated, and two, to remember that it is because of brave young men like the 74 named, that evil was defeated.

Personally, I like to think that those young men were essentially giving Hitler the finger while saying, “To hell with you Hitler! We captured your flag and we’re making it ours now!”

The 74 brave young men of the 53rd Medical Battalion whose names are written on the flag are:

  • Pvt. Otho Taylor
  • Sgt. James Savastano,
  • Corp. Pat [Patrick A] Paris
  • Pvt. Ralph J. Simon – Stacyville, Iowa
  • Carlos Porras – Route 1, Box 30J, Wasco, Cali.
  • PFC. Ben [R] Behrens
  • Pvt. Harvey [C] Alford –  Harpursville, NY
  • Rip Shoemaker
  • Pvt. 1C Stephen [J] Lukas
  • Pvt. John [H] Wallerich
  • Pvt John Shumaker
  • Pvt. Royce [W] O’Brien
  • Pvt. Charles Robison
  • Pvt. Gilbert [J] Chanti
  • Gary Flippo
  • PFC Nicholas Elnicky
  • Pvt. Joe Scerbo
  • Bennedict Delmonico
  • Corp John [C] Benson
  • Pvt. Harry [Harold J] Flood
  • Clarence Airhart
  • PFC William [F] Callan
  • PFC Jerome [P] Giblin
  • Pvt. Romie Lopes
  • Staff Sgt Donald [D] Brugger
  • Lamar Gordon
  • PFC Jimmy [Vincent J] Fonti
  • Pvt Mathew Sarra
  • Pvt Bill [William E] Herrick
  • Pvt Santo Plazzo
  • Pvt Glenn [K] Walters
  • PFC Jerry [Jerome P] Faraci
  • Pvt Frank Contillo
  • PFC Charles Hendrickson
  • Bill Himes
  • PFC Robert Scherbaum
  • Pvt Frank [L] Heeren
  • Alvin Ball
  • Vincent Guagliardo
  • James Alexander
  • Pvt Edward [T] Jones
  • Jake Ellison
  • PFC Ed [Edward E] Fairclough
  • Sgt Thomas [F] Hale
  • Walter Williams
  • PFC Edwin [H] Chattin
  • PFC Henry [W] Dkystra
  • Sgt Harry [W] Lindbloom
  • PFC Pete [Peter C] Williams
  • PFC Louie [Louis] Solometo
  • Pvt Mike [Michael G] Durcanin
  • PFC Henry [C] Kee
  • Pete O. Trapani
  • Capt Sam [Samuel H] Malivuk, [M.C.]
  • PFC Clarence Jeffery
  • Pvt John [E] Lesynski
  • PFC Walt [Walter H] Potorski
  • PFC Max Rosen
  • PFC Frances Vogler
  • Bill Mulhelland
  • Pvt Lefty [William M] Olszewski
  • Pvt Francis [C] Kramer
  • Pvt Nate [Nathan L] Hartley
  • Pvt Rufus [W] Taylor
  • Benny Gicalese
  • Leon Mack
  • PFC Karl [W] Kiefer
  • PFC Elmer Decann
  • Pvt Harvey Thompson
  • Pvt Jes [Jessie G] Poindexter
  • Pvt Scott [M] Voyles
  • Leroy Rogers
  • Luke Lund
  • Anthony Pope

All is NOT lost… thousands of records for 1890 Census DO still exist

The 1890 census is often thought to have been completely destroyed by an early January 1921 fire, but that is not exactly correct. An estimated 25 percent of the census was destroyed and another 50 percent did suffered fire, smoke and water damage. But the real cause of its demise was not a fire, but rather the lack of care.  After the fire occurred, preservation wasn’t high on the list of tasks of the current census director, Sam Rogers. After the fire was out and the first responders left, Rogers wouldn’t allow anyone to touch the1890 census until insurance adjusters had examined the overall damage.

The census was basically “forgotten” and set aside while the questions of the fire’s origins were being debated and investigated. Meanwhile, the still soggy, “charred about the edges” original and only copies of the 1890 schedules remained in ruins. At the end of January, the records damaged in the fire were moved for temporary storage. Over the next few months, rumors spread that salvage attempts would not be made and that Rogers had recommended that Congress authorize destruction of the 1890 census. Prominent historians, attorneys, and genealogical organizations wrote to the new Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, the Librarian of Congress, and other government officials in protest and pushed for a national archival building.

Although their calls were being heard, no action was being taken and in December 1932 with no archival building in sight, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of papers no longer necessary for current business and scheduled for destruction. He asked the Librarian to report back to him any documents that should be retained for their historical interest. On that list, item 22 for the Bureau of the Census read “Schedules, Population . . . 1890, Original.” For some reason unknown, the Librarian identified no records as permanent, and the list was sent forward with Congress authorizing destruction on Feb. 21, 1933. At least one report states the 1890 census papers were finally destroyed in 1935, and a small scribbled note found in a Census Bureau file states “remaining schedules destroyed by Department of Commerce in 1934.

Heartbreaking, I know!

But all was not lost… some fragments of the 1890 census have been found that document just over 6,000 ­– actually, to be exact, some 6,160 individuals. Even with this limited amount of information, the 1890 Census could still be hugely helpful to a researcher who is lucky enough to have had ancestors who lived in the geographical locations that were saved. Family Search – – offers the complete 1890 census fragments online… for FREE. Both a searchable index and images are available.

According to the National Archives, the available locations are:

  • Parts of Perry Co., Alabama
  • Parts of the District of Columbia
  • Columbus, Muscogee Co., Georgia
  • Mound Twp., McDonough Co., Illinois
  • Rockford, Wright Co., Minnesota
  • Jersey City, Hudson Co., New Jersey
  • Eastchester, Westchester Co., New York
  • Brookhaven Twp., Suffolk Co., New York
  • Parts of Cleveland Co., North Carolina
  • Parts of Gaston Co., North Carolina
  • Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., Ohio
  • Wayne Twp., Clinton Co., Ohio
  • Jefferson Twp., Union Co., South Dakota
  • Parts of Ellis Co., Texas
  • Parts of Hood Co., Texas
  • Kaufman, Kaufman Co., Texas
  • Parts of Rusk Co., Texas
  • Trinity Town and parts of Trinity Co., TX

So, if you are fortunate enough to have family members living in those areas be sure to give what’s left of the 1890 a look!


The 1890 Census Fragment

You will notice that the 1890 images look quite different than other enumerations. The 1890 census was the only one to include just one family per page. It also used a vertical layout with wider columns.

The 1890 Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War

The second section of the 1890 Census was a special enumeration of Union (and some Confederate) veterans, and is very large with 90,000+ images offered online. This remaining section of the 1890 census is even more valuable because it is so vast and much of it has survived.

The National Archives explains that the Pension Office requested the special enumeration to help Union veterans locate comrades to testify in pension claims and to determine the number of survivors and widows for pension legislation. Some congressmen also thought it scientifically useful to know the effect of various types of military service upon veterans’ longevity. To assist in the enumeration, the Pension Office prepared a list of veterans’ names and addresses from their files and from available military records held by the War Department. The superintendent of the census planned to print in volumes the veterans information (name, rank, length of service, and post office address) compiled from the 1890 enumeration and place copies with libraries and veterans organizations so individuals could more easily locate their fellow veterans.

Although the goal was to record Union veterans and widows, some Confederate soldiers were also included so check this database even if your ancestor fought on the side of the south. There are also some veterans from the War of 1812 listed, as well as veterans of the Mexican War and even the Seminole War (1828-1833)


Unfortunately, the records for the states of Alabama through Kansas (alphabetically) are now mostly lost, but records remain from all states from Kentucky through Wyoming. This includes:

  • U.S. Navy Vessels and Navy Yards
  • Washington, DC
  • Kentucky (part)
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma and Indian Territories
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Because this record set contains a vast number of individuals there is a good chance that you may locate an ancestor. Finding one may mean access to military information on the veteran or his widow’s name, his rank, date of enlistment, date of discharge, address, disability incurred by the veteran, special notes and often more.

For more information on the 1890 Census fire, the National Archives published an article, “First in the Path of the Firemen: The Fate of the 1890 Population Census,” in its Spring 1996 Prologue.

Remembering Freedom is not Free

Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day to honor those Americans lost during the Civil War, now honors and commemorates all American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Many Americans have forgotten, or perhaps they’ve never really known, what the true meaning of the day is for. Most will celebrate the three-day “holiday” weekend by starting their summer… days at the beach or camping out, BBQs and enjoying family and friends. Not once, will many of them even stop for a moment to reflect on the very reason they have the weekend to celebrate at all.

It seems that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s prediction in 1941 has come to pass, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men died to win them.”

Tonight, I walked around my local cemetery looking at the numerous headstones, which had been decorated with American flags for the weekend. Many of the flags had been knocked down due to the fierce storm we had the night before, so I spent time righting flags, saluting fallen comrades and thanking them for their service and sacrifice. It also made me wonder, why we decorated the final resting places of our military heroes only for the weekend? Why we don’t ensure that the American flag, the very one they pledged to support and the one, many died defending, is not permanently flown over their headstones?

As I walked between the rows of stones, drawn to those marked with flags, I stopped at each one I came across for a moment of quiet reflection. Not all had died in service of their country, but all had served and that was good enough for me. Young men, like SP4


SP4 Ronald Gordon Smith is buried in R.H. Munford Cemetery in Covington, TN

Ronald Gordon Smith, USARV, who was killed in Vietnam. He was 19 when he arrived in country on May 14, 1967, as a soldier with Co. A, 2nd BN, 1st Inf., 196th Infantry Brigade and celebrated his birthday a short 18 days later on the fields of the Republic of Vietnam. He drew his last breath at age 20 on Nov. 21, 1967 in a battle in the Quang Tin Province, six short months after arriving. He is remembered on panel 30E, line 60 on the Vietnam Wall and I came across this memory shared online on Memorial Day 1999 from one of his friends which shows he was very much loved and is missed, “Dearest Smitty, In three days you could have been 52 years old-as I am. You could have had a wife, children, and a dog-a whole and complete life. Instead you will always be 20 years old in my mind, driving a red Corvair, smiling and laughing. I still love you as my best high school friend. I think of you so often still and pray God’s blessings on you in heaven and on your family and friends left on earth. I love you, Judy.”

Since the dawn of our country, more than 42 million men and women have served to protect this great land of ours, and more than 1.3 million have died doing so. It seems the least we can do is spend a few moments reflecting on those who have given their lives in combat so that we can live ours in freedom.

As the years pass, it becomes easier to forget the person behind the name, and so it falls on our shoulders; the legacy holders – the parents, spouses, children, siblings and friends – to tell the story our soldiers can no longer tell. This Memorial Day, before you fire up the BBQ, take a moment to reflect on all of our fallen countrymen and women of all wars and the sacrifice they have made on our behalf and to remember that our freedom has never been free.

In Flanders Field
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915 
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Remembering 9/11 and Michael

It’s been 14 years since the attack on America on 9/11 and Michael’s death. All day, I’ve thought of him and every time I have heard Alan Jackson’s song, “Where were you when the world stopped turning” I’ve cried… so needless to say it’s not been a good day. Michael, you have NOT been forgotten and neither have the other amazing Americans and citizens of other freedom loving countries who were taken to soon by an act of cowardice. America has not forgotten and we swear… your sacrifice WILL NOT be in vain! Rest in Peace shipmate… until we meet again.


This is a story I wrote immediately after 9/11 and after learning that one of my co-workers, a friend who worked for me onboard USS WASP for three years, had been killed at the Pentagon.  I can’t tell you how that felt to get that phone call. I was on duty and we were watching it unfold on TV. We were scared because we knew that Mike was in the Pentagon that day and worried for his safety. I remember there being talk that out of that huge building and thousands of people being inside, why did Mike have to be one who died. We could hardly see the TV through the tears that were streaming down our faces, praying that he was okay and that the call was a mistake. But it wasn’t. Mike was gone and he wouldn’t have wished anyone else to have taken his place. He…

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It’s not my day… I’m not dead

Each year on the last Monday of May, Americans take a three-day weekend to celebrate Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer. Many spend the weekend grilling, camping or fishing and some head to the beach, but all are enjoying time spent with family and friends. It’s a great start to the summer season but that’s not the real reason we have the holiday weekend. Hopefully, in the midst of enjoying the weekend, we also take time to reflect on the true meaning of the federal holiday.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was a day set aside to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. Decoration Day began after the Civil War ended to honor those who gave their lives during our country’s bloodiest conflict, and was proclaimed, not by the president but by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

America has always given freely of its sons and daughters during its fight for freedom – whether it’s ours or another country’s. Between our first battle, the fight for independence in 1775, to today, May 24, 2015 and our current conflicts in support of the Global War on Terrorism, America has lost almost 1.3 million men and women on the battlefield. Those brave souls who have died in our country’s battles, are who we should be honoring and remembering today.

Fort_logan_national_cemetery_4All day I’ve been the recipient of gratitude and well-wishes – and although I am very grateful and honored that people have been thinking of me and my service to our nation – today’s not about me.

It’s not my day. I’m not dead.

Nor, is it about any other living military person or veteran…. our day is in November and it’s called Veterans Day.

Today is the day to honor our war dead. Those brave men and women, who while answering the call of their nation, made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They are who Memorial Day is for.

Honor them.

Friday’s Faces From the Past: Searching for a lost child


Cabinet death card of a young childI came across this beautiful cabinet card in a local antique shop and was drawn to it. The picture is of a beautiful child who apparently died at a young age and his parents had a mourning card made. I could make out a very faint name written on the back – Robert – and I wondered if this was young Robert with the adorable curl on top of his head. I felt compelled to take him home. He didn’t belong in a cold antique shop among hundreds of  nameless lost ancestors. I wanted to find out more about him.

Upon closer examination, I discovered a very, very faint last name… Horne. The front of the picture has the name Forney and Bedford, Iowa which told me that the photographer of the picture was Forney and the picture was taken in Bedford, Iowa so I started searching for…

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Wednesday’s Child – Papa’s Baby



Today, I visited the remnants of an old plantation home located in the Town of Stanton in Haywood County, Tennessee. The site used to be the old home place of Joseph and Lucy Stanton, founders of the town. It is not the original home, as that was burnt down and a smaller home built in its place. Time has been rather kind to the home in the regard that it is still standing but it is evident that the home had not been lived in for many years.

Natural has begun to encroach upon the foundation of the home. Critters, various plants and trees have broken through the barrier long ago designated between nature and man. It is evident that the home was once a modest, yet grandeur home of the times, complete with a front porch that must have seen its share of visitors and family members, relaxing and…

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