Archive for July, 2014

We have located three more 111th family members this July: two sons of Ed Newmeyer, the daughter of Evert “Red” Clauson, and the daughter of Harrison “Mac” Gardner. But before we tell you about them, we have some sad news to report. One of our five surviving 111th veterans, Roger Rickon, passed away on July 7. We will miss talking to Roger; he was a great guy and a wonderful source of information.

Roger Rickon

Roger Rickon

You can read some of Roger’s memories of the war by entering his name in the “Search” feature of this blog; we also told some of his stories in our book about the 111th. He had turned 90 years old on V-E Day this past May. I know you will share in sending our condolences to his sons David, Russell, Glenn, and James. He was very proud of his four boys.

After listening to our favorite 111th company commander, Art Brooks, tell us last winter about the 111th’s terrific “artist-in residence,” we had been hoping to locate family members of Ed Newmeyer, who died in 1967. Then last month, when Pat Macchiarolo, daughter of 111th soldier Robert Raymer, sent us a couple of images of V-mail letters her dad had sent to her mom, we were thrilled to finally see examples of Newmeyer’s talents—Newmeyer had illustrated them! (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

Newmeyer V mail 1 Newmeyer Vmail 2

By the way, V-mail was used to save valuable space on cargo ships during the latter years of the war. Soldiers and families were urged to use this free service, which involved writing letters on specially designed forms, which were then opened, photographed, and put on microfilm. When the film reached its destination, the letters were printed out and delivered. One mail bag of film canisters took the place of 37 bags filled with regular mail, a huge savings in space and weight. You can read more about V-mail here: http://postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2d2a_vmail.html

In early July, we talked with both Mike and Ed Newmeyer and made an interesting discovery: their mother, Patricia, was from Cardiff, Wales. She met their father in the fall of 1943 at a USO dance in Cardiff; the couple was married in February 1944, just as the 111th was leaving the Cardiff area for St. Dogmaels, in West Wales.

Ed Newmeyer Valentine

Ed Newmeyer Valentine

Ed Newmeyer's Christmas V-mail

Ed Newmeyer’s Christmas V-mail

Ed Newmeyer

Ed Newmeyer

Their son Ed was born in Cardiff in 1945, while Newmeyer was still with the unit in Europe, making Ed Jr. a dual citizen of the U.S. and the U.K. So now we know that there was at least one other war bride from the unit in addition to my mother, whom Dad (Bill “Pinky” Johnson) met in March 1944 at a YMCA dance in Cilgerran, Wales, not far from St. Dogmaels.

In mid-July, we heard from Bev Albright, whose father was Evert “Red” Clauson. Ed had tried to find a Clauson family member late last year, since we had a great photo of my dad’s taken in Barry, Wales, in 1943 with Clauson—he titled it “The Three Redheads”, showing Dad, Evert, and Charles Burns.

Evert Clauson, Charles Burns, Bill "Pinky" Johnson

L-R: Evert Clauson, Charles Burns, Bill “Pinky” Johnson

The reason we had no luck was because my father had spelled Clauson’s name wrong on the back of the photo, with a ‘w’ rather than a ‘u.’ Clauson died in 1984.

Mac Gardner

Mac Gardner

Mac Gardner

Mac Gardner

Finally, we heard from Nita Cross, whose father was Harrison “Mac” Gardner. We figure Mac must have known my Dad, since they both were from Macomb, Illinois. Sadly, Mac died in 1961, when Nita was only 8 years old. She then told us she lost her son in the Iraq war in 2004; his daughter was only 6 years old. When she saw our photo of the 111th men taken at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in 1943, she was a bit taken aback: her son was deployed from Fort Dix to Camp Ashraf, near Baghdad. Her father and her son left for war from the same place, 61 years apart.

In other news, by chance we learned a couple of weeks ago that the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, which is part of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, holds what appears to be the entire set of morning reports for the 111th Ordnance Company. We were amazed that these have been kept. So in our effort to leave no stone unturned, Ed and I will travel to St. Louis in early October and spend two days in front of microfilm readers, gleaning whatever details we can about the unit’s day-to-day activities. We will start by focusing on the reports from late 1943 until the end of the war, then go to reports from the time of the unit’s beginnings in late 1940 if we have time. You can be sure we will let you know what we find! Here is an article about the place, in case you are interested: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2011/fall/nprc.html

 

 

 

 

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Last month, while visiting Albro Castle in St. Dogmaels, Wales—where the 111th men were billeted during the four months preceding D-Day—the gracious current owners, Tracy and Pete Newland, showed us a dusty old box containing automotive parts, which the men apparently left behind, perhaps in their rush to leave for Normandy at midnight on June 6-7, 1944. We thought they had forgotten to pack the items. But maybe not.

Box of left behind parts at Albro Castle

Box of left behind parts at Albro Castle

One of the parts

One of the parts

A master switch, encased in wax

A master switch, encased in wax

Pete gave us one of the parts to take home as a souvenir. It says “Master Switch, T-17-E-1 Armored Car G-103, Chevrolet.” Inside the box, the part is encased in a thick coating of wax, to protect it from rust and dirt. It is no doubt still good as new.

A quick Internet search turned up this Wikipedia entry: “The T17 and the T17E1 were two American armored car designs produced during the Second World War. Neither saw service with frontline US forces but the latter was supplied, via the United Kingdom, to British and Commonwealth forces during the war and received the service name Staghound. A number of countries used the Staghound after the war, with some of the vehicles continuing to serve into the 1980s.” You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T17_Armored_Car.

T17E1 Staghound Armored Car

T17E1 Staghound Armored Car

So it looks like the 111th mechanics didn’t need these parts for their vehicles and so left them behind, creating a bit of a mystery for 70 years.

Ed and I have been back home for more than two weeks now, and it is time to play catch-up on the blog. We have some good news—while we were in Wales, we heard from four more 111th family members.

Lillian Brannon called us after receiving Ed’s letter, not long after we left on our trip. She is the widow of Leroy Brannon and is 95 and doing well. I called her last week and had a nice chat. She said Leroy never talked about the war, so she was looking forward to seeing our book and sharing it with her daughter and grandchildren. I asked her to send any photos she has of Leroy so we can post them.

While were were away, Donna Leitzke called, also in response to Ed’s letter. She is the daughter of Gene Karl, who was one of Roland Unangst’s good buddies, as we learned in his memoirs posted on this site. We have not yet connected with Donna, but while we were gone we gave her number to Roland’s daughter, Linda Campbell, and the two had a good phone visit.

Around the D-Day timeframe, we heard from Laura Sass, who found her grandfather, Peter Patrick, Jr., on this blog while googling his name.

Peter Patrick, Jr.

Peter Patrick, Jr.

Bob Nelson, Peter Patrick Jr, James 'Doc' Mason, Everett Auten

Bob Nelson, Peter Patrick Jr, James ‘Doc’ Mason, Everett Auten

He appears in several of the blog photos, the most memorable, perhaps, being the one of him in his foxhole in Normandy. We had been trying to find one of his children or grandchildren since last December, so it was wonderful that she found us. Laura’s grandmother, Peter’s widow, will be 89 years old this year and still lives in the same house she and Peter bought in the 1950s. Laura sent her a copy of our book. Mrs. Patrick said that her husband talked about being in Wales and Holland but not much else. Laura will be visiting her next month.

Finally, in mid-June, we heard from Pat Macchiarolo, the daughter of Robert Raymer. 

Bob Raymer, Maastricht, Holland

Bob Raymer, Maastricht, Holland

She also found us through this blog. She told us she recalls that he told her a story about repairing a tank on a beach somewhere—Normandy? Wales? She says he was a mechanic on cars, jeeps, and trucks. She sent us these photos of her dad and promises to send more. She also sent us some she found in her father’s collection of a few of his 111th friends.

Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Herbert Hyde

Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Herbert Hyde

Bob Raymer and possibly Floyd Wterrburg

Floyd Wetterburg and Bill Strickland

 

Bob Raymer in front of the 111th building, January 1944, probably Barry, Wales

Bob Raymer in front of the 111th building, January 1944, probably Barry, Wales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Roush, Basil Dixon, Bob Raymer Jan 1944

Jim Roush, Basil Dixon, Bob Raymer, Jan 1944

Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Julius Turner

Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Julius Turner

Bob Raymer and others in Paris, August 1944

Bob Raymer and others in Paris, August 1944

Paul Glynn, Roy E. 'Pop' Bower, Joe Kelly

Paul Glynn, Roy E. ‘Pop’ Bower, Joe Kelly

 

 

 

 

So, as of July 1, our 111th “family” now includes five survivors, seven widows, and children or grandchildren of 37 of the men. That means we have “found” (or been found by) nearly 30 percent of the approximately 180 soldiers in the unit since we began this quest last December.