Archive for November, 2019

Surprisingly, this blog has attracted readers from nearly every country in the world over the past six years. And a few times, we’ve connected people who share a common interest. Probably the most rewarding of these connections began last year, with a simple request from our Heerlen friend, Peter Pauwels. He wanted to know if we could locate an American woman who had been director of the American Red Cross (ARC) Rest Center in Heerlen, Netherlands, during the last year of WWII.

Back in May, Peter had us around to the places in Heerlen where the 111th soldiers lived and worked during the fall and winter of 1944-45. But his real interest in WWII involved another aspect of the war in his city during that time: the ARC Rest Center in downtown Heerlen. Peter had listened to the stories of a few elderly local residents who had volunteered there as teenagers during the war. And they all fondly remembered the center’s American director, a young woman named Patricia Park. Could we find her or any surviving family members, Peter asked? His goal was to mount a memorial plaque on the building in Heerlen, still there, that the Rest Center occupied.

Ed called the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC, but they no longer kept personnel records from that era. An Internet search turned up many women with that name but not the one we were looking for. Without any other pertinent information, like date and place of birth, married name, places lived, and so on, we were stumped.

Then I recalled that a few months earlier, a blog reader in Spain named Fano had sent us the names of some Red Cross volunteers shown in a blog photograph of the 111th in Normandy. It turned out that Fano is a big fan of the Red Cross and its Clubmobiles during the war and knows a lot about them. So on a whim, I wrote to him to see if he could help us find Patricia Park.

Well, he did. Fano is an Internet wizard, and to describe how he found her with nothing to go on but her name and her Red Cross service would take a small book. From the records and newspaper articles he uncovered and sent to us, we found her obituary–she died in 1995–and from that we were able to locate her son, Al Spoler.

So to cut to the chase, we are pleased to tell you that yesterday Al joined Peter in Heerlen to dedicate the plaque to the memory of his mother and all the Red Cross workers in Heerlen — both American and Dutch — who worked to provide war-weary U.S. soldiers a respite from the fighting during those final months of the war. Peter wrote to us earlier to say that yesterday was an incredibly wonderful occasion. The event was covered by a regional television station, and Al even gave an interview. Peter sent these photos:

In the left photo, Al and 93-year-old Heerlen resident Alice Michielsen, who served under Al’s mother at the ARC Rest Center during the war, unveil the plaque. In the right photo, Al is interviewed by the regional Dutch television station.

It is heart-warming to know that so many Europeans still remember and honor the Americans who gave so much during WWII. Thank you, Peter.

With many thanks to 111th son Sergio Gomez, we now have a new-to-us panorama photo of the 111th, taken at Camp Bowie, Texas. Sergio’s father was 111th Master Sergeant Frank Gomez, of San Antonio.

The photo is undated, but we had a clue from the name of the commanding officer on the photo, Capt. George Rhine. A roster that my father kept showed that Rhine was CO of the unit at Camp Bowie between March 15 and December 21, 1941. (Based on the number of men pictured, the photo was probably taken in the latter part of the year). Note that we had to cut the photo in two to fit the page, so there is some overlap.1941 panorama 111th left side1941 panorama 111th right side

There are no other names given, but we’ve spotted a few familiar faces, including Bill Johnson (my father),  Frank Gomez, John Andrews, Harold Goerges, Matt Ottea, and Pat Osborn.

The five officers are sitting in the front row, wearing tan pants. Capt. Rhine is in the center. On the far left is Lt. William V. Crossman; second from the right is Lt. Lionel A. Malsbury. Both Crossman and Malsbury were later company commanders of the 111th. The other two officers shown were Frederick Goodenough and Frederick B. Becker; both men left the unit early on, so we do not have any later photos to match them up to.

Some other men listed on the 1941 roster who are probably in this photo include Joseph P. Apple, Patrick Creswell, Elias L. (Leo) de la Garza, Stanley Karger, Daniel A. Rangel, William B. Strickland, William A. Welty, and Perry C. Witt (later an officer). We are guessing that it is Master Sergeant Eugene Egle who is sitting next to Lt. Crossman (on his left as you look at the photo).

Many of the men in this photo, possibly more than half of them, were reassigned to other ordnance units after the war was declared in December 1941.