Archive for the ‘Wales 1943-44’ Category

Harold Goerges and John Andrews left their mark, as they left for Omaha Beach, Normandy, June 6, 1944

Seventy-seven years ago today, two 111h Ordnance Company soldiers left a good-bye note on the wall of their room in Albro Castle, St. Dogmaels, Wales. They and my dad and 160 other GIs who were billeted there packed up and left the next day for Omaha Beach in Normandy.

Harold Goerges and John Andrews, lifelong friends of my dad, could have never imagined that their graffiti would be revealed decades later, thanks to Tracy and Peter Newland, current owners of Albro Castle, which was originally a 19th-century workhouse. Tracy noticed some pencil marks on the wall as she was removing wallpaper in the early 2000s and spent several years trying to find out more about the American men who had lived there for five months in 1944.

Then, as fate would have it, eight years ago today, Ed and I showed up uninvited to Albro Castle and met Tracy, who excitedly showed us the wall. This blog was the direct result. Over the next few years, we found five survivors and nearly 60 families of the 111th men, letting us knit together a fairly complete picture of their time in the war. And the search continues.

We will always be grateful to Tracy Newland for preserving this piece of history.

Five years ago, we first came to Barry to have a look at where the 111th called home here—Brynhill golf course (in tents) and what was left of Camp G-40, places where the 111th began their European journey in November 1943. Our guide was Barry at War Museum member Glenn Booker, and our driver/U.S. Army Jeep owner was Wayne.

This past week we returned to Barry to give a presentation at the museum and have another ride in Wayne’s Jeep. We had a great time meeting all the museum’s volunteers at a supper prepared by Rose, one of the volunteers, and seeing Glenn again.

In front of the museum; that’s Glenn second from left

The American and Welsh flags flying outside the museum on Wednesday night.

Neal, me, and Wayne

We didn’t have any “then and now” photos in mind for this trip, mostly because the structures the men lived in are long gone and we weren’t able to identify locations of the area photos we had. But the next day, Terry, one of the museum volunteers, spotted one of the places:

Penarth Road, Cardiff, the eastern end of Cardiff General Station, 1943 or 1944

Same location today

Many thanks to the folks at the Barry War Museum for putting on a memorable evening for us Yanks!

We have received a new batch of photos from Pat Macchiarolo, daughter of 111th soldier Bob Raymer, whose big friendly smile we’ve seen in previous posts. A while back, Pat’s sister discovered more of their dad’s old photos and negatives. Pat had the negatives developed and scanned and sent everything along to us. Some of the photos show men who weren’t named. If anyone can identify a father or grandfather here, please write to the blog and let us know, and we will add the name.

(Try clicking on the photo to see a larger version–this used to work, but it didn’t work for me just now; write to me if you’d like to see a larger image.)

Thanks very much, Pat!

bob-raymer

Bob Raymer

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Abner Boyd, Joe MacDonald, William J Quinn and Joe Wolfe, Camp Sully, Wales 1944

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Victor Jones and Bob Nelson at Camp Sully, Wales

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Pappy Patton, Doc Mason and Rubin Lee Koehl, Camp Sully, 1944

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Robert Pinkston and bride

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Harold Packebush and Bob Raymer

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Bob Raymer

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George Weiderhold

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Roy “Pop” Bowers

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Lt. Perry Witt, third from right; Bob Raymer, second from right; rest unknown

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Woodrow Corn, Camp Sully, Wales, 1944

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Floyd Wetterburg and Bill Strickland

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Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Julius Turner

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Basil Dixon, Camp Sully

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Bob Nelson, Camp Sully, Wales

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Bob Raymer and Roger Rickon

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Roger Rickon

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Blankenship, Muehle, Stadler, Camp Sully, Wales 1944

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John Vargo and friend

We have received many new photos in the past month, from former CO Captain Art Brooks; from Gene Karl’s daughter, Donna Leitzke; and from Leroy Brannon’s widow, Lillian. Here are a few–the rest we have posted in the “Photos” pages (at the top of this website) of “The Men” and “The Places.”

The new photos have given us some new information while also leading to new questions. We learned that the 111th had an earlier warrant officer we had not known about, Bill Hall; however, we have not been able to learn where he was from. We also now have photos of the men playing softball on the Poppit Sands near St Dogmaels, Wales, as well as more images of Albro Castle, where they lived for 4 months before Normandy; more photos of the men in Aberdeen, Maryland, in November 1942; and more photos taken in Europe. Sorry about the odd arrangement; WordPress doesn’t give much control over such things, at least as I have been able to learn.

Warrant Officer Hall, 1944

Warrant Officer Hall, 1944

Gen Karl in truck

Gen Karl in truck

Leroy Brannon

Leroy Brannon

Curt Vosz, Aberdeen, MD, Nov. 1942

Curt Vosz, Aberdeen, MD, Nov. 1942

CPT Malsbury

CPT Malsbury

Charles Burns, Bill Campbell, and Robert Mauer

Charles Burns, Bill Campbell, and Robert Mauer

Playing ball on Poppit Sands, near St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Playing ball on Poppit Sands, near St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Playing ball on the beach, Poppit

Playing ball on the beach, Poppit

George Legg and his D-Day beard

George Legg and his D-Day beard

Major Dante Vezzoli, May 1945; he had been a Lt. with the 111th in 1942-3

Major Dante Vezzoli, May 1945; he had been a Lt. with the 111th in 1942-3

Waiting for the train, Aberdeen, MD, 1942

Waiting for the train, Aberdeen, MD, 1942

Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

Possibly the lane up to Albro Castle, St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Possibly the lane up to Albro Castle, St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Gene Karl in train, buddies below

Gene Karl in train, buddies below

Men working at Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

Men working at Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

MSG Frank Gomez

MSG Frank Gomez

Gene Karl in jeep

Gene Karl in jeep

St Dogmaels, Wales

St Dogmaels, Wales

Army tanks in Neath, Wales, 1943

Army tanks in Neath, Wales, 1943

Albro Castle courtyard

Albro Castle courtyard

Gene Karl at Albro Castle with gun

Gene Karl at Albro Castle with gun

CPT James Goode

CPT James Goode

Cherbourg, France, 1944

Cherbourg, France, 1944

Destroyed US tanks near Bastogne, Ardennes, July 1944

Destroyed US tanks near Bastogne, Ardennes, July 1944

Troop ship heading home, fall 1945

Troop ship heading home, fall 1945

Dortmund, Germany, May 1945

Dortmund, Germany, May 1945

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