05-23-2019 Tri-City Area History Page

Anyone know this World War II soldier? Photo is stamped “Dec 7 1943” on the back. Probably not the date it was taken. Notice the lack of snow, and leaves on the trees. Stop by the NBHS Museum or give us a call at 468-3330 if you have information on this photo appearing here. North Berrien Historical Museum is always interested in photos, stories or information sharing. The museum can be contacted by email to info@northberrienhistory.org. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma


The Paw Paw River Journal


Burial at sea

A famous Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, said, “War is at best barbarism… war is hell!” He had it exactly right! All through history men have been trying to figure out better ways to kill each other. We have gotten more sophisticated at it. But in all wars somebody wins and somebody loses… and people get killed. Every year when this time rolls around I think about that. Memorial Day! It used to be called Decoration Day because we decorated the graves of soldiers and sailors and airmen from all of our wars. We celebrate it with speeches, ceremonies, and the mournful playing of Taps. That always causes shivers up and down my spine. I am aware of the huge losses we have all sustained because men insist upon killing each other. I thought I had seen just about every ceremony, every type of celebration of that day. But just recently Jim Neuman and Larry Wozniak from the organization of Lest We Forget, sent around a YouTube clip of film that was taken way back in World War II. That was my war, the Big One as Archie Bunker called it. And it hit me right in the middle all over again. It was taken on one of our aircraft carriers. All airplanes had been out on a raid somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Now the planes were coming back. They were TBF avengers, torpedo bombers that carried a crew of three… pilot, radio operator, and rear gunner. One after another they came in guided by a signal man with flags. Then this one came in. It was limping, shot up, and the pilot was angling carefully as if he were afraid it might fall apart before he got on the deck. And they treated it special. The pilot was OK, the radio operator was OK, but the rear gunner… his turret was all shot up with a tracing of bullet holes right down the fuselage where he sat. Nobody could have survived that, and he did not. Just another casualty among many! So many! Well, that’s what war is about. But here’s where it changed. The airplane was so shot up they made a quick decision that it could probably not be repaired. They placed a shroud around the body of the lost airman. One of the plane handlers brought out a fingerprint kit, and we can see him inking the dead man’s fingers, then pressing them on the paper. Another crew member brought out a knife and quickly cut off his dog tags. Meanwhile all the sailors not on duty had gathered at the fantail (rear of the ship). They stood in respectful silence as the chaplain stood next to the riddled airplane. Then he read the following… I can hear his voice reading the office for dead sailors: “…We therefore commit this body to the deep, looking for the general Resurrection in the last day, and the life of the world to come, through our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose second coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the sea shall give up our dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in Him shall be changed, and made like unto His glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Him.” About a dozen sailors gathered and pushed the wrecked airplane off the back of the aircraft carrier. I held my breath watching it, hoping no one would fall overboard. They didn’t. And then the camera watched the propellers’ wake and the airplane smaller and smaller in the distance is it gradually sank. And I thought, just another casualty? No, there went someone’s son… the hope for their old age. Perhaps someone’s sweethe