Above: Harold Hamlin holds the commissioning pennant that flew from the masthead of the USS Wren the day it was decommissioned in 1946.
A booth at the 1993 Kansas State Fair held centuries of intrigue for Legionnaire Harold Hamlin, a World War II Navy veteran. At a genealogy display, a visitor could type his information into a computer there and see if any family ties were found.
The person operating the booth was surprised. Most visitors had come up without any luck, not even one ping.
One room in Richard Hughes’ Arizona home, complete with models and boot camp photos, pays testament to the five in his family - a true band of brothers - who served in five different branches of the military.
Richard was a Navy signalman, serving from 1953-1957, and did tours in Japan and Australia.
Donald served in the Marine Corps from 1955-1958, joining, his brother Robert, because he was “bound and determined” to become a Marine - he liked the uniforms.
Edgar Hood and Myrle McElroy of Waxahachie, Texas, proudly raised four sons and one daughter and served as wonderful role models for their children. They taught them to be true to their calling and persevere, applying themselves to whatever life presented. They were always to love and respect each other, as well as serve their community. When duty called on Dec. 7, 1941, their sons honored their country and left for war.
John, the oldest, had never considered the military as a career but the attack on Pearl Harbor changed that viewpoint and he enlisted in the Navy the following morning.
When veteran Richard Marvets heard about the Sullivan Brothers Outstanding Military Family award, he thought his clan might be a contender. In fact, so many Marvets had recently served, he needed help just to gather all the names. He enlisted the aid of his nephew, Bill.
The five Sullivan Brothers served aboard the same cruiser and were all killed in action during World War II when that ship was sunk.
Just a few days after Christmas, the Department of Veterans Affairs contacted a son of Alfred Cabral, Sr. The department had Cabral Sr.'s dogtags, now sandblasted but still mostly legible, found near Anzio, where he'd landed almost 70 years ago. Contact was made only three weeks shy of being 69 years to the day, Jan. 10, 1945, when Alfred had been wounded.
Domenico Cianfriglia had been walking the beach at Nettuno, Italy, a small town outside Anzio, when he came across the dogtags.
On a trip to Providence, R.I., Legionnaire Donald Roeske uncovered quite a surprise as he was browsing the archives at the historical society: his great-grandfather’s name in records of Civil War regiments.
Frederick Roeske, a German immigrant, had remained mostly a mystery to Donald, who knew only his origins and that he landed in Providence.
“That part of history has faded away from me,” he said.
Richard Reuss was the youngest of his family to be drafted during World War II. He had five brothers and a brother-in-law who all had been taken before him.
His brother Norman served in the Army Tank Corps, Vernon was a paratrooper who wound up in Japan and Melvin was in the Air Corps as a radioman. Their brother-in-law, Roy Roos, was in the Air Corps, "caught" by the lottery before America officially entered the war.
His oldest brother, Alfred, Jr., drove a gasoline supply truck and was attached to Gen. George Patton’s Third Army.
Johnny Martin joined the Army prior to graduating from high school and entered shortly after his graduation in 1967. He chose airborne and special forces (SF). Since he was his mother’s only child, the military would not send him to Vietnam. So Central and South America became his area of expertise, where he worked at the Jungle Training School and was a member of the USARSO Jump Team and Fort Bragg, N.C. - his home base - where he was an instructor for phase two SF training on the halo team and demolition team.
My family has had the privilege of serving this country of ours since the Civil War. My great-great grandfather, A. Corcoran, served with the famed "Black Hats" of the 7th Wisconsin. My grandfather was an enlistee serving 12 years during and after World War I with the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry. My dad, Cpt. S.J. Todryk, was a Marine Corps fighter pilot flying Corsairs in the Pacific in 1944-1945 with the 2nd MAW. I was an enlistee in both the Army and Air Force in Vietnam 1968-1970, with an additional eight years in the USAR. My oldest don, M.J. Todryk, Cpt.
My father, James W. Warner, joined the U.S. Navy on Oct. 26, 1911. In 1916 he was 2nd Class Quartermaster, and dropped his rate to go into the new field of radio. By 1919 he was one of the first chief radiomen in the Navy.
In March 1928 he retired from active duty. He was then recruited by Chas. Kingsford Smith to fly to Australia. They made the first crossing of the Pacific by air in a Fokker Tri-Motor.
James Kenneth Black was born in 1923 on a prairie homestead in Montana’s Petroleum County. When Jim was just 5, his mother allowed him to go to first grade at the Kelly Country school because there were two other boys in first grade that year.
She probably questioned her decision when Jim and one of the boys made bows and arrows from the willows by the creek and had a duel. They were both pretty good shots - the other boy was hit in the mouth, with the arrow continuing out below his chin, while Jim got an arrow in his left eye.
In the Severson household, seven of nine brothers served during war and returned home safely between World War II and Korea.
Four served around the world in World War II: Julian in the Navy, Walter and Paul in the Army Air Corps and Kenneth in the Army. Three of their brother-in-laws also were in the military during that time. Three more Seversons served during the Korean War: Severin and Bert in the Army, Stanley in the Navy.
"We all enlisted, none of us were drafted," Kenneth said.
Having literal brothers in arms kept him worried.
Presently, I am 86 years young and am a World War II veteran. I served in the U.S. Navy, retiring Nov. 8, 1986. I also served in the Air Force Reserves for a spell.
I come from a family that was pretty much military:
My father, Charles H. Willey, received the Medal of Honor on Aug. 1, 1932, for bravery on the USS Memphis in 1916 in Santo Domingo City.
Dad was a life member of Legion Post 6 in Concord, N.H., and would march in every Memorial Day Parade beating a drum.
My father, Arne Thompson, was the son of Norwegian immigrants who lived in Minnesota. During World War I, he served as PFC in the Army Coast Artillery Corps. When the 1918 Great Flu Pandemic reached his camp, where he remembered soldiers dying all around him, he was put on a burial detail. He helped dig graves for 700 soldiers who died of the flu in October 1918 at Camp Dodge, Iowa (13,000 fell ill). He told me he remembered seeing the bodies of his comrades stacked like cordwood waiting for shipment home to their families.
My name is Michael Freligh and a proud member of American Legion Post 24 in Blytheville, Ark. Our family military history goes back many years, a history that I am very proud of.
My father and his three older brothers all served in World War II at the same time, in different branches, and in different parts of the world. One was the pilot of a B-24 stationed in England. Another served for 32 active duty years beginning in what was first called the Army Air Corps, later the United States Air Force. He served as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 with the 97th Bomb Group 340th Bomb Squadron.
To whom it may concern:
My name is Norbert Lankheit, commander, Squadron 4 Florence Ky., and now also serving as SAL 6th District commander. I also serve on the John Keys Scholarship Review Committee and the Northern Kentucky Honor Guard. The link below is about my uncle, who I am named after. I am honored to have been named after him. He was killed in action on Utah Beach June 8, 1944.
In the summer of 1917, entering World War I was unavoidable by the United States. The German U-boat submarine assault on shipping heading to Great Britain had only intensified the call to arms for the U.S. to enter into the war. The sinking of the British ocean liner Lusitania in 1915 was the catalyst that turned the tide of American opinion against Germany.
In February, the U.S. Congress passed legislation providing $250 million in arms appropriations to prepare the U.S. for war. By March of 1917, the sinking of four U.S.
Barbara Lawrence Doerr met Jack more than 60 years ago - she had been a cadet nurse who graduated when World War II was winding down. He’d been a flight engineer on a B-17 for the Army. Both were kept stateside. He fixed the planes that had been sent home for repair at Langley Field in Virginia; Barbara did her best to help the soldiers sent home heal in Battle Creek, Mich. They married in 1952, bringing together two Michigan families who had roots in the first beginnings of the American Legion’s history.
But they were far from the first to serve in their respective clans.
The following ran as an editorial in the July 24 Duxbury (Mass.) Clipper. The author is a longtime newspaper columnist and a 20-year member of Post 76, Jamaica Plain, Mass.
A Remarkable Continuation
Sara Megan Lansing stepped down last month after more than two years as commander of American Legion Post #223 in Duxbury. Therein lies a remarkable continuation one family's remarkable service to the nation, to Duxbury and to Post #223.
Sara Lansing's great-great-great grandfather, Zelotus Prince of Marshfield, served four years in the Civil War.