In 1944 Roy Trabue left Austin High School to Serve his Country - In 2009 He Finally Got His Diploma
February 10, 2012
Submitted by Ishmael White
In the 1940’s, when our country was embroiled in the greatest war of our nation’s history, many of its brave young men answered the call of duty, while they were still in high school. This was done with the understanding that, upon return their high school diploma would be awarded to them. Several local people were a part of this. Some of the notable ones that I know were, Robert Parks, John Kurtz and John Trabue. Each of them received their diploma upon return. On person who was also a member of that elite group was Roy Trabue. He would have graduated in 1944, but instead of staying in school for his senior year, he joined the navy to serve our country in it’s time of need. In the summer of 2008 during a casual conversation at the Leota Country Frolic, Roy recounted that time in his life with me and mentioned that he had tried several times to get his diploma, with no success. That conversation stirred me to investigate further. My investigations lead me to the discovery that in the mid 1990 the state of Indiana decreed that all persons who were a part of that action were entitled to their diploma. With the help of Superintendent Goodin and the school board officers, we were able to get Roy’s diploma. At the 2009 Austin Alumni Banquet, Roy was awarded his diploma at the age of 83.
(In the photo at right Roy receives an unexpected but well-earned Austin High School Diploma from Ishmael White.) As you can see Roy has weathered well. His advice to the 2009 class of graduating seniors was “For you it has taken 18 years to reach this point, for me it took 65 additional years. I hope it is as rewarding to you, as it is to me”.
Roy still proudly displays his 1944 AHS Letterman jacket. As I was working on this, I obviously had to engage his wife to make sure he was at the banquet. When I shared my plan with her she had one large concern, which was that Roy works on the pit crew with his son at the local race track every Saturday night. Yes, at 83, he is still active and engaged in racing with his sons. Roy is a retired truck driver for Morgan’s. Next time you see Roy, congratulate him on his graduation, you may be a few years late, but Roy patiently waited 65 years to get it!
September 21, 2011
Homer Snowden: The POW story of an American World War II Soldier & How an Unknown Ham Radio User Brought Joy to the Snowden Family in 1945
By Mike Barrett
William Homer Snowden lived half of his life in Austin, Indiana. When the 59 year old World War II Veteran passed away in 1975, he had lived in the community over 30 years, the last twenty six of them spent with his wife Ayleen at 385 South First Street, where they raised their four children. Homer Snowden did not talk much about his career in the military and it wasn’t until 1973, just two years before his death and nearly 30 years after his service did Scott County get a chance to hear his story.
As the Vietnam War era came to a close in 1973, America was focused on the returning Prisoners of War and the stories of the cruel treatment inflicted upon them by their captors the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. Scott County and the community of Austin anxiously awaited the return of one soldier in particular; Austin resident Captain Hubert Buchanan who had been captured by enemy forces in 1966 and was held captive for 6 ½ years. As Buchannan’s release drew well deserved coverage from local and national media, Ron Cooper a writer for the Scott County Chronicle thought it was an appropriate time to reflect on another period of war that America participated in. Cooper’s article took readers back to World War II, and back to a deep private secret that few knew about another Austin man, Homer Snowden. (Cooper’s story appears in this column under subheading: 1973 The Scott County Chronicle)
Homer Snowden and his wife Ayleen moved to Austin in the late 1930s from St. Helens, Kentucky, and like so many others from Eastern Kentucky of that era they moved to Austin looking for work, and where the only sure jobs in the region seemed to be at Morgan Packing Company. Homer quickly found work and soon he and Ayleen began their lives in the small community. As World War II approached and Homer’s imminent departure for Germany a certainty, the family returned to Kentucky where Ayleen would have the support of family in helping with the children, and perhaps the stress of being a war-wife.
As American forces entrenched its armies in the middle of Germany the rest of the world seemed to hold its breath. All across America families prayed for the safe return of their loved ones, while living in fear of a dreaded telegram that could arrive at any moment delivering news that could ruin and change their lives forever.
On January 18th, 1945 Ayleen Snowden received such a telegram, and while it was not a death notice the news was crushing, emotionally devastating. Her husband was Missing-In Action while fighting in Belgium, which meant U.S. officials, did not know if he was dead or alive, injured or captured. The Snowden family’s worse fear was now a reality, and there was nothing they could do but wait for more news.
A few weeks after the January 18th telegram, a post card arrived at the Snowden residence from a Prisoner of War Camp in Germany and from Homer. It was a short master copy filled out by POWs at the time of their capture. It simply stated he had been captured and slightly wounded; he lost part of a finger during his capture. While the card offered hope temporarily it did nothing to ease the pain of the long agonizing days and nights for the family. Like thousands of other American families of the World War II era, the passing of each day without news only heightened the fear that a loved one was not coming home. On February 12th, 1945 more hope arrived; this time in the form of a hand written card from Homer. His deep love and protective nature is obvious in his carefully chosen handwritten notes.
As the war raged on the family went days without hearing from Homer, which eventually turned into weeks. And once again “No News” was not a message of reassurance but one of fear of the unknown, as Americans were well aware of the horrible persecution inflicted by Hitler’s armies. During World War II there were many heroes, which earned medals for their service to their country. But there were also heroes of a different nature, who lived in the United States and earned no medals. Ham radio or short wave radio users were able to reach long distances and receive information from across the world.
An American Hero – Sadie Acklam Ham Radio User Middletown New York
Short wave radio users retrieved messages then relayed news to the families of U.S. Soldiers back in the United States. On March 28th, 1945 and weeks since the family had heard from Homer, a post card arrived in St. Helens Kentucky addressed to Ayleen Snowden from Middletown, New York. Just when the family needed hope and a hero it arrived in the form of a short wave radio user. The user heard Homer Snowden’s name on the radio while listening in New York to a radio frequency in Germany and sent a card to his wife Ayleen.
The card sent by a lady named Sadie Acklam offered the hope and support the family desperately needed. In her opening statement, she informs Ayleen, while listening to her short wave radio in New York she picked up a message from Berlin, Germany and heard the names of soldiers recently captured. Acklam’s message was clear; Homer was alive and imprisoned somewhere in Germany. We have to remember this was a time of poor communication in America, few had telephones and the Internet was 50-years away from being established. In other words it took a tremendous effort for Mrs. Acklam to find out where Homer Snowden was from, and how to contact his family, but yet her compassion for an American family she had never met drove her to provide hope to the Snowden family. Roles like Acklam’s are often forgotten over time, but for thousands of families across America and decades later the term “Ham Radio” will always mean something special. Sadie Acklam, Short Wave Radio User; American Hero.
A few weeks later on May 10th, 1945 with America gaining control in Germany another Western Union telegram arrived at the Snowden home. This time the message offered more than hope, it presented pure joy; Homer Snowden had been released by the German Army and had been retuned to the control of the United States Army and was coming home.
When Homer returned to the United Sates and to his family, he decided to return to Austin and to Morgan Packing Company. By 1949, he and Ayleen had saved enough money to build a lovely home at 385 South First Street in Austin, where they raised their four children.
Eventually Homer would find work at the Cummins Engine Plant in Seymour Indiana, but he continued to live in Austin. Even though, the experience of being a POW was on his mind constantly he seldom talked about the impact the event had on his life, and never to his children. As Homer continued to settle into his life in Austin he became interested in Ham Radios. He loved to explore the open frequencies of the air waves, and soon his basement at 385 South First Street was a huge radio shop where he spent years communicating with others in different countries. There was an irony for his love of ham radios, since it was a message on a post card from Sadie Acklam in 1945, via a ham radio that informed his family he was still alive.
1973 (The Scott County Chronicle)
In 1973 Homer decided it was time to talk about the months he spent as a POW in Germany. Maybe it was the excitement of another Austin boy coming home from war after being a POW, or maybe it was just time to let others know what was inside him. In the March 17th 1973, edition of the Scott County Chronicle writer Ron Cooper presented the 57-year old Snowden’s story.
“According to Homer he and his comrades had retreated to a foxhole after fighting near Marshe, Belgium, on Christmas Eve 1944. Snowden and a buddy “dug in” for a while, but the Germans moved in close to their position, and the two decided to try to make it back to Allied lines. They passed through a German Camp “slick as a ribbon” and, after evading a German Sentry, crawled under some strands of barbed wire and headed across a field. A moment later the word “halt” was uttered in a foreign accent and the two Americans were surrounded by the enemy. Snowden threw down his rifle and told his friend to do likewise, and then turned over four grenades and bandoleers.”
“Snowden spent Christmas with his captors, a day he passed diving for shelter in the face of an attack by United States aircraft. He lost a finger in the attack.”
“In another attack by Allied planes, an air raid shelter caved in and killed several POWs held by the Germans. Snowden survived the attack, but to this day he traces his back trouble to an injury he received when the shelter collapsed.”
“Snowden’s treatment by the Germans was civil enough under the circumstances, but he said there was never enough to eat. A typical day’s menu consisted of black bread, with jelly, potato and carrot soup and sugar beet tops.”
“We were told anybody caught stealing potatoes would get shot, he recalled, “but we were hungry and didn’t scare to well. We stole them every night.”
“Snowden’s POW days were marked by constant movement. He and other American, British and French captives would be on the move to a certain place, but on several occasions had to turn around and head back because it was learned that their destination had been captured by the Allies.”
“Snowden said he has followed with interest the recent news regarding the arrival home of Air Force Captain Hubert E. Buchanan, also of Austin from a North Vietnamese POW camp. He pointed out that he helped Buchanan learn to operate a ham radio set before the now 31-year-old pilot entered the military in 1964, and Snowden hopes Buchanan will be interested in the resuming the hobby when he arrives home.”
“But, he notes with insight, being a prisoner can really change a man.”
The Snowden’s were members of the Baptist Church in Austin. In 1975 after battling cancer Homer Snowden passed away at age 59. His wife Ayleen continued to live in their home at 385 South First Street until she passed away in 2004.
Children of Ayleen and Homer Snowden
Nancy (Sonny) Snowden Alexander, Bill Snowden, Glenda Snowden Bush and Gayle Snowden Thormyer.
Grandchildren of Ayleen and Homer Snowden
Keith Alexander, Steve Alexander, Dana Thormyer Stephens, Jill Thormyer Hough, Angie Snowden Jones, Lisa Snowden Conner, Billy Snowden, Missy Bush Sadler and Tommy Bush.
All grandchildren are still in the Austin area or reside near by.
Cooper, R. (1973). The Scott County Chronicle. World War II POW Recalls His Adventure. March 17th, 1973. Scottsburg Indiana.
Larry Marshall Captured in 1968 Aboard USS Pueblo by North Korean Forces
September 11, 2011
Austin’s Larry Marshall a United States Navy Seaman was one of the 82-crew members on board USS Pueblo Ager-2 Ship when it was taken captive on January 23rd, 1968, by North Korean forces. -
The photo is an actual photo Larry Marshall in captivity taken by North Korean officials.
Below are various links to the USS Pueblo Incident.
WWII Vets: American Icons List is Becoming Shorter Each Year
September 3, 2011
The Louisville Courier Journal reported today (9/3/11) that fewer than 2 million of the 16 million men and women who served in World War II are alive. The article also reported that WWII vets are dying at a rate of 30,000 per month.
It is our duty to remember to thank all of our veterans for their service and commitment to our Freedom.
Independence Holiday is Time to Reflect on Sacrifice of Freedom
July 2, 2011
World War II: A letter to home from U.S. Soldier Kenneth West of Austin
On October 23rd, 1944 Austin native and U.S. Soldier Kenneth West sent a letter home to his parents Ruby and Floyd West from France. West was stationed in France, and his letter is a heartwarming reflection of love for his family and his desire to be back home in Indiana. In January of 1943, West was a senior at Austin High School and a star player on the basketball team, when he entered the service. West received his high school diploma while serving in the Army and by September of 1943, he was in combat at age 18.
When Private West wrote the letter below on October 23rd, 1944 he was just 19-years old. Before the letter made it home to Austin, Private West was killed in action, while serving his country on October 30th, 1944. His parents Ruby and Floyd were notified of his death by a telegram from the War Department. On November 7th 1944, and just a few days after the West’s had received word of their son’s death the following letter came in the mail.
October 23, 1944
Dearest Mother and Dad,
As I have time now I will try and write a few lines. First of all I would like to say I am just fine and trusting in Jesus day by day. He means the world to me, without him the days would really be weary. He gives me the light to keep me going.
I have just shaved and cleaned up. Gee it really feels good, the first time I have cleaned up in days, had hot water and hot meals. But it won’t last long.
How is everything on the farm? Fall work will soon be done, dad driving the bus to school. It’s always so pretty around home in October. Have you gone anywhere on Sunday afternoons, remember the fall we went to Brown County Park? But those days will come again. As today is Sunday I suppose around this time you are all going to Sunday school. Then you will go home and eat dinner, and in the afternoon you will read and listen to the radio. Its been so long since I listened to the radio I wouldn’t know how to act to hear one now.
I was sure glad to get your letter and clippings, thanks a lot. I just received one Scott County Journal and that was when I was in Italy. I am being a good boy and always expect to be. Well mother as I am running out of anything to say, I will close. So till you hear from me again I’ll be your loving son. May God be with us all, prayer will take care of everything.
The above letter was printed in the November 30th, 1944 edition of the Scott County Journal.
In the photo below of West is pictured on the family farm in Austin. He is standing near a weeping willow tree that he planted by a pond on the farm. (Photo was taken just a few days before he left Austin for the last time in 1943.)
World War II – 1945: Austin native writes home after release from German War Prison
Scott County Journal – May 24th 1945
Sergeant Absolom H. Kelly son of Mr. and Mrs. C. R. Kelly of Route 2 Austin Indiana has been freed from a German prison camp according to word received by his parents last week. Sergt. Kelly enlisted Nov 23rd, 1942 after receiving training in the Air Corps, went overseas and on January 1, 1944 bailed out over Belgium.
His parents received letters from him written at various German prisoner of war camps, but the best message they have ever had was the one received last week which was as follows:
“Just a few lines to let you know I am O.K. and free again. I am at a Canadian Air Base now. They really treat us nice. I am not sure when I will hit the States, but soon I hope. By the way, this Brussels Belgium where I am. I guess we will go to France and then head for home. Don’t worry I am in good health. I will keep writing when I find out anything. Take care of yourselves, I will be home soon."
Scott County Journal. (May 24, 1945). Scottsburg Indiana. Retrieved from microfilm at Scott County Public Library, Scottsburg Indiana on July, 2nd 2011.
Austin’s Kenneth K. Smith Awarded the Air Medal – Scott County Journal December 14, 1944
Cheery Point, N.C. – Marine Master Technical Sergeant Kenneth K. Smith, son of Mr. and Mrs. K.H. Smith of Austin, Indiana was recently awarded the Air Medal at an outlying field of the Marine Corps air here for his achievements as an aerial gunner attached to a Marine dive bomber squadron operating against the Japanese in the South Pacific.
During three tours of duty from September of 1943 to May 1944 Sergeant Smith took part in 23 missions over Japanese territory, frequently encountering intense anti-aircraft fire. In September, following a strike against Vila airfield, Bouganville Island, he strafed and sank an enemy barge. On another occasion, despite repeated attacks by enemy fighter planes he effectively strafed bivouac areas at Ballale.
Young Austin Man (Everitt Hunley) Killed in Germany - Was Member of Patton's Army
T4 Everitt Hunley of Austin Indiana was killed in action in Germany on April 24, 1945 according to the war message received from the war department by his parents, Mr. & Mrs. James A. Hunley on Tuesday.
Young Hunley age 23, was a member of the 11th Armored Division of Patton’s Third Army. He went into the service in October 1942 and went overseas in September of 1944.
The sympathy of the entire county goes out to the family who received the tragic message upon V-E Day, the day when many other parents were thankful that the War was over in Germany and that there sons had been spared.
Scott County Journal, May 17th, 1945. Scottsburg Indiana
Wins Silver Star Medal For Bravery –Scott County Journal, Scottsburg, Indiana November 29, 1945
Chief Pharmacist’s Mate, Roy Lagenour, former Austin druggist and son of Mr. & Mrs. Harry Lagenour, has received the Silver Star Medal and the following citation for bravery under fire:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving with a Marine infantry battalion on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, on 19 February, 1945. Chief Pharmacist’s Mate Lagenour, while moving forward to his battalion aid station, noted several wounded Marines about seventy-five yards to his front. With total disregard for his own personal safety and on his own initiative, he moved forward under withering machine gun and mortar fire to where the wounded Marines were located. He then rendered first aid treatment to the wounded men, although all the while he was exposed to intense enemy fire. His daring and courageous action is credited with saving the lives of at least three Marines and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
H. M. Smith, Lieutenant General, U. S. Marine Corps.
Home From Prison Camp – Scott County Journal, Scottsburg, Indiana, Thursday, May 17, 1945
Delmar Redifer, Combat Infantryman with the 38th division of the First Army, is home at home at Austin after being released from a German prison camp on April 2 by the Third Army. He is the son of Mrs. Ida Redifer of Austin and went overseas July 21, 1944. He joined the 28th Division after St Lo in France and was captured Dec. 18 near Henderscheidt, Luxemburg. He is enjoying a 60 day furlough before reporting for reassignment.
Kenneth K. Smith Awarded The Air Medal – Scott County Journal, Scottsburg, Indiana, Thursday, December 14, 1944
Cheery Point, N.C. – Marine Master Technical Sergeant Kenneth K. Smith, son of Mr. & Mrs. K. H. Smith, of Austin, Ind., recently was awarded the Air Medal at an outlying field of the Marine Corps Air Station here for his achievements as an aerial gunner attached to a Marine dive bomber squadron operating against the Japanese in the South Pacific.
During three tours of duty from September, 1943 to May, 1944, Sergeant Smith took part in 25 missions over Japanese territory, frequently encountering intense anti-aircraft fire. In September, following a strike against Vila airfield, Bougainville Island, he strafed and sank an enemy barge. On another occasion, despite repeated attacks by enemy fighter planes, he effectively strafed bivouac areas at Ballale. On numerous other occasions he capably assisted his plane commander in carrying out successful attacks against enemy installations.
He now is serving as an air crewman with a unit of the Ninth Marine Aircraft Wing.
Austin Marine Is Veteran Fighter of Japs – Scott County Journal, August 8, 1944
Marine Corps Air Depot, Miramar, Calif., July 26 – Marine Master Technical Sergeant Harvey Keith Smith, 26, son of Mr. and Mrs. K. H. Smith of Austin, Indiana, who was rescued by a Navy patrol plane last March after drifting in a life raft on the South Pacific for several hours, recently returned here.
Radioman-gunner of a dive-bomber, Master Technical Sergeant Smith is a veteran of three campaigns against the Japs. Operating from Guadalacanal, Munda and Bougainville, he flew in 38 raids on Kolombangara, Bougainville and Rabaul, accumulating 225 hours of combat flying.
A broken oil line forced his pilot Marine Captain John J. Windsor, of Oakland, Calif., to land their plane on the water enroute from Bougainville during a mission against Rabaul.
Master Technical Sergeant Smith lost no time breaking out the life raft and getting clear of the rapidly-sinking plane. As he did so, he looked around to see how Captain Smith was doing.
“There was my pilot,” he said, “climbing out of the plane with a box of candy in one hand and his plotting board in the other.”
On the last raid made by his squadron, against Rabaul on May 1, they encountered their stiffest opposition.
“The Japs really threw plenty of flak against us that day,” he said. “The plane right in front of mine was hit and the radio gunner was shot and killed by Japs from the shore after landing in the water.”
A graduate of Austin High School, Smith enlisted in the Marine Corps in March, 1942.
Wounds in Italy
Sergt. Orville Law 26, died July 1, of wounds sustained in action in Italy according to a report to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Law of Austin.
Sgt. Law was wounded in January but had returned to duty, and news of his death came as a shock to his family. He was with the First Armored Regiment, having served in Africa, and was with troops on the Anzio beachhead for many months.
His family received letters written on June 27, in which Sgt. Law said they were well past Rome. At that time he had been slightly wounded again, but not enough to be hospitalized, and he said he was well at that time.
The telegram from the War Dept. said that he had died on July 1.
He was born and reared at Deputy and was graduated from high school there with the class of 1936. Later he moved to Austin with his parents where he was employed by the Morgan Packing Co., before entering the army.
Sgt. Law was the first Scott County man to enlist in the service. He enlisted in November, 1940.
Besides his parents, he leaves three brothers, Sgt. Alva Law, in England, Merill Law, aviation chief metal smith station in the Hawaiian Island, and Morris Law, of Louisville. Surviving also are three sisters, Opal Law, at Austin, Mildred Law, Louisville, and Mrs. Gene Rippey, Los Angeles, Calif.
He was the grandson of John Burnsides and nephew of Gus Burnsides, Mrs. Olin Stites and Walter Law, of the Deputy neighborhood.
We join together with the rest of the community in extending our sympathy to the family of this soldier.
Robert Ross: Austin Man is Proud to be an American Veteran
October 8, 2011
By Mike Barrett
(Warning: This document includes sensitive material)
On September 29th, 2011, I sat down with Robert Ross, and talked with him about his service to the United States as a Soldier in combat during the Korean War. As the 83-year old veteran discussed his time in the service, his deep love for his country is obvious, and admirable. But there were times during the discussion when the lines on his tanned face tensed up, and during those moments the former Platoon Sergeant reached nervously for another cigarette, as he struggled to search for the words that told his story best.
Robert Ross lives on the north-side of Austin in a ranch style home that faces US Highway 31. On his carport hangs an American flag, and to Ross it’s more than just a flag, it’s a symbol of Freedom and what he fought for as an American Soldier in Korea nearly 60-years ago. Ross’ story is both heroic and tragic, and leaves no doubt of the sacrifices made by American Soldiers when the cause is Freedom. This is the story of Robert Ross, an American Soldier; a fighting soldier who if asked, would do it all over again for his country.
A Bottle of Wine
Ross was born on September 13th, 1928 and grew up in Beattyville Kentucky; he was the son of Nellie and Green Ross. As a young boy Ross knew what he wanted to become; a soldier. When he was just 15 years old in 1944, he left Beattyville and headed to Lexington, Kentucky, in hopes of figuring out a way to get in the Army. Without his parents’ approval or knowledge the young teenager hung out near the Army enlistment center, and was told by officials the only way he could get in the Army was to have one of his parents sign for him, and if he was at least 17 years old.
Ross was not even close to age 17, and he knew his parents would never sign for him anyway. However, he was not deterred, and in his own words he found a local “Wine-O” who for a bottle of wine would sign for him as his parent and verify that Robert was 17-years old. “In those days not much identification was required, and the Army needed anyone willing to fight”, said Ross. To this day 67 years later, Ross says he never knew the name of the man who signed his consent papers.
1945 and the Atomic Bomb
After weeks of Basic Training at Fort Knox in Kentucky, Ross found himself in Fort Hood, Texas, training as an Armored Tank Specialist. When his was training was over Ross was eager to get going, but by then World War II in Germany was just about over and Ross a member of the United States Army, thought it was odd he was sitting on a U.S. Naval ship about 15 miles outside of Japan.
As the soldiers on board the ship anxiously awaited the opportunity to invade northern Japan, they received orders from Washington to abort their mission, but to remain at sea and wait for further orders. One day later on August 6th, 1945 the United States dropped the first of two Atomic Bombs in southern Japan. The first was dropped on the city of Hiroshima and the second came three days later on the city of Nagasaki. In all over 180,000 citizens of Japan were killed in the bombings.
Meanwhile Ross and fellow U.S. Soldiers waited on the ship, virtually unaware of what had happened. Ross who was a month shy of his 17th birthday at the time, says even when they received news of the bombings they didn’t understand the impact. “If I remember right it was actually about two weeks later before we even knew about it, and we didn’t really understand what an Atomic Bomb was. We were isolated on a ship with no communication other than our Commanding Officers.” Ross went onto say that eventually the Soldiers received copies of a military newspaper, and only after reading the articles did they begin to realize just what had happened.
After a few weeks Ross finally got his chance to go landside but not as a fighting Soldier, instead as part of the U.S. Occupational Troops to help restore order and maintain control in Northern Japan. In all Ross spent about five years in Japan, and recalls the experience as a pleasant one and said the Japanese people were smart, and eager to build the country back from the ruination caused by the bombings.
Korean Conflict – 1950- 1953
When he first became a teenager Robert Ross knew he wanted to fight for his country, he wanted to be a Soldier and would do anything for his country. When the Korean conflict started, his dreams became reality.
Now a Platoon Sergeant Ross was back on a boat as the Army headed towards Seoul on LST Boats. This time there were no orders to abort, and Ross was one of the first soldiers to invade Korea. Immediately upon arrival, Ross’ team was responsible for engineering two Bailey Bridges over a river near Seoul.
The first battle Ross participated in occurred at Chosin Reservoir in Korea, where 60,000 Chinese Troops had surrounded 30,000 Marines. “The Marines had moved into a valley and before they knew it they were surrounded by Chinese troops. We were called into help the Marines and when we got there they were in a lot of trouble,” said Ross.
The battle at Chosen Reservoir raged on for 17 days in freezing weather, from November 26th to December 11th in 1950. Ross says his memory of the battle is like yesterday. “Navy guns were being fired from their ships in the sea. We could see the shells coming in over our heads. It was so loud, you couldn’t think. A lot of soldiers were dying, bodies were every where.”
It was during that battle when Ross developed a routine, to help him stay calm in battle. “My mother (Nellie Ross) was very religious, and every time things got crazy I would just start talking to her. I think her strength got me through it all. I had four brothers who were in World War II, and years later they told me they talked to Mom too in battle.”
As the battle of Chosin Reservoir reached its climacteric phase, the atrocities dramatically increased for the Chinese troops. When it was over the U.S. forces had pushed the Chinese troops out of the area for now. Leaving behind over 30,000 casualties while close to 3,000 American soldiers lost their lives. Ross remembers the scene when the battle was over. “Everywhere we walked for three miles we were stepping over dead bodies. I’ll never forget it, but back then you just moved on you didn’t have time to think about it,” added Ross.
As Chinese troops returned to the area and tried to regain control over U.N. forces in Northern Korea, Ross says they didn’t count on running into General Douglas McArthur. “Now that guy knew how to win a war,” exclaimed Ross. Ross says as U.S. Troops marched into North Korea, McArthur’s unofficial orders were clear and simple “If you can’t Kill It – Burn It.”
“We were a bunch of young soldiers, and we were scared and sick of seeing our best friends being killed. We were out for revenge,” said Ross, and “McArthur’s orders were what we wanted to hear, we did what we had to do to survive and we ran the Chinese back across the border, back into China.”
(When the battle ended President Harry Truman relieved General McArthur of his duties; citing political differences as the main reason. War historians however, cite the heavy casualties of U.S. Marines during this battle as one of the primary reasons.)
Ross also talked about another battle where Korean forces were firing down on U.S. Troops from some hills above them “They were up in the caves and using us for target practice. Some of our planes came by dropped napalm into the caves, that was a terrible mess when we went up there and secured the area,” said Ross.
The Bridge to Tragedy
As a member of the A Company 14th Engineers, Ross was a Platoon Sergeant and his primary job was a Demolition Technician. Sometime in 1950 near the village Tuksong-dong, Ross was involved in one of the most controversial war events in the history of the United States.
As Ross and fellow technicians set up bombs under a 650-foot-long bridge over the Naktong River, which was believed to be a passage route for North Korean soldiers into the south, something happened that changed his life forever. As Robert discussed the event, the muscles in his aged faced tightened; the impact of the tragic event still obvious 61 years later.
The following paragraph is a verbatim account of the event as told by Ross.
(WARNING – Graphic War Sensitive Material)
“We were waiting on word what to do next. I was the Platoon Sergeant and had the communication phone next to me. We were set up about 150-yards away, and as we were waiting we could see people walking on the bridge towards us, I couldn’t see everyone but I could tell the people in the front were civilians. When the phone buzzed I picked it up and the command was clear; Blow the Bridge.” I looked out and saw the civilians still coming towards us on the bridge. I said repeat the order and the order came again; Blow the Bridge. I can’t tell you who gave the order, because I don’t know who was on the other end of the phone.”
“When the bridge blew up all hell broke loose, body parts were flying everywhere. It was a horrible mess. I was given an order and I carried it out. I was trained to carry out orders and not ask questions, but as a man you think about things like that. But as a soldier you don’t have a choice, you do what you are told. As it turned out all the people on the bridge were civilians and it seemed like thousands. I did what I was ordered to do, I was a soldier and that’s what I did. At the time, you don’t think about something like that bothering you for the rest of your life.”
Official Account of the Tragic Event
There are several Websites that account for the event of Tuksong-dong that Ross was involved with, and all of them maintain the bridge was full of unarmed civilians. Official documents report the civilians were South Koreans, attempting to flee the area before North Korean forces seized the village Tuksong-dong. It is believed that around 700 people died in the explosion and is still considered one the most controversial events in U.S. war history.
One official Website of the Tuksong-dong account can be located at: http://pulitzer.org/archives/6354
The End of the War
In all Robert Ross served nine years and seven months in the United States Army, and when the war was over he returned to Kentucky with his wife Katherine. In 1968 and in need of a job he moved to Austin, Indiana, and landed a job at the Powder Plant in Charlestown. In 1971 after he was laid-off at the Powder Plant he was hired by Morgan Packing Company as an electrician, where he applied his skills from the Army, and where he eventually retired from in the 1990s.
The War that Never Ends
Robert Ross is now 83-years old; his life has been filled with tragedy. In the 1960s a sister was killed in a car crash on her way to work, along with several other members from the community of Austin. In 2001, his son Kenny Ross was murdered while working at his job as the manager of the Main Street Packaging and Liquor Store in Austin, and in 2006 his wife Katherine passed away after a long battle with cancer.
When Ross speaks of things that have passed in his life, you can hear the sadness in his voice, you can see the emptiness in his eyes. “You have to handle things the best way you can” he says. “When I was in the Army we were trained if we tripped a field-mine that was going to blow you apart to lay down on it, so at least it might save another soldier. I’ve always wondered if I could have done that. I saw my best friend do that, for me and others. His name was Kenny Mathias and my son Kenny was named after him.”
For Robert the war has never ended, and he knows it never will. “I think about it all the time”, he states. “Even to this day, at least once a week I have flashbacks, I think about the bridge, about walking over the bodies and the thousands who didn’t make it back. The flashbacks are the principles of a night-mare; you can’t get away from them. I will stay up all night trying to avoid them. It’s like its happening right now.”
Robert Ross Ready to Go Again
Through all the tragedies, through all the nightmares Robert Ross stands tall and is proud to be an American Veteran. “I’ve always loved my country, I never questioned what I had to do, because I knew I had to do it and if they needed me I’d be ready to go again,” he smiles proudly.
Robert Ross on Flying the American Flag at his House in Austin
“I take pride in flying the flag on my house. I’m going to keep it up there. When I see it, I see Freedom. We had to fight for Freedom; some guys gave their life for that flag. I like seeing it – it makes me feel good.”
 LST Boat: Landing Ship Tank
 Bailey Bridge: A type of portable, prefabricated truss bridge.
1918 Military Photo is Amazing
February 27, 2012
This incredible picture was taken in 1918. It is 18,000 men preparing for war in a training camp at Camp Dodge, in Iowa.
Base to Shoulder: 150 feet
Right Arm: 340 feet
Widest part of arm holding torch: 12 1/2 feet
Right thumb: 35 feet
Thickest part of body: 29 feet
Left hand length: 30 feet Face: 60 feet
Nose: 21 feet
Longest spike of head piece: 70 feet
Torch and flame combined: 980 feet
Number of men in flame of torch: 12,000
Number of men in torch: 2,800
Number of men in right arm: 1,200
Number of men in body, head and balance of figure only: 2,000
Submitted by: Brenda Trabue
Patriotic Songs of America
September 11, 2011
America The Beautiful Lyrics
By Katherine Lee Bates 1913
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine!
O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
My country, 'tis of Thee Lyrics
by Samuel F. Smith - 1832
My country, 'tis of Thee,
Sweet Land of Liberty
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountain side
Let Freedom ring.
My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills,
My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above.
Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet Freedom's song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.
Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright
With Freedom's holy light,
Protect us by thy might
Great God, our King.
Our glorious Land to-day,
'Neath Education's sway,
Soars upward still.
Its hills of learning fair,
Whose bounties all may share,
behold them everywhere
On vale and hill!
Thy safeguard, Liberty,
The school shall ever be,
Our Nation's pride!
No tyrant hand shall smite,
While with encircling might
All here are taught the Right
With Truth allied.
Beneath Heaven's gracious will
The stars of progress still
Our course do sway;
In unity sublime
To broader heights we climb,
Triumphant over Time,
God speeds our way!
Grand birthright of our sires,
Our altars and our fires
Keep we still pure!
Our starry flag unfurled,
The hope of all the world,
In peace and light impearled,
God hold secure!
The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics
By Francis Scott Key 1814
Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
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