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Mason County Memories


"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain


History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



david k petersen

Each year I spend some time during clean up days poking around for anything that might be interesting or valuable and I'm seldom disappointed in what I find along the way. I look for old newspapers, phone books, photographs, store advertising and other types of paper ephemera that I can put in my collection or use to help put together my weekly column.

This year (so far) there have been boxes from Star Watch Case Company, an Ahrahamson Nerheim nail pouch, some old newspapers, negatives, postcards, and a scrapbook from the 1940's. It's the contents of this old scrapbook that are the subject of our column today. It contains clippings from Ludington Daily News stories during the war years of 1941 to 1945 and covers local servicemen, local weddings and other items of interest.

One of the clippings recalls a story from Frank Maleckas who went on to later author the book "One 11 Millionth of a War." The article describes his experience as the sole survivor of and 11 member crew of a B-24 that crashed over the Pacific, his 15 mile swim to shore and survival in the jungle for 35 days before being rescued.

Lt. Ruth Chatfield a former Victory Township woman wrote of her trip to Rome while serving as an Army nurse in Italy and another talks of two Ludington Nurses Cadets Kathryn Keating and Bettie Allard pledging service to the Country. Another Nurse Lt. Blanche Garwood was listed in an article in the Chicago Tribune about the evacuation of the wounded from the beaches of Normandy.

First Lieutenant Karl Sweikhardt was a navigator on one of the first ninth troop carrier command planes that carried paratroopers to France on the first phase of the invasion of France and PFC Owen Gavigan Jr. was reported injured during the invasion on June 13th and was flown back to the United States, PFC John Maul received a Purple Heart and one talks of the menus put together in the field by Captain A.R. Mummey of Ludington at Harmon field at Newfoundland

One of our photo illustrations is of Don Finholm enjoying Thanksgiving dinner in a muddy foxhole on the Italian front. Lee Kruska wrote home about being invited to an Indian Dinner with some interesting entrees and complete with Dancing Girls, and a village play. PFC Joseph Papes of Freesoil made a one man assault on a Japanese pillbox and single handedly killed six, Sargent Robert Carr wrote home about his experiences in a Nazi prison camp,

Many of the other clippings though are of our local servicemen who were injured or killed in the line of duty during the second world war and as we move toward Memorial day I think it's a good time to remember some of them and the sacrifice they made for us.

Stanley L. Hansen was born in Victory township in 1923, attended Ludington High School, and he joined the army in 1942. In a letter home talking about working a 20 hour stretch he is quoted as saying " The harder we work the quicker this war will be over." He was killed as the result of an airplane crash January 4th 1944 in Jorhat India.

Other local servicemen reported lost in articles in the old scrapbook were PVT Robert Baltzer, Sgt Walter Lorenz, PFC Marvin Gust (Sheldon), John Smith, PVT Gerald Young, PVT James Ball, Sgt Raymond Radtke on Palau Island, PVT John Gibson and on Luzon Island, Sgt Bill Young a former star basketball player for St. Simon's High School, Lt. John McKenzie of Custer, Edward Yeck in the South Pacific, Sgt Arnold Hargreaves and T/5 William Olson in Germany, Cpl Weldon Luskin.

Captain Gerald Rowe wrote to say " I know what it is to be dive bombed, high altitude bombed, strafed, sniped at, fired on by German Artillery, and be close enough to mines that have been stepped on by a man to see him and others fall. I know what it is to be half scared to death and I know how exhilarating a man feels when he finds out he can take it under fire."

Mason County like other counties across the nation were heavily vested in the war effort by both the men and women who served and the families and communities that supported them. There are many many stories of commitment and sacrifice made during those years that remain untold, if you have stories or photographs that you would like to share with our readers regarding yours or another persons experiences in the service for the May 27th column please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com.

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