Tragic Side of Warfare Felt As Terse, Official Wires Reach Next of Kin

War came home with its grimmest meaning to numerous families in Muscatine and adjacent areas in 1943. The small yellow telegrams reading "---the war department regrets to inform you---" or "---the navy department regrets---" came with alarming frequency in the 12 months span, adding more gold stars to those which had appeared earlier in the war. And visions and dreams of young manhood serving their beloved United States in the far-flung reaches of the Pacific, on the high seas, the mountainous terrain of Italy, or on desolate stretches of Africa desert became "lost horizons" to many, for the brief telegrams and the official letters which followed told of the death of dear ones in far-off places.

First of the messages came shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor and in the months and years which followed they continued to arrive with startling frequency. Some told of deaths on battlefields, others of the death of young men from the community who had been interned in enemy prison camps. Others related how deaths had followed ship sinkings. Crashing planes in mishaps while in training in this country brought death to others and fatal illnesses and injuries incurred while "in the performance of duty" brought added causalities. The tragic import of each short, terse message was equally paralyzing and shattering to the families and friends on the "home front."

But while it seemed that the Muscatine area was paying a terrific price in young manhood as its contribution to the defense of democracy, figures released by the military leaders revealed a heavy casualty toll through the nation. Secretary of War Stimson, on Dec. 16, reported the casualty toll of the armed forces of the United States stood at 131,098. Of this number army casualties were 98,594, navy casualties were 32,504. The army had listed as killed 15,334 with 35,049 wounded, 23,725 missing and 24,496 prisoners of war. The navy report showed 13,983 killed, 5,868 wounded, 8,406 missing, and 4,027 prisoners. Of the 34,049 army wounded, Stimson said, 18,041 have been returned to duty or released from hospitals.
Garnered from information supplied The Journal on official casualty lists and from families of the war victims, the following data on casualties has been assembled:
[names in article presented in alpha order]

Lieut. Phillip Aikens, of the Marine air corps, met instant death in an airplane crash in the Hawaiian territory, according to a message received on July 7, by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Aikens of West liberty. The body was taken to the mortuary of a navy hospital to which Dr. E.A. Ady of West Liberty is attached. Services and internment were held there.
Sgt. John Arihood, 25, who had been missing in action since May 13, 1943, met death in active service in Germany on that date. He had been in service for about a year and was sent to South America before being transferred abroad. He was a gunner with a U. S. Bomber Squadron. The message came to his aunt, Miss Esther Ahlman, with whom he had made his home since a child. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Will Arihood are both deceased.
Arthur A. “Bud” Bersch, 21, son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward C. Bersch, of Muscatine, was killed in action on Dec.7, 1941, during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He was classified as a seaman 1/c., and enlisted in the navy in October, 1940, and received his training at the Great Lakes Naval Training station after which he was assigned to sea duty.
Robert Alan Blair, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Merle O. Blair of Anamosa, formerly of Columbus Junction, was killed in action on Sept. 11. He took part in the landing of troops in Africa and afterwards in the invasion in Sicily.
Lieut. Eugene H. Carpenter died in Japan where he was a prisoner of war according to a government telegram received through the International Red Cross by his mother, Mr. Lois M. Carpenter of Reynolds, Ill. He was taken prisoner in December 1942 and died on June 11,1943. Lt Carpenter was accepted as a flying cadet Nov. 14,1939 at San Diego and was later sent to Moffett field and then sent to the Philippines.
Lt Howard Connor, 30, died in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines on June 16,1943, according to word received by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Guy Connor, 106 Holly street, and by his wife, the former Charlotte Terry. He had been listed as missing in action and later information informed the relatives he was a prisoner in the Japanese camp. Lt. Connor was called into service May 28, 1941, while serving as a professor of English at Stevens college, Columbia, Mo. He was attached to the 17th Pursuit Squadron and was located at Nichols Field in the Philippines when the Japs attacked.
Pvt. Raymond Darting, 21, was killed in action on Nov. 30, while serving with American forces somewhere in the Southwest Pacific area, according to a message received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Darting of Wilton. He had been in service since Jan. 3,1942, and received his training at Camp Roberts, Calif., before being assigned to overseas duty.
Lt. Edward Lanning Dodder, 28, pilot of a B-24 United States Army bomber, met instant death when two heavy army bombers collided near Mountain Home, Idaho. The body was brought to Muscatine for funeral services and burial. All 16 members of Lt. Dodder’s crew and the other bomber were killed in the crash which occurred five miles southeast of the Mountain Home air base. His wife, Mrs. Frances Dodder, was with him at Mountain Home. He had been in the service since September, 1942, when he enlisted in the army air corps. He received his commission and wings at Blytheville, Ark., on July 28 of this year.
Pvt. John J. Dwyer, 28, serving with a U.S. infantry unit was killed in action in the North American area on May 28, according to a telegram received by his mother, Mrs. Anna Dwyer of Wilton. Pvt. Dwyer was employed in California when he entered the service in April, 1941 and received his basic training at Camp Roberts, Calif., and Fort Ord, Calif.
Lt. Henry L. Espensen of West liberty, oldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Espensen of Pharr, Tex., was killed in action on July 11, 1943. He was serving with a paratroop unit in the North African theater of war and took part in the invasion of Sicily.
Walter Gesell, 22, son Mr. and Mrs. Fred Gessell, 981 Lucas street, was killed in action while on the Destroyer Hammann in the Coral Sea, it was reported officially in a message received by his parents in June of 1942. Gesell enlisted in the navy on Feb. 6,1940 and was given eight weeks of basic training at the Great Lakes Naval training station before being assigned to a ship. He held the rank of seaman, first class. The Purple Heart medal which had been awarded to him was received by his parents here Oct. 30, 1943.
Stanley Emmett Gregory, ship’s cook, third class, in the U.S. navy, was officially listed as dead by the navy department, according to word received by Mr. and Mrs. Stanford Gregory of West Liberty, the youth’s parents and Mrs. Mary Eleanor Gregory of San Diego, Calif., his wife. He was reported missing in action on Aug. 30,1942. He was a member of the crew of the U.S.S. Calhoun when that vessel was sunk as a result of an enemy bombing attack off Tulagi, Solomon Islands.
John Dale Grunder, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Grunder of Wilton, was killed in action “somewhere in the Pacific” according to a message from the navy department to his parents Dec.3, 1942. He was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese air attack occurred on Dec. 7,1941, and received injuries there which kept him in the hospital for several weeks. Upon his recovery he was assigned to another ship. Grunder enlisted in the navy in August, 1941, and was a seaman first class at the time of his death.
Paul Roy Hansen, 22, son of the late Fred and Mary Hansen, missing in action since Sept.5, 1942, was officially declared dead by the Navy department on Sept.6, 1943, according to word received by his uncle Criss Hansen of Nichols. Hansen’s ship, the U.S.S. Little was sunk by enemy shellfire off Guadalcanal.
Dana Heckart, 29, son of Mr. and Mrs. S.C. Heckart of West Liberty, was killed early in July in a plane crash in the line of duty with the U.S. Coast Guard near Pensacola, Fla. Heckart had served with the Royal Canadian Air Force for about a year before the United States entered the war. Subsequently he entered the U.S. Coast Guard and received training at St. Petersburg, Fla., and Grosse Isle, Mich., near Detroit, before being transferred to Pensacola where he had been since January.
Kenneth Johann, 22, navy pilot, native of Wapello, son of Mr. and Mrs. Merritt Johann of Des Moines, was killed in an airplane crash, his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Johann were informed on Aug. 25.
Norman Kleist, 33, fireman first class in the United States navy, died May 23, as the result of head injuries sustained while on authorized leave, according to a telegram received May 27,1942 by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Kleist, 210 Brook street. The body was brought to Muscatine for burial with full military honors on June 26,1942. A representative of the U.S. navy was in attendance as a guard of honor. Kleist enlisted in the navy in July 1941 and was assigned to a ship in January of 1942 seeing 10 months of service before his death. He spent six weeks at Great Lakes naval training station where he earned a petty officers ranking, and then was sent to Corpus Christi, Tex., for training as an airplane mechanic and left there Jan. 17,1942 for Brooklyn, N.Y. His where abouts since April 22 of that year, when he was on active duty had not been divulged.
David Alonzo Leedy, 22, fire controlman 2/c, was killed in action at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, during the surprise Japanese attack. Leedy joined the navy in August, 1937,shortly after his graduation from Muscatine high school. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry G. Leedy, 109 East Fulliam avenue.
Pvt. Orville Henry Loercher, 28, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Loercher of West Branch died Nov. 5 of wounds received in action presumably in Italy. He saw service in North Africa before going to Italy.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Malchau of Wilton, 22, who had been previously reported missing in action, was killed in Alaska according to word received early February by his mother, Mrs. Hazel Malchau. Sgt. Malchau, who enlisted in the army air corps in the summer of 1941, received his basic training at Rantoul Field, Ill and had since been in service in Alaska in the radio division of the army air corps.
Sgt. Lovell Parker McKeown of near Letts, son of Mr. and Mrs. A.R. McKeown of Seattle, and grandson of M.P. McKeown of route 1, Letts, was killed in action in the North American area on May 29, according to information received by his father. Sgt.McKeown was serving with the U. S. infantry. No details of the action in which he met death were received.
Pvt. Lee C. McKinney,39, formerly of Muscatine, and son of Mrs. Bessie Shock,207 Gilbert street, died in action on March 30, 1943, while serving with an infantry unit in the U.S. army in North Africa. Pvt. McKinney left Muscatine about 6 years ago and entered the service at Mt. Vernon, Ill., September of 1942, and was serving as a sharpshooter in an infantry regiment.
Sgt. George W. Mercer, 22, was officially listed as killed in action in October in the European Theater, according to a message received by his wife, Luella Dusenberry Mercer, 415 East Second street. Sgt Mercer is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Mercer, route 6, and had been in the army since April of 1941. He was on his last furlough here in July of this year.
Maj. Arthur Mills, son of Mr. and Mrs. W.T. Mills, 717 Leroy street, was killed when his plane made a forced landing in the ocean while Maj. Mills was a pilot in the ferry command. He had been listed as missing in action since Jan. 18, 1943. Major Mills had been a mail plane pilot for about 10 years, flying from Dallas, Tex. To Chicago, until four months previously, when the army requisitioned his service. His home had been in Florida and then Dallas, Tex. His body was washed ashore on a life raft several weeks after his ship crashed.
Thomas Alan Moore, M.M. 1/c U.S. navy, reported killed in action after previously being listed as missing on Aug 9,1942. He was a member of the crew of the U.S.S. Vincennes at the time she was sunk by enemy action off Savo Island.
William F. Pankratz, 26, fireman third class, U. S. Naval Reserve, died in the line of duty and in the service of his country on May 2, 1943, his mother, Mrs. Alvina Gross, 711 Roscoe avenue, was informed by the U.S. Navy department. His death was caused by pneumonia. Burial was in the soil of an allied country pending cessation of hostilities. Entering the service Sept. 8,1942, he completed his training at the naval training station at Great Lakes and was assigned to duty on the U.S.S. Columbia out of San Francisco on Dec. 1, 1942. He had since been on duty in the South Pacific. His wife and two children survive.
Pvt. Leo Priester, 32, who was injured in action somewhere in the North African area on July 9, died on July 11, according to word received by his wife, the former Evelyn Reeves, who makes her home at St. Louis, Mo. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Priester, reside at 301 West Fifth street. Pvt. Priester entered the armed forces on June 14, 1942, from St Louis and had been in North Africa for 15 months. He received his basic training at Camp Wallace, Tex., in St. Louis and then at Jefferson Barracks, Mo. from where he was transferred to the combat area.
Robert C. Richardson, 17, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred O. Richard, 119 Buell street, was reported as killed in action in a message sent to his parents by the navy department about June 20, 1942. He was on the Destroyer Hammann in the Coral Sea with the U.S. navy when the action took place in which he met death. Richardson had been assigned to the Pacific fleet on Dec. 18, 194?. He enlisted in the naval reserves on Nov.13, 1941 and entered training at the Great Lakes naval training station at Chicago on Nov 17. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor he was rushed into service, holding the rank of seaman, second-class.
Warren Richardson, 17, son of Mr. and Mrs. C.J. Richardson, 168 Sherman street, was officially reported dead “in the Battle of Midway while serving on the U.S.S. Destroyer Hammann and while in direct contact with the enemy” in a telegram from the navy department received by his parents July 10,1943. The word was the first to come here since Richardson was listed as missing in action in June of 1942, at the same time his cousin Robert C. Richardson, and Walter Gesell, two other Muscatine youths serving on the same destroyer, were killed. Warren enlisted in the navy on Nov. 17, 1941. He was anxious to make aviation mechanics his life work and passed his entrance tests on Friday, Dec.5, 1941. After the war broke out on Dec. 7, he was shipped to the east coast and on Dec. 15,1941, was assigned to the U.S.S. Hammann. He was in the Southwest Pacific for 104 days, taking part in the battle of the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, the Battle of Leigh and the Coral Sea battle where he was wounded. After recovering from these wounds he was on his way home for a leave, his first since called into service, when the destroyer was called into the Midway battle and he lost his life.
Tech. Sgt. John W. Roach Jr., 26, died of injuries received in an accident somewhere in North Africa on June 23,1943, according to a message received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Roach, Sr., 1510 Mulberry avenue. He was a graduate attorney and member of the Iowa State Bar association. Sgt. Roach had completed his law education but a few months before he was called into service on Jan. 3, 1942. He relieved his early training at Ft Francis E. Warren, Wyo. and later was assigned to Camp Barkeley, Tex., before being sent overseas in July, 1942. First he was stationed in England before going to North Africa.
Pvt. George Stackhouse, 23,a resident of Muscatine for two years and a brother of Boyd B. Stackhouse, 523 Mulberry avenue, was killed in action on Feb. 14, in North Africa, according to word received by his father, George Clifford Stackhouse, formerly of Muscatine but now of Dumont, Ia. Pvt. Stackhouse was a gunner on a jeep in the U.S. army infantry. He was, inducted into the service on Oct. 8, 1941 and received his training at Ft. Knox, Ky., and in Arkansas. While in Muscatine, Pvt. Stackhouse assisted his father in a trucking business.
Lt. Hugo Steffen, of the army air corps, son of Mrs. Emma Steffen, of Tipton, was killed in an air crash Oct. 18 at Perry Ga.
Teddie Stewart, 20, son of M. M. Stewart, nephew of Mrs. Nellie Able of Columbus Junction, was killed in an airplane crash while attending aviation school at San Diego, Calif., according to word received on Dec. 6.
James Stormes, 23, formerly of Muscatine who was serving with the U.S. navy, died at Bolling Field, Conn., according to word received July 12 by his aunt, Clara Gray, 905 Oregon street. Stormes was the son of Clifford Stormes of Detroit, Mich.
Cpl. Norman A. Thomas, 27, serving with the infantry unit in the North African theater of war, was killed in action on Aug. 6, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Thomas of Illinois City were informed in a telegram from the war department. Cpl. Thomas enlisted in November, 1940, and entered the service at Chicago on Feb. 11, 1941. He received his training in California, at Ft. Lewis Wash., and Camp Ord, Ore and left for service overseas from Camp Pickett, Va., on November, 1942.
Paul Dale Thornburg was reported killed in action in North Africa in a message received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Thornburg, of Eliza Ill on June 29.
PFC. William Thumma, son of Mrs. Ethel M. Thumma of West Branch was reported killed in action through an Associated Press dispatch on April 21.
Pvt. Cecil R. Watkins, 38, died on Jan.30, 1943, in a North African area, his mother, Mrs. Harry Watkins of Nichols was informed. He had been reported missing in action with the U.S. army since Dec. 6, 1942. He enlisted in the U.S. army in 1926 and was stationed at Honolulu in the Hawaiian area until the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was one of the first to be sent to the North African theater of war. Pvt. Watkins was a prisoner of Germany when he died.
William Robert Williams, 23, the first positive casualty in the Columbus Junction area was noted when word was received by Mr. and Mrs. John M. Williams of the death of their son, William Robert Williams, in action somewhere in the South Pacific on May 11. He had been employed at Kingsbury Inn for several years and volunteered for service with the Chinese Fighting Tigers but with hostilities developing, he transferred to the United Forces and had been in Guadalcanal and other South Sea places.
Lt. John “ Jack” Wilson, 28, son of Mrs. Tom Wilson, 618 East Tenth street, was killed in a crash of a bomber at Newberry, S.C., Feb. 5,1942, according to word received from his wife, the former Janet Hildebrand. He enlisted in the army air corps July 12,1941 and received his wings in February, 1942, at Bakersfield, Calif. He was stationed at Miami, Fla., for five months before being assigned to the Greenville, S.C. air base with the duties of squadron commander.
Creighton Hale Workman, 22, fireman 1/c, U.S. navy, son of Lee Workman of Lone Tree and Marietta Workman of Washington, Ia., was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec.7, 1941. Born at Riverside, he was graduated from the Lone Tree high school and received his boot training at the Great Lakes Naval training station and was assigned to a battleship in the Pacifica area.
Warren Young, 21, Muscatine youth who was in the thick of fighting in the Philippine Islands and at Corregidor, died on June 11, apparently while in a prison camp in the Philippines, according to word received by his brother, J. Terrill Young, route 5. He had been serving as an ambulance driver and was at Nichols field when the surprise Jap attack was made. Warren enlisted in the U.S. army three years ago. He was the son of the late Dr. J.L. Young and Mrs. Young, who is now living in Los Angles.
Ensign Lee Channing Zeigler, 23, native of Muscatine and grandson of Mrs. S.F. Shiek, died from injuries sustained in and airplane accident at Ellyson field, Pensacola Fla., Sept. 7,1942. The body was cremated at Pensacola and sent to Anamosa, where his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Zeigler, reside. Ensign Zeigler, enlisted in the naval corps at Cedar Rapids on April 13,1940. He was serving as instructor of a squadron at Pensacola when the fatal accident occurred. He was also a grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Zeigler of New Boston.

Source: Annual Edition - Muscatine Journal & News Tribune - December 30, 1943 pgs, 6 & 7

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