Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Old Newspapers

Written by Robert A. Waters

Thinking about the sacrifices made during World War II as America’s youth bled and died far from home, I wondered what ordinary citizens felt. I looked for a single newspaper in middle America to find out what was happening away from the national headlines. Kentucky is about as middle America as you can get.

February 11, 1945 was just another day in the long war.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer in Kentucky reported that there seemed to be talk of “peace terms” with the Nazis. The lead headline screamed: “Yanks Seize Wrecked Dam on Roer.” A map portrayed the locations of German troops on one side of the river and Americans on the other side.  Meanwhile, the “Reds” were said to be approaching Berlin.

But beyond battles that would later be analyzed by future historians, personal stories dotted the local sections of the paper.

McLean (KY) Flier is Killed in Action

“Sgt. Oliver Robertson has been killed in action in the Mediterranean area, according to word received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bert H. Robertson, of Livermore.” He died on January 20. Before the war, he’d been a student at the University of Kentucky. There was little additional information except that he had a brother fighting “somewhere in Belgium” and another in the South Pacific.

Former Local Boy Killed in Action

“Word has been received in Owensboro that Staff Sgt. Roy E. (Bud) Staton, Jr. was killed in action in the Mediterranean area… [Before the war], Mr. Staton was an engineer for Ellis and Smeathers Construction company. The boy attended Owensboro schools.

“Staff Sgt. Staton was first reported missing in action on October 17. The notice that he was killed in action was received only recently by the family. He was a nose gunner on a B-24 Liberator and had taken part in bombing missions over Ploesti, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Germany Czechoslovakia and northern Italy and participated in the invasion of Southern France.” Two brothers and a sister were in the armed services. The Find-a-Grave website reveals that Staton "was killed in action Oct. 17, 1944, on a bombing mission from Italy to Austria. The bombers left Sam Panscrazio, Italy, en route to Vienns, Austria. His bomber was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire near an island off the coast of Yugoslvavia."

Missing in Action

“Pfc John C. Lakin has been missing in action in France since January 17, according to word received Tuesday from the War Department by his mother…Pfc Lakin has been in the Army one year and overseas six months. He is with the 314th Infantry.”

Seriously Wounded

“Pfc Joseph W. Bartlett, of Owensboro, was seriously wounded in action in Belgium on January 16, according to word received from the War Department by his wife, Mrs. Juanita Bartlett, Star Route, Owensboro. He entered the Army in November, 1942 and has been overseas since October, or last year.”

Butler Sailor is Commended

“Gilmond Rhodes McDougall, motor machinist’s mate, first class U. S. Navy, Morgantown, has been commended by Admiral Harold S. Starke, for his performance of duty on June 9, 1944. The commendation read: ‘Your performance of duty while serving as a member of the crew of the U. S. S. LST 314 on June 9, 1944, when that ship was torpedoed three times, has been brought to my attention. Realizing that your ship was sinking you dove into the sea and retrieved a raft that had blown some distance from the ship, thus saving the lives of several of your shipmates who were exhausted.”

Wounded in Action

“Pfc Manuel Newcom was seriously wounded in action in Belgium on January 18, according to word received from the War Department Wednesday by his wife, Mrs. Anna Catherine Newcom. He has been in the Army since December, 1943, and overseas since June, 1944. Mrs. Newcom and their son reside with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Puckett, Utica, Route 1.”

Mother Seeks To Have Ninth Son Deferred

From the Associated Press comes the following out of Leighton, Pennsylvania: “Mrs. Russell MacFarland, whose eight sons are now in the armed services, sought Friday to have her ninth son deferred from induction.

“Mrs. MacFarland, whose second husband—ten years her junior—also is eligible for selective service, has seven sons overseas and one in the country. The ninth, Markus K. Smith, is scheduled to register Saturday on his 18th birthday. There are three younger children.

“President Harold B. Saeger, of the Leighton draft board, said men are needed so badly to fill the board’s next quota that the ninth son is scheduled to go to Wilkes-Barre for induction the first week in March.

“Meanwhile, friends of Mrs. MacFarland urged her to appeal to President Roosevelt to keep her ninth son at home.

“While she was considering this move, Mrs. MacFarland was advised by the War Department that one of the sons already in service, Clinton, 20, had been missing in action since Jan. 9.

“I wish that I could die instead of all this trouble,” Mrs. MacFarland said.


The newspaper also listed nearly one hundred “Kentuckians on the Casualty List” as well as Kentuckians interred in Japanese Prisoner of War camps. 

Several advertisements encouraged citizens to buy war bonds. 

The U. S. Postal Service, responding to complaints about missing packages overseas, released a statement: “Pilfering…does not include the heavy loss of army mail last December when German troops broke out in the Ardennes salient and captured tons of packages and letters at forward army postal field offices.” 

The U. S. Navy announced the loss of seven ships “as a result of enemy action in the Pacific area.”

Thus, one day in the life of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, a middle America newspaper filled with stories of war, and those awaiting the return of loved ones.


Linette Norway. said...

What a wonderful blog you have here. I feel so sad for poor Mrs. MacFarland. Hopefully her sons survived.
Linette, Norway.

Robert A. Waters said...

Thank you, Linette.