Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Civil War: A fascinating factoid

(See update below)

As I have mentioned before, I’m really not a Civil War fan. I’ve thought for years that the war was a colossal, criminal, waste of time, treasure, and the lives of far too many young men.

Here in Kendall County, nearly 10 percent of the total population served in the war and around 2 percent of the total 1860 population died or was killed during the war. Hundreds of those who returned home were disabled , both mentally and physically, to a greater or lesser extent.

In addition, the war apparently created a sense of wanderlust in those who served. Kendall County’s population in 1860 stood at 13,074. After the war, it underwent a steady decline over almost the next entire century. The county’s population did not rise above it’s 1860 level until 1960 when vigorous post-World War II economic and population growth accelerated.

So the war had a substantial, and long-lasting, effect on us here in the North. The effect on the South appears to have been even worse.

Historian David Oshinsky has a fascinating piece in the Washington Post looking, in part, at the impact of the Civil War on the State of Mississippi. As pointed out by Eric Loomis at one of my favorite blogs, Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Oshinsky writes:

More than a third of Mississippi’s 78,000 soldiers were killed in battle or died from disease. And more than half of the survivors brought home a lasting disability of war. Visitors to the state were astonished by the broken bodies they saw at every gathering, in every town square. Mississippi resembled a giant hospital ward, a land of missing arms and legs. In 1866, one-fifth of the state budget went for the purchase of artificial limbs.

Did you get that? A third of Mississippi’s soldiers who marched off to fight for slavery and slave owners died. But even more astonishing, 20 percent of the state’s entire budget in 1866, the year after the war ended, was spent on artificial arms, legs, hands, and feet.

The Civil War was an abomination. That no one was prosecuted for starting it and sticking with it until an estimated 620,000 soldiers were either killed or died of disease or other reasons was a horrible miscarriage of justice.

UPDATE: Was doing my usual early morning cruise about the Net today and came across this great column by the War Nerd about Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” which stepped off from Atlanta just 150 years ago this month.

One thing for which you’ve got to give the instigators of the War of Southern Sedition credit is their remarkably successful post-war effort to spin this absolutely horrible conflict as entirely the North’s fault that was undertaken to somehow take the South’s freedom away.

I remember while growing up that movies and TV shows continually glorified the “Lost Cause.” The rebels were not only glorified, but, in the case of Robert E. Lee, almost sanctified. The causes of the war were obscured so that most came to believe the “states’ rights” canard. Sherman and Grant had no illusions about what was going on, nor did those who fought in Union blue. As Grant put it, the South’s decision to fight a war to uphold slavery was “the worst cause for which men ever fought.” And as Sherman warned his Southern friends before their effort to subvert the Constitution got fully underway: “It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization!”

It truly was. Read the War Nerd’s blog post.


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Oswego’s Slade Cutter: A real American hero

We bandy the word “hero” around a lot these days, to the point that its true meaning has been severely devalued. A word that used to be reserved for those who did heroic acts above and beyond normal behavior, hero is now applied indiscriminately to everyone from police officers to military personnel just doing their everyday jobs.

But back in the day when “hero” really meant something, Oswego had its share. There was Robinson B. Murphy, the 15 year-old who earned the Medal of Honor at the Battle of Ezra Church during the Civil war. There was Anna Brown, “The Hero Teacher,” in the 1870s. And during World War II, there was Slade Cutter.

It’s not often that someone earns fame in three separate arenas. But Slade Cutter managed to do just that, excelling in music, sports, and in the military, and along the way became a legitimate American hero.

Not only was he a nationally award-winning high school musician, but he went on to become a football All-American and national collegiate boxing champ at the U.S. Naval Academy. Then, during World War II, Cutter became one of the U.S. Navy’s most successful submarine commanders, whose exploits during the battles against the Japanese Empire in the Pacific were, and still are, legendary.

Slade Deville Cutter was born on Nov. 1, 1911 in Chicago and then taken home to the family farm, located just south of the Oswego village limits along what eventually became Ill. Route 71. The Queen Ann-style farmhouse where his parents, Watts and Esther (Sundeen) Cutter, lived and where Slade grew up with his brothers and sister still stands, as does the old Cutter School (named after his family and now remodeled into a private home) he attended at the northwest corner of the old Ill. Route 71 and Minkler Road intersection.

The Cutter School at modern Ill. Route 71 and Minkler Road just south of Oswego. Although undated, the school would have looked much like this when Slade Cutter attended. (Little White School Museum photo)

The Cutter School at modern Ill. Route 71 and Minkler Road just south of Oswego. Although undated, the school would have looked much like this when Slade Cutter attended. (Little White School Museum photo)

When Cutter started school there were no other first graders, so he was promoted to second grade where there was at least one more student. The same thing happened when he entered fifth grade. As a result, he graduated from eighth grade at Cutter School at age 11, too young to be allowed to enter high school. So he took eighth grade over at an Aurora junior high, where he became fascinated with playing the flute.

While Cutter’s parents encouraged their children to excel, sports wasn’t part of the encouragement. Cutter’s father had lost an eye playing football at the University of Illinois and so banned his tall, muscular son from getting involved in the game.

After completing eighth grade, and since Oswego High only offered a two-year program, Cutter chose to attend East Aurora High School. In those days, students could hop the interurban trolley—the tracks ran right past Cutter’s home—and commute to school in Aurora.

At East High, Cutter continued to excel with the flute. He joined the East High marching band, but felt so ridiculous playing the flute that he managed to persuade the band director to let him switch, for marching only, to the bass drum.

Encouraged by his parents, Cutter traveled into Chicago each Sunday morning to take flute lessons from the first chair flautist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He paid for the lessons—$5 for a half-hour—and trolley fare by giving lessons to local Oswego youngsters at $1 each. Cutter asked his parents to be allowed to play football several times, but was rebuffed every time because they were worried he’d be injured.

During his senior year at East, he entered the national high school music competition. He won the city, district, and state championships and went on to the national championship, held that year—1928—in Joliet. He recalled the head judge was the leader of the era’s most famous touring band, John Philip Sousa. The judge of the flute competition was a young clarinetist who had only recently started touring with his own band. The slight, bespeckled musician was impressed both with Cutter’s performance. But although Benny Goodman tried to persuade Cutter to join his band’s summer tour, Cutter declined, opting instead to attend the Sherwood School of Music, where he found he simply didn’t really have what it took to be a music pro.

“I had the ear, and I had the technique, but I didn’t have the rhythm,” he recalled in a 1984 interview.

After graduating from East High, Cutter, through a typically (for him, at least) serendipitous series of events, found himself attending the Naval Academy’s prep school at Severn School in Maryland.

While at Severn, the school’s new 22 year-old football coach strongly urged the Illinois youngster to play football. The coach and the school’s president pleaded with Cutter’s father to let the boy play, and soon he did. Not only did Cutter come to enjoy football, he became a star player. The coach, whose name was Paul Brown, went on to become the founder and first coach of the Cleveland Browns and one of the most successful and influential coaches in National Football League history.

All-American Slade Cutter, 1934. On Dec. 1, 1934, Cutter kicked the winning field goal to lift Navy over Army. (Little White School Museum photo)

All-American Slade Cutter, 1934. On Dec. 1, 1934, Cutter kicked the winning field goal to lift Navy over Army. (Little White School Museum photo)

Following his appointment to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Cutter played football for the Midshipmen, earning All-American honors as a hard-hitting tackle. But it was his skill as a field goal kicker that won Cutter enduring fame. During the rain-soaked Army-Navy game on Dec. 1, 1934 in Philadelphia, the 6-1, 215-pound Cutter booted a 20-yard field goal—the only score of the game—giving Navy its first victory over Army since 1921. The game–and Cutter–were immortalized on Dec. 2, 1934 in a Philadelphia Sunday News story by Damon Runyon.

How did he manage the kick? Of course it depended on skill and accuracy (Cutter was also a dead shot with a rifle), but divine intervention may have also played a part. During Cutter’s Midshipman Cruise in the summer of 1934, the cadets visited Rome and the Vatican where the Pope was scheduled to bless the young naval officers-to-be.

As Cutter recalled the event in a 1999 reminiscence:

“Bill Clark, one of the best punters in the history of Navy football, was standing next to me and we decided to take advantage of the Pope’s blessing to help us in the coming football season. As the blessing was given, we remained erect while standing on our left leg and extending our right foot in the direction of His Holiness.

“It paid off. On Dec. 1, we played Army in a sea of mud in Philadelphia. Late in the first quarter, Clark got off a great punt that went out of bounds on Army’s one-yard line. Army punted on first down and the partially blocked punt gave Navy the ball on Army’s 20-yard line. Unable to advance the ball in the quagmire of Franklin Field, we settled for the field goal that held up for the rest of the game.”

After the game, one newspaper dubbed Cutter “the boxing flautist from Oswego,” because he not only excelled in music and football—he was inducted into the NCAA College Football Hall of Fame in 1967—but also won three letters in boxing at the academy. He was eventually crowned collegiate heavyweight boxing champion, and seriously considered, for a time, taking up professional boxing. Until he got a good look at Joe Louis, anyway.

“I saw Louis, and I was pretty objective about it,” Cutter recalled years later. “He was just too good. Why not be honest? I was good in my league, but he was out of my league.”

Instead, Cutter decided to make the Navy his career and then decided to enter the submarine service. He completed the sub training course at New London, Conn. in 1938.

Cutter was serving aboard the USS Pompano on Dec. 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. During three war patrols aboard the Pompano, Cutter learned the submarine warfare trade and also earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat “V,” and a gold star in lieu of a second Silver Star.

The USS Seahorse and her crew, 1944. Commander Slade Cutter is sitting on the deck, center, with his legs crossed. (Little White School Museum photo)

The USS Seahorse and her crew, 1944. Commander Slade Cutter is sitting on the deck, center, with his legs crossed. (Little White School Museum photo)

Cutter was detached from the Pompano in November 1942 and returned to the U.S. to fit out the new USS Seahorse at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California. After the Seahorse was commissioned, he was appointed executive officer, moving up to command the sub on Sept. 30, 1943 after the sub’s original commander was found to be insufficiently aggressive.

It was as skipper of the Seahorse that Cutter–who was never accused of being insufficiently aggressive at any time in his life–earned fame as a tough, aggressive, skillful, tactically gifted submariner.

With Cutter in command during the Seahorse’s second war patrol starting from Pearl Harbor in October 1943, the boat sailed to the Japanese held island of Palau, where he intercepted a convoy. During an 80-hour running battle over 600 miles of ocean, the Seahorse managed to sink all three convoy transports while undergoing constant attack by the convoy’s escorts.

When it was over, Cutter had won one of World War II’s most epic naval battles for which he was rewarded with his second gold star for the Navy Cross and gold star he’d won earlier.

In August 1944, Cutter was given a rest from serving at sea and was assigned a staff position with the Atlantic Fleet. He took command of the new sub, USS Requin, in 1945 and was headed back into the Pacific for another war patrol when the Japanese surrendered and the war ended.

Capt. Slade Cutter in a formal portrait taken in 1963. (Little White School Museum photo)

Capt. Slade Cutter in a formal portrait done about 1963. (Little White School Museum photo)

After World War II, Cutter served in a variety of staff and command positions, including head of the physical education department and director of athletics at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1957. His battle with the Navy hierarchy during World War II, especially his inability to suffer fools gladly, prevented him from being promoted to admiral. Bad blood between Cutter and Hyman Rickover, which dated back to their days as lieutenants serving aboard battleships, didn’t help either, as Rickover gradually became the face of the new Navy.

Winding down a long and successful career, Cutter returned to Illinois in June 1963 when he was named commander of the U.S. Naval Training Center at Great Lakes. His final Navy stint was as director of the Naval Historical Display Center in Washington, D.C. Cutter retired from the Navy with the rank of captain in July 1965 after 30 years service. He lived the rest of his life close to the Academy at Annapolis before his death on June 9, 2005.

For a complete rundown on Cutter’s life and times, read Slade Cutter: Submarine Warrior by Carl LaVo, U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2003; and The Reminiscences of Captain Slade D. Cutter, U.S. Navy (Retired), interviewed by Paul Stillwell, U.S. Naval Institute, 1985.


Filed under Aurora, Illinois History, Kendall County, Local History, Military History, Oswego, People in History, Technology

Fear’s not a bug; it a feature of our modern system

So I see by this morning’s news that the doc in New York who had contracted Ebola while treating patients in West Africa has fully recovered.

So far, we’ve had an Ebola epidemic consisting of one aid worker, a missionary, three doctors, and an NBC cameraman who brought the disease home with them from West Africa, all of whom fully recovered. In addition, one visitor brought the disease with him from Liberia and subsequently died. Two nurses were infected while caring for him and also fully recovered. Thus ends the great Ebola epidemic of 2014.

While the country was never in danger from Ebola, it certainly was from the panic, ignorance, and cowardice displayed by a huge chunk of the U.S. population and their political leaders.

Ebola is one of the viral hemorrhagic fevers that afflict mankind by interfering interfere with the blood’s ability to clot. The viruses can also damage the walls of the body’s tiny blood vessels, causing them to leak. That can result in death, often made all the more frightening because of the mystery of what’s happing.

This, of course, was not our first go-round with viral hemorrhagic fever in this country, only the most recent. Given the scientific illiteracy of the modern United States, however, no one—least of all the politicians and media blowhards trying to make political hay out of the unreasoning fear they were busily propagating—remembered what had gone before.

There aren’t a lot of viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF), but the list includes some of the most frightening names in modern medicine: Dengue, Ebola, Lassa, Marburg, and Yellow Fever.

Here in the U.S., our VHF experience was mostly with Yellow Fever, a disease that could honestly be nicknamed The Slaves’ Revenge.

There was no Yellow Fever in North or South America until the virus was brought here from Africa in the bodies of slaves, starting in the 16th Century. The Yellow Fever virus is transmitted only by the bite of an infected mosquito, although it would take hundreds of years for medical researchers to figure it out.

The disease was as horrifying as it was mysterious. Those stricken suffered high fevers, chills, nausea, muscle pain (particularly in the back), and severe headaches. After that first phase, most victims then suffered through a second, more toxic stage that causes severe liver damage resulting in the jaundice that gives the disease its name, and a painful death.

Yellow Fever was apparently brought to the Caribbean islands and South America by African slaves imported by the Spanish. It didn’t take it long to spread north. The first outbreaks in what would eventually become the United States took place in New York City in 1668 and Philadelphia in 1669. At least 25 major outbreaks followed, including a major one in Philadelphia in 1798—then the nation’s capital. The city was evacuated by the national government as nearly 10 percent of its population perished.

Periodic Yellow Fever outbreaks continued throughout the balance of the 18th and into the 19th centuries, with Louisiana and Florida suffering periodic flare-ups, some of which had effects and caused fear right here in Kendall County. For instance, on Sept. 19, 1878, the Kendall County Record’s Oswego correspondent, Lorenzo Rank, noted: “George W. Avery Jr. is selling out his house and furniture on the 28th inst.; he is bound for the yellow fever lands.”

In the Nov. 21 edition of the Record, Rank noted “L.N. Stoutemyer, an Oswego boy, now one of the editors and proprietors of the New Orleans Times, apparently has been the one that stood the hardest siege with the yellow fever without surrendering. About a week ago his friends here received word that for the first time in 43 days he sat up a little while.”

And what about George and Ed Avery and their families, who had headed to the “yellow fever lands” in 1878 and 1879? In the Oct. 19, 1882 Record, Rank reported of George’s brother, Ed: “The sad intelligence was received last week that Ed Avery had died at Pensacola, Florida from yellow fever.”

One of the worst of these periodic Yellow Fever outbreaks occurred in 1879 in Memphis, Tenn. It began with just one patient in August of that year, a steamboat crewman named William Warren who brought the disease with him from New Orleans, where a periodic outbreak was then on-going. Although officials had attempted a quarantine of steamboats coming north from New Orleans, Warren managed to evade it, before landing in a Memphis hospital, where he died, but not before Tennessee mosquitoes picked up the virus from him and spread it, first to a Memphis food stand operator on the waterfront, and then to dozens and then hundreds of others.

That’s when the panic hit, and residents began fleeing for their lives. Well over half the city’s 47,000 residents headed to rural areas outside of town, only to be met with “shotgun barricades” manned by small townsmen terrified they’d spread the disease to their families. Even so, the exodus led to the spread of the disease to Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, although in none of those areas did Yellow Fever boil up with the ferocity it did in Memphis.

As if the disease wasn’t horrible enough, if it didn’t kill those it struck, the medical care of the day often did, with the normal treatment being bleeding and dosing with purgatives that often led to death through dehydration.

The black residents of Memphis, most too poor to flee what homes they’d made there, became the backbone of those who kept the city from disintegrating. That was because while blacks were no more or less susceptible to contracting the disease, their death rate was only about 7 percent of those who came down with Yellow Fever. Medical historians suspect that was because the African-American population had built up some immunities to the disease over the centuries. As a result, according to “Yellow Fever in Memphis 1878 by Robert A. Dunn, “The African-American survivors in Memphis became the glue that held the city together, caring for the sick and dying, burying the dead, and taking over may positions in the Memphis police, fire, and other city services.”

After the epidemic was stopped by the first frost in the autumn of 1878, Memphis found itself bankrupt, with the State of Tennessee taking control of the city’s finances. Not only were the city’s debts paid off, but low-lying, swampy areas in the city were drained, trash and debris cleaned up, and an innovative sewer system was installed that, for the first time separated sanitary sewer lines from storm sewers. Those initiatives combined—despite another Yellow Fever outbreak in 1879 that caused 600 deaths—to stop further major outbreaks, although no one really knew why.

It wasn’t until Dr. Carols Findlay suggested that Yellow Fever was actually spread by mosquito bites that the medical profession began taking a serious look at the idea. Then Walter Reed, a U.S. Army doctor working to defeat Yellow Fever during the construction of the Panama Canal, proved conclusively mosquitoes were the culprits.

Under the direction of Army doctors, mosquitoes were eradicated in Cuba and Panama, and with them went Yellow Fever. Similar efforts in the United States eliminated the disease from New Orleans and other low-lying cities that had been periodically afflicted with Yellow Fever.

Ebola is particularly dangerous because it’s spread by its animal hosts, not easily controlled insects, which means it can not only spread from animals to humans but from humans to other humans. Fortunately, as the recent nine-person epidemic in the U.S. showed, it’s not really easy to get Ebola. Someone has to be in close contact with a patient in the final phases of the disease when the victim’s body is producing astonishingly huge numbers of the Ebola virus and then be directly exposed to the victim’s bodily fluids.

Given the problems exposed in the Texas healthcare system with the outbreak in Dallas, it’s fair to wonder whether any further exposures would have occurred in the case of the Liberian patient had he been seen at a modern hospital in, say, New York or Chicago. And as for the New York doctor infected, but now recovered, the healthcare system in that state did what they were supposed to do, and they, like all the other hospitals treating cases, not only prevented any further transmissions but also cured the guy.

The problem, it seems to me, is not that Ebola got to the U.S., or that it was so easily contained. It’s that there’s a horrible, on-going Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and there’s a chance it could spread to, say, the crowded megalopolises of India or Bangladesh or Brazil. That could be a catastrophe of literally unimaginable proportions, something that should be encouraging us to move with all possible dispatch to stop the epidemic at its source as quickly as possible.



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Trying to make the world a safer, better place…

For the past few weeks, we’ve been working up our annual “Remembering Our Veterans” exhibit down at the Little White School Museum here in Oswego.

My compatriot Bob Stekl has been putting together most of the main exhibits, including the Wall of Honor and the exhibit of uniforms and equipment that make the annual event so interesting.

During World War II, this sign kept track of the men and women serving their country. I twas located on Main Street right next to the Oswego Village Hall. (Little White School Museum collection)

During World War II, this sign kept track of the men and women serving their country. I twas located on Main Street right next to the Oswego Village Hall. (Little White School Museum collection)

The Wall of Honor consists of photos of veterans and serving military personnel, from World War I to the present day. This year, we’re including a number of vets and serving personnel from our most recent spate of wars, including one youngster, a Marine, who graduated from Oswego High School in 2010, joined the Corps, and then encountered an IED in Afghanistan in 2011 that blew off both his legs and part of his hand.

My job in putting the exhibit together was to do a poster on each of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen killed in action from Oswego, from the Civil War through Vietnam. Fortunately, we’ve had no more KIAs in the wars of the 21st Century, although that seems more due to the incredible advances in medical technology than a lack of our people finding themselves in harm’s way—see the story about the Marine above for verification of that.

From the information we’ve been able to gather (there may be more, and if there are, hopefully someone will point them out to us), three Oswegoland residents were killed in action during the Civil War, one during World War I, five during World War II, and three during Vietnam.

These were young men for the most part, with an average age of 22.4. They ranged from Frank Clauser, 31, (a distant cousin of mine) an engineer-dorsal turret gunner in a B-26 shot down over the Mediterranean during World War II, to 19 year-old Alfred X. Murdock, killed at the Battle of Ezra Church during the Civil War.

William "Billy" Pooley was a 24 year-old private when he was killed in action at the Battle of Ezra Church outside Atlanta in 1864. (Little White School Museum collection)

William “Billy” Pooley was a 25 year-old private when he was killed in action at the Battle of Ezra Church outside Atlanta in 1864. (Little White School Museum collection)

In fact, two of our KIAs were killed during at Ezra Church, Murdock (his friends called him Ax), 19, and William “Billy” Pooley, 25. During that same, desperate battle, as Hood’s Confederates tried to break the American line near Atlanta, young Robinson B. Murphy won the Medal of Honor. Just 15 at the time, he guided reinforcements to the far end of the American line held by Company A, 127th Illinois Volunteers, comprised mostly of Oswegoans. Murphy grew up in Oswego with the soldiers in the company and had enlisted as a drummer boy with them. The sights and sounds horror of that day stayed with him the rest of his life.

As Murphy put it in a letter published in the Sept. 7, 1898 Kendall County Record:

“As you all know, the most of the time my position was such that I could look on and see what was being done and oh! how I always turned towards my own regiment, and how it grieved me to see them stricken down either from disease or the rebel bullet. I shall never forget that 28th day of July in front of Atlanta, when “Billy” Lawton came running out of the woods and said “Bob, for God’s sake get us some reinforcements; they are cutting us all to pieces,” and a little later as I rode up near the line with the reinforcements, there I found our comrades, Ax. Murdoch [sic] and “Billy” Pooley, both shot dead; they were our Oswego boys. Do you wonder I was deeply touched and the tears rolled down my face?”

Two of our Civil War dead weren’t even citizens. Billy Pooley was born and raised in England before coming to the U.S. with his family, while William Shoger was born Johann Wilhelm Schoger in Germany. He immigrated with two brothers and three cousins at the age of 13 to help scout for good land for the rest of his family, which came from Germany a couple years later, settling just outside Oswego west of the Fox River. William was killed in action at the Battle of Raymond in 1863, as Gen. Grant tightened the noose around Vicksburg.

During World War I, 21 year-old Archie Lake was killed in action fighting the Germans in France with the U.S. Marines.

Kay Fugate was killed Dec. 7, 1941 at Pear Harbor aboard the USS Nevada. (Little White School Museum collection)

Kay Fugate was killed Dec. 7, 1941 at Pear Harbor aboard the USS Nevada. (Little White School Museum collection)

We lost five area residents during World War II, three of them in the Air Corps, one in the Navy, and one in the Army. Kay Fugate, 24, a Seaman Second Class, didn’t make it past the first day of the war, dying aboard the USS Nevada during the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. As noted above, Frank Clauser was shot down along with the rest of his crewmates in fighting over the Mediterranean. Donald A. Johnson, 20, died when his C-87 Liberator Express transport flew into a mountainside while flying over the “Hump.” Paul Ellsworth Zwoyer, 22, was killed near the end of the war when his B-29 Superfortress was shot down during a night raid on Tokyo near the end of the war. None of the three bodies of our three Air Corps dead were ever recovered.

Stuart Parkhurst was killed during his first experience with combat, and just two months to the day after he left New York Harbor in some of the fighting just before the Battle of the Bulge. He and his best friend, Stan Young, had pledged they’d volunteer for the paratroops when they were drafted, but Stuart decided not to. Stan persevered, making several combat jumps in the Pacific Theatre and being on one of the first, if not the first, U.S. planes to land in Japan to take the surrender of the Imperial Japanese Army. Stuart was a sergeant in the headquarters company of the Second Battalion, 345th Infantry Regiment—normally not one of the most dangerous places to be, but on Dec. 17, 1943, the headquarters of 2nd Battalion was raked by tank and machine gun fire, badly wounding several officers and killing Stuart.

E4 Hans Brunner, a German national fighting in the U.S. Army, was killed in action at Pleiku, Vietnam on March 29, 1968. (Little White School Museum collection)

E4 Hans Brunner, a German national fighting in the U.S. Army, was killed in action at Pleiku, Vietnam on March 29, 1968. (Little White School Museum collection)

In Vietnam, we had three Army casualties. Fred Heriaud, 21, was Kendall County’s first Vietnam casualty, getting killed in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley Dec. 17, 1965, a battle immortalized by Mel Gibson’s movie, “We Were Young.” Hans Brunner, like William Shoger, another German national who had immigrated to the U.S. shortly before he joined the Army, was killed in action at the age of 24 on March 29, 1968 defending the airfield at Pleiku. And Bobby Rogers, who went to school with me (he was two years younger) was serving in the Army during Operation Iron Mountain when he was killed on March 19, 1968. He was just 21

It’s hard not to wonder what these young men would have accomplished had they not died in the service of their country—in three cases, their adopted country. If you happen to be in the Oswego area this coming weekend, come on over to the Little White School Museum. The exhibit opens Saturday, Nov. 8, at 9 a.m. Hours are Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. It’s free and it honors those who tried their best to make the nation and the world a better place.



Filed under Illinois History, Kendall County, Local History, Military History, Oswego, People in History