Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Could this crash have occurred in 1941?

I've frittered away too much time this morning trying to date these accident photographs from the historical society collection, taken by Lloyd Moore.

The setting is a familiar one --- the Rock Island (now Union Pacific) overpass on old Highway 34 near the east edge of Chariton. It doesn't look that much different now than it did then. The truck was westbound, headed into town, when it smashed into a buttress.

I think the date on the license plate of the car in the foreground reads "1941" --- the "4" is distinct, but the "1" isn't. Vegetation suggests that the image was taken at midsummer or later.

The best I could do was an accident that occurred on Aug. 5, 1941, when a truck driven by Rex Griswold, 25, of Macksburg, smashed into the buttress about 7 a.m.  He was driving a 1940 International truck transporting a load of coal and the impact of the crash pushed the engine into the cab, trapping Griswold, who had to be cut from the vehicle. He died later at Yocom Hospital.

The Herald-Patriot of Aug. 7 published a photograph, but the digitalized image is so bad it can't be deciphered.

The only thing missing in the photos is the coal --- it reportedly was scattered over a radius of about 100 yards. If it had all ben cleaned up by the time these photographs were taken later in the day, it had been a thorough job.

I've gone as far as I'm going to go with this one, but anyone else who wants to work more on this minor puzzle is welcome to do so.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Long time passing: Marine Cpl. Richard Allen Cesar

In the interest of fair disclosure, I published a version of this for the first time during 2003 to an outfit called The Virtual Wall. Then, in slightly amended form, to The Lucas Countyan during 2005. So it's a little dated. Had he lived, Richard would be 72 now. 

The Ken Burns/Lynn Novick film "The Vietnam War" --- all 18 hours of it --- began airing last night on PBS. That's all very well and good and perhaps those who watch it will absorb some of the context of a war that's been live-streaming for those who lived through it ever since. 

It remains important to remember those who died, name by name; and to listen to the stories of those who made it home.


It won't be long now until Richard Allen Cesar will have been among the dead twice as long as he lived, but I see him clear as day sometimes — Compact, dark hair, dressed with military precision in blue jeans and black cowboy boots, killer smile — in the old top-floor study hall at Russell High School. Then I start to think about it and he moves into the shadows 40 years have imposed.

Richard was the first from our part of southern Iowa, one of the first Iowans, to die in Vietnam. He had lived among us only three years, but some folks are memorable and others aren't. Richard was. He honored us with his presence.

Born 21 December 1944 at Boone, in central Iowa, his parents were John T. and Betty Cesar. They soon moved to Rockford, Ill., which was the Cesar family home, and Richard lived there for 14 years.

When he was 15, he came to Russell in Lucas County, Iowa, to live with his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Kastner. His sophomore and junior years were spent at Russell High School. Richard's parents then moved from Rockford to Corydon, just south of Russell in Wayne County, Iowa, and he transferred to Cambria-Corydon High School for his senior year, 1962-63.

Richard really wanted to be a U.S. Marine. He signed up 28 February 1963 under a 120-day deferred enlistment plan and entered the active service on 11 June 1963, just a couple of weeks after graduation.

By the spring of 1965, Lance Corporal Richard Allen Cesar, a gunner, was on Okinawa and a member of Weapons Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines.

The 9th Marines were among the first into Vietnam that spring, and Richard was among them. On 1 September, he received a battlefield promotion to corporal.

Not long after, he was assigned with a few buddies to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, to add combat depth to an inexperienced unit. A few days later, on 30 October 1965, he died on Hill 22 near Da Nang — not yet 21.

Robert Nordstrom, reassigned to Alpha Company with Richard and others, recalled the early-morning chaos of 30 October when hundreds of VC overran Hill 22. At daybreak, as order was being restored, Nordstrom ran to the bunker where his friends, Richard and Lance Corporal Richard Dennis Sharp of Dayton, Ohio, another of those recently transferred to Alpha Company, had been. He found them dead on the floor. Friends had died together.

When the news of his death reached Corydon, the editor of his hometown newspaper, The Corydon Times-Republican, characterized Richard in words that seem kind of quaint today — "a good student and a polite, gentlemanly lad, not large but capable of taking care of himself, always industrious and polite." I guess that’s the way I remember him, too.

Richard's parents had moved back to Rockford before his death, and so that was where he "came home" to. Funeral services were held on 9 November 1965 at Rockford and he was buried in Willwood Cemetery there. He was survived by his parents and a brother, Ed.

Almost four years to the day after Richard died, I landed in Vietnam myself.


I served with Richard Cesar, Richard Sharp and Terry Neumeir stateside. I would like to think that Richard Cesar and I were best friends. We often spent our weekend liberty together, L.A., Disneyland, roller skating. I, among others, had been reassigned to various units. I arrived the following morning as reinforcements to the hill where all of them had fought and died. Another Marine, knowing Richard Cesar and I were close friends, told me to sit down. I was then told that Richard had been killed, along with the Richard Sharp and Terry Neumeir. The description of Richard Cesar was accurate. He was neat, clean, immaculate, friendly, yet had a seriousness about him. And he damn well was proud to be a U.S. Marine and serve his country. I think of him often ....

C. Burke Carstens


Richard, you were with my brother on that fateful day, October 30, 1965. He was Sgt Marcos Hernandez. Knowing that he was not alone, that you and the others in Alpha Co, 1st Bn, 1st Marines, were all together gives me some form of comfort. May you all be together even these many years later. Someday we may all meet, in the presence of our Savior. It would be my pleasure to meet you, Richard. Until then may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

From the sister of Sgt Hernandez who was with you, Rachel H Morales


In a few days it will be the anniversary of "Hill 22" --- October 30th, 1965. I will never forget that night as long as I live. I am Richard Nordstrom, a friend of both Richard Cesar and Richard Sharp. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of both of them. I miss their jokes and above all their laughter. They were both Marines to the fullest and gave their all for each and everyone of us. Semper Fi, troops!

From Richard Nordstrom, former SGT USMC, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines


On the evening of 27-28 October, the VC struck the newly built Marble Mountain helicopter facility on the Tiensha Peninsula and the Chu Lai SATS field. In the two attacks the VC caused considerable damage to aircraft parked on the flight lines, killed three Marines and wounded 91 others --- but left 32 dead, 4 wounded, and 4 captured behind.

Two days after the airfield attacks, the Viet Cong attempted another probe of the Marine defenses, not at the base area, but against the defensive perimeter on Hill 22, south of the Tuy Loan River, primarily manned by the Marines of Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. The action began at 0100, 30 October, when 10 to 15 VC walked into a squad ambush about a kilometer south of the hill. The Marines opened fire and killed three of the enemy, but were unable to notify their company commander of the contact due to a communications failure. All was quiet for about two hours, when a larger force enveloped the Marine squad, killing three and wounding six. At 0315 the rest of the VC force attacked the main Marine positions on Hill 22. Enemy troops, supported by two recoilless rifles, penetrated about a third of the northwestern perimeter. About 45 minutes after the enemy launched the main attack on Hill 22, three UH-34s landed a 13-man squad from C/1/1 on the hill. The A Company commander rallied the Marines, counterattacked, and drove off the enemy. Marines casualties were 16 dead and 41 wounded, while the Communists left behind 47 bodies and one wounded.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Omer K. Hibbets & the Farmer's Friend

I've been working on scripts for next Sunday's Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, spending more time than usual with my nose --- digitally --- buried in back issues of Chariton newspapers. The illustration at left, considerably larger and centered on the front page of The Leader of Aug. 1, 1907, caught my eye.

Omer H. Hibbets, a Chariton carpenter, was about 37 when he designed this innovation in farm technology of the day, useful in three forms --- as a grain wagon, a stock wagon and as a hay rack.

He did indeed patent it and apparently traveled to a variety of fairs later in 1907 --- including the Iowa State Fair --- in an effort to market it. But I can find no indication that it ever was manufactured or sold.

Not long after this, Omer married Miss Clara Butcher --- but during the fall of 1912 he was diagnosed with diabetes. His condition deteriorated and on March 27, 1913, he died at age 43. Clara, two brothers, two sisters and a stepmother were his immediate survivors.

Clara survived until 1933, becoming something of a recluse as she grew older and feigning extreme poverty. As it turned out, she was actually well endowed financially and a search had to be launched for her only heir, Otho Butcher, a nephew who eventually turned up.

Omer and Clara are buried in the Chariton Cemetery with her parents and other members of the Butcher family. His patent, still on record, and his tombstone seem to be all that's left to remember him by.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Raising the flags for Lucas County's MIA

A few photos today from yesterday morning's National POW/MIA Recognition Day program at Veterans Memorial Park in Chariton. Lucas County Legionnaires held the program to remember three of the county's Korean War fallen whose remains have never been recovered.

Representatives of the families of all three were present, including Bill (left) and Charlie Musick, nephew and grandnephew of Sgt. 1st Class George Musick. The others remembered were Corporal Elmer A. Rowe and Corporal Roy R. Kirton.

The program included raising of the U.S. flag and POW/MIA flag on the park's central flagpole.

Then the ritual of setting a table for the missing.

And the reading of their names.

Finally, since all three of the missing were U.S. Army personnel, the Army service flag was raised on the park's secondary pole. Ed Tighe, a Korean War veteran (far left) then placed a wreath at the base of the service flag pole.

It was a lovely morning and even the trains cooperated --- not one roared by on the busy Burlington Northern & Santa Fe tracks that form the park's western border.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Henry Gittinger, Mormons & a Baptist preacher

Roger Williams
Readers of vintage Chariton newspapers occasionally find evidence of conflict between one or more of the local preachers and newspaper editors they relied upon for publicity. That was the case back in July of 1913 when Henry Gittinger, of The Leader, and the Rev. H.J. Bryce, pastor of First Baptist Church, got into it.

It was Henry's practice at the time to publish without comment in a front-page column under the header "Church News and Announcements" whatever local clerics or others affiliated with religiously oriented groups handed in.

Henry apparently had been taken to task earlier in the summer by the Rev. Mr. Bryce for publishing announcements from local followers of Charles Taze Russell, founder of what then was known then as the Bible Student movement and, after Russell's death, as Jehovah's Witnesses.

So a few weeks later, when the Rev. Mr. Bryce decided to preach on the perils presented by Mormons --- rich fodder since the 1830s and 1840s for outraged protestants --- Henry decided to school him a little, elsewhere on the front page.

The Bryce announcement appeared under church news with the following header, "Lecture on Mormonism."

"Mormonism," the Rev. Mr. Bryce wrote, "Is a subject vital to our national well-being, and one of growing interest to all. It constitutes a real menace. Come and hear the illustrated lecture on this subject on Monday evening, August 11th, at the Baptist church. Further notice will be given next week."

Elsewhere on the front page of July 31 Henry responded under the headline, "An Age of Toleration: Old Roger Williams Might Tell of His Experience."

"It is noticed in another column that Rev. H.J. Bryce is soon to preach a sermon against the "menace of Mormonism." Ordinarily the Leader does not allude to these announcements, but as it is not in the sphere of a newspaper to take any hand in theological discussions it may be well to state that the notice appears merely through the right of publicity. Rev. Mr. Bryce objected a short time since to the Leader's publishing the announcements of the Russell Cult of this city in the Leader. However, it is to be hoped no Mormon will object to this announcement by Rev. Bryce.

"Of course he refers to the Utah church. Did he allude to the Reorganized church, with headquarters at Lamoni, represented by quite a membership of good men and women in Lucas county, we certainly would take issue on the menace proposition.

"We ought to thank God that we live in a more tolerant age and recognize that virtue really exists sometimes where we are not looking for it. Instruments which organize great charities and keep men and women employed and happy contain more of good than bad in spite of faults --- and in spite of what we would have them believe, because belief is hard to analyze anyhow, and a big part of it is theory.

"There was a time in the history of this fair land when the prevailing religionists of New England had but little respect for the Baptists, great and good church that it is, as old Roger Williams might explain were he walking upon the earth today.

"Hence a Baptist, above all others, should be tolerant. There is yet too much of this stalking about with doctrinal chips upon one's shoulder to incite controversy, which results in no good and sometimes have been known to end in street brawls.

"Preach something to make men and the world better. Let those who disagree go to hell --- still they may not be headed that way any more than we are; and maybe we haven't learned even the A.B.C.s of their Christian charity."

Good old Roger Williams (1603-1683) generally is recognized as founder of the the Baptist movement in the Americas. A puritan preacher booted for his liberality by Massachusetts colleagues, he founded Providence Plantation in 1636 as a refuge offering freedom of conscience. He also was an advocate of fair treatment for America's indigenous peoples, one of North America's first abolitionists and originator of the principle that church and state should be firmly separated.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Survey for Arlington National Cemetery stakeholders

I took a few minutes the other day to complete a brief survey intended for "stakeholders" in Arlington National Cemetery. Since you're among those stakeholders, too,  follow this link to read more about it and participate, if you like.

Arlington, under jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Army, has near iconic status as the final resting place for more than 400,000 of our honored dead. But it is facing a major challenge, as has happened before now and then --- lack of space.

Currently, according to Arlington officials, approximately 160 interments occur every week at the national cemetery. At that rate, the cemetery will be full by about 2041 despite the fact the ongoing "Millennium Expansion" will have added 27,000 new gravesites/inurnment niches by later this year.

Four options are under consideration --- allow the cemetery to fill up, then maintain it as a monument rather than as living history; expand the cemetery; further restrict interments; or a combination of the latter two options.

Expanding the cemetery is not a simple or inexpensive alternative. Arlington is completely surrounded --- by highways, Fort Myer, the U.S. Marine War Memorial, other installations and, of course, the Pentagon. So property would have to be cleared and new construction undertaken elsewhere in order to allow for more space. The expansion project nearing completion now cost roughly a quarter of a billion dollars.

In-ground burials already are restricted at Arlington. As an honorably discharged veteran of Vietnam but of no particular distinction, for example, my cremated remains could be placed in a niche there --- but burial is not an option. 

And truth be told, it seems unlikely too many Iowans are interested in interment at Arlington. We have our own small national cemetery in Keokuk, probably underutilized because of its location on Iowa's southeastern tip, but the new Iowa Veterans Cemetery west of Des Moines is a lovely and evocative place for those who are eligible and wish to be buried in a military setting.

So what do you think? Go ahead, follow the link and take the survey. It's a chance to be heard in a modest sort of way --- and you'll learn a number of things about Arlington that I'll bet you didn't know.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Lucas County will honor three of its POW/MIA dead

Sgt. 1st Class George Musick

Friday is National POW/MIA Recognition Day, an occasion that will be commemorated during an early morning program at Veterans Memorial Park in Chariton. The program begins at 8 a.m. and will include personnel from the Veterans Memorial Park Committee, Carl L. Caviness American Legion Post No. 102 of Chariton and Charlie Clark American Post No. 308 of Russell.

Singled out for special recognition will be three young men from Lucas County who were killed in Korea but whose remains never have been recovered. Officially, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency,  7,729 U.S. troops who died in Korea are among the 82,473 U.S. missing after World War II, Korea, Vietnam and later conflicts.

Here's a little bit about the three young men who will be recognized on Friday.


Anna Musick, of Chariton, received word in late September, 1950, that her son, George (above), 33, a decorated veteran of World War II, had been reported missing as of Sept. 3 in Korea.

U.S. Army Sergeant First Class George Musick, Co. H, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, had been killed in action on Sept. 3, 1950, at Yongsan, his family eventually learned.

A son of Andrew and Anna Musick, born during 1917 in Monroe County, George was a veteran of World War II who had re-enlisted in the Army following an honorable discharge, most recently just two months prior to his death. In addition to his mother (Andrew Musick died during 1947), George was survived by three brothers, Frank, John and Andrew; and by two sisters, Mrs. Wayne Trumbull and Mrs. John Grennet.

George, who had earned the Silver Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for valor during World War II, was awarded posthumously the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for valor in Korea, accepted by his mother during a ceremony in Chariton in March of 1951. The citation that accompanied the medal tells us how he died.

George was part of a small group of men from a heavy weapons company cut off and surrounded by the enemy near Yongsan on Aug. 31, 1950. The group formed a defensive perimeter and dug in, holding off constant assaults from Sept. 1-3. Rations were low and the only water the men had was the morning dew. According to the citation, Musick’s valor in these circumstances continued until death claimed him; the survivors telling and retelling the record of his bravery.

George’s remains have never been recovered. His name is inscribed in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu.


Corporal Elmer A. Rowe
U.S. Army Corporal Elmer A. Rowe, age 20, was one of three young Lucas Countyan who died in Korea during a very short time span, but his parents were informed of his missing-in-action status before either Dennis W. and Mildred Halferty or Anna Musick learned that their sons also were among the missing

Halferty, only 17, was killed Aug. 6 at Naktong Bridge --- his remains were recovered.

Wayne G. and Ethel Rowe of Chariton were informed prior to Aug. 22, 1950, that Corporal Rowe, Co. F., 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, had been reported missing as of Aug. 12. They were informed later that he had died in combat on that date.

Born in Wayne County, Elmer enlisted in Jasper County, but his home of record was Millerton. His father, employed as a railroad worker, seems to have moved his family fairly often. His parents had received a letter from Elmer dated Aug. 7 telling of preparations for an attack and it may have been during that engagement that Corporal Rowe was captured, then killed.

His remains have yet to be recovered and his name, too, is inscribed in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, in Honolulu.


Iowa records on file at Camp Dodge in Johnston identify Roy R. Kirton as a Korean War loss from Lucas County although federal records identify him as a resident of Marion County. U.S. Army Corporal Kirton, age 40, assigned to Service Battery, 39th Field Artillery Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, was captured in combat near the Kunu-Ri Gauntlet, North Korea, on Nov. 30, 1950. He died in enemy hands more than a year later, on Dec. 1, 1951.

His remains have not been recovered. The Chariton Leader of May 14, 1954, reported that a memorial service for him was to be held at Newbern. His name, too, is inscribed in the Courts of the Missing  at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, in Honolulu.

Roy's parents, Lee (1875-1952) and Mina Pearl (Shounkwiler) Kirton (1883-1915) are buried in the Newbern Cemetery and they were living in Liberty Township, Lucas County, near Newbern, when Roy was born 29 March 1910. Mina Pearl died during 1915 and Lee raised their three children, Rosa, Roy and Ray, by himself, living much of the time on a farm in Dallas Township, Marion County. He still was a resident of Dallas when his son was reported missing but was dead by the time the death death was confirmed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Your flag decal won't get you into heaven ....

Land sakes alive, you know you're getting old when Ken Burns makes a 10-episode, 18-hour "film" about your war. The monster premieres Sunday on PBS.

Will I watch it? Oh most likely --- at some point. 

Then again, I bought the book not long after that peculiar little war that killed hundreds of thousands, including more than 50,000 U.S. troops, concluded. Still haven't read it.

In the meantime, here's a little 1971 song from John Prine that encapsulated one of the lessons of that era. Like the others, it's been largely ignored.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Where were you ....

Woke up this morning wondering what the men and women who died in terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, would make of the mess we've made of some things since.

And considering a new generation, turning 16-20 now, with no actual memory of where they were, (when the world stopped turning).

Here's Alan Jackson's song, still I think the most evocative piece of music to emerge in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which also claimed the lives of those aboard American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Just watching as Irma advances ...

So here it is 6:30 a.m. on an Iowa Sunday and, rather than accomplishing anything useful, I've been switching from live feed to live feed since about 4:30 a.m., watching as Hurricane Irma makes landfall in the Keys, preparing to move up into the Florida mainland.

And concluding that (1) most Iowans haven't a clue about what it's like to contend with tropical storms. Our weather systems move in and out much more rapidly. And the Chariton River, while it can turn mean, lacks storm surge potential.

But (2) if Chariton were lifted up and plopped down on one of the keys, a substantial share of the population would decline to flee and just hunker down, too.

Occasional views of the damage Irma caused down its Caribbean pathway pop up. It's important to remember that our own glittering resort mecca is not the center of the weather universe or, actually, of any universe except of those who live there.

Of course human-related climate change is a factor in our changing weather patterns. To think otherwise is just not especially bright. It's called science, stupid.

And it will be only a matter of time before crazed preachers climb out of their bunkers to claim they prayed the storm away from areas where little damage occurred and that God punished everyone else because of something or another related to the gays. This is inevitable.

In the mean time, positive thoughts to everyone I know and don't know in Florida and father down Hurricane Irma's path of destruction. We're thinking about you, at times almost obsessively.