Again, a thousand apologies are due to those who view the blog regularly looking for updates. There are several reasons for the lapse. Aside from a couple of notable appearances on behalf of the book and its promotional obligations, your author has taken a day job again, thus getting back to the chosen career and sticking to the original plan. This, aside from an unexpected laptop crash in which the “all-star”, a trusty Toshiba Satellite L-505, apparently reached its six-year life expectancy window and began shutting itself off abruptly and at will. Now with a replacement, albeit loaded with Windows 10, we can continue.
The first event of this report cycle was a scheduled “Lunch and Learn” held at the Spartanburg (SC) County Historical Association’s downtown home in the Chapman Cultural Center. The subject, because Wofford College is located in the “Hub City”, was the six Wofford alums who made of part of the original thirty-two reservists from our state in the Red Arrow Division. Of note, there were five total Red Arrow Division soldiers who received two awards of the Distinguished Service Cross (the medal itself, followed by an Oak Leaf device on the ribbon); two of those five were Wofford College graduates– Herbert G. Peabody (’40) and Sheldon M. Dannelly (’39, killed in action April 1945 Luzon). Also, Bevin D. Lee (’25)–who, though way past his Reserve commitment by the time war broke out volunteered his services and through some connections in Washington got his active commission reinstated–received a Silver Star at Buna. Yet another of the Wofford alums, John J. Little (’35), was a veteran of the Kapa Kapa march (Company H, 126th) and was killed in action on Leyte in 1944. The event went without a hitch, thanks to Caroline Sexton and her stellar staff and volunteers. One could not have asked for a better day– a brilliant late October morning and afternoon. Thanks partly to that, the event was quite well attended, with some unexpected surprises.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by a Museum staffer who informed me he had received word that a special individual was planning to attend, the daughter of a 32nd Division veteran. What a great revelation when he said the name Lt. James Downer as the Red Arrow vet in question. Lt. Downer, initially the 126th’s Regimental communications officer, was on the Wairopi march over the Kapa Kapa track, leading a five-man radio detail. Later, it appears that Lt. Downer was associated with the Cannon Company of the 126th, then apparently led E Company 126th, evidently taking over for a wounded Captain Mel Schulz. On 9 December 1942, Lt. Downer volunteered to personally lead an assault on a Japanese bunker. His attack was virtually single-handed, as he attempted to get close enough to drop a grenade through a firing port while his men covered him. Before he could accomplish this objective, a sniper picked him off. According to James Campbell in Ghost Mountain Boys, two of Downer’s men crawled out into the line of fire to try to rescue him, but he was already passed when they reached his location (249). Downer received a DSC for this action. He was originally from Kentucky but studied at the University of Illinois, ostensibly graduating Class of ’38. Ms. Rodgers, until then unbeknownst to me, is a Spartanburg resident. I had a very interesting conversation with her before and after the book presentation. She said that her mother never talked about what happened to her dad, and what she does know survives only in the sporadic record she has managed to assemble. Hopefully some more info will be forthcoming at a later date.
The event was also attended by fellow author and researcher, Mr. Edward Rogers of Statesboro GA. Edward emailed me some weeks before about the book and said he was planning to drive up. He has worked extensively on forays into the jungles of Papua New Guinea with Justin Taylan of the “Pacific Wrecks” website and has assisted other authors including John Darnton, the son of the New York Times correspondent Byron “Barney” Darnton who was killed October 1942 in the friendly fire attack on the King John and Timoshenko small boats. Edward is writing primarily about elements of General Kenney’s Fifth Air Force in action over New Guinea, as well as about MIA issues. He gave the presentation and book a nice review on the Pacific Wrecks Facebook page.
Shortly before the event got underway, a senior gentleman walked into the Chapman Center. Mr. Rolen, another long-time Spartanburg resident, introduced himself as a veteran of the Red Arrow Division: Company B 128th Regiment. He had a lot to say, and I hope to get back with him one day to hear more. He was a replacement infantryman during the Villa Verde Trail action in Northern Luzon, P.I. The SCHA’s Caroline Sexton was kind enough to make copies of the B Company roster he brought with him. He is pictured in discussion with your author elsewhere on this web page.
The very next weekend’s destination was Orangeburg, South Carolina, for a presentation at the Orangeburg County Historical Society (OCHS). As you may remember from reading 32 Answered, Orangeburg furnished three officers to the 32nd Division in February of 1942. The son of one of them, Dr. Gene Atkinson, is a principal mover of the OCHS and a prolific local historian. Many warm thanks to Gene and Colleen for their gracious hospitality during my time in town, and for the opportunity to make the journey down.
The weather was indeed not so hospitable; a long rainy Sunday drive down and equally back (partly in the dark). But it was worthwhile. The event was again well-received and well-attended, with many non-OCHS members present strictly out of interest in the book. Thanks to all of you who braved the rain to come listen. Also, to the OCHS Archivist, Eric Powell, for setting up the equipment and later for obtaining several paper copies of the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, which had run an article a few days before related to the subject matter. [The article is linked here on the “Links” tab.]
Speaking of which, this report cycle has also been a very busy one for press. Aside from the excellent article by Ms. Dale Linder-Altman for the T and D, Mr. Eric Lawson of Lander University Public Relations (Lander being your author’s undergrad alma mater) issued a press release earlier this week, which has proven one of the outstanding depictions of the book and the motives for writing it. A synopsis of this same material is scheduled to appear in the next Lander Magazine. [Again, the press release is linked from this site. The “follow Lander” Facebook page also references it.]
Mr. Kenneth A. Scar and Ms.Nancy Spitler of Clemson University Public Relations corresponded extensively with your author over the month of October to clarify and confirm accuracy of facts and statements for an eagerly awaited piece for the Clemson World featuring the nineteen Clemson graduates who made up the preponderance of the thirty-two subjects for the book. This should be another really good write-up of this unique war story.
Finally, within the last month the book has been added to the fine selection of available Gift Shop merch at the SC Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, which despite its misleading name is not just a Civil War museum but covers the full military history of our state and all of its veterans of all wars.
With Veterans Day approaching in the coming week, it is perhaps appropriate that this update appears now instead of earlier. Hopefully it is worth the wait. More to follow…
8 November 2015