End of Year Post: Thanks and Well-Wishes

Artwork and poem from Captain Sheldon M. Dannelly, sent to parents, Christmas 1943.  From the Dannelly Collection (Privately held).

The Holiday Season of 2016 provides an opportune time to thank those who have continued to support the book and to follow the research developments as they evolve.  So here, on Christmas Eve Day, your author will give a brief summary and outlook.

First of all, we should continue to remember the hardship and sacrifice that our South Carolina officers were enduring during the Thanksgiving and Christmas Seasons of 1942, and continuing past New Year’s Day of 1943.  On this day in 1942, the 126th Regiment’s elements on the Sanananda-Soputa Front were still in action, although the Australians had begun to relieve them and assume a dominant role.  Some here, including Lt. Louis Beaudrot’s platoon of Anti-Tank Company 126, were recovering from 22 days of being surrounded; their position–known as Huggins’ Roadblock, having been relieved on 22 December.  Otherwise, the overall American strength was depleting steadily as many, including several of the South Carolina boys, became incapacitated by malaria in this waterlogged area.  Along the central “Urbana Front,” encompassing Buna Village and Buna “Mission”, the American lines were steadily making small gains; they had by then successfully isolated and taken the Village, but neither the “Mission” nor the “Triangle” had as yet fallen.  This had come at a high cost in casualties and at a steep learning curve.  Lt. Harry Williams was the last officer left in G Company 126, and now commanding this unit of less than ten men still effective.  His Citadel classmate, Harold Chandler of E Company, was dead, KIA on the 5th of the month.  A Wofford man, Herb Peabody, who had already performed deeds to earn him a pair of DSC awards, had by then been  wounded and rendered permanently out of front-line service.   Further to the east, on the Warren Front,  Lt. Ernest Cottingham of  the fortuitously  mixed-up and separated First Battalion 126th was already lost, one of the first officers killed in operations against the large field of enemy emplacements in front of the cape and the enemy airfield; his Clemson ’41 classmate, Lt. Ben McKnight, dictated (written down by a Chaplain) his last letter home to his parents as he lay about to die in the field hospital on Christmas Eve ’42 from a severe abdominal wound sustained ten days previous.  Others on all three fronts, if not likewise evacuated with wounds or tropical fevers, continued to endure the deprivations and misery of the battle, lucky to receive a Christmas dinner of foul bully beef and crackers which was then eaten in muddy foxholes amid the filth and decay of battle. Some, including Lieutenants Sheldon Dannelly in the 128th, and also Lieutenants Frank Cheatham, Tally Fulmer, and Powell Fraser in the yet-to-arrive 127th, were soon to make the contributions to the battle that would bring them to the forefront of the narrative.

Secondly, following the milestone observance of the Pearl Harbor attack earlier this month, we are clearly inside the window that will commemorate the 75th anniversary of all events that make this study important.  In February we will see the anniversary of the call to service for these South Carolinians, thus beginning the countdown of their embarkation for duty overseas, the events at Buna and Sanananda in Papua New Guinea, and then on to the other campaigns that followed in subsequent years.  It will be the continued mission and interest of your author to raise awareness of these servicemen in the official chronicle of South Carolina’s contribution to the war effort. So far, this has been a slow process to get them noticed.  Your author will be looking forward to some opportunities to reach out to the public and to the scholarly history community early in 2017.  Perhaps, ultimately, form these efforts, and with a new governor in place, the “32” will get some overdue and deserved recognition.

Third, the promotional and marketing efforts so far can look back on a few good turns.  Although the last official event was held way back in February, the book received two Indie book awards in competition, a pretty decent achievement for a first-time independently published author.  Also, a long-overdue social media presence initiated in May has significantly increased the outreach and footprint of the book.  This has led to many new connections with other persons who had relatives in the Red Arrow Division, all solely based on online correspondence, which, in turn, has brought new twists to the story.  As a result, the story of the “32” continues to evolve.

So, for a great year: many, many thanks to everyone who initially contributed to the research, who has supported the book and research, and who has followed–and continues to follow–the progress of the story as it expands.

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