July 8, 2013

Monmouth war heroes get recognition

Each man who died in World War II combat has a plaque featuring medals and honors he won.

By CRAIG CROSBY / Kennebec Journal

MONMOUTH — Ferdinand Bonin was killed at Guadalcanal less than a year after the war started. The fighting ended for Glendon Harris 11 months later at Rabaul, New Britain, in the South Pacific. The end came for Wendall Hanson at Hermeskeil, Germany, less than two months before the end of the war in Europe.

click image to enlarge

David Harville, left, Thomas “T.J.” Quinn, center, and Larry Day talk about the memorial wall display last week at Quinn’s restaurant, TJ’s Place, in Monmouth. There are seven plaques on the wall, one for each of the soldiers from the town killed in action in World War II.

Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

MONMOUTH MEN WHO DIED IN WWII

The following Monmouth men were killed in action during World War II. A display in their honor is at TJ’s Place in North Monmouth.

Pfc. Ferdinand Bonin, 5th Marines, assigned to the 1st Marine Division; died Nov. 1, 1942, at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

Tech. Sgt. Clayton Leavitt, Army Tank Destroyer Forces, assigned to the Third Army; died Dec. 26, 1944, in Luxembourg.

Cpl. Matthew Klopot, Army Air Corps, India China Division, Air Transport Command; killed in a plane crash Feb. 13, 1945, at Kwanghan, China.

Staff Sgt. Wendall Hanson, 94th Infantry Division, assigned to the 20th Corps’ Co. A, 774 Tank Destroyer Battalion; died March 16, 1945, at Hermeskeil, Germany.

Sgt. Ernest Bryant, Third Infantry Division, assigned to the Fifth Army; killed in action Nov. 21, 1944, at Livergnano, Italy.

Staff Sgt. Glendon Harris, Army Air Corps, Grim Reapers, 3rd Attack Group, 8th Squadron; died Oct. 24, 1943, at Rabaul, New Britain in the South Pacific.

Cpl. Allen Dunn, 75th Infantry Division, assigned to the First Army; died Jan. 17, 1945, at Grand Helleaux, Belgium.

The three men -- and four others from Monmouth who were killed in action in World War II -- were united in life by a common community and a common cause defended in an uncommon war.

In death they have been united again in a display created to honor their memory that now hangs inside TJ's Place on U.S. Route 202 in North Monmouth.

"I figured this would be a good place," said the man responsible for creating the display, Larry Day, of Monmouth.

The memorial is composed of seven individual displays that hang across the restaurant's back wall. Each display includes a photo, medals and citations earned by each man, and an overview of the battalions and divisions in which they served and the battles in which they engaged. A metal engraving provides the name and rank of each man, as well as his military unit and when and where he was killed in action.

"It took me about two years to gather this," Day said.

While the seven are the only Monmouth men killed in action during the war, three other residents died -- of sickness, in an accident and in a prisoner-of-war camp -- who are not included in the display.

Day, 70, who has collected military artifacts much of his life, hit upon the idea of creating the memorials about 15 years ago when he went to look at a gun being sold in Winthrop. Day ran across a World War II medal that belonged to a Monmouth man during that visit.

"I got to wondering how many more guys from Monmouth were killed," Day said.

He visited a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs office and gathered a list of names and basic information. Day then began tracking down and visiting surviving family members to gather photos, medals and information. The men all had relatives who continued to live in the area, Day said. Most of the medals, citations and patches are the originals given to the families after the soldiers died. Day filled in any missing pieces from his own collection.

"It was fun," Day said. "Everyone was really good about giving me things."

Day displayed the memorials inside his home for more than a decade, bringing them out for public exhibition only on special occasions. Earlier this year, seeking a more public display for the memorials, Day offered them to Thomas "T.J." Quinn, who owns TJ's Place with his fianc? Kelly Webb. Quinn jumped at the offer.

The memorial captures customers' attention every day, Quinn said. Often young people ask about the photos, providing an opportunity to talk about the war and history surrounding it. At least a couple of the troops' family members have gone in to see the memorial, Quinn said.

Quinn, 50, was in the Navy from 1982 to 1988. That included a stint on the U.S.S. Missouri, which hosted the Japanese surrender, ending the war on Sept. 2, 1945.

"That's the least I could do," Quinn said of displaying the memorials. "These guys gave the ultimate sacrifice. They're the reason I can have a business."

David Harville, a retired high school history teacher from Skowhegan, visited his friend Day and Quinn this week and shared stories about the war and the men who fought it. Harville, 63, has collected information on most of the 33 men from Skowhegan killed during World War II. That number, like the one in Monmouth, represents a significant percentage of the town's population at the time.

"The towns must have been in perpetual mourning," Harville said.

More than 400,000 American men were killed in World War II. At its height, the war claimed an average of 300 U.S. lives every day. More than 2,500 Mainers were killed during World War II alone. Almost 10 years to the day after Bonin's death, Bonin's brother was killed in the Korean War, Day said.

"They believed in fighting for their country and doing their duty," Quinn said. "They're all heroes. Each and every one of them is a hero."

Craig Crosby can be reached at 621-5642 or at:

ccrosby@mainetoday.com

 

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