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Archived Story

A pathetic insult for military veterans

Published 9:12am Friday, September 30, 2011

Column: Between the Corn Rows

There’s an added detail from the cornstalk commentary in the last column that deserves further attention.

As I mentioned in that column, some nice lady brought to my attention a Tribune news report about the first member of the armed forces from Albert Lea to die overseas during World War II. She also gave me the date for this specific news item.

I went to the Freeborn County Historical Museum Library, used a microfilm reader, and printed a portion of the Dec. 28, 1942, issue. And what I found was a very inadequate headline for this particular news report.

In the previous column I used just a portion of the headline, Now, to really emphasize what follows, here’s the entire headline from that Tribune issue, “Private Bruce J. Williams first boy of this city to pay supreme price overseas.”

In reality, Pvt. Williams was age 20 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and died of combat wounds about four months later during the invasion of North Africa. Thus, he was hardly a boy by anyone’s standards. Yet, in that era members of the armed forces were called boys, even officers or career enlisted personnel about ready to retire after 20 or 30 years of military service.

Partial proof of this was on page 3 of that particular 1942 Tribune issue. It was mostly advertising, but the news portion had the heading of “Freeborn County boys in the armed forces.” Another headline on this page was “Riceland boy is somewhere in North Africa.’ That’s Riceland Township, by the way.

Still another headline on the page to emphasize this boy deal was ”First boy to die on home soil.” The rest of this all too short news item was, “The first boy in Albert Lea to lose his life in the war, still on American soil was Ellery Christianson, son of Mrs. Inga Christianson, 902 Cedar Ave. He died in an airplane crash in a southern camp. He was a member of the U.S. Air Corps.”

Ellery died June 15, 1942, at Turner Field, Albany, Ga. He was 21, a lieutenant, 1938 graduate of Freeborn High School, 1941 graduate of Albert Lea Junior College, and is buried in Graceland Cemetery. His name is also on the Veterans’ Memorial.

To close off this part of the column, here’s my version of this age deal. A child 12 years old and under is a boy or girl. From 13 to 19, they are teenagers. From 20 and on up they are either men or women.

Cornstalk commentary

Here’s interesting information from Wells worth consideration by the Tribune’s readers.

“Plans are underway to build an Area Veterans Memorial Park in Wells. The intent is to honor area veterans of the wars since and including World War II. Veterans living in or have lived in the Alden, Bricelyn, Easton, Freeborn, Kiester, Minnesota Lake, Walters and Wells would be included.

“The center of the park would have a tall pole flying our American flag. A circle of concrete that the flag pole would stand upon would be approximately 50 feet in diameter, and be the foundation for four walls of black granite upon which would be the engraving of veterans names, branch of service and dates of service. Sidewalks would go from the corners of the park to the walls. At each of the corner entrances would be a life size statue of an infantry man holding his weapon. At the front side and facing the street would be a slightly elevated area with flagpoles flying the flags of each branch of service. Two tall metal light poles would be topped with fixtures directing light on the large American flag at the center. Cost of the lot, moving dirt, excavating for the concrete foundations, concrete, the granite walls, flag poles, flags, light poles and wiring, statues and other items brings a total cost estimate to the $200,000 figure.

“We are hopeful to raise the necessary money through donations and a cost per name for each eligible veteran.”

Folks with questions should call Maynard Heitner at 507-553-6300 or Gordon Hansen at 507-553-5386.

With just three exceptions, Ed Shannon’s columns have been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.