The Ultimate Sacrifice and history – a wide variety of research honoring those who gave their tomorrows so that we could have ours
A Memorial Day story of respect and honor
I recently was contacted by Robert L. Lubben of rural St. Croix Falls, Wis., who was trying to find the cemetery of his father’s war buddy who was KIA in the Battle of the Bulge. Bob had come across my website and the long lists that I had compiled of Wisconsin men lost in the Bulge who are buried in Europe.
Bob was named for the soldier, who obviously was very special to his father. But the only thing that Bob knew beyond the unit and period of death was that the soldier was buried in Europe. He did not know whether the body was brought home after the war, either. Bob’s goal is to go this man’s grave once it is found.
The soldier is SSgt. Robert L. Fields of the 99th Infantry Division, 394th Regiment.
Bob had reported his name was “Shields.” I could not find the correct soldier named Shields (there were others but not in the 99th Infantry and not lost during the Bulge) at www.abmc.gov, which is the American Battle Monuments Commission, which runs overseas cemeteries. Its database is easy to sort, and I told Bob to look around there.
Minutes after realizing the name actually was “Fields,” Bob was overjoyed – he found the ABMC listing and then a photo from the cemetery on Find a Grave. Fields was KIA on Dec. 18, 1944, the third day of the Bulge. He was from Kentucky and is buried at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery near Liege, Belgium. See https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=fields&GSfn=robert&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GScntry=19&GSob=n&GRid=56281082&df=all&
Army enlistment records show Fields was born in 1913, so he was age 30 or 31. He enlisted in Louisville, Ky.
Bob’s Dad was Tech. Sgt. Lawrence A. Lubben of Iowa and died in 2008. He is buried in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The 99th Division was known as the “Battle Babies.” It had arrived in Europe in October 1944 and France in early November. It had seen a little combat, but then took the brunt of the German attack on the northern shoulder of the Bulge, including Elsenborn, Krinkelt, Wirtzfeld and Bullingen, all in Belgium.
See the Wisconsin Bulge list that I compiled a couple years on the right side of this page. It shows that 77 soldiers from Wisconsin lost in the Bulge period are buried at Henri-Chapelle or on the MIA wall there. Some were from the 394th Regiment, just like Fields.
1913 tombstone in Milwaukee has been corrected
Tom Mueller reports: A Civil War veteran who died in 1913 and was buried with the wrong last name on his tombstone now has a corrected marker and flowers from his home state of Indiana.
The new tombstone for Michael Carroll was installed in early March at Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee. The old tombstone, with the name of Michael Curran, is shown at left on this page.
Members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War from the Milwaukee area and from Carroll's hometown of Valparaiso, Ind., worked to create a ceremony to dedicate the new gravestone in June. The peony is the state flower of Indiana, and as karma would have it, that was the very week the flower was in bloom.
On Veterans Day, I was cross-checking graves in a walkthrough vs. what we had found in databases, looking for anyone we may have missed. I decided to monitor his entire row in section 19. The soldier in grave 65 was Curran on the stone, but he was not anywhere in the VA database or interment.net. However, it was found that the man named Carroll was in that exact grave in the VA and interment.net, with the same date of death as the phantom Curran. There was no such man named Curran in the 9th Indiana, Co. H, but there was a Michael Carl, which was a known alias used by Carroll.
Thank you to two colleagues who helped find the proof; evidently the handwriting on his burial record is to blame, with an A looking like a U, an O looking like an A and LL looking like an N. It also did not help that another man named Carroll had died earlier in 1913, along with a man named Curran. Possibly the error came during the making of the tombstones.
Pvt. Michael Carroll was in the 9th Indiana for 10 months beginning Feb. 28, 1862, and then the 4th U.S. Cavalry for the rest of the war. He fought at Shiloh, Corinth, Stones River, Chickamauga, many spots in the Atlanta Campaign and finally in the Battle of Nashville. He was age 66 when he arrived at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home in October 1893.
We in the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War thank the VA for making this right. This is only the latest example of the Sons doing what is right for Civil War Veterans.
Here is more of author's latest work:
– Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee has nearly 6,000 Civil War veterans, according to author Tom Mueller's extensive research project. Mueller's total is the first such count, according to cemetery officials; the graves database of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War originally had only 2,100 listings for Wood.
See the database here. The list is designed to help curious relatives get the basics about their ancestor and to assist researchers in many ways. It blends units, dates of service, whether a soldier was wounded, birth years, death years and burial sites and goes far beyond what is available in other databases. The database has more than 32,000 burials of Civil War veterans in Wisconsin, with more being added every day.
Mueller examined each burial between the cemetery's start in 1871 into the 1940s, using multiple databases. Then for nearly three months, he cross-checked nearly 300 sample tombstones in various sections of the cemetery to be sure they are in the database – and did find a few more to add.
The last Civil War burial there apparently was for Pvt. Henry D. Vaughn, who died Feb. 18, 1941, at the age of 94 or 95, according to Mueller. Vaughn was a private in Company E of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry and was wounded at Kenesaw, Ga., in June or July 1864. Another major finding is that there is one Unknown Soldier in the cemetery; he is buried with dozens of other Civil War veterans but his tombstone is in a style that was used from the 1960s to the turn of the century.
– Mueller provided several photos of Wisconsin men lost in Vietnam to the recent project that successfully found a photo of each of the 1,161 men killed in that war. Some of these photos were found specifically for the project; some earlier for Mueller's book "Duty, Honor, Country and Wisconsin" (see separate item lower on this page) and still others during his work writing newspaper feature stories in the 1980s and 1990s. A legion of others helped this noble project. More info here.
– An unmarked Civil War grave in Oak Creek recently was documented with Mueller's help, and a government tombstone has been ordered. Pvt. William Kolbow of the 28th Wisconsin Infantry was killed by a train in Mueller's neighborhood in 1885. The Oak Creek Historical Society has published two pieces of Mueller's comprehensive research about the township in the Civil War. About 140 men served and 27 died; many of them buried in faraway graves or MIA. See that story here. Mueller walked all cemeteries in the township (the current cities of Oak Creek and South Milwaukee) and reports there are more than three dozen graves of Civil War soldiers, now including Kolbow, along with a few "maybes." See that story here.
The society's overall website is at http://plschu.wix.com/ochistorical
– Mueller recently visited tiny Newtonia, in the southwestern corner of Missouri, where many men from the 9th Wisconsin Infantry were killed, wounded or captured in a battle on Sept. 30, 1862. One of the roughly 80 taken prisoner was Pvt. Joseph Mueller of the Town of Honey Creek near Sauk City, WIs., who was in Co. D, the hardest-hit unit in the 9th. The people named Mueller who are buried in Honey Creek (the biggest community there is Denzer, and the town hall is in that unincorporated community) all are Tom's relatives (including Ludwig, his great-grandfather) and so Joseph possibly is some sort of distant relative. The names of Ludwig's siblings are known, and Joseph is not one of them.
Honoring a little-known Medal of Honor recipient
On April 2, 1865, Cpl. Milton Matthews of the 61st Pennsylvania Infantry captured the regimental flag of the 7th Tennessee as it was surrendering at Hatcher's Run near Petersburg, Va. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Matthews was age 39 or 40 at the time and wound up in the Soldiers Home in Milwaukee, where he died in 1896. He was single and had no relatives in Wisconsin. He is buried in the Wood National Cemetery at the home, which is next to the Milwaukee Brewers' stadium and very close to the freeway. The name is Matthews on the gravestone, but Mathews in Soldiers Home records.
Author Tom Mueller researched his story and honored Matthews at the very hour of his heroism 150 years later, placing a picture of the Tennessee flag on his grave between 8:30 and 9 a.m. and reading him this passage from a very thorough recent book by William Thomas Venner, "The 7th Tennessee in the Civil War," in which the unit had been surrounded.
"By now many of the Tennesseeans had no ammunition and could do little to protect themselves. Their defense collapsed. An officer suggested that it might be possible to escape by swimming across the millpond. Lt. Col. George Shepard gave the order 'for every man to save himself,' and those closest to the water tossed their weapons and accouterments to the ground and jumped into the water and began swimming across the pond.
"The Yank avalanche surged closer to the broken Confederate line, encouraged by their weakening fire. Most of the remaining Southerners milled around, some still shooting but many having dropped their rifles and waving white rags. The Federals neared the beaten Southerners, no longer firing, just inching forward.
"One Yank, Milton Matthews, darted forward and ripped the 7th Tennessee flag out of the stunned Tennessean holding it. A Federal officer recorded the feat, saying Matthews 'dashed into a squad of Rebels who had gathered round a beautiful stand of colors, and … knocked down the color bearer, seized the colors as they fell, and rushed on to another portion of the field.'"
This was the final day of the battle of Petersburg, and one week before Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Mueller is now the immediate past commander of the Milwaukee camp of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War -- the C.K. Pier Badger Camp #1. Venner's book is available at his website, http://www.thomasvenner.com/ It is not in the Milwaukee library system.
Book is put in a 50-year time capsule in Oak Creek
The City of Oak Creek, Wis., has placed this book in a time capsule in the new City Hall, where it will reside for the next 50 years before being opened.
The book has two chapters about the patriotic DNA of the city – its dozens of men in the Civil War and the four whose names are on its American Legion and VFW posts (one from World War I, one from WW2 and two from Vietnam). Oak Creek did not become a city until 1955, but was Oak Creek Township before that. Present-day South Milwaukee, Wis., was part of the township before incorporating in 1892.
In each chapter of this comprehensive tribute to those who made the Ultimate Sacrifice, the book tells the story of the "little people" from all across the state who were part of a historic event or period. It features several dozen men and women from the Civil War, Afghanistan and the many other conflicts in-between. The earliest Wisconsin death that is detailed was an Oak Creek soldier on Dec. 31, 1862, at Stones River, Tenn.; the latest is 149 years later – a Mayville soldier in January 2012 in Afghanistan.
Two chapters are devoted to the 37 Wisconsin MIAs in Vietnam – the most extensive coverage of them as a group in decades, if not ever. Plus a review of the sharply higher number of women who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice.
The book is available in print and as an ebook from Internet publishers. Click here to order it and take a closer look at the cover. If you want to see the copy that is in the time capsule, come to Oak Creek in August 2065.
Engineers keep their history in circulation
This book about an Army combat engineer battalion in World War II is privately printed and sold only by the author, and is not available from retailers. Some of the few remaining veterans of the unit, plus a daughter and a spouse, nobly stepped forward in December 2015 to renew the supply, ensuring it will be around for another decade or more, long after the vets are gone. Request information here.
"Building the Bridges to Victory" tells the story of the 286th Combat Engineer Battalion in the climactic months of World War II, from England to France to Germany to a concentration camp and into Austria. It was attached to various divisions, such as the 63rd and 36th, and the 101st Cavalry Group, for various times. At other times, it was attached to elements inside a division, such as inside the 12th Armored.
The book covers what the engineers did, saw and felt as they performed tasks like constructing Bailey bridges, digging mines out of roads and fields, and blowing up booby-trapped obstacles. Infantry and armor did not go very far without the work of these engineers. Some members of the battalion, including the author's father, who was on recon, then confronted the Holocaust.
There are 14 known survivors of this unit, based on lists of those who attended reunions or kept in touch with the vets who did. New names sometimes still are found; unfortunately often in their obits.
The vets acting to ensure that future readers will know their story span the nation, from The Villages, Fla., to Berkeley, Calif., to Clarksburg, W.Va. Each vet is in his 90s. The daughter is from Chula Vista, Calif., and the spouse from Plantation, Fla.
In the order listed in the previous paragraph, they are Winton Petersen, George Leitmann, Charles Long, Valerie Gerken Rios and Beverly Hoppe.
All of you are thanked deeply for your patriotism.
Wisconsinites buried overseas or MIA in WW 2
A total of 3,800 Wisconsin men are buried overseas or MIA in World War II, plus two women. Read about author Tom Mueller's uncle, killed in Normandy on Aug. 1, 1944, and four others from Wisconsin in his 28th Infantry Division who were killed with him.
Pvt. Martin J. Miller was from Waunakee in Dane County. The others were Sgt. Ken Miller of Appleton (no relation), Pfc. Billie Weiss of Baileys Harbor, Pfc. Andy Popielarski of Milwaukee and Pvt. Harvey Hyllested of Rice Lake. Miller, Miller and Hyllested are buried at the Brittany American Cemetery in France; Weiss and Popielarski at the more-famous Omaha Beach.
The book details their lives, their families, their deaths on Hill 210, their memorial services and why they are buried in two different cemeteries.
One of the women in the book is 2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth, an Army nurse who was killed at Anzio and is buried in Italy. She was from Glenwood City in St. Croix County. Until the Persian Gulf War in 1991, she was the only Wisconsin woman killed by enemy fire in the nation's wars. The other woman in the book is 2nd Lt. Eleanor Nelson of Rock County, an Army who died Oct. 19, 1945, and is buried in Hawaii. She is not listed as a combat death.
The book has several lists of Wisconsin men killed on D-Day, on Christmas, on huge days in the North Atlantic, etc.
Signed copies are available from the author by clicking "Contact Us" on the menu bar at the top of this screen. The book also is available from Amazon and other sellers by clicking here.
If you fought in Korea, if your family fought in Korea, or if you were a kid during this era, this book should be on your shelf.
More than 170 front pages of newspapers from across Wisconsin and around the nation are utilized to report the Korean War, the many other crises that President Truman handled, and daily life in the exact middle of the century. The result is a blend of news and Americana that other books do not attempt.
Particular emphasis is placed on the author's hometown of Madison, Wis., where horrible war developments shared page 1 with such things as the arrival of a new elephant at the local zoo.
The book profiles men from all over Wisconsin who died in Korea – ranging from the first month of the war to the last days – and interviews 15 who fought there. It is going out of print soon, but currently is available in print and as an e-book, so you can take a closer look at the cover and its contents by clicking here: at Amazon.