The Ultimate Sacrifice and history – author Tom Mueller's four books and a wide variety of other research honoring those who gave their tomorrows so that we could have ours
Engineers keep their history in circulation
These are the senior NCOs in the HQ Company of the Army's 286th Combat Engineer Battalion. Tom Mueller's father is on the left.
This photo was taken near Bad Mergentheim and Loffelstelzen, Germany, and was provided by Michael Missal, national inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs. His Dad, Harold, is on the far right. Harold became a judge in Connecticut, and exchanged holiday cards every year with Bill Mueller, of Madison, Wis.
Tom Mueller came across Michael while doing continued research for his history of the battalion, “Building the Bridges to Victory.” Michael had paid tribute to his father and mentioned the unit by name during his Senate confirmation hearing, and Mueller found the article.
The book is privately printed and sold only by the author, and is not available from retailers. A few years ago, some of the few remaining veterans of the unit, plus a daughter and a spouse, nobly stepped forward 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 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.
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 (who died in April 2018), Valerie Gerken Rios and Beverly Hoppe. All of you are thanked deeply for your patriotism.
Honoring an uncle buried in France
My uncle made the Ultimate Sacrifice in Normandy and is buried at the Brittany American Cemetery along with 4,419 others, and 498 more on the MIA wall. He is joined by 119 from Wisconsin there.
I went there in 1984, the first relative ever to do so. That day has led to all my other research and authorship work since then, really.
Here's to you, Pvt. Martin Miller, 24, of the 28th Infantry Division, 112th Infantry Regiment. And a special nod to Sgt. Ken Miller of the same regiment, whose grave I discovered totally by accident while walking elsewhere in the cemetery but obviously with some special help from The Man Above. Ken was KIA the same day and was from Appleton; I have a Company A photo in which Ken is standing only a few feet away from Martin amid a group of several dozen soldiers.
"The Wisconsin 3,800" also details three other Wisconsin men in the same 28th Division who were KIA the same day on the same Hill 210 near Percy, France. This was found by sorting the database at www.abmc.gov, the agency that runs the cemeteries. All died in their second day of combat. The division had arrived in France from England on July 26 and 27.
Beyond them, the book's other chapters tell of those with high ranks who died; those with smaller ranks who died; an Army nurse who died at Anzio, etc. From all over Wisconsin.
Signed copies of this book are available 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 several Wisconsin cities and from 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 several 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. You can take a closer look at the cover and its contents by clicking here: at Amazon.
Vet gets tombstone 132 years after his death
An unmarked Civil War grave in Oak Creek, Wis., was found with Tom Mueller's help, and a tombstone was installed. A large dedication ceremony was held, attended by about 18 descendants of Pvt. William Kolbow of the 28th Wisconsin Infantry. Kolbow was killed by a train in Mueller's neighborhood in 1885, leaving a widow and eight children.
The grave was reported to Mueller after the Oak Creek Historical Society published two pieces of his 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 says this type of research could be done in any modestly sized city, and would be a great legacy for you to leave for current and future generations.
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 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.thomas
venner.com/ It is not in the Milwaukee library system.
Touching stories from Civil War to Afghanistan
The City of Oak Creek, Wis., has placed this book in a time capsule in the new City Hall, where it will reside for 50 years. Libraries across Wisconsin have it a bit more accessible.
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.
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 that of a Mayville soldier in January 2012 in Afghanistan.
Two chapters are devoted to the 40 Wisconsin MIAs in Vietnam – the most extensive coverage of them as a group in decades, if not ever.
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.
Civil War vet's name on tombstone was wrong for 104 years
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.
Here is the new tombstone for Michael Carroll at Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee. The old stone, with the name of Michael Curran, is shown at right.
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, my mentor Virgil Matz soon 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.
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.
Overall, Wood has nearly 6,000 Civil War veterans, according to the extensive research project. My total is the first such count, according to cemetery officials. I examined each burial between the cemetery's start in 1871 into the 1940s, using multiple databases.