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Lost then Found

Not long after my retirement from the CT State Police in the late eighties, my wife and I relocated to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and settled in the Village of Allen.

The home we purchased was originally owned Beverly and Laura Hitch, parents of Richard Beverly Hitch. Richard would be one of the missing crew aboard the USS Greyback, lost at sea off Okinawa on February 27th, 1944.

Richards mother, Laura Hitch would at one time turn this home into a Boarding House. It’s been said on Sundays past, you could smell the fried chicken cooking on the stove as you passed by on Allen Rd. Laura Hitch was often seen on the overhanging roof sweeping Sycamore tree bark as it shed each year. I would soon do the same after we moved in. We, like Laura, would entertain the public a year after moving in, turning our home into a Bed & Breakfast.

It is my and other family members belief, along with guests, who have felt the presence of others in the home. We have always thought that presence was Laura Hitch herself. Now that the resting place of Richard has been located, I can only wonder, was he there with us also? Ghosts, Spirits? Stay tuned, sometime soon I’ll expound on these super natural meetings.

Just last week after the Grayback was located, our town Scribe, Melissa Bright sent out the following email to the Village Mailing list. With her permission I attach that email. Melissa, you need to start a Blogging life.

Dear Allen Family – because Allen IS FAMILY – 

Today we honor all veterans, but on this day there is news about a specific Allen veteran.  Richard Beverly Hitch, son of Beverly and Laura Hitch, and brother to Thornton Hitch, was lost at sea during WWII aboard the submarine U.S.S. Grayback, where he served as an Electrician’s Mate 1st Class.
Today there is a report that the Grayback has been located.  All these years, it was unknown where it lay.  Recently, a Japanese amateur researcher discovered a single-digit error in the latitude and longitude of where it was believed the Grayback went down.  Using this information, the Lost 52 Project, which hunts for missing ships, found the Grayback in June off the coast of Okinawa, where it went down on February 27th, 1944.  The Grayback was on its 10th mission, and was among the 20 most successful subs in the U.S. Navy in terms of enemy ships destroyed.  It is reported that her career was ended that day in February when a 500 pound bomb made a direct hit on her conning tower.
When these lost ships are found, they are usually considered hallowed ground, the final resting place of the sailors who  went down with them.   There has been no mention of any attempt to recover remains.  
If I can get away from work for a few minutes, the church bell will ring at 11:11 a.m. this morning.  There are markers in Richard’s memory, Punchbowl, the National Cemetery for the Pacific in Hawaii, and also here in Allen with his family, under the cedar tree in the Eastern end.  At At 5:30 this evening, we will lay flowers at Richard’s marker in the Allen cemetery.  Anyone who is interested is invited to come.  
Richard was 28 years old when the Grayback went down.  Here is his photo from Findagrave.com:

Greyback History: https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/navy-ships/a29765905/uss-grayback-discovery/

Here is a story on the finding of the sub: https://www.whio.com/news/national/submarine-missing-years-discovered-off-japanese-coast/od5azFCGi1dfhCismb7N3L/

There are two Find a Grave pages for Richard, one for each memorial site: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/35050802/richard-beverly-hitch
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56110882/richard-beverly-hitch

Don’t forget to check on the elderly.

Sharing from North Platte

A blogging friend’s husband from down Carolina way, sent me a condensed version of a great undertaking by the folks in North Platte, Nebraska this past summer. I looked around as I often do and found this old article from the Wall Street Journal. All credit goes to Bob Greene, and the WSJ and, North Platte Telegraph for this content. Be you Red or Blue, here’s a feel-good story for you.

A Soldier Never Forgets North Platte

When service members pass through this small town in Nebraska, the community comes together to thank them.

293 Comments By Bob Greene July 22, 2018 4:01 p.m. ET

Community and service members in North Platte, Nebraska.

Community and service members in North Platte, Nebraska. Photo: Stephen Barkley/The North Platte Telegraph

‘We were overwhelmed,” said Lt. Col. Nick Jaskolski. “I don’t really have words to describe how surprised and moved we all were. I had never even heard of the town before.”

Col. Jaskolski, a veteran of the Iraq war, is commander of the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade of the Arkansas Army National Guard. For three weeks earlier this summer, the 142nd had been conducting an emergency deployment readiness exercise in Wyoming, training and sleeping outdoors, subsisting on field rations. Now it was time for the 700 soldiers to return to their base.

A charter bus company had been hired for the 18-hour drive back to Arkansas. The Army had budgeted for a stop to get snacks. The bus company determined that the soldiers would reach North Platte, in western Nebraska, around the time they would likely be hungry. The company placed a call to the visitors’ bureau: Was there anywhere in town that could handle a succession of 21 buses, and get 700 soldiers in and out for a quick snack?

North Platte said yes. North Platte has always said yes.

The community welcomed more than 700 service men and women, North Platte , Nebraska, June 18-19.

The community welcomed more than 700 service men and women, North Platte , Nebraska, June 18-19. Photo: Stephen Barkley/The North Platte Telegraph

During World War II, North Platte was a geographically isolated town of 12,000. Soldiers, sailors and aviators on their way to fight the war rode troop trains across the nation, bound for Europe via the East Coast or the Pacific via the West Coast. The Union Pacific Railroad trains that transported the soldiers always made 10-minute stops in North Platte to take on water.

The townspeople made those 10 minutes count. Starting in December 1941, they met every train: up to 23 a day, beginning at 5 a.m. and ending after midnight. Those volunteers greeted between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers a day. They presented them with sandwiches and gifts, played music for them, danced with them, baked birthday cakes for them. Every day of the year, every day of the war, they were there at the depot. They never missed a train, never missed a soldier. They fed six million soldiers by the end of the war. Not 1 cent of government money was asked for or spent, save for a $5 bill sent by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The soldiers never forgot the kindness. Most of them, and most of the townspeople who greeted them, are dead. And now, in 2018, those 21 busloads from the 142nd Field Artillery were on their way, expecting to stop at some fast-food joint.

A Soldier Never Forgets North Platte

Photo: Stephen Barkley/The North Platte Telegraph

“We couldn’t believe what we saw when we pulled up,” Col. Jaskolski said. As each bus arrived over a two-day period, the soldiers stepped out to be greeted by lines of cheering people holding signs of thanks. They weren’t at a fast-food restaurant: They were at North Platte’s events center, which had been opened and decorated especially for them.

“People just started calling our office when they heard the soldiers were on their way,” said Lisa Burke, the director of the visitors’ bureau. “Hundreds of people, who wanted to help.”

More Images

From the North Platte Telegraph

The soldiers entered the events center to the aroma of steaks grilling and the sound of recorded music: current songs by Luke Bryan, Justin Timberlake, Florida Georgia Line; World War II songs by Glenn Miller, the Andrews Sisters, Jimmy Dorsey. They were served steak sandwiches, ham sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, deviled eggs, salads and fruit; local church groups baked pies, brownies and cookies.

Mayor Dwight Livingston stood at the door for two days and shook every soldier’s hand. Mr. Livingston served in the Air Force in Vietnam and came home to no words of thanks. Now, he said, as he shook the hands and welcomed the soldiers, “I don’t know whether those moments were more important for them, or for me. I knew I had to be there.”

“It was one soldier’s 21st birthday,” Lisa Burke said. “When I gave him his cake, he told me it was the first birthday cake he’d ever had in his life.” Not wanting to pry, she didn’t ask him how that could possibly be. “I was able to hold my emotions together,” she said. “Until later.”

When it became time to settle up—the Army, after all, had that money budgeted for snacks—the 142nd Field Artillery was told: Nope. You’re not spending a penny here. This is on us.

This is on North Platte.

Mr. Greene’s books include “Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen.”

Don’t forget to check on the elderly.

A Day of Infamy

Just about this time last year I was sitting in a Starbucks enjoying a coffee and their Internet connection while waiting to meet my granddaughter, I got into a conversation with a Salisbury University Student. Herself has all kinds of words to describe my verbal engagement with others. She considers herself anonymous, me, I’m the opposite. My previous interaction in the Birmingham, Alabama car rental return line is a perfect example.

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WordPress Photo

It was early December when I was in that Starbucks and 12/07/1941 always comes to mind this time of the year. I was not born until two years later, but the history of the events at Pearl Harbor are forever etched in my Cerebral Cortex. What happened at Pearl Harbor was taught in History class when I went to school. My father fought in the war that followed, ending in 1945. I was a war child and now there are few who fought in that war left to tell their story.

Image result for pearl harbor

I don’t remember my exact words but I’m sure I said something like “any thought on what tomorrow is in our history?” He looked up at me with a blank look on his face, “Pearl Harbor Day” I say in a questioning tone. A no clue look on his face at my ice breaker. I’m sure he was not happy to be torn away from Twitter, Snap Chat or Instagram. I was later happy to learn he was studying for a Civil Rights History class, was from the western shore, that’s the other side of the Chesapeake Bay and was a Junior at SU.

The old who, what, why. where and when had kicked in. Sometimes I just amaze myself with what I remember. I’m pretty good at establishing place and time when I hear a song from the 50’s and 60’s also. Glenn Miller’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo” was the #1 song on this important day, I’m not that old that I remember that though.

Image result for chattanooga choo choo

My point as I seem to be rambling along is: this young college student told me he was not familiar with, nor was never taught anything about Pearl harbor in school. We spoke further about geography and there was a lot lacking on that front also. I’m just amazed where our education system has gone. I’m happy he elected a history class in Civil Rights, there is hope. The young man later admitted that he had heard of Pearl Harbor through the movie but had no idea of the date.

Image result for pearl harbor memorial

To all who lost their lives on that day, I remember and I Honor you.

A Dying Breed

On July 24, 1944, U.S. Marines stormed two narrow beaches on Tinian, a South Pacific island in the Northern Mariana Island chain. Their mission was to clear out a Japanese garrison of 9,000 troops and secure the island so it could be used for strategic air combat for the 20th Air Force.

While the Marines met little resistance upon the initial beach landing, the Japanese were dug in with over 100 gun emplacements and resisted for nine days before the island was secured. Subsequently, Tinian became one of the most active airports in the world, given the number of B-29 Superfortress bombers that departed the island for bombing raids on Japan’s homeland. Most notably, the “Enola Gay” carried the first atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

One of those Marines that waded in after off-loading from a Higgins boat, which were designed and built in New Orleans, was Clyde Hymel, soon to turn 90.

Recently, Hymel told me his story.

A lifelong resident of Garyville, Hymel joined with approximately 41,000 other Marines. He carried a 16-pound Browning automatic rifle as his primary weapon.

He lost several of his fellow Marines during the siege, even though fighting on Tinian took fewer American lives than several other islands that were invaded.

But things did not get easier for Hymel.

Soon after Tinian was secured, his unit was shipped to Guam. He and his fellow Marines were initially assigned to jungle patrol to root out the Japanese from their hiding.

Hymel said the jungle was so thick it was hard to maneuver and find the enemy as they were masters of hiding in caves, tunnels and the cover of the jungle itself. Automatic rifles and hand grenades were the primary weapons for getting the Japanese soldier out of hiding. The general rule was to take no prisoners.

After completing jungle patrol duty, Hymel said he was assigned to the 9th Anti-Aircraft Battalion on Guam for the remainder of the war. This group was so successful at their mission that the Silver Star, which is awarded for gallantry in action against enemies of the United States, was awarded to each member of his battalion.

The war ended in 1945, but Hymel remained on the island for a year before mustering out of the military and returning to Garyville.

After the war

Shortly after getting back home, Hymel married and raised eight children. He made a career at Godchaux’s Sugar Co. for several years, but spent the last years of his work life with Kaiser Corp.

In his spare time, he continued his boyhood love of hunting, fishing and trapping.

Hymel seemed to view life as one big adventure from his war experience to exciting times in the swamp. He told of how once a 10-foot alligator he had on a line charged him with mouth agape. His boots had gotten stuck in the mud, causing him to fall backward into a sitting position. His only defense, he said, was to stick his semi-automatic rifle in the gator’s mouth and pull the trigger several times. That alligator was then his. Just another day in the swamp.

Although his age may have slowed him down somewhat, it hasn’t diminished his quest for adventure.

Just a few years ago, he went skydiving with four of his grandchildren and one of his sons. He recently visited the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., and traveled back to Pearl Harbor, where he and his battalion waited several weeks in 1944 for a convoy to ship them to Tinian.

It was truly a privilege and honor to meet and visit with Clyde Hymel. A true American, he is a member of the “greatest generation,” having endured the Great Depression, active combat duty of WWII and overcoming many adversities to survive and raise a family.

Thank you, Clyde! Many Americans recognize your contributions and owe you and other servicemen, a great debt of gratitude.

We will not forget.

— Fisher lives in Zachary