Lest we forget...

'Honor Rolls' created to honor servicemen disappearing from communities

 

This article was provided and written by Hector Allen, Town Historian of Oppenheim.  It appeared in The Sunday Leader-Herald on July 11, 1999.   It is transcribed here with his permission.


    Many villages and towns had monuments over 50 years ago, during World War II.  These monuments, or "Honor Rolls", were usually put in prominent places in the community.

    Most of these monuments were made of plywood, so they did not last long.  By 1950 most of them had warped, rotted away or collapsed.  They often were inscribed with the words "Honor Roll" or "Roll of Honor" at the top.

    Oppenheim, had such a monument to the residents serving in the armed forces.  It was composed of one sheet of plywood, with a scroll and decorations at the top.  Like all of the others, it did not outlive the war it was designed to commemorate.  (St. Johnsville, where I grew up, had an Honor Roll in front of the Methodist Church on Main Street. I don't think it lasted more than a few years after the war.  There is now a permanent War Memorial in St. Johnsville, but it only contains the names of the men who were killed in action, whereas the original had probably two hundred or more names.)

    When I heard about the Oppenheim Honor Roll I tried to locate a picture, thinking that there had to be several taken of the prominent landmark.  It took a few a years, but Bill Elwood, whose name is on the monument as a World War II veteran, came up with one.  Bill told me that he took the picture shortly after returning from service in 1945.

    Oppenheim's Honor Roll was set up on the lawn of Lloyd and Edna Brown at the intersection of Route 29 and Route 331.  This area, with the general store, Methodist Church, District 10 school and Town Hall was once referred to as "Oppenheim Center".  It was a fitting place for the Honor Roll.

    In May this year there was a meeting to try to decipher some of the names on the Honor Roll that the photograph did not pick up.  There are 108 names on the roll, but some of them are too blurred to read.  At the meeting were Mr. and Mrs. Elwood, George Strait, Leona and Clifford Perkins and Everett Quackenbush, town supervisor.  Also involved in this project, but unable to attend the meeting were Herb Bowers, Bob Brown, Clayton Montana, Marguerite Finch and Katherine Strait.  During our deliberations we realized that there were quite a few veterans whose names were not on the roll, and so we have added these in a separate list.

    Here is the Town of Oppenheim Honor Roll, as it existed in 1945:  (we have added first names where we could, as the roll only had initials)

 

Acker, W. Mamrosh, John
Atkins, Donald Mang, Dewey
Atkins, Edwin Mang, Kenneth
Bailey, John Montana, Clayton
Ballatore, D. Mosenteen, Al
Ballou, Frank Mosenteen, Richard
Bauer, J. Mosenteen, William
Belden, Andrew Nemyj, John
Belden, Earl Olsen, Herbert
Bicar, Jack Olsen, Earl
Bowers, Edson Perkins, Harry
Bowers, Herb Perkins, Howard
Brosat, Otto Perkins, Ralph
Brown, Everett Perkins, Wayne
Brown, Robert Polansky, Alex
Chukayla, Steven Polansky, William
Clemons, Arthur (not clear)
Crowell, Homer Reitz, James
Curtis, Oliver Reitz, Robert
Daley, Roland Reitz, Walt
Darling, H. Schulenburg, Burt
Darling, Kenneth Scott, Alvin
Darling, Lee (not clear)
Darling, Stewart Sidoran, Andrew
Davis, Everett Sidoran, Michael
Davis, Rudy Sidoran, Paul
Decker, Paul Sidoran, William
DePiazza, Charles Sleezer, Robert
DePiazza, Joseph Slopka, John
Dunderdale, Phil Slopka, Steve
Ellis, Jacob Smith, Robert
Elwood, Bill (not clear)
Ennis, John Spofford, A.
Fical, Everett Stennach, John
Finch, Floyd Stennach, Michael
Franz, Lorenz Stowell, Elmer
Frye, Raymond Stowell, Russell
Griffith, Robert Strait, George
Hall, Charles Terlicak, Andrew
Hall, Milton Terlicak, George
Hess, Howard Upton, Willard
Hunt, Albert Warner, Burnham
Hunt, Raymond Warner, Howard
Ingraham, Clark Yauney, James
Ingraham, Edward Yauney, Sam
Jacquay, D. Youker, Allen
Jacquay, Stanley Youker, Kenneth
Johnson, Harold Youker, Larry
Kelly, Francis Youker, Ted
Klime, John (not clear)
Leavenworth, William Zelesniak, Edward
Levarn, Jackson Zelesniak, Steve
Lofstrom, Oscar (not clear)
Looman, Grant Paul, Elmer
MacArthur, Robert  

 

    According to Bob Brown, the sign was painted by Herman Eaker.  We do not know who commissioned this monument, perhaps the town board or maybe just a group of local citizens.  We also don't know what became of Honor Roll after it was taken down.

    After the meeting, and in some sessions afterward, it was determined that several Oppenheim men and women (there were no women on the Honor Roll, despite the fact that at least three served), were in service but not on the roll.  Here is a list of these men and women, as we have compiled it:

Werner Tiedman
Wyman Dooley
John Reardon
Ken Pryme
Lyman Peets
James Madison
Bill Fredericks
Phil Lein
Clarence Hauser
Ralph Hauser
Elmer Hauser
James Montana
Jesse Johnson
Felix Zelinski
Edward Zelinski
Warren Schuyler
Katherine Youker
Marie Dennison
Ruth Hoxsie
Harold Mosenteen
Harry Slopka
William Stenach
Cariton Weaver
Herbert Ballou
Andrew Chukayla
Charles Hunt
John Hunt

    I do not believe that this list is complete.  It is likely that more veterans will turn up in time.

    These men and women came from a rural environment.  When they were growing up in the 1930's our nation was in the grip of a deep depression, and they did not generally have many material possessions.  They were educated in the numerous one-room country schools, and some of them traveled into Dolgeville or St. Johnsville for high school.  Yet, they would see a great many things during their military service; some were in the South Pacific, some were in the China-Burma-India Theatre, some in North Africa and the Italian Campaign, and some landed on the beaches of Normandy and crossed France into Germany, fighting all the way.  These Oppenheimers were nearly in all of the major battles of World War II, from Guadalcanal to the Battle of the Bulge.  What stories they could tell, if they would.  They had front-row seats for many of the historic battles of the country.

    Two young men from Oppenheim paid the supreme price for defending our freedom.  Lt. Willard Upton, who lived on North Road, was killed in action in New Guinea.  He was an infantry platoon leader, and was killed by a Japanese sniper.  Herb Bowers, an Army veteran who was also in the New Guinea campaign, visited his grave in the Suputo cemetery near Buna.  Oliver M. Curtis was killed on March 28th, 1945, in the Ruhr Valley, Germany.  In a little over a week the war in Europe would be over when the German army surrendered.

    One additional death of an Oppenheim serviceman came in May of 1945.  Corporal Harold Johnson, who had served two years with the Marine Corps in the South Pacific, was killed in an auto accident near Naval Air Station, Patuxent, Md.

    We can reflect on the families, the children that these three men might have had but for the war.  In so doing, the terrible cost that a war can inflict on individuals and society becomes clear.

    As I have stated, there are no women's names on the Oppenheim Honor Roll.  Our group did locate three local women who served.  Katherine Youker was in the WAC, (Women's Army Corps), and so was Marie Dennison.  Serving in the Army Nurse Corps was Ruth Hoxsie, who attained the rank of Captain.  Capt. Hoxsie has written a book on her experiences in North Africa and the Italian Campaign.  I have no idea why their names were not included.

    The World War II Honor Roll may be the first and last one erected in our town.  Although 182 men served in the American Civil War from Oppenheim, there were no monuments built here.  The Spanish American War and World War I left no monuments in Oppenheim.  There were none erected for the Korean War or the Viet Nam War either, and vets of those wars will not be surprised to hear this.

    September, 1999 will be the 54th anniversary of the end of World War II.  This tremendous event, which changed our nation as well as the lives of so many our people, is receding from our consciousness.  I heard recently that approximately 1,000 World War II vets are dying every day.  I have no idea how many are left from the 13,000,000 who served.

    One day, as with the veterans of the Civil War, World War I and other great conflicts, there will be no one left alive - those days of pride and glory, as well as grief and sadness, will be but a fading memory.

    Lest we forget.....

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Note:
In Mr. Allen's letter he additionally mentions:
"A few days ago I received another name from the WWII rolls.  Emmett Snell served in the army...That leaves us with four blanks to fill from the original sign."

 


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Copyright 1999, Jeanette Shiel, Hector Allen
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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:37:04 PDT