Memorial to be dedicated on Veterans Day
After a quarter of a century, the dream of seven members of the Morgan County World War II Memorial Association, and of other local WWII veterans, is about to become a reality.
The long awaited World War II Memorial will be erected on the east end of the Fairfax Street green.
Ground was broken on the green in front of the Magistrate Court building on Monday, June 4, and the foundation was poured on June 5 and 6.
Granite is being cut and polished in Vermont, and bronze plaques and other adornments are being cast at a factory near Pittsburgh. The monument will be assembled here by Gordon's Memorials of Pennsylvania.
A dedication ceremony is set for Veterans Day, November 11. World War II veterans from all over are welcome to attend the ceremony.
But that will be the end of a story
that had its beginning a number of years ago.
The war years
Sixty-four years ago, Charles S. Courtney of Morgan County spent the winter of 1943 – 1944 at the foot of Monte Cassino, Italy, in one of the longest and hardest fought battles of World War II. Courtney was an anti-aircraft gunner in the 5th Army, 630th Army Artillery Corps.
Courtney came ashore during the invasion of Salerno and participated
in five major battles as the 5th
Army fought its way up the boot of
Courtney remembers being strafed
by a German fighter with bullets
landing on both sides as he hit the ground. During another battle, he was blown out of his foxhole by enemy artillery fire.
In December 1944, C. Edward Middlekauff from Hagerstown was on his way in a truck transport to a small town in the Belgium Ardennes called Bastogne.
As a soldier in the 26th Infantry,
Yankee Division, attached to General George S. Patton's 3rd Army, Middlekauff was one of many going to help relieve the embattled troops fighting the Battle of the Bulge.
Middlekauff landed at Cherbourg, France, a month after D-Day and fought to take the last bastion of German resistance in northern France, the port of Brest.
After Bastogne, the 3rd Army fought its way into Germany and up the Saar River Valley. Middlekauff was wounded twice and spent time at a hospital in Trier, Germany.
These are just two glimpses into the thousands of war experiences of the area's World War II veterans.
Start of an idea
After the war, Middlekauff moved from Hagerstown to Morgan County and took a job as an engineer for the Pennsylvania Glass Sand Corporation, now U.S. Silica.
(WORLD WAR II MEMORIAL
continues on page 5)
Middlekauff transferred his American Legion membership to Post 60 in Berkeley Springs and later served as Post Commander several times. He has been a member of the American Legion for 63 years. The local Legion post is sponsor of the WWII memorial project.
The idea of the memorial was a frequent topic of conversation among veterans and members of the woman's auxiliary back around 1991. Middlekauff decided to run with it.
Building a list
Middlekauff's first — and perhaps biggest challenge — was building a list of World War II veterans from Morgan County. He was looking for those who served between the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, and the end of 1946 (the occupation of Germany and Japan). This effort continues today.
Few records of any kind existed. Middlekauff found some lists at the American Legion. A few towns in the county had small memorials or roles of honor.
A plywood memorial that had many names of county veterans once stood on the corner of Mercer and Fairfax streets in Berkeley Springs.
Using a magnifying glass, Middlekauff was able to decipher about 800 names from a photo of that memorial. Some names were nearly illegible, but it was a start.
Middlekauff realized he would be hard-pressed to finish the list alone. He sought out American Legion members interested in working on the project.
Along with Middlekauff, Charles S. Courtney, William S. Frederick, Robert L. Hawvermale, Richard J. Rohn, Herbert R. Tobias, Jr. and Charles E. Webster formed the Morgan County World War II Memorial Association. Webster, like Courtney and Middlekauff, is a WWII veteran.
The association searched high school yearbooks, graveyard registries, church and family records, and talked to veterans at American Legion hall, in search of names.
"No stone was left unturned," Middlekauff said.
"Webster had a great knowledge of the names and families of local WWII veterans because he had gone to school with so many of them. Toby Tobias's knowledge of computers was crucial to this effort," Middlekauff said.
Today the list has 1,146 names. Research for names of other county WWII veterans is ongoing.
"I feel comfortable with the list we have compiled. I am confident that this is a very accurate list and we won't have any problems with it," Middlekauff said.
Designing the memorial
Middlekauff did not want the World War II Memorial to dwarf the existing war memorial or to be dwarfed by it. He also wanted the bases of both monuments to look the same.
He researched other war memorials and solicited ideas from members of the association.
"Dick Rohn is a younger veteran who was helpful with the bronze plaques," Middlekauff said.
The association also worked with other veterans' organizations, such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart and Disabled American Veterans.
As the plan took shape, Middlekauf was able to create an extensive, detailed set of engineering diagrams of each section of the memorial. He also drew conceptual drawings.
"Frederick had extensive experience in construction and knew what it takes to have a good foundation for the monument," he said.
The effort to compile the list and create the drawings for the memorial took years of hard work.
By 2005, with most of the documentation in hand, the association was ready to look for funding. They formed a committee with Hawvermale as chairman.
Hawvermale worked with the Morgan County Commission as a consulting engineer and everyone knew him, Middlekauff said.
Hawvermale is a Korean War, Air Force veteran. His brother Richard served in World War II as a Navy aviator.
The committee, aided by an editorial and follow-up stories in The Morgan Messenger, began a fundraising campaign. Though they received many donations (approximately $10,000 to date), it was clear that more help was needed.
Helmick finds funds
Hawvermale enlisted then-Delegate Charles Trump to bring State Senator Walt Helmick to a briefing about the project. At the meeting, Middlekauff showed Helmick the drawings for the memorial. Helmick, who heads the State Senate Finance Committee, was impressed.
It was almost a year before the committee heard back from Helmick. "I thought he might have forgotten about us," Charles Courtney said.
But in May 2006, Helmick came to Berkeley Springs and announced that a $150,000 grant for the project had been awarded, and the Morgan County Commission would administer the grant.
"Senator Helmick's efforts will provide an enduring monument that will remind us always of the price of our freedom and of the service given by Morgan County's sons and daughters," Trump said.
Wish it had been sooner
Architecturally, the WWII Memorial will be similar to the existing war monument. Each of the four sides will have a bronze plaque. The front plaque on the west side will be a dedication and explanation of the memorial.
The other three sides will each hold a plaque, with names cast in bronze, of the county's World War II veterans. The plaques allow for additional names if more veterans are found.
On each side, above the plaque, will be the insignia of one of the four armed services during the war: Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.
At the top will be a world globe of the northern hemisphere with what WWII veterans call the "ruptured duck" emblem — an eagle surrounded by a circle that goes behind one wing and in front of the other.
"I only have one regret," Charles Courtney said. "I wish it could have been done sooner so the other fellows who are no longer with us could have seen it."