The period of the Vietnam War was filled with many fears and uncertainties, leaving many to wonder of the outcome of the war raging in Southeast Asia; yet one promise seemed to remain in the forefront of every young man’s thoughts –the potential of being caught in the military draft.
Upon his graduation from Jefferson City High School in 1964, local resident John Knaup knew that he might one day end up in a military uniform, but chose to first pursue his education at Lincoln University.
“Let’s just say that I wasn’t really focused on my studies back then and ended up leaving school,” smiled Knaup, California, Missouri. “I knew at that point they were going to draft me, so I decided to join the Navy and hopefully not have to go to Vietnam.” Smiling, he added, “Instead, I ended up going to Vietnam twice because that’s where the (Navy) liked to send us, it seemed.”
The recruit attended his basic training at Great Lakes, Ill., in April 1966 and and then transferred to Port Hueneme, California, beginning several weeks of training to become a light vehicle mechanic for the “Seabees”—a group of sailors possessing both construction knowledge and fighting abilities.
“I told them that my first choice was to serve on submarines and my second choice was to be a Seabee, but I didn’t pass the depth perception test,” Knaup said. “That’s at least what they told me … but maybe they were just in need of Seabees really bad,” he grinned.
Completing his training, Knaup was assigned to the 31st Naval Construction Regiment on Port Hueneme, which he describes as “little more that a holding company” where he performed “horribly mundane duties” such as sweeeping and painting barracks. In May 1967, he was assigned as a light vehicle mechanic with Mobile Construction Battalion 3 (MCB3) and deployed to Vietnam, where his newly acquired skills were modified for a lube rack, changing oil and performing maintenance on bulldozers and other heavy equipment.
“We arrived at Phu Bai (an Army and Marine airbase that now serves as an international airport) and the battalion started building a brand new base about ten or twelve miles from the A Shau Valley,” he said.
For several months, Knaup explained, the Seabees operated forward of the rest of the troops assigned to the area while they built a new base, with a battery of 155mm howitzers positioned to the rear to provide any necessary artillery support.
“Six months or so into our deployment,” Knaup shared, “we came under attack. The artillery began firing rounds that were supposed to be forward of us, but they hadn’t properly plotted our location,” he added.
By the time the episode ended, two of his fellow Seabees were killed and seventeen wounded because of outgoing American artillery rounds falling short of their intended targets.
“You got as close to the ground as your body would let you,” he said. "After that incident,” he glumly noted, “we built ourselves much better bunkers.”
Knaup recalls leaving Vietnam in late January 1968, days before the eruption of the famed Tet Offensive. He remained in Port Hueneme for five months of stateside training, returning with MCB3 to Vietnam in July 1968.
“This time they sent us to Da Nang and we relieved another Seabee Battalion,” he said. “I was placed in charge of a tire shop and had another soldier working for me and two older Vietnamese men that had worked for the French Army.”
With a battalion of 700 sailors, Knaup said, he and his crew remained busy repairing damaged tires for all of their assigned equipment. By March 1969, the battalion’s tour ended and they returned stateside, where Knaup received an early discharge after completing two tours in Vietnam. The following year, he married his fiancée, Linda, and the couple soon welcomed their only son, John. The veteran went on to spend several years working for a local supply company and retired in 2007.
“There was no fanfare when I came home; I wasn’t treated any better or worse than I was before I went (to Vietnam) … it was like it never happened,” Knaup said, when reflecting on overseas service nearly five decades past.
Though he has since faced medical concerns that were a result of his exposure to chemicals in Vietnam, and realizes that many of his fellow Vietnam veterans did not receive the homecoming they deserved, Knaup affirms that his experience in the Navy was, overall, an enlightening experience.
“It’s a brotherhood—a mentality that you develop which proves that you are part of a group … not an individual,” he stated. “Whether what we did helped change the world, I’ll never know, but you quickly learn to watch out for each other because what you’re doing might just save yours or someone else’s life.”
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
‘A wonderful experience’ - Nancy Northway helped pave the way for women serving in the National Guard
Nancy Northway is a woman with an interesting and unique military background spanning many fascinating historical experiences. Completing service with the National Guard in both Missouri and Indiana, she began her career in the enlisted ranks and eventually retired as a warrant officer while also making the transition from the Women’s Army Corps to the full status of U.S. Army soldier.
Born and raised in Beloit, Wisconsin, Northway graduated high school in 1953. The following year, she was married and made the move to Jefferson City, where her husband was employed as a mechanic at a Ford dealership.
“The year after I was married, I had my first son, Jerry,” she recalled. “Three years later, our second son, Tom,” was born. Several years later, I was able to get a job with the state working at the Missouri National Guard Headquarters,” she added.
Employed as a secretary in the office Colonel Kirby Goldblum, who was an assistant to the adjutant general, Northway was encouraged to apply for a new program that afforded women the opportunity to enlist in the National Guard prior to their 39th birthday.
“I was getting ready to turn 39 at the time, so I decided to go ahead and enlist while I still qualified,” she said. “My official enlistment date was July 23, 1974, and there were only three of us who enlisted before the program closed a few weeks later.
The three enlistees were classified as members of the Women’s Army Corps—the women’s branch of the U.S. Army. They traveled to Ft. McClellan, Alabama, which had been established as the permanent home for the WACs, and completed two weeks of basic training.
“They taught us a little bit of everything while we were there,” Northway said. “We were fitted for our uniforms, learned military customs, did physical fitness training … all of the things that soldiers do,” she said.
Shortly after returning to Missouri, the women were moved from the WACs and became soldiers in the Missouri National Guard. She continued her secretarial work in the state side of her employment, but during her drill weekends and annual training periods, she performed an entirely different duty that was both interesting and engaging.
“I was assigned to work with a warrant officer whose job it was to pay the soldiers completing their annual training,” she said. “We traveled to Camp Clark and paid all of the soldiers in cash, and I thought that was really neat. That experience made me want to become a warrant officer someday.”
The colonel for whom she worked full-time encouraged her to consider joining the Missouri National Guard rifle team. She soon became the first woman to do so, participating in competitions in Ohio and Arkansas.
Northway and her husband later divorced and, in the fall of 1976, she made the decision to move to Indiana after she got a job with the Indiana National Guard. At first, she worked in a finance position and then transferred to personnel, serving as a unit administrative clerk. Having achieved the rank of sergeant first class, a warrant officer vacancy came available and she decided to apply. She was accepted for the position in 1984.
“After I became a warrant officer, the colonels and general I worked with addressed me as ‘Mr. Northway,’” she said. “The regulations at the time said that warrant officers were to be addressed as ‘Mister,’ and since females were new to the warrant program, it took them some time to change that.” Smiling, she added, “That’s all the funniness that happens in this kind of situation.”
Her new responsibilities as a warrant officer began with her active-duty appointment as a property book officer with the headquarters for the Indiana National Guard followed by assignment to the 38th Infantry Division.
“I had become a chief warrant officer three and was due for promotion to chief warrant officer four,” she recalled. “But at that time, you could only stay until age 60 and had to be able to complete one year as a chief warrant officer four to qualify for promotion, which I wasn’t going to be able to do.”
Retiring on September 30, 1996, Northway spent the next couple of years traveling. Then, having amassed an impressive assortment of antiques and other historical collectibles throughout the years, she and a partner opened the Yellow Moon Antique Mall in Mooresville, Indiana. Several years ago, her youngest son encouraged her to return to the Jefferson City area since she had no relatives living in Indiana. In 2013, Northway sold her half-interest in the antique mall in Indiana and moved back to Missouri.
“My son had built an antique mall in Jefferson City and we got permission for him to name it Yellow Moon Antique Mall,” she said. “Now there’s a Yellow Moon in Jefferson City and one in Mooresville, Indiana. My oldest son, Jerry, lives in southern Alabama and teaches avionics,” the proud mother added.
In her retirement, she enjoys leveraging her knowledge and experience in the antiques and collectible field by assisting her son, Tom, at his business in Jefferson City. Her career in the military, she explained, has provided many opportunities to be part of some historical changes while also serving as a mentor to others.
“I had such a darn good time in the service and enjoyed being able to help teach several women to become good soldiers,” she said. “Also, I got to work with everyone from the lowest private to the highest general during my time as one of the first female warrant officers. It was all just a good experience that I will never forget.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
World War II was a period when citizens of this country overwhelmingly rallied in support of the war effort, often sending their offspring to fight the tyranny spreading overseas. In Jefferson City, the war exacted a toll in the loss of the lives of many local residents such as Charles Ermin Kieselbach, who earned the uncoveted distinction of becoming the first Cole County casualty of war when he was killed at Pearl Harbor.
Born in Jefferson City on January 14, 1916, Kieselbach was the namesake of this father, a local bricklayer. When graduating from Jefferson City Senior High School in May 1934, he discovered that good jobs were elusive in the height of the Great Depression.
Later that summer, after spending several weeks searching for gainful employment, he signed up for work relief with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a federal program providing single men between ages 18 and 25 with jobs improving public lands, forests and parks.
“He worked in the CCC program from July 1934 to August 1935,” remarked his nephew, Wayne Kieselbach. “Still with no work to be had, he made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Navy in September 1935,” he added.
Beginning his four-year enlistment period, Kieselbach traveled to Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois, where he spent the next three months becoming a sailor. His training soon resulted in his rate of a Carpenter’s Mate and assignment to the battleship USS Arizona in January 1936.
The website of the Naval History and Heritage Command explained, “USS Arizona, a 31,400-ton Pennsylvania class battleship built at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, was commissioned in October 1916.”
The site further noted, “In 1929-31, Arizona was modernized at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, emerging with a radically altered appearance and major improvements to her armament and protection.”
Throughout the late 1930s, Kieselbach remained with the USS Arizona while it continued operations with the battle fleet. A milestone year arrived in 1939 when the sailor reenlisted, earned the rate of carpenter’s mate first class, and married his sweetheart from Jefferson City, the former June Summers.
As a carpenter’s mate, the young sailor’s duties found him working with issues related to the ship’s ventilation, painting, repairing lifeboats and, in times of combat, assisting in fighting fires and sealing any holes in the hull of the vessel.
“The Arizona had teak decking and sometime in the late 1930's, the ship was re-decked,” explained Wayne Kieselbach. “Of course, as a carpenter’s mate first class, he would have been involved in this project.” He continued, “Apparently after the re-decking was completed, the carpenter's mates were allowed to use some of the old decking on personal projects done in their spare time. My uncle made a pair of teak lamps which he gave to my grandmother, and which my cousin now has.”
In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to demonstrate American strength to the Japanese by moving the Pacific fleet (including the USS Arizona) to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The president attempted to allay tensions with Japan through diplomatic means, which quickly unraveled and resulted in deadly consequences for Kieselbach and scores of his comrades.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor became ground zero for a devastating attack by Japanese forces—the signature event that drew the U.S. into World War II. The attack resulted in more than 2,400 American casualties and the destruction of nearly 20 U.S. Navy vessels and more than 300 aircraft.
A bomb detonated in a powder magazine aboard the USS Arizona, sending the battleship to the bottom of the harbor and becoming the coffin for scores of sailors including a 25-year-old Kieselbach.
“The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941, explained the website of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites. “This loss of life represents over half of the Americans killed during the worst naval disaster in American history.”
Devastated by the loss of their son, Kieselbach’s parents quickly committed to supporting the war effort, including two other sons still in the service, by appealing to their fellow citizens to purchase war bonds. Throughout the years, Kieselbach’s family explained, communication was lost with the young sailor’s widow, June.
In 1959, Jefferson City participated in observance of “USS Arizona Memorial Day,” presenting a check to a representative of Gov. James T. Blair to help with the construction of “a suitable memorial over the sunken battleship at Pearl Harbor,” noted the Sunday News and Tribune on August 9, 1959. Contributions were given in honor of the ultimate sacrifice made by Kieselbach and his fellow sailors.
The USS Arizona Memorial opened on May 30, 1962.
Nancy Snakenberg, a niece of Kieselbach’s, never had the opportunity to meet her uncle. However, she maintains that his respectable legacy has been passed down through her family, providing her with an enduring appreciation for all the sacrifices that were made on behalf of future generations.
“The Kieselbach family were a hardworking, loving and patriotic family who taught respect and integrity,” said Snakenberg. “Their values are directly responsible for my quality of life and those my children have enjoyed.” She added, “I am thankful for their examples they set and that their memory is being honored, including that of our Uncle Charles Ermin Kieselbach.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
The moments after finishing high school are generally a transformative period in the life of a youth since they must begin to map out an assortment of possibilities for their future. For Carl Smith II, when graduating from Jefferson City High School in 1989, his journey as an adult began with employment at a restaurant in the Capital Mall while mulling over the prospects for his future career.
“The owner of the restaurant and one of my coworkers were veterans and I often overheard them sharing stories about their military experiences,” said Smith. “Between that and some of the inspiring recruiting commercials I saw on television, I decided to enlist in the Army infantry,” he added.
Receiving orders to report to Fort Benning, Georgia, in the late summer of 1990, the young recruit completed several weeks of basic training and remained at the post for additional training to prepare him as an infantry soldier.
A significant portion of their training regimen was spent tramping through the dirt and grime while learning to prepare their fighting positions, the operation of an assortment of weapons and building the confidence needed to ensure battlefield readiness.
Smith explained, “I got to come home for Christmas and then flew to Germany in January 1991. My first duty assignment was with 3rd Brigade, 8th Infantry (Division) at Lee Barracks in Mainz. It was a mechanized cavalry unit that used the M113 armored personnel carriers.”
For the next year and a half, he participated in a variety of training maneuvers, some of which were at the expansive Grafenwoehr Training Area. Since he was both stout and young, Smith was often selected to carry the radio in a backpack while also toting the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (a light machine gun) during their training exercises.
At other times, there were training events during which there were too many soldiers available for the limited number of infantry tasks to be performed. On occasion, recalled Smith, he was given the bland assignment of assisting the staff in the mess section with their responsibilities of preparing meals for the troops.
“Actually, even though that was something I hadn’t necessarily trained for, it wasn’t bad duty,” he laughed. “When you were done for the day … you were done. Many of the other soldiers involved in the exercises still had training they were doing even after the end of the normal duty day.”
During 1991, his unit also participated in “Reforger 91,” a major training exercise involving thousands of U.S. soldiers and troops from an assortment of NATO countries. By this point, the Soviet Union was in tatters and the Cold War had fallen in hindsight, but many of the U.S. forces in Germany were preparing for deployment to the Persian Gulf War.
“In late 1991 and into early 1992, many of the units had deployed from Mainz for Desert Storm and since we had not deployed, our unit often pulled guard duty in Martin Luther King Village (a housing area on the base),” he said.
Departing Germany in late Spring of 1992, Smith received orders for Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment. His unit was designated as air assault and was trained to utilize helicopters for insertion into areas of combat.
With a chuckle, Smith noted, “I went from tracked vehicles to helicopters … and that was a little bit of a change.”
In the months following his transfer to the Kentucky military base, Smith’s unit traveled to a reserve component base in Arkansas to perform training maneuvers and exercises. They wore equipment called “MILES Gear” (multiple integrated laser engagement system) that helped them simulate combat. The gear sounded an alarm if a soldier was “shot” by opposing forces.
With his enlistment soon to expire, Smith began weighing options for the future and chose to return to the civilian world. He received his discharge from the Army in the spring of 1994.
“I enjoyed my time in the service but I was ready for the next stage in my life,” he said.
After returning to Jefferson City, he was employed at Scholastics for a couple of years before being hired into state government in 1996. He eventually completed law enforcement training and has served as a deputy marshal with the Missouri Supreme Court since 1999
“Tyronne Allen used to work in the library here at the court and he was commander of American Legion Post 231,” said Smith. “He convinced me to join and I have been commander of the post since 2015.”
American Legion Post 231 is named in honor of Toney Jenkins, an African American soldier from Cole County who was killed in World War I. Since its charter in 1934, it has been a predominantly Black post.
Reflecting upon the years he spent as a soldier, Smith remarked, “Whenever you completed a challenge the military placed before you during your training, you discovered that you aren’t so concerned about trying new things.”
He added, “I guess that I feel like the United States Army helped me accomplish a lot more since it instilled me with the confidence to know that I could overcome challenges and succeed in my life.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Soon after graduating from high school in Alton, Illinois, in the spring of 1970, an 18-year-old Teddy Sigite received a letter stating that Uncle Sam had plans to bring him into the military through the draft. Instead, he and two of his friends decided to voluntarily enlist in the United States Marine Corps, thus beginning an adventure that introduced him to a new and innovative aircraft.
“I don’t really know why we decided to join the Marines instead of waiting to be drafted,” Sigite chuckled. “Who knows why you did the things that you did when you were so young.”
After finishing boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, he was sent to Camp Pendleton, California, for additional training in infantry tactics. While there, he recalls his training cycle being extended by several weeks due to an unanticipated medical development.
“We were quarantined twice because of spinal meningitis, so we ended up being there longer than normal,” he said. “I can remember that we had to go to the mess hall to eat after all of the other Marines were finished and then cleaned our own dishes (to keep from exposing others).”
In the early weeks of 1971, the young Marine received orders to report to Millington Naval Air Station in Tennessee, undergoing several months of training to qualify as an aviation machinist mate. While there, he was introduced to the fundamentals of flight and basic maintenance procedures before moving on to advanced training to learn how to work on jet engines. During this timeframe, Sigite recalled, he and other trainees were provided opportunities to work on the turbojet engines of a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk—a light attack aircraft that was initially developed for the Marines and Navy nearly two decades earlier.
From there, he transferred to his first duty assignment with a squadron at the Marine Corps Air Station at Merritt Field in Beaufort, South Carolina. Upon arrival, he soon discovered he would be working on an aircraft that had undergone its first flight only three years earlier—the AV-8A Harrier. Manufactured by Hawker Siddeley in the United Kingdom, the Harrier became the first vertical take-off combat airplane to enter operational service. The Harrier was equipped with angled jet pipes that not only allowed it to take-off and descend vertically, which negated the need for runways, but also had the ability to hover in mid-air.
“The squadron I was with had a very interesting composition,” said Sigite. “I was in the engine department, and there were other departments such as avionics, hydraulics, ordnance. Each department,” he added, “had two Air Force personnel assigned to it, because the Air Force was considering purchasing the Harrier as well.”
Since the aircraft was new and the Marine Corps was becoming familiar with its maintenance requirements, capabilities and limitations, technical representatives from Hawker Siddeley were also assigned to the base. Adding to the unique mix was the Marine, Navy and Royal Air Force pilots working together to learn to pilot the Harrier.
“While I was stationed there, we ended up with 45 planes in about two years,” he said. “They eventually started another squadron and they took 15 of our aircraft right off the bat to get it going.”
The Harriers that were purchased from overseas were crated in sections, which were flown to the United States in Air Force transport planes. The Harriers were then assembled and Sigite assisted in running tests on the engines in addition to performing any scheduled maintenance.
“They put on several air shows because the Harrier was so new and interesting,” explained Sigite. “I can also remember going out to China Lake Naval Air Station in the Mojave Desert with the squadron for about three years in a row, so that we could conduct training exercises.”
Part of the squadron’s training regimen included participating in maneuvers aboard aircraft carriers stationed along the East Coast. Additionally, he completed a four-month training cruise aboard a carrier that traveled to Greenland and Portugal, all the while working to keep the Harriers on board in operational condition.
In early 1974, Sigite’s squadron was preparing to deploy to Japan, but since he had less than six months remaining in his enlistment, he was transferred to Marine Attack Squadron VMA-231 at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina. In September 1974, he received his discharge from the Marine Corps. The following year, he married his fiancée, Carol, and the couple has since raised a son and a daughter. Sigite was employed for 32 years as a machinist for a company in the St. Louis area that produced a bottles, insulation, shingles and associated products. In 2008, he and his wife moved to Holts Summit to be closer to her family.
“Several years ago, I saw an ad in the paper that noted the American Legion in Jefferson City was looking for some part-time help,” he said. “I have been working here for several years as a cook, but I am also a long-time member of the Legion.”
The time spent working with the Harriers was a fascinating experience for a young, mechanically-inclined Marine. Not only did the aircraft inspire a sense of awe through its demonstrated capabilities, but revealed to Sigite the dangers associated with its operation.
“There were about three pilots that were killed while I was stationed at Beaufort,” he said. “It was a dangerous aircraft and there was no flight simulator for training, so the pilots needed to know how to fly.”
He added, “But it was always so interesting to work with something that was new. The time I spent working on the Harrier opened up my ability to learn and I soaked it all up like a sponge.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Born in 1917 and later attending school in the Missouri communities of Mountain Grove and Chillicothe, a six-feet-tall, strapping young Robert L. Faurot made the decision to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia. During the late 1930s, he established himself as a star halfback in the university’s football program under the guidance of his brother, legendary college head coach Don Faurot. Robert played as part of the Big Six Conference team in the Orange Bowl on January 1, 1940. A few weeks later, with war on the horizon, he left college during his senior year to volunteer to train as an aviator. This decision would result in a shocking sacrifice that later inspired his older brother to enlist.
Faurot completed his primary flight training at Tulsa, Oklahoma, and underwent his basic aviation training at Randolph Field, Texas, in the weeks following his enlistment. He and his fellow Air Corps cadets learned to pilot their 450-horsepower training airplanes under the guidance of seasoned instructor pilots, which included an introduction to night flying. In early September 1940, he qualified to transfer to Advanced Flying School.
“Robert L. Faurot … is now a lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve Air Corps according to announcements reaching his friends in Chillicothe this week,” reported the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune on November 16, 1940. The newspaper added, “Lieut. Faurot … received his commission yesterday in graduation exercises held at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas. He has completed the course of training for the Army pilots and has taken his place in the reserves.”
The young aviator was assigned to the 39th Pursuit Squadron of the 31st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan. While there, he was among a small group of pilots selected to travel to England and fly as observers with the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain, gaining flight experience in fighter planes such as the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane.
“Returning to the U.S. and back again with the 39th Pursuit Squadron, (Faurot) flew many hours in the new P-39 Bell Airacobra during the military maneuvers held (during the summer and fall of 1941) in the southeastern U.S.,” explained the website of the 39th Fighter Squadron Association.
Briefly assigned to Baer Field at Fort Wayne, Indiana, the association’s website noted that following the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), Faurot and the crews of the 39th Fighter Squadron received orders to report to the West Coast. From there, they transferred to Australia to prepare to enter the war. Records reveal that Faurot was soon flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning—a single-seat American fighter with distinctive twin tails. By June 1942, he and his fellow airmen were engaged in combat with Japanese aircraft.
The Kansas City Times reported of Faurot on January 13, 1943, “For several weeks he has been in action on the New Guinea front, where he is deputy commander of his squadron. He became an ace in his first fourteen days of action there …”
“Lieutenant Robert Faurot was credited with a bizarre kill of a Zero fighter at Lae Aerodrome in New Guinea,” wrote Martin Caidin in his book Fork-Tailed Devil: The P-38. He added, “As far as we know, it turned out to be the first Zero kill made by the P-38; and my logs and diaries indicated the date was November 26, 1942.”
Sadly, the twenty-five-year-old ace pilot from Missouri was killed on March 23, 1943, during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea after engaging Japanese Zeroes. The enemy aircraft were strafing U.S. airmen parachuting from a B-17 bomber that had just been shot from the sky.
Faurot and two of his fellow P-38 pilots embraced the element of surprise when shooting down the Zeroes that attacked their comrades, but subsequently revealed their presence to a larger group of Zeroes in the area. They were quickly overwhelmed and shot down; Faurot's aircraft crashed into the Bismarck Sea off the coast of New Guinea and his remains were not recovered. Initially, the pilot was considered missing in action, but it was eventually determined he was either killed in attack or died because he was wounded and unable to escape his sinking aircraft. Captain Faurot was posthumously promoted to the rank of major in January 1944.
During a ceremony held at Harris Field in Cape Girardeau (an area used as a training site for military pilots in World War II) on February 5, 1944, Faurot’s parents were presented with his awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal and Purple Heart.
His loss inspired his older brother, Don Faurot, to temporarily abandon his position as head coach at MU to enlist in the U.S. Navy. Eventually, all three of Robert Faurot’s brothers would serve in the military during the war. His family’s legacy of service aside, the young aviator did not live to witness yet another honor bestowed upon him.
Faurot's close friend and fellow pilot, Maj. Horace S. Carswell Jr., was killed in action October 26, 1944, while participating in a bombing run in China aboard a B-24 bomber. Months earlier, while mourning the loss of Capt. Faurot, Carswell sought to ensure the memory of his departed friend would not be erased from history.
“Robert Ede, the son, was born while Major Carswell was stationed at Clovis Army Airfield,” reported the Forth Worth Star-Telegram on November 24, 1944. “He was named for Carswell’s closest friend, Capt. Robert Faurot … fighter pilot who was shot down in the Battle of Bismarck.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
In the early 1940s, Don Faurot was enjoying a successful career as the head football coach at the University of Missouri-Columbia. During the call that came for recruits to serve in World War II, he easily could have avoided military service because of his age and a physical impairment. But, only a few months after his younger brother, Robert, went missing (and was later declared killed in action) while serving with the U.S. Army Air Forces in the South Pacific, he resolved to serve his country in uniform.
“While he was growing up in Mountain Grove (Missouri), he lost two fingers on his right hand in a farming accident,” said his son-in-law, Dick Hazell. “The Navy was hesitant to take him, but he was persistent and somewhere down the line they relented.”
Commissioned a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve in St. Louis on June 18, 1943, Faurot soon said his goodbyes to his wife and three young daughters before reporting to the University of Iowa (Iowa City) as head coach for the “Seahawks”—the football team for the U.S. Navy pre-flight school. Faurot quickly embraced a game schedule that was as challenging as many he endured in previous coaching years at the University of Missouri. It did not take long for him to usher his Seahawks team to victory by utilizing many of the effective plays he had developed and refined, such as the “Split-T” formation.
“The man who removed the patches from Missouri’s football pants and guided the school into the best society is coming back,” reported the Minneapolis Star in their October 15, 1943 edition. “Last year the Tigers beat the Seahawks 7-0 on Bob Steuber’s long touchdown dash. That places Faurot in a unique position of seeking revenge for a setback he engineered himself.”
The skills he demonstrated when leading Missouri to conference titles in 1941 and 1942 helped Faurot lead the U.S. Navy Seahawks to a defeat of the Missouri Tigers with a score of 28-7. Losing only to Notre Dame by a single point, Faurot assisted the Seahawks in earning the ranking of second in the nation in 1943. A few weeks following his loss to Notre Dame, Faurot praised the Irish as the greatest team to play football and maintained their coach was the best in the game.
After Faurot’s successful season came to an end in Iowa, he received a transfer to Monmouth College in Illinois. The Johnson City Press (Johnson City, Tennessee) wrote on January 19, 1944 that he “will have charge of physical training at the Monmouth (Navy) Pre-Flight School.”
At the time of his appointment at Monmouth College, it remained uncertain whether Faurot would return to coach the Iowa Seahawks in the fall. However, in late summer 1944, the Navy announced Faurot’s transfer to Jacksonville, Florida, to coach the football team for the naval air station located there. Sometime during this period, Faurot received the disheartening news that his younger brother, Major Robert Faurot, was no longer considered missing in action and was now presumed dead by the War Department.
By early summer 1944, the Navy officially announced that Faurot would not be returning to Iowa Pre-flight; instead, the position was given Lt. Commander Jack Meagher—a former Notre Dame player who had played a year of professional football for the Chicago Bears and, more recently, was head coach for Auburn. Several weeks later, a Naval release stated “Faurot (will) soon take charge of the Jacksonville (Florida) naval air station team,” reported the Tampa Tribune on August 31, 1944. The naval station team, known as the “Jacksonville Fliers,” played admirably, but did not enjoy the success that their coach had delivered the previous year, ending the season with four wins and three losses.
The following year, the war came to an end and Faurot was assigned to the commissioning detail as the athletic officer aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat noted that Faurot would remain in the Navy for a short time to accrue enough points to qualify for discharge.
Dick Hazell, who later married Faurot’s oldest daughter, Jane, explained, “While on the Roosevelt, he would take the sailors out on deck of the ship to do their calisthenics.”
News of his release from the U.S. Navy was not long in coming when he returned to Columbia in late November 1945 to take back the reigns of coaching the Missouri Tigers. Shortly after his return from the service, tragedy struck when his newborn son died on December 27, 1945.
The former sailor was head football coach for MU until 1956, followed by several years as the university’s athletic director. He received induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1953 and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1961. Perhaps his greatest moment was having Faurot Field at the university named in his honor in 1972. In 1995, Faurot passed away at the esteemed age of 93 and lies at rest alongside his wife and son in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hannibal. Dick Hazell explained that his father-in-law, though known for his football career, was proud of the opportunity to have served his country in a time of war.
“He and all three of his brothers served during the war,” said Hazell. “And his patriotism shows by the fact that although he did not have to serve because of the loss of his fingers, he wanted to do his part … especially after the loss of his younger brother.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Stretching along Railroad Avenue in downtown Russellville is a large storefront, crowned with a section of red bricks that boldly displays the name “Schubert.” This structure, which is well over a century old, serves as a memorial of sorts to an enterprising young man who contributed greatly to the development of a church and the early growth of the surrounding community.
Michael Schubert was born near Taos in 1859. He experienced hardship in his early years when his father, John, died during the early part of the Civil War. The young private, a member of the Cole County Home Guards, had been on guard duty by a railroad bridge in Osage City when he was struck by a train on August 7, 1861.
Several years later, his mother died from smallpox, leaving young Michael and his sister, Kate, orphaned. Throughout the next several years, he buckled down and worked hard to earn an education. In the book The Heritage of Russellville in Cole County, Reba Koester explained that the formal education Schubert received “amounted to only a few years in the public school and a few months in a private German school.”
“At the age of 24, he was associated in the mercantile business at Decatur,” explained the book written for the sesquicentennial celebration of Russellville in 1988. Decatur was once a thriving community with a mill, hotel and other businesses located south of Russellville along the South Moreau Creek.
Frederick “Fritz” Steffens, a German immigrant and businessman in Decatur, took the young Schubert under his wing and taught him how to operate a successful business. Schubert also garnered from Fritz an interest in the funeral profession. After spending four years in Decatur, he moved to Barnett and purchased a stock of goods so that he could operate his own store.
Schubert fell in love and, in 1889, married the former Mary Schneider from his hometown of Taos. Sadly, Mary was only twenty-seven years old when she died in 1893, and was laid to rest in Big Rock Cemetery in Barnett. Still reeling from the loss of his beloved, Schubert chose to build his business in the nearby community of Russellville, which was experiencing a period of unprecedented growth because of the railroad.
The next several years were a whirlwind of activity for the entrepreneur. In 1895, he became one of the organizers of the Russellville Exchange Bank, the first financial institution of the community. For two years, he worked as a cashier at the bank but then chose to focus on other possibilities. Schubert was also present during the formation of Trinity Lutheran Church in Russellville in the fall of 1995. A booklet printed in 1995, celebrating the church’s one-hundredth anniversary noted, “John Buchta and Michael Schubert were elected as first deacons.” Additionally, Schubert was listed among the first contributors for the new church.
One of his earliest business endeavors was establishing the Schubert Funeral Service in 1896. Gus Steffens, the son of the Decatur businessman who had taken Schubert under his wing, opened his own funeral home in Russellville several years later.
Between his spiritual and business engagements, Schubert again found love and married the former Emma Kautsch on May 10, 1897. She was of great support when he began to actively expand his businesses.
In 1897, he realized his mercantile building was no longer large enough to accommodate his booming business and added to the brick-faced structure to provide additional space for inventory. For several years, he was a business associate of Frank Weiler, and operated under the name Schubert and Weiler Mercantile Company.
“On June 22, 1911, Frank Weiler sold his one-fourth interest in the firm…,” explained Russellville’s sesquicentennial book. “The Schubert Mercantile was lighted by electricity the second week of October 1915. The store now had the appearance of a metropolitan store, having all the modern conveniences such as electric lights, toilets, heat, water, etc.”
The father of several children, Schubert’s second son, Hugo, entered the mercantile business with his father in 1923. Hugo also continued his father’s funeral business, and completed embalming school in 1924 to assume management of Schubert Funeral Home. Both the Steffens and Schubert funeral businesses were later purchased by James Scrivner and Jewell Stevinson, of Stover.
Michael Schubert, a great visionary of the Russellville community, lived to see Trinity Lutheran Church expand from its small lot on Marion Street to its new brick church, parsonage and small white schoolhouse located on the southside of State Highway C. Following his death on February 17, 1937, the body of the seventy-seven-year-old businessman was laid to rest in the cemetery of Trinity Lutheran Church outside Russellville, which he had helped establish years earlier. Shortly after his death, his widow donated the property upon which the Trinity Lutheran Parish Hall was erected.
Schubert’s son, Hugo, continued to operate the mercantile business until selling it just days before his death in 1959. The business was later purchased by Arthur Jungmeyer, whose son, Don, utilized the building to operate a grocery store that served the community for many years.
Michael Schubert's contributions to the growth of Russellville cannot easily be described or measured, but a portion of his legacy still remains in his former business building downtown, Trinity Lutheran Church and his home on the southeast corner of Smith and Minnie Streets.
It is the legacy of a young man raised in dire circumstances, who sought to immerse himself in the education provided through perseverance and hard work, thus building a loving family and church, while rising to the zenith of success in the community he chose as home.
Jeremy P. Ämick is writing a series of articles highlighting the history of the Russellville area in honor of Missouri’s bicentennial.
When Denny Banister graduated from college in Warrensburg in 1966, the young man’s life could have taken many interesting directions. Only recently married to his fiancée, Madelyn, with whom he had grown up in St. Louis, the young man chose to pursue a long-held interest in the military by enlisting in the U.S. Navy.
“I was sent to San Diego in May 1967, for boot camp,” recalled Banister. “While I was there, I was selected to serve as a journalist because of the broadcasting and radio experience I had acquired during an after college,” he added.
After completing his basic training, he received orders to report for Rota, Spain, arriving in country in late summer 1967. Several months later, his wife joined him at their new overseas home.
“They assigned me as the station manager for the radio station on the base,” he explained. “The naval base was very interesting and the radio station was located down by the pier.” He further noted, “We were part of the Armed Force Radio and Television Service and carried their transcribed programming.”
Additionally, Banister went on to explain, he spent much of his time as a disc jockey and developing local programming.
“One memorable moment was when I interviewed an admiral with the Spanish navy and the interview was conducted through an interpreter. On another occasion, I interviewed for the base newspaper a prince in the line of Spanish royalty.”
On other occasions, the sailor was called upon to host and introduce various entertainment acts who were visiting the military base during USO shows. During what became a three-year assignment in Spain, Banister’s wife gave birth to their son on Christmas Day of 1968.
“My family and I were able to get some time off and travel to Austria, Switzerland and Germany—we really got to see a nice chunk of Europe,” he said. “But then I received orders for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the summer of 1970, so my wife and son went back to St. Louis while I finished the next two years of my assignment.”
While in Cuba, he was once again assigned to the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, working as the radio station manager and as a member of the television evening news team.
“I remember when I arrived at Cuba and they were ferrying me to the station, I thought to myself, ‘Here I am, serving during the Vietnam War and spending my time as a journalist, while many of my friends are in the Vietnam War.’ It was a surreal moment,” he added.
The United States soon began to draw down forces as the end of the Vietnam War approached and, in September 1972, Banister received his discharge from the Navy. When returning to St. Louis to reunite with his family, his parents were in the process of retiring to the Lake of the Ozarks. During a trip to visit them, a voice he heard over his car radio soon shifted the direction of his post-military career.
“We were going to see my parents when a guy I used to broadcast with during college came on the radio station in Fulton,” he said. “So I stopped by the station to see him and the general manager there was another guy I had worked with in commercial radio.”
Banister would spent the next six months working at the station in Fulton, followed by five years with KLIK in Jefferson City. Missouri Farm Bureau then hired him in 1976, where he would go on to retire as assistant director of public affairs after thirty-five years of employment.
“I had been out of the Navy for eleven years and working for Farm Bureau when I realized that I really missed the service,” explained Banister. “Initially, my decision to leave the Navy was because I was tired of being away from my family but when I was working in radio, there were no holidays and you were always moving to other stations if you wanted opportunities for advancement.”
Enlisting in the Navy Reserve in St. Louis in 1983, Banister remained in the service until retiring on this sixtieth birthday in August 2004, having completed a combined 28 years of military service.
“The Navy Reserve offered me several fascinating opportunities like working temporary orders at different naval broadcasting facilities and covering events like Fleet Week and air shows with the Blue Angels—the Navy’s flight demonstration team.” He added, “I also got to go on sea duty frequently.”
His experiences, the veteran sagely explained, have made it difficult for him to share with others his own story of military service.
“As a journalist it was part of my job to tell the stories of others,” he said. “If you focus on yourself, then you’re missing the story.” He added, “But while I was in the Navy, I never stopped learning. I had the privilege of working with individuals from many professional backgrounds and I learned from them, taking those new skills back to my full-time employer. It all tied together quite well.”
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
A twenty-three-year-old Amil Vernon Wittenberger was living in Jamestown and working for the Missouri Highway Department when he received some sage advice from a supervisor who believed the U.S. would soon be drawn into World War II—voluntarily enlist and have some choice in the direction of your military career. Heeding the suggestion, Wittenberger was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps at Jefferson Barracks on December 27, 1940.
“From Jefferson Barracks, he was sent to Chicago for aircraft maintenance training at a site known as Aeronautical University,” said the veteran’s son, Denny Wittenberger, who has painstakingly researched and detailed his father’s military service.
When his initial training as a mechanic was completed, the young airman was transferred to Selfridge Field, Michigan, where he was introduced to maintenance requirements for the P-40 Warhawk, a single-engine fighter manufactured by Curtiss-Wright. As the late veteran’s son explained, his time at the Michigan airfield introduced him to a group of iconic aviators who performed some of the most legendary aviation missions of the war.
“While he was there, they were assembling the P-40s for the Flying Tigers, who distinguished themselves defending China while fighting the Japanese,” said Denny Wittenberger. “My father told me years later that he volunteered to join them, but they declined his offer because at that time, he had not yet received the required training and experience.”
This only delayed his inevitable deployment overseas, and the mechanic was soon sent to the next destination in his military aircraft maintenance instruction—Dale Mabry Field near Tallahassee, Florida. It was here that he transitioned to working on another fighter aircraft, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. Several weeks later, he reported to Eglin Air Force Base (Florida), where he refined his skills by continuing to perform maintenance on the P-47s.
“He and my mother, whom he had known before the war, were married during this timeframe and while my father was performing his military duties on the base, my mother taught school on the campus of the University of Florida,” said Denny Wittenberger. “Dad wasn’t there much longer because he was transferred to Lakeland, Florida, to learn maintenance on the new P-51 Mustangs,” he added.
In his book Allison-Engined P-51 Mustang, Martyn Chorlton wrote of the aircraft, “It was popular with all who flew it and no less popular with those who kept it flying.” The author further noted, “The increased range was a godsend and the increased speed a bonus …”
Assigned to the 458th Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group, the training Wittenberger received thus far culminated in combat application when the squadron received notice they were deploying to Iwo Jima in early 1945. U.S forces had captured the islands at a great cost in lives, and the U.S. Navy Seabees Construction Battalions were rebuilding Japanese runways to accommodate the squadron’s aircraft.
“Their aircraft began providing fighter escorts for the B-29s during long-range bombing missions against Japanese targets,” explained Denny Wittenberger. “These missions were often eight hours round-trip and sometimes included strafing missions if a target of opportunity was identified,” he added.
Achieving the rank of master sergeant, Wittenberger became the line sergeant for the squadron, having the responsibility for the overall maintenance for the planes of the squadron along with the eighty-four personnel and twenty-seven planes under his supervision and care. For the next several months, until the Japanese surrender, Wittenberger and his crew worked long hours to ensure their planes were ready for the next day’s missions. In a citation Wittenberger received from the commander of the 458th Fighter Squadron in September 1945, it was noted he “established a brilliant record of leadership” in addition to “… laboring many arduous hours at night with poor lighting facilities, (and overcoming) all obstacles confronted him.”
The veteran would be awarded two Bronze Star medals “for meritorious service in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States …”
His son explained, “After serving four years and ten months on active duty, my father received his discharge on November 9, 1945. He returned to Jamestown and began life as a farmer while also operating the Jamestown Mercantile for a number of years.”
The veteran and his wife went on to raise one son. In later years, Wittenberger became a union electrician for Meyer Electric, retiring after working at the Callaway Nuclear Plant. Prior to his passing in 1993, his son explained, the veteran attended some of the reunions held for his squadron.
“There was a saying by one of the airman that the 506th was one of the last fighter squadrons to fight since they got there in early 1945, and the first ones forgotten,” said his son. “And when I attended the reunions with my father, it seemed like the pilots got all of the attention and the maintenance people were overlooked.” He added, “When those planes returned from a mission back in the war, those maintenance crews worked all night to make sure they were ready to go on the next mission. There were an incredible number of man-hours invested in that effort and I just want to make sure the dedication of my father and the maintenance crews is never forgotten.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.