An animated bearing, humorous reflections and wide grin seem to define the demeanor of Larry Siedenburg. His effusive personality, however, belies many of the hardships and losses he experienced as a combat soldier during the Vietnam War—service that earned him promotion to sergeant and the award of two Bronze Stars for valor in addition to an Air Medal.
“I grew up in the small community of Lone Elm and attended a Lutheran School there through the eighth grade,” Siedenburg recalled. “I eventually graduated from Bunceton High School in 1967 and decided to continue my education at Capitol Business College in Jefferson City,” he added.
Earning his degree in business administration and accounting in the spring of 1970, he was employed as a management trainee with J.C. Penney in Kansas City, Kansas. A few months later, he received his draft notice and was inducted into the U.S. Army in June 1970.
“I entered the Army in Kansas City and then they put a group of us on a bus and sent us to basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood,” he explained. “My training company did quite well and we actually set records with the number of soldiers that qualified as experts on the rifle range and also in several aspects of our physical training.”
Siedenburg also noted that when his basic training was finished, the Army made the decision that he should serve as an infantryman, sending him to Ft. Polk, Louisiana, to begin advanced infantry training. Throughout the next several weeks, he and his fellow soldiers trained with rifles, grenades, and mortars in addition to performing combat patrols while learning map reading land navigation.
“I was a squad leader during the training and it was fun,” he said. “Overall, everyone there wanted to learn everything possible because we all figured that we were headed to Vietnam as soon as the training was finished.”
His suspicions were proven correct after completing his advanced training in October 1970, at which time he received orders to report to Fort Ord, California, in preparation for deployment to Vietnam. For the next “week or so,” he performed guard duty and other seemingly mundane tasks while waiting to board the commercial aircraft for his overseas flight. Upon arrival in Vietnam in November 1970, he was assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry under the 196th Infantry Brigade, operating out of a U.S. Army base at Chu Lai. Shortly after his arrival, Siedenburg explained, he transferred to a nearby site named “Hawk Hill.”
“Hawk Hill was a fire base and we made our patrols from that location,” he said. “We were a ‘swing battalion,’ so wherever there was a hotspot with regard to enemy activity, that’s where they sent us.”
The veteran explained that he participated in a number of combat assaults and was often inserted into these hotspots by helicopters.
“When the helicopter flew in to deliver us to an assault area, we had three seconds to get off the aircraft or else you were taking a big jump because they had to get out of there quickly or risk being shot down,” he said.
There were many missions, he affirmed, where it appeared they were needlessly expending both time and lives of soldiers when taking certain objectives.
“On occasion, we were sent in to take a certain area by pushing out the enemy in that area,” he said. “Then we would pull back and the enemy would come back in and take the area over again, which was followed by us going back in and pushing them back out,” he shrugged in disbelief.
On another mission, he recalls being a member of a team of approximately two dozen infantrymen sent into an area swarming with enemy forces in an effort to retrieve a pilot and an intelligence officer whose helicopter had been shot down.
“We located the helicopter but the two guys were not there,” he said. “After the mission, I learned from a friend that we weren’t expected to make it back because they had already prepared letters to send home to our parents informing them of our deaths … but we surprised them!”
Several months into his assignment, Siedenburg began to suffer from multiple and persistent boils that developed from infected mosquito bites. This medical complication resulted in his reassignment to the brigade’s ammunition depot, eventually becoming the non-commissioned officer in charge.
“While I was in Vietnam, I extended to stay in country for one month and seven days because that would give me less than 180 days left on my commitment when I returned to the states,” he said. “If you had less than 180 days when you got back to the U.S., they gave you an early discharge.”
Leaving the U.S. Army in December 1971, he established his own construction company, which he operated for several years. In 1981, he married Helen and the couple raised four daughters. In later years, he was hired by the Missouri Department of Conversation and retired with 31 years of service. In recent years, Siedenburg has remained committed to his faith and has served in many capacities with Immanuel Lutheran Church at Honey Creek. He acknowledges that although many of his fellow veterans who returned from the war experienced issues related to post-traumatic stress, he believes his faith has granted him peace in spite of the trauma he witnessed.
“I lost a close friend, Keith Haney, over in Vietnam,” he bluntly remarked. “There were a lot of good guys killed over there and you didn’t try to make any new friends because you didn’t know how long those people would be around. I believe that being a God-fearing person—knowing that He protected me during so many dangerous situations—factored into me coming home without too many problems. It was through God’s will that I made it back safely.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Much of Van Williamson’s life has been that of travel since past employment has moved him to and from several locations throughout the U.S. But as the California, Missouri, resident related, the pace of such movement is something to which he grew accustomed while storming across Europe with the 20th Armored Division in World War II.
Born and raised in the Kansas City (Missouri) area, Williamson began repairing motor boats at a local marina while still in high school; however, after graduating in 1942, he received a piece of paper notorious for its potential consequences.
“I turned 18 and got my draft notice two weeks later,” said the veteran. “That’s how they did me … they didn’t even give me a chance to enlist,” he chuckled, when describing the beginnings of a three-year military journey.
In March 1943, Williamson donned an Army uniform and traveled to Camp Campbell (now Fort Campbell), Kentucky, to complete his basic training. He went on to attend a gunnery school at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, learning the mechanics and operation of lighter weapons, such as pistols and rifles, in addition to the heavier artillery and anti-tank guns. Later in his training cycle, Williamson explained, the Army recognized the potential value of his previous marina experience and sent him to a military boat repair and maintenance course in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“The Army obviously recognized what I had done in working with boats in Kansas City and knew that I was the person to do that for the Army, too,” he said.
According to Williamson, he received notice that his division would travel to Europe to relieve the men who had been fighting it the Battle of the Bulge since the middle of December 1944. Boarding a troopship in early February 1945, Williamson arrived in Le Havre, France days later, missing the “Bulge” by only a couple of weeks; however, the young soldier did not realize he was only weeks away from participating in another lethal engagement.
“When we got to Laon, France, they began to break us up into whatever we’d be doing—whether you were going to be a tank driver, a mechanic, halftrack operator …,” he said.
Attached to the 220th Armored Engineer Battalion under the 20th Armored Division, Williamson began the move across France and into Belgium as U.S. forces fought toward Germany. Though he recalls several skirmishes along the way, Williamson affirmed that one of the most ingrained of his wartime experiences was the crossing of the Rhine River in April 1945.
“I was on a boat helping push the bridge pieces together so that tanks and other equipment could cross into Germany,” he said. “We got the bridge up—mostly—before the fighting started … but when it did, that was a fight!”
Though his service in a combat environment was punctuated with stressful moments, Williamson noted that there were instances of unanticipated respite from the action, specifically, when they liberated the German army of some precious provisions.
“Sometime after the Rhine, we captured a German train that was carrying beer,” the former soldier grinned. “We took all that we wanted of the beer and drank it while traveling to the next place,” adding, “but I didn’t care much for that stuff … it was a lot different than what I was used to.”
As the division pressed on, they crossed the Danube River on April 28, 1945, and, the following day, became one of three U.S. Army divisions to liberate Dachau concentration camp. According to an article on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website, as American forces approached the camp, they discovered 30 railroad cars filled with corpses of former captives.
“There were a lot of guys that looked half-dead,” Williamson somberly recalled, “… and of course, there were many more that never made it.”
With their liberation duties behind them, the division continued to Salzburg, Germany, and remained in Europe until late July 1945, returning via troopship to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. Following a brief period of leave, Williamson continued in his service with the Army, believing he would soon deploy to the Pacific; but when Japan surrendered in September 1945, he married his fiancée, Betty, since he knew his time in uniform was close to an end. He received his discharge on February 12, 1946 and in later years went to work for the Caterpillar Corporation, which carried him to several locations throughout the United Sates. In 1979, he moved to Mid-Missouri, and now lives in the small community of California.
When asked why memories from his participation in a war now seven decades past appear undiminished by the passage of time, Williamson responded with the insight of a man who has witnessed more than his share of unpleasant situations.
“A lot of people have tried not to remember their service because they want to forget about it,” he paused, “people died … and they don’t want to remember that, but many of us World War II veterans are still here and we have a story to share.” He added: “We did what we were sent to do, to put it simply, and it was an important moment in my life.”
The 96-year-old Williamson passed away on July 26, 2020.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
The War Manpower Commission was established by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt during the early period of World War II. It called for the “elimination of wasteful labor turnover in essential activities … the direction of the flow of scarce labor where most needed in the war program … (and for) the maximum utilization of manpower resources,” explained an article in the October 29, 1943 edition of the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times.
Early in the war it was revealed that many industrial centers in the United States were struggling to provide necessary war materials and products because of a labor pool greatly diminished when thousands of former employees were drafted to serve in the United States military.
“Our country saw fit to locate at Kansas City, the Heart of the Nation, the production of large quantities of the most important munitions of war,” wrote John B. Gage, mayor of Kansas City, in a proclamation dated May 6, 1944. He added, “At the very time when the greatest battles of this war are to be fought—when planes, engines, explosives, landing craft and other vital material of war produced here are most needed, a shortage of workers fully to man the war plants has developed.”
Under the auspices of the War Manpower Commission, Mayor Gage sought to address these labor shortfalls by forming the Citizens War Manpower Committee to aid in supplying an additional 30,0000 workers for local war plants. The mayor called upon Elmer C. Rhoden, president of Fox Midwest Amusement Corporation, to serve as chairman for the local committee.
On May 15, 1944, only a week after the formation of the committee, an “advertising approach” was approved that was designed to “appeal to older men who may fear they are not adequate to the jobs that are open.” The committee also noted, “We must appeal to both men and women who are in non-essential or less-essential jobs and convince them it is their duty to surrender their present security and take up work on the production line in the manufacture of the implements of war.”
The special committee for advertising was headed by W.J. Krebs, of Potts-Turnbull Advertising Company, and comprised of volunteers employed in various Kansas City-area advertising specialties. The committee developed a multifaceted approach that included advertising on Kansas City streetcars and buses, a billboard campaign, notices on water and gas bills of 100,000 residents and brief clips played prior to the showing of films in area theaters.
“The services of the War Housing Centers are available to assist employees of essential industries in finding suitable quarters,” explained the booklet titled “War Workers Guide: Greater Kansas City. “Anyone who has a vacancy can make a real contribution by listing their vacancy with the War Housing Centers ….”
With scores of local men away from home to fight the war, the committee sought to address the concerns of women who might otherwise be willing to fulfill an essential war job but were disinclined from doing so because they had young children for whom to provide care.
“Mothers who feel impelled to take a war job can rest assured their children will be well cared for,” the above-cited booklet explained. “There are 32 child care centers operated by the public school system, which can be expanded to meet future needs.”
A War Jobs Headquarters was opened at 1120 Grand Avenue in Kansas City, where applicants were received, assessed and potentially referred to essential war industries by U.S. Employment Service employees and area war plant representatives. Several recognized companies—such as Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Hercules Powder Company and North American Aviation—opened employment storefronts to receive potential applicants.
In his final report to Mayor John B. Gage on July 31, 1944, Committee Chairman Elmer Rhoden related, “During the period of the Citizens Committee campaign, 90,000 persons responded to the appeal, 60,000 of these were referred to employers, and 30,000 were placed in jobs.”
Rhoden affirmed the committee’s success would not have been possible without assistance from a myriad of partner agencies, noting the majority of the new workers resided in Kansas City thus “proving the claim that the labor supply was available … and the effectiveness of the committee’s campaign.”
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft also acknowledged the assistance provided through a local campaign in helping them maintain production of their Wasp family of aircraft engines, which were used in a number of military aircraft of World War II.
L.C. Mallett, assistant general manager Pratt & Whitney’s local offices, wrote Chairman Rhoden on July 13, 1944, “(T)he members of the (committee) are to be congratulated on their performance. There is no question in our minds that their efforts assisted all war industries in this community and that the results could not have been attained without their assistance.”
Further acknowledging the contributions of others and spotlighting the profound achievements of the committee in supporting the war effort, Chairman Rhoden, in the aforementioned letter to the mayor, calmly stepped away from his voluntary wartime endeavor to return to his employment in the private industry.
“Now that the Citizens War Manpower Committee has completed its task, your chairman feels he can resign his responsibilities with sincere and profound thanks to all those who served with him, and with renewed faith in the belief that the citizens of Kansas City can accomplish anything they set out to do.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
The governor has on many occasions called upon the Missouri National Guard to respond during natural disasters including devastating storms and flooding throughout the state. On other occasions, the state militia was mobilized to provide protection for citizens and property during moments of threatened and actual civil unrest, including a labor strike that occurred in the community of Mindenmines in 1934.
The period of the Great Depression was characterized by high unemployment rates in a number of major industries in the United States. The stress of an economic depression created high levels of tension between management and organized labor with many strikes unfolding in its wake.
“As unemployment soared in the early years of the 1930s, the labor movement seemed helpless, unable to protect jobs let alone wage rates,” noted an article on the University of Washington’s (Seattle) website. The article further explained, “Across the nation, 1934 saw huge organizing campaigns followed by major strikes.”
In southwest Missouri, it was not only friction between labor and management that resulted in disputes, but disagreements between competing types of miners employed in bordering states. This tension led to a militant response by state leaders to protect against threats to company property and employees. As reported by the Emporia Gazette (Emporia, Kansas) on April 30, 1934, the citizens of southwest Missouri were “(w)arned to expect 1,000 trouble-making miners from Pittsburgh, Kan., mining district, possibly bent on destruction of machinery.” In response, the article explained, “… the national guard and state patrolmen were being mobilized at Minden(mines), west of … the Kansas line.”
Located in Barton County, Mindenmines, Missouri, had a population of 787 inhabitants according to the 1930 U.S. Census. However, the area became the hub of sensational news accounts when certain mine workers grew frustrated because of their unemployment.
“Trouble between strip miners and deep shaft miners, both members of the United Mine Workers of America, has been developing for several weeks since the NRA (National Recovery Administration) order for a seven-hour working day and higher wage rates was issued,” wrote the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 30, 1934.
The NRA was an agency established in 1933 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” creating minimum wage standards in addition to setting price controls and maximum weekly hours that employees could work. In 1935, many of the provisions of the NRA were invalidated when ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The strip mines in this field have put the order into effect, and have continued to employ about 2000 miners in Missouri and in the neighboring Kansas field,” explained the aforementioned St. Louis Post-Dispatch article. “Operators of deep shaft mines, contending their higher production costs makes it impossible for them to comply, have shut down, throwing about 2000 miners out of work.”
Rowland Diggs Sr., in his book, The History and Lineage of the 203rd Engineer Battalion, wrote that the problem for the miners was compounded by the contention of coal mine operators that “coal is cheaper in Illinois and elsewhere,” compared to extracted from the deep shaft mines in Kansas and Missouri.
The coal collected through these mining activities was used primarily by companies such as the Missouri Pacific Railroad in powering their locomotives, reported a number of local newspapers. The unemployed deep shaft miners from Kansas, threatening to shut down the strip mining operations and destroy equipment such as huge steam shovels they believed were used to replace them, created enough concern that the Barton County (Missouri) prosecuting attorney and sheriff requested troops to help maintain the peace.
“As a result of this controversy, the peace officers of Barton County asked for the (National) Guard,” wrote Major Leroy Simmons in the book, The History of the Missouri National Guard, which was printed in November 1934.
Several companies, elements of the 203rd Coast Artillery, were mobilized in response, reported the April 30, 1934, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This force consisted of approximately 170 Missouri National Guard soldiers in addition to the dispatch of three airplanes to scout for striking miners in the area. According to the May 1, 1934, edition of the Maryville Daily Forum, “Col. Ray Watson of Webb City commanded the Missouri troops. (He) … stationed most of his (soldiers) at Minden, but placed a few guards, equipped with machine guns and full fighting materials, at the mines of the Alson Coal Company and the Clemens Coal Company, just this side of the Kansas line.”
Maj. Leroy Simmons, in the previously mentioned Missouri National Guard history book, wrote that two batteries were withdrawn after only two days of service and, on May 4, 1934, “the situation had so cleared that it was deemed unnecessary to remain longer, and the rest of the troops were sent to their home stations.”
An amicable compromise was eventually achieved though conferences between mine operators and union officials, and threats to the mine sites in Missouri subsided. However, for several weeks, there were recurrent strikes and labor struggles for those once employed by many of the Kansas mining companies.
The ensuing decades would find the Missouri National Guard maintaining a frenetic pace of activity in supporting their dual state and federal mission, responding to state emergency duty from the riot at the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1954 to the Great Flood of 1993 and, more recently, deployments in the Global War on Terrorism.
As noted in a 2008 report by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, incidents such as those unfolding decades ago near Mindenmines highlight the unique role performed by the National Guard when responding to emergencies.
“The state can … be expected to use its National Guard, which plays a leading role in state emergency response and is commanded by the state’s governor unless federalized.” The report further noted, “The National Guard operating in state status is generally the ‘first military responder’ to domestic incidents.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
While growing up in the Springfield, Missouri area, James “Ed” Smith notes that a friendly rivalry existed between him and a cousin. When he learned that his relative made the decision to sign up to fly helicopters in the U.S. Army, Smith convinced himself that he was not going to be bested.
“I had already completed my solo flight in a fixed-wing aircraft and when I heard of my cousin’s enlistment, I told myself, ‘If he can do it, so can I,’” Smith mirthfully recalled.
At the time, Smith was two years into a four-year apprenticeship with a local company but left his vocational training and enlisted in the U.S. Army in February 1967, two years following his graduation from high school. Days later, he arrived at Ft. Polk, Louisiana to complete several weeks of basic training. He was then transferred to Ft. Wolters, Texas, where he spent the next six months in initial flight training. It was here they learned “avionics, aerodynamics, pre-flight procedures, take-off, landing and navigation,” said the veteran. While at Ft. Wolters, Smith learned to fly the Hiller OH-23 Raven—a primary helicopter trainer.
“I was then given two weeks of leave before reporting to Ft. Rucker, Alabama, in November 1967,” said Smith. “That’s where I spent the next several months learning to fly the UH-1.” (The Bell UH-1 series Iroquois helicopter has a single engine and became known as the “Huey.”)
Although he experienced many memorable moments during his training with the Huey, Smith noted that an incident occuring only days prior to his graduation at Ft. Rucker nearly ended his aviation career—if not his life.
“We had just departed an LZ (landing zone) and were about 300 feet in the air as part of a 6-aircraft formation,” he said. “I was number two in the formation and had engine failure while I was on the controls—it was just me and another student, no instructor, in the helicopter.” He continued, “We finally spotted an open field on a 30-degree slope and I was able to maneuver the Huey to the ground. It was a hard landing and the right skid was downhill parallel to a terrace and other skid above the terrace and the Huey was level when the landing was finished. God provided a good landing spot,” he affirmed. “Any further down hill, there would have been nothing to keep us from rolling over.”
Smith and his co-pilot walked away from the landing unscathed and went on to graduate several days later. A week after graduation, the young warrant officer was on his way overseas, arriving at Camp Evans in central Vietnam in June 1968—a site that had months earlier been taken over by the 1st Cavalry Division.
“I was assigned to Bravo Company, 227th Aviation Battalion and we flew the grunts (infantry soldiers) to wherever they needed to go in Vietnam to fight the North Vientamese,” said Smith. “We also transported the beans and bullets to wherever they were fighting,” he added.
The threats of battle were not limited to below the jungle’s canopy, the pilot soon discovered, and many missions resulted in damage to the Hueys from enemy fire. On one occasion, he explained, his helicopter was struck by eight .50 caliber rounds, one of which nearly severed their tail rotor drive shaft.
It was on February 27, 1969, however, that Smith became involved in a situation that not only highlighted the threats to aircraft in the Vietnam War, but demonstrated the mettle and dedication of the American aviators.
“After lifting off from a mission where we had delivered ammo, we heard a call that a Loach (Hughes OH-6 “Cayuse”—a light, single engine helicopter) had just departed an LZ (landing zone) and was shot down,” recalled Smith. “Evening was approaching and I looked around the area and saw them going down, so I set the Huey down near them and picked up the pilot and co-pilot of the downed helicopter.” He added, “They would have been on the ground overnight, which really put them in a dangerous situation,” Smith said. “For that, I was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.”
Returning from Vietnam in the summer of 1969, Smith became a helicopter instructor pilot at Ft. Wolters, Texas for the remainder of his enlistment. In 1970, he married Linda, whom he met while serving in Texas and months later received his discharge from the Army.
The Vietnam veteran was later hired full-time by the Missouri National Guard, serving more that 30 years until retiring as a Chief Warrant Offcier Five in early 2007. While with the National Guard, he qualified on a number of aircraft to include the UH-60A Black Hawk and C-12F Huron, in addition to accruing 10,648.9 flight hours. The recipient of 43 air medals from his Vietnam service, Smith also deployed to Iraq for a year prior to his retirement, where he served as a liaison between his aviation unit in Kuwait and the brigade in Balad, Iraq, for whom they provided maintenance and aviation support.
Now several years into retirement and with an extensive military career to his credit, the veteran maintains that his service as a warrant officer has provided many opportunities throughout the years.
“I enjoyed being a warrant officer because, although I didn’t want to go to school to be a captain or major, it gave me the chance to maintain my association with aviation and to fly many different types of aircraft.”
Shifting his thoughts back to his intense flight experience in Vietnam, Smith concluded, “If you flew helicopters in the Army during that time-frame (the late 1960s), you were going to Vietnam.” He added, “And you didn’t go out on a mission and say, ‘Today I’m going to rescue somebody’—that’s not the way it happened because you never knew what each day would bring.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
“An honorable man, a noted physician, a true friend, a devoted father”—words of reverence inscribed many decades ago upon the tombstone of the late Dr. Isaac Newton Enloe. A venerated and admired man of science in the Mid-Missouri area, he was, however, also besieged by deep internal suffering and never recovered emotionally or physically from the devastating loss of a young son in World War I.
Born April 29, 1860, and raised in a large family on a farm southeast of California in Moniteau County, Enloe received his early education at local schools. As a young boy, he was exposed to the dangers of war. He watched as his older brother, James Enloe, served as captain for a company of Union soldiers who defended the Jefferson City area when Gen. Sterling Price’s troops passed through the area October 1864. In the years after the Civil War, Enloe continued his pursuit of higher education, eventually becoming a student at the nearby Clarksburg Select School, which was established in 1876 and was later renamed the Hooper Institute.
“He graduated from the Missouri Medical College of St. Louis, in the class of 1883, locating in St. Thomas, Cole, County, Mo., where he engaged successfully in the practice of his profession until 1889, when he disposed of his property and practice to his (older) brother, Dr. John S. Enloe,” noted “The Book of Missourians” published in 1906.
The late 1880s and 1890s were a frenetic period for the maturing physician since he completed a post-graduate medical course in New York and later relocated his medical practice to Jefferson City in 1890. In both 1888 and 1894, he attempted to dabble in politics but was in both years narrowly defeated as the Republican nominee for representative of Cole County. While practicing medicine in St. Thomas years earlier, Dr. Isaac Enloe married the former Rebecca J. Short on October 18, 1886. The aforementioned book explained, “To this union have been born seven children: Loyce, Ada, David and Justin are attending public schools of Jefferson City; Robert and Roscoe (twins), bright boys; the other child, John, died in infancy.”
The heart wrenching loss of his infant son in 1898 notwithstanding, he spent the next few years watching his other children grow while maintaining a thriving practice at 104 West High Street in Jefferson City. He supplemented his impressive resume by serving many years as president of the Pension Board of Examining Surgeons, nine years on the Board of Education for Jefferson City and as county coroner.
A second devastating and unexpected loss came to Dr. Enloe when his spouse of 21 years died on February 28, 1908 when only 45 years of age. To help deal with the stress of her passing, Dr. Enloe again immersed himself in his work; however, sadness would again prevail upon his circumstances a few years later.
“At the time of the World War (Dr. L. David Enloe, eldest son of Dr. Isaac N. Enloe), enlisted and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Medical Corps in December 1917,” noted Walter B. Stevens in his book “Centennial History of Missouri” published in 1921. Stevens added, Dr. L. David Enloe trained in the United States and “went overseas on the 1st of September, 1918, landing at Liverpool England. He thence proceeded to Southampton and crossed the channel to Le Havre, France, being stationed at Base Hospital, No. 76, at Vichy, France, until the armistice was signed.”
Dr. Enloe certainly possessed an undercurrent of pride in his eldest son’s achievements, since the young man not only followed his example by becoming a doctor, but blazed his own path in serving his nation during a time of war by caring for those wounded in combat.
World War I also drew his twin sons, Roscoe and Robert, into military service. Drafted in 1917, both men went on to serve in combat in France with a federalized Missouri National Guard company. Sadly, a 23-year-old Roscoe died on September 30, 1918, hours after he was shot through the right lung by a German machine gunner during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
The grieving father never received the closure that comes with a funeral since his young Roscoe was laid to rest in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Lorraine, France, alongside more than 14,000 of his fellow military deceased.
Several of the soldiers with whom Roscoe Enloe had served during the war were from the Jefferson City area and, when establishing American Legion Post 5 in June 1919, named the post in honor of their fallen comrade.
His eldest son, L. David, returned safely to Missouri after serving in France, later marrying and enjoying a lengthy career in the medical profession in Jefferson City. Robert, having witnessed the death of his twin brother in combat, received his discharge in 1919 and returned to his native Jefferson City, although he died tragically ten years later from an accidental gunshot wound.
Though he had invested years of his life to provide for the health of an untold number of patients, the succession of death witnessed by Dr. Isaac Enloe finally took its toll with the loss of his son Roscoe becoming the emotional tipping point. The respected physician died February 15, 1921, at the age of sixty and was laid to rest alongside his wife in Enloe Cemetery near Russellville.
The death certificate, signed by Dr. Enloe’s son, L. David, lists defined medical ailments as the reason for his death, but prevailing opinions emerged noting the cause of death as something more emotional in nature.
“Grief over the loss of his son, killed in the world war, is believed to have caused the death of Dr. Isaac N. Enloe ...,” reported the February 24, 1921 edition of the Butler Weekly Times and Bates County record. “(He) suffered a general breakdown shortly after the death of his son, from which he did not recover.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Deterrent to Soviet aggression - Cold War veteran shares story of working with the massive B-36 Peacemaker
The service of all veterans is deserving of remembrance and recognition but the contributions of Cold War veterans, who served as a deterrent to Soviet threats in decades past, often goes unrecognized. One local veteran wants to ensure that not only are those with whom he served remembered for their service in times of relative peace, but that the role played by an iconic Cold War bomber is never forgotten.
Raised in a small town in Iowa, Henry Dahl and a friend learned that the G.I. Bill of Rights was set to expire on January 31, 1955, and decided they should hurry and enlist in the Air Force so they could qualify for some educational benefits.
“I settled on the Air Force because I was interested in mechanics and wanted to learn about aircraft,” Dahl recalled. “But when we got to Omaha to swear in, there were so many people there with the same idea, they delayed our induction until February 3, which meant we wouldn’t qualify for the GI Bill.”
The Air Force explained they could back out of their enlistment because of the delay, but Dahl chose to pursue the military career path and was soon on his way to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for his basic training. From there, he traveled to Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois in early April 1955, to begin several weeks of training on reciprocating engines.
The veteran explained, “I was there for about six months and we learned the theory of engine operation and how to tear down rebuild, install and operate B-29 (Superfortress) engines.”
The airman was then transferred to his first duty assignment at the newly established Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, where he remained for the next several months maintaining the engines on the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter, a refueling aircraft. In the early weeks of 1956, he returned to Iowa for a short period of leave before reporting to his next and final duty assignment at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico. Upon arrival, Dahl noted, he was assigned to the maintenance crew of the Convair B-36 Peacemaker—a strategic bomber with six reciprocating engines and four jet engines.
“The plane was the predecessor to the B-52, which became widely known because it is still used by the Air Force,” said Dahl. “The B-36 had a wingspan of 230 feet, was 162 feet long and held 32,000 gallons of fuel … just to give you an idea of how massive it was.”
An article by Daniel Ford appearing in the April 1996 edition of Air & Space Museum magazine noted, “Each airplane had 336 spark plugs, and after a flight lasting a day and a half, a mechanic would have to haul a bucket of replacement plugs to the airplane to service all six engines.”
The serial number for Dahl’s aircraft was “711,” and he remained with the same plane for the duration of his time in Puerto Rico. The veteran mirthfully recalled that the aircraft shook so intensely when idling on the ground that it was nicknamed it “Ol’ Shaky,” and Dahl was granted permission to paint it’s new nickname on its nose. He added, “Our job, as part of the maintenance crew, was to keep the aircraft on flying status, ready to go. We were part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and there was a B-36 in the air at all times in the region of Puerto Rico as part of SACs strategic bombing mission.”
Early in his assignment, Dahl added, the B-36s were equipped with conventional bombs; however, the aircraft were later updated to carry and deploy the significantly more destructive hydrogen bombs, the latter of which weighed 43,000 pounds each.
The former airman went on to explain that one of the most intense experiences of his Air Force career came with the looming threat of destruction from Hurricane Betsy, which approached Puerto Rico in August 1956.
“We knew it was coming, but like most hurricanes, it came early and we had just enough time to get to the plane off the ground during the calm of the eye of the storm,” he said. “I had only the clothes on my back and a couple of bucks in my wallet, and we stayed the next week at Biggs Air Force Base (Texas) before returning to Ramey.”
Dahl recalled that although there was much destruction across areas of the island, Ramey Air Force Base fared comparatively well since many of the structures on base were built out of concrete. He remained in Puerto Rico until late August 1958, departing the base during the time the B-36s were being phased-out and replaced with the newer B-52s. Following his discharge, Dahl traveled to St. Louis to attend Bailey Technical School, earning several certifications.
As the years passed, Dahl married his fiancée, Dona, and they have since raised two sons. His military experiences and subsequent education later led to his being hired by Central Electric Power Cooperative in Jefferson City, Missouri, with whom he went on to retire as their telecommunications director after 42 years of employment.
The veteran’s personal Cold War experiences, though bursting with interesting circumstances and stories, is not the focus of his recollections; instead, Dahl affirms, he is dedicated to ensuring the role fulfilled by the aircraft he supported years ago is never forgotten.
“That’s my main objective and interest—preserving the legacy of the B-36,” he stated. “It has become a relatively unknown aircraft because of the B-52, but I want the public to understand the critical role it served as a deterrent to Soviet aggression during the height of the Cold War.”
He added, “The B-36 was labeled the ‘Peacemaker’ because it never had to fire a weapon or drop a bomb in a time of war. It was my pleasure to have had the opportunity to work on and around the aircraft, and I want to share its story while I’m still around to furnish the information.”
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
‘Foundation you’ve built’ - Col. Mark Randazzo began career as enlisted soldier in 1035th Maintenance Company
For eighteen years, the late Mark Randazzo was associated with the 1035th Maintenance Company, accompanying them on their relocation from Jefferson City to Jefferson Barracks in 1995. He came of age with the unit, beginning his military career as a young enlisted soldier and later attended Officer Candidate School followed by a promotion to company commander.
“The 1035th was always home for him because he was so young and impressionable when he joined the company,” said Lisa Randazzo, the late veteran’s wife. “He served with so many wonderful people that were good mentors for him.”
Born in St. Louis and later growing up near Eugene, Randazzo attended Our Lady of the Snows Elementary School in Mary’s Home and went on to graduate from Helias Catholic High School in 1981. Between his junior and senior year, he made the decision to enlist in the Missouri National Guard and began drilling as an enlisted soldier with the 1035th Maintenance Company, which was at the time located at the former National Guard headquarters complex on Industrial Drive in Jefferson City. Through some encouragement, he enrolled at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg (now University of Central Missouri) following his graduation from high school.
“Attendance at both Helias and Central Missouri State were not my idea, but I sure am glad my parents pushed me and made me do it,” said Randazzo during a 2006 presentation to the Missouri Retired Teachers Association.
Graduating with a degree in aviation technology in 1986, the young soldier acquired full-time employment as a mechanic with the maintenance shop at the Missouri National Guard headquarters. A few years later, he was encouraged to apply for Officer Candidate School (OCS).
“We were married on September 16, 1989, a month or so after he graduated from OCS,” said Lisa Randazzo. “He continued working full-time at the maintenance shop and, in March 1991, was commissioned as a second lieutenant while continuing to drill with the 1035th.”
Having invested 10 years as an enlisted soldier and mechanic with the 1035th, the next several years were a progression of assignments for the officer that included service as detachment commander, maintenance control officer and, following the company’s move to Jefferson Barracks, appointment as company commander on August 24, 1995. When completing his command in June 1998, he received a grand farewell at a ceremony during which he was presented a guidon (flag) from the soldiers of the 1035th in addition to a plaque that read, in part, “Your professionalism, dedication, guidance and friendship as a soldier … and commander have gotten us where we are. Our future successes will be based upon the foundation you’ve built.”
His part-time military duties led to an appointment as executive officer for the 835th Corps Support Battalion, with whom he deployed to Iraq from December 2003 to January 2005.
Acknowledging the sacrifices made by his wife, Randazzo stated in the aforementioned presentation to the Missouri Retired Teachers Association, “During the 13 months I was gone (to Iraq), I missed quite a bit: my wife built a house, sold our old house and had a baby (their youngest son, Michael) the day I convoyed from Kuwait to Iraq.”
In his full-time capacity, Randazzo’s career advanced with assignments that included a tour with National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, assignment as the Surface Maintenance Manager and eventually as the Director of Logistics for the Missouri Army National Guard. In 2000, he became a major followed by promotion to lieutenant colonel in 2006.
Sadly, the revered 48-year-old officer passed away unexpectedly in 2011, leaving behind his wife and two young sons. At the time of his passing, he had compiled an impressive resume with more than 31 years of military service and was posthumously promoted to colonel.
“When Mark died, we were trying to decide where he should be buried,” said Lisa. “I found a red deployment booklet that he had written inside that if something should happen to him, he wished to be buried in a federal cemetery.”
Following discussions with the funeral home, she learned that no new burials were being made in the Jefferson City National Cemetery, but when the other federal cemeteries in Missouri were mentioned, she immediately found her answer.
“They said Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery was open to burials, and I knew that is where he would have wanted to be,” she said. “He served with the 1035th at Jefferson Barracks for all those years, speaking about how he loved the area and could gaze upon the cemetery from his office there.”
With a military career composed of a medley of fascinating experiences and resulting in the award of such prestigious medals as the Legion of Merit and a Bronze Star, it was his time with the 1035th Maintenance Company that remained the most influential, his wife affirmed.
“He was so young when he enlisted and the mechanics in the 1035th were much older than him and could have been his father,” she said. “You can grow up in an organization like that and it certainly made a lasting impression on him.”
Joseph, the oldest of the veteran's two sons, explained that he and his brother were quite young when their father passed away, but hearing stories about his service helps provide them with insight into the impact he made during his career.
“What’s most important to us is when people speak well of our father and share with us the good memories they have of him,” said Joseph. “We appreciate hearing about the positive influence he was in the lives of others.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
As a young man, Bill Farr pursued an interest in public service by volunteering as a firefighter in a rural district and later became a reserve police officer in small community. This was followed by appointment as state fire marshal for Missouri and more recently as director of Cole County Emergency Management. These were opportunities, he explained, that progressed from initial inspiration he received when just a young soldier in the U.S. Army.
When graduating from high school in Springfield, Missouri, in 1968, Farr began working for a local automotive parts supply company, gaining practical work experience that would unexpectedly shape the direction of his approaching military service.
“It was pretty evident with the Vietnam War going on that I was going to be drafted at some point,” said Farr. “So, in the end, I made the decision to go ahead and volunteer for the draft,” he added.
Inducted in Kansas City in October 1969, he was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to undergo his basic training to become a soldier in the U.S. Army. For the next several weeks, he endured the regimen of many a fellow soldier by participating in “forced marches” and field exercises that introduced the trainees to the vexing bites of the notorious sand fleas.
“Since I had worked in a supply capacity with the automotive parts company back home, they made me a 76 ‘Yankee’ (76Y is a former U.S. Army designation for supply specialists). It was a situation where I didn’t have to complete any further training, they just assigned me that specialty.”
Presuming he was destined for deployment to Vietnam, Farr was sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington, in late January 1970 to await his next set of orders. A week following his arrival, a sergeant came into the barracks where he was staying and read a list of names, which happened to include Farr’s.
“The sergeant told us to go down to supply and draw some Arctic gear because we were being sent to Fairbanks, Alaska,” he recalled. “It was decent weather when we left Seattle, but when we arrived in Fairbanks two or three days later, it was pitch black, minus forty degrees and waist-deep snow.”
Upon his arrival in Fairbanks, he was detailed to the supply section of Company A, 171st Infantry Brigade stationed at Fort Wainwright. Initially established as an airfield by the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1939, the fort has since become a testing site in the development of cold weather gear and equipment, and is also home to the Northern Warfare Training Center. An important role of the brigade, Farr noted, was the maintenance, security and operation of Nike Hercules missile sites situated along the Alaskan mountain ranges, providing a network of Cold War air defenses against the potential threat of attack by Soviet aircraft.
Farr explained, “It was just the supply sergeant and myself in my section and, looking back, it was pretty good duty. We had medics, office support staff, vehicle maintenance personnel and infantry in the company and we operated the supply room that supported all of them.”
In addition to his regular duties supporting the logistical needs of the company, the brigade conducted frequent war games with their counterparts in the Canadian military. The soldiers also participated in such exercises as snowshoe training, learning to perform their duties in an operational cold-weather environment.
“Summers were beautiful but the winters were tragic,” he chuckled when reflecting on his military experiences. “One time, we had a blizzard and there were some soldiers that had gone to town but couldn’t get back to post for three or four days. The snow was piled higher than the street signs.”
While stationed in Alaska, Farr transitioned from the company level to supply positions in both the battalion and brigade, eventually becoming an acting sergeant. In July 1971, he was provided an early discharge to returned home to begin vocational training. In the years following his return to Springfield, the veteran married, became father to two children, and embarked upon a continued career in public service by becoming a volunteer firefighter. Elected fire chief of his rural department in 1976, he later acquired law enforcement certification and became a reserve officer for the community of Republic, Missouri.
“I was hired as the first full-time fire chief of Republic in 1983,” Farr said. Three years later, I was hired by the state fire marshal to oversee the investigation of fires in 26 counties in southwest Missouri.”
In 1994, Farr moved to Jefferson City to accept a deputy chief position with the state fire marshal. The next year, after the unexpected death of the state fire marshal, he was appointed to the position by then-Gov. Mel Carnahan. Retiring in 2005, he was hired as director of Cole County Emergency Management in 2008, remaining in the position until retiring earlier this year.
When contemplating his many years invested in public service, Farr remarked of his U.S. Army experience, “It was a scary time in a young person’s life, especially with everything going on with the Vietnam War. But, I felt that I had a responsibility and the good Lord decided to send me to Alaska.”
“The Army gave me experiences I will never give up and important lessons I have always cherished … like helping others, which is something I have enjoyed doing my entire life.”
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Blees Military Academy - Historic complex highlights story of former soldier, teacher, and entrepreneur
Established by Colonel Frederick Blees in 1899, the Blees Military Academy closed shortly after the unexpected death of its namesake in 1906. The main academic hall now serves as a senior residential facility and the annex (smaller building on the right) is the Macon County Historical Society Museum.
When traveling north along U.S. 63, motorists pass by a massive complex just south of Macon, Missouri, that was constructed more than a century ago and is described in the inventory of the National Register of Historic Places as a “variant of the Romanesque Revival style.” Once home to a renowned military academy, the remaining structures on the property serve as an enduring testament to the lofty dreams of its namesake, Frederick Wilhelm Victor Blees.
“Colonel Blees was born in Prussia (now Germany) in 1860, said Mardine White, a volunteer with the Macon County Historial Society. “
As White explained, Blees was well educated and became a second lieutenant in the Prussian Army but then moved to the United States in 1881, becoming a naturalized citizen later the same year. While working as a teacher, he met and married Mary Virginia Staples in 1886. The former German officer received his first exposure to the structure of American military academies when he was appointed as commandant of cadets at Griswold College in Davenport, Iowa, in 1890.While in Iowa, Blees progressed through the military ranks after joining the Iowa National Guard, and, as noted in the 1891 Report of the Adjutant-General to the Govenor of Iowa, was appointed a lieutenant colonel by Gov. Horace Boies.
Attaining the rank of colonel, in 1892 he accepted headmaster-ship of St. James Military Academy at Macon, Missouri, which, as his obituary shows, “he conducted with marked success, making it one of the flourishing institutions in the state.”
An article in the September 15, 1906 edition of the Macon Republican explained that following the death of his father in 1896, Blees closed the St. James Military Academy and returned to Germany, promising the citizens of Macon, “When matters across the water are straightened out, I’ll return and build you the finest military academy in the west.”
Blees inherited an estate worth millions from his father and returned to Macon, quickly using his newfound fortunes to not only fulfill a promise, but to help advance the community he now called home.
“Colonel Blees helped fund several public projects such as the construction of sewer systems and paving of streets in Macon,” said White, recalling some of the research conducted on Blees’ life by the local historical society.
At a well-attended ceremony held on June 17, 1899, the cornerstone was laid for the new Blees Military Academy. During the ceremony, a copper box was placed inside the cornerstone containing a copy of the program for the exercises, copies of local newspapers, an old St. James Bible and prayer book in addition to photographs of Blees, his family and those associated with the dedication and construction of the academy. The academy initially consisted of a large brick academic hall (measuring 224 feet long by 88 feet wide) and an adjacent heating facility. A smaller annex building situated to the right of the academic hall was built in 1900, serving as the school’s gymnasium and containing an indoor running track, shooting gallery and swimming pool.
“I’ve heard claims that the building (academic hall) went up in seven months; it was worked on 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said White. “Another interesting thing about the building,” she added, “is that it was essentially fireproof …even his desk was made of metal.”
Newspaper and historical accounts paint a picture of a school that soon acquired a superb reputation throughout the Midwest; however, the training of young men in academics and a military lifestyle did not remain the sole focus of Blees’ efforts since he also chose to pursue certain entrepreneurial endeavors. According to the Macon County Historical Society, Blees helped establish many enterprises such as the Macon Shear Company, Macon Citizen Printing Company, Jefferson Hotel, Blees Theater and the Blees-McVicker Carriage Company. He also purchased the first electric automobile made by Studebaker in 1902. (The second such vehicle was purchased by inventor Thomas Edison.)
Despite any appearances of budding success, it was only a few years later that the storied life of one of Macon’s most renowned citizens plummeted to an untimely closing. On September 8, 1906, Blees died from heart disease in a hotel room while on a trip to St. Louis. His body was returned to Macon and buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
“The death of Col. Blees will not interfere in any way with the operations of the institutions in which he has been connected,” noted the Macon Times-Democrat on September 13, 1908. “The Blees Military Academy will open on Wednesday, September 19, and will have its usual quota of students.”
The academy continued to operate under the guidance of Blees’ widow for three years until eventually going bankrupt, thus necessitating its closing in 1909. The property sat vacant until 1915, when it was purchased for the Still-Hildreth Osteopathic Sanatorium, which remained in operation until 1968. The academic hall underwent renovation in the 1980s and is now a senior residential facility. For many years, the building housing the academy’s gymnasium was used as an armory by the National Guard but has since become the museum and home for the Macon County Historical Society.
More than a century now separates the people of Macon from the life of a fascinating man who clung to lofty dreams and visions, but the legacy Blees left behind is neither trivial nor forgotten; instead, it bursts forth with renewed vigor thanks to the dedication of a small group of volunteers.
“Blees is certainly a large part our county’s history,” said White. “Our historical society—which is run entirely by volunteers—enjoys being able to share the story of his life with others.” She added, “And if you can get through to one or two young minds, to share with them the impact and influence of citizens such as Blees, then everything that we do here is certainly worth the effort.”
For more information on the Macon County Historical Society and Museum, please visit www.maconcountyhistoricalsociety.com.
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.