Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Lieutenant Lippincott's Canteen: A Christmas Reunion

Lt. Wallace Lippincott Jr.'s canteen

"By the way."
I was on the phone with Vern Schmidt, a World War II veteran who lives in Fresno, California, for about a half-hour a couple of weeks ago and was about to hang up when he said "By the way."
By the way, what?
By the way, Vern said, on his last visit to Europe, his friend Norbert Morbe, who lives in Luxembourg and is an avid collector of World War II artifacts, gave him a canteen. The canteen had a name scratched onto it, "Lt. Wal. Lippincott, 712 Tank Bn.," along with a serial number and what appears to be the word "Sauer Kraut." Norbert knew that Lt. Wallace Lippincott Jr. was killed in the Battle of the Bulge, and asked Vern to try and locate his family so the canteen could be returned. Vern had no luck searching the Internet. Did I know of a way of contacting the family?
Fifteen years ago I tried to locate Lieutenant Lippincott's family. I found a record of a donation made in his memory to the University of Delaware by his widow, who remarried and had a different last name. At the time I contacted the university's alumni association, they contacted the widow and she sent me a photo which I've since misplaced. I've long since lost touch with her.
By the way, did I mention I'm an email pack rat? Five years later Ted Nobles contacted me and said he was Lieutenant Lippincott's great-nephew and was working on a family genealogy. I sent him copies of some of the interviews I did with veterans of Lippincott's platoon. But Ted had moved and changed his email since then. Then I found him on Facebook.
I put Ted in touch with Vern, they had a long talk, and Ted said he was thrilled about the discovery. Vern sent him the canteen, and Ted planned to surprise his family with it on Christmas Day.
From left, Ted Nobles, Michelle Nobles Rutter, Lt. Lippincott's great-niece, and her son Oliver.
This photo arrived on Christmas Day, along with a note from Lieutenant Lippincott's great-niece.
The photo shows "my brother Ted, myself and my younger son Oliver," she wrote. "I am the first child born unto our mother Martha Wallace Zeallor who was the niece of Wallace Jr. My brother Ted is the second child . Martha Wallace Lippincott was my grandmother and only sister to Wallace Jr. As you know our mother and grandmother have passed and this gift is so appreciated. I was just talking about Wallace last night and then my brother shows up at my house to give me the news about the canteen. I got goose bumps and it was a great feeling to have glided my fingers across the etching of his name he engraved himself in the battle. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
 Now look at who's getting goose bumps.
 Incidentally, my father and Lieutenant Lippincott were both replacements in A Company of the 712th Tank Battalion, and although they never met, they had a connection. My dad, Lt. Maurice Elson, joined the 712th in Normandy. He told his sergeant, Jule Braatz, that he trained as an infantry officer and knew little about tanks but it showed up on his "MOS," or service qualifications, because he attended a tank demonstration. Braatz gave my father a tour of the tank and told him to be careful getting down. My dad jumped off the tank, twisted his ankle, and wound up in an aid station. His platoon was sent on a mission without him.
The next day he hitched a ride to the front in the bog, or bow gunner's seat, of a tank in another platoon. When the platoon stopped, he got out of the tank and was wounded by shrapnel.
Braatz told me this story at the first reunion I attended, in 1987. He said the story was second hand because the driver my father hitched a ride with, Quentin "Pine Valley" Bynum, was later killed.
Lieutenant Lippincott joined the battalion a couple of weeks before the Battle of the Bulge. His driver the day he was killed was Pine Valley Bynum. Bynum and the tank's loader, Pfc. Frank Shagonabe, also were killed.
Two of the tank's crew members escaped unscathed, physically at least. Roy R. La Pish, whose nickname was Frenchie, of Pottstown, Pa., stayed in the Army after the war. His name can be found on the Vietnam Wall. For Hilton Chiasson of Thibodeau, La., that was the fifth tank he had knocked out, according to Phil Eckhart, another member of the platoon. Chiasson was so shaken that he was relieved of having to serve in a tank. One day I tried to look him up and I reached his widow, who said in a thick Cajun accent that her husband never spoke about the war.
Shagonabe was a Native American from northern Michigan. In an event eerily similar to the return of the canteen to Lippincott's family, an article appeared in the Muskegon Chronicle a few years ago. It told how Shagonabe's effects were sent to his employer because no family member could be found, but eventually someone was able to locate Shagonabe's half-brother. The article had wonderful photos of the reunion. The half-brother, Harlin Shagonabe, has since passed away.

Lt. Wallace Lippincott on the left in the lead tank, Bavigne, Luxembourg, going up into the Battle of the Bulge, a few days before he was killed. This tank was knocked out two days before he was killed. Lippincott was awarded the Silver Star for returning to the tank and putting out the fire. He was killed on Jan. 14, 1945, in Sonlez, Luxembourg.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

'England will have her neck wrung like a chicken'

December 29, 1941

  "When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, 'In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.' Some chicken! Some neck!" — Winston Churchill, Ottawa, Dec. 30, 1941

   More from the diary of the Rev. Edmund Randolph Laine of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Stockbridge, Mass. For previous entries:

December 22-December 28, 1941

December 15-December 21, 1941

December 8-December 14, 1941

December 1-December 7, 1941

December 29, 1941

 December 29, 1941: (Monday) Cold, gray - snowed in night. Up 11:25, shaved (News - noon). Nose hurts. Bp. Lawrence phoned - 12:45. 1:25 to Bank, then to Lenox (Bank & Library) - back 2:35. Made up some accounts. 3:15 - to Library, Rec'd bill from Mr. Stansky for lighting on(?) street tree - phoned Mr. Dwight about it. Phoned Mrs. Davidson. Wrote note of thanks to Mrs. Herzog for calendar. 6 - News. Eve. - E to First Aid Class. Grown very cold - read in Davis' "First Republic." 9 - Rev. J.W. Cooper of Adams phoned. Wrote letter to Bp. Lawrence at his request - to P.O. with it. Read "Times." 10 - RaymondGram Swing. 11 - News. 

December 30, 1941
December 30, 1941: (Tuesday) Very cold, sunny. Up noon. Radio News. Shaved. 2:15 to Bank, then to Pittsfield (left watch to be fixed at Whitings', to Library) - back 4. Mrs. Dixson in soliciting for special Red Cross fund. 4:45 - Mrs. Kimberly called to arrange baptism & to give instructions about Air Raids. 5:10 - to tea with Mrs. Hiss at Mrs. Tracy's - Fr. Finn there - walked home with him - 6 D. Braman in. Miss F home, E. in P.H. [parish house] working on Laurel Hill acc'ts. 9 - Quincy Howe, read "Times." 9:30 - "Fibber McGee" 10 - Raymond Gram Swing. Had nuts & oranges. 11 - News. 11:20 - transcription of speech of WinstonChurchill at Ottawa, Can.
December 31, 1941

December 31, 1941: (Wednesday) Very cold, sunny. Up 11:30. Mrs. Kimberly phoned changing hour of baptism on Jan. 6. Had creamed corn beef for breakfast. Cleaned desk & put new blotter in pad - did some cleaning in Study & rearranged some books. Made up some acc'ts. Read "Times" & "Eagle". Picked out hymns for to-morrow. 6 - News. Eve. - E. back to Bank after supper. 7:15 - Arthur Hale. Made up yearly household accounts. 8:30 - David Braman & waited for E. - he sat in Study and talked to me till 10. E. back 10:20. 10:40 - E. & D. Braman to midnight show. 11 - News. Wrote outline of talk for Sunrise Prayer Meeting. 11:30 - shower bath.

January 1, 1942

January 1, 1942: (Thursday) Cold, gray. Up 6:30, shaved. Coffee 7:40. 8 - Sunrise Prayer Meeting at Cong. Church - C.M. took me - 18 present - spoke on (?) - back 8:05. Breakfast 9:25. Mr. (?) called while I was eating - did not see him. He called 10 - saw him (about Red Cross). Wrote outline of morning sermon. 11 - Holy Com. - service for National Day of Prayer - large cong. - read President Roosevelt'sproclamation  - spoke on "For God & Country" (27 min.) - long talk with Shaun Kelly Jr. afterward. Dinner of turkey & champagne. Very gray. Mrs. Davidson in for press notes. Miss F. home - 6:15. Read "Times" & "Eagle" in Study. E. came & read "Eagle" there too. Snowing. 6 - News. Eve. (?) to Church to look for stop watch - found it in my room. 7 - "Amos &Andy" 88 - Fanny Brice. Iceland, Singapore, London, Washington. Read about (?) war. 11 - News. 

January 2, 1942
 January 2, 1942: (Friday) Very warm, breezy, sunny. 9 - rained very hard. Up 11, shaved. Radio News. Miss Tracy called (did not see her). Miss Adams phoned. C.M. dismantled Christmas tree on lawn. 1:30 to Bank. C.M. paid church taxes. 2 - Miss Tracy called. 2:30 - to West Stockbridge to Rev'd. F.S. Eastman's - bot medals & pictures for Sunday School - back 3:45. Growing colder. To see Miss Adams about Women's Auxiliary election - back 5:15. Then to see Miss Canning about being Pres. of Aux. - back 6:15. Eve. - E. to Air Raid Watch. 7:15 - News from London, Borneo & Washington. Wrote & sent list to a Mr. Bedinger (?) Grand Central Station. Wrote letter to R. Procter (sent him Mr. de Gersdorf) (?) 9 - Quincy Howe. To Post Office. Read "Times." 11 - News.

January 3, 1942
 Jan. 3, 1942: (Saturday) Cold, sunny. Up noon. Letter from Bp. E. brot me (?) Bank. 2 - "L' Elisir D'Amore" from Met. Opera. Read "Times" & "Eagle." E. called on Miss Canning. Rested in chair in Study in twilight.l Grown very cold. 6 - News. Phoned Mrs. Barnes about Galahad Supper - Jan. 14. E. to see Miss Adelaide Miller at Miss Canning's. 4:45 - H.W. Kaltenborn. Wrote 2 letters (Bp. Lawrence & Miss Young). Worked on sermon - picked out hymns. 9:30 - Rochester Civic Orchestra. 9:45 - to Post Office - saw Fr. Finn on way back. Ate orange & 2 tangerines. 11 - News. Shower bath.

January 4, 1942

Jan. 4, 1942: (Christmas 2) Snowing, snowed in night too. Up 7:35, shaved. 9:15 - South Lee -- "Epiphany" - back 9:55. 10 - Sunday School, gave out new pins & medals - back 10:30. 11 - Stockbridge - Rev. F.S. Eastman was celebrant, preached on "Year of Our Lord" (15 mins). Turkey for lunch. Took wreath off of front door. E. read "Maltese Falcon" in Study. Read "Times." Dozed in chair while listening to "The Magic Flute." E. out with D. Braman. 5 - Met. Opera auditions. Lights went out for 10 min. 5:45 - W. L. Shirer. 6 - News. Began to read "The Maltese Falcon." 8 - Lloyd Conley called - told me of his marriage - went 8:55. 9 - Ford Hour. Had chicken sandwiches & oranges. E. brot me Schick razor.

- - -

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

December 22-28, 1941, Reverend Laine's diary

Rise Stevens

   Before there was Twitter, before there were bloggers, before there was the Internet even, there was the diary of the Rev. Edmund Randolph Laine of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Stockbridge, Mass, a minister who was born to tweet. Heck, "Mrs. Cooper came about lighting of Christmas tree on lawn." "E. to Air Raid School." 7 - "Amos & Andy." Less than twenty words and you've got three Facebook status updates right there.
   More than a decade ago I photocopied the minister's diary for the period from 1941 to 1945 after visiting the Stockbridge Library history room to see what Laine wrote the day Ed Forrest was killed. Laine raised Ed in the rectory of St. Paul's from the time he was 14. Ed and my father, 2nd Lt. Maurice Elson, knew each other in combat with the 712th Tank Battalion, and my father often spoke of Ed. My dad was wounded on Dec. 10, 1944 and didn't return to the battalion. Ed was killed on April 3, 1945.
   After speaking at the Stockbridge Library this month about Ed Forrest and my book "The Armored Fist," I found there was great interest in Laine's diary among the audience, so I decided to revisit it, and now from time to time I'll be posting a week's worth of entries. Forgive the question marks where I was unable to decipher his handwriting, and the occasional misspelling of a name or outright mistake.
   If you'd like to start at the beginning -- I began posting diary entries from December 1, 1941 -- you can see them here.

Dec. 1-7, 1941
Dec. 8-15, 1941
Dec. 15-22, 1941

December 22, 1941
Dec. 22: (Monday) (Shortest day of Year) (Pres. signed new draft bill to-day) Very cold, sunny. Up 10:50. 11 - News. Ans. some responses. Read "Times." 2 - Mrs. Merwin & Mrs. Cooper came about lighting of Christmas tree on lawn. Letter from Mrs. Clapper about Carlyn. Read "Eagle" & in "Times." Wrote some answers. Box of fruit received from Mr. & Mrs. Parsons from Florida. 6 - News. Eve. ─ 6:45 - News from Washington, Manila, London. 7 -"Amos & Andy." E to Air Raid School. Miss F. & I wrapped up some Christmas presents. Read in "The Hero in America." 9 - Quincy Howe. 10- Raymond Gram Swing. Had ham sandwiches. 11 - News. 11:15 - to P.O.
December 23, 1941

Dec. 23: (Tuesday) Fairly cold, gray, began to rain (drizzle) 1, slippery. Up 11, shaved. (Radio - News & "Pepper Young's Family." Worked on press notices for Mrs. Davidson. 2 - to Glendale to see Mrs. Clapper about Carlyn Markham affair - then on to Pittsfield to see Mrs. W. Pitt Palmer at House of Mercy (bad going) - operation on eyes - she will never see - home 4:30. Gift of Whitney engraving from Mrs. Drake. Wrote card of thanks to her. Ate some nuts. 5:15 - Rev. W.E. Soule called - told of dismissal from St. Edmund's School - went 6:10. Have slight cold. Eve. - wrote some more Christmas cards. E. to air raid school. Read "Eagle." 9 - Quincy Howe. 9:15 to Post Office - drizzle. 9:30 - "Fibber McGee." 10 - Raymond Gram Swing. Had orange, bran muffin & milk. 11 - to bed - tired.
December 24, 1941

 Dec. 24: (Wednesday - Christmas Eve) Very warm, rained hard a.m., then cleared, some sun. Restless night - have heavy cold. Up 11:10, shaved, syhower bath. Fixed turkeys & chickens & wine jelly for distribution. 2 - C.M. delivered. Then Rev. W.E. Soule called. Put out Christmas tree on Dining Room table &  Christmas picture on hall table & wreath on door. 3:45 - read "Times." 4 - News. 5 - Speeches at the lighting of White House Christmas tree - Pres.  Roosevelt & Winston Churchill. Picked out psalm & lessons for evening. Wrote note of thanks to Mrs. Merwin. 6 - News. Eve. - wrote note to Mr. Norman H. Davis. 8 - Evening prayer (good cong.) & Carols - over 9:05. Malcolm French & his wife in 9. 11 - to bed - feeling very sick with cold.

December 25, 1941

Dec. 25: (Thursday - Christmas Day) Mild, gray. Had restless night, nose bled. Up 6:45, shaved. 8 - Holy Com. (17) - C.M. served. Had presents in Dining Room afterward. C.M. took me to S. Lee - 9:15 - spoke at (?) - back 10:20. 11 - Stockbridge - good cong. - no sermon. Alexander Sedgwick (?) - over 1:20. (?) Dinner - 1:15 - turkey, duck, champagne. Quite gray. Sent some jelly to Mrs. Sperry. 3:45 - E. took Miss F. home. 4 - ride with E. to Lebanon - home 5. Ate orange. Read "Times." Wrote ans. to Rev. R.H. Hayden about Amicus Retreat. 6 - News. E. came & read in Study. Dozed in chair in Study. Radio music. Wrote letter to Miss Robinson Smith. 7:30 - Arthur Hale. E. went to air raid center. Finished "The Hero in America." 9 - Quincy Howe. 10 - Raymond Gram Swing. Had ice cream & apple. 11 - News.

December 26, 1941

Dec. 26: (Friday) Cool, gray. Up 11:45, shaved. Noon - News. 12:30 - speech of Hon. Winston Churchill bef. Senate & House of Representatives - over 1:04. 3 - to Derricks & Bramans - bot presents for acolytes & others. Lucy Beacco called soliciting for soldiers. To Library & then to see Mrs. Guerrieri - back from Hospital. Read "Eagle." Read in "Times." 6 - News. Eve - E. to Air Raid School. D. Braman in 7:45 - talked with him until 11. E. back 10. 11 - News. 12 - News.
December 27, 1941
 Dec. 27: (Saturday) Mild, gray, drizzle at times. Up 10:30. Read "Times" & in Hindus' "Hitler Cannot Conquer Russia." 2 - "Lakme" from Met. Opera. E. helping C.M. trimming Christmas Tree in Parish House. 3:15 - 2nd sunrise prayer meeting at door. 6 - News. Had turkey back for dinner. E. took his radio to Lee & had it fixed. Read in "Wild is the River" - finished it. Worked on sermon. E. to Occ. Club. Shower bath. 10:30 - to bed.
December 28, 1941
 Dec. 28: (Holy Innocents, Christmas I) Cold, gray, sun out 11:30. Up 7:35, shaved. 9:15 - S. Lee - "The Christ Child" - back 10. Grace Tennison. 11 - Stockbridge - "Lessons for to-day from Bethlehem" - 8(?) Matt. 18, V.1, (?)3. (22 min.) Holy Com. Had cold turkey for lunch. Read in "Times." 3:15 - ride to Chatham - back 4:20. Put some presents under Christmas tree in Parish House. Read in "Times." 5 - Met. Opera auditions. Joanna Franz phoned. E. read in study. 5:45 - Wm. L. Shirer. 6:30 - changed clothes. 6:50 - to church. 7 - Church School Service - then 7:18 - to Parish House - Christmas Party - over 8:10. 9 - Ford Hour - Rise Stevens. Letter from Bp. Lawrence. Snowing. 11 - News. 11:15 - Caesar Searchinger. 

 Rise Stevens