Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bridge in West Virginia Named for 509th PIB Veteran

Photo from Channel 12 in Upsur County, West Virginia.
The Route 151 bridge across the Middle Fork River in Ellamore, West Virginia is now named the "U.S. Army Technician Fifth Victor A. Osburn Memorial Bridge."  Victor Osburn was a medic in the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion during WWII.  He joined the battalion in North Africa, participated in the Avellino jump, Anzio, and Operation Dragoon.  Victor Osburn was killed in action on August 21, 1944 in southern France.  For gallantry in action, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.  You can read Victor Osburn's Silver Star citation at the 509th Parachute Infantry Association's website.

The dedication ceremony was held at the bridge in Upshur county on Sunday May 27, 2012.  An honor guard from the 1/509th at Fort Polk was present, as well as members of the 509th PIB WWII Living History Group. Victor Osburn's nephew Joe Osburn, who was instrumental in having the bridge dedicated to his uncle's memory, had graciously sent me an invitation to the ceremony.  Unfortunately, being in the process of relocating to the other coast, I was unable to attend.  However, I was able to watch a well done video clip from local TV news WDTV covering the dedication.  Congratulations, Joe. It looks like the event was a success.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

509th PIB News Roundup for Memorial Day

Parachute Trooper Johnson (the dummy) at the 504th 
Parachute Battalion dance, held in the Third Hangar, 
Lawson Field, Fort Benning, GA October 21, 1941.  
Army Signal Corps Photograph 124264
National Archives, College Park, MD.
From the time I started research for The Boldest Plan is the Best: The Combat History of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion During WWII, I've been keeping up with news about the unit and its veterans.  Here are a couple of news items that came up on the radar today:

- According to the Avon (Connecticut) News, Morton N. Katz will be the keynote speaker for the Memorial Day events in Avon.  Katz served as a lieutenant in the 509th PIB during World War II.  He served in North Africa, Italy, France, and Belgium.  Katz is active in the local VFW Post 3272 and continues to practice law in Avon.

- The Bullard Banner News ran an article about 509th veteran Lloyd Wells of Upshur County, Texas.  Mr. Wells is also a veteran of North Africa, Avellino, Anzio, Southern France, and the Battle of the Bulge.  Unfortunately, Wells lost his medals (and his house) during the Texas wildfires last year.  On May 19, Wells was presented with his medals once again at a surprise ceremony at a local museum.  The article goes on to tell us that Lloyd Wells, just short of his 92nd birthday, still works full-time at Walmart in Gilmer, Texas, assembling bikes, barbecues, and furniture.

What I noticed about both news items is that these veterans, both over the age of ninety, are still working full-time.  It never ceases to amaze me...those paratroopers just don't know how to quit.

Please take a moment this Memorial Day weekend to thank a veteran for their service, and remember those who have fallen.  I've included a picture from the National Archives for you that didn't make it into the book.  It was taken during a happier moment in Geronimo history.  Enjoy the holiday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Home Base: Sequim, Washington

Here's Jim at Railroad Bridge Park, and there's a new bike trail to conquer!
We have arrived at our new home base of Sequim, Washington.  Sequim is a small town in the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state.  Sheila, Sydney, and I are very excited to be back in the Pacific Northwest.  For those of you not familiar with the area, the town's name is pronounced "skwim" and you'll most likely pass through on your way to Olympic National Park.

Between getting ready to move, moving across the country, and settling in to our new home, I've been out of the loop for about a month.  Before I left Pennsylvania, I completed researching the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment at the AHEC and NARA.  That of course is my next writing project, as a companion to The Boldest Plan is the Best, about the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion.  I wanted to complete the story of the first airborne units to deploy in WWII, before the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions went overseas.  However, as I learn more about my new surroundings I'll be passing on some information here.  For instance, did you know that back in the 1970s, some mastodon bones were found in the area?  They contained a spear point that dates the inhabitants of the area to pre-Clovis period, which means that travelers have been coming to the Sequim for more than 14,000 years!

As the two or three regular readers of this blog know, my interests are mainly in the twentieth century.  Luckily we've arrived in time for the 117th Irrigation Festival.  Sequim, and the Dungeness Valley, are in a rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains.  So unlike the rest of Puget Sound, the area gets only approximately 15 inches of rain a year, which is about the same as southern California.  In 1895 the local farmers began an irrigation project that brought economic prosperity to the area.  The annual celebration of that agricultural endeavor is the oldest in Washington state.  More to follow as I head down to join my local historical society. ;-)

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