A Vermont Relic of Pickett’s Charge: Lt. John T. Sinnott’s Gettysburg Hardee Hat


 

“Boys, lie down or you’ll surely be hit!”

– John T. Sinnott, July 3rd, 1863

“John Sinnott, a schoolteacher from Rutland — raised up to caution the men to stay low and was himself mortally wounded, struck in the head by a shell fragment.”

Lt. John Sinnott’s Hardee Hat

Today’s post is centered around the highlight of an upcoming (March 25th, 2017) militaria and sporting goods auction from the collection of Vermont Civil War collector Marius Peladeau. I was able to check out some of the fantastic items that will be highlighted at the auction and was especially blown away by one item in particular. It’s a rare occasion to be able to tie a 150+ year old item to a particular soldier – it’s an even rarer occasion to tie that item and soldier to an exact moment during a historically significant battle that changed the course of American history. In this case, that soldier was Lt. John Sinnott, and the event was the repulse of Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd, 1863.

Lt. Sinnott took a piece of Rebel shrapnel in the forehead shortly after telling his troops in his Irish brogue:

Boys, lie down or you’ll surely be hit!

This last utterance was noted by Heman W. Allen in the Pictorial History of the 13th Regiment of Vermont Volunteers, 1861-1865. This quote was spoken in the heated moments of the Confederate artillery bombardment preceding Pickett’s Charge. Close friend and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Captain John Lonergan said of the death of his close friend:

I lay by his side when wounded that terrible day…I tied his head with my kerchief and dropt a tear on his aching brow. He could not speak – he was senseless! His eyes were closed by the enemies’ guns. My eyes burned with tears for his relatives and friends… his father, mother, sisters, brothers, three thousand miles away the exile dies in a foreign land in defense of Ireland’s hope, the starry flag. For nearly a year we marched together, we fought together.

Sinnott apparently anticipated his fate and died shortly thereafter (July 6th) in a field hospital with a note in his pocket that bid farewell to his bethrothed as well as where to send his property in case he should die in battle. His shrapnel-ridden hat was sent back to Vermont along with his body. He was buried in Bridget’s Cemetery in West Rutland. His hat was kept and passed down in his family where it was later purchased by Vermont Civil War collector Marius Peladeau. Mr. Peladeau has consigned the hat along with hundreds of other items in his collection to the Duane Merrill and Company auction house in Williston, Vermont. 

The hat is estimated to sell for $8,000-$12,000 on March 25th, 2017. I will update this post with a final selling price at that time.

Want to bid on this item? Click the hat below!

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Want to know more about Vermont’s involvement at Gettysburg?

The following article was written by Liam McKone and appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 4th, 2014

In early July of 1863, as tens of thousands of men in blue and gray clashed in battle, a Burlington resident distinguished himself with conspicuous gallantry in his only fight during the Civil War.

Midway through the war, two key victories for the federal army struggling to preserve the Union marked a turning point in the conflict. The audacious invasion of the north by Gen. Robert E. Lee that posed a threat to the nation’s capital was repulsed at Gettysburg on July 3. The next day Maj.r Gen. Ulysses S. Grant forced the surrender of the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, which gave the Union control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.

Lee’s defeat prevented a situation that might have ended the conflict with victory for the southern states. Public reaction to the capture of Washington by the rebels or yet another stunning defeat of Union forces — this time on their home territory — could have forced President Lincoln to come to terms with the Confederacy, allowing them to secede from the Union as they desired.

The crucial task of opposing Lee at Gettysburg fell to a new commander as Lincoln replaced “Fighting Joe” Hooker with Maj. Gen. George G. Meade on June 28. Hooker had constantly demanded that more soldiers be assigned to his Army of the Potomac. Before Lincoln ran out of patience with Hooker, the president had agreed to transfer major units from the defenses of Washington to augment the field troops pursuing Lee north.

One such unit was the Second Vermont Brigade composed of five regiments from the state, the 12th through the 16th, nearly 5,000 soldiers who had enlisted for nine months service the previous fall. Their enlistments had almost expired when the brigade was assigned to the First Corps, the lead element of Meade’s forces already well to the north. Guarding a quiet sector of Virginia along the Occoquan River with only an occasional skirmish against rebel cavalry, these Vermont units had never been tested in battle.

Despite worn-out shoes and the summer heat, the brigade marched 120 miles from Virginia to Pennsylvania in six days, each day rotating the less dusty place at the head of the column among the five regiments. Arriving at the First Corps camp on July 1, the 12th and 15th Vermont were assigned guard duty and the three remaining regiments rushed to join the Battle of Gettysburg lready underway.

Capt. John Lonergan’s Company A, 13th Vermont, was leading the column early that afternoon when they reached the crest of a hill and saw the battlefield awaiting them.

Lonergan had recruited Vermont’s only ethnic unit, mostly Irishmen from Burlington and Rutland, plus a dozen Yankees from Westford. His ultimate purpose was to provide trained soldiers for the Fenian Brotherhood dedicated to liberating Ireland from British rule. In 1861, Lonergan had supplied a company for the 2nd Vermont from his Emmet Guards militia unit in Burlington, but it was disbanded by Gov. Fairbanks for failing to assemble on time. for the regimental muster (perhaps some drink had been taken on the eve of departure for war.) The teetotaler Republican governor disliked Lonergan for being an immigrant, an Irishman, a Catholic, a Democrat and a drinker.

Lonergan received authorization in 1862 from Fairbanks’ successor to raise another company. Always brash, Lonergan claimed seniority in the 13th Vermont based on his earlier captaincy and was granted the designator “A” for his new company, even though official state records do not show him being commissioned for either post.

As senior company, his soldiers held the right flank of the battle line at Gettysburg, the traditional position of honor.

Brig. Gen. George J. Stanndard’s Second Vermont Brigade, three regiments near the authorized strength of a thousand men each, were welcome reinforcements to the Union troops on Cemetery Ridge south of Gettysburg. Although “green” troops not yet tested in battle, the Vermont units were used to plug gaps in the line. On the evening of July 2, five companies of the 13th Vermont held in reserve were ordered by Second Corp commander Maj. Gen. Winfried S. Hancock to retake four Union cannon captured at nearby Emmitsburg Road.

Longergan led his “Irish Company” as they shouted the ancient Gaelic battle cry “Faugh a ballagh!” warning the enemy to “Clear the way!” and reached the cannon first. Once the heavy weapons were safely on the way back to the Union lines, the captain turned his attention to a nearby farmhouse from which rebels were firing on the Vermonters.

Clearly Lonergan “had his Irish up.” He stationed his 50 men near the house, kicked in the door, and demanded that the rebels come out and surrender. More than 80 rebel soldiers and officers meekly complied, only to discover that they outnumbered their captors. On the triumphant return to Union lines in the gathering dusk, a veteran soldier on Cemetery Ridge who had watched the nearly suicidal tactics of Lonergan asked the returning “Irish Company” who they were. “We’re the Green Mountain Boys,” an Irishman proudly answered, whereupon the veteran commented drily, “Well, I knew you were green or you would never have charged down there.”

For this gallant action, Lonergan was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

Fitfully dozing among the dead rebels killed in the assault earlier that day, the 13th and 14th Vermont spent that night in the main Union line while the 16th Vermont deployed as skirmishers along Emmetsburg Road. Lonergan’s unit, the senior company in the senior regiment on the field of battle, crouched on the right flank of the Vermont brigade behind a low stone wall. A prolonged artillery duel began at 1 p.m. on July 3; even the greenest soldier knew this was preparation for another infantry attack. Capt. James Rorty’s New York battery next to Lonergan’s company took heavy losses and needed volunteers to help keep the cannon firing. Rorty, secretary of the Fenian Brotherhood for the Army of the Potomac, called on his fellow Fenians nearby and they left their shelter to join the cannon crew. (Rorty, stripped to the waist like an Irish warrior of old, was killed at his guns before the battle ended.)

To escape the fierce pounding of the Confederate artillery, the 13th and 14th Vermont moved forward a hundred yards into the slight protection afforded by the swale of Plum Run, now down to a trickle of water in the July heat. Behind hasty fortifications of fence rails, the men hugged the ground and waited for the rebel assault that was sure to come. As the artillery firing slackened, Lonergan’s second in command — John Sinnott, a schoolteacher from Rutland — raised up to caution the men to stay low and was himself mortally wounded, struck in the head by a shell fragment. When the bombardment ceased, the soldiers could see a Confederate battle line almost a mile wide forming across the valley on Seminary Ridge. The Vermonters were facing some 15,000 well-armed and hardened fighters, now reinforced by Pickett’s fresh division. Stannard brought the 16th Vermont back from its vulnerable position as skirmishers, reuniting the three regiments of his brigade in an isolated pocket in front of the Union line.

When the rebel troops came within range, Stannard’s men opened fire with great effect and seemed to drive the attacking soldiers aside, rather than charging right over the Vermonters. In reality, Pickett’s units were marching deliberately to their left in order to achieve the shock effect of a column and punch a hole in the Union line at the copse of trees used as a landmark for the maneuver. As they passed by on the right of the Vermont line, the rebels were masked from the Vermonters’ muskets, except for a few in Lonergan’s company.

To rectify this situation, the order was given — both Hancock and Stannard later claimed credit—for the 13th and 16th Vermont to move forward by the right flank. This placed Lonergan in the lead of the two regiments as they displaced in a column to march within “half pistol shot” distance from the flank of the rebel mass now charging up Cemetery Ridge.

Lonergan placed his orderly sergeant James Scully, also from Burlington, to mark the pivot point and ordered his men to “change front forward” to form a double row of muskets leveled at Pickett’s soldiers. In turn, each company of the 13th and then the 16th Vermont performed the same action to connect up with the “Irish Company,” first moving in a column of fours and then forming a battle line extending almost to Emmitsburg Road. A ripple of volleys smashed into the mass of rebels; then each Vermonter loaded and fired as rapidly as he could, hardly necessary to take aim at such a large and essentially defenseless target.

Met with concentrated small arms fire to their front — some smoothbore muskets left by rebels on July 2 were now turned on them with deadly double loads of buckshot — and canister from cannon now acting as giant shotguns, the rebel charge stalled and hung in the balance. Then Pickett’s men on the right flank also began suffering devastating casualties as Vermonters poured .58 caliber rifle slugs into them at short range.

Some Vermonters fired a dozen and more times, particularly the first men to arrive on the new battle line. Those few Confederates on the edge of the attacking column who could bring their weapons to bear began to return fire and soldiers in the Vermont units also fell dead or wounded. Lonergan lost four men killed and six wounded as they were exposed the longest to this exchange of lead from musket and pistol, yet he was himself unharmed. Finally the rebels broke, streaming back down the hill and leaving hundreds of dead, wounded, and prisoners behind.

The Second Vermont Brigade joined in the pursuit of Lee on his retreat to Virginia. As their enlistments expired, the regiments were pulled out to return for discharge. The 13th Vermont left on July 10 and was mustered out at Brattleboro on July 20. Lonergan’s company took a train back to Burlington, dropping off the contingent from Rutland en route. The next day the remaining members were greeted as heroes in ceremonies at City Hall Park in Burlington and the “Irish Company” faded away into the mists of history.

WWI 26th Division Chaplain Photo – Bloomfield, VT Native Arthur LeVeer in France, 1918


It’s always fun to sift through assorted boxes from my collection in search of new material to post here to PortraitofWar. In tonight’s case, I stumbled across a portrait shot of a WWI Catholic chaplain from my adopted home of Vermont!  With only 16,000 soldiers, marines and sailors during WWI, Vermont is a hard state to collect.

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102nd Infantry Regiment Chaplain Arthur J. LeVeer in 1918

Chaplain Arthur Joseph LaVeer was born along the Connecticut River in the Northeast Kingdom (a regional name) town of Bloomfield, Vermont on February 3rd, 1886. Commissioned as a 1st Lt. on August 22nd, 1918, LeVeer was quickly sent overseas to serve as a chaplain with the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the 26th “Yankee Division.”

Identified chaplain photos are incredibly hard to find on the open market, and to find an example taken overseas showing a unit patch and chaplain insignia makes this an exciting acquisition. Father LeVeer served at St. Norbert’s Church in Hardwick for the remainder of his life; this is a spot that I’ve passed hundreds of times during my life without giving a second thought to the WWI history of the area.

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Arthur’s WWI Record

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Arthur’s WWII Draft Card

Rev. Arthur LeVeer is buried in the Mount Cavalry Cemetery in Saint Albans, Franklin County, Vermont.

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LeVeer in the 1960s

WWI Panoramic Photo – Bumpkin Island Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Navy Training Center 1917 (LARGE PHOTO – BEWARE)


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Bumpkin Island 1917

 

I love digitizing WWI panoramic photos and the photo found above is a great example of an interesting panoramic with some good New England history behind it.  The image was shot in front of Burrage Hospital on Bumpkin Island, one of the Boston Harbor islands.  The camp was used by the U.S. Navy as a training camp.

The Burrage Hospital originally comprised a main hospital building measuring 175’ x 160’, two large covered open-air play houses, a bathing pavilion and a dock. The hospital is near the center of the island, about 80’ above the low water mark and faces south. Its general plan is that of a widened letter “H,” with an extension from the middle of the building back and contained three stories and a basement.

According to David J. Russo:

On the north side of the building, the basement was above ground because of the grading of the island. The south side contained two solariums on both the first and second floors (one set each for boys and girls) and the administrative offices. The two wings of the building contained the hospital wards and measured 25’ x 105.’

Along the front of the building and partly around the sides, ran a porch ten feet wide.

On the interior was a series of ramps between floors to make it easier for those who could not climb stairs, either due to disability or because confinement to wheelchair. This is likely one of the first uses of such ramps in a hospital setting.

The first floor contained an entry vestibule, reception room, matron’s room, matron’s bedroom, nurses room, pharmacy, doctors’ office, doctors’ bedrooms, four large wards, two small wards, two lavatories, four ward bathrooms, clothes storage room, two sewing rooms, linen closet, dining room, administration room, scullery and storage room.

The second floor was divided into four principal large wards, seven small wards, library, suite of three rooms, students’ room, three lavatories, four bathrooms, six bedrooms for hospital staff, operating room, sterilizing room, surgeons’ room, bandage room, etherizing room, and recovery room.

The attic held five dormitories, six closets and bathrooms. In the basement were two mens’ rooms, four lavatories, two furnace rooms, store rooms, play rooms, coal room, laundry room, drying room, cold storage room and ice room.

The exterior was composed of yellow brick, terra cotta, Indiana limestone trim and a green slate roof. Overall, the building took on the form of a seaside cottage, complete with symmetrical gables and ample porches.

During WWI, the island was taken over for use as a U.S. Naval Training camp, with the hospital serving as the Administration Building. The camp was dismantled after the war. The hospital reopened briefly in about 1940 for polio patients but closed during WWII, and burned in 1946.

 

 

 

 

WWII Aerial Recon Photo: Burning German Convoy During Battle of the Bulge


alvaalegre059In a follow up to the popularity of my last post (see here), I’ve decided to begin scanning my collection of large format 12×12 inch aerial photos taken during the Battle of the Bulge.  In this first post, we see a German motorized transport convoy in ruins following a strafing attack by P-47’s of the XAX Tactical Air Command (TAC) on January 23rd, 1945.  I acquired a large set of these original 12×12 inch prints (complete with pencil notes on the back) on eBay a few years ago directly from the estate of a 9th Air Force photo tech who apparently saved hundreds of original flyovers like this.  He saved duplicates as well!  This is one of those duplicates.

I’ve taken the time to crop the shot for close up views below.  With some luck, followers of this page may be able to track down the exact location of this image!  Good luck guys!

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January 23rd, 1945

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Rare Aerial Photo of Gliders Taken After Operation Varsity, March 1945


Taken on March 25th, 1945, this image was snapped by a low-flying P-38 or P-51 of the 363rd Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron.  I acquired a large set of these original 12×12 inch prints (complete with pencil notes on the back) on eBay a few years ago directly from the estate of a 9th Air Force photo tech who apparently saved hundreds of original flyovers like this.  He saved duplicates as well!  This is one of those duplicates.

This large format photo, taken a day after the strategic landing of two airborne divisions on the eastern bank of the Rhine River near the village of Hamminkeln and the Town of Wesel, Germany.  Know as Operation Varsity, the landing is regarded by many historians as the most successful airborne landing carried out during WWII.  Although I tend to argue such facts, the point is that the landing led to the quickening of the end of the war.

This series of photos provides an incredibly detailed view of the aftermath of the glider landings and a general layout of trenches, hedgerows and landscape features that may be obfuscated today.  These images can be found in many books and through government archives but may be of lesser quality due to multiple reproductions.  Enjoy!

 

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Large Format Aerial Photo Showing Airborne Gliders, March 25th, 1945

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Thanksgiving in the First World War: U.S.Base Hospital #6 Holiday Menu Card


I’ve been lucky in the past few years to pick up some fun WWI shots of US female nurses and auxiliary service members photographed while serving overseas in 1918 and 1919.  US women in France were vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts, and to be able to positively identify a nurse is a fun way to learn about female service roles during the war.  In this case, I was able to purchase a small group of photos and a Thanksgiving menu from a woman in Base Hospital #6 stationed in Bordeaux, France during the war.  The standing studio portrait was identified on the reverse as H.K. Judd of Base Hospital 6.  On a whim I searched for Helen K. Judd (thinking that Helen was a likely candidate for H) and came up with a positive hit on a woman named Helen K. Judd from Southhampton, Mass.  I cross referenced with the digitized passport records from 1917 and 1918 and had a positive match.  Luckily the passport applications come with little snapshots of the applicants.   The amount of material available to identify WWI photos is incredible.

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Base Hospital #6 Thanksgiving Menu

So what was served up on Thanksgiving, 1918? 

Given the recent cessation of hostilities on November 11th, the nurses and ailing soldiers of the AEF had a lot to be thankful for in 1918.  How did they celebrate?

US Dietician Ellen W. Wells was someone who likely put together the well-rounded meal seen in the above menu.  With appetizers of celery and olives, the nurses, doctors and assorted hospital staff and wounded next moved to a main course of roast stuffed turkey, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, green peas and creamed onions.  For desert they gorged on mince pie and an oddity in Europe, pumpkin pie.  After dinner snacks included fruit, nuts, raisins, bon-bons and coffee.  And to top it all off, the men and women were provided with cigars.  What a meal!

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Helen K. Judd in France, 1918

WWII Color Photo Post: An Unopened Box of Developed WWII Kodak Color Slides!


Many of my followers know that I actively collect WWII color slides, predominantly those developed by the Eastman Kodak Company.  These Kodachrome slides are typically regarded in the field of vintage color photo collecting as the crème de la crème of vintage color.  Taken at a time of incredible social and political upheaval, these images capture an era that will never be seen in the same light or colors again. With the small percentage of the world populace that used color photography, an even smaller percentage of the slides have been passed down or purchased by people with the ability to scan and post them to the internet.

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In this rare case, I was able to purchase a large set of Kodachrome slides taken by a US serviceman before he shipped off to war.  One box of the Kodak-developed slides were unopened.  I took a photo of the seal, opened the box and immediately scanned them!  Please enjoy the following 12 slides that are only seeing the light of day 70+ years later….

Taken in Fort Benning, GA, these slides were shipped home in January of 1945 to only be opened in 2016! Enjoy.

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WWII Photo: American Medics in the Battle of the Bulge – 4th Infantry Division


Captured on medium format film by US Army Photographer Cpl. Edward Belfer, this image comes from my extensive collection of US WWII photography and depicts a group of US medics pushing a metal pontoon boat along the snowy streets of Bettendorf, Luxembourg on January 19th, 1945.  The boat, loaded with medical supplies, is headed towards the Sure River.  An oddball detail in this shot include a theater-made snow camouflage helmet covers with the fronts cut out to reveal the medical cross beneath.

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A Scottish Terrier Goes to War: 744th Light Tank Battalion’s Mascot Dog BLACKOUT


Followers of PortraitofWar will likely remember that I have a penchant for stories related to unit and individual mascots during wartime. I have a soft spot for small dogs and particularly enjoy tracking down photos of dogs acting as needed companions during the boredom and contrasting hellish days of war.  Cats are cool too……. I guess….

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Tonight’s post was submitted by a WWII buff I tracked down online who was generous enough to share the incredibly endearing story of his father’s WWII mascot who eventually made it stateside to live an additional thirteen years as the family pet until passing away in 1958.  The incredible story of Blackout takes us from a small town in England, to the shores of Normandy and across continental Europe as the German war machine is beaten into submission.  The following post was submitted by Rick Hunter:

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My father, Bill Hunter volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1940.  After training which included participation in the Louisiana maneuvers, he was assigned to the 744th Light Tank Battalion as initial cadre when it was formed at Camp Bowie, TX.  By January, 1944 he was a Master Sergeant in the service company of the 744th Light Tank Battalion, and the unit was in England training in preparation for D-Day.  Dad’s job was to supervise the maintenance of the Battalion’s vehicles and the recovery and repair of battle-damaged vehicles.  Light tank battalions were “separate battalions” that were typically attached to infantry units on an “as-needed” basis and as such they moved around a lot.  The service company was usually located somewhat to the rear of the front lines and Dad’s position gave him a bit of flexibility and was not as dangerous as those of many soldiers.  Perhaps for these reasons and his love of dogs, Dad bought a young female Scottie from a lady in nearby Manchester.  He named the dog Blackout.

Although against regulations, Blackout was apparently a hit within the unit and the leadership turned a blind-eye towards her.  She even received a coat crafted from an army blanket complete with sergeant’s stripes and the unit patch.  Blackout and my Dad went ashore with the Battalion at Utah Beach about 3 weeks after D-Day and the unit fought through France and Belgium and into the Netherlands.  They were camped near Geleen in the Netherlands for several weeks in October, 1944.

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Blackout in Geleen, Netherlands

The Dutch had been starved by the Germans and were in a desperate plight.  Attracted to Blackout, a 13 year-old boy and his 5 year-old sister from the town would make daily visits to see the dog.  My Dad began to give the children food and candy and made them some small wooden toys.  In 2008, my brother vacationed in the Netherlands and met those two children.  The girl, then in her 70’s, showed my brother those toys which she still treasured.

The tank battalion crossed into Germany in January, 1945.  They fought into Germany and participated in the post-war occupation of the town of Olpe before catching a crowded troop ship back to the U.S.  Dad was not about to leave Blackout behind and he smuggled her onto the troop ship.  Because there were many different units on the ship, it is difficult to imagine how he could have avoided detection, and in fact he did not.  Upon arrival in the U.S., the soldiers were subjected to a muster to verify all were present.  The officer in charge (not from my Dad’s unit) announced to the formation “Will the individual with the dog step forward?”  My Dad did not move.  The officer then said “Will the master sergeant with the dog step forward?”  My Dad did not move.  Finally the officer said “Do we have to call you by name?”  My Dad stepped forward.  The officer then announced “We just wanted you to know that we were aware of it all the time.”  Nothing more was said or done and over the next few weeks Dad and Blackout processed out of the Army and returned to civilian life in Tulsa.

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Blackout’s jacket patch

My Dad had 4 brothers and all 5 boys served during World War II and returned safely.  Their mother was proud of her sons and displayed a Blue Star Mother banner with 5 stars in her front window.  The Tulsa World published an article about the family in late 1945 that included the attached picture of the boys with their mother and Blackout shortly after their return.

In the picture and starting from the right, the boy in civilian clothing served on a ship in the Pacific and refused to wear his Navy uniform after discharge.  Next is my Dad and the boy next to him was a navigator.  I believe he stayed in the States as an instructor.  Left of him is the youngest boy who had completed a pilot training program but I have little additional information.  The boy on the far left was in Iran and is wearing a Persian Gulf Command shoulder patch.

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Hunter boys with Blackout, 1945

WWII USMC Marine Portrait Photo – Dominick Salvetti, 12th Anti-Aircraft Battalion, 1st Marine Division


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1942-1944, I MEF/1st Marine Division
From Month/Year
January / 1942
To Month/Year
January / 1944
Unit
1st Marine Division Unit Page
Rank
Corporal
MOS
Not Specified
Location
Not Specified
Country/State
Not Specified
 Patch
 I MEF/1st Marine Division Details
I MEF/1st Marine Division
Type
Combat – Ground Unit
Existing/Disbanded
Existing
Parent Unit
I MEF
Strength
Division
Created/Owned By
Not Specified