The first fallen heroes of World War II return to Onondaga County in 1947: ‘They will live in our midst’

On Sunday, November 2, 1947, the first eight World War II battlefield coffins returned home to Onondaga County from overseas. The entire community was invited to honor the memory of the county’s 1,140 war dead.

“Eight sons of Onondaga returned home yesterday,” wrote Mario Rossi of the Post-Standard.

They were the sergeant. Palmer Cately (Army), First Lieutenant John Haver (Army), T/4 Lester Haynes (Army), Corp. John Mirabile (Army), T/4 Harry Mosher (Army), Sgt. Sherman Stube (Marines), S. Sgt. William Verzole (Army) and PFC Edward Wood (Marines).

War dead of World War II

– This page of photos from the November 3, 1947 Herald-Journal gives an idea of ​​the solemn ceremonies that took place in Syracuse when the first eight caskets containing fallen World War II soldiers were returned to Onondaga County. Courtesy of World ArchivesCourtesy of World Archives

Rossi added:

“They have traveled a great distance – through remote American training camps and battlefields of blood and fire in outposts scattered around the world. It has been a difficult journey, and at almost every turn, they knew sorrow and hardship, suffering, toil and strife The miles were long and the goal as cruelly elusive as the end of the rainbow, especially as death drew nearer .

“But they did.”

The fallen heroes arrived by train at New York Central Station at 12:30 p.m. and a crowd of 1,000 was there to meet them.

“Some women wept,” wrote a Herald-Journal reporter, “but most of the crowd stood in stoic silence as the flag-draped coffins arrived. The men stood bareheaded and the children were apparently impressed by the solemn spectacle.

A military band played “Abide with Me” and “Nearer My God to Thee” as coffins were loaded into hearses.

Syracuse Mayor Frank Costello led a group of officials who joined the simple procession to the Syracuse Armory on Jefferson Street, where a memorial would be held.

The parade included a police escort, a military band, a marching honor guard of veterans and the slowly moving hearses two abreast.

“As the group of hearses passed, the veterans – some in civilian clothes and some in uniform stood to attention,” wrote Rossi, “and most of them showed that they had retained their former military skill, despite the fact that the movement of their faces showed that some were holding back tears.

At the armory, a service was held to honor not only the eight who had returned, but all those who had been lost during World War II in Onondaga County. A backdrop for the service was made up of 1,140 flowers.

About 3,200 people gathered to hear brief eulogies from Costello and local religious figures.

The mayor of Syracuse asked his audience not to waste the sacrifice of the dead.

“Now it is our responsibility to hold sacred in peace the things they fought for in the war, our principles of government, our many freedoms, our way of life. undermine and strangle us.

Reverend John Joslyn of the Atonement Lutheran Church, Reverend John Muldoon of St. Lucy’s Church and Rabbi Earl Stone of the Temple Society of Concord each spoke next.

“They are not dead,” Joslyn said, “their souls walk on. They have joined the ranks of those whom God has called home. Wherever the stars and stripes are unfurled, may sacrifice and selfless devotion fallen heroes of our nation be remembered.

Rabbi Stone said:

“We could better cherish their memories by making possible the world they dreamed of by contributing each in our own way to this life of love and universal brotherhood for which they gave their lives.

“They will live among us – they will only gain immortality in the soul of our society when we bring about the realization of the kind of world they died for.”

The service ended with a rendition of “Ava Maria” by Pauline Hundshamer, who had lost a son during the war.

Then there was a minute of silent prayer which, Rossi noted, “carried beyond the confines of the auditorium to the streets outside, to homes throughout the city, to hamlets and villages of the county, to pay universal tribute throughout Onondaga. ”

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This feature is part of CNY Nostalgia, a section on Send your ideas and curiosities to Johnathan Croyle at [email protected] or call 315-416-3882.

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