Friday, June 30, 2023

The Sad Story of USS S-4 Navy Submarine & US Coast Guard Destroyer Paulding

On December 17, 1927 the USS S-4 (SS-109) Submarine was doing some test runs off the coast of Provincetown, MA. The US Coast Guard Destroyer Paulding was patrolling the coast looking for rum runners. They both did not know that were in the same area.

Frantic attempts were made to avoid the collision but it happened and the S-4 went to the bottom of the sea in 110 feet of water. By the time the navy could get divers down to the wreck they could only hear the six souls that were trapped in the torpedo room. They tried to figure out a way to get the men out by sending divers down.  They tapped on the side of the sub in morse code to communicate. Four days later all forty men aboard the S-4 were dead.

One of the souls on board was Lowell native and Motor Machinist John J Fennell of 557 Chelmsford Street. He was born November 29, 1903 in Lowell and died on December 17, 1927. He was the son of William Fennell and Bridget Butler. Three months later they recovered the submarine and his body was sent to Lowell for a military funeral. He is buried in Saint Patrick's Cemetery.

The S-4 was salvaged by the US Navy and used in Navy rescue missions. By lessons learned in the S-4 diaster the Navy created a diving bell called the McCann rescue chamber. Numerous navy personel were saved from the same fate of the men on the S-4.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Greater Lowell Normandy Honor Roll

On June 6th the United States participated in the Allied invasion of Europe at Normandy Beach. Much preperations were made and Greater Lowell was very involved. Some of our local men went early making preperations by bombing positions in France. Some came on parachutes and many more came by the beach. Others died in further operations in France.

The Normandy Cemetery in Colleville-Sur-Mur, is a beautiful peaceful place today. It is the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. It is 172.5 acres and contains 9,386 graves and 1,557 names of the missing. Resting there are many greater Lowell heros. We honor them and remember them today.

This link will take you to a virtual cemetery on Find A Grave that lists all the greater Lowell men buried at the Normandy Cemetery or listed on the walls of the missing.

Greater Lowell - Normandy Roll of Honor: a Virtual Cemetery - Find a Grave

We remember their heroism and their sacrafice.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Major General Ernest N Harmon - Lowell's Own "Hell on Wheels"

Ernest Nason Harmon was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on February 26, 1894 to Ernest Josiah and Junietta (Spaulding) Harmon. The family lived in Pawtucketville on 45 Chase Avenue. He was the youngest with two sisters and a brother.

He didn't know it until much later in life but he came from fighting stock. On his father's side of the family his 4th great grandfather fought in the Revolution and his mother is descended from the Spauldings who settled Chelmsford and fought at Bunker Hill. He didn't file for his Sons of the American Revolution membership until 1958. 

His sister Mabel died when he was six, his father died when he was eight and his mother died when he was ten. His brother was eighteen and stayed in Lowell, his surviving sister was sent to Worcester and he was sent to West Newbury, Vermont to live with a family friend.

He grew up on farm of John and Minnie Durant in the small town of West Newbury, Vermont. He had many chores to do on the farm and he went to school. He graduated from Bradford Academy and spent one year at Norwich before receiving an appointment to West Point where he graduated from the class of 1917. He married on August 15, 1917 to Leona Tuxbury of Newbury, Vermont.

During World War One he served in the 2nd Calvary starting as a 2nd Lt and promoted to Captain right before sailing to France.

After the war he returned home to his wife and newborn daughter. In 1924 he participated in the Olympics in Paris in the pentathlon. He had three sons and two daughters who are all now deceased.  He continued his service in the Army at the Army War College and as an instructor at West Point. 

When WWII started he was assigned to command the 2nd Armored Division "Hell on Wheels" in North Africa and Italy with the rank of Major General. He commanded the 1st Armored Division in France notably at the Battle of Bulge. He is one of the most decorated WWII  Generals in the armored division. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, 4 Distinguished Service Crosses, Silver Star and 3 Legions of Merit. He was known as "old gravel voice" and was known for smoking cigarettes he bummed off his men while hanging with them at the front. He was also known as "the other Patton".
All three sons served during WWII and all survived.  General Harmon organized and commanded the US Constabulary to return order to post war Germany. He retired on February 29, 1948.

General Harmon served as President of Norwich University from 1950 to 1965. He greatly expanded the University and was very successful at fundraising. If you visit Norwich today you will see Harmon Memorial Wall and Harmon Drive named in his honor.

He died November 13, 1979 at the Veteran's Hospital in White River Junction, Vermont. On his death certificate his occupation is listed as "soldier". 

His mother, infant sister and sister Mabel are all buried in the Edson Cemetery in Lowell. His father is buried in Unity, Maine. The General and his wife are buried in the Oxbow Cemetery in Newbury, Vermont.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Night Before Christmas in the English Channel in 1944

The big push in World War II against the Germans was at a fever pitch. Troops were being transported across the English Channel to replenish the troops at the Battle of the Bulge. Hastily and without proper documentation the 66th Infantry boarded the SS Leopoldville in the middle of the night and headed for Cherbourg France. The Belgium ship was overcrowded, didn't have enough life boats and no safety drills.

On board were over 2,235 soldiers rushing to the front. By the end of the night, over 800 would be dead. Including PFC Joseph P Miscone from North Billerica, Tec4 Ernest D Valle and PFC Russell E Wintle of Lowell, Ma. By the end of the night they would be dead. The US Army refused to tell the American people what happened until 1996. Over 50 years after until the files were released. They were all listed as MIA or KIA with little facts.

One half of the Normandy MIA memorials are those of those that died on the SS Leopoldville. Including our local guys. 

Joseph P Miscone of North Billerica

Ernest D Vallee of Lowell

PFC Russell E Wintle of Lowell

We will never forget what sacrifices have been made for us. Rest in peace.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Pvt. John Herbert Ryan - Finally at Rest in 2020


John Herbert Ryan, the son of William and Ellen (Shay) Ryan,  was born in Lowell on November 24, 1893. His parents died when he was young and he was raised by his extended family, John & Mary Ryan of Lowell and Mrs. Mary Tighe of Brockton. He attended school in Lowell and Brockton.

In Brockton he was an employee of George E. Keith Co., a communicant of St. Margaret's Church and a member of the Boot and Shoemaker's Union.

He enlisted in the US Army May 27, 1917 and sailed to France on the ship FINLAND on the 7th of August 1917. He was a member of the Headquarters Co 1st Engineers 1st Division.

He died in France of meningitis on February 25, 1918. After the war his body was returned for burial in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on July 28, 1921.

While searching for his burial location several years ago, I noticed that his stone was incorrect. It had the wrong spelling and middle initial. I reported it to the cemetery and last year they replaced it. Even though it's over 100 years later I'm glad his grave is marked correctly. If you visit Arlington National Cemetery he is in Section 18, Grave 2986.

Rest in peace Pvt. John H Ryan. We will never forget. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

75 Years Remembering the Battle of the Bulge

Seventy five years ago the Battle of the Bulge was fought against Germany from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 in the Ardennes region. It was the deadliest battle in World War II.

During World War II, 562 men from Greater Lowell lost their lives while serving in the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps. During the Battle of the Bulge 15 men from Lowell and one man from Westford were killed in action while serving in the US Army. We must remember their names and their sacrifice.

Greater Lowell's Battle of the Bulge Honor Roll

Pvt George L Baxter
Pvt Gerald J Bellegarde
T5C Leo R Cote
Pfc Ernest De Camp
SSgt Paul A Ekengren
Pvt Peter E Gregoire
Sgt John J Hurley
Pvt John C Lebednick
Pvt Paul R Lemire
Pfc William J McCarthy
Sgt Vincent R McLean
Pvt James P Smith
Pvt William J Sobolewski
Pfc Charles R Taylor
Pfc Paul S Woods

Pvt Hubert E Bolyea

Seven of these men are buried in Belgium. They never came home. Below is a link to a virtual cemetery on Find a Grave listing where each man is buried.

T5C Leo R Cote 
Courtesy of Find A Grave
The above photo is the grave marker of T5C Leo R Cote in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium. He was killed in action on Christmas Eve in 1944 while serving in the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 80th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. He was 22 years old. After his death in combat he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Leo Cote was a truck driver before the war for his father's moving company -  Cote Brother's Moving Company. He lived at the corner of Cabot and  Moody Streets with his parents Thomas and Marie (April) Cote. He was survived by his sisters Irene (Lacerte) and Yvette (Goyette) and his brothers Arthur, Albert and Louis.

Rest in peace. You are not forgotten.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Greater Lowell Vietnam Honor Roll

Forty nine men from Greater Lowell served during the Vietnam War and lost their lives serving for the United States of America. We remember them today and always.

The following link is a virtual cemetery on the find a grave platform that I created to list these gold star servicemen that sacrificed their lives for our freedom.  They paid the ultimate sacrifice.

You are not forgotten.