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.