Contents

These are the stories included in this blog. They are listed in order of latest to earliest added. You can either enter a search in the provided space, or scroll to the bottom to find the earlier posts. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy researching and writing about this aspect of our local history.

The Gainer / Collins Murders
The Infamous Coldest Case
The Treachery of Mrs. Vann
Husband believed in her innocence
Area War Dead
One small portion of a much too long list
Killer on the Road
Robbery, Kidnapping, Murder
Burden of Guilt
Solution to a Cold Case
A Killing, A Brothel and ....
The Armantrouts of Pensacola
A Very Tragic Chain of Events
A very sad tale
Murder on South Palafox
Workplace violence in 1905
The Tragic Death of Big Ed Morris
Fight at a Fatal Fish Fry
The Curious Killing of Charles Sudmall
Successful Russian Businessman killed in town
Tale of a Lynching
Prisoner J.C. Evans, left dead on the side of the road
Sheriff McDaniel of Jackson County
Shootout in his Driveway
The 1915 Wyman Murders
Home invasion and killing of Elderly Couple
The Kidnapping of Mrs. Phelps
Holmes County 77 year old widow kidnapped and beaten.
The Mulat Murders
Murder of Julian, and Mae Edwards
Bank of Jay Part II
Were the robbers Pensacola Police Officers?
The Jay Bank Robbery
January 1963 Bank Heist
Killing in Crestview

Was there really Justice for Lester Wilson's death?

The Phantom Ghoul of Whitmire

Grave desecration at the Roberts, and Whitmire cemeteries

Tragedy Near McLellan

The murder of Daisy Locklin Padgett

The Turpentine Feud of 1911

The Cooley family ambush and events leading up to it.

The Allen-Whitmire Shootout

Articles about the shootout at the L&N Depot in Milton

The Acreman Family Murder

The murders and arson of an entire family near Allentown

Retired School Teacher Kills Three Police Officers

Happened in Ocala, Florida

Unsolved Pensacola Axe Murder

Family attacked as they slept

Unsolved Murder of Henry Hicks Moore

Pensacola Lovers lane murder

Unsolved Hinote/Byers Murder

Young couple killed

The Short Life and Fast Times of Frank Penton

Chief Deputy and local Gunslinger

The Fate of Judge Trueman

Killed in Ogden, Utah

The Killing of John Wesley Penton

Shot down in the street in Milton

The Trial of C. B. Penton

Suspected of killing S.G. "Babe" Collins

The 1931 Pursuit and Capture of Criminals Near Milton

Captured in Mulat swamp



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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Death of a Hitchhiker

 

Ova Budd Roe

            On the afternoon of December 29, 1947, two young men, Glen Williams, and Alex Williams, (Newspaper accounts did not say if they were related), were traveling westbound toward Pensacola on the Gulf Coast Highway. They were traveling from Ft. Walton Beach to Pensacola. When they were about ten miles east of the Pensacola Bay bridge, they saw a body lying off the side of the road in, or near a borrow pit. One article stated that they left to find a phone, and another said they flagged down a passing motorist, either way they summoned help.

            The first lawman on the scene was Highway Patrolman M.K. Hackle, and soon after, Sheriff Marshall Hayes, Deputy Harvell Enfinger, and County Judge William Bonifay arrived. They called on Dr. Rufus Thames, and he determined the victim had been dead 3 to 4 hours. A teenager named Harold Lowery lived about 300 yards away and he told the investigators that he heard gunshots about one pm, but assumed someone was shooting game. They victim was identified by a bracelet he was wearing, and a tattoo. His name was Ova Budd Roe.

            Some witnesses found later thought the victim was someone who was seen getting into a car with two other men the night before at a roadhouse back toward Pensacola.

            Ova Roe, was a 22-year-old Army veteran who was from Middletown, Ohio. At the time of his death, he was hitchhiking from Denver, Colorado where he had been visiting his brother, to Miami, Florida where he wanted to celebrate the new year. His mother told authorities that he would ship a trunk to his destination, and carry a small case with him. Some reports claimed he was a deserter from the Army, but one claimed he had been a prisoner of war. His mother stated that he kept his discharge papers with him, or shipped them with his trunk.

            Roe had been shot three times, twice in the head, and once in the abdomen. He also had a gash on his head. In a surprising newspaper article, it was published that through ballistic matching, the .32 caliber bullets that killed Roe were fired from the same gun used in two recent unsolved murders in Mississippi.

(I inquired if there were any records left in Santa Rosa County pertaining to the murder investigation, and were assured there were not. I then did a Freedom of Information request with the State, and was informed no records existed.)

            The investigation continued for a while with no solid leads. A toxicologist from Alabama, Dr. Nelson E. Grubbs was brought in to assist, and later he published a newspaper article about four unsolved murders along the Gulf Coast and how they could be solved if only the public would cooperate with authorities. Dr. Grubbs investigated 40,000 cases in this long career with the state of Alabama, and there was even a May 1961 article in Reader’s Digest about him in a “Most Unforgettable Character” story.


The Mississippi Killings

At 4:45 in the morning of December 18, 1947, (eleven days before the Roe killing), the Billups Service Station on Highway 90 in Ocean Springs, Mississippi was robbed of $93. During the robbery, Mark Neal, Jr. was shot four times in the side and died at the scene. E.F. Smith, the station manager, lived in an apartment connected to the station with his wife. He said they heard 3, or 4 shots and a car speed off toward Pascagoula. The station had also been robbed on August 1, of $100. The Billups Petroleum Co. offered a $100 reward for capture and conviction of the robber.

            Mark Neal, Jr. was only in his third week of working at the station. Before that he was a Merchant Seaman working for the War Shipping Administration. He registered for the draft in New Orleans on his 18th birthday in 1946, and it was from New Orleans that he arrived to work in Ocean Springs. His murder is still officially unsolved.

            Robert Lee Ward, a wealthy rancher who lived in Agricola, Miss., near Lucedale, was found murdered in an abandoned pick-up truck three miles north of Pascagoula, on Bayou Cassotte rd. It is believed that he was killed in a home invasion and his body transported to where he was found. He was known to carry around $2000 at all times, and there was no money found on his body. There were suspects arrested who were eventually released, and the case was cold until 1966.

            Roe, Neal, and Ward were the three murders supposedly connected by the same .32 caliber weapon, but I can’t find anything else other than a newspaper article, so it may not be true.

The 1966 developments in the case of R. L. Ward

In July 1966, J.L. Williams was arrested in Marion County, Mississippi for Public Drunkenness. When in jail, he asked to speak to Judge Sebe Dale. The Judge arrived and Williams confessed to the murder of robbery of Mr. Ward back in 1947. He told Judge Dale, “I just can’t get away from that fellow. That bugger has been running me ever since. He gets into bed with me, gets in the truck with me, gets on my shoulder. That’s why I stay drunk.”  In his confession, Williams stated that he and two other men had gone to Ward’s home to rob him, and while he waited outside, the other two were fighting with Ward. Williams said he took a gun, went inside the house, and shot Mr. Ward twice. He was arrested for robbery, and murder. However, on August 25, Williams pleaded innocent to the charges and was sent to the state hospital in Whitfield for psychiatric evaluation to see if he could stand trial. During his confession to Judge Dale, Williams implicated a woman named Alice Ferrill of Biloxi. On July 12 the District Attorney announced he would be filing charges against Ferrill in connection to the Ward murder too.

The D.A. stated in the press that Williams, Ferrill, and another man who was since deceased, had been suspects back in 1948, and Ferrill had been questioned for 28 days. Eventually, all were released due to lack of evidence. No money from the robbery was ever recovered. On September 3, Ferrill pleaded innocent and was released on $5000 bond.

Williams eventually stood trial and he stated that he did not remember talking to Judge Dale, and that he did not willingly, or intentionally waive his right to a lawyer or his right to remain silent. Judge Darwin Maples agreed with him, and ruled his confession inadmissible. The District Attorney, Donald Cumbest appealed Judge Maples decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court, and Williams was released on bond in February, pending the court’s decision.  

In April, Williams was again arrested for threatening the life of D.A. Cumbest. The arresting officer, Howard Ellzey said that on the ride to the Jackson Co., jail, Williams repeatedly threatened his life too. Judge Maples ruled that Williams was to be held without bond pending the outcome of the appeal on the murder case. On Sunday night, August 13, Williams escaped from the jail in Lucedale. He was captured the next day near the city limits and returned to jail. Williams sat in jail until March of 1968 when the Supreme Court upheld his acquittal in the Ward case. Alice Ferrill was to be tried after Williams, but since his confession implicating her was inadmissible, she was never brought to trial.

There was a third person arrested back in 1948 for Ward’s murder. Bruce Thompson, which may have been an alias, was reported to have died before Williams’ 1966 arrest. His role in the crime is not clear. In Williams statement, he claimed he was with two men who went into the house while he waited outside. In any case, Thompson was never prosecuted either.

A further note, there was a fourth murder during this same time period that remains unsolved. Ulysses Lauzon, a Canadian criminal who was on the run from authorities, was found shot to death on the side of Highway 90 near Pascagoula. The 26-year-old armed robber was identified by the New Orleans police department from a 1945 circular from the Ottawa Police. His body was found on July 19, and there were two suspects wanted for questioning. Lauzon had escaped from an Ontario, Canada prison in August of 1947. It is not believed that his murder is connected to the others mentioned earlier.

 

Well, that’s about it. All these killings with no official conclusion. I would like to know what ballistic evidence, if any, actually connected three of the murders. I feel that Williams was involved in killing Mr. Ward. But, while he was drunkenly confessing, I think he would have spilled the beans about any other murder he was involved in. The gun “could” have been used in more than one crime, but there is little if any chance to determine that at this stage.

I think that Mr. Roe’s parents must have had a strange sense of humor. Ova, is the Latin word for egg, and Roe, is a mass of eggs contained in the ovaries of a female fish. The things we do to our children….

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Gainer / Collins Murders

 The Gainer / Collins Murders

Across the road from the L&N Railroad Depot in Milton, Florida was a building complex consisting of an Ice Factory, a general store, and a warehouse with the office of the Collins Construction Company. The buildings were owned by Spencer G. “Babe” Collins with the exception of the Ice Factory which he had recently sold to the Gulf Power Company.

The evening of February 26, 1931 saw a raging fire consume the buildings. The local firefighters were able to heroically contain the damage and the nearby home of the Brashear family was saved. The family was so thankful their home as spared that they publicly thanked the firemen in the local newspaper.

In the ruins of the warehouse, the safe belonging to the Collins Construction Company was found open and emptied with the exception of some fire damaged road bonds. These bonds had been issued by the First National Band for the construction of Highway 37. This road was constructed on an existing road bed from Milton north to the Alabama state line near Dixonville. (It is now Highway 87, and included the construction of a $30,000 bridge.)

Investigation of the burned remains of the building led the authorities to suspect arson. For some reason that is unknown, suspicion fell on the construction company’s bookkeeper, Aubrey Gainer, a well-known and liked local 33-year-old from a popular local family. Gainer’s father had recently retired from operating a store on Oak Street next to the courthouse. Aubrey was married to Emily (nee’ Carlson), and had an eleven-year-old daughter named Betty. Emily’s parents owned a restaurant in Milton

Spencer Gilbert, (Babe) Collins was possibly the wealthiest man in Milton. His house was the brick home across from the Methodist church on Berryhill. In the 1930 census the house is listed as having a value of $15,000 which was the highest in town. (The church now owns this house.) His lawyer Lewis V. Trueman was also absent. He and his wife were touring Cuba and there had even been an article in the Milton Gazette telling of their trip.

I have read statements in the past claiming that the Collins Construction Company was under investigation for tax evasion by the state of Florida. I also read that Aubrey Gainer was cooperating with the investigation. I haven’t been able to substantiate these claims, but I would like to know more.

Aubrey Gainer was arrested and indicted for the arson. It was claimed that he set the fire to cover shortages in the books of the construction company. Of course, the books were not found and there is no evidence to support the claim. On June 3rd, Gainer was acquitted of arson in the Circuit Court. He must have known by now that his cooperation with the authorities in the tax case was no secret and began making moves to get out of Santa Rosa County. He bought a $50,000 life insurance policy and he invested money in some drug stores in Crestview, Okaloosa County. He waited too long to make his move.


 

 On June 14, 1931 with great fanfare, and loads of visiting dignitaries, the bridge across Santa Rosa Sound opened allowing vehicles with up to four passengers to pay one dollar to drive across the sound to Casino beach. An excess of four in the car paid 10 cents a head for the overage.

On July 18th Aubrey Gainer, wife Emily, daughter Betty, and Betty’s friend Myrtle Mitchell, the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s 11-year-old sister, piled into the Gainer car for an excursion to check out the new bridge. An outing such as this in 1931 must have been quite exciting to the young ladies, and Aubrey surely needed a break from the pressure he must have been under. (I wish I knew what kind of car he owned.)

Around 10 pm, or so, the weary sightseers returned to Milton, and after dropping Miss Mitchell off at the Sheriff's office, made their way to their home on Pine Street. The Gainer home was on the corner of Pine, and Escambia with a separate garage located behind the house with its entrance off of Escambia Street. About 300 feet due south of the garage was Hill Street and then the L & N railroad tracks.  (These parts of Escambia, and Pike streets no longer exists.)

Aubrey dropped Emily, and Betty off before he turned into the garage, and they moved into the yard to await Aubrey to walk to the house. Gainer parked the car, exited the garage and taking Betty by the hand started to walk to the house. Then, suddenly a shadow appeared from behind the garage and fired a shotgun directly into Aubrey’s torso. As he fell, he pulled Betty down with him. The gunman disappeared into the night as Emily, and Betty screamed for help. The neighbors heard the commotion and called Sheriff Mitchell. The Sheriff and Chief Deputy Wade Cobb arrived at the scene, and though it looked bleak, Gainer was still alive and they arranged transportation to a hospital in Pensacola where he died early the next morning. The attending physician said Gainer was hit with nine pellets, six of which passed all the way through his body, and three were removed.

The home of the Gainers
From the 1917 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Milton


Sheriff Henry Clay Mitchell had already been the top law enforcement officer in Santa Rosa County for ten years. He was only 25 when elected and was the youngest Sheriff in the nation when he took office. His Chief Deputy Wade Cobb would also one day be a two-term Sheriff of the county. They examined the crime scene at daylight and found some interesting clues. About 150 feet or so from the garage they found a shotgun tossed in some bushes and footprints led into a swampy area and then some tire marks a parked car had left in the soft soil.

There was an arrest made almost instantly. H. R. Covington, a sailor from Oklahoma, but assigned to Pensacola was taken into custody but no charges were filed. He was released on July 23, after Sheriff Mitchell made two more arrests, and was convinced he had the murderers. Two days after the ambush, and killing, William T. Wolfe, and Webb Allen were taken into custody and charged with murder. Webb Allen was the nephew of S. G. Collins’ wife Minnie.

Sheriff Mitchell talked to many potential witnesses during his investigation. Some witnesses told him they had seen Wolfe, and Allen in a car the night of the murder. The suspects denied even being in town that night. Wolfe lived about 15 miles or so north of Milton. The Sheriff did not believe them and examined the car they were in. The suspect car had three different types of tires with three different kinds of tread. The distinctive tread matched perfectly the tread marks found near the crime scene. Then came the revelation that the shotgun discarded in the bushes was bought a few months later from a dealer in Pensacola by S.G. Collins. He had reported it missing from his company office a short time before the crime.

When Gainer was murdered S. G. Collins was out of town. He left during the first week of July on a trip to North Carolina to drum up some business for his construction company. Also, his lawyer Lewis V. Trueman was on a trip to Cuba with his wife.

Wolfe, and Allen were held on a $25,000 bond which they could not post. Collins returned to Milton and posted a $25,000 bond. He was suspected of being an accessory before the fact. Namely, hiring the killers to silence Gainer. Wolfe, and Allen appealed their bond by filing a writ of habeas corpus with the Florida Supreme Court. Even though Sheriff Mitchell was sure that William Wolfe was the triggerman, and Webb Allen was the driver, Wolfe was set free, and Allen’s bond was reduced to $5000. Within a week he was able to raise the money and was also set free.

William Wolfe needs to be discussed a little. There is no way at this late date to know for sure, and he was never convicted of any violent crime that I have been able to find. However, in 1911 he was a convict guard at a turpentine camp near McLellan and Leon Rivenbark was his brother-in-law and fellow guard. George Rivenbark was a “woods rider” for the Franklin Gaye camp. These were some hard men. George Rivenbark administered a beating to Jonas Cooley, and when his brother Daniel Cooley came riding into the camp a few days later, he was killed by Franklin Gaye. Three days later Arch, and Alf Cooley were killed near the steel bridge on the Milton-Munson road. They were shot from ambush, and their killing was never officially solved. Hyman Cooley was sure he knew who had done the killing and a couple of years later, he saw Leon Rivenbark and shot at him. He missed and when Leon returned fire he didn’t. An inquest ruled it was self-defense. (See, “The Turpentine Feud of 1911”).  Also, a few years ago, an older citizen of Santa Rosa County told me that when he was a younger man in the late 1930’s and into the 40’s and 50’s it was known that Mr. Wolfe was a man that did not mind getting his hands dirty.

I would also imagine that Sheriff Mitchell was especially motivated to find, convict, and punish the Gainer killers because his young sister Myrtle, and Betty Gainer were best friends, and possibly she could have been there in the line of fire if she had gone home with Betty.

Santa Rosa county had a small law enforcement presence. A Sheriff, and Chief Deputy; maybe another deputy, and some constables scattered in different communities. During this same period in 1931 there were numerous other serious crimes. Ben Lee shot Dempsey Enfinger in a dispute over a young lady. Another young lady named Lilla Yarler shot Tom Harvell. A man named Will Cooley was killed by J.G., and Lee Thomas, brothers from Bagdad, and his body dumped in the Yellow River. Cooley’s wife was also implicated in the murder. A tenet farmer named George Ellis had a dispute with the man he farmed for over two bales of cotton, and he shot and killed R.G. Quick in the Berrydale area. Also, it was the year that a posse cornered 4 desperadoes in Mulat Bayou who were on a statewide crime spree. I’d say the Sheriff’s office had its hands full. 

Aubrey Gainer's father J.C. was a retired store owner and maybe the grief was just too much. He died suddenly on August 31. 

 

Spencer G. “Babe” Collins was still under bond on September 11, when he traveled across the bridge to the east Milton home of his business partner, and friend J. E. Estes. He was there to discuss some of the business he was able to obtain on his trip to North Carolina. The investigation of Aubrey Gainer’s murder had stalled, and Collins was probably trying to put it all behind him and get back to business.

It was right around dusk when he and Estes finished their conversation and Collins walked across the road toward his car to head back into town. Estes had turned to walk back to his house when a slow-moving car, later thought to be a Ford Model A when described by witnesses, approached Collins. As it neared him, someone fired a shotgun mortally wounding Collins. Estes rushed to his aid, and Collins told him, “Get their number! Call the doctor, they got me.” Estes looked at the car as it crossed the bayou bridge, but he could not make out the license number.

A truck carrying three men, G.L. Metts, John F. Collinsworth, and Posey Broxson arrived on the scene. Dr. J. B. Turner, and Dr. Rufus Thames arrived quickly and tried to find a pulse. They pronounced Collins dead on the scene. Sheriff Mitchell then arrived and questioned the witnesses. There were some me working close by who had heard the shot, but did not see anything other than identifying the type of car.

Collins had been hit in the shoulder with double-ought buckshot with the 12 pellets ranging down through his body and shredding his heart. He died right after his last words to his friend Estes.

A young man named Almon Spencer was in front of the Imogene Theater when he heard the shotgun blast from across the river. As he watched the bridge a car with three men he recognized came across and turned immediately. Almost eight decades later one of his younger brothers told me that the men in the car were, Chief Deputy Wade Cobb, C.B. Penton, and a man named Villar. I also heard from someone who knew Cobb that around 1960 when he was running for Sheriff, he expressed concern that he would not be elected because too many people knew about his involvement in the Collins killing. It is also interesting to note that within two years, the lawyer for Collins, L.V. Trueman moved to Ogden, Utah and was there until he was killed at his home by someone he ruled against in a divorce case. (Read about that case, here.)

Sheriff Mitchell summoned Judge McLeod who acted as coroner, and they impaneled a jury consisting of Dick Lane, G.C. Beck, G.L. Metts, Posey Broxson, Gully McCombs, and J.E. Estes. The Sheriff questioned the men who were working nearby. They were T.R. Scruggs, owner of Scruggs Boatworks, M.N. Diden, Dewey Batson, and John S. Cox. They told him they heard the blast, but thought it was a blow out. They did not see a license plate, but agreed that it was probably a Ford Model A.

If, (a big IF), Wade Cobb was involved, then Mitchell probably knew what was going on and questioned the witnesses closely at the inquest to see if anyone had seen anything important.

The death of Collins pretty much ended the investigation into the Gainer murder. Will Wolfe, and Webb Allen were never tried and it became a cold case. There was an arrest, and trial in the killing of S. G. Collins however.

Collins older brother, John Houston Collins, known as Long John due to his 6 ft., 7-inch height was well known and respected in Northwest Florida. He had been Sheriff of Santa Rosa County on two separate occasions. He was also an ex-mayor of Milton, and at one time was Postmaster. He was not going to be easily satisfied about the progress of the investigation into his brother’s murder. His investigation, and relationship with prison officials at Raiford ended up with Cecil B. Penton being arrested and tried for the murder of Babe Collins in 1934. My essay about his arrest and trial is linked here.

Author’s note:  I debated about sharing the possible involvement of Deputy Wade Cobb. I finally decided it should be included. I mean no disrespect toward a man who I consider to be a fine Sheriff and served this county well during his career in law enforcement. I can even understand why Sheriff Mitchell and Cobb would have taken things to this extreme. It was a different time, and Mitchell probably felt his main suspect was going to get away with it due to his great wealth and standing in the county. Mitchell was defeated in his reelection bid by Joe Allen. Possibly because he didn’t solve this case, or more likely due to the fact he was suing the County Commission for not reimbursing him properly for jail, and prisoner upkeep. Mitchell went on to a long career in different official state roles involving law enforcement. He even unsuccessfully ran for Escambia County Sheriff later in life.

If you haven’t visited my blog yet, please do so. You might find other stories of this type that will interest you. I hope you like it, and please leave comments either there, or on the Facebook Group. These stories are all works in progress, and if I learn any new or different information, I always update, and correct.

  http://judgingshadows.blogspot.com/   

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Treachery of Mrs. Vann

 

The Treachery of Mrs. Vann

Or, How Her Husband Knew the Truth, but Refused to Give Up on Her

Unlike the majority of my essays about mostly forgotten Panhandle malfeasance, this story does not contain a killing. Admittedly, there was a poor attempt, but due to the tabloid atmosphere this created in the area, I felt it was worth exploring. There was an affair carried out by a younger wife with even a younger fellow. There was a hopelessly bungled attempt to kill the husband, and possibly many innocent people for the insurance money. There was so much publicity that there was a change of venue granted for the trial. I bet for a period of about 2 years this was a dominant topic around kitchen tables.

On April 1, 1936, All Fool’s Day, Engineer Livvie W. Vann was bringing his three-car passenger train toward Pensacola on his regular run from Selma, Alabama. Just before 2 pm as he approached the Cottage Hill area, he noticed a slight buckling in the rail, but thought it was a piece of wood, and passed over it. When he arrived in Cantonment a few minutes later, he reported it to the section foreman for the L & N Railroad, who soon went to investigate. What he found prompted him to immediately notify the Escambia County Sheriff.

The Pensacola Journal headlines of April 2, 1936 let their readers know that: An attempt was made to derail L&N Southbound train #1, by removing spikes from almost an entire length of rail on a curve one mile north of Cottage Hill. They surmised that the only reason it was unsuccessful was that the rail that was tampered with was on the inside of the curve. Also, that the train derailment was intended to result in the death of the engineer, Mr. L. W. Vann.

Escambia County Sheriff H.E. Gandy, and Deputies Ernest Harper, and Richard Olsen investigated the scene of the rail tampering. They found tracks leading them to a truck abandoned nearby. In the rear of the truck, they found a railroad spike puller, a crow bar, and a large wrench with a long length of pipe in it’s handle for leverage. The opinion was that the suspects drove to the scene, did the job, and preparing to depart, could not start the truck. Bloodhounds trailed the two men to the Flomaton road about a half-mile from the site of the rail damage where they apparently caught a ride.

Tracing the registration of the truck, the Sheriff was stunned to find out it was registered to Engineer Vann himself. They headed to Ferry Pass to speak to some people.

The April 3, and 4th issues of the Pensacola Journal let everyone know that the investigation was proceeding. The truck would not start for the getaway part of the plot due to being out of gas. It was also revealed that this was the second attempt to derail Engineer Vann’s train. The Sheriff was looking for at least two suspects but had made no arrests.

On April 6th it was reported that Earl Travis, 28, a carpenter from Castleberry, Alabama was brought in for questioning. He was living in a rented room at 124 S. Reus St. He was taken into custody for vagrancy when deputies found him hanging around a filling station on Ferry Pass road. He denied any connection to the derailment attempt. At the time it was thought that he was one of the truck occupants.

On April 7th the Journal reported that four people were being held in connection with the derailment. Earl Travis remained in custody, along with Cleve Carter, and his wife, Adelaide, and George Johnson who worked for Vann. Johnson, and the Carters were black and Johnson claimed a “strange negro” called for the truck last Tuesday, saying he was sent by Cleve Carter. Carter had denied he sent for the truck.

The next day on the 8th of April, Wednesday, it was reported that Allen Findley, 16, and Allen Langston, 70, (later said to be 76 years of age), were in custody, after confessing to the attempt to derail the train. Findley also confessed in the attempt to derail the same train a few weeks before when it passed through the Oak Field area. At some point on the 8th, or 9th, Mrs. Mary Vann was taken into custody and jailed by Sheriff Gandy.

Allen Langston was known by residents of the Bell’s Head section to profess ability to read into the future, (I guess he failed to foresee his current predicament), and it was learned in his confession that Mrs. Vann had visited the old man’s shack on a number of occasions presumably to have her fortune told. Sheriff Gandy does not believe the voodoo had anything to do with the attempted derailment. Langston charged fees for his services dealing mainly with settlements of family affairs and holding strange rituals including burning a bluish type of wax.

The following day the Journal reported that Solicitor Richard H. Merritt said he would file charges carrying sentences totaling nearly 50 years against Mrs. Mary Barnett Vann, held at the county jail, in the attempted wrecking of a passenger train on which her husband was the engineer. He said he would add charges of attempted murder and tampering with the railroad tracks to the conspiracy count under which the 40-year-old woman was arrested Tuesday, after two negroes confessed that she hired them to loosen a section of track on a curve near Cottage Hill on All Fool’s Day.

Mr. Vann was 6 feet tall and white-haired. He was the engineer on a three-car passenger train that made a regular run between Selma, Alabama, and Pensacola. He usually left home around 1:40 pm on his run to Selma, and returned the next afternoon about 2:45. Even after his wife’s arrest, and hearing that Earl Travis had confessed to having an affair with Mrs. Vann, he told reporters that, “I still believe in her”, and that he found Findley, and Langston’s confessions, “incredible”. However, sources claimed that Mr. Vann did change the beneficiaries on his three insurance policies to his sons. There were three sons, and Mrs. Vann had a daughter from a previous marriage. All lived in the Ferry Pass home.

Mrs. Vann, it should be noted, never admitted to any wrong doing, whatsoever, and her dutiful husband, promised to obtain a bond and get her out of jail. As soon as he got back from his Selma run. (Publicly he defended her, privately was probably another matter.) Mr. Vann hired William Fisher to represent his wife and went about finding her a bondsman.

On April 11th charges were announced against Mrs. Vann, and Earl Travis. Arraignment was scheduled for the next term of the Court of Record, opening May 11. Judge C. Moreno Jones set bail for both of them at $2000.


 

Allen Langston’s confession which Findley corroborated, claimed that Mrs. Vann promised that both them would receive $50 each to do the work. He also said she told him there was $30,000 hidden under the rail that she wanted for herself. She had also asked them to weaken the rail at Oak Field two weeks before but they were frightened away by a farmer plowing a field after they had removed one, or two spikes. At both locations, Langston claimed Mrs. Vann marked with a pencil the section of the rail she wanted them to tamper with. She told them exactly what time of day she wanted the spikes removed. Langston said they got the truck on the afternoon of March 31. After a northbound train passed, they began pulling spikes until they heard the whistle of Vann’s train. They returned to the truck, but could not get it started. He also claimed that on the second attempt Mrs. Vann told him that if they did a good job, she would build him a house and that, “he would no longer have to live in a hog pen”, and “She was going to let Earl be her old man and that she was getting tired of this one.”

April 14, Mrs. Vann was released on $2000 bond. Travis remained in jail. There is no mention of Langston, and Findley, but since they were poor, black, and it was 1936, I assume they stayed in the county jail until their trial later in the summer.

Mrs. Vann’s bond was signed by her brother Frank B. Martin, and A.C. Wilson, a local business man. Mrs. Vann signed her bond in her cell, then was hurried with her lawyer out a side door to avoid reporters, and into the adjoining Court of Record building. Her husband stood on the corner of Zaragoza, and Tarragona streets, a block from the jail, and got into a car that then picked up Mrs. Vann and her lawyer, and sped away.

On July 23, 1936, the trial for Langston, and Findley got underway. L.W. Vann testified about seeing the strange hump in the rail and how he notified L & N section Foreman J.V. King. Then King testified how he found the tampered with rail, and missing spikes. Bodie Kemp, and W. G. Davis, two employees of The Wiggins Store, told how Langston, and Findley purchased five or six gasolines of gasoline and charged it to Mrs. Vann’s account.

Sheriff Gandy, and Deputy Ernest Harper were questioned by the defense lawyers, J. Montrose Edrehi, and D. Webster Berry, and denied that they were told by the defendants that they removed the rail looking for hidden gold and had planned to replace it before the train got there. After a dozen witnesses testified, Langston, and Findley changed their plea to guilty. Sentencing was postponed until after Mrs. Vann’s trial. (This is curious to me. I don’t know if that was a common practice at the time, or if it was a way to ensure that Langston, and Findley testified the way the state wanted them too in the Vann trial.)

Mrs. Vann’s lawyers began discussing a change of venue due to the amount of publicity the case had generated. In early August, there was a hearing before Judge Fabisinski in Circuit Court on a Change of Venue motion. Mrs. Vann’s attorney, William Fisher argued that she could not get a fair trial in Escambia County. The change was granted and the trial was moved to Milton, in Santa Rosa County. A potential problem with this was that Escambia was the only county in Florida to use a Court of Record, and used “Informations”, instead of indictments. The state Supreme Court in the past, reversed a case after a change of venue because of this.


 

After four and a half hours of testimony the Change of Venue was granted on August 4th. The trial in Milton opened the next day with Jury selection. The State’s case was to be presented by Escambia County Solicitor Richard H. Merritt, E. Dixie Beggs, Jr. Circuit Solicitor, and Senator Phillip D. Beall who was aiding the prosecution as a “Friend of the State”.  Though Mr. Vann had been encouraged by some to leave his wife, he maintained his belief in her innocence and was assisting in her defense.

The Case

The trial began on Wednesday, August 5th. Testimony was complete and went to the jury at 9:30 pm Thursday night. The State presented its case all day Wednesday and until 2pm Thursday. Defense only took two hours and Judge Fabisinski used 30 minutes charging the jurors.

“Mrs. Vann was friendly with Earl Travis, 35-year-old, Pensacola night spot operator, and former Castleberry, Ala carpenter. Travis was a frequent visitor at the Vann home in Ferry Pass, in Escambia County during recent months. Mrs. Vann accompanied Travis to a secondhand store where he bought a bed. Later she visited his room in a boarding house. They had gone to beer joints around Pensacola and danced. Mrs. Vann knew a 76-year-old negro who set himself up as a Voodoo Doctor, conjuror, and fortune teller. She had purchased liniment from Langston and “the Doctor”, had worked a charm on the front of a Pensacola laundry to get Travis a job. (Not sure how “Night Spot Operator” ties into all this.)

Mrs. Vann desired the death of her husband L.W. Vann, 60, a white-haired L & N engineer. With Travis, she conspired to have Langston weaken the rails of the L & N track near Cottage Hill a few minutes before Vann’s fast passenger train would pass over that section of track. For this she promised Langston $400-500 and because Langston was old and infirm, she agreed to give $50 to Allen Findley, 17, for aiding the “witch doctor”. She provided the Vann family’s makeshift old truck used to haul the household wood, and Langston, and Findley, assembled the wrecking tools, went to the spot, which had been marked by Mrs. Vann, and with Vann, and Travis sitting 50 yards away directing, they pulled the spikes from the rails. Fortunately, they pulled the spikes from the inside rail of the curve, instead of the outside rail, and the train was not wrecked. Mrs. Vann planned her husband’s death and was going to use his $6000 insurance policies in which one would pay double indemnity in case of death by accident to bring the total payout to $9000, to marry Travis.

Defense lawyers, William Fisher, and J.T. Wiggins of Milton charged that Mrs. Vann was not being tried for the attempt to wreck the train, but for her indiscretions with Travis. A general denial to all charges of Mrs. Vann’s participation in any wreck plot was made, and instead the witch doctor’s “gold machine” was introduced as the cause of the attempted wreck. Langston owned a machine which was supposed to find gold. He once tried to dig up the Frisco railroad track near Pensacola to get money he said was under the rails, but was warned away by a section Foreman. Testimony showed he told Allen Findley they would clear the L & N tracks and find money there. They were using the Vann truck, which they had borrowed ostensibly to haul some wood, and to haul the tools they needed to clear off the track without Mrs. Vann’s knowledge.


 

They pointed out that this did not seem fantastic to the conjuror since he had spent several years in the Alabama Asylum for Insane Negroes at Mt. Vernon, Alabama, and is still subject to spells.

Mrs. Vann was presented as a hardworking, kindly housewife who was on the best terms with her husband, three sons, and daughter. She was kept too busy with keeping house and looking after all her charges to run around with Travis or anyone else. All this testimony was heard by a six-man jury of Ed Jernigan, Douglas McComb, M.E. Brown, M.C. Diamond, Albert Enfinger, and Nick Broxson.

During Langston’s testimony he told of Mrs. Vann and a “Mr. Earl” coming to his house and offering him four, or five hundred dollars to do “some work on the railroad”. He said she was so persistent about the matter that he “just had to do it”. He said Mrs. Vann accompanied him to the spot on the railroad north of Cottage Hill and showed him how to remove the spikes. It was at that spot that Mr. Vann noticed buckling rails on his April 1 run from Selma. Langston said he was unable to use the crowbar given to him by Mrs. Vann so he asked 17-year-old Findley to help him. He said Mrs. Vann furnished them with the truck and gasoline to get to the spot where they attempted to remove the rails.

“Was anyone along with you?” the prosecutor asked.

A-   “Mrs. Vann”.

Q- “Was anyone with her?”

A-   “Yes, Mr. Earl.”

Q- “Where were they?”

A-   “In the car. About 50 yards from the track.”

Q- “What was she going to give you?’

A-   “Four or five hundred dollars. She told me I could fix up my house fine.”

Q- “Did you ever see Mrs. Vann, and Mr. Earl ever show any affection for each other?”

A-   “Yes. They played huggin’ and kissin’.”

Defense council, William Fischer, Sr. asked Langston if he had ever gone to an Insane Asylum.

A-   “Yes. Up to Mount Vernon.” (The Alabama Asylum near Mobile.)

Langston said he was there for two or three years because of, “spells in my head.” When asked he admitted he still had spells, “now and then”.

Though feeble, Langston was on the stand for more than two hours smiling constantly as he answered questions. Mrs. Vann listened to his testimony intently and spoke quietly to her attorney several times.

The prosecution called Mr. C. G. Hartsfield, L & N railroad agent. He told of finding the truck containing crowbars near the scene and identifying the truck and tools as belonging to Mr. Vann.

The case went to jury deliberation at 9:30 pm after two days of testimony.

The 6-man jury deliberated through the night for more than eleven hours and returned a guilty verdict on two counts. They convicted Mrs. Vann on being an accessory before the fact and conspiracy to commit murder. The defense was granted a hearing to be held August 31 for motion for a new trial. The $2500 bond was continued for Mrs. Vann that was posted by her husband back in April.

On August 31 in Milton, Judge L.L. Fabisinski denied the motion for a new trial, and sentenced Mary Vann to ten years. She was stunned by the ruling and burst into tears as she left the courtroom. An appeal bond was set at $7500 and since the Vann’s could not raise that amount, she was put in the Escambia County jail. Officials indicated that the trial of Earl Travis would start soon, but actually he was never put on trial for conspiracy or anything else. In December, Livvie Vann, and Mrs. Vann’s brother Frank Martin posted the $7500 bond and Mary was released until her appeals went through the system.

Langston, and Findley both received ten-year sentences and with no appeals went directly to prison.

Mary Vann’s case went to the Florida Supreme Court three times, but on 31 March 1938 her last petition for another hearing was denied without comment, and on 4 April it was reported that she was sent to Raiford to begin her 10-year sentence. She had recently opened a dining car lunchroom in downtown Pensacola. I guess she was overly optimistic about her chances.

In July of 1939 Livvie Vann was in a Pensacola hospital dying of Tuberculosis. Mary’s brother Frank Martin requested the State Pardon Board to release her for a week to visit her husband. The request was granted and she was escorted to Pensacola for the visit. (Her brother had to cover the costs of the escort.) After her week-long visit she requested an extension of her visit but was denied. On September 21, Livvie Vann passed away and Mary was granted leave to attend the funeral. Mr. Vann was buried at the Whitmire Cemetery in a Masonic ceremony. He was a life member of the Montgomery Masonic Lodge. The ceremony was conducted by Pensacola Lodge no. 42. Pallbearers were members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

Mary Vann was released from prison on 29 June 1943 after serving about 5 years of her sentence. She remained under parole supervision until 12 April 1948. She then married Jim H. Croft who she met in prison. (I don’t know what his role was at the prison.)  Langston, and Findley were also released on good behavior after serving five years. I haven’t been able to find out any further information about them.

Mary Martin Vann Croft died 21 March 1986 and is also buried at the Whitmire Cemetery.

Pensacola Journal 11 Apr 1936.



 Livvie, and Mary Vann had three sons, and a daughter. Two of the sons joined the Army. John K. Vann was a paratrooper, and Livvie, Jr. was awarded the Bronze Star for actions in the European theater of operations. The youngest son William joined the Navy in 1945, and was assigned to the USS Crater.

Pensacola Journal 8 July 1945.


 

 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Area War Dead from WWII (Part One)

Since May is the month we celebrate Memorial Day, I been looking through old newspapers for lists of casualties of service members from World War II. These lists usually include only the name and hometown of the listed person. I have tried to add some content to the stories of  these young men whose bodies were returned to the area in July 1948. These folks are all heroes, who left their homes either through the draft, or just a desire to help defeat the Axis Powers. They were so young and many died in some of the very first combat they experienced. Over the decades, I think some have begun to forget the sacrifices these folks made, and the void their absence left in their loved ones at home. 

Below are names from only one newspaper article. There are many, many, more. All heroes.

Article from Pensacola Journal, 8 July 1948:



Area War Dead Returned in July 1948

Killed in Action in Italy

Returned on the US Army Transport, SS Carroll Victory

Alabama:

Pvt. Willie S. Cook, Evergreen

SN 1st Ernest Kelley, Atmore

Pvt. William L. Money, Andalusia

FN 1st William E Stone, Phenix City

Florida:

Pfc. Albert Bryant, Ponce DeLeon

Pfc. Arthur L. Carmichael, Graceville

Pvt. Francis H. Davis, Pensacola

Pvt. James N. Hayes, Caryville

Pvt. Curtis Kelly, DeFuniak Springs

Ssgt Allen Lundy, Baker

Pfc. Omer W. Page, Panama City

Pfc. Wiley M. Taylor, Quincy

SS Carroll Victory, (hull V-27), was the 27th Victory ship built during WW2 under the Emergency Shipbuilding program. It was named after Carroll, Iowa, and operated by the Lykes Brothers SS Company. Built by the California Shipbuilding Company in Los Angeles, the keel was laid on March 28, 1944; launched June 13th, and completed August 31, 1944. (Five months to completely build a ship this size is amazing.)

It was 10,500-ton, 455 ft long, beam of 62 ft, and draft of 28 ft. It had a speed of 16.5 knots.

After the war, 1945-47 the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and Church of the Brethren sent livestock to war torn countries. These “Seagoing Cowboys” made 360 trips on 73 different vessels.  In 1949, the SS Carroll Victory arrived in Mobile, Alabama and served with the U.S. Coast Guard. It was later sent to the James River in Virginia as part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In the Korean War it was used to bring supplies to the troops serving there. It was scrapped in India in 1994.

 Pvt. Willie S. Cook

Born: 4 Feb 1924 in Evergreen, Ala. 

Died: 2 Jun 1944 in Italy   

Burial: 12 Aug 1948, Magnolia Cemetery, Evergreen, Alabama

According to his draft card, before joining the Army he was employed by the L.D. King Lumber Co., and lived on Pecan St., in Evergreen, Ala.  He was 5’11” and weighed 135lbs.

Died during the battle to take Rome.

 

Seaman 1st Class, Ernest Kelly

Article stated his body was being returned to Atmore, Ala., but I cannot find any further information about him.

 

Pvt. William L. Money

Born: 9 Dec 1919 in Alabama, (possibly Andalusia)

Died: 11 Jul 1943 in Sicily.

Buried: 1948, Magnolia Cemetery, Andalusia, Covington Co., Alabama

 

William Money enlisted in the U.S. Army 25 Nov 1940, and was trained in Field Artillery.

At the time of his death, he was assigned to C Battery, 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division.

 

Gen. Patton wanted to reinforce his battle-weary force with 2,000 additional paratroopers from the reserves located in North Africa. He ordered that the 1st, and 2nd Battalions, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, (PIR), the 376th PFAB, and Company C from the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion be dropped near Gela on the night of 11 July 1943. On that night, the above-mentioned units were ordered to jump on Farello Airstrip, which was held by Americans. When the C-47 Transport aircraft over the beaches in the wake of a German air raid, nervous anti-aircraft gunners ashore and afloat opened fire with devastating effect. The anti-aircraft guns shot down 23, and damaged 37 of the 144 aircraft. The airborne force suffered 10% casualties, and was badly disorganized. Investigation revealed that not everyone was informed of the impending drop despite the Seventh Army’s best efforts.

The aircraft that Money was on, crashed in a swamp at Pantano D’Arcia in southern Sicily. All onboard were killed. The dead were buried at the Gela Cemetery.

 

Fireman 1st Class, William Earl Stone

Born: 29 July 1922 in Phenix City, Alabama

Died: 5 Aug 1943, Sicily

Buried: 1948, Philadelphia Church, Lee Co., Ala.

His draft card from 30 Jun 1942 shows William at 5’10” tall and 155lbs.

He enlisted 4 Aug 1942.

 

At the time of his death, he was assigned to the USS Shubrick, (DD-639).

The Shubrick was escorting the cruiser USS Savanah, to Palermo. On the night of 4 August, during an air attack, the Shubrick was hit amidships by a 500 lb. bomb which caused flooding of two main machinery spaces and left the ship without power. Nine were killed and twenty wounded during the attack. The ship was returned to the U.S. for extensive repairs.

 

Pfc. Albert Bryant

Born: 8 Mar 1924 in Holmes County, Florida

Died: 1 Feb 1944 in Italy

Buried: New Ponce DeLeon Cemetery, Holmes Co., Florida

 

Albert enlisted 1 Mar 1943 and Camp Blanding, Florida. He was 5’5” and 124 pounds.

At the time of his death, he was part of the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Inf. Division. The 15th Inf. Division was where Audie Murphy later established his bravery to become the most decorated soldier of WW2.  During the war the 15th had 1,633 killed, 5812 wounded, and 419 missing. They also had 16 Medals of Honor.

 

Pfc. Bryant was killed during operation Shingle, the landing, and battle at Anzio.

 

Pfc. Arthur L. Carmichael

Born: 17 Sept 1923 in Chipley, Florida

Died: 7 June 1944 near Rome, Italy

Buried: Damascus Baptist Church, Graceville, Jackson Co., Florida

 

Draft Card from 5 May 1942, 5’11”, 154lbs.

Employed at J. Roy Camp Plumbing Co., Dothan, Alabama

 

Member of 339th Inf. Regt., 85th Inf. Division

Unit was pursuing the Herman Goering Panzer Division towards Rome, on 2 June the 339th had seized Mount Fiore.

 

Pvt. Francis Harry Davis

Born: 22 Nov 1922

Died: 1 June 1944 in Italy

Buried: Ft. Barrancus National Cemetery, Pensacola, Escambia Co., Florida

 

141st Infantry Regt./ 36th Infantry Division

The “Alamo Regiment”

Killed in Action during Anzio operation, assault on Velletri, 1 June 1944.

 

Davis was previously wounded on 11 February, but had returned to duty recently. He had two brothers also in military service.


 

Pvt. James Norman Hayes

Born: 14 Sept 1915 (Draft card states 1913), Washington Co., Florida

Died: 2 Feb 1944, Anzio, Italy

Buried: Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, Hinson’s Crossroads, Washington, Florida.

Married Marie Hendricks in Holmes Co., Florida on 29 June 1940

Registered for draft 16 Oct 1940, 5’10”, 140 lbs.

Enlisted 20 May 1943 at Camp Blanding, Florida

 

Co. G/ 157th Inf. Regt./ 45th Infantry Division

KIA during Anzio operation.

 

Pvt. Curtis Kelley

Born: 14 June 1916 in Okaloosa Co., Florida

Died: 6 June 1944 near Rome, Italy

Buried: Magnolia Cemetery, DeFuniak Springs, Walton Co., Florida

Reg. for draft on 16 Oct 1940

Married Annie Rushing 31 Dec 1940 in Walton Co., Florida

Enlisted: 10 July 1943 at Camp Blanding, Florida

 

Co. A/ 135th Inf. Regt./ 34th Inf. Division

Killed in Action near Rome, Italy

 

SSgt Allen William Lundy

Born: 13 Sept 1920 in Laurel Hill, Okaloosa Co., Florida

Died: 23 May 1944 in Lazio, Italy

Buried: Almarante Cemetery, Laurel Hill, Okaloosa Co., Florida

 

Could not find a draft card.

Enlisted 5 Sept 1940

 

36th Engineer Regt.

KIA during landing support, Operation Shingle, Anzio.

 

Note: His grandfather was Bill Lundy, one of the last few surviving veterans of the Army of the Confederacy who died at 109 years of age in 1957.


 

Pfc. Omer Wilson Page

Born: 9 Dec 1912 in Bay Co., Florida

Died: 31 May 1944 in Italy

Buried: Bayou George Cemetery, Bay Co., Florida

 Enlisted: 24 Apr 1943 at Camp Blanding, Florida

 

Co. K/ 135th Inf. Regt./ 34th Inf. Division

 Received a (posthumous) Distinguished Service Cross for action occurring on 3 Feb 1944.

 

PAGE, OMER (KIA)
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Omer Page (34783289), Private First Class, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company K, 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 3 February 1944. Private First C

lass Page's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 34th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
Headquarters, Fifth U.S. Army, General Orders No. 155 (1944)
Home Town: Bay County, Florida

 

Pfc. Wiley M. Taylor

Born: 1 May 1922

Died: 26 March 1944 at Anzio

Buried: Attapulgus Methodist Church, Attapulgus, Decatur Co., Georgia

Enlisted: 10 Oct 1942

 

Battery C./ 451 AAA/ AW Battalion

Coast Artillery; Anti-Aircraft unit

 

Killed in Action by bomb fragments during action at Anzio.

 His body was returned to Quincy, but he was ultimately buried across the state line in Decatur Co., Georgia.

 

Since most of the young men mentioned here enlisted at Camp Blanding, in Starke, Florida, I thought I would add the Wikipedia entry.

 

Camp Blanding was established in 1939 on 30,000 acres (12,000 ha) as a training facility for the Florida National Guard after its previous training base (Camp Foster) on the St. Johns River near Jacksonville had been taken over by the Navy for Naval Air Station Jacksonville. The new camp was named for Albert H. Blanding, who had been commissioned in the Florida National Guard in 1899, and was then a Major General and Chief of the National Guard Bureau. In 1940, as the threat of war increased and the United States Army was built up, Camp Blanding became a Federal facility housing two infantry divisions plus auxiliary units. Between 1940 and 1943, nine US Army infantry divisions trained at Camp Blanding, including: 1st Infantry Division29th Infantry Division30th Infantry Division31st Infantry Division36th Infantry Division43rd Infantry Division63rd Infantry Division66th Infantry Division, and 79th Infantry Division. In 1943, Camp Blanding became an Infantry Replacement Center, training soldiers to be sent to existing infantry divisions as replacements, providing a high percentage of the replacements sent to Army combat units.[2][3]

The base was a holding center for 343 JapaneseGerman, and Italian immigrant residents of the United States.[4] A small cemetery is located on the grounds of the former POW camp.[5] In 1946 the actual bodies were removed to the Ft. Benning however the grave markers remaine.[6] Additionally five settler era cemeteries are located on Camp Blanding property. Most are not maintained and are heavily overgrown.[7]

 

At one point during the war, the camp contained the population of the fourth-largest city in Florida. It had 10,000 buildings, 125 miles (201 km) of paved roads, and the largest hospital in the state. It was one of the largest training bases in the country.[8]

An expeditionary airfield consisting of two gravel runways capable of accommodating C-130 Hercules aircraft has been added.

From 2001 until 2008, Camp Blanding was used by the Southeast Region of the Civil Air Patrol to host their Southeast Region Encampment for cadets. The Florida Wing of Civil Air Patrol continues to use Camp Blanding for their wing-level summer cadet encampments.

From Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Blanding


 

Since these brave young men died during intense fighting in Italy, here is the Wikipedia entry for Anzio.

 

Battle of Anzio

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Battle of Anzio was a battle of the Italian Campaign of World War II that took place from January 22, 1944 (beginning with the Allied amphibious landing known as Operation Shingle) to June 5, 1944 (ending with the capture of Rome). The operation was opposed by German forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno.[a][4]

The operation was initially commanded by Major General John P. Lucas, of the U.S. Army, commanding U.S. VI Corps with the intention being to outflank German forces at the Winter Line and enable an attack on Rome.

The success of an amphibious landing at that location, in a basin consisting substantially of reclaimed marshland and surrounded by mountains, depended on the element of surprise and the swiftness with which the invaders could build up strength and move inland relative to the reaction time and strength of the defenders. Any delay could result in the occupation of the mountains by the defenders and the consequent entrapment of the invaders. Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, understood that risk, but he did not pass on his appreciation of the situation to his subordinate,[citation needed] Lucas, who preferred to take time to entrench against an expected counterattack. The initial landing achieved complete surprise with no opposition and a jeep patrol even made it as far as the outskirts of Rome. However, Lucas, who had little confidence in the operation as planned, failed to capitalize on the element of surprise and delayed his advance until he judged his position was sufficiently consolidated and he had sufficient strength.

While Lucas consolidated, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the German commander in the Italian theatre, moved every unit he could spare into a defensive ring around the beachhead. His artillery units had a clear view of every Allied position. The Germans also stopped the drainage pumps and flooded the reclaimed marsh with salt water, planning to entrap the Allies and destroy them by epidemic. For weeks a rain of shells fell on the beach, the marsh, the harbour, and on anything else observable from the hills, with little distinction between forward and rear positions.

After a month of heavy but inconclusive fighting, Lucas was relieved and sent home. His replacement was Major General Lucian Truscott, who had previously commanded the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division. The Allies broke out in May. But, instead of striking inland to cut lines of communication of the German Tenth Army's units fighting at Monte Cassino, Truscott, on Clark's orders, reluctantly turned his forces north-west towards Rome, which was captured on June 4, 1944. As a result, the forces of the German Tenth Army fighting at Cassino were able to withdraw and rejoin the rest of Kesselring's forces north of Rome, regroup, and make a fighting withdrawal to his next major prepared defensive position on the Gothic Line.

 

This is just an overview. Wikipedia has the in-depth account of the whole operation.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Anzio