Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Dead at Stones River

Stones River National Cemetery 1866
  For many years it was believed that at least 620,000 men died in the Civil War. Over half of these were from disease. In the last few years that number has been revised upward by experts to over 750,000 men that died in the Civil War. This was almost 2% of the total population at that time. More men died in the Civil War than all the American wars put together from the American Revolution to Iraq and Afghanistan. There were 22 million people living in the Northern states of who the majority were white. There were 9 million people living in the south or the 11 Confederate states. Five million whites, and 4 million slaves and free blacks. One in five Southern men died in the Civil War. An estimated fifty thousand civilians died in the war. The population of Murfreesboro was 1,671 whites and 1, 190 blacks,who were mostly slaves. The total was 3,861 The population of Rutherford County was 14,743 white people and 13, 174 slaves and free blacks, a total of 27,917. Counting Murfreesboro and Rutherford County together it was 31,778. When the Confederate Army of Tennessee concentrated in Murfreesboro in December 1862 it totaled 37,317. The Union Army that concentrated in front of Murfreesboro on December 30. 1862 totaled 43,400. Both armies totalled 80,717. This in a town that only had a population of less than 4,000.

  After the battle of Stones River there were 10, 268 Confederate casualties and 13, 249 Union casualties. Making a total of 23, 417. Casualty totals included killed, wounded and captured. Confederate killed were 1,294, wounded 7,945, captured 1,027. Union killed were 1,730, wounded 7,802, captured 3, 717. To put this in perspective America lost 3,527 combat deaths in eight years of fighting in Iraq. Union and Confederate forces at Stones River or Murfreesboro lost 3,024 in just three days. In reality it was primarily over two days because there was little fighting on the second day January 1, 1863. The same day that the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. You can figure over the next few days and months after the battle at least several more thousand men died of their wounds. The Union army occupied Murfreesboro after the Confederate withdrawal. Although the battle was a tactical draw it was a strategic victory for the North. It is said that virtually every house along the railroad between Murfreesboro and Gallatin were packed with the wounded. Murfreesboro resident John Spence recalled that "The three college buildings were used as hospitals, all the churches, several of the storerooms, and several large dwelling houses....Nearly all the families had one or two wounded men in care". Nashville hospitals were also flooded with the wounded. Stones River for the Union Army when you consider the ratio of forces engaged to the number of casualties was the bloodiest battle of the war. Gettysburg was the worst for the Confederacy. 

  Identification of the dead was usually accomplished by fellow soldiers.. At Stones River a wooden headboard was fashioned with the name and unit etched on it. The reason so many men were eventually listed as unknown when they were moved to Stones River National Cemetery is because poor whites and the freed slaves used many of these markers for firewood.  Men sometimes wrote their name on a piece of paper or bought an identification necklace from a sutler. I found one of these on the battlefield of Liberty Gap near Bell Buckle. I only found half of the ID and it had the last name Leach on it and Boro Tennessee. It could have been Murfreesboro or any Boro in Tennessee. Many times burial trenches were used to bury soldiers. There are at least twelve at Shiloh. I believe that because of the rocky nature of the soil around the battlefield at Stones River most soldiers were buried individually. These graves were shallow and it wasn't uncommon that after a heavy rain weeks and months later to see hands and other body parts sticking up out of the soil. When I hunted battlefields like Stones River I would find buttons that had residue on them that I was told that was from being on the uniform of a decaying soldier. Or I would find bullets that looked like someone or something had chewed on them because they would be saturated with teeth marks. Wild hogs roamed the battlefield rooting out dead bodies and when they ate the flesh they would sometime find the bullet or bullets that had killed the particular soldier that they were eating.
Wooden head board of a Union soldier who died at Stones River

Bayonet that was possibly used for moving decomposing bodies by hooking on to the clothes of the dead soldiers
Early form of a dog tag used by a Confederate soldier found on the battlefield of Liberty Gap
Union Eagle button that has residue possibly from a decomposing body

  An attempt was made to identify Union dead because they occupied the battlefield after the battle. No attempt was made to identify Confederate dead unless they were found by family members and taken home to be buried in family cemeteries. The following is from a Daily News Journal article called Hallowed History: Stories from Evergreen Cemetery. Confederate Circle is the mass grave of more than 2,000 soldiers who died in the Battle of Stones River and other area skirmishes. “There are men from nearly every Southern state buried here, most of them unknown”. Those who are known, less than 10 percent, are listed on the marble monuments flanking the central obelisk. The Confederate soldiers were originally buried at Stones River National Battlefield. In 1867 they were moved to a cemetery 2 miles south of Murfreesboro on Shelbyville Highway. “Confederate Circle was established in 1890 when this plot was granted to Gen. Joseph B. Palmer of the association of Confederate Soldiers Tennessee Division.” The Murfreesboro Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy moved the soldiers to their final resting place in 1891. 

  Some Confederates were buried by mistake in Stones River National Cemetery. One grave holds at least eleven Confederate soldiers. After the battle there were also thousands of dead horses that had to be disposed of. They were usually thrown on a pile and burned. The Union Army camped around Murfreesboro for six months after the battle before starting the Chickamauga campaign in late June 1863. On July 17, 1862 Lincoln signed the bill authorizing the establishment of National Cemeteries for the burial of dead Union soldiers. The reburial took five years nationwide and 250,000 Union soldiers were found but only 58% were identified. The cemetery at Stones River took two years to place the graves of 6100 Union soldiers from the Stones River battlefield and from all over Middle Tennessee. Union soldiers killed at Franklin are also buried there along with black Union soldiers who died in Middle Tennessee. Of these burials 2,562 are unknown.
Black soldiers recovering Union dead at Cold Harbor. 


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's In A Name?

Increase Mather
  It is funny how names change through the years. For example my grandfathers name was Marcellus. I don't think that I have ever met a white Marcellus since my grandfather died. Men of his generation and later were also named after presidents. I used to know a few Woodrow Wilson's and I had an uncle James Garfield Frogge. My grandmother was Ella Belle, and my mother was Donie Belle. We also have a granddaughter named Lydea Belle. My great grandmother was Caldonie Sherrill Brown. My paternal great-grandmother was Clemenza, aka Menzie Jolly. Many men were named after old testament patriarchs in the 1800's. Clemenza's father was named Aaron and it was passed on to my father Willard and son Robbie as their middle names. I had a great-great grandfather and an uncle named Isaac. A great uncle named Jacob. Names like Moses, Abraham, and Joseph were common. My paternal great grandfathers name was Joseph Segroves, In colonial times it was also popular to name men and boys after biblical characters. Girls were named Rachel, Abigail, and Esther. Boys Moses, Noah, and Isaiah. However from there it gets bizarre. Names like Zerubbabel, Shearjashub, and Mahershalalhashbaz. 

  Other names were chosen to encourage virtue. Kill-sin, Fly-fornication, Mindwell, Experience, Rejoice, and Increase. There was a famous Puritan minister that was named Increase Mather. However in the Southern Colonies were named more conventional English names like James, George, and Edward. During the nullification crisis in  After the American Revolution some parents looked for classical ancient Greek and Roman names. For boys Homer, Horatio and Ulysses. For girls Cassandra, Portia, and Minerva. Other parents named their boys after American heroes. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. This also helped to institutionalize the middle name. In 1814 one man named his daughter Encyclopedia Britannica Dewey. Then there was States Rights Gist who was born in the midst of the nullification crisis of 1831 in South Carolina and his parents defiantly named him States Rights. He would be one of the six Confederate generals killed at the battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. There was a legend that a man in Texas, whose last name was Hogg, had twin daughters that he named  Ima Hogg and Ura Hogg. This story is only partially true. There was an Ima Hogg but no Ura. James Stephen Hogg was the governor of Texas from 1890 until 1894 and he named his daughter Ima. Not in a vindictive way because he loved his daughter very much and they were very close. She grew up to be a famous philanthropist. He just liked the name Ima.
Ima Hogg

States Rights Gist

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Madness of Elliot Rodger Vs.The Right To Bear Arms

  Here we go again. Another crazy person goes on a shooting rampage and the left targets guns as the culprit. I know a little something about mental illness. My father could have won an award for the best father in the world for the first nine years of my life. He took us fishing, swimming, and hunting. Daddy taught me how to play baseball and never missed one game or practice. We did everything together. Then he began to act weird and his drinking increased to the point that he stayed drunk a lot. I didn't want to be around him anymore. Because I wanted my old dad back I asked him to get help one night when he was drinking but still lucid enough to understand me.  He agreed and checked himself into a local sanitarium and it seemed to help him for a while but soon he would relapse and check himself back into a sanitarium in order to dry out. This cycle lasted for several years until one day my mother and I returned home to find my father incoherent and close to death after taking an overdose of pills. We called an ambulance and his life was saved after having his stomach pumped. 

  He was committed to what was then called Madison sanitarium where he received electroshock treatments  Shortly after he was released my younger brother and I woke up to the sound of a struggle in my parents bedroom. My father was strangling my mother with one hand while trying to hit her with a nightstick. Our screams of terror seem to bring my father to his senses and he fell back on the bed holding his head in his hand. My mother realized something had to be done so she walked the streets of Nashville looking for two doctors who would sign the commitment papers to place my father in the state mental hospital. In the meantime we moved in with my grandparents. My father was a druggist and owned two drugstores but my mother had to work in his place to keep the store we operated going. On January 16, 1963 my mother woke me up for school and while I was getting ready I spotted my father who had a blank expression on his face and I remembered being kind of startled by it. I was upset with my mom that morning which was rare for me because I worshiped the ground she walked on, and I walked out without kissing her. Something I have regretted ever since. 

  My father took us to school without speaking the whole way. He returned home and about 10:05 that morning, while my mother was sleeping, placed a nine shot 22 caliber pistol just behind  her left ear and fired three shots killing her and the unborn baby she was carrying. He then placed the gun to his head and shot himself in the right temple. My grandmother heard the shots, and discovered their bodies. She suffered the first of five heart attacks two days after their funeral and would die after the fifth heart attack one year and ten days later on January 26, 1964. My brothers ninth birthday. In my mind daddy killed four people that day. I am not telling this story to shock, or to gain sympathy but to make the point that I have never once blamed that gun for what happened. In normal times daddy had to carry a lot of money for bank drops late at night and he owned several guns for protection and regularly carried them. As a society our focus is on the wrong thing. Daddy had been treated for mental illness for several years and he progressively grew worse. With all the red flags that my father sent up the last thing on my mind that morning or anybody's mind was murder-suicide.

  As Jesus said the poor will always be with us. I got news for you, that also goes for the mentally ill and just plain old bad guys. We need to declare war on gun free zones and eliminate them.. People like myself who are prior military and have had extensive law enforcement and firearms training and have had extensive background checks, firearms instructors, and retired law enforcement should be able to carry guns just about anywhere. We should promote firearms training in schools along with firearms safety courses. We can also teach kids and adults things they can do to defeat an active shooter when guns are not available.  Qualified teachers should be armed. If we reduce the number of soft targets with target rich environments then we will go a long way toward protecting people and the bad guys will experience the law of diminishing returns. 

  Another thing is that we need to take a hard look at the psycotropic drugs being prescribed to these people. Most if not all of these shootings are linked to these drugs. The influence of violent video games would be another thing to look at.  I know the things I suggest are probably not going to happen because the left will continue to milk this issue for everything it is worth. They will continue to coldly capitalize on the grief of others every time one of these shootings occur. I know something about what these loved ones are feeling right now who lost children and siblings. Nothing that the Democrats have proposed in the area of anti-gun legislation will ever stop this carnage. Ridding ourselves of gun free zones is a great step in the right direction.    

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Memorial Day Tribute To My Family And All Who Served

Zachary Taylor
   A few years ago I traced my family history on both my father and mothers side of the family and  I discovered a few military men here and there. Several even gave their lives in the service of their country. On this Memorial Day I would like to pay tribute to them. Since there were more military veterans on my mothers side I will start with them. My grandmother's name was Ella Belle Frogge Brown. Her ancestor was Colonel John Frogge who was a veteran of the French and Indian War fought from 1754 until 1763 between England and France and each of their Indian allies. John was also the sheriff of Prince William County Virginia. His wife Elizabeth Strother was the sister to Alice Strother who was the grandmother of President John Tyler and Sarah Strother who was the mother of President Zachary Taylor who I will get to later. Colonel John Frogge had a son whose name was also John and he was a Captain in the Virginia Militia. He was born on May 26, 1745 and was killed in action  at the battle of Point Pleasant Virginia, which is now in the state of West Virginia on the Ohio River on October 10 1774. It was the only major battle of Lord Dunmores War fought between the Virginia Militia and the Shawnee and Mingo tribes of American Indians. Lord Dunmore was the Royal Governor of Virginia at the time. The battle was a victory for Virginia which ended the war. A treaty was signed in which the Indians agreed to the Ohio River as the boundary between Indian lands and colonial territory.
  Archibald Sherrill was born on May 26, 1786 and died on July 27, 1853. Archibald was my maternal grandfathers relation. My great grandmother Caldonie, aka "Donie" Sherrill Brown was his descendant. My mother was named Donie after her and my granddaughter was named that in honor of my mother.  Archibald was a veteran of the War of 1812 and he originally enlisted in the 17th Regiment of the Tennessee Militia in 1796 as an Ensign. In modern day rank an Ensign would be the equivalent of a 2nd Lieutenant in the Navy. Apparently Ensign was a militia rank back then. Archibald stood six foot four inches tall which was a giant in those days. The period of time that Archibald served in the militia was a very important period in American history. During the War of 1812 Andrew Jackson commanded the militia and led them in battle against the Creek Indians which resulted in their defeat at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama. His victory resulted in the acquisition of most of the land that would become the states of Alabama and Mississippi. Jackson also led the militia at the Battle of New Orleans in which his force of militia, pirates, Creoles and free black men destroyed Britain's finest soldiers at the Battle of New Orleans, securing the massive Louisiana territory for the United States. Where Archibald was during all this I don't know because I haven't found those records. All I know is that he served in the Tennessee Militia during this period.. Archibald had 17 children and is buried in a small grave yard near Stewarts Ferry Pike off of state route 840.

Grave of Archibald Sherrill

Frogge Mountain
  The first settler in the Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf River was Conrad, or Coonrad Pile, the great, great, grandfather of Alvin York. Among the very first after Coonrad was Arthur Robinson Frogge, who was also a combat veteran of the War of 1812, fighting in the battle of the Thames against Tecumseh.

  As I wrote earlier I am related to Presidents John Tyler and Zachary Taylor through the Strother family who were related to my maternal grandmother. Tyler didn't serve in the military but Zachary Taylor is considered to be one of the greatest generals in American history. His fame as a military leader directly led to his election to the presidency in 1848 as a Whig. He joined the Army on May 3, 1808.  During the War of 1812 he successfully defended Fort Harrison against the Indians led by the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. Taylor had his ups and downs during the war. After the war he temporarily left the army but rejoined a year later.  Eventually he served in a variety of areas from Wisconsin and Minnesota to Louisiana. Taylor participated in the Black Hawk War of 1832. In 1837 he was deployed to Florida to lead the army in the Second Seminole War. He defeated the Seminoles at the battle of Lake Okeechobee on Christmas day and was promoted to Brigadier General. Taylor was appointed to command American forces in the northern campaign of the Mexican War from 1846 to 1848. Many officers who would later become famous in the Civil War fought under Taylor. Among these were Jefferson Davis, George McClellan, Braxton Bragg, Ulysses S. Grant and a host of others. He led American Forces at the battle of Buena Vista, battle of Monterrey, battle of Palo Alto, and the battle of Resaca de la Palma. Grants style of leadership was greatly influenced by Taylor. Taylor's nickname was "Old Rough and Ready". He would die of an apparent heart attack while he was president after attending a ceremony to lay the cornerstone for the Washington Monument on July 9, 1850. Taylor ate cherries and drank cold milk that day. For many years it was believed that he had been poisoned. However a few years ago his body was exhumed and tests revealed that he died of natural causes.
Zachary Taylor at the Battle of Buena Vista
President Zachary Taylor and cabinet

 My maternal great grandmother's mother was Mattie Mayfield Frogge. Her father, my great-great grandfather, was Isaac M. Mayfield. Isaac and my great-great grandmother, Susannah Martin Mayfield had ten children together. My great grandmother was a identical twin and she and her sister were the youngest of the ten born on February 18, 1859. Isaac joined the Union Army as a private early in the Civil War. He was in Co. K of the 13th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry. It was organized at Camp Hobson in Greensburg Kentucky on December 10, 1861. This unit was attached to the Army of the Ohio which later became the Army of the Cumberland. It was involved in the occupation of Nashville after the fall of Ft. Donelson and was also involved in the battles of Shiloh, the battle of Corinth,  the Perryville campaign along with other campaigns during the time Isaac was alive. Isaac survived the 2nd day at Shiloh and was involved in the siege of Corinth where he contracted pneumonia. Tragically Isaac died on December 13, 1862 in a military hospital in Louisville Kentucky at the age of 42, leaving my great great grandmother a widow with a lot of kids to raise. Considering the fact that he was married with ten kids, and probably wouldn't have been drafted, he must have been very patriotic. The regiment lost 245 men during the war. Eight officers and fifty enlisted men were killed or mortally wounded in battle. Six officers and 181 enlisted men died of disease. Soldiers died from dysentery, measles, typhoid, typhus, cholera, and pneumonia among other things. I have a copy of his pension awarded to Susannah. She received 8.00 dollars a month for the rest of her life. A Union soldier's pay was thirteen dollars a month. His next to the oldest son was Jacob or "Jake" Mayfield who also served as a Union soldier in Company K 13th Kentucky regiment. He was 16 when the war started but I am not sure what year he enlisted. Jake survived and after the war he moved out west. I am fortunate to have a picture of him. He was born in 1845 and died January 18, 1918.

Grave of Isaac Mayfield / Cave Hill National Cemetery/ Louisville Kentucky

Section that Isaac is buried in
One room school house where Isaac attended school in Pulaski County Ky.

Isaac's pension awarded to Susanna for eight dollars a month 
Jake Mayfield in uniform

Jake Mayfield
Jake and his first wife of Whitesboro, Tx. Joanna Duggins Mayfield. She died after being thrown from a horse and wagon.

  James McKinley Frogge was born on April 9, 1831 in Jamestown Tennessee and died on January 11, 1920 in Edmonton Kentucky. He had 15 children. Thirteen by his first wife and two by his second. James also enlisted as a private in the 13th Kentucky (Union) Cavalry Regiment, Company M, on December 1, 1863 in Columbia Kentucky. He mustered out at Camp Nelson Kentucky on 10 January 1865. His occupation in the army was a farrier or blacksmith. The 13th was mustered in for one year on December 22, 1863 under the command of Colonel James W. Weatherford. The regiment was attached to District of South Central Kentucky, 1st Division, XXIII Corps, Department of the Ohio, to January 1864. District of Southwest Kentucky, Department of the Ohio, to April 1864. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, District of Kentucky, Department of the Ohio, to July 1864. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, District of Kentucky, to January 1865.

Detailed service
Duty at Lebanon and protecting country south of Lebanon until June 1864. Cumberland River, Ky., November 26, 1863. Creelsborough and Celina December 7. Cumberland River March 19, 1864. Obey's River March 28 (detachment). Expedition to Obey's River April 18–20. Wolf River May 18. Operations against Morgan May 31-June 30. Cynthiana June 12. Liberty June 17. Canton and Roaring Springs August 22. At Camp Burnside August 26-September 16. Ordered to Mt. Sterling September 16. Burbridge's Expedition into southwest Virginia September 20-October 17. Saltville, Va., October 2. At Mt. Sterling, Lexington and Crab Orchard, Ky., until December 17. At Camp Nelson, Ky., until January 10, 1865. 

  Isaac Bradford Frogge was my great uncle and was named after Isaac Mayfield. He was my grandmothers brother. She frequently told me the sad story about how Uncle Isaac died. Ike was shot in the back by accident. He was riding on a troop train when a fellow soldier was cleaning his rifle and it accidentally discharged. She nursed him for 8 days until he passed away. Ike was paralyzed because the bullet clipped his spine. I have a Western Union telegram sent to my great grandfather John C. Frogge from Rome Georgia dated December 27, 1916 at 8:58 A.M. It says "Seriously shot through spinal cord". Signed W.P. Harbin. I never questioned my grandmothers story until my grandfather told me a totally different version. He said that Isaac was shot trying to desert. As I got older this story made no sense because I found out that Ike was in a National Guard Unit. He belonged to Co. D, 27th Tennessee Cavalry. We were not at war on December 27, 1916. America would not declare war on Germany in World War I until April 4, 1917. So the desertion story wasn't feasible. I sent off for Isaac's death certificate and it called his death a homicide. Ike, like many of the men in my family may have had a drinking problem. His brother James Garfield Frogge, who also had a problem with alcohol, would also die under mysterious circumstances in 1932. One account said that Garfield was drunk and had drowned after falling in the Cumberland River. Some believe that he was murdered. I found a newspaper article from the Paducah Sun Times that said that Isaac had been assaulted and hit in the head with a wrench when he was 20. Isaac was about 32 when he died and his death remains a mystery that I hope to solve before I die. I can only conclude that maybe he was the type of drunk that liked to fight and couldn't stay out of trouble. My great grandfather John Frogge, supposedly killed several men who were trying to take over his saloon near Paducah Kentucky. I wonder sometimes if Garfield and Ike weren't the victims of some kind of vendetta related to the incident involving my grandfather and his saloon. One way or the other Ike died while serving in the armed forces. My Uncle Douglas Brown, who was my mothers oldest brother, served stateside in the Army during World War II but I know very little about his service. He was born in 1910 and died of a stroke in the early 1980's.

  My father Willard Aaron Segroves served stateside during World War II after being drafted at 24 in 1944. He was married with two small daughters, my half sisters Carolyn and Faye. He would be discharged in 1947. Many people believe that most men after Pearl Harbor flocked to the recruitment centers in a surge of patriotism and enlisted. There was a surge of patriotism and many men did enlist. The reality was that the majority of men were drafted however. There were 16 million men under arms during World War II but only 3 million actually saw combat. Daddy was inducted at Camp Forrest in Tullahoma and for part of his service he was in supply and the other part he was in the Military Police. During the war he worked at various POW Camps across the South, especially in Florida where he helped guard thousands of Italian and German troops captured in North Africa. He was always proud of the fact that many of these men had fought under the "Desert Fox", Irwin Rommel.
Willard Aaron Segroves
Post card from Ft. McPherson Georgia where my father went through basic training in 1944.

  I especially want to pay tribute to my wife Debbie's father Johnny Phillips, whose story is similar to my father except that he went into combat during the last months of the war in Europe. Johnny was severely wounded in January 1945. He was nearly five years older than my father. Born on October 2, 1915 and about 28 when he was drafted in 1944. He also had two small daughters, my sisters-in-law Sylvia and Judy.  Once when I was dating Debbie in the late 60's he told me the story of how he was wounded. He was an Army cook and was preparing a meal in a bombed out building near the Saar River. The Germans were shelling the American position from across the river. Johnny said he was with a group of other soldiers when a German 88 shell landed right in the middle of his group. If I am not mistaken I believe he said that he was the only survivor. The next thing that he remembered was waking up in a military hospital in England days later. Doctors removed a piece of shrapnel the size of a dime from his brain. He was eventually shipped back to the states after he was stabilized. Johnny spent many months recuperating in a Memphis military hospital. He qualified for 100% disability but he was one of the proudest men I ever knew. He averaged working twelve hours a day six days a week for most of his life and as a result only received partial disability. Johnny would be on anti-seizure medicine until his death at the age of 80 in July 1996. After he told me this story Debbie told me that I was the first person that had ever been able to get him to talk about his war experiences in her presence. Debbie's brother Ronald aka Ronnie Phillips served in the army from 1965 until about 1971. He was stationed in Germany for the length of his service                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Private Johnny Phillips

  In conclusion there are many families out there with a greater record of military service than mine. On this Memorial Day I just wanted to pay tribute to my family's contribution. Growing up I always expected that I would serve one day. In my mind it was a foregone conclusion. I joined the Air Force on August 5, 1968 and was discharged May 4, 1972. I returned to service in the Tennessee Air Guard in 1977, the U.S. Army Reserve in 1982 and I finished my career in the Tennessee Air Guard, retiring in 1994. I was an Air Force Security Policeman the entire time. I served at Kingsley Field Oregon, ErhacTurkey, N.O.R.A.D in Colorado Springs, Rhein Main Germany, Koksijde Belgium, Mildenhall England, Hickam A.F.B. Hawaii, and numerous stateside bases. My son Robert served nearly four years in the U.S. Navy from 1989 until 1993. He served on a guided missile cruiser named the U.S.S. Wainwright and went out on two Mediterranean cruises. What we must remember is that everyone that serves swears an oath to protect and defend our country. A person that serves in the military, regardless of the branch, is writing a blank check to his country, to be spent in whatever way is needed. Whether we actually make it into combat or not is irrelevant because we all train for that possibility and are willing to do our part to fulfill our duty. When we put on the uniform we are a target for our country's enemies and dying or being injured in a training accident can affect our lives as drastically as dying or being injured in combat. So the purpose of this article is not only to honor my family on Memorial Day but all the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.        

Greg Segroves at Lake Elazig Turkey
Greg Segroves at NORAD/ Cheyenne Mountain/ Colorado Springs Colorado

Debbie,Rob,and Greg Segroves - Great Lakes Naval Base Illinois

Rob Segroves on the USS Wainwright in the Med

Saturday, May 17, 2014

James Stewart - Bomber Pilot

  Jimmy Stewart was one of my favorite actors. I grew up watching his movies and I can't imagine a modern, day big name actor, of the caliber of a James Stewart, volunteering to serve their country today. War or no war. During World War II it was routine for actors and actresses to serve their country. Stewart on the other hand was the first major movie star to enlist. One thing that was special about him was that he served before America entered the war. On September 16, 1940 America enacted a peace time draft. The bill called for 900,000 men to be drafted between the ages of 20 and 36, each year. Stewart's draft number was 310 and his number came up in February. He was rejected because he was five pounds under weight and only weighed 138 pounds. At 31 Stewart was older than most recruits for the Army, but as a skilled pilot in private life, he wanted to enroll in Army-Air Corps flight training. He would turn 32 in May, which would make him too old for flight school. Stewart ate every fattening food that he could get his hands on. He was only an ounce over when he returned for a weigh in. He was inducted as a private and was the first actor to join the military. 

  Stewart was at the top of his career when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. His top two movies had been Mr. Smith Goes To Washington in 1939 and Philadelphia Story in 1940. Stewart started his career in 1936 with Wife Vs. Secretary, and his last movie after induction was Pot of Gold, in 1941. In January 1942 he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and sent to Mather Field in California. He was a bomber instructor where he taught pilots how to fly B-17 and B-24 bombers. America declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941. A few days later Hitler declared war on America. Stewart wanted to fly bombers in combat. Because he was a popular celebrity his superiors kept him stateside for almost two years. Stewart persisted however and wore his commanders down. He was sent to Tibenham England as a Captain in November 1943 and flew B-24 Liberators. Stewart flew 20 combat missions. His missions included raids over Berlin, Brunswick, Bremen, Frankfurt, and Schweinfurt Germany. Stewart was commander of a 1,000 bomber raid over Berlin. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Custers, and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. These 20 missions didn't include the missions that were called milk runs. These were bombing raids over railroad yards, and other lesser targets, that could be just as dangerous to bomber crews as raids deep into Germany. 

  When I pulled a summer camp at Rhein-Main A.F.B. Germany in 1983 our unit was doing Air Base Ground Defense training in the woods around the base. I was hiding in huge depressions in the ground. It suddenly dawned on me that these were shell holes caused by 500 and 1000 pound bombs dropped by American bombers during the war. It is a miracle that Stewart survived the war uninjured. The air war in Europe was brutal. Stewart was a Colonel by the end of the war and remained in the Air Force Reserve. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1959. In 1966 he flew one combat mission in Vietnam as an observer on a B-52. Stewart retired from the Air Force in 1968 which was the year that I enlisted. After a vacation spent with his parents at the end of World War II he would go on to make one of my favorite movies of all time, "It's A Wonderful Life", in 1946.
Stewart at the time of his induction

Stewart with his crew

Brigadier General James Stewart