Jamestown’s Greatest Generation

Jamestown WW II Honor Roll
Jamestown WW II Honor Roll

“The whims of fate and the pranks of circumstance played a role in placing the path of the tornado on the south, instead of the north side of the river line.” In a sentence, the reporter, who wrote one of the articles that appeared in the Jamestown Post-Journal, Second Edition on Monday June 11, 1945, concisely situated the greatest site of destruction of the tornado that occurred on June 10, 1945 in Brooklyn Square and adjacent neighborhoods. Not spared was Fenton Park, which sustained severe landscape damage as well as damage to the Fenton mansion. But the greatest loss to the city was the total destruction of the WW II Honor Service Roll that contained the names of almost 5,000 Jamestown men and women who served in that global conflict.

The WW II Honor Roll, which was composed of several Masonite panels, was ripped apart by the tornadic winds that deposited portions of the Service Board on the damaged roof of the Maddox Table Company on Harrison Street, on the lawn of a house on Allen Street, near English, and a four foot square section that was found on Willow Avenue, close to three miles away from Fenton Park, the site of Jamestown’s tribute to her sons and daughters in the war.

Prayer after Triumph
Prayer after Triumph

Although the war in Europe had ended on May 8, 1945, this country was still at war with Japan when the Honor Roll was destroyed. However, in a September 1, 1945 article in the Jamestown Post-Journal, the city honored the thousands of Jamestonians who “made this V-J Day possible” and paid homage to all for their sacrifice and to the 139 men who never returned “to the ways of peace.”

With the names of those who served now gone forever from the panels that had held them, the city pondered a new Honor Roll or Memorial to replace the Fenton Park memorial. A permanent memorial was in the discussion stages that September with some thought given to a monument placed in “Flatiron Park” or the possibility of a civic auditorium erected in the Martyn Block on W. 5th Street. Neither came to pass, and the effort made by the city to replace the Fenton Honor Roll failed because the hand-lettering of so many names by any painting contractor was not feasible at the time.

Nevertheless, careful records were being kept in a card file by Mrs. Robert C. Wilson, Mayor Samuel Stroth’s secretary, of all men who had served in the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard and of the women who had served in the WACS, WAVES, SPARS, and Marines. The file was originally started to record the location of the names on the Honor Roll, but it was kept up to date despite the fact that the Honor Roll was destroyed. A separate index was also maintained by Mrs. Wilson of Jamestown men who had been killed in the war, giving the name, rank, and any facts of how, when and where these men may have lost their lives. In addition, the Ira Lou Spring Post of the Jamestown branch of the American Legion recorded pertinent information of Jamestown’s WW II men and women in uniform and kept a systematic collection of clippings from the Post-Journal, with the American Legion Auxiliary amassing clipped copies of the newspaper to the beginning of 1942, soon after Pearl Harbor. Narratives of the war-time experiences of men and women were also compiled into booklets through the efforts of Major Frederick P. Rogers and the Jessup and Turner Athletic Club that stated the name, rank, and branch of the service of each man and woman in the armed forces as well as the work done by patriotic and other organizations that materially helped in the war effort.

All of these records attest to Jamestown’s call to duty. And even though the Fenton Park Service Board was never rebuilt, its memory lingers as a tribute to Jamestown’s Greatest Generation.

To read more from Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist and her insights into Brooklyn Square and the yesteryear of Jamestown, NY visit www.JamestownGazette.com.