In a previous post, I made note of the Blue Star banner that was hanging over the Milton Grace UMC Church’s chancel. There were only two gold stars on this banner, signifying two men who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during the Second World War. The number of gold stars would grow longer by the end of that war, although we don’t have a photograph to show it.
Wars end, as most do, and some years needed to pass before those who had given their lives in the service of their country could be properly honored. In some cases, that involved repatriation of their remains from European cemeteries, while in other cases the remains would be forever hidden in the depths of oceans.
The task of paying the respect due to Milton’s war dead would be assumed by American Legion Post #20. Chartered in August of 1946, the Post’s first order of business was to establish a permanent home for itself. The Legionnaires spent a little more than a year raising funds for that purpose, and announced in November of 1947 that they had acquired a lot on Route 16 near the Chandler Orchards. They bought a house next to Odd Fellows Cemetery on Union Street and then moved it to the lot.
Almost immediately after establishing their Post, the Legionnaires began raising money for a new project. In August of 1948, the Post announced plans to erect a memorial plaque in front of their building: an Honor Roll of Milton’s war dead. They invited local residents to submit names to be included on the plaque so that no one would be overlooked.
The plaque was dedicated on May 30, 1949, with hundreds of persons attending.
On the plaque, below the American Legion Shield, are the words “IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO MADE THE SUPREME SACRIFICE.” Fourteen names are on this plaque; as of this writing I have biographical details on eleven of them. For those with details, I have indicated their service branch in the table below. The names on the roll are:
|Jacob H. Cramfield, Army||Franklin Gilbert, Army|
|James Reed*||Gilbert C. Bryan, Army|
|Joseph T. Winn, Jr., MM||Reuben Donovan, Navy|
|William Y. Conwell, MM||Franklin K. Edginton, Navy|
|Robert L. Short, Army||John E. Johnson, Army|
|William K. Marvel, Army||William C. Newcomb*|
|Charles A. Madjarosy, Army||John C. Davidson*|
|* Service details not available|
|MM = Merchant Marine|
In the 1960’s, the Legionnaires erected a new concrete building on the same lot, replacing the old one moved from Union Street. The Post played an active part in Milton’s civic and social affairs for years, but by the 1990’s that activity appears to have begun to decline, along with membership. Post #20 sent an honor guard to Odd Fellows Cemetery in late March 1989 as part of a memorial to the sailors who were killed in the explosion of the gun turret on the U. S. S. Iowa. Other than obituaries identifying former members of the Post #20, there are no reports of its activities after 1989 in any statewide news outlet. In 2015, the Executive Committee meeting minutes of the statewide Delaware American Legion reported 13 members in Post #20. The Legionnaires’ building on Rt. 16 had been sold well before that year, and its contents moved to a small building at 105 Bay Avenue. Post #20 lost its tax-exempt status in 2011 due to paperwork issues with the IRS, and has been largely inactive.
Although I cannot say so with 100% certainty, I believe that the Honor Roll plaque was moved to the front of the Lydia B. Cannon Museum during or shortly after the renovations of 2005-2006. I invite readers who know when the relocation occurred to contact me for verification.
There is another plaque next to the 1949 Honor Roll that honors three more servicemen from Milton who gave their lives from 1962 to 2005. I have written about this plaque previously, and you can view that post at http://broadkillblogger.org/2017/12/a-cold-war-casualty-from-milton/ .
Curiously, there are no service branch or rank identifiers provided with the names. I have added the service branch to those names on the list in this post. In the course of my research, I discovered the personal stories of most of the men in military after-action reports, newspaper accounts and the aggregation of facts put together by Russ Pickett. I am particularly indebted to Mr. Pickett’s web site ( www.russpickett.com ), which includes the stories of thousands of soldiers across many states who gave their lives in WWII. In addition, Russ has added those stories to the findagrave.com memorial pages of many of these servicemen. It is through these sources that one can appreciate the enormity of the ultimate sacrifice, and the toll it takes on survivors.
In the next few posts, I will be sharing some of these stories. I also invite anyone with biographical information on the three asterisked names – James Reed, John C. Davidson, and William C. Newcomb – to send me their details so I can include their stories in subsequent posts.
A special thank you to Jack Hudson, a Vietnam-era veteran and lifelong Milton resident who provided background on the history of American Legion Post #20.