Monday, September 17, 2012

September 11th, 1950

Headline from The Detroit News

September 11th is a day that most people remember and mourn the events of September 11th, 2001.  Eleven years ago terrorists attacked our country, not our soldiers, not our ships or planes, but our civilians.  This is a tragedy that will undoubtedly never be forgotten. Today, however I’d like to talk about an event from a September 11th a lot longer ago.

To be 100% completely honest with all of you, I never even knew of this event, which being a history buff, kind of bothers me.  For some reason I know a ton of historical facts, but when it comes to local history I find myself at a loss for facts or information.  So earlier today when I saw a Facebook post saying “September 11th 2001 and 1950, dates we will never forget”, I decided it was time to do some research.  A quick search on Google found me the information I needed.  Apparently the local boys of the 109th Field Artillery, out of Wilkes-Barre, were involved in a horrific train crash on the morning of September 11th, 1950. 
It was a thick foggy morning on the day of September 11th, 1950.  The troop transport train known as PX54444 West was heading to Camp Atterbury, Indiana.  The 109th was scheduled to do some training here in preparation for their deployment to Korea.   Early in the morning, a problem with the train was discovered.  From what I understand it was that there was a break and the air brake line that needed to be repaired.  Following procedures the troop train deployed a flagger, who dropped flares and allegedly changed a railway signal in order to let others know the train had been stopped on the tracks.  Many of the servicemen were catching up on sleep while these repairs were taking place.  The train departed Buttonwood Yard (Located in Wilkes-Barre) around 2 PM the day before.  That morning the train was outside of a small town called Coshocton, Ohio.  Little did they know what was about to happen.

The 109th is one of the oldest units in continuous existence in the United States Military.  The original incarnation of the 109th was under the command of Colonel Zebulon Butler in 1775.  They were originally set as an infantry unit, and later (1917) were designated as a Field Artillery Regiment.  They have served the Wyoming Valley for more than 200 years and continue to have men overseas to this day. 

Overhead Picture of the wreck
Ground level view
On that fateful morning, a Pennsylvania Railroads passenger train named “Spirit of St. Louis” was running late on its schedule.  The engineer was later quoted as saying they were traveling “too fast”.  Even with the stop signal engaged, the passenger train flew by it, not even noticing it.  Part of me wonders if this was more due to the reports of heavy fog than the carelessness of the engineer.  Out of the dense fog the passenger train had no chance to stop and slammed into the back of the troop train at 4:42 AM.  The flagger deployed by the troop train was no more than 500 yards from the train when he saw the lights from the oncoming passenger engine.  The tape from a speed recorder put the speed of the passenger train somewhere around 48 miles per hour. In the months that followed it would be determined that the engineer of the “Spirit of St. Louis” failed to follow operating signals and was going too fast, this is what led to the wreck.  The diesel engine that was pushing the troop train was propelled forward into the cars holding the servicemen.  The first car was thrown in the air and landed cross ways onto the second car.  Accounts of this say that the second car was sheared down to the floor.  This caused a domino effect of cars hitting into the back of other cars.  The Diesel engine that was pulling the passenger train was thrown down an embankment and into a creek.  When all said and done, in a matter of minutes, 33 guardsmen were dead and countless others were injured. 

Caskets were unloaded draped in American Flags
In the days that followed it was discovered that all of the dead came out of the 109th out of Wilkes-Barre, PA.  The dead were placed back on a train that was sent back to Pennsylvania.  An unconfirmed amount of people, believed to be numbered in the thousands, came out to honor the dead as the train they were on pulled into a train station in Wilkes-Barre (Some of the Ohio newspapers list them returning to the Lehigh Valley, however then they go on to say they took a mile ride to the armory.  Clearly they had the Wyoming Valley confused with the Lehigh Valley.).  The Caskets of the dead were unloaded, all draped in American flags, at the Market Street Station in downtown Wilkes-Barre.  They were placed on 33 separate transport trucks and taken on a slow ride through downtown Wilkes-Barre en route to the Kingston Armory.  Hundreds lined the streets of WB to witness the procession.  The Public were barred from the armory in order to let the families be with their loved ones, before making arrangements for funerals and burials. /div>
I originally wanted to post this on September 11th, however I wanted to make sure I had all my facts straight.  Plus I was waiting a few days in order to personally interview my grandfather Vince.  He entered into the Korean War in 1953.  He recalled the details almost immediately.  “A lot of my friends were on that transport, just the other day I saw one, his back was all messed up from that and still is to this day.”  He went on to say.  He also mentioned that a kid her grew up with died in the accident.  “Royer, Richard Royer, he was a good kid, he had a bit of a stutter, but we grew up together, hard to believe someone I knew was killed”.  My grandparents collectively recalled the day the troops returned home saying that there were “tons of people” and it was a “really big thing back then”. 

The Wyoming Valley is very rich in history.  Some events are better and happier than others.  In this case it is one of the more terrible stories, but a story that needed to be told.  I for one find it to be interesting that the date is infamous for more than one event, especially one so close to home.  From the people I asked about this, not many knew or had any idea this had ever happened.   So I really felt the need to get this out there, in order to inform people and let them know that history is an important subject that should be learned and more importantly never be forgotten. 

Below you will find a list of the soldiers that died on that day, including my grandfather’s friend Richard A. Royer.  Please take a moment to think of what they and their families lost that day:


  • Disbrow, William R. - Service Battery
  • Edwards, Sgt. William C. - Service Battery
  • Fletcher, Cpl. Joseph E. - Service Battery
  • Hornlein, Pfc. Martin - Battery B
  • Jackson, Pfc. Ronald J. - Battery B
  • Kuehn, Lester J. - Battery B
  • Okrasinski, Sgt. Bernard S. - Battery B
  • Ostrazewski, Cpl. Thomas M. - Service Battery
  • Royer, Recruit Richard A. - Battery B
  • Sobers, Recruit William F. - Battery B
  • Tierney, Pvt. William F. - Service Battery
  • Wharton, Sgt. Gilbert B. - Battery B
  • Zieker, Pfc. Donald C. - Battery B
  • Harding, Pfc. Clyde - Battery B
  • Ludwig, Pvt. Wallace R. - Service Battery
  • Thomas, Capt. Arthur J. - Service Battery
  • Wallace, Recruit Thomas W. - Service Battery
  • Wellington, W.O. William M. - Battery B
  • Armbruster, Cpl. Carl - Plains, PA - Service Battery
  • Balonis, Pfc. Leonard - Plains, PA - Battery B
  • Barna, Corp. John L., Plains, PA - Service Battery
  • Carr, Recruit Eugene - Larksville - Battery B
  • Cox, Sgt. John W. - E. Plymouth, PA - Battery B
  • Dougherty, Recruit William J. - Larksville - - Battery B
  • Fargus, Recruit Hugh L. - Plymouth, PA - Battery B
  • Gallagher, Pfc. E.W. - West Wyoming, PA - Service Battery
  • Handlos, Pfc. Harold - Larksville, PA - Battery B
  • Luzinski, Cpl. Larry - Trucksville, PA - Battery B
  • Martinez, Recruit Frank C. - Bronx, NY - Battery B
  • McGinley, James F. - Exeter, PA - Service Battery
  • Norton, Recruit Charles - Hanover Township - Battery B
  • Pudlowski, Pfc. Raymond - Hudson, PA - Battery B
  • Zabicki, Pfc. Edmund F. - Edwardsville - Battery B

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Current Economy

With the election looming, I’m frankly getting sick and tired of people complaining about policies and conventions.  That or people trying to sway my vote one way or another.  The problem with all this to me isn’t as cut and dry as Republican or Democrat, Left or Right, Black or white.  The Problem here lies with society itself. 

For some odd reason people have decided to start blaming everything on the government.  Now, don’t get me wrong there are some things that the government has 100% of the blame on.  Things like broken Medicare, the Welfare system, and you can go as far as to say some of the wars we are currently waging.  However, people for some reason or another view the current economy as the government’s problem.  It is not, it is a problem created years ago, that are just now finishing the snowball effect that it started decades ago.  This whole issue started with the establishment of credit.  I’ll touch more on that in a bit.  This economic problem also contributes to our current unemployment problem as well.  How can you place the blame on one man, who really has nothing to do with creating jobs for people being out of work?  Sure, maybe the guy can lobby for companies to bring jobs here, or create some project that may need a number of workers.  There is no way that one single man, unless the CEO of a company can single handedly put the entire country to work. 

Day after day I see friends posting statuses on facebook or telling me that they have been laid off, or lost their job, or people I know fresh out of college, with degrees and nowhere to work.  The reason for this is simple………The economy has changed; we as a society have not.  Take a look at the minimum wage….it is currently 7.25 in PA.  When I started working, in 2002 the wage was 5.15 per hour.  In PA the Minimum wage was 5.15 per hour from the years of 1998 until 2006.  That’s 8 years of the same exact wage, in a set of year where some of the biggest economic changes happened.  Gas is the highest it has ever been, I remember back in 2004 I was paying around 1.99 a gallon, gas is now 3.75 a gallon.  If you drive a car with a 12 gallon tank that’s a change of 21.12 a tank of gas! Not to mention all of the new additions in the form of bills, Internet, TV and especially food prices.  Even at 7.25 (for the last three years I might add) is clearly not enough.  The current Job I have pays well over that (More than double the minimum wage).  I still cannot afford to live on my own due to bills I have.  With a car, student loans, phone bill, credit card and car insurance, I’m pretty much at the bare minimum.  Expenses like gas and food are must haves, granted I suppose I could cut back on entertainment, but so can everyone else, plus I really don’t go out that much anyways.  So my question here is, if I had a wife and a kid, how the hell could I afford to support them?  I would need another job in addition to mine and my wives job.  Then, if you are both working and have no one else to watch the kids…….there is a child care expense, which I can tell you from my sister’s experience that is not cheap!

There are no jobs today where a person without a college education can go and get paid well enough to support a family.  Years ago there were tons of opportunities for people to have jobs like this.  Grocery attendants, the auto industry, manufacturing, small store/business owners, apprenticeships and other trades all provided the means to support a family.  My grandfather worked as a glass man for years, this allowed him to provide for himself and his family (Wife and two kids) and allowed my grandmother to be a stay at home mother.  So what has changed?  Why is it harder to support a family?  Because of businesses and corporations, that’s why.  Big business has been putting small business owners out of business and middle class workers out of jobs for years.  Couple that with the vulture like enterprises, like banks and credit card companies and there is your answer.  People cannot find decent jobs, so they take 8.00 an hour at Wal-mart.  They still can’t make due so they get a credit card and slowly max it out.  They rent a place from a guy who’s in the same situation, thus their rent goes up.  They make the minimum payment and are ass raped with a ridiculous, unregulated interest rate.  They need to have the internet so their children can do their homework.  This leads them down a path of perpetual debt they can never get out of, unless they work 15 jobs or die.  This is no way to live your life and there is absolutely no reason for it, what so ever. 
Places like Wal-Mart, Apple, Car Companies and especially clothing companies are slowly killing this country.  Banks and credit card companies are helping them do this.  Companies send away manufacturing jobs, leaving us no work.  Why pay a fellow country man when you can send the job to someone who will take 1.00 an hour and work 20 more hours a week?  This saves the companies millions of dollars a year, boosting their profits and filling their pockets with money.  They bring their products here and sell them at a ridiculous marked up price that most people cannot afford unless they use a credit card, making money for them and keeping the middle class in debt.  Companies are making billions of dollars while the middle class struggles to stay afloat.  If this country was less concerned with money and greed, perhaps we could have an economy that could sustain itself.  Henry Ford (Creator of the Ford Motor Company) employed a lot of Americans. He paid his workers better than any other place in Detroit.  He did this to enable them to buy a Ford and help the economy.  This essentially paid him back for the investment he made in the workers.  Maybe if we had more businessmen that cared about the American people like Henry, we wouldn’t be in this situation.  Today Big business owners are only worried how to buy themselves a yacht or line their pockets further.

Money now has a hold on all the business owners, CEOs and corporate officials out there.  No one will give that up now.  The only way we can do this is to create business for ourselves.  Perhaps the government can help here.  However, I see a major issue with this.  Perhaps we can create legislation that states something like:  If you have your corporate head quarters in America, a certain percentage of your employees must work/reside in America.  If these businesses try to circumvent this rule by moving out of the country, we would simply impose tariffs on their imported products.  If their products are more than others, many people may choose an alternative.  This will intern create lost profits for these companies.  The problem here now lies with lobbying, companies paying politicians money in order for them to vote a certain way.  This leads me to believe there is nothing that we can currently do in order to change our own economy, short of a revolution. 

So please, next time you want to preach about the economy and the upcoming election, just take a look at what really is causing the issue, before you go blaming someone who doesn’t deserve it.