Thursday, November 11, 2010

 

 

 

Seven Points officials indicted
Monitor Staff Reports
SEVEN POINTS–If you thought things were bad in Seven Points before, they are worse now …. Gerald Taylor (Abuse of Official Capacity), Tommy Taylor (Bribery) and Bubba Powell (Abuse of Official Capacity) were all indicted by a Henderson County Grand Jury Monday.
The Monitor has asked the District Clerk's Office for a copy of the actual indictments, and was told they would be available Friday, the day after the Sunday issue goes to press.
The Monitor has written many stories about the lack of cooperation between council members and the mayor since the election in May. The mayor and two council members were elected at that time.
Gerald Taylor is the former mayor of the city. Tommy Taylor (no relation) and Bubba Powell are longtime council members and currently sit on the council.
Keep reading The Monitor for updates on the situation in Seven Points civil government.

Vet keeps Patton’s troops supplied with ammo
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

BEAUTIFUL ACRES–Athens resident Glenn Gartman registered for the draft on his 18th birthday, March 6, 1943, and was called up a few months later.
He reported on Sept. 21, 1943, where, with other inductees, he took a bus to Mineral Wells.
“Just about everybody I knew was on that bus,” he recalled. “We trained some at Mineral Wells while waiting for basic training. When the opening came, we all went to Camp Roberts, Calif., on the coast, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“The first 15 weeks of camp I trained on a 155 mm howitzer. We trained for 16 weeks and then Mom got sick,” he said.
When that happened, he took emergency leave. He missed graduating with his buddies a week later, and when he came back was transferred to another unit, where he trained for 16 more weeks on the smaller 105 mm howitzer.
“I got to see a lot of the U.S. before I was sent overseas,” he said.
After basic, he went with his new unit to Fort Leonardwood, Mo.
“I was assigned to the 97th Infantry Division, during the Normandy Invasion. Men were taken out of my outfit to replace those who had fallen in combat, most of them were sent to North Africa,” Gartman said.
Then the whole Division packed up and went to Camp Cook at San Louis Obispo, where they began amphibious training. From there they were sent for training at Camp Calla.
“We trained with the Navy and the CBs. It was more amphibious training. We practiced invading every little island in California, including Catalina. Everything that had rattlesnakes and cacti, we invaded.” he explained.
Then they packed up again and headed for the invasion of Japan, which, thanks to the dropping of the atomic bombs, never happened.
Instead of Japan, the Belgian offensive had begun and the 97th regrouped and packed for the European theater – and a lot of miserable cold weather.
“Our outfit gathered in New Jersey and boarded ship in New York, in late November. We celebrated both Thanksgiving and Christmas aboard ship. We were in a convoy of 48 ships. We sailed from New York, taking a far northern route. A lot of times the ships had to actually plow through ice. We picked up a German sub off the New England coast,” he recalled.
The Navy took defensive action by dropping “ash cans,” the Navy’s nickname for depth charges, he said. “The first one they dropped knocked me out of my bunk,” Glenn said.
Continuing past the coast of England, where some of the ships were dropped off, they sailed on to Le Harve, France. The American camps were named for cigarettes. The 97th went through Lucky Strike and Aachen, which had been leveled by bombs and artillery.
“We set up our headquarters and camp along the Rhine River. We could see the Germans across the river but nobody fired at each other. The engineers came forward and set up pontoon bridges, and we drove our trucks across,” Glenn said.
The trucks he was describing were 2 ton artillery carriers, loaded with ammunition.
“As soon as we set up our beachheads on the other side, we set up our artillery right behind our infantry,” he added.
The ammunition for the big guns was hauled from an ordinance depot set up on the Rhine to the various artillery positions. The trips ranged anywhere from 15 to 25 miles, plus a return for another load – trucks carried their loads day and night. The shells were 100 pounds each and the load was approximately 10,000 pounds, or five tons.
“Trucks would get bogged down in the wet countryside, and we had to take winches and pull each other out of the mud,” Glenn described. “Sometimes we would have three to five trucks stuck. The problem was we had blown up all the damn bridges,” he added.
“The mud was sometimes so deep, the wheels were buried. All we could do was wade out in it, while we hooked up the winches. Our feet became wet and cold, and stayed that way until we got a break so we could change into dry socks.
“Trucks got stuck so deep it was just hopeless, then we would call in the engineers, who usually had heavier equipment,” Glenn said.
“They did have a sort of metal mat we could put down and drive across the creeks and bogs,” he continued. “Then we’d leave them for the rest of the trucks to drive over while we moved on. The mats were left for the engineers to retrieve,” he explained.
“One thing you could say, there was never a dull moment,” Glenn commented.
An ammunition convoy usually consisted of about four trucks with a jeep in the lead. “Our leader was a Staff Sergeant of German decent – and the going was very rough. We heard later that it was one of the coldest, wettest winters Germany had had in years,” he remembered with shivers.
“Most of the other drivers liked having me along, because I was so strong. I was short too, and they really didn’t like having tall guys in the infantry.
“It was pretty scary. We knew that when we got stuck we were sitting ducks. We knew our artillery liked nothing better than to find and destroy German ammo trucks – and we knew their artillery was hunting us the same way,” Glenn said.
“Our Sgt. Haan was so proud of his ability to speak and read German he was always getting us lost. It was a favorite trick of the Germans to turn road signs around, and sometimes our sergeant would depend more on the signs than the maps he was given,” Glenn recounted.
But there was free time too, and soldiers sometimes got in more trouble, when they were supposed to have been taking a little time off to rest up.
“One time I almost got shot. I was with a buddy, and we had a few hours off so we were just out prowling around.
“We met these two girls and my buddy and I were sitting in their house, across the room from each other. He had one of the girls sitting in his lap and was letting her play with his rifle. All at once it fired off a shot that went right over my head, so close I felt the air as it went by. After the shot was fired, everybody in our platoon began to search for a sniper. We joined in the search and never admitted what happened.”
Another close call came while hauling ammo through a bombed-out village.
“We had been on the road for about three days. We had switched off driving. It was my turn to rest. I was so tired I had gone sound asleep in the back of the truck on top of ammo for the 155 howitzers.
“The shells were four inches in diameter and around 18 to 20 inches long. I was startled awake from a sound sleep by the sounds of a machine gun spitting its rounds out – which were bouncing off the howitzer shells.
“My sleepy mind didn’t calculate the fact the shells couldn’t be exploded by the small weapons fire. The fuses needed to explode them were always carried separately from the shells, usually in the lead jeep. But I was rattled so I jumped off the truck – a major no-no – as it forced the driver to slow the truck enough for me to jump onto the back and climb back in.
“It was all hard, bone-tiring work,” he admitted. “When we were loading the huge ammo, I used to imagine they were the big watermelons my family grew on our farm in Athens.
“Our most active combat took place right after we crossed the Rhine River. We cut the Germans off against the Rhine. So many surrendered, we didn’t have a place to put them. They marched up in columns and we just directed them to continue on. They marched under a white flag until they could get someplace that could feed and care for them,” Glenn said.
“And we hauled the prisoners we could by the truck load, all night long because every compound we came to was overloaded so they just told us to keep going,” he remembered.
“One particularly long night, we had driven all night long, and when daylight came we were still traveling. We stopped in a little village and the townspeople all came out with milk and bread for the prisoners.
“On those trips we mostly had our own little K-rations. But there were a lot of times when we got cut off and couldn’t get back to our own units – then we just went hungry,” he recalled.
When the war in Europe was over, his group was once again on the move.
The 97th infantry Division was activated Sept. 5, 1918, and served in both World War I and II.
In WW II, it was activated Feb. 25, 1943. It served, among other offenses, in the battle of the Rhur pocket, crossing the Rhine near Bonn, on April 3, and taking up a position on the southern bank of the Seig river, which it crossed on April 7. The troops suffered 80 percent casualties in wounded and dead.
It was also credited with the liberation of the Flossenberg Concentration Camp.

Stalag 17 POW recalls escape attempts
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–A local man in his late 80s still relives 19 months of his life, when as a young man he was a POW under the Germans.
That experience, and having been listed as Missing In Action (MIA), gives him a unique insight into what some veterans and their families go through in the aftermath of service under harsh conditions.
After 20 years in the Air Force, which he followed with 33 years in federal service, Herman “Moe” Molen, now 88, served as national commander for the American Ex-Prisoners of War, Inc.
In that post, he and the national organization were instrumental in passing three pieces of federal legislation aimed at helping veterans and their families, as well as civilians who during World War II fought side by side with American forces.
It is an accomplishment that causes him to beam with pride, even now, and perhaps helps redeem those 19 months of hell. Though distant in time and space, the rigors, uncertainty and pure grit of survival still haunt him.
Hollywood documented his POW experience in the William Holden movie Stalag 17, with Holden acting Molen’s role.
Molen attempted escape three times during those 19 months and became a pariah to both the American and English POWs for the reprisals all received due to his attempts.
However, when a man, keenly sought by the Germans for his many acts of sabotage, turned up in their compound, the POW commander asked Molen to figure a way to get him out.
That attempt was a success for the man called the Grey Ghost. Molen got him out to Austria, where he was able to spend the duration of the war. However, Molen was himself recaptured and sent back.
The details of his POW escape attempts are detailed, in an exciting and easy reading of his horror in the “Memoirs of Msgt. Herman E. Molen: World War II Prisoner of War.”
Molen told The Monitor he was determined to survive and show the Germans just how tough their enemy, the Allies, really were.
Just following his third escape attempt, recapture and resultant six weeks in solitary confinement on bread and water, the entire stalag was sent on a 126-mile relocation “death march.”
He survived the brutal 30 kilometers a day forced march from March until May 5, 1945, with little or no food and ending up barefooted and suffering from dysentery. But on May 5, an American Tank Division liberated him, along with the other surviving POWs, just as the war was coming to an end.
Even then, he and the rest remained in pretty bad shape as they made their slow way to a location where they could be shipped out. But instead, they were moved to a successive number of camps, always with the hope that in “three more days they’d be going home.”
Molen finally made it to New York on June 11, 1945, and then by train to Fort Worth and to his base at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. From there, he got a ride back to Dallas and took a bus another 40 miles to reach within five miles of his home. He walked the last miles.
“It was Sunday, Father’s Day. The miles on foot seemed only to be blocks, and his feet didn’t hurt anymore and had a spring in each step,” Molen wrote in his memoirs.
“It was just breaking daylight, when I came within sight of my home. I stopped for a long time trying to compose myself.
“The tension was still there. My heart throbbed at every beat. As I stood there, I wondered why I had tried so hard to escape.
“Was it because I had been told it was the duty of every prisoner of war to try to escape?
“Was it because I wanted to see my wife, who I had never spent a night with?
“Was it because I am hardheaded and when the Germans said it was impossible to escape from Stalag 17B that I had wanted to prove them wrong?
“Was it because I had faith in God and believed that all things were possible if you have faith? I could not decide on any one of these reasons; but for all of these reasons.
“I said a prayer and headed for the house.”
Molen had “volunteered” at the last minute to replace a bombardier-togglalier in the 305th Bombing Group as part of the fateful Oct. 14, 1943, second Schweinfurt bombing mission – afterwards called Black Thursday. In it, 60 planes were shot down. Molen said the Germans were almost waiting to take them prisoner.
Every year around that date, Molen reunites with others who took part in that mission – a dwindling number. Molen’s memoirs and those of a fellow POW from Stalag 17B are available from Molen, or orders can be placed at the VFW Post 4376 and American Legion Post 310 in Gun Barrel City.

Council hears about National Flood Insurance Program
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

EUSTACE–Those cities that have signed up to be part of the federal Floodplain Management Program will get preferential treatment when it comes to federally-funded grants in times of emergencies, Eustace City Council members heard Thursday.
Leon Curtis, with the Texas Water Development Board, explained the benefits of joining the National Flood Insurance Program under FEMA.
Another major benefit is the cost of flood insurance is greatly reduced for residents living within a jurisdiction that is in the program, he added.
Developed following Hurricane Katrina, the program aims at preventing damage caused by flooding, in and out of a floodplain, by asking cities across the country to adopt certain building codes that mandate the floor of any new construction be built at least two feet above the 100-year floodplain elevation.
Dallas and Rockwall County are two examples of jurisdictions that have set the floor of new construction at three feet, Curtis said. Most recently, Payne Springs entered the federal program.
Curtis aims at spreading the word to the nearly 200 cities in Northeast Texas that qualify for the program. He said he’s spoken with and signed up 58 of those cities so far in the two years he’s been educating city councils like Eustace.
“It’s easy to apply,” he said. There is a one-page application the city secretary can fill out, and a 20-page ordinance to adopt, he said.
Councilman Marlin Chambers, a professional surveyor, was very interested in what Curtis had to say, and asked many questions about the current maps, elevation certificates and determining base flood levels.
According to this April’s flood insurance rate map, a large part of properties on both sides of U.S. 175 through town are in a flood zone, Chambers pointed out – many of them erroneously.
“I was told the map had too many errors to be accurate,” Chambers said.
Curtis answered he had a good reputation with the federal agency and that he was willing to work with Chambers to get some of the inconsistencies resolved to benefit the landowners Chambers is working with.
Curtis works out of an office in Mesquite, he said.
Curtis hit the highlights of the ordinance he recommends the council adopt at its next meeting. A copy of the ordinance is available for examination at the city hall.
In other business, public works director Tom Acker reported that the water in city wells are up three and a half feet.
The council adjourned following Curtis’ presentation, as mayor Laura Ward was sick with flu-like symptoms and reset the meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9.


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