Another look at local losses in World War II
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Apr 04, 2013 | 951 views | 0 0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
Ron Swift
Those few people who have pored through pages of the Patterson Irrigator published during the latter stages of World War II have expressed amazement at the losses of military personnel from this area of the West Side.

Local dentist Tom Klein is one. He’s undertaken serious research of Patterson’s World War II losses, actually compiling a list longer than that on a bronze plaque in the downtown park. That plaque includes 32 names.

So is Burta Herger, who has ploughed through decades of old Irrigators while researching other topics. She has commented on the week-by-week reporting of the deaths, imprisonments, and missing in action reports of local servicemen.

Here is a week-by-week summation of those reports, starting with early 1944, plus other news pertaining to the war.

Jan. 7 — Robert Hittle, missing in action two years, is reported a prisoner of war in Japan. Capt. Elden Shimmin bails out of burning bomber in Florida.

Jan 21 — Lt. Roy Klein wins DFC for bombing missions over Europe.

March 17 — Lt. John Gill is reported missing in Italy.

March 24 — James Nixon is missing in Italy.

April 28 — Sgt. Fred Peterson is killed in Italy.

May 12 — Lt. John Gill is imprisoned in Germany.

June 2 — Lt. Bob Gardiser goes missing in Italy.

June 30 — Paratrooper Warren Hicks is seriously injured in Normandy invasion.

July 21 — T/5 Harold Storch goes missing on German bombing run.

Aug. 4 — Missing-in-action Nixon is reported killed.

Aug. 11 — Paratrooper Walter Harrelson is killed in invasion of France.

Sept. 1 — Matthew “Mattie” Mancebo is missing in Normandy.

Oct. 13 — Lt. Dwight Pitzer dies in a Biak plane crash. Mancebo is a German prisoner.

Oct. 27 — Two escaped German prisoners surrender at Dewey Sutherland ranch.

Dec. 8 — Marvin Greer is reported missing in Germany.

Dec. 15 — Carl Marler is reported missing in Germany.

Dec. 22 — Edgar Ford of Westley is killed in Germany.

Dec. 29 — Frank Cox Jr. is killed in Germany.

The pain continued well into 1945.

Jan. 12 — Lt. Lee Vincent, missing in action 17 months, is reported safe in a German prison camp.

Jan. 26 — Local harvesting of guayule — a natural source of rubber — begins using German prisoners of war.

Feb. 2 — Sgt. Kenneth Rohr is missing in action.

Feb. 9 — Greer is reported killed in action.

Feb. 16 — J.B. McCleskey is killed in action.

March 2 — Four highwaymen are caught robbing a sailor.

March 9 — A sailor is killed in a hit-and-run near Crows Landing.

March 30 — Joe Borges and James Fenley, the latter the husband of Mable Meinzer Finley, are killed on Iwo Jima.

April 6 — News is released of the death of Major Lawrence H. Phillips a year earlier on a secret Mindoro mission.

April 20 — T/Sgt. Norman Allport is killed in Germany.

May 11 — Carl Marler dies in German action.

May 18 — Lt. Ed Martin is freed from German prison.

June 1 — Andrew Williams is killed on Luzon. Lts. John Gill and Lee Vincent are freed from German camps.

June 29 — Major Eugene Torvend is reported missing in a Kobe raid.

July 13 — Lt. Fred Fovinci is killed in a B-29 explosion.

The Irrigator issue of Aug. 17, 1945, announced the end of the war with Japan, noting that the observance was quite calm. That’s understandable, considering the heavy death toll experienced by this community.

Yet to come after the war ended were the announcements of the deaths of Hittle, Lt. Arthur Luce of El Solyo Ranch, Lt. Harold Totman and Major Louie Martin — the last two of whom died in plane crashes after the fighting was halted.

The story continues

Fast Talk has gotten great mileage out of the story from 50 years ago about Block P members at Patterson High School heading out for a 50-mile round trip hike to Modesto.

First we noted that Bob Callahan finished nearly an hour ahead of the pack when returning to Patterson, sprinting the last couple of blocks to the Plaza, our downtown circle. Then came information that Bob Mears, Eloy Ramirez and John Kinnear did the sprinting.

Now comes verified word that Callahan indeed finished first, arriving at Plaza all by his lonesome. He apparently returned using Grayson Road and heading south on Highway 33, while other walkers used Jennings Road and arrived on Las Palmas Avenue. Patterson High science teacher John Azevedo and his family provided Bob with water as he passed the Patterson Cemetery.

As Callahan puts it, he posted “a victory without a victory party.” However, classmate Gary Moore was there at the end and verifies the claim.

Callahan also remembers that the staff received for his victory was placed in the glass display case in the main hall at Patterson High.

But we have no doubt that Mears, Ramirez and Kinnear came in second — on the run.

My oh my

To Patterson’s newer residents who might have questions about the Central Valley’s weather, let me say emphatically that in the past 50 years, I’ve never experienced a clap of thunder as loud as that heard here Saturday evening.

It crashed loud enough to tilt our picture frames on the wall — a real window-shaker.

Class in session

OK, you education freaks, let’s soak up a bit more learning.

Here’s some info for you chocolate lovers, as if you need further reason to treat yourself.

Chocolate, it seems, contains such compounds at phenylethylamine, tyramine and theobromine , but you probably know that already. These are mildly stimulatory and pleasure-causing in a complex sort of way, so look at chocolate as an antidepressant. No quarrel with that.

But get this: A bar of dark chocolate contains 10 times the phenols of an orange and four times more than a beet. Phenols, we know, thin the blood, making it easier for the heart to pump and reducing blood clotting, thus cutting back the chance for strokes.

And, of course, chocolate wards off magnesium deficiency, a factor in asthma, diabetes, migraines, stuttering, and so on. Broccoli also is a good source of magnesium, but forget about that.

I used to prefer Hershey bars until they moved production to Mexico. Now anything else chocolaty will do, and for the above reasons.

For the sports fan

You have to give Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson oodles of credit. He’s pulling out all the stops to keep the Kings in his city.

And finally…

What do the words “listen” and “silent” have in common, other than to listen you have to be silent?

Well for one thing, they use the same letters. But you probably knew that, too.

Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

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