Thursday, January 30, 2014
NORMAN V. KELLY
Jimmy Ray Pitsonbarger was winding down a drinking spree that early morning of August 26, 1987, hopping from one tavern to the other. He found himself racing down a rural road near Edwards, Illinois, virtually out of control. He ended up in a ditch wondering what happened. Out of the car now he walked toward a house, entering through an unlocked rear window. He raided the refrigerator and searched the house finding a rifle, a pistol and a shotgun. Next he went to the house next door at 5615 West Southport Road. Inside asleep were the owners, Alta and Claude Brown unaware of the evil that was coming their way.
Finding his way in from a rear window, Jimmy Ray stood there alone in the darkness listening. Suddenly a light went on as Claude and Alta walked into the kitchen. Pitsonbarger quickly fired his weapon, killing Claude almost instantly. Alta screamed as she watched her husband fall to the floor. Jimmy Ray ran towards her screaming at her to be still. Here is what the killer later told police.
“She kept pleading with me…you know
not to rape her. Finally I told her I would not
rape her. I shot her instead.”
FREE TO FLEE
Jimmy Ray stepped over his victims to search the house. Soon he was racing off with the Brown’s pickup truck, money and guns toward whatever came his way. Hell, he was a happy camper. He had some money, a vehicle and the open road. Here is what he would tell police later.
“I just wanted to have some fun
before I got caught.”
The lucky neighbor, once she had seen that her house had been broken into called the Peoria County Sheriff’s office. Prints found at the murder scene and discovery of the killer’s abandoned Mercury soon had the officers zeroed in on their suspect. As the little town of Edwards, Illinois mourned the loss of their neighbors police all over the country were on the look out for Jimmy Ray Pitsonbarger.
Meanwhile where was Pitsonbarger? Why he was having a good time in Columbia, Missouri. He even signed his real name on a guest book at a motel then he headed for the nearest bar. It was there that he spotted his next victim, Mr. Gordon, a vacuum cleaner salesman. Soon the two men were driving along a rural road. Pitsonbarger pulled out his handgun and shot the man several times. He robbed him, dumped him out of the car and headed west. Jimmy Ray was back on the road a little bit richer and still having fun.
GO WEST YOUNG MAN
Jimmy cruised along, stopping here and there, always looking for another victim. He pulled into a gas station in Verdi, Nebraska where he had the attendant fill up the gas tank. Pitsonbarger then pulled a gun on the man and robbed him of $200.00. Police were amazed to hear that he had not killed the man. Now Jimmy was even richer, but the attendant had given police the description and license number of the Nisson he was driving. Jimmy Ray abandoned the Nisson in Boontown, Nevada and hitchhiked his way to Reno, Nevada.
Pitsonbarger checked into a fancy motel, again using his real name and went to sleep. Less than an hour later police had surrounded Jimmy’s little nest. Officers had quietly evacuated the rooms near the suspected killer and were near his room door when it opened. A lady stepped out in the hall, her head was bloody, she was nude and obviously terrified. Calmly the officer in charge went into the room next door and phoned the suspect’s room. Moments later Jimmy was in cuffs and surrounded by police.
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
Much later a judge in Nevada sentenced Jimmy Ray Pitsonbarger, now age twenty-five to 139 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Back in Peoria, Illinois, the murder trial was conducted in front of Judge Calvin Stone without a jury. In September of 1989 Jimmy Ray was in Peoria for his sentencing hearing. From Peoria he went to death row where he would be the 119th. person in Illinois awaiting death by lethal injection. Of course that never took place, but all of his victims are still gone from us forever.
Editor’s Note: Norm is a Peoria Historian, author and radio personality on WOAM 1350 AM. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
A SAILOR’S STORY
NORMAN V. KELLY
On April 21, 1898, America declared War on Spain following the sinking of the Battleship MAINE. Secretary of State John Hay called it a “Splendid Little War.” Historians tell us it was an important war, one that freed Cuba and ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States. That war took the life of a Peoria sailor whose name was George H. Ellis. The historical fact is that he was the only sailor killed in the naval engagement and he was born and raised right here in Peoria, Illinois. He was born October 26, 1875, at a time when Peoria, Illinois was a bustling, busy town with a population of 26,000 citizens. He joined the U.S. Navy on February 26, 1892 at the ripe old age of seventeen and off he went to see the world.
On the morning of July 3, 1898, George held the rank of Chief Yeoman on board The U.S.S Brooklyn, the fleet’s flagship that took him into the thick of the naval battle just outside the Harbor of Santiago de Cuba. Our forces had the Spanish Armada trapped within the harbor and when they attempted to escape to sea, all hell broke loose. The ensuing battle gave the United States Navy a devastating victory over the Spanish Navy. Let’s let the U.S. Navy records tell us what happened to our native son.
Yeoman Ellis was stationed to give the ranges shown by the stadimeter to the Captain of the USS Brooklyn who communicated them from time to time. During the battle, Yeoman Ellis went toward the side a second time to verify the range. He had advanced only a few feet when he was struck in the face by a large shell, he fell immediately dead. At the time of his death he was performing his duty, finding the range of the enemy, under a most galling fire, in a most heroic manner.
George Ellis was the only sailor killed in that historic battle that injured his friend Fireman J. Blevin. George Ellis was buried in a temporary grave with full military honors at Camp McCalla, Guantanamo. On November 28, 1898 his body was taken to Brooklyn, New York, where it was re-buried in Evergreen Cemetery, again with full military honors. A small contingent of sailors, led by Peoria Mayor Lucas Butts attended the military funeral representing the people of Peoria, Illinois. Officials here in Peoria made an attempt to obtain the body of Yeoman Ellis for burial here, but the efforts proved futile. The United States Navy further recognized Yeoman George Ellis by naming a ship after him. THE USS ELLIS, referred to by the Navy as DD-154 proudly carried the fallen Peorian’s name through many years of distinguished service to America during WW 11 and beyond.
I purchased a photograph from naval records showing the ship in 1942. A United States Naval vessel named after a Peorian! What a distinct honor. There are 55 telephone numbers in our local book under the name of Ellis, and I was wondering if any of those folks are relatives of our fallen sailor. Seems to me a small plaque should be placed in George’s honor down by the river.
You folks interested?
Editor’s Note: Follow Norm’s stories in the new News and Views. email@example.com
A GIFT FROM THE DETWEILLERS
NORMAN V. KELLY
It’s just a guess on my part, but I would bet that the average Peoria family rarely thinks of our park system or even visits ours parks except to take their kids to a soccer game. I can tell you that parks were a big part of our lives back when I was a kid, especially Bradley and Glen Oak Parks. Detweiller was too far away to even consider visiting, so most of us kids from El Vista played in what is now called Schmoger Park. Of course in those days we called it ‘Our Woods.’
I want to tell you about Detweiller Park and give you an idea how Peoria managed to obtain such an incredible bit of acreage. Let’s start with Captain Henry Detweiller, a man born to the river as surely as the fish that swim below its murky waters. He was born in Larraine, France in 1825 and as a teenager found himself living here in Peoria, Illinois in 1837. He had a few jobs as a teen, but his heart and soul belonged to the Illinois River. He finally landed a job on one of the steamboats he loved so much and spent his life working on them, from deckhand to pilot to owner, becoming a local hero during the Civil War. In 1874 he finally retired from the river and went into the ice business here in Peoria, Illinois. Henry and his wife Magdalena had seven children but only three of them survived to adulthood. Henry amassed a sizable fortune as well as a lot of valuable land. His son and two daughters inherited all of the Captain’s assets, and set out to donate most of it to charities and the City of Peoria.
Thomas Hunter Detweiller took over his father’s business, and in consultation with his two sisters donated Detweiller Park to the Peoria Park District on July 23, 1927. The total land grant was 745 acres, and today the park board lists Detweiller Park as 601 acres. The gift later included some valuable riverside property where the old ice business once stood and an area set aside for a playground for children. Today there is a Marina within that land, and historians tell us that that was not the intended use of the Detweiller property.
The park was dedicated with pomp and ceremony and a grateful city received a gift that to this day serves not only Peorians, but people from surrounding towns and counties as well. The Detweillers were truly a wonderfully generous family and Peorians benefited from their generosity beyond measure. A memorial was once there for visitors to read:
“This memorial erected in memory of Captain Henry Detweiller, a pioneer Peorian and early day pilot and captain, a veteran of The Civil War and a former treasurer of the City of Peoria.” The inscription went on to remind us how important it was to remember these pioneers during the time when the river was rich in romance and glory. Each Peoria census reminds me how many new people move into our area knowing little if anything of our city. I hope our newcomers will spend some time visiting Detweiller and our other parks. Perhaps it is time to rededicate Detweiller Park? Editor’s Note: Norm welcomes your questions and suggestions for future stories. firstname.lastname@example.org
NORMAN V. KELLY
It was a warm Saturday night during Prohibition in downtown Peoria, Illinois as the busy shoppers were rushing home after the stores closed. Peoria was the center of shopping for many miles around, and Saturdays in Peoria were so busy that just getting across the busy streets was a major task. Prohibition was still the law of the land, starting in 1920 and ending in 1933, and once the ordinary shoppers cleared the streets nighttime Peoria and its denizens took over.
Peoria did not have speakeasies because we did not need them. That’s right…none. In the 20’s we had, thanks to Mayor Woodruff were as many as 167 Soft Drink Parlors. As Prohibition rolled on this number would grow to over 200 Parlors. Now these revived taverns could not legally sell booze, beer or wine, but that did not stop the incredible number of customers that thronged to these places. In September of 1917, the Wartime Food and Fuel Conservation Act made it illegal to use foodstuffs to make alcoholic drinks of any kind. Imagine that in Peoria, Illinois the city that boasted of being the alcohol capital of the World. What that really meant to the folks of Peoria was that ALL of the breweries and the distilleries in town were forced to shut down. Keep in mind that was 1917, not 1920 when Prohibition became law and that meant a loss of our major places of employment.
Right after Prohibition started, January 16, 1920, the Roaring Twenties officially began. Now ask yourself, how could there be a roar in the Roaring Twenties without booze? Not to worry, here in Peoria if you wanted a drink all you needed was the money to pay for it. On Saturday night in Peoria the Flappers, the Jazz, the gambling and the wild times were all downtown waiting for folks to ‘come on down.’ And…come down they did.
Remember, Prohibition shut down all of our taverns and I can tell you that that was devastating news for Peorians. We had a tremendous number of taverns then, and they were called local or neighborhood taverns. Peoria was a mixed bag of people and these taverns served all kinds of ethnic foods and drinks and this law upset a lot of people. After all, our taverns were important to us in a social function as well. Of course the closure of the taverns and the loss of jobs at the breweries and distilleries initially was devastating. Like always, Peoria and Peorians over came all this and we managed to flourish. During the first ten years of Prohibition Peoria’s population rose just over 28,000 people. That is impressive indeed.
Let’s go back to Saturday night in Peoria and the Soft Drink Parlors. These taverns turned parlors had to be careful how they sold booze to their customers…but actually it was easy. Woodruff told Peorians that the city was loosing about $170,000 a year in liquor license fees alone and he meant to do something about it. He allowed the taverns to reopen as long as they bought a Soft Drink Parlor License. Well…they did and the fun really began. It started a whole new soft drink business and as booze flowed down from Canada the soft drink parlors flourished.
As folks returned to the Parlors, the booze flowed, the live music and entertainment came back to downtown, and life perked up during those Prohibition and Great Depression Days. Saturday night in Peoria…it was the ‘Cat’s Meow.’
As the crowds grew hundreds of young men and women began appearing at their special parlors. Think of it, the parlors were not supposed to sell booze, so the young people could hardly be turned away. It was the time of the new Jazz craze, the new dress fads, wild dances and of course the ‘crazy flapper.’ These young women turned this old town up side down, smoking cigarettes, carrying flasks and wowing the young men.
Oh, sure, we had so called ‘Dry Agents,’ but they were busy chasing stills and bootleggers. Believe me, Saturday night in Downtown Peoria, Illinois during Prohibition was one constant party. Of course the youngsters were not allowed anywhere near the gambling tables, but they had their own game to play. Things cooled a bit during the dark days of the Great Depression, but once Prohibition ended, Peoria got back up on its hind legs and began to howl even louder than before. By 1934 Hiram Walker announced it would build the largest distillery in the World right here in Peoria, Illinois. It opened in 1935 and Peoria was back on track.
The wild times rolled on as the gambling got more and more entrenched, all the way up until the beginning of WW 11. Once the war started there were many, many changes downtown as the town welcomed the soldiers from all over including Camp Ellis out in Fulton County. The gambling grew along with the prostitution and Peoria took on a festive look. We had 242 taverns within the small confines of the city limits some of them open 20 and 22 hours a day. Peoria took on a rougher, tougher reputation and finally on September 3, 1946 the casino style gambling in Peoria ended. Of course we continued with the slot machines, but a drastic change took over downtown. 1946 in Peoria was one of the most important years in the reputation of Peoria, Illinois, but that’s another story.
Editor’s Note: Norm is a Historian and can be heard with Harry on The Red Nose Gang, Sunday morning 7-10. WOAM, 1350 AM
Friday, January 17, 2014
IS CONCEALED CARRY FOR YOU?
NORMAN V. KELLY
Think of it, since the Second Amendment was granted to Americans the anti-gun people in the United States and many of our local and federal governments have attempted to take that right away from us. It is going on to this very day and led by many politicians and ordinary citizens here in Illinois. In fact they have been very successful until finally, the State of Illinois, led by the Illinois State Rifle Association and Richard Pearson persevered. We were absolutely last to obtain our Second Amendment rights, thanks to the liberals and Chicago politicians. I am certain many of you have been somewhat aware of that controversy and had your own opinions. Finally, after a bruising battle lasting nineteen years, Illinois has the Concealed Carry Law and it is being implemented as we speak. Actually very few members of the National Rifle Association or the Illinois State Rifle Association were totally pleased with the law as it is written today, but believe me for those of us who believe in the Second Amendment is was the best they could wrestle from the opposition. Of course the battle is not over, daily in our State Capital Legislators and anti-gun lobbyist will attempt to pick away at the law, trying constantly to weaken it, no matter what it takes, they will never give up. I am happy to report to you that the NRA and the ISRA is just as determined to not only keep the law but improve on it whenever and however they can. We need to support both those groups and you can do it for very few dollars, I can assure you of that. Look them up on your computer and see how you can help preserve your rights.
I am eighty-two years old, and truthfully I never thought that I would live to see the day when I would finally have the right to carry a concealed weapon on my person if I chose to do so. I have no great desire to put a gun on my hip, none whatsoever. I dread the day that I might have to actually use it to defend my wife or my family or another innocent person. I do, however intend to do exactly that if the circumstances warrant. Hell, you listen to the news, read the papers and watch TV, you know exactly what is going on out there, and that includes your own neighborhood. The threat is real, no need to become paranoid or reclusive to stay alive. All you need is awareness and the proper training to give yourself and your family a fair chance to survive if one of those terrifying, vicious attacks happens to you. If you think that just carrying a gun on your person is a guarantee of survival then you are delusional. The idea is to have a chance based on your training and understanding of what you should do and when you should do it. Remember Dirty Harry and John Wayne were characters in movies…not real life.
I went up to Chatsworth, Illinois for two days to take part in a sixteen hour gun training class. It was a tense, long session which included classroom lectures, demonstrations and hands-on instructions that left me breathless. I have hunted around Peoria most of my life, and fired a lot of weapons over the years, but I was not prepared for the reality of this class. Richard Pearson taught us quickly that the weapon we hoped to carry is a deadly weapon. The reality of why you need to carry it is here to stay, and the consequences of improper use could destroy your life as you knew it, take the life of another person, and affect the financial standing of your family forever. That is why the class was intense: we were not studying for a ‘pop quiz.’ in Sociology.
THE FIRING LINE
After about 14 hours in the classroom, ‘dry firing’ our weapons, learning the law and the dos and don’ts we were taught the safe and proper handling of our weapons. The afternoon of the second day we gathered out in the middle of a field on a brisk, bright sunshiny day. The wind whipped up a bit as Richard and the students prepared the ten silhouetted targets that we would eventually shoot at. They were mounted on cardboard back drops, blown off by the wind and finally secured with thumb tacks and tape. Our instructor then thumb tacked white paper plates to the center of them which gave most of us a sigh of relief. We had some very experienced shooters among the ten of us, but a few of us had never fired in this manner in our lives. Under the skillful eye of Pearson we went through the actual firing of our weapons. We had several types of revolvers, pistols and of course, different calibers, from .22s to .357 handguns. I had my own Smith & Wesson .38 but because of my stupidity had not brought enough ammunition. My heart skipped a beat or two when Mr. Pearson said, “Here Norm, qualify with my .45.” I told you I am old, kinda small, and the thought of firing a hundred rounds with a big, scary .45 caused some anxiety to say the least.
Like a large firing squad we lined up shoulder to shoulder, eight guys and two gals to face the black silhouettes shaped like the head and upper half of man. There is a white ‘X’ printed in the middle with numbers printed on both sides of the ‘X’. I could easily see the ‘big bad man’ standing there, but truth be known I could not see the ‘X. To be up front I told Richard that fact. After I said it I realized it sounded like an excuse for my upcoming misses. He laughed. “Norm, the attacker rarely has an ‘X’ on him.” As usual Richard knew what to say and how to help a student no matter what the circumstances.
The protocol, the orders, the warnings, the commands were barked out like a Marine sergeant and believe me we listened. Well, most of the time. Every error, mistake or miscue Richard Pearson saw it and corrected it. He did all this with courtesy and authority and believe me he helped me plenty. So did the students next to me, and the way we encouraged each other was heart warming. The thing that scared the hell out of me was our firing simultaneously. We had ear protectors but the roar of ten high powered handguns going off at the same time in sequences of five shots was nerve racking. The next scary thing was the flying empty shells that rained down as the person on my left fired his or her weapon. The first time one of them bounced off my ear was distracting to say the least.
NOW IT REALLY COUNTS!
After 70 rounds we all gathered around our instructor. “The next thirty rounds count! I want you to go up to those new silhouettes and sign your name on the white part of the target. After we fire the next thirty rounds, by my command, you must get twenty-one of them inside the black silhouette. They must be in the black! If you fail to do that…you do not qualify to carry a concealed weapon.” Way back in 1951 I remember my sergeant giving me virtually the same speech, but his manner was a bit scarier…if you get my meaning.
For the men that were experienced shooters that threat meant nothing to them, but for some of us the apprehension ratcheted up a click, I can tell you that. Richard clearly gave us instructions about what method he wanted us to fire and repeatedly told us there was no time limit. “Take your time but I don’t want to be out here in the dark.” Bang! Bang! All hell broke loose for the final time. Then it was over. It was very quiet as we stood anxiously waiting for the command to approach our targets. Richard started with the first target and announced the results for all to hear. I remember when we had the paper plates up to shoot at Rich looked over at me. “Norm great shooting, the problem is you shot the wrong target.”
All ten of us managed to pass our final exam and there were a lot of smiles and pats on the back, along with a few sighs of relief.
Our instructor rolled up the targets and will record the official outcome of Richard Pearson’s first class under the new Concealed Carry Law. The next step is arranging for the photographs and fingerprinting at which time I hope we all get together once again. After that we will have to fill out the application for our permits that will be approved or disapproved by the Illinois State Police. They are to begin that process on January 5, 2014.
What we accomplished was really just the first step in responsibly carry a concealed weapon. Pearson reminded us that any skill we might have with a weapon is a declining skill. Permit holders need to practice every move they were taught, from stance to dry firing the weapon. We who carry our guns legally have a massive responsibility to ourselves, our families and the citizens we encounter and to do so within the law.
A MATTER OF MONEY
I thought quite a bit before I decided to proceed with the long process of becoming a concealed carrier, not only the possible liability, but the costs as well. The first $10.00 expense is obtaining the FOID card. Today it takes some time but I just got one for my wife and it was in her hand in three weeks, so who really knows the time table? What about the gun? My Goodness, there are hundreds of them and all are different calibers and styles. I got great advice and bought a Smith &Wesson .38 revolver. What style is best for you? Do not jump in to buying the first gun that looks good to you. Talk to experienced gun owners and become your own expert. Go out to a firing range and watch others fire their weapons and talk to them and the experienced trainers and fellow gun owners. Above all do not buy a cheap gun. Oh, and if you have some old gun your grandfather gave you, it’s fine to keep it, but do not even consider using it as your concealed carry. There are some fabulous guns available with new safety measures and you should know all about them. Join the Illinois National Rifle Association and read everything they send you. I bought a ‘Gun Policy’ before I even bought my revolver. Go to www.USCCA.com and check them out and the one the NRA offers. I bought the minimum coverage and it costs $12.00 per month. Ask questions of your homeowner’s insurance agent and decide what you want to do. Do NOT fire that gun until you have an expert with you or you complete the sixteen hour course you are required to complete to qualify for the privilege of a concealed permit. Veterans must complete an eight hour course, but it is my opinion that we should all take the full 16 hour course. That will cost you a minimum of $200.00 and up. Above all check out the Instructor. They must be certified but do your own checking on this man or woman and ask questions of them. We can’t all be trained by Richard Pearson you know.
So how much have we spent so far? The next steps include the fingerprints and a photograph for the permit. Together they will cost another $100.00 or just a bit more than that. Now we have to fill out the application for the permit to be sent to the Illinois State Police. That, my friend, will cost you another $150.00. See what I mean? You have some thinking to do unless you are rather well off. Are we done spending money? Well you have to buy shells for your gun and 50 of them that we will use for practice will run a minimum of $10.00. The higher quality shells will cost more. Remember, the opposition hopes to make it difficult to get shells so try to do a bit of ‘Hoarding’ once you buy them. The ‘enemy’ does not want you to have a gun and is out to make it as difficult for you as possible.
SO ARE YOU DONE SPENDING YET?
Unless you have a private place to train yourself to fire your new weapon you will have to go to a gun club or a gun range and frankly I have no idea what the monthly costs of that will be. You MUST practice not only the firing of the weapon but all the other tactics and techniques you have learned. At least you can do a lot of that training at home. There are gun leagues just like they used to have in bowling so you can have fun at this as well. Remember this is just my opinion, but I think every adult in your home should have a FOID Card, and even consider all of them going through the entire training class as well.
If you have an interest in concealed carry you must first obtain a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card. (FOID) and I suggest you quickly join the Illinois National Rifle Association. The next step would be to arrange to take the 16 hour training course that I just went through. Rather than send you here, there and everywhere, just E-Mail Richard Pearson or Call the ISRA up in Chatsworth, Illinois. He has some great assistants and they will guide you every step of the way. Do your homework by checking out the internet because it has a tremendous amount of information. Richard Pearson: email@example.com, phone 1-815 635-3198.
Editor’s Note: Norm is a Peoria Author and Historian. Join him and the Red Nose Gang on Sunday mornings, 7-10, WOAM 1350 AM. firstname.lastname@example.org
NORMAN V. KELLY
I spent four years in the Air Force and then in January of 1955, I was a veteran. It was not until 2013 that I heard someone say “Thank you for your service.” I thought they were kidding me. Then Honor Flight became a reality, and the ‘welcome home’ veterans received around America after their flights to the Washington Monuments was overwhelming. Many of the combat veterans have been silent about their stories all those years. I met one of them named CARL H. PORTER. He is ninety-two now, born in Pekin, Illinois and a resident over at the Buehler Home. I have written about other veterans and after meeting Carl I wish I would have dedicated the last decade to writing veteran’s stories.
Carl was married to his beloved wife Marlynn for sixty-seven years and just lost her last year. “Norm I was raised in Manito and I met ‘Marly’
In 1940 and of course Pekin was the place that was important to us. I came to Peoria a lot and she and I would go to dances at the Inglaterra. I was not much of a dancer, but I soon learned. We did not get married until 1946 over in Peoria so I wrote her a lot of letters…truth is I still have them. The wedding gown you see in that picture of her was made out of a parachute that I sent home to her.” That marriage produced two children, Chip and Lisa, four grandchildren and eventually nine great grand-kids.
Once WW 11 broke out Carl tried to enlist but due to his color blindness he was rejected. Of course once the draft notice came, Uncle Sam seemed to have changed his mind and off Carl went to become a paratrooper. “I ended up in California and went through the tough paratrooper training. I remember the first time I jumped I felt like a million dollars.”
D-DAY JUNE 6, 1945
“Norm you were in the Air Force and you know its funny the things a guy remembers from training. It was during D-Day briefings we were told not to take any prisoners until after we hooked up with our land forces. They also told us not to load our weapons until we were safely on the ground. That order most certainly saved my life. The drop over Normandy was fast and low and I remember looking up and seeing the tracer bullets making holes in my ‘chute. I did not pay much attention to where the parachute was taking me. I crashed into a tree when I landed and ended up dangling from a limb.”
Before Carl could extract himself from the tree three German soldiers appeared beneath his feet. Of course combat soldiers are trained to fire at the enemy but Carl realized that his weapon was empty. He wisely dropped his weapon and within a few minutes was marched off as a prisoner of war. He told me that had his weapon been loaded he would have most certainly fired at his would be captors, resulting in his certain death.
Carl was marched off by his captors and eventually deposited with a dozen of other American prisoners. They took one boot from each man and were then left guarded and remained there over night. “In the early morning we were marched off, our fingers laced together over the back of our heads. Our new home was within a stonewalled courtyard and imprisoned in a room. The stone walls were about two feet thick and by then I think we numbered about seventeen men.”
Carl and his companions were marched a few miles down the road where they came to another stonewalled courtyard and taken to a room where they remained. “The fourth Division was on its way inland and eventually that led them to an estate where we were being held prisoners of war. Rifle fire, mortar fire and chips of stone were ricocheting around our cell far longer than I care to remember. We were behind some thick stone walls we thought would give us adequate protection except from what was coming in through the small windows.”
Hunkered down the men weathered the storm that was coming at them from both armies. “Suddenly a wild-eyed German rifleman rushed into the room threatening us with his bayoneted rifle. He jabbed his rifle at me.” ‘Ruskie?’ Nein! Nein! I yelled. Englich?, Nein! I slowly turned my shoulder toward him pointing to the American Flag attached to my jump suit. American I said.”
What happened next surprised every man in the room and would give them a memory that they would never forget for the rest of their lives.
“The soldier broke into a wide grin as he yelled, ‘AMERIKANISCH!’
‘AMERIKANISCH!’ He then leaned his rifle against the wall and grabbed me in a bear hug.”
Quickly one of Carl’s buddies grabbed the rifle and headed outside. It took a few moments for Carl to untangle himself from the overly friendly German before he was in the next room selecting a P-35 pistol and a BAR type rifle from the stack of guns about twelve Germans had deposited on the floor in their rush to surrender to the Americans.
“Germans were surrendering faster than we could take their weapons, so we herded them into the inner rooms with their ‘Potato Mashers’ still sticking out of their belts.”
As the chaos encircled the Americans an effort to contact the Fourth Division was made to let them know that Americans had control of the area. One of the men spied a bugle hanging on the wall. He began to blow on it as loudly as he could, hoping the men in the fourth would stop their firing.
“The way the sounds came out it was hard to say if he was blowing Chow Call, Taps or Reveille, but whatever it was the firing let up and then ceased all together. We all gathered around the man that had blown the horn. ‘Hell, I never blew one of the damn things before in my life, but I had to do something.’”
Later Carl learned that a general had ordered the building they were in destroyed by naval fire. In fact a sergeant told him that he was about to ring up the navy for the barrage when they heard the sound of the bugle which resulted in the cease fire.
Among the peace and quiet the prisoners, all 210 of them were corralled and marched off to the beach. The war was over for them. It was a remarkable story that would be recounted in TIME Magazine, where seventeen paratroopers turned the tables on their German captors, taking all 210 of them prisoners.
“A SMALL MISHAP”
That’s how Carl reluctantly described his severe injury to his hands and fingers when he volunteered to attempt to disarm a jerry-rigged piece of enemy ordinance that was posing a threat to the troops. “It wasn’t the bomb that got me it was the detonating cap that I had in my hands.”
Carl Porter was awarded a Purple Heart due to his injuries.
THEY HAD A DREAM
“Norm we were married over in Peoria in 1946 and Marly and I discovered that we both had had a dream about living in Alaska so in 1947 that is exactly what we did. I ended up having a job with Pan Am Airways and lived in Ketchikan, Alaska as well as Annette Island. We stayed there forty years as I later developed a large insurance agency.”
Carl Porter lived an extraordinary life, a lucky one he claims, with his beloved wife Marly and his marvelous family. He lives alone now among his friends in Buehler Home with his memories and the pictures of his bride in a wedding dress made from a parachute he sent her.
Editor’s Note: Norm is a Peoria Historian and author. email@example.com