Saturday, October 3, 2009

The war-time letters of Charles Lowry

My grandfather Charles Lowry had a long career as a Federal employee, which included almost two years in the United States Army. It probably wasn't by choice that he entered the Army. Like almost 10,000,000 other men between 1940 and 1947, he was drafted and declared 1-A - Available for unrestricted military service.

Once drafted, he entered Basic Training at Camp Blanding in Florida. He would spend several months there learning basic soldiering before receiving leave and returning to his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. His leave finished, he took a train for Fort George Meade, Maryland. Just outside of Washington, D.C., he visited with friends and took in the sites before shipping out for England. He was assigned to a replacement unit, a Casual Company as it was known, and it was a boring life. Guard duty, sleep, uniform inspection, eat, repeat.

The real action started when like so many others, he was assigned to a fighting unit. In this case, he was assigned as an ammunition bearer in a squad and platoon of Company D/Heavy Weapons, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment (Anderson), 8th Infantry Division (Stroh), XIII Corps (Middleton), United States Third Army (Patton), Twelfth United States Army Group (Bradley), Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (Eisenhower) [Commanders when Chuck entered the fight in Aug 1944].

Charles Lowry was a replacement. Replacement troops prior to 1943 were used to fill slots in new units being created and sent overseas. By 1944, when Charles went through basic training, recruits weren't just filling new units, but were used to replace combat casualties from units fighting in Europe, the Pacific and in Africa.

The letters Charles wrote home capture a basic painting of Army life. He was restricted from providing his location most of the time. Asking questions to his mother was the best way to get information of home.

Charles was wounded during the early stages of Battle for Brest, France when a hand grenade detonated near him, causing the ammunition he was carrying to explode and sent shrapnel fragments into his legs. He had been in France for eight days and on the front line for three hours. He was lucky if he knew the first names of the men he was fighting with. Friendships were non-existent for replacements (later called reinforcements because of the harsh connotation of the word 'replacement' in a military unit that had suffered casualties). The chance a replacement would be wounded or killed in his first 14 days of combat was nearly 70%.

Chuck was removed from the line, first sent to a casualty collection point, before a truck ride to field hospital. He was then transported to England for care and eventually to Fort Benjamin Harrison Army Hospital in Indianapolis where he spent nearly a year in recovery of his wounds.

If you have questions or comments about the letters, I encourage you to post them in the comments section.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Charles J. Lowry, 1924 - 2007



Private-First Class Charles J. Lowry
Company D, 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division


Charles J. Lowry, life-long resident of Youngstown, father of eleven children, grandfather of eighteen and great-grandather to two, died early Sunday morning at his home after a long illness. He was born November 10, 1924, the only child of Charles E. and Margaret M. Lowry, attended McKinley Elementary School, and graduated from Ursuline High School in 1942. He spent time in the United States Army during World War II, receiving the Purple Heart. He married Jean Grocutt at Saint Columba in 1948. Jean passed away in February 1987. He was well known in Yougstown for owning Lowry's Custard Stand, first on Belmont Avenue and then for a long time on Logan Avenue. He retired from the United States Post Office and in his retirement, gave his time to the St. Vincent DePaul Society, for whom he opened and operated their first soup kitchen on Front Street from 1981 until 1987. He remained active in the St. Edward's St. Vincent DePaul Society until recently. He also was known for organizing bus trips to Saint Anne de Beaupre Shrine in Quebec, Canada and Notre Dame football games. In 2000, he was inducted into the Ursuline High School Athletic Hall of Fame, the first tennis player to be inducted.


Chuck's Honorable Discharge papers from the United States Army in 1945. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for being wounded during the battle for Brest, France on August 28, 1944. He spent almost two years in hospitals both in England and at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana.


Chuck with his new bride Jean and Grandpa Pepperney on his wedding day, May 29, 1948.


Chuck with his granddaughter Caroline and her new husband Jon on their wedding day, November 25, 2006.


Chuck and Jean on their wedding day, May 29, 1948.


Chuck and Jean with little Pat on the front stoop at their house on Mansell.


Chuck and Pat


I'm sure he is plotting his way out of this event.


Chuck and Jean celebrating Christmas at his son Pat's house on Dennick Avenue in 1986.


Chuck with his daughters Mary and Kathy out at Chuck's house in Liberty.


Chuck's 80th birthday was celebrated in grand Lowry style.


More of his 80th birthday party, with son Mike in the foreground and daughter Margaret next to him.


Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky’s back in town …

To leave comments and reflections of Chuck, select the "# Comments" link below this line.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hit

Charles was wounded on August 28, 1944. According to a notebook found with his World War II belongings detailing his actions, his company entered the fight on August 27. He was fighting for less than 24 hours when he was wounded.

His timeline, as written:

Aug 27 2:30 to 1000 Move up

Aug 28 7:30 Move up
7:35 Hit
10:45 Picked up
11:15 To aid st.
1:00 Clering St.
Col. St
3:30 101st Evac

Aug 29 To 666th Air Strip

Aug 30 Fly to 347th St. 6 to 8

Aug 31 To 128th Gen near Devizes

Sept. 2:00 Operation Traction

The letter explained: A scrap of paper was found amongst the documents from Chuck's time in the service providing a timeline from the time of injury until he was provided definitive care. Clearly, the most noticeable event is the three hours he spent between the time he was hit and when he was picked up. Chuck had previously told me that he was lying in a ditch during that time, taking cover from German fire. I'm not sure what the 'Clering St.' or 'Col. St' are in reference to. By 3:30, I presume he was removed to the 101st Evacuation Hospital, which operated in France in 1944. The '666th Air Strip' was probably the 666th Medical Clearing Company, operating evacuation flights from Morlaix, France (about 36 miles from Brest) back to England. Once in England, Chuck was treated by the 128th General Army Hospital. He stated it was near Devizes, but the 128th was situated near Bishopstrow, about 20 miles away. It was a week from the time of his injury until he was able to have surgery that provided traction to his femur injury.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June 30, 1944

Lowry's
1439 Wick Ave
Youngstown, Ohio
Hi.
Well we got here at about 11:15 and ate right away. We came to this place and have been here all afternoon. I met a kid from my co. right away on the train. I have no address yet. I got a seat at Connellsville, PA. I sat through from Pitt. This is a big place. I am going out and look around now.
So Long
Love,
''Chas''
-----
The letter explained: This is Chuck's first letter home that is in the collection. Based on the next several letters he writes, we know that he has just arrived at Fort Meade, Maryland, north of Washington, D.C. and south of Baltimore. He has completed basic training at Camp Blanding, Florida and has perhaps just left Youngstown after being home on a short leave. The shortened word 'co.' refers to the company or unit to which Chuck has been assigned. In this case, it may refer to Company A, 29th Battalion, 8th Regiment (his unit at Fort Meade) or it could be the training company that he left at Camp Blanding.

As appeared in the newspaper (unknown paper or date), his address at Camp Blanding was:

Pvt. Charles J. Lowry 35925389
Co B 210 Bat 65 Reg IRTC
Camp Blanding, Fla.

July 1, 1944

Pvt. C. Lowry 35925389
Co. A 29 BN 8 Regt
4 Plat. AGFRD#1
Fort George Meade, MD

Lowry's
1439 Wick Ave
Youngstown, Ohio

Hi.

It is 9:30. I just came back from the P.X. I got a Yank and had some ice cream and pop. I got my train money back today. $33.00 but no payday. I got assigned to a co. now so you can write. It is not bad here. Not too much to eat but we don't go hungry. I still haven't starting eating a lot. I got up at 5 this and went back to bed at 7 and slept till 10. I guess we'll get to at least Baltimore or Wash. over the weekend. I hope I get out at 12 Sat. and I'll come home. We don't know anything about leaving here. We are getting 2 work uniforms, 2 winter uniforms, and 1 summer uniform. We'll be here till next week at least. I still have not had a chance to look up Vaughn. Well I have to hunt a mailbox now.

So Long
Love,
''Chas''

-----
The letter explained: While the first letter didn't include a return address, Chuck now includes his assignment, being 4th Platoon, Company A, 29th Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment. Fort Meade was a very active post during World War II, hosting basic training activities and later, acting as a prisoner of war camp for German POW's. AGFRD #1 stands for Army Ground Forces Replacement Depot #1 (located at Fort Meade). This is where troops were provided uniforms, inoculated, would have had final weapons testing, and were administratively processed before being sent overseas.

When Chuck's reference to Yank refers to Yank, the Army Weekly, which was weekly magazine published by the United States military during World War II. It was similar to Stars and Stripes and was known for including a "pin-up" girl in each issue.

If you are interested in seeing more about Army uniforms during World War II, click here.

July 4, 1944

Pvt. C. Lowry 35925389
Co. A 29 BN 8 Regt
A.G.F.R.D. #1
Fort George G. Meade, MD

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lowry
1439 Wick Ave
Youngstown, Ohio

Hi.

Boy the airplane ride was swell. You don't even know you are in a plane. It doesn't make much noise either. We got to Wash. at about 10:30. I called Jean Cleary. and then went out and saw her and then went back to town and I got the train at 1:30. I got to bed about 2:45. I got my shipping orders today. I don't know when I'll go though. Boy I was all set to get the 8:30 B+O out of Wash. tonite and get home at 5 in the morning and bee off till 5 the next morning but not we have to have a clothing inspection at 8 in the morning. After that we can to town I think Ill go to Wash. I could go to Baltimore but I've been to Wash and I know a little about it and I would like to look around. I just came from seeing the show ''Back Home in Indiana''. The Sgt. got in at 5:45 this morning. Boy things look like dots from the plane. Going over town through I could pick out anything. We passed our house before I knew we were over Yo-town. Everone goes to P.O.E. from here now and if he is to be kept in the states he goes from P.O.E.. I guess it is N.Y. Boy I get around. I'll call tomorrow if I can. No work around here.

So Long
Love,
''Chas''

July 5, 1944

Pvt. C. Lowry
Co. A 29 BN 8 Regt
Fort Meade, MD

Lowry's
1439 Wick Ave
Youngstown, Ohio

Hi.

It is 11:30. I just came from the bond show. I don't know how many hundred thousands were. I get a train at 130 and am K of C (USO) now. It is nice. The show was buy the monument. Just a line..

So Long
Love,
''Chas''