Memorial Day 2017 – In honor of Herman E. Maurer (1923 – 1944)

memorial day stampIt’s Memorial Day weekend.  I planned to continue with a post about using research logs and genealogy.  That post can wait.  I am going to write about my first cousin once removed, Herman E. Maurer,  who was killed in action during World War II.

As I reviewed my other blog posts, I realized that I have been doing more teaching and not so much reflection.   I am a nurse for over 40 years now and 25+ years of that time was spent in education, teaching men and women how to be nurses.   One of our teaching tools is journaling – having the students reflect on their clinical experiences.   I remember telling them to write more than just a list of what they did.  What did you do today?  How did you feel about giving a shot or watching a baby being born?  Nervous? Confident? Frustrated? Awed by the experience?   What did you learn? What or who helped? What or who didn’t help?  Suggest ways to make the next clinical day better.   So, starting with this post, I am going to take my own advice and do more reflecting.

What memories do you have of Memorial Day?  When I was in grade school and middle school in northern Kentucky,  Memorial Day meant that the school year ended.  I don’t remember doing anything special as a family.  Dad was an airline mechanic so he often had to work on holidays.   As a nurse, I, too, often worked on this holiday.  On the other hand, my husband’s family usually got together and had the first family barbecue of the summer season.

As an older adult, I began to appreciate the significance of this holiday.  Memorial Day, formerly called Decoration Day, honors those who have died in battle defending our country.  It is a uniquely American holiday.  American flags are placed on the graves of veterans, whether or not the veteran died during war time.  Facts:

  • The idea began after the Civil War. “It [Decoration Day] was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.”[1]
  • General James Garfield made the first Decoration Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery. “About 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.”[2]
  • Originally, Memorial Day was on held on May 30th. [3] In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363) and made Memorial Day the last Monday in May. Controversy about the 3-day weekend versus May 30th continues to the present.
  • Several southern states honor the Confederate war dead on these days: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

The Memorial Day website has more information about this holiday.

Now, remembering my first cousin, once removed, Herman E. Maurer.   Herman was born on July 13, 1923, in Brooklyn, New York. [4],[5]   to Herman Charles Maurer and his second wife, Elizabeth Veronica Major.   By 1925[6], the family moved to Huntington, Suffolk county, New York, where other members of Herman’s family also lived.  Herman E. enlisted in the Army Air Corps on November 25, 1942.[7]  Assigned to the 485th Bomber Group,  828th Bomb Squad and trained as gunner, he was quickly promoted from private to staff sergeant.  Herman was a member of Crew #17 with pilot, Hudson Owen.

On June 26, 1944, Herman Maurer flew with Parke Bossart’s crew.  Unknown is whether Herman volunteered to fly with a different crew on this day or whether he was assigned.  The B-24 Liberator crew of 10 was assigned to bomb  an oil refinery near Florisdorf, Austria.  About 9:30 am, they engaged  Germans in an air battle.  According to one document in the file, [8]  Herman had flown about 24 missions.  During the attack, Herman was wounded and reported “enemy planes coming in at tail.”  One crew member reported  last seeing Herman as he entered the tail turret.  Herman was the only crew member who died that day.  The others were captured and interred at Dulag Luft. [9]

Herman was initially buried at the Pressbaum Cemetery, Pressbaum,  Austria.[10]  His body was later returned to the United States.  On May 18, 1949, Herman E. Maurer was laid to rest in the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York.[11]   Herman E Maurer gravestone

The pilot,  Parke N. Bossart,  later filed this report: [12]

“One of the other officers in my crew (I’ve forgotten which one) was shown Maurer’s dog tags by his interrogater [sic]  in Frankfurt and told that the tail gunners’ remains were found in the wreckage. Reports of the other member of the crew indicate that Maurer destroyed either two or three of the German fighters who made the final attack on our plane and was presumably killed by them. He should be posthumously cited for this, but since my return, I haven’t found anyone sufficiently interested to do anything about it – or even take a report on it.”

air medal_memorial day 2017

United States: Air Medal.  Picture copied  from Project ww2awards website

Herman did receive two posthumous medals —  Purple Heart and Air Medal.[13]  The Air Medal , established in 1942, ‘is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the armed forces of the United States, shall have distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight”.[14]

Being an avid researcher and probably OCG (obsessive-compulsive genealogist), I wanted to know more.  I googled ‘485th bomber group World War II’ and found a website[15]:      I followed the 485th Photos button to the ‘Photos of the 828th Squadron Crews’ button and down to Bossart crew.   Parke Bossart was the pilot.  There, in the picture, third from the right, was a man without a name, listed as ‘unknown’ on the picture legend.  All of the other men were identified by name.  Could this man be my cousin, Herman E. Maurer?  Further down on the website was a picture of the Owen crew and Herman is named.    But, there are only 4 men on the back row and 5 men are named.  So, which one is Herman?  I am waiting confirmation from the webmaster.

 

Owen Crew_Herman Maurer named here

Owen crew – 828th Squadron – Original crew #17
Front Row, L – R:  Joe Coker, Engineer/Gunner; William Roberts, Co-Pilot; Hudson Owen, Pilot; Jerry Durden, Bombardier; Perry Monroe, Gunner.
Back Row, L – R: Alfred Aborjaily, Radio Operator/Gunner; George Mack, Gunner; Kenneth Ponte, Gunner; Herman Maurer, Gunner; Fales Holcomb, Navigator. 
The assigned plane for this crew was “My Brother and I”.  Fales and Durden were killed flying with Thomas Baker’s crew on 7/20/44, when the plane was shot down by fighters on the Friedrichschafen mission.  Maurer was killed while flying with Bossart’s crew on 6/26/44 and Mack became a POW, also flying with Bossart’s crew on the 6/26/44 Vienna mission.  Several from this crew were wounded when they crashed while landing at Bari on 6/28/44.  

Picture and narrative retrieved 26  May 2017:  http://www.485thbg.org/Photos/828th/828th.html

By this time, I am in tears.  The picture of Herman will be put with the story and other documents.   He was 3 weeks shy of his 21st birthday and a year younger than my youngest son.  Thank you, Herman, for your sacrifice!

 Before you ask, yes,  I sent an email with copies of all  information to the contact person on the website.   After I dry my tears , I will fill out a research log.

Reflection on this experience:   Today, I learned about the history of Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day.  Most exciting thing was possibly finding a picture of my cousin who died in World War II.  The emotions almost overwhelmed me.  I used the internet effectively to find out more about my cousin’s military service.  What didn’t help was that I did not have complete sources for several documents that I downloaded five years ago.  I felt frustrated when I couldn’t quickly access those documents again so I could get the source.  Ultimately, I did find the documents again and now have the complete sources.  As I write these blog posts, I am using skills that I am learning as part of my Genealogy Do-over, specifically documentation (using research logs) and source citation (using templates).  Primary challenge remains  slowing down and taking time to review/ analyze information, as well as documenting sources and my thought processes.  I am still a novice when it comes to use of research tools.

[1] Memorial Day (http://www.usmemorialday.org  : accessed 24 May 2017), “History.”

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., “Date Restoration.”

[4]  Department of Veterans Affairs, “Nationwide Gravesite Locator,” database, National Cemetery Association. (http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov   : accessed 24 May 2017), entry for Herman E. Maurer (1923-1944), Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, New York.  

[5] 1940 U.S. census, Suffolk County, New York, population schedule, Huntington, Enumeration District [ED] 52-102, p. 7A (penned), household # 106, Herman Maurer: digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 25 May 2017); from National Archives microfilm publication T626, roll 1651, image 1014.0.

[6] 1925 New York state census, Suffolk County, population schedule, Huntington, p. 44, dwelling [blank],  for Herman E. Maurer in Herman C. Maurer household;  digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 25 May 2017), citing State population census schedules, 1925. Albany, New York: New York State Archives.

[7] “U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946”, database and images, Ancestry.com  (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 26 May 2016), record for Herman E. Maurer , enlistment date 25 Nov 1942, New York City, New York; citing Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.

[8] “Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs), compiled 1942-1947,” database and images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com   : accessed 25 May 2017), Report No. 6822 (36 pages), Serial No. 41-29291, Year: 1944; Record Group 92: Publication No. M1380, Roll 02401-02500,  National Archives Catalog ID 305256.  National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

[9] “Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs, compiled 1942-1947,” database,  Report No. 6822, Year: 1944.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Dept. of Veterans Affairs, “Nationwide Gravesite Locator,” database entry for Herman E. Maurer (1923-1944).  

[12] “Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs, compiled 1942-1947,” database Report No. 6822, Year: 1944.  Individual Casualty Questionnaire completed by Parke N. Bossart, pilot.

[13]“U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962”, database and images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com :  accessed 25 May 2017),  entry for Herman E. Maurer,  serial no. 12189684,  citing Interment Control Forms, 1928–1962. Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985, Record Group 92. The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.

[14] Project ww2awards.com, (http://en.ww2awards.com/award/247  : accessed 25 May2017), “United States: Air Medal AM.”

[15] 485th Bomber Group Association, (http://www.485thbg.org  :  accessed 25 May 2017),  “485th Photos, Photos of the 828th  Squadron Crews.”

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