109th Field Artillery Battalion Train Wreck
Between Newcomerstown and West
September 11, 1950
we forget, this is contributed in honor of the memory
sacrifice of these individuals
by Willard A. Gower
Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac: 1951 -
Thirty-three members of two batteries of 109th Field
Artillery Battalion were killed and about two score others
were seriously injured early on the morning of September 11,
1950, when the rear of their troop train was rammed by a
Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train near
Lafayette, Ohio [between
Newcomerstown and West Lafayette].
In addition, many soldiers of 109th Infantry
Wayne Counties and other 109th Artillery
men suffered injuries in the crash, a total of 278, the ICC
reported. It was the greatest single tragedy in the history
of the 109th FA or its predecessors, who participated in
every war the United States fought, starting with the
Revolution. Having been federalized for the second time in
nine years, the 109th was en route to
Indiana, when death rode the rails.
The battalion had spent
one week of its annual summer training program at
Gap when the
Korean War, which started June 25,
serious and the 28th Division, of which the battalion is a
part, was alerted on August 1 for federal service. The men
Wilkes-Barre on August 7 and on September 5 they
were inducted for active duty. On September 8 the battalion
paraded central city streets for the last time before
departure for Camp Atterbury. On Sunday afternoon, September
10, majority members of the battalion, solemn and unaware of
the fate which was in store, left the city in special cars
which were attached tot he rear of the 109th Infantry troop
train in Buttonwood Yards of Pennsylvania Railroad. Shortly
before daybreak on September 11 the troop train experienced
trouble and halted for repairs near West Lafayette, Ohio.
Pennsylvania Railroad's passenger train "Spirit of St.
Louis" was following on the same track. The engineer was
unable to stop the train and it ran into the rear of the
troop train, killing and injuring the men, many of whom were
in the last three cars. William E. Eller, 68, engineer of
the "Spirit of St. Louis," testified at an inquiry conducted
by the railroad,
Interstate Commerce Commission,
Utility Commission and Army investigators that his train was
running late, going too fast and ripped into the stalled
troop train after passing a stop signal. The ICC, on October
4, reported the engineer's failure to follow operating
signals led to the wreck. Army officials experienced
difficulty in identifying some of the dead, but on September
13 the 33 bodies were placed on a special train at
Ohio, and arrived in Wilkes-Barre on the afternoon of
Return of the dead to Wilkes-Barre for the
last time was a pathetic demonstration of love and
bereavement. Police estimated 200,000 persons paid homage as
they lined the streets traversed by the cortege from
Valley Railroad station to West Side Armory, starting place
of the battalion when soldiers left for federal training.
High Army officials rode the funeral train into the city and
Governor James H. Duff attended as official mourner of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. More than 1,000 National
Guardsmen from various sections of the State, who had not
been summoned for federal service, acted as a guard of honor
for the bodies while members of
United States Naval Reserve,
attached to the Kingston Training Center, lined a section of
the route followed by the cortege.
Practically all business
was suspended while the dead were being removed from the
funeral train to West Side Armory. Church bells tolled and
airplanes dropped flowers on the route of the procession.
Each body occupied a weapons carrier. Families met them at
the armory. There was no ceremony. Public was barred from
the building. Shortly after the arrival at the armory the
weapons carriers took the bodies to the homes of the victims
or to funeral homes. It was one of the saddest days in the
Wyoming Valley. Funerals were held on succeeding
Corp. Carl W. Armbruster, 132 Maffet, Plains.
Corp. John L. Barna, 164 Abbott, Plains.
Pvt. William R. Disbrow, 87 East Northampton, Wilkes-Barre.
Corp. Joseph E. Fletcher, 1287 Scott, Wilkes-Barre.
PFC Edward W. Gallagher, 581 West Eighth, West Wyoming.
Pvt. Wallace R. Ludwig, 382 Osceola, Kingston.
WO James F. McGinley, 207 Bennett, Exeter.
Sgt. Bernard S. Okrasinski, 40 Brazil, Wilkes-Barre.
Corp. Thomas M. Ostraszewski, 1486 Scott, Wilkes-Barre.
Pvt. William F. Tierney, 23 East Jackson, Wilkes-Barre.
Capt. Arthur J. Thomas, 79 Price, Kingston.
Rct Thomas W. Wallace, 204 Main, Kingston.
PFC Leonard Balonis, 319 Maffet, Plains.
Rct Eugene Carr, 114 Wilson, Larksville.
Sgt. John W. Cox, 38 McDonald, West Pittston.
Rct William J. Dougherty, 185 Nesbitt, Larksville.
Sgt. William c. Edwards, 94 Amherst, Wilkes-Barre.
Rct Hugh L. Fargus, 49 Gerard, Plymouth.
PFC Harold Handlos, 22 East Luzerne, Larksville.
PFC Clyde P. Harding, 65 Union, Kingston.
PFC Martin F. Hornlein, 92 South Washington, Wilkes-Barre.
PFC Ronald J. Jackson, 942 East Northampton, Laurel Run.
Sgt. Lester J. Kuehn, 24 North Empire, Wilkes-Barre.
Corp. Larry L. Luzenski, 125 Carverton, Trucksville.
Rct Frank C. Martinez, 810 Fox, Bronx, N.Y.
Rct Charles Norton, 216 Penn, Hanover Township.
PFC Raymond Pudlowski, 19 New, Hudson.
Rct Richard A. Royer, 313 Bowman, Wilkes-Barre.
Rct William F. Sobers, 48 Laurel, Wilkes-Barre.
WO William M. Wellington, 122 John, Kingston.
Sgt. Gilbert B. Wharton, 64 North Main, Wilkes-Barre.
PFC Edmund Zabicki, 177 Zerby, Edwardsville.
PFC Donald C. Zieker, 17 Central, Hughestown.
Partial List of 109th FA Injured
PFC Edward Bilski, 66 Kidder, Wilkes-Barre.
Corp. Dal D. Daubert, 122 Price, Kingston.
PFC Dean Daubert, Dallas.
PFC John J. Dougherty, 185 Nesbitt, Larksville.
Second Lt. Merle R. Edwards, 65 Shoemaker, Forty Fort.
Corp. Francis D. Fisher, 11 Franklin, Larksville.
Corp. Leonard Flecknoe, 30 North Main, Wilkes-Barre.
Corp. Arthur Giampa, 921 South Franklin, Wilkes-Barre.
Corp. Cyril G. Gulius, 79 Cleveland, Hudson.
PFC Fred D. Hawke, 562 Garfield, Edwardsville.
Sgt. Joseph J. Kudrak, 217 Boston, West Pittston.
Corp. Nicholas Marshall, 73 Laurel, Alden.
Corp. Carl O. Metzger, 52 Pioneer, Shavertown.
Sgt. Kenneth Mishkell, 175 Mill, Wilkes-Barre.
Lt. Earl W. Philllips, Pioneer, Dallas.
PFC Francis X. Quarequio, Center Hill Road, Dallas.
Corp. John D. Rooper, 177 Lincoln, Wilkes-Barre.
PFC Robert Rowles, Ashley.
Corp. James Sampson, Fox Hill, Wilkes-Barre.
Pvt. James Sauerwine, 306 Lehigh, Wilkes-Barre.
Pvt. Robert H. Schell, 74 North Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre.
Capt. Robert Shortz, Route 3, Dallas.
Corp. John Simonson, Trucksville, RD 2.
Sgt. Raymond Talmadge, Fox Hill, Wilkes-Barre.
Corp. Robert J. Thompson, 75 Wesley, Forty Fort.
PFC Frank Towh, 228 Carlisle, Wilkes-Barre.
Corp. Leonard J. Walkoviak, 134 South River, Plains.
PFC Albert Williams, 461 South Hancock, Wilkes-Barre.
PFC William Yesirvida, 1183 Scott, Wilkes-Barre.
Also among the local injured were
Capt. Francis R. Brannan of Battery B.
M/Sgt. Robert Roberts,
SFC Lawrence Roberts,
Sgt. George Yanck,
PFC Joseph Dimirco,
PFC Donald Foriet,
PFC Thomas Gallagher,
PFC William Hall,
Corp. Lewis A. Compton and
Rct Ramon Martinez.