Tuskegee Airman John Mosley
Bus Bergman and
a Marines football game on Guadalcanal; then on to Okinawa
Other men in that game:
Bob Spicer (scroll down)
Dave Schreiner (scroll down)
CSU pitcher Don Straub: The final survivor of his dive bomber crew
Rockies owner Dick Monfort named after his uncle, who died in Europe
The Death of Dave Schreiner
(From Third Down and a War to Go)
(Marine Dave Schreiner, from Lancaster, Wisconsin, was the Badgers' two-time All-American
and 1942 Big Ten Conference MVP.)
As the Okinawa campaign continued, the men of A Company grew even
fonder of Dave Schreiner.
“We were not foxhole
buddies or anything like that,” recalled Private First
Liguori. “He was my lieutenant. He knew me as Eddie. They all
me Eddie. One day, we had gone two, two and a half days without
or water. There were a few cans of cheese, but we didn’t have much
He disappeared. An hour later, he comes back up the hill where we
in our foxholes, and he had a box on his shoulder. In it were extra large
of grapefruit juice. I still remember the color. They were tannish and
cans, with no name on them or anything. I don’t know where he
it from or where he got it. But here he comes up this hill, and we all
three slugs of that grapefruit juice. I can’t have grapefruit juice now
because of medication, but when I could, every time I drank grapefruit juice,
I thought of Dave Schreiner.”
some officers who were, very frankly, assholes,” said PFC Jim
“Most of the officers we had were good guys. They weren’t going
run you up for some little infraction that didn’t make any difference anyway.
Dave was one of those types of guys who was lenient. He wasn’t going
to give you a lot of hell for nothing.”
June 18, Schreiner wrote his parents on American Red Cross
Dear Mother and Dad–
Rec’d letter of June 6 from you. Enclosed was a clipping about
Johnny Walsh. No I didn’t get any bronze star on Guam. I’ve still
got my medal. I can feel it when I put my hands behind me.
We’ve been eating very well of late. Fresh meat, good canned food
etc. And I’ve been sleeping a lot. Boy it’s good to rest.
Will write next chance I get. Don’t forget a company commander
is a pretty safe spot.
★ ★ ★
On the night of June 19, Badger halfback Bud Seelinger, with the 29th Regiment, tracked
down Schreiner and gave him several cans of fruit. The two Badgers again
spoke of Baumann, and they were hopeful the fighting was coming to an
end. Japanese had died by the thousands, and the organized resistance was
lessening. But there was one more major pocket of resistance on the southern
end of the island, near a gap in the American lines. By then, runner Vic
Anderson had been wounded and evacuated, but he later heard from his
buddies that Schreiner was sent out on what Anderson and others view as a
needlessly dangerous mission near the west coast of Oroku Peninsula on June
20. Anderson said the mandate came from a “new silly-ass major who didn’t
know that we didn’t go out after dark or after 4 or 5 o’clock, when the Japs
would set up a lot of traps. He said, ‘Dave, you take that
squad down there
and see if there are any Japs in that gully and valley.’”
Gus Forbus, who by then was in a hospital at Tinian in the Mariana
Islands, heard that an officer who joined the unit late in the battle ordered
Schreiner to check on the lines. “The report I got on it was that they were
putting in the lines for the night on the 20th, and he wasn’t satisfied,” Forbus
said. “He wanted Dave to check it out. He was an Annapolis man, but he
couldn’t pour water out of a boot.”
In 1993, John McLaughry wrote his memories of that day:
platoon of M-7’s was assigned to provide fire support for the
Battalion in an attack on the last enemy stronghold at the
southern point of Okinawa. The immediate objective was
very rugged terrain, an escarpment of boulders, sheer rock
caves . . . rising to nearly 300 feet. Prior to the attack Dave
moving his company into the line adjacent to the company
M-7’s were to support and I talked very briefly with him. He
with a couple of his men, disappeared into the rocky area
toward the Kiyama Gusuku hill mass.
So McLaughry remembered
the patrol as a three-man mission, including
Schreiner, and he believed
it had a theoretical legitimate strategic justification
in a prelude
to an attack on the holdout Japanese troops. However, that
the issue of whether the patrol could have been delayed to
the next day
or was needlessly risky in the final stages of the battle.
correspondent Don Petit’s later dispatch said Schreiner had walked
to scout. According to the dispatch, gunfire from a cave suddenly
into his left side. Vic Anderson said he heard it happened this way: “A
Jap with a Nambu machine gun stepped out of a cave and shot him.” Petit’s
dispatch said a grenade exploded and fragments tore into both of his legs.
McLaughry’s written recollections made it clear he was skeptical of Petit’s
version. McLaughry’s account:
attack had not yet jumped off when word came that Dave
hit, shot by a sniper. There was no word on his condition.
of my platoon’s connections with Dave, over the
hours we tried to get as much information as possible
hear on good authority that a bullet had hit him in the
area, lodging in his spine.
Schreiner was shot in the
upper torso. Despite the myths that spread both
immediately and over
later years, that’s indisputable. The medics treating
him and those
who saw him remembered the upper torso trauma years later
sure if there were other wounds. That said, even those interviewed
that they saw so many deaths, involving both friends
and those they didn’t
know, that circumstances sometimes ran together in
their minds. Plus,
they admitted the passage of nearly sixty years could make
of very jarring incidents—become foggy. So, Schreiner
might not have been hit by grenade fragments.
of the nature of his wounds, men from the patrol rushed to get
back to the unit’s lines. William Ramey, a corpsman and pharmacist’s
mate, recalled working on Schreiner. He said he heard that Schreiner
had gone out on that advance patrol with a first sergeant. “We were trying to
get plasma started,” Ramey recalled. “He told me, ‘Doc, they pulled a sneaky
trick on us!’”
of the men, including Ramey, who also knew who Schreiner was
him immensely, took that to mean that Schreiner had been
accepting a surrender from Japanese. Word from the command
trickled in to support that inference. (Depending on one’s
of sniper, that could gibe with the story McLaughry heard.) Ramey
Schreiner meant “they tricked him into coming down and shot him.”
He didn’t remember Schreiner mentioning a white flag, but he drew inferences
and later heard others talk of a faked surrender. “It’s been a long time,”
Ramey said slowly. “But somebody’s last words like that, they stick with you
pretty good.” Ramey’s high regard for Schreiner, and his familiarity with
him, virtually guarantees he didn’t mix up the circumstances of Schreiner’s
injuries with anyone else’s.
Contrary to myth, many Japanese and conscripted Okinawans—about
10,000—surrendered on Okinawa. In Typhoon of Steel, the brother-author
team of James and William Belote noted that surrenders increased from an
average of about 50 per day from June 12–18, to 343 on June 19, and then
to 977 on June 20, the day Schreiner was wounded. Japanese soldiers indeed
were allowing themselves to be taken prisoner on the day Schreiner was on
his final patrol. Still, the Belotes wrote, the Japanese soldiers who surrendered
were exceptional, because most members of the 32nd Army still fought
to the death. U.S. estimates of the Japanese battle deaths on June 19 and 20
Charles Pulford, a private
first class posted to the headquarters company,
served as a runner for
Barney Green before Green’s death. He said he was at
the command post the day Schreiner suffered his wounds. He didn’t hear
direct discussions between Schreiner and officers at the command post. Yet
he was adamant that word of those discussions spread through the command
post—along with the news that Schreiner was shot during a faked
surrender. Pulford wasn’t sure which officers came up with the plan, but he
said that planes dropped white pamphlets over the area. “The Japs were told
that if they wanted to surrender, they would wave these pamphlets,” Pulford
recalled. “I remember when the planes came over to drop them.” He believed
it happened late in the afternoon. Though his first thought was that it happened
on the day Schreiner was wounded, he wasn’t certain of that. But he
was certain that Schreiner contacted the command post on his patrol.
“Being there at the C.P.,” Pulford said, “I heard that Dave had called
to find out what to do. They dropped these pamphlets, and evidently
had seen Japs waving them. . . . He was told to take an interpreter
up there and see what he could arrange.”
Who told Schreiner that?
imagine it had to be the commanding officer at the C.P., or it might
have been regimental,” Pulford said. “Then shortly after that, we heard
that he had crawled up there, and when he raised up to talk to them, they
Schreiner went in and
out of consciousness after he was brought back to
PFC Ed Liguori was in his foxhole when he heard someone yell, “The
lieutenant’s been hit!” He scrambled out of his foxhole and went to where
Ramey was treating Schreiner. “He was unconscious, breathing heavily, and
it was so sad,” Liguori recalled. “He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t talking.
might have been a moan. They were giving him plasma. They were
him fluids through his ankle because the blood vessels collapsed.
know anything about it at the time, being a young, dopey
kid. But later,
when I was teaching, I learned about these things. They
couldn’t find any
blood vessels in his arm, so they were administering
plasma in his ankle. I
guess they found a vein down there.”
In a bizarre twist, PFC Cal Danielson—the young Marine from Rio, Wisconsin,
who as a teenager had met and worshipped Schreiner—was in the
area and also heard the word that Schreiner had been hit. He was with the
First Division’s 5th Regiment. “Somebody said, ‘Lieutenant Schreiner got
it!’” Danielson remembered. “I rushed over there. I’m not sure exactly
I said—it was a long time ago—but I tried to say something
and how tough he was. I was pretty shook up.”
PFC Vern Courtnage, a driver who did work for companies in the battalion,
had transported Schreiner often, and he saw him right before he was
loaded onto a jeep to be taken to an aid station. “He was on the ground, on
a stretcher, with a covering over him,” Courtnage said. “The corpsmen were
working on him, and they loaded him into the jeep. My friend drove the
jeep; his name was Duane Carey. We loaded him onto that jeep, and everybody
was wishing him well, and he was conscious. The last words he spoke,
that I heard, anyway, were, ‘If any of you guys think I’m crying, I’ll
get out of
here and kick the shit out of you!’ That stuck with
me all those years.”
The men watched their lieutenant leave in
the jeep. They had seen their
buddies die, they had crawled over bodies
as if they were rocks, and they were
steeled to death, even as they knew
it might come to them.
But, god, why Schreiner?
James Singley, the PFC in the weapons company who had served under
Schreiner on Guam, was near Schreiner’s company that day on Okinawa. He
immediately heard one of the inaccurate stories about Schreiner’s wounds.
“Word came down the line that Dave had gotten shot by a sniper right
between the eyes,” Singley said. “Now, when somebody who was well-liked
got shot, we always passed the word down the line. Word came down that
that’s what happened. You never knew whether it’s what happened exactly,
but that’s what came down the line about Dave.”
Obviously, if that had happened, Schreiner would have died immediately.
But it’s illustrative of the way stories—often inaccurate—spread among
underwent emergency surgery at a field hospital. But there wasn’t
hope. David Nathan Schreiner died the next day, June 21, 1945. He
The doctors let his buddies know that even
if they had managed to save
him, he probably would have been paralyzed.
“I was told he was injured in
such a way in the spine that he never
would be able to do anything,” Mark
Hoskins said, the words catching
in his throat even decades later.
The official dispatch
makes no mention of a faked surrender. That raises
the question: Why
cover that up? If Schreiner died as he gave the benefit of
to surrendering Japanese, that doesn’t render his death less tragic
if he had been struck down by a sniper or a soldier emerging from
In fact, in June 1945, yet another example of Japanese battlefield
treachery would have been appropriate as the nation braced for an invasion
of the Japanese home islands.
if Schreiner’s death was the indirect result of being ordered to
to arrange a surrender, and the pamphlet drop ended up endangering
and others, there would be reason to create a more conventional
scenario for Schreiner’s death. It would save face for the officers who
had ordered Schreiner to attempt to arrange a surrender.
George Feifer’s book Tennozan discusses in depth the dilemma of American
troops when deciding whether to accept surrenders, given the horrific fighting
and barbaric Japanese tactics—and not just on Okinawa. Feifer doesn’t
claim to have discerned the actual numbers of Japanese and conscripted
Okinawans who died after trying to give up, but he makes it clear that the
number was significant. It also is clear that A Company added to that toll,
and part of that was a response to rumors of how the popular Schreiner was
mortally wounded. Again, it’s important to note that Schreiner was hit on
a day when Japanese and Okinawan surrenders were increasing. There were
strategic reasons to accept surrenders, if information about the location and
strength of surviving Japanese defenders could be gathered. But that didn’t
mean that all those signaling an intention to surrender were sincere.
“There was a bunch of us mad,” Ramey recalled. “Everybody thought a lot
of Dave. It made everybody so mad, they didn’t take no more prisoners. That
was the end of that outfit taking prisoners.”
Charles Pulford said, “Everyone was in shock. I remember that. And
everybody was mad. I mean, mad. . . . We decided not to take prisoners. But
we did let the civilians through.”
the Marine from Rio, said that in his brief encounter with
after he was wounded, he didn’t hear Schreiner say anything about
ambush, but the word quickly got around that Schreiner had said something
those lines before Danielson arrived.
Judy Corfield, Schreiner’s
niece, said that her late mother (and Schreiner’s
Johnson, attended a Sixth Marine Division reunion in Chicago
At the reunion, several members of Schreiner’s platoon told Johnson
Dave indeed had been accepting a surrender, under a white flag,
several Japanese. The story, handed down orally, was different from
version Charles Pulford remembered from being at the command post.
to the account Betty Johnson heard, Dave had been wary as the
party approached him, and when the Japanese soldier in front
had a rifle hidden behind his back. A Japanese man reached forward
fired the rifle at Schreiner, and another tossed a grenade.
Sherman, Schreiner’s longtime friend, recalled that after the news
his death reached Lancaster, the story circulating around town was that he
been shot in the back.
So there are conflicting stories
about Schreiner’s death, and they almost
certainly will never be
resolved. However he was mortally wounded, Schreiner’s
June 21 came just hours before Major General Roy S. Geiger
organized resistance had ended and the island was secure. Geiger
succeeded Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner as commander
forces when Buckner was struck in the chest by an artillery shell shard
killed on June 18. Geiger’s declaration was premature; isolated resistance
and U.S. mop-up operations continued.
General Mitsuru Ushijima, commander of the Japanese 32nd
suicide on June 22.
Tenth Army commander Lieutenant General
Joseph W. Stilwell declared
the campaign over on July 2.
Bud Seelinger had lost two teammates on Okinawa. Other Seelinger buddies
were killed, too, but he couldn’t help being more torn up by the deaths
of Baumann and Schreiner. “He was just heartsick,” recalled his wife, Mary
Elaine Seelinger. “He was broken up.”
He wasn’t alone.
beautiful man died,” Vic Anderson said sadly, years later.
Not far from where Schreiner was wounded, a young Army sergeant with
the First Amphibious Special Engineer Combat Brigade, Henry Reese, also
took the news badly. Hey, Dave Schreiner got killed! Reese was from Monroe,
Wisconsin, and as a high school student he had met Schreiner during a visit
to his older sister in Ann Emery Hall. Reese also worked at his uncle’s restaurant—
Mickies Dairy Bar, directly across Monroe Street from Camp Randall
Stadium. “Dave’s death hit home, let’s put it that way, more than any other
over there for me,” Reese said. “I had seen him play football several times,
and he was kind of my hero.”
In the hospital on Tinian, Sergeant Gus Forbus was beginning his long
recuperation from his leg wounds. A young Marine, another member of the
4th Regiment, came into his room.
he told Forbus, “I’ve got some bad news.”
shit,” said Forbus. “Don’t tell me Dave got killed.”
Forbus broke down.
★ ★ ★
Schreiner’s final letter home arrived in Lancaster on June 25. He was
already dead. His parents didn’t know that as they opened the letter with his
return address in the left-hand corner.
David N Schreiner
Co A 1st Bn 4th Marines
6th Mar. Div.
And they read their son’s reassuring final line—the one about a company
commander being in a relatively safe position.
★ ★ ★
Schreiner’s niece, was three and a half years old. “I was visiting
my grandparents, which I did regularly, because I wasn’t in school yet,”
Judy (now Judy Corfield) recalled. “My mother would send me there to keep
them busy. I would spend a lot of time going back and forth to the Hoskins
home, too, which was only a block away, especially after Charles died and
Had was imprisoned. That kept everybody busy, taking care of Judy.”
The news arrived at the telegraph office the night of June 28, after the
office was closed.
in Lancaster knew the Schreiners’ habits. They were up every
at 5:30 a.m. On June 29, the delivery boy arrived at the door a little after
He handed the telegram to Bert Schreiner. The proud father pulled the
out of the envelope.
8:41 P.M., JUNE 28, 1945
MR. AND MRS. HERBERT E. SCHREINER
DEEPLY REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON FIRST
N. SCHREINER USMCR DIED 21 JUNE 1945
OF WOUNDS RECEIVED IN ACTION OKINAWA
ISLANDS IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS DUTY AND SERVICE OF
HIS COUNTRY. WHEN INFORMATION IS RECEIVED REGARDING
BURIAL YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED. TO PREVENT POSSIBLE AID
ENEMIES DO NOT DIVULGE THE NAME OF HIS SHIP OR
STATION. PLEASE ACCEPT
MY HEARTFELT SYMPATHY.
A A VANDERGRIFT GENERAL USMC
COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS
It is one of Judy’s earliest memories. She stood at the window and watched
the delivery boy walk away, down the hill and back to the telegraph station.
“The bad news has arrived,” Bert Schreiner told his wife and granddaughter.
He did the best he could to comfort Anne. Then he called the Hoskins
and Carthew homes.
Hoskins, Mark’s mother, knocked on the bedroom door. Mark and
Hoskins still were asleep.
“You’d better get
up,” she said softly. “I have some bad news.”
Mark’s and Mary’s parents had already been over to the Schreiners’
home. When his parents told him about Schreiner, Mark cried.
Almost immediately, he was called to the phone. The caller was a shaken
Harry Stuhldreher. The Wisconsin coach told Hoskins he was leaving for
Lancaster immediately. Hoskins rushed over to the Schreiners’.
Mark still sobbed years later, recalling the day.
★ ★ ★
Newspapers in both Milwaukee
and Madison put out extras.
Oh, god, not Dave Schreiner!
The Wisconsin State Journal ’s front page headline:
Dave Schreiner Dies
Of Wounds on Okinawa;
Fiancee flying here
story said that Ensign Odette Hendrickson, who had received degrees
English and art from Wisconsin before joining the WAVES, was stationed
Hunter College in the Bronx. She was reported to be returning to Madison,
she would pick up her mother, Lula, and then head to Lancaster.
Milwaukee extra story carried a full banner headline across the top of
front page: “Schreiner Killed on Okinawa.” A huge picture of a smiling
Schreiner covered much of the top half of the page; the caption simply said,
“Lieut. David N. Schreiner.”
5 issue of the weekly Grant County Independent carried the
Marine Corps dispatch describing Schreiner’s death, plus a boxed “In
Memoriam” statement from Stuhldreher. The coach declared: “At Wisconsin,
we called him ‘Big Dave,’ not because of his physique but because of his
all-around makeup. His personality, modesty, unselfishness, and friendship
all were big. His loss leaves a big vacuum—as big as Dave himself was in all
ways—in all our lives.” The story also said that in Lancaster “he was
and idolized by the whole community. But the news of his death
the whole state, for he was known to thousands throughout the
one of the great collegiate football stars of recent years.”
In the State Journal on July 1, Henry J. McCormick wrote:
If there was ever a better football player at the University of Wisconsin, I
never knew him. If there was a better end who ever played football any
place, I never saw him. And if there was a boy who wore his honors with
more modesty than Dave Schreiner, I never knew him.
It wasn’t so long ago that Dave’s father and I had a long talk. Naturally,
he was worried about Dave, but he was philosophical.
“Whatever happens,” said Mr. Schreiner, “I know that Dave is doing
what he wanted to do.” Mr. Schreiner reflected a moment. “You know,”
he said, “Dave had a chance to be assigned as a physical instructor when
he finished training, but he requested that he be given active duty. And
that’s the way it should be.”
May 30, 1999
Big Leaguer, Michigan Wolverine Elmer Gedeon
By Terry Frei
A few years ago as Memorial Day approached in Portland,
I was curious: How many major-league
baseball players had been killed in World War II?
The answer, as it turned out, was two.
One was Harry O'Neill, who caught one game for the Philadelphia Athletics
in 1939 and died on Iwo Jima in '45.
The other was outfielder Elmer Gedeon, who played five
games with the
Washington Senators, also in
1939. The Official Baseball Yearbook of '45 told
that Gedeon had 15 at-bats, three singles and a .200 average. He was a
big guy - 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds - from Cleveland. He died, the book said,
in France, on April 15, 1944.
That was his 27th birthday.
I found out what I could about Gedeon. Was he unique? In many ways, because
he was a gifted all-around athlete, he was. In another very crucial way, as an
American who served in World War II, he wasn't. That's why a monument
Americans who died in World War II is overdue,
and why our gratitude to those
who served and
returned alive should be eternal. My father's college-football
career at Wisconsin, for example, was in the 1942, '46 and '47 seasons, because
he was flying a P-38 fighter inthe Pacific in the interim. And so many of us have
World War II service in our family tree.
So consider Elmer Gedeon a symbol.
The story of his first game was in the newspaper microfilm:
"WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (AP) - Dutch Leonard won his 19th game of the season
Monday when his Washington team defeated the Detroit Tigers
4 to 2."
was spelled "Gedgeon" in the box score below. But he was there,
playing right field. One at-bat, no hits, one putout, no assists.
The lead picture in the sports section that day was of tennis star Don Budge in London,
carrying a book under his arm. The title: "Hitler's
Mein Kampf." The caption noted that
"is studying Hitler," whose German troops had invaded Poland on Sept. 1. Britain
and France declared war on Sept. 3. World War II was two weeks old. Fifteen months
before the U.S. entered the war, Elmer Gedeon had
played his first major-league game.
Sept. 20, Gedeon's position was "m" - or what the boxes then labeled center field.
He went 3 for 4 in a 10-9 victory over Cleveland. Over the next three days, as Joe Louis
was winning a title fight with an 11th-round knockout of Bob Pastor
were pictured with stacks of
"peace mail" on the back page of the sports section ("Lest
we forget, let's stay out!") and Hitler was shown shaking hands in Danzig, Gedeon went
hitless his next three games.
He disappeared from the box scores for good.
The 1941 American League Red Book carried biographies of the Washington rookies,
including one Elmer Gedeon, "recalled from Charlotte. Gedeon, famous
as a track man
at the University of Michigan,
is very fast and shows signs of being a big-leaguer in another
But there was
no evidence of Gedeon ever playing another game, so I set out to find out
more about him.
The Cleveland phone directory listed 97 Gedeons. There was one Elmer. A son, perhaps?
No, said the woman who answered: Her late husband was named Elmer, but he wasn't
the one who attended Michigan and played for the Senators.
Thinking of his middle name, I tried the John Gedeons. Mrs. John
sympathized and told me
that the name was so common in her area because
from Metzenzeifen, in the Sudetenland, were prone to settle in Cleveland.
And Gedeon was a common last name in their native land, she said.
The 10th Gedeon, Charlotte, said, yes, she was Elmer's
"He carried my grandmother's
casket," she said. "Oh, he was a handsome fellow."
She told me to call Robert Gedeon, Elmer's first cousin, and gave me the number
for one of the nine Robert Gedeons in the phone
book. Bob Gedeon was happy to
"We were only a year apart,"
Bob said, "so we were very close."
used to play in Cleveland's Brookside Park. "One time we were ice skating
and I went through the ice, up to my neck," Bob said. "Elmer slid across
on his belly and pulled me out."
He told of Elmer's athletic heroics at West High, then at
Michigan in football,
track and baseball. Football,
too? You bet, said Bob, a retired foundry worker.
Bob talked about Elmer surviving a 1942 crash during training in North Carolina.
Elmer won the Soldiers Medal, Bob said, for pulling crewmen
out of the burning plane,
and needed skin-graft
surgery because he was badly burned. Clippings from the
Cleveland Plain Dealer confirmed the account, adding the facts that Elmer was the
navigator on the flight and also suffered three broken ribs.
"The last time I saw him," Bob said, "he told me,
"I had my accident. It's going
to be good
flying from now on.' He said he had used up his bad luck. That didn't
turn out to be true."
Bob said Elmer's widow, Laura, moved to Florida. As far as he knew, Bob said,
she no longer was alive. Bob said that when Elmer was inducted into the Michigan
Hall of Honor in 1983, Bob received Elmer's
plaque because he was the closest
could be located.
The Michigan press
guide confirmed that Elmer had lettered in football from
1936-38, playing with renowned backs Tom Harmon and Forest Evashevski.
The school's sports information department added some more details. (They
came from a young student intern who, I could tell, had no idea
until he did the research
for me, but he was wide-eyed and impressed.) Gedeon
also won two letters in baseball and track, hitting .320 for the baseball team and
holding American indoor records inthe 70- and 75-yard high hurdles.
Evashevski, the retired University of Iowa coach and athletic
director, was living
in Petoskey, Mich., when
I contacted him. "Oh, "Ged' was a super guy," Evashevski
said on the phone. "He was a very, very humble person for a guy who had all his talent."
Evashevski said they both belonged to the Phi Delta Gamma fraternity.
me," Evashevski said.
"I asked him what kind of guys they had. He said, "Well, all of them
are about like me.' I joined. But the thing was, there couldn't be too many like him."
Evashevski said Gedeon was a good, not great, football
end, but was remarkable in
the spring sports.
"He'd win the hurdles, then change uniforms and play for the
baseball team," Evashevski said.
Cleveland Plain Dealer sent me some copies of its Gedeon clippings.
One 1938 headline jumped out: "He's Too Good For His Own Good."
In June 1939, a week before commencement, Gedeon signed with the Senators,
choosing baseball over a possible berth on the 1940 Olympic track
team. (The '40
Games later were canceled.) He
joined the Senators when they came to Cleveland in
prompting this headline in the Cleveland Press: "Campus to Majors in 24
Hours - Saga of Gedeon."
He got in those five games that season. He wasn't ready for the majors, but it seemed a
matter of time. He spent the next season with Charlotte in the
minors, went back to
Michigan to coach the freshman
football team in the fall of 1940 and was preparing for
another shot with the Senators when he was drafted in March '41.
He spent some time in the cavalry forces, then transferred to the Air Corps. When
his plane crashed during training in August 1942, Elmer was
serving as navigator. He
suffered broken ribs
and the burns on his back, hands, cheek and legs when he pulled
his crewmates from the wreckage.
When he was awarded the Soldiers Medal in Tampa, the Cleveland Press headline
said: "Gedeon Honored With Huge Parade."
By April 1944, he was based in England and flying the B-26 in missions over France.
The Allied invasion of the European mainland was six weeks away. Gedeon wrote
his wife on April 19, then left on a mission
the next day.
He didn't return alive.
The Baseball Encyclopedia is five days off on his date of death.
Below that, all you see
is that Elmer Gedeon appeared
in five big-league games.
reason he didn't have a chance to play more is what the national day of
remembrance is all about.
Dude Dent, Colorado A&M
In that 1942 Colorado-Colorado A&M game,
one of the Buffaloes’ standouts was center Don Brotzman, a senior
from Merino who later was a long-term U.S. Congressman. His teammates
called him “Meatnose,” because of all the shots he took to the nose as the center.
From his home in Alexandria, Virginia, he
vividly remembered the game’s
kickoff , because he looked downfield and spotted his buddy,
Aggies’ star Lewis “Dude”
The previous summer, Brotzman worked on a state highway department
crew on the Western Slope. “We laid oil roads over there, and I was the night
watchman for all the equipment,” Brotzman said. “I also drove a state highway
truck.” Dent was driving a truck for an oil-drilling operation in the same
area and living in Craig. Their paths crossed. “Dude was a really good athlete
and he had a hell of a lot of character,” Brotzman said. “He kind of took
under his wing and we went to a lot of dances over there on the
All summer, they
teased one another about their upcoming meeting on
the field that
fall, and they popped off about who was going to hit whom
When the kickoff dropped right into Dent’s hands, Brotzman had a free
run at his friend. “Man, I hit him a good shot,” Brotzman said. On the
together, they laughed about it.
* * *
Dent starred in everything at Craig High, graduating in 1939. At
Dent was the region’s best fullback and he also played basketball and ran track for
the Aggies. He worked as a busboy in a campus cafeteria.
Perry Blach said
of Dent, “We looked up to him, and he was always there
we needed him.” John Mosley added, “I did a lot of blocking for him.
We had a great experience together. He was a great friend in showing that I
didn’t need to fight all my battles all by myself.”
While at A&M,
Dent married Mildred Bach, a fellow student from Denver.
when athletic directors voted Dent the best all-around athlete
the Mountain States Conference, he was in the Army reserves and serving
a physical training and commando tactics instructor on campus. He had
field artillery instruction in advanced ROTC. When he was called to
duty in May 1943, he was four hours short of receiving his mechanical
“There’s plenty of chances for glory in the armed services,” he said
Associated Press story. “As a matter of fact, if the
Army looks as good to me
from the inside as it does from the outside,
and if I’m any good as a soldier,
I’ll probably make
it my life career. . . . If the Army doesn’t like me, or I don’t
like it, I’ll come back after the war, make up the four hours and go on with
other products of A&M’s Advanced ROTC program—Wayne
Seaman, Al Hoff man, Irv Ferguson, and Gordon Rutherford—went through
training with Dent at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. “After that, some of us got into a
battery executive school for a month, and Dude and I were in that,” Seaman
told me from his home in Evans, Colorado. “We’d had a lot of experience
with live ammunition, more so than a lot of guys in the division we ended up
with. After that, you had a list of choices where you could go, and the Fourth
Armored Division was getting ready to go overseas, and we were kind of
gung-ho. A bunch of us signed up for that, and they took the fi ve of us from
A&M. Dude, Al, and I went into the same battalion, the 94th Armored Artillery
Ferguson was assigned to a tank battalion
and Rutherford went to another
The 94th Battalion arrived in Europe in late 1943. “Dude and I had one
leave together in London,” Seaman said. “We went our separate ways once we
got there, but we went back and forth together.”
S. “Dude” Dent was killed in action near Troyes,
in August 1944.
When I talked with them, his teammates didn’t know any details about
his death, but they had heard that he had been awarded the Silver Star. A
photo taken at the couple’s northwest Denver home accompanied the vague
news story in the Denver Post. It showed his widow, two-and-a-half-year-old
son Richard, and infant daughter Cheryl.
Wayne Seaman and
Roger Boas, an eighty-seven-year-old retired car
dealer and political
figure in San Francisco, filled in the blanks about Dent’s
when I spoke with them in 2009. Boas explained that he and Dent
in a pool of forward observers with the 94th Armored Field Artillery
as the unit moved toward German-occupied Troyes. Boas, who
as the battalion adjutant, said Dent was told the night before the battle
that it was his turn in the forward observer rotation.
next day, Dent and his driver were in an open jeep, ahead of
forces advancing toward Troyes over huge expanses of open ground. Boas was back at
the command center. “We heard Dent give fi ring coordinates
on the radio, or
try to, and all of a sudden, we heard him
scream,” Boas said. “That was when
the bullets hit him.”
Seaman said, “I was in a tank. We were in what I call desert formation,
spread out, going into this town. A German popped out of a foxhole and
sprayed Dude across the stomach. I heard he jumped out of the jeep and said,
‘Keep going.’ But that was hearsay because I was nowhere near him at the
time. We went into Troyes and I heard about Dude there.”
In the Pacific, CU
star Don Brotzman heard about Dude’s death. “I just felt
he said. “I felt like I had lost a great friend. I had lost some others, of
course, but I thought about it a lot. I still remember hearing it, so precisely.”
Of the original group of five Aggies, Rutherford also was killed in action.
Ferguson later became A&M’s baseball coach. Hoffman was killed in a plane
crash shortly after the war. Seaman worked for the Colorado Game and Fish
Department for thirty-one years, primarily as a fish biologist and researcher.
Dent first was buried in France. His remains later were
to the United States, and he was re-interred in the
Golden Gate National
Cemetery near San Francisco.