Veterans Memorial Military Park
"The Veterans MemorialMilitary ParkDedicated May 30, 2014Medal of HonorDistinguished Service CrossNavy CrossDistinguished Flying CrossSilver Star"
"In memoryof the students ofSENIOR HIGH SCHOOLwho made the supreme sacrifice1941 World War II 1945Dedicated by the Class of 1942"
Only 19 mem have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice, One of those is remembered here at Hot Springs. an Irish born immigrant, John King was a Navy Watertender during the days of transition from sail to steam. He enlisted in the Navy in 1893, having left his native homeland slightly ahead of the Irish constables that were after him.
During his first few years of service, King was a "coal passer." It was the most physically demanding task in the Navy. The work matched exactly what the rating was named, each man spent endless hours moving tons of coal by shovel from dockside to main deck, main deck to bunker, bunker to boiler room, and finally from boiler room deck to the fire box of the boilers. Men that managed to endure this work for more than one tour of duty EARNED their pay and the respect of everyone aboard - but they rarely heard a word of thanks.
King had eight years of experience when a boiler exploded on USS Vicksburg. Vicksburg was a three masted man of war that could make just over 6 knot under sail and just about 15 knots with a full head of steam. That difference in speed meant that the coal passers and watertenders of Vicksburg were always busy.
The ship was early into a three year tour on Asiatic Patrol when the accident happened on May 29, 1901. The MOH citation does not described the actions that precipitated the award recommendation. We can only assume that King didn't fail his shipmates and did his best to keep the ship afloat and his shipmates alive. The medal was placed around his neck by President Theodore Roosevelt.
The second award was presented under similar circumstance aboard USS Salem (CS-3) on September 13, 1909. Salem was a four stack cruiser and her twelve boilers hooked to the steam turbines could push the 420 foot steel hull through the water at 24 knots - not that much slower than the ships of today's modern Navy. King was promoted to Chief Petty Officer after that incident and it was President who presided over the second award ceremony.
King retired from active service in 1916, but was brought back to active duty for World War I and his final discharge was in August of 1919. In 1961 the Navy commissioned the USS John King (DDG-3). A guided missile cruiser, USS John King propelled twin screws driven by four steam turbines that used fuel oil, not coal, to make a top speed of 33 knots. You can bet the modern day Boilermen of that ship always walked away with a swagger after telling the story of the man that was the namesake of their ship.
This is a relatively large memorial area, with many markers, plaques, and even a sculpture. Each holds some devastatingly tragic stories of courage and sacrifice. But the one that I most admire is a simple plaque that holds the names of 44 men lost to World War II. It was placed and dedicated by the members of the "Class of 42." That there are 44 names listed shows how deep the impact of World War II was upon this small town.
In 1940 the census showed a population of just over 21,000. I don't know how to calculate the average size of a graduating class in a town of that size, but I think it wouldn't be far off to guess that 250 students would be close. That means about a thousand sons and daughters got their diplomas during the war years. Imagine any group that small losing 44 members in the space of three or four years.
David Spargo died May 14, 1942 while serving with the Air Corps. SSgt Russ Chittwood went missing on a B-17 missing over Europe on Jaunuary 3, 1943. Onais Sellers left a widow when he was killed on October '44. Everett Eillison was a Navy Aviation Radioman, killed on October 26, 1944. Pvt Van Fowler was with the 116th Inf Regigment, died December 1st of '44. Leonard Bolton was just three days from his 19th birthday when he was killed on Feb 5th, '45.
Capt Ben Rorie had a bright future ahead of him. The son of a local Methodist minister, he was attending a teachers college in the ROTC program. He enlisted in December of '40 and went to ROTC after infantry training. From there he attended flight school in nearby Pine Bluff and in '42 went to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. He returned home for a short leave and then went to Europe in January of '44, flying P-47 Thunderbolts with the 27th Fighter Squadron of the 523rd F-G Group. He had been appointed their Commanding Officer on 9 April 1944 and was killed on May 27, 1944. It was his 65th mission.
I've run out of research time for this visit, but I suggest you pick out a few names from these photos and find out the stories of these men. They deserve the effort and have earned a moment or two of your respect and remembrance.