Memorial Park & Honor Rolls
Veterans Memorial Park stands in front of the City Hall of Newburyport Massachusetts on Pleasant Street at Green Street. the memorial consists of six pillar posts with seals to commemorate the five armed services and the National Guard and Reserve.
The central monument, dedicated in 1979, honors and remembers the service of Newburyport's sons and daughters during the 20th century in World War I, World War II, Korea and VietNam.
An older marker, placed in 1945, remembers the United Spanish War Veterans who fought in Cuba, the Phillpines, and China from 1898 through 1902.
A small section of engraved paving bricks, placed as memorial subscriptions, offer personal remembrances by family and friends to those that served faithfully in all theaters of war and in all of our services. Local posts of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans are also represented by
Across from the Veterans Park sits City Hall, and visitors are greeted with an honor roll presentation of Newburyport's sons that served in World War I. Placed in 1933, the two large bronze plaques, which are attached on either side of the entrance, remember and honor approximately 600 men.
A couple of facts are immediately evident when scanning the surnames of the service roll; several of Newburyport families sent off more than one or two sons to the fight, and a considerable number of them probably had close family ties to areas of Europe that were being torn apart by the conflict.
Private Fred Dulevitz had come to America as young child and in 1917 he answered the call to service. On October 28, 1918, he was tasked to run a message to his unit's battalion headquarters. Even though that mean running through an active battlefield, Dulevitz responded without hesitation. Within seconds he was taken by a sniper's bullet. The young immigrant was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from his bravery.
Raymond Balch was a native of Newburyport that had graduated from a private naval academy with the immediate intention of joining the US Navy. Financially affluent and otherwise fully qualified, Balch failed the physical examination and was denied any chance of commission or enlistment. He felt the best option lay across the northern border. He went to Canada and fineagled an appointment to the Canadian Royal Flying Corps. He was sent to Texas, trained as an aviator and from there went to England, reporting to 74 Training Squadron on May 9, 1918.
The English often called their aircraft "kites" - and they often proved to be as fragile as a kite. On May 25th, 1918, 1st Lieutenant Balch's aircraft came apart during aerial gunnery instruction. He didn't survive the crash and he remains at rest in a churchyard cemetery near the West Midlands village of Castle Bromwich.
Joseph Pelkey left his bride, Gertrude, at home when he was called to serve. I wasn't able to learn much about his time with Battery D, 321st Field Artillery, 52nd Division, other than the fact that he died in 1918. But, I was able to learn a curious connection to another historical. Pelkey left New York on June 4, 1918, aboard the troopship RMS Caronia. Before the war RMS Caronia had been sailing around the Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean sea as a passenger liner for the Cunard Line. On the night of April 14, 1912 it was Caronia that gave RMS Titanic it's first warning that icebergs were in the area. After the Great War had ended the Caronia
was sold and went to Japan where it was broken up for scrap metal as Japan began it's military build up to World War II.
Visitors wanting to learn more about the military service of Newburyport's sons and daughters should continue through the main entrance foyer into the first floor hallway. Not only are their additional honor rolls, one entire wall holds photos of the fallen, including those of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Ernest Foss Jr, graduated Dartmouth College class of '38 and went on to receive his M.D. from McGill University in 1941. Dr. Foss entered the US Army Medical Corps, commissioned as a Captain, and was assigned to USS Comfort, one of three brand new Navy hospital ships sailing the Pacific theater as the Army and Marine Corp worked their way toward the Japanese home islands.
The Geneva Conventions required that hospital ships of any nation be properly marked as non-combatant vessels. Comfort's hull and superstructure was painted a bright white and carried large red crosses to ensure that any daytime attackers could easily avoid targeting the ship. At night USS Comfort would sail with all lights on in the war zone, it was called "Full Illumination" and this requirement made it impossible for the ship to remain in convoy with other vessels, or to enjoy their protection because the light she cast made it too easy for the armed ships to be targeted.
As the Japanese situation became more desperate, the Imperial forces began to ignore any demands of decency required by the Geneva Conventions... the hospital ships became targets. Comfort reported numerous instances in which she was strafed, fired upon by torpedoes that missed, and on April 28th 1945, as the world was still celebrating Victory in Europe, the massive hospital ship became the target of a Kamikazee pilot offshore from the island of Okinawa.
The aircraft struck amidships, piercing the main deck and diving three decks into the Comfort's main surgical suite. The first casualty was Father Fidelis Wieland, a Catholic Chaplain that was walking on the main deck when the suicide bomber first hit the ship... after the attack he was found in the surgical suite, badly burned, but alive - he struggled with immense pain for two weeks before succumbing to his injuries.
Six Army nurses and four doctors were working in the surgery, none survived. The four doctors are show here, posing with other members of Comfort's medical team; the doctors were Major Edwin B. Eckerson*, Capt. Charley Clark*, Capt. William MacPherson* and Capt. Ernest Foss, Jr.
At home the attack on the Comfort was a mixed message for America. The sadness of the loss went hand in hand with the resolve of every United States citizen to contribute in any way possible to ensure that Japan would soon be defeated. This newsreel clip about the event played in theaters across the nation... and ended with an appeal to buy more war bonds.