County Honor Rolls
N Main St at W Church St
Booneville, Prentiss County, Mississipp
"Dedicated to The Memory
American Legion Post 123
VFW Post 4877
American Legion Post 1982
World War I
World War II
Nation Guard Armory
Operation Iraqi Freedom"
"World War II Veterans Memorial
Dedicated to over two thousand men and women from Booneville and Prentiss County who served their country in World War II and the seventy-two who gave their last full measure of devotion so that this nation would survive.
Their was truly
"The Greatest Generation"
"Presented by Local Lodge
Woodmen of The World"
"This monument is in honor of all the brave men and women who served in
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom"
"In honor and remembrance of
the Heroes and Victims in the
Fight Against Terrorism
and to Celebrate the Enduring Spirit of all Americans
Woodmen of The World"
The honor roll cenotaph is topped by an eternal flame which appeared to be out when I visited. I also took note that only four armed services are named, the U.S. Coast Guard is missing. The new monuments at the side of the courthouse building DO include the Coast Guard seal.
At the far corner of the courthouse property is a UH-1 helicopter as the highlight of the VietNam Veterans Corner. For any of you rotary pilots that may be interested, the MS-NG BuNo is 0-60877.
Very noticeable on the honor roll are seven men under the line "National Guard Armory and underneath that list is the date of December 23rd, 1950. I had asked a couple of locals before I got to the courthouse if there were any other monument or memorials in town. The usual responses in the negative didn't surprise me - but even I was so dense as to not make the connection that another memorial probably did exist somewhere.
The local National Guard unit, Company B, 198th Tank Battalion, had been placed on alert and were prepared to deploy to Korea. The 31st Division would begin to assemble on January 16, a scant three weeks and only three weeks remained before departure. Many of the men were just 18 and 19 years old, and presumeably had joined the Guard in order to avoid a draft call up that would put them in the regular Army with a guaranteed front row ticket for the United Nations "Police Action." They guys knew that calling it a police action, or conflict, was pure BS. It was a war and these guys that wanted a future knew there was some irony in how it was working out.
On the afternoon of the 23rd several men of the company were told it was time to clean their weapons. For some reason lost to time, their cleaning solution of choice was gasoline - and their selected area to perform the cleaning was the buildings wash room. It's a simple story, really, a dozen guys in a small space with highlly concentrated gasoline fumes in a small space. There was an open flame heater in the room . . . the inevitable explosion was heard all across town.
Men from an outside work detail could not get into the closed room for a rescue attempt - the metal door and metal frame had expanded enough that it took a battering ram to force it open. A local news report stated that one Guardsman remarked to another, "Those boys are burning up back there!"
Once the door was open several young men, horribly burned, walked out and were taken to the local hospital by automobile. Two had died in the initial explosion and five more died in hospital during the next three days. One of those five lived long enough to make plans for his funeral, telling relative what music he wanted and how the ceremonies should be conducted.
Town of Booneville remembers this incident as "The Black Christmas." Dozens of families that expected to spend a bittersweet Christmas with their brave young boys instead were planning funerals or spending anxious days at the hospital, praying that their injured boys would be lucky enough to survive. The disaster that was the Korean War was seen first hand by the residents of this small town. For them, at least, they understood that wearing the uniform was a dangerous choice.