Class of 1940 pays tribute

November 12, 1996

Class of 1940 pays tribute .


Staff Writer

HALFWAY - About two dozen members of Hagerstown High School Class of 1940, most of them with gray haired and a few leaning on canes, paid tribute on Veterans Day to those of their classmates who would never grow old.

The class unveiled a bronze plaque Monday at the Veterans Memorial in the Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park, listing the names of nine of their number who died more than 50 years ago in World War II and the Korean conflict.

The names of three of the men are not included on plaques in front of the Washington County Courthouse honoring county residents who died in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam because they were not killed in combat.

  • Army 2nd Lt. Philip B. Spielman, the class valedictorian, was killed on Feb. 23, 1946, in a jeep accident during a training mission in California.
  • Air Force 1st Lt. Eugene C. Paulsgrove died May 10, 1950, during an armed combat patrol mission when the F-82 reconnaissance plane he was riding in dived upside down into a wheat field in southern Japan, just six weeks before the start of the Korean conflict.
  • On night maneuvers July 24, 1951, during the Korean conflict, the plane of Navy Lt. John Robert Wagner Jr. went down about 50 miles off the coast from the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, R.I. He was never found.

The other six men memorialized were:

  • Army Pvt. William M. Bruce III
  • Army Pvt. John W. (Mike) Ernst
  • Army Air Force 2nd Lt. C. Donald Fiery
  • Army Pfc. Warren Roth
  • Army Sgt. George Shantz Jr.
  • Army Cpl. Charles I. Wingert

"We, the memorial committee, believe these nine servicemen were equal in their courage and their dedication to America and that it was fate that determined the circumstances of their deaths," class salutatorian Mary Beth (Troup) McDuffee said.

As classmates read brief biographies of the men, a framed collection of their class photographs, reflecting the young, confident faces of an earlier era, was circulated through the crowd of about 50 people.

"My hope on this Veterans Day is that we who have been favored with a longer life span than those whose names appear on this plaque will continue to remember them, and that we will make greater efforts in the days and years ahead to make our lives count for good where ever we may be. We have been granted the time they didn't have," McDuffee said.

The memorial effort was spearheaded by classmate Dick Ritter, 73, a retired newspaper reporter from Arlington, Va., aided by McDuffee, of Fultonville, N.Y., and Randolph Mason, of Banner Elk, N.C., 1940 class president.

"While separated by many miles, we have researched and coordinated our efforts from upstate New York to Virginia and North Carolina," Ritter said.

Ritter said he discovered during a class reunion three years ago that Spielman's name was not on the war memorial at the courthouse.

Spielman and the others "went into harm's way to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy more than half a century later," he said.

Ritter thanked the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County, and its secretary, Ret. Army Maj. Dieter H.B. Protsch, for help in getting permission to erect the monument and to plant a white oak tree nearby.

Protsch commended Ritter in his effort "to recognize the sacrifices of boyhood friends."

For David Wagner and Joy Lushbaugh, the ceremony held a special poignancy.

Wagner was 10 and Lushbaugh was 8 when their half-brother, John Robert Wagner, was killed.

"I think it's very just and fitting that they should be recognized," David Wagner said. "It's a beautiful memorial."

There were 42 financial contributors to the project, all but one from the class of 1940, which graduated 357 members. The remaining contributor was from the class of 1941 and had played football with Fiery, Ritter said.

The Herald-Mail Articles