Vandals tear down tree dedicated to fallen sailor

October 09, 2000

Vandals tear down tree dedicated to fallen sailor

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

Harry Daniel ZeiglerGREENCASTLE, Pa. - Harry Daniel Zeigler is known here as the "sailor who never returned home."


Zeigler was a 20-year-old seaman third class aboard the USS Lexington, a Navy aircraft carrier. He was wounded when Japanese planes attacked the ship in May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The crippled ship was sunk by a U.S. Navy destroyer.

Zeigler was taken aboard a cruiser and died the next day. He was buried at sea.

He was one of 216 Lexington sailors who lost their lives and the first of 21 servicemen from the Greencastle-Antrim area killed in World War II. The local VFW post, organized in 1946, was named in his honor.

Earlier this month, vandals ripped down a young maple tree that the VFW had planted in his honor four years ago in the Jerome R. King Playground on North Carlisle Street.


Aubrey Mowen, the park's caretaker, discovered the damage. "It was only about three inches in diameter and it was broken off at the base," said Greencastle Mayor Frank Mowen.

"At first we thought someone knocked it over with a vehicle, but we couldn't find any tracks around the tree," Mayor Mowen said.

Officials believe the tree was pulled down by force.

The mayor said police have no leads in the incident. It probably wouldn't matter if they did because anyone arrested for the vandalism won't be prosecuted.

"No, we will not prosecute them," said Matt Koons, 33, commander of the Harry D. Zeigler VFW Post. Koons, who thinks the culprits are probably local teens, said he would prefer to bring them into the post for lectures on the importance of treating veterans with respect.

"We'll bring them in and try to make them understand what they did, that they disgraced all of the veterans of this community who served and died to give them freedom. These kids need to understand that," Koons said.

"The VFW planted that tree to show that we love the man it's named after and that we love all our veterans, our community and our flag," Koons said. "It really upsets me to see that tree knocked down for no reason. We will definitely plant another one in its place."

The VFW will ask the Borough of Greencastle's Shade Tree Commission to recommend the kind of tree that should be planted, Koons said.

Mementos of Zeigler's life and death are prominently displayed in a large glass case at the VFW. It holds such items as his dog tags, his Purple Heart and other medals and insignia, a white sailor's hat, newspaper clippings of the battle and sinking of his ship and the Western Union telegram notifying his family of his death.

The case also holds Zeigler's high school yearbook from the 1939 class at Greencastle High School, as well as his personal and Navy history.

He was the younger of two sons born to George and Elva Zeigler of 129 Addison Avenue. He enlisted Oct. 2, 1940, trained in Newport, R.I., and was assigned to the Lexington.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, according to details of Zeigler's life, the Lexington saw action at Wake Island, the Marshall Islands, Rabaul and the Solomon Islands before heading to the Coral Sea to meet a Japanese invasion force off Australia.

Koons said Zeigler is not known to have any living relatives in the Greencastle area.

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