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WWII memorial unveiled in Morgan Co.

November 12, 2007|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Morgan County World War II veterans were honored with the unveiling of a new memorial on Sunday during a Veterans Day ceremony attended by more than 1,000 people.

Robert Hawvermale, chairman of the Morgan County, W.Va., World War II Veterans Association, spoke with emotion during the ceremony.

All 1,147 Morgan County citizens who served from Dec. 7, 1941, to Dec. 31, 1946, are listed on the memorial, he said.

The new monument is across from the Magistrate Court building on the Fairfax Street Green.

Hawvermale is a veteran of the Korean War, and he and other American Legion members talked about honoring the World War II veterans.

"Sixty years had gone by and they needed to be properly recognized," he said.

The granite monument was funded by a $150,000 grant from the West Virginia State Legislature, he said, with the help of state Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas.

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"Sen. Helmick came and sat down with the committee, and we asked for his assistance," Hawvermale said. "He was a lifesaver on this."

Helmick, Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, and former Del. Charles Trump attended the ceremony, along with other town and county officials.

"We deemed it to be important and appropriate," Helmick said before the ceremony.

The 16-foot monument is similar to the World War I memorial on the Fairfax Street Green, except for the World War II service symbol of the eagle spreading its wings on the top of the monument, Hawvermale said.

He said the monument was designed by committee member and World War II veteran C. Edward Middlekauff, who served in Europe.

Middlekauff's voice also broke with emotion during the ceremony.

He explained that the small gold pin depicting an eagle inside a wreath was awarded to the American military forces that were honorably discharged after World War II.

"The GIs referred to it as the Ruptured Duck," he said.

Middlekauff was born and raised in Hagerstown and moved to Morgan County in 1950.

He said he was in the 26th Infantry Division in 1944 and was with Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army in Normandy. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium.

"We relieved the besieged town of Bastogne that was circled by the Germans on Dec. 26 in 1944," Middlekauff said.

He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.

Middlekauff said the original idea was to add the World War II veterans to the existing monument that was erected in 1925 on the Fairfax Green, which honors World War I veterans and those from previous wars. But there was not enough space to place 1,147 names.

He said the first war monument is an important part of the community, and the committee did not want the new memorial to overshadow it.

Both monuments "complement each other and add to the beauty of the town," he said.

Hawvermale said World War I veterans in 1943 erected a plywood monument with 800 hand-lettered names, representing the number of World War II Morgan County citizens that served at that time.

The 16-by-8-foot-high monument stood where the Magistrate Court building is now, on the corner of Fairfax and Mercer streets.

"Time took its toll," he said.

When the committee began gathering the names of those who served, it was made more difficult by the fact that U.S. military service records stored in St. Louis were lost in a fire in the 1960s, he said.

Hawvermale said Middlekauff got the 800 names from a photograph of the plywood monument by using a magnifying glass and then published them in the local newspaper to find other county citizens who served during World War II.

Veterans and families from as far away as California, Nevada and Texas were contacted, Middlekauff said.

"As far as we know, we got everybody on the monument that served," he said.

"This was an honor to build," said Don McClure, owner of Gordon's Memorials in McConnellsburg, Pa., who erected the memorial.

He said it took more than two years to make the monument, which weighs about 30 tons. He said it was sculpted by a company in Barre, Vt., from granite found there.

Soon after the ceremony was over, many people began getting rubbings of their relatives' names that are cast in raised bronze letters on the memorial.

Sisters Carol Potter Miller and Diane Potter Fox got a rubbing of their father's name, Melvin I. Potter. He served in Burma and was one of Merrill's Marauders, they said.

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