Commemorating Our Heroes
Memorial Day is a time that has been set aside for us to remember those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. For many people, however, remembering is not just a special day once each year. Family, friends and comrades of the fallen remember them throughout the year on birthdays, holidays and any time something sparks a memory. Veteran organizations also remember their comrades by decorating graves with flags, holding memorial services, leading parades and many other events. One particular way that some have chosen to honor their fellow soldiers is by naming the local post of the organization after one or more service men and women.
Monroe County currently has 20 local posts of congressionally recognized veterans’ groups. Represented are the American Legion (8), AMVETS (1), Catholic War Veterans (1), Disabled American Veterans (1), Marine Corps League (1), Veterans of Foreign Wars (7), and Vietnam Veterans of America (1). There are 9 more posts within a couple of miles of the county in Lenawee, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties and another half dozen nearby in Lucas County, Ohio. Of the posts in Monroe County, 10 of them are named in honor of servicemen. These are their stories.
AMERICAN LEGION CARL F. PAYSON POST #40 - MONROE
Carl F. Payson was born on 14 June 1896 in Paulding, OH. His parents were Garrett and Minnie Timberman. He remained with his grandmother in Paulding and attended school while his parents moved to Michigan. After they settled in Monroe, Carl moved in with his parents and worked at the Van Blerck Motor Company. He joined the Monroe Guard in 1914 and was sent to Texas to patrol the Mexican border. When the guard units were transferred to the 32nd Division in 1917, Payson was assigned to the 125th Infantry Regiment. When the United States entered the World War, he sailed to France with the 32nd. He was killed in action near Cierges, France on 1 August 1918 and posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation read in part, “His example of indomitable will and bravery encouraged all his comrades.” Sgt. Payson was the first Monroe County man to die in the war. Despite having witnesses to his demise, he is officially listed as missing in action and is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.
AMERICAN LEGION MATT URBAN POST #60 - MONROE
Matt Urban was born Matthew Louis Urbanowicz on 25 August 1919 in Buffalo, NY. His parents were Stanley and Helen Urbanowicz. He attended schools in Buffalo, graduating from East Buffalo High School in 1938. He went on to Cornell University where he completed his studies in three years. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and community recreation in June 1941. While at Cornell he competed on the track and boxing teams, and was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army on 22 May 1941 and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. During World War II Urban took part in seven campaigns in North Africa and France rising through the ranks to lieutenant colonel on 2 October 1945. He was wounded seven times throughout the war, the most serious occurring on 3 September 1944 at the Meuse River near Heer, Belgium. His wounds resulted in a medical discharge on 26 February 1946. Lt. Col. Matt Urban received numerous personal decorations including 7 Purple Hearts, 3 Bronze Stars, 2 Silver Stars, and the nation’s highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. After the war Lt. Col. Urban moved to Michigan. He was director of the Arthur Lesow Community Center in Monroe from 1956 to 1972. He died in Holland, MI on 4 March 1995.
AMERICAN LEGION HARRY W. BAMM POST #72 - DUNDEE
Harry W. Bamm was born in Dundee, MI on 1 May 1893 to Frederick C. and Mary Dorothy Winkleman Bamm. He attended schools in Dundee and Ida, graduating from Ida High School in 1912. He then taught at schools in Frenchtown and Whiteford Townships from 1912 to 1914. In 1916 he joined the Michigan Guard as it was being called up for active service on the Mexican border. In July 1917 the guard units were transferred to the newly activated 32nd Division of the U.S. Army. Sgt. Bamm was assigned to Company D of the 125th Infantry Regiment and sailed for France in February 1918. He remained with his unit until being killed in action on 11 October 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. He was buried at Maplegrove Cemetery in Dundee on 16 October 1921.
AMERICAN LEGION ELLIOT R. SMITH POST #191 - LAMBERTVILLE
Elliott R. Smith was born in Toledo, OH on 11 December 1948 to Alvin R. and Betty Hiteshew Smith. He attended schools in Erie Township and was a member of the varsity football and basketball teams at Mason High School. He also was president of the Luna Pier Teen-Town Club. He entered the Marine Corps after graduating from Mason High School in 1967. PFC Smith completed basic training at Camp Pendleton, CA and was sent to Vietnam in January 1968. Serving as a mortarman with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, he was killed in action near Quang Tri, Vietnam on 18 March 1968.
AMERICAN LEGION SHERMAN H. OSBORN POST #192 - TEMPERANCE
Sherman Hendershot Osborn was born from the union of Ira B. and Issie Weeks Osborn on 15 October 1890 in Samaria, MI. He attended local schools and graduated from Monroe High School in 1910. Afterwards, he ran a coal yard and made cement blocks at his own business in Temperance. Enlisting in the U.S. Army on 27 May 1918, Pvt. Osborn was sent to France with the 28th Infantry of the 1st Division. He was killed in action on 12 October 1918 in Argonne, France and buried in the Argonne American Cemetery. His remains were returned to Michigan and re-interred in Erie Union Cemetery on 15 October 1921.
AMERICAN LEGION JAMES E. YENOR POST #193 - LUNA PIER
James E. Yenor, the son of Ralph and Lucille Shinevar Yenor, was born on 28 May 1929. As a child he attended Luna Pier School. After finishing school, he worked as a truck driver. He enlisted in the Army on 11 January 1948, completing his basic training at Fort Knox, KY. PFC Yenor re-enlisted in May 1949 and was assigned to the 11th Field Artillery Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division as a heavy truck driver. After North Korea invaded the south and President Truman authorized the use of ground troops on 30 June 1950, he assisted with the evacuation of South Korean civilians. His unit then deployed near Taejon where they were overrun by the North Korean Army. He was killed in action while trying to destroy an enemy tank on 20 July 1950. PFC Yenor was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for his actions. In addition to his parents, he was survived by his wife, Hettie, and a 3-month-old son.
AMERICAN LEGION LYNN C. WEEMAN POST #514 - IDA
The son of Warner W. and Gertrude Heck Weeman of Ida, MI, Lynn Clayton Weeman was born on 10 April 1913. He attended local schools, graduating from Ida High School in 1930. Enlisting in 1931 as a seaman, he was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. Upon completion of his basic training he spent the next 10 years serving on several battleships. Rising through the ranks, he was promoted to chief machinists mate in 1940 and assigned to the submarine tender Canopus (AS-9) of Submarine Squadron 20. Chief Weeman was with his ship at the Cavite Naval Yard near Manila in 1941 as the Japanese attacked the Philippines. The ship soon moved across Manila Bay to Mariveles Naval Base on the Bataan peninsula. Despite heavy attacks by the Japanese, the ship continued to support naval and ground forces until the fall of Bataan. Chief Weeman was killed in an explosion on 2 April 1942. After the war his remains were re-interred in the Manila American Cemetery, Republic of the Philippines.
AMVETS CORL-GAYNIER POST #1942 - MONROE
Harry Lee Corl was born on 26 March 1914 in Lambertville, MI. The 8th of 11 children, his parents were William Lloyd and Mildred Sessions Corl. He attended schools in Michigan and Ohio, graduating from Whitehouse (Ohio) High School in 1933. He enlisted in the Navy on 20 November 1934 and was discharged in 1938. He enlisted again in 1939, rising to the rank of ensign. During the Battle of Midway (4-5 June 1942) Ensign Corl was the pilot of a torpedo bomber. His squadron attacked enemy aircraft carriers with no fighter support and against overwhelming odds. He was one of only a few torpedo bomber pilots to survive the battle and was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions. Only two months later, he went missing during the Solomons campaign and was presumed dead on 25 August 1942. The Navy named a destroyer escort (DE-598) after him.
Oswald Joseph Gaynier was born 4 March 1915 in Monroe, MI. His parents, Wzra and Ada Duvall Gaynier, lived on Godfroy Avenue in Monroe. In school, Oswald was on the football and track teams and graduated from Monroe High School in 1933. He continued his track career at the Michigan Normal School in Ypsilanti and graduated from there in 1940. He entered the Naval Reserve later that same year and married Ireta McLeod in Marion, FL on 13 June 1941. Ensign Gaynier was a torpedo bomber pilot during the Battle of Midway. He was one of the many pilots who died during attacks on enemy aircraft carriers during the first hours of the battle on 4 June 1942. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross “in recognition of his extraordinary heroism and meritorious devotion to duty.” The Navy named a destroyer escort (DE-751) after him.
CATHOLIC WAR VETERANS HAROLD J. JOHNSON POST # 1958 - TEMPERANCE
Born on 9 September 1917 in Saginaw, MI, Harold Junior Johnson was the son of George R. and Pearl Ritchie Johnson. After graduating from high school, he married Alfreada Pegley on 24 June 1939 in Saginaw. He was enlisted in the Army on 4 May 1943 and trained with the infantry and was assigned to the 4th Armored Division. His unit left the United States in late 1943 and arrived in England in January 1944 where they continued training. Sgt. Johnson’s armored infantry battalion was sent to France with the rest of the 4th Armored Division. Arriving in France on 13 July 1944 they took part in Operation Cobra helping Allied Forces to break out of Normandy. Being attached to the 3rd Army, the 4th Armored moved across France and Germany, spearheading Patton’s attack during the Battle of the Bulge and continuing eastward. When the war ended on 7 May 1945, Sgt. Johnson was with his unit south of Berlin. He received 2 Bronze Stars for his actions during the war and was discharged on 15 May 1946. After the war his family moved to Temperance and he worked at the GM Powertrain plant in Toledo. Harold J. Johnson died on 31 May 1994 at his home in Temperance.
VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS MOORE-LENZ-WAKEFIELD POST # 6462 - DUNDEE
Richard C. Moore was the son of Harry and Edith Toburen Moore. He was born in Monroe, MI on 27 October 1923 and attended school there before his family moved to Dundee. He graduated from Dundee High School in 1941 and wa inducted into the service on 16 February 1942. As a member of the Army Air Force, Sgt. Moore was an armorer and a tail gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress. He went missing in action on a mission over Rostock, Germany on 11 April 1944.
Born on 20 August 1924 in Toledo, OH, Frederick John Lenz was the son of Max E. and Helen Zavac Lenz. He attended school first in Ohio and then in Michigan after his family moved to Wells Road, Dundee in the early 1930s. After finishing school he was inducted into the Army on 23 November 1942 and trained as a paratrooper. He was assigned to the 501st Parachute Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division and served in the American and European theaters. Private Lenz was dropped with the 501st into Normandy on 6 June 1944 and was killed in action that same day near Carentan, France. On 1 May 1948 his remains were re-interred at Maplegrove Cemetery.
The son of Fred and Ruth Struble Wakefield, Vernon F. Wakefield was born 7 December 1925 in Toledo, OH. He attended Dundee High School and graduated in 1943. Vernon worked at the Willow Run bomber plant and married Kathryn Lampros in May 1943. They had one daughter. He enlisted in the Marines on 1 November 1943, initially training as a paratrooper and then transferring to the infantry. PFC Wakefield served with the 5th Marine Division in the Pacific. He was killed in action 27 February 1945 on Iwo Jima.