Monday, December 24, 2012

Richard "Dick" Stotz: Marine Corps Combat Photographer at Iwo Jima

Richard Stotz with Roscoe, the Regimental Mascot

In Richard Stotz's last years, he gave a scrapbook of photographs to his nephew. They were taken during Stotz's time as combat photographer with the 28th Marine Corps during World War II. The photographs were taken by him and his fellow comrades during training at Camp Pendleton, in Hawaii, at the Battle of Iwo Jima, and during the occupation of Tokyo.

You can see a gallery of some of his photos on the Hayes Presidential Center website

We "pinned" some of Richard Stotz's photographs on Historypin, where you can see a slideshow .

In October, the Stotz Photographs were highlighted as the featured collection of the week on the Historypin blog.

Richard “Dick” H. Stotz was born on 18 March 1922 in Fremont, Ohio to Edward and Neva (Heinman) Stotz. Upon graduating from Fremont Ross High School in 1940, he owned and operated Abdoo Photography with his brother, Donald Stotz. On 14 December 1942 Dick enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and reported to boot camp at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California.

After graduating from boot camp he was assigned to the base photograph section as a photographer, completing numerous aerial and reconnaissance training missions. In 1944 Dick was reassigned to the 5th Marine Division, 28th Regiment intelligence platoon as a motion and still photographer. Each division had 12 to 30 still photographers and cinematographers. Stotz and the other combat photographers were sent to 20th Century Fox Studios in Hollywood, California for additional training on still photography. After completing this training he rejoined his platoon, along with fellow photographer L.R. Burmeister and combat correspondents William Vessey and W. Keyes Beech.

Marines Carrying Their Wounded Comrade

In September 1944, the 28th Regiment left Camp Pendleton and sailed to the Hawaiian Islands for Camp Tarawa to join the 26th and 27th Regiments. Intense training, field maneuvers and mock landings took place until January 1945. While aboard the USS Dickens the regiments received a top secret operation called “Workman Island”, later to be known as Iwo Jima. On 19 February 1945the 28th Regiment arrived at the island of Iwo Jima and was part of the second assault wave to advance ashore, followed by three additional waves of troops.

Stotz’s primary duty was to capture the battle in photographs as it was taking place. The job of a combat photographer was made more dangerous because they were never heavily armed, usually carrying only a single weapon and their camera equipment. Photographs taken during a combat assault, like Iwo Jima, were rarely developed in the field. The photographers film was sent out by plane or naval ship to an alternate location to be developed. Most likely, photographers never saw the actual photographs. These photographs were be used for training purposes and to identify any mistakes that may have occurred.

Medic Treating Wounded Marine

Once on shore the Marines were immediately met with a heavy assault from the Japanese that included artillery and machine gunfire. Both the United States and Japan experienced heavy casualties during the initial invasion. Intelligence correspondent, Sgt. Bill Vessey, was killed on 20 February 1945, the second day of the battle. Sgt. L.R. Burmeister was wounded several days later. On 22 February 1945 the Marines gained control of Mount Suribachi and proceeded to take possession of both airfields on the island. Stotz was acquainted with fellow photographer, Joe Rosenthal, who took the iconic photograph of the flag raising atop Mt. Suribachi. The assault lasted 36 days, with the United States taking control of the island on 26 March 1945. The seizure of Iwo Jima allowed for sea and air blockades, andthe ability to conduct intensive air bombardment to destroy Japan’s air and naval capabilities. Although Iwo Jima was a key victory for the United States, the battle resulted in over 26,000 American casualties. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and sailors, more than were awarded for any other single operation during the war.

To read more about the Marines on Iwo Jima, follow this link to Iwo  Jima: A Retrospective

Marines Dug In

Friday, December 7, 2012

Admiral Webb C. Hayes II, Commander of the USS Tracy

Webb C. Hayes II, born in 1890, was the third son of Birchard Hayes, who was the eldest son of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Webb II graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1911.

Admiral Webb C. Hayes II
Admiral Webb C. Hayes II Collection

He was commissioned lieutenant in 1912, and lieutenant commander in 1917. During World War I, he served as the executive officer on the destroyer U.S.S. Tracy and as destroyer officer in the Queenstown Flotilla. From 1918 until 1927, he commanded the United States ships: Champlin, Wood, Moody, and Sinclair.

In 1927, Admiral Hayes was given command of the destroyer USS Tracy. She and two other destroyers were assigned to the Atlantic as part of the Scouting Force of the Mediterranean Fleet. Her duties were to “show the flag” at ports of call. Steaming from Newport, she visited Queenstown, Northern Ireland before touching at ports in Scotland, England, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia, and Italy. Departing Gibraltar in January 1928, she operated in the Atlantic for another month before being transferred to the Battle Fleet.

Admiral Webb C. Hayes II and the officers of the U.S.S. Tracy
Admiral Webb C. Hayes II Collection

In 1919, he married Martha Baker, daughter of Arthur Baker of Toledo, Ohio. They were the parents of three sons: Webb Cook (born 1920), Arthur Baker (born 1924), and Scott Birchard. (born 1926)

Martha Baker Hayes in Europe with her sons Webb (left), Arthur (middle), and Scott (right)
Admiral Webb C. Hayes II Collection

Webb took the opportunity to have his wife and three sons, ages 7, 3, and 1 join him in Europe. Martha Baker Hayes and family left New York on the tenth of June  with their three sons and 14 trunks! Martha and the boys stayed in hotels, rented rooms, and chateaus, moving from port to port and country to country during the admiral’s tour of duty in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Mediterranean. Their home movies, a part of the exhibit at the Hayes Presidential Center Tales of Travel from the President's Attic, feature the family and some of the highlights of their time in Europe and the Mediterranean.

Personal Possessions of Admiral Webb C. Hayes II & Martha Baker Hayes
as part of

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fremont Ross Track Star Meets the Best of the Best

Pete Erchenbrecher
From its earliest days, Fremont Ross High School has had a proud history of exceptional athletes. One of those was Ross track star Leland “Pete” Erchenbrecher Throughout his high school years, he nearly had done it all – the broad jump, high jump, hurdles, the 100-yard dash, and the 220. No doubt, it was a thrilling moment for the young athlete when he was named the 1938 Buckeye League Champion.

But perhaps the highlight of the celebrated track star’s career came on a warm Friday evening in July 1938. It was the night Jesse Owens, one of the greatest Olympians of all time, came to town. His stunning achievement of four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin’s Nazi Germany had brought him international fame. But like other Olympians of his day, Owens never benefited from product endorsements and advertising contracts enjoyed by today’s medal winners. To support his family, Owens accepted speaking engagements worked with Cleveland’s underprivileged youth, and on occasion took part in exhibitions.

Jesse Owens 1936 Olympics

That night more than 1500 excited spectators jammed Anderson Field to watch their star athletes compete against the best in the world. Sponsored by Tony Syzmanowski, owner of Tony’s Bakery, the event was organized by Fremont Ross’ track coach Whitey Althoff. Two other track standouts took part – Jim Spangler and Cy Reardon of Findlay College.

Although out of training for more than two years, Owens gave Erchenbrecher and Reardon a 5-yard handicap in the 100-yard dash. Owens flashed home two yards ahead of Erchenbrecher and four yards ahead of Reardon. Spangler then bested the Olympian by a yard over the same distance, but Owens ran over four hurdles while Spangler pounded down the straightaway. Next came the broad jump. Using a crude pit, Owens’ jump measured 24 feet 9 inches. Erchenbrecher turned in a stellar performance with a leap of 20 feet 7 inches.

Jesse Owens later moved to Chicago, where he continued his work with youth, established the Jesse Owens Foundation, and traveled throughout the world. In 1976, President Gerald Ford presented Owens with the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded an American civilian.

With war clouds looming, Pete Erchenbrecher soon joined his brothers, serving in the U. S. Army during World War II. He eventually settled in Shelby, Ohio where he married, raised three sons, worked as a purchasing agent, and established the Erchenbrecher Shoe Store. While Pete Erchenbrecher led a full life, that moment on a hot July night at Anderson Field, competing with the best of the best most certainly lived long in his memory!

A version of this post appeared in Lifestyles2000.

George Gascoyne: Island Contractor

George Gascoyne surrounded by his wife Mary, relatives, and his Dog "Watch"

Dr. Thomas Langlois Collection

Like many others, George Gascoyne came to South Bass Island perhaps never intending to stay. George had grown up in New Providence, New Jersey, the son of a farmer who had emigrated from England.  At the age of 18, he enlisted in the 26th New Jersey Infantry, experiencing the horrors of the Civil War at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Maryes Heights. After the war, the 25-year-old Gascoyne accepted contracts to build the Beebe House and the first Put-in-Bay House. When the job was done, Gascoyne stayed on, making the island his home for the remainder of his long life.

An ambitious, creative individual, he served for a time as a Put-in-Bay councilman, island postmaster and the village’s first fire chief and funeral director. He owned and operated a livery service as well as a vineyard behind Perry’s Cave. He performed in island theatricals and enjoyed his whiskey and his gamecocks.   

But it was truly his skill and talent as a building contractor that set him apart. Gascoyne built the U.S. Fish Hatchery, the Oak Point House, and the Town Hall, one of the few brick buildings then on the island. Around 1875, dock master and storekeeper Clinton Idlor hired Gascoyne to build his new home. Featuring Italianate architecture, the Idlor House was considered one of the island’s finest homes. Perhaps Gascoyne’s masterpiece was the home he built in 1875 for railroad magnate James Monroe.  Designed by a Toledo architect, “Inselruhe” (meaning “island rest” in German) features a broad verandah, a corner tower, and long narrow windows. Decorative moldings, brackets, and woodwork adorn the interior. Even the outbuildings were ornate The architectural style was sometimes known as “Steamboat Gothic.” Today the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gascoyne’s own home, located near St. Paul’s Parish House, was simple and featured none of the elegance of the summer homes he designed for others.  The nearby picture shows Gascoyne sitting on the steps of that home beside his wife Mary, their relatives, and his dog “Watch.” When he died at the age of 93, as the oldest man in Ottawa County and the last surviving Civil War veteran, no one could say that the enterprising George Gascoyne had not lived life to the fullest!
A version of this post appeared in Lifestyles2000.