The focus of this year’s Memorial Day services in Crawford County will be the 75th Anniversary of the June 6, 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy, France.
Eight Crawford County servicemen who gave their lives in service to the United States will be honored with the dedication of county bridges in their names.
Seven of the men’s deaths were associated with D-Day. The eighth died in another war many years later, but also served in World War II.
Crawford County Veterans Affairs Service Officer Louise Galbraith has recently finalized the plans for the bridge dedications.
She has spent months researching the men and gathering information from family members.
Each bridge will receive a sign at either end.
Glenn Schiltz, with the Crawford County Engineer’s Office, has already put up one sign at each bridge so family members attending Memorial Day services may visit the bridges and see the signs.
Family members of all but one of the men will be in attendance.
The second sign for each bridge will be unveiled during the services on the Crawford County Courthouse lawn.
The following are the servicemen to be honored on Memorial Day.
USAAF (US Army Air Forces) Staff Sgt. Donald Jones was an 8th Air Force gunner on a B-17 bomber that crashed in the English Channel in April 1944. He was captured by the Germans and held in Stalag 17-B until April 12, 1945.
He was discharged from the USAAF following the war.
Jones later joined the Army and held the rank of Sgt. First Class in the 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion when he was taken prisoner on November 30, 1950, near Kunu-ri, North Korea.
He died of malnutrition/dysentery in a North Korean prison camp on June 30, 1951.
Jones is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Denison.
His son will be in attendance.
Army PFC William “Willy” Kuehl and his two best friends, PFC Martin Wellner and PFC LeRoy Maas, were killed within a few days of each other.
“They went to school together, farmed together, joined the army together and went through basic training together,” Galbraith said. “They always stayed together.”
Kuehl was from the Schleswig area.
Maas and Wellner were from Charter Oak.
The men all ended up in Normandy together. Mass and Wellner were killed on July 4, 1944, in Normandy.
“Kuehl wrote a letter home to his mother saying it was the worst day of his life,” Galbraith said. “He lost his two best friends.”
Kuehl was killed three days later. He is buried in Morgan Cemetery, Schleswig.
Maas and Wellner are buried in Normandy American Cemetery.
Kuehl’s niece and her family will be attending.
Maas’s daughter lives in Manilla and will be attending the Memorial Day services.
Some of Wellner’s family members live in the area and a nephew from Nebraska will be attending.
USAAF Lt. Col. Donald Weiss was a bomber pilot.
He died when his aircraft was shot on June 22, 1944, over Normandy.
Weiss’s remains were recovered in the 1980s and identified about 10 years later.
He is buried in Arlington.
His father was a state representative from Denison in the 1950s.
Weiss’s daughter and her husband and the nephew of another member of his crew will be in attendance at the services.
Army PFC Vernon Gluesing died on June 21 in Normandy.
He grew up in the Stockholm Township area.
His great nephew works for Crawford County and will represent him at the services.
Army Private Herbert Koch was not on Galbraith’s initial list of Crawford County KIA because he was a resident of Clinton County when he was killed on June 13, 1944, in Normandy.
His niece, who lives in the area, told Galbraith about Koch.
“We don’t care where he lived later,” Galbraith said. “He was born and raised here.”
Koch grew up in Kiron.
He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery.
His niece and a nephew will be in attendance.
USAAF Captain Charles Gray Cassaday was a reconnaissance pilot in the 8th Air Force.
He flew over Normandy on D-Day to gather information about the landings.
Cassaday was shot down and killed in Holland two days later on a reconnaissance mission.
He was born and raised in Denison.
After attending college in Tennessee, Cassaday went to the Iowa Teachers College in Cedar Falls.
He and his wife were graduates of the teachers college and both were opera singers.
She died in the early 2000s.
Cassaday is buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial.
Galbraith was unable to locate any of Cassaday’s family members, so he will not have anyone representing him on Memorial Day.
At the service, the names will be read of those service members who have been previously remembered with county bridge dedications.
“We want to make reading the names a new tradition,” Galbraith said.
The Memorial Day ceremonies will begin at 10:30 a.m. on May 27 on the courthouse lawn.
Denison High School will be the location in the event of rain.
Rick Franck, Col., U.S. Air Force (retired), will be the guest speaker.
Kyle Schultz, chairman of the Crawford County Board of Supervisors, will lead the dedication of the bridges.
Read about the locations of the bridges and members of the families of the servicemen in future issues of the Denison Bulletin and Review.