PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On June 20, 1944, just four days after his 19th birthday, Eugene E. Sawyer was embroiled in World War II, far away from birthday cake and a party with family and friends in Houlton.
Sawyer, a member of the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division, 47th Regiment, 2nd Battalion, was in Normandy, participating in the Allied forces’ retaking of the Cotentin, also known as the Cherbourg Peninsula. A machine gunner in H Company, Sawyer soon became involved in the infamous “hedgerow fighting” around St-Lo, France.
“It was the dead of night, around 3 a.m.,” the now 85-year-old Presque Isle resident recalled Sunday, sitting in his apartment surrounded by personal war memorabilia. “We couldn’t see a thing.”
Crowded into a foxhole with five other people, Sawyer said he and the other men decided to look around and find out where they were. It was, he acknowledged Monday, a big mistake.
“We were right on top of a tank,” he said. “It was so dark and the tank was camouflaged so well that we didn’t see it until it started firing. They shot us point-blank.”
Sawyer suffered shrapnel wounds in his left shoulder, an injury that led to his first medal, a Purple Heart. By the time his military career was over, he had accumulated 13 more medals.
Sawyer thought that the medal count was final — until Sunday evening.
Click for the rest of the story by Jen Lynds in the Bangor Daily News.
Posted in Law and Order, Maine history, Politics and government
Tagged 2nd Battalion, 47th Regiment, Army Pvt. Rex Nason, Aroostook County, Bronze Star, Cherbourg Peninsula, Cotentin, Elvert “Buck” Pooler, Eugene E. Sawyer, foxhole, France, Korean War, Legion d’honneur medal, Legion of Honor, Presque Isle, Presque Isle Elks Club, Purple Heart, St-Lo, U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division, World War II, wounded
[I attended the University of Southern Maine in the early 1980s and had the opportunity to take a ferry out to one of the 365 or so islands in Casco Bay. But I didn’t realize the significant military history associated with some of those islands. I enjoyed this story about some of the military forts that were built on those islands to ward off threat. — KM]
Karen Lannon and her brother Hal Cushing have perhaps the most unusual piece of waterfront property in Greater Portland: a twenty-four-acre island complete with an artillery-ready, three-bastion granite fort. The two-story fort is fully equipped with walls, parapets, parade ground, and cavernous munitions bunkers and is suitable for repulsing any hostile parties who might wish to attack the Old Port with nineteenth-century naval assets. All Lannon and Cushing would need to hold back the steamers of the old Spanish Navy is a shipment of ten- and fifteen-inch Rodman guns, sixty trained artillerymen, and a large supply of ammunition.
Fortunately, Casco Bay isn’t under any immediate threat, so the siblings concentrate on the more mundane responsibilities of fort ownership. They mow acres and acres of lawns — every few days in springtime, the grass grows so quickly — and keep the walkways and outbuildings maintained for the tour parties they bring over from the city four times a week in season. Over near the old Immigration and Quarantine station there are lobster bakes to stage and weddings to cater, but at least they don’t have to clean up oil spills anymore. After their mother, the late Hilda Cushing Dudley, purchased the fort in 1954 to save it from being torn down, the family would regularly have to clean up their beach whenever oil spilled from tankers at the South Portland terminals. (“When we get a spill we get down on our hands and knees and clean it up,” she told a reporter in 1977. “People aren’t going to come out here if there’s oil all over the beach.”)
Asked what the hardest thing about fort ownership is nowadays, Hal doesn’t have to think. “Paying the taxes,” he says emphatically, referring to the $35,000 annual bill from Portland, of which House Island and Fort Scammell are a part. “We don’t have any services, but we’re charged by the square foot so we’re in the top ten tax residents in the city.”
But previous custodians of Fort Scammell and the network of other fortifications protecting Maine’s largest port had even worse things than taxes to contend with. They were slaughtered in Indian attacks in the seventeenth century, bombarded by British cannons in the eighteenth, suffered for lack of supplies, heat, and entertainment in the nineteenth, and shot at by suspected spies in the early twentieth. On the eve of World War II, thousands of soldiers and sailors manned anti-aircraft guns, heavy artillery, watch towers, and the controls for remotely-detonated mines, alert for a Nazi surprise attack that fortunately never came.
Click on the link for the rest of this story by Colin Woodard in Down East magazine.
Posted in Maine history
Tagged American Merchant Marine Museum, anti-aircraft guns, bastion, block fort, bombardment, British, Cape Elizabeth, Casco Bay, Cow Island, Cushing Island, embargo, Federalists, Fort Levett, Fort Loyal, Fort Lyon, Fort McKinley, Fort Scammell, Fort Williams, French and Indian War, granite fort, Great Diamond Island, gun batteries, Hal Cushing, Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn, Hilda Cushing Dudley, HMS Canceaux, House Island, Jeffersonians, Jewell Island, Karen Lannon, minefield stations, Navy, Old Port, Peaks Island, Portland, Portland Head Light, radar stations, Rodman guns, ships, smugglers, Spanish-American War, Two Lights, U.S. Civil War, U.S. Secretary of War Henry Dearborn, University of Southern Maine, USS Kearsarge, War of 1812, warships, World War I, World War II
Coming closer to going home | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.
Windham woman who helps others find WWII-era remains soon may recover those of her Uncle Joe
Though he had seen the streets of Bosnia and Iraq as a soldier, the devastation in Haiti was unlike anything Adam Cote of Portland had ever encountered.
“I had seen the pictures, but to get that 90-degree perspective from pictures doesn’t really prepare you,” Cote said. “It was really staggering. The amount of damage, from a structural perspective, was similar to pictures you see of Berlin after World War II.”
Cote was in Haiti for more than a week with Global Relief Technologies to collect data on amputees who need artificial limbs and on the structural integrity of buildings in the wake of the earthquake.
“I’ve never seen so many casualties,” he said. “I’ve never seen so many overflowing hospitals.”
Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Justin Ellis of the Portland Press Herald.
Posted in Disaster, Maine
Tagged Adam Cote, aid, amputees, artificial limbs, Berlin, Bosnia, casualties, earthquake, Global Relief Technologies, Haiti, Haitians, Iraq, overflow hospitals, relief, World War II