Troop Train Accident
From the Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac - 1951. Lest we forget, this is contributed in honor of the memory and sacrifice of these individuals by Willard A. Gower.109th FA Battalion Train WreckThirty-three members of two batteries of 109th Field Artillery Battalion were killed and about two score others were seriously injured early on the morning of September 11, 1950, when the rear of their troop train was rammed by a crack Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train near West Lafayette, O. In addition, many soldiers of 109th Infantry from Lackawanna and Wayne Counties and other 109th Artillery men suffered injuries in the crash, a total of 278, the ICC reported. It was the greatest single tragedy in the history of the 109th FA or its predecessors, who participated in every war the United States fought, starting with the Revolution. Having been federalized for the second time in nine years, the 109th was en route to Camp Atterbury, Ind., when death rode the rails. The battalion had spent one week of its annual summer training program at Indiantown Gap when the Korean War, which started June 25, became serious and the 28th Division, of which the battalion is a part, was alerted on August 1 for federal service. The men returned to Wilkes-Barre on August 7 and on September 5 they were inducted for active duty. On September 8 the battalion paraded central city streets for the last time before departure for Camp Atterbury. On Sunday afternoon, September 10, majority members of the battalion, solemn and unaware of the fate which was in store, left the city in special cars which were attached to the rear of the 109th Infantry troop train in Buttonwood Yards of Pennsylvania Railroad. Shortly before daybreak on September 11 the troop train experienced trouble and halted for repairs near West Lafayette, O. Pennsylvania Railroad's passenger train "Spirit of St. Louis" was following on the same track. The engineer was unable to stop the train and it ran into the rear of the troop train, killing and injuring the men, many of whom were in the last three cars. William E. Eller, 68, engineer of the "Spirit of St. Louis," testified at an inquiry conducted by the railroad, Interstate Commerce Commission, Ohio Public Utility Commission and Army investigators that his train was running late, going too fast and ripped into the stalled troop train after passing a stop signal. The ICC, on October 4, reported the engineer's failure to follow operating signals led to the wreck. Army officials experienced difficulty in identifying some of the dead, but on September 13 the 33 bodies were placed on a special train at Columbus, O., and arrived in Wilkes-Barre on the afternoon of September 14. Return of the dead to Wilkes-Barre for the last time was a pathetic demonstration funeral of love and bereavement. Police estimated 200,000 persons paid homage as they lined the streets traversed by the cortege from Lehigh Valley Railroad station to West Side Armory, starting place of the battalion when soldiers left for federal training. High Army officials rode the funeral train into the city and Governor James H. Duff attended as official mourner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. More than 1,000 National Guardsmen from various sections of the State, who had not been summoned for federal service, acted as a guard of honor for the bodies while members of United States Naval Reserve, attached to the Kingston Training Center, lined a section of the route followed by the cortege. Practically all business was suspended while the dead were being removed from the funeral train to West Side Armory. Church bells tolled and airplanes dropped flowers on the route of the procession. Each body occupied a weapons carrier. Families met them at the armory. There was no ceremony. Public was barred from the building. Shortly after the arrival at the armory the weapons carriers took the bodies to the homes of the victims or to homes. It was one of the saddest days in the history of Wyoming Valley. Funerals were held on succeeding days.
Killed in the 109th Wreck Service Battery Corp. Carl W. Armbruster, 132 Maffet, Plains. Corp. John L. Barna, 164 Abbott, Plains. Pvt. William R. Disbrow, 87 East Northampton, Wilkes-Barre. Corp. Joseph E. Fletcher, 1287 Scott, Wilkes-Barre. PFC Edward W. Gallagher, 581 West Eighth, West Wyoming. Pvt. Wallace R. Ludwig, 382 Osceola, Kingston. WO James F. McGinley, 207 Bennett, Exeter. Sgt. Bernard S. Okrasinski, 40 Brazil, Wilkes-Barre. Corp. Thomas M. Ostraszewski, 1486 Scott, Wilkes-Barre. Pvt. William F. Tierney, 23 East Jackson, Wilkes-Barre. Capt. Arthur J. Thomas, 79 Price, Kingston. Rct Thomas W. Wallace, 204 Main, Kingston. Battery B PFC Leonard Balonis, 319 Maffet, Plains. Rct Eugene Carr, 114 Wilson, Larksville. Sgt. John W. Cox, 38 McDonald, West Pittston. Rct William J. Dougherty, 185 Nesbitt, Larksville. Sgt. William c. Edwards, 94 Amherst, Wilkes-Barre. Rct Hugh L. Fargus, 49 Gerard, Plymouth. PFC Harold Handlos, 22 East Luzerne, Larksville. PFC Clyde P. Harding, 65 Union, Kingston. PFC Martin F. Hornlein, 92 South Washington, Wilkes-Barre. PFC Ronald J. Jackson, 942 East Northampton, Laurel Run. Sgt. Lester J. Kuehn, 24 North Empire, Wilkes-Barre. Corp. Larry L. Luzenski, 125 Carverton, Trucksville. Rct Frank C. Martinez, 810 Fox, Bronx, N.Y. Rct Charles Norton, 216 Penn, Hanover Township. PFC Raymond Pudlowski, 19 New, Hudson. Rct Richard A. Royer, 313 Bowman, Wilkes-Barre. Rct William F. Sobers, 48 Laurel, Wilkes-Barre. WO William M. Wellington, 122 John, Kingston. Sgt. Gilbert B. Wharton, 64 North Main, Wilkes-Barre. PFC Edmund Zabicki, 177 Zerby, Edwardsville. PFC Donald C. Zieker, 17 Central, Hughestown. Partial List of 109th FA Injured PFC Edward Bilski, 66 Kidder, Wilkes-Barre. Corp. Dal D. Daubert, 122 Price, Kingston. PFC Dean Daubert, Dallas. PFC John J. Dougherty, 185 Nesbitt, Larksville. Second Lt. Merle R. Edwards, 65 Shoemaker, Forty Fort. Corp. Francis D. Fisher, 11 Franklin, Larksville. Corp. Leonard Flecknoe, 30 North Main, Wilkes-Barre. Corp. Arthur Giampa, 921 South Franklin, Wilkes-Barre. Corp. Cyril G. Gulius, 79 Cleveland, Hudson. PFC Fred D. Hawke, 562 Garfield, Edwardsville. Sgt. Joseph J. Kudrak, 217 Boston, West Pittston. Corp. Nicholas Marshall, 73 Laurel, Alden. Corp. Carl O. Metzger, 52 Pioneer, Shavertown. Sgt. Kenneth Mishkell, 175 Mill, Wilkes-Barre. Lt. Earl W. Philllips, Pioneer, Dallas. PFC Francis X. Quarequio, Center Hill Road, Dallas. Corp. John D. Rooper, 177 Lincoln, Wilkes-Barre. PFC Robert Rowles, Ashley. Corp. James Sampson, Fox Hill, Wilkes-Barre. Pvt. James Sauerwine, 306 Lehigh, Wilkes-Barre. Pvt. Robert H. Schell, 74 North Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre. Capt. Robert Shortz, Route 3, Dallas. Corp. John Simonson, Trucksville, RD 2. Sgt. Raymond Talmadge, Fox Hill, Wilkes-Barre. Corp. Robert J. Thompson, 75 Wesley, Forty Fort. PFC Frank Towh, 228 Carlisle, Wilkes-Barre. Corp. Leonard J. Walkoviak, 134 South River, Plains. PFC Albert Williams, 461 South Hancock, Wilkes-Barre. PFC William Yesirvida, 1183 Scott, Wilkes-Barre. Also among the local injured were Capt. Francis R. Brannan of Battery B. M/Sgt. Robert Roberts, SFC Lawrence Roberts, Sgt. George Yanck, PFC Joseph Dimirco, PFC Donald Foriet, PFC Thomas Gallagher, PFC William Hall, Corp. Lewis A. Compton and Rct Ramon Martinez.