Sudbury, 1890-1989, 100 years in the Life of a Town (Chapter 15)

Published April 6, 2001 | Informational - Historic Articles | Updated September 11, 2014 | Automatically Archived on 6/3/2001

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Chapter 15

Eight Gold Stars

In Memoria
They are not dead, our sons who fell in glory
Who gave their lives for freedom and for truth
We shall grow old, but never their great story
Never their gallant youth

In a perpetual springtime set apart
Their memory forever green shall grow
In some bright secret meadow of the heart
Where never falls the snow.

–Joseph Auslander

The Honor Roll stood clear and white against the Mount Pleasant hillside, halfway between the First Parish and Methodist (now Presbyterian) churches. From across the street in the Town Hall the sound of singing floated across the Common. After a brief silence a solemn group of Sudbury residents, led by the American Legion color guard, filed to the Honor Roll and formed a semicircle in front of it.

Dorothy and Madeline Quinn stepped to the Roll and drew back the curtains that draped it, revealing the list of 171 Sudbury soldiers, sailors and Marines who were serving in World War II. Five of those names, including that of their brother, Leo Quinn, had gold stars next to them. Before the Japanese finally surrendered on August 14, 1945, there would be three more. Ironically, the family of Albert Spiller, the last to die, would be notified on V-E Day, May 7, 1945.

The War came to Sudbury quietly. Most people heard of the bombing of Pearl Harbor over the radio. At the Wayside Inn, hostess Priscilla Staples brought the radio into the Old Bar Room so that guests and staff could hear President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech to a joint session of Congress. The playing of The Star Spangled Banner followed and all in the room rose to their feet. Little did they know then that Wayside Inn Boys School graduate Ernest Flynn would give his life in the jungles of Saipan and that five other graduates would also make the supreme sacrifice.

Civil Defense preparation began immediately. Director Charlie Way implemented air raid contingency plans already in place in conjunction with Red Cross disaster units and submitted a detailed, three-page summary in the 1941 Town Report.

Way established a Report Center in a large office in the Town Hall which would be staffed by the chairman, a secretary, a telephone operator, the principal division directors and the chief air raid wardens. The center was to receive all warnings from the Framingham Control Center and local wardens, and issue instructions to various defense sectors. During an air raid alert, it would have supreme command of all activities. Police, firemen, road repair crews and Civil Defense building rescue crews were based near the center in order to respond quickly to any emergency.

The Protection Division, commanded by Clifton Giles, appointed male and female air raid wardens for all sectors of the town. Each sector was divided into patrol areas and patrol wardens were empowered to check completeness of blackout as well as citizen observation of air raid regulations, and observe any damage done in their areas by enemy action.

Elsewhere, Gertrude M. Halleron, Director of the Blackout Committee, distributed pamphlets to every family in town, giving instructions for blacking out of all buildings, while Evacuation Director Albert E. Haynes laid plans for the housing of evacuees from Boston or other coastal communities in the event of a German air attack.

Dr. George E. Currier of North Sudbury directed the Medical Division, which maintained two first aid stations in the lower Town Hall and at the Nursing Association rooms along with a mobile first aid station and two ambulances. His staff included two doctors, six registered nurses and numerous qualified first aid workers.

The possibility of a German air attack was taken quite seriously throughout the region. Alerts were to be broadcast from the Framingham Control Center to local officials, but the general public would be warned only if the threat of a raid in the local area became imminent. Continuous sounding of the fire siren at Sudbury Center, fire and police car sirens and church bells would be used to spread the alarm.

Meanwhile, Sudbury men and women were signing up for the service. One of the first to go was Frank Bastinelli of North Sudbury, who would also become the town’s first casualty. He was killed in action at Guadacanal on November 22, 1942.

He was a town boy who grew up, went to school and worked here. He gave his all that we might go on living in peace and freedom in the home he loved so well,” eulogized Sudbury In World War II, a publication of the Sudbury Red Cross sent to local servicemen all over the world.

Bastinelli was born in Maynard in 1916 and was brought to Sudbury by his father and mother, Victor and Margerita Bastinelli, in 1917. Frank attended the Sudbury public schools and later worked for Gordan Hunter, Commissioner of Roads, who spent the war building airfields in China. One of Bastinelli’s buddies sent a picture of his grave and its marker to his family.

By 1943, nearly 200 Sudbury men and women were in uniform all over the world and the American Legion and Red Cross combined forces to publish a monthly newsletter filled with the news of home and of friends in the service. The town voted $750 to rent the Hosmer House for a year and turn it into a lodge for single female teachers.

We could not have kept some of our good teachers without providing a homelike place near the school where they can live,” the School Committee explained in the 1944 Town Report.We are depending on the lodge to help fill present vacancies and to keep the staff at full strength next year.

In January of 1944, the War Department brought more bad news. On January 3, Seaman Second Class Milton Truman Williams was killed in an explosion at sea. His work aboard ship was with the radar equipment which he had previously helped to make at the Raytheon Plant in Waltham. His remains were not recovered.

Williams’ wife remembered his humor. “He wrote home of picking up a pip (target) while on radar watch–something ominous floating in the sea. The ship was brought to general quarters and all guns were trained. The searchlight was finally turned on to reveal a seagull perched on a floating orange crate and blinking at the light.

That he could laugh and still get on with the job marked him as a real American fighting man,” wrote Mrs. Vivian “SueFletcher, editor of the American Legion Newsletter. “It is what the Germans cannot seem to understand, but what they are finding out to their sorrow…that because a man can joke and make light of danger doesn’t mean he’s not a real he-man. Milton gave the Germans plenty to think about and Sudbury will always remember him with gratitude.
Disillusionment with military life came quickly to Algy Alexander when he arrived at Sampson Naval Training station for his boot training. Algy chose the Navy “because sailors don’t have to march.” But they do, Algy quickly discovered, and how. What did you expect boots were for?” somebody wanted to know.

At least one Sudbury business was directly involved in the war effort. Lefty Mullins wrote from Africa that “Skeeter Skats,” made by Herb Atkinson’s Sudbury Laboratory, worked well on local mosquitoes that he described as small but tough.

Sudbury bought a whopping 205.7 percent of its war bond quota and disbanded the State guard company because of insufficient enrollment to meet state requirements. Seventeen members joined the armed forces, three more transferred into other government services and six went to work for war plants.

Sudbury also went to town in the salvage campaigns. Over 80 tons of scrap metal, 6,500 pounds of tin cans, seven tons of old tires, 50,000 pounds of fats and 14 tons of waste paper were collected for war industry. In the fall of the year, children were asked to collect and dry milkweed pods. The floss within the pods was needed to provide the flotation fiber in badly-needed life preservers.

Every effort was made to encourage townspeople to avoid telling their troubles to the troops overseas and, instead, send news of the family and the town. Mrs. Fletcher set the tone in the May 1944 American Legion Newsletter with a description of spring in Sudbury:

The grass is growing green in front of the white Town Hall. Daffodils blow bravely by the low, gray stone walls on Maynard Road. Frogs peep in the April dusk in the ponds on Old Town (Sudbury) Road. Fifteen thousand cabbages were set out yesterday at the Hazen Davis Farm and, for the last two nights, our pup has gone AWOL. It’s still cold enough to wear a sweater at sunny noon…but spring has come.

Ramona Davis of North Sudbury was named Emergency Farm Labor Assistant for the Middlesex County Extension Service. Her gang of 37 high school and college girls was responsible for the 15,000 cabbages and sent 250 bushels of produce a day to market during the growing season.

Throughout 1944, a controversy raged in town over whether or not to consolidate the Wayland and Sudbury high schools for the duration of the war. The School Committee, composed of Maxwell Eaton, Dorothy Piper and Al Gardner, approved the concept, noting that more and better teachers would be available; a modern building with gymnasium and athletic fields was available at Wayland; a greater variety of subjects would be included in the curriculum; larger classes would provide more competition and better opportunity for the average student, and a consolidated school would be more economical.

Opposing factions countered that the Wayland school building was inadequate and that Sudbury might lose jurisdiction over the educational program. Besides, they said, the majority of Wayland students and parents are opposed to the idea anyway.

The uproar filled the Town Hall at the 1944 Annual Town Meeting and it was finally decided to select a committee of seven citizens of Sudbury to investigate and settle the matter. Forrest Bradshaw, L. Roy Hawes, Mrs. James Bartlett, Harvey Fairbank, Francis McGettigan, Arthur Howe and Mrs. Richard Burkes were chosen. At a special Town Meeting in early April the Committee of Seven recommended against the consolidation by a 6-1 margin, with only Mr. Howe dissenting. It took another Town Meeting, but the concept was finally voted down.

Even though the proposed merger fell through, it has brought about one positive result,” noted The American Legion Newsletter,There has not been, for a long time, as much interest in and discussion of our school situation as these past few weeks. Let us hope the active interest will continue and bear good fruit.
Word came in May that First Sergeant Hale Very, who enlisted from Sudbury in 1942, had been confirmed killed in action November 27, 1943. Very, a music instructor at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, had been reported missing in action.

Word of the Normandy invasion reached Sudbury over the radio in the early morning of June 6, 1944, bringing the Town its fourth and fifth casualties. Roger Thayer, brought up and educated in Sudbury before moving to Somerville, was killed during the invasion as was Leo Quinn.

Quinn’s loss hit the town hard. His father Leo Quinn Sr. was a firefighter and town official and everybody knew him. He played high school sports and was a popular member of the Class of 1942. His pro burial mass at St. Bridget’s Church in Maynard was packed and, at the Halleron home in Sudbury, the American flag that had been brought back from World War I was flown at half mast.

He died that we might live,” wrote Mrs. Fletcher. “But in a larger sense, he will never cease to walk our roads and lanes. He and the other Sudbury boys who have gone from here, not to return with their packs and guns, have joined that larger group, beginning with the brave men of the Revolution and coming down through the years, who have fought to make Sudbury and our nation what they are.

There was a subtle feeling in town on D-Day that perhaps this was the beginning of the end. The doors of the First Parish Church were thrown open for any who cared to come and citizens from all creeds dropped in to pray and take a turn at ringing the ancient bell which had been installed two centuries before when George Washington was president.

I’ve wanted for years to ring that bell and now I have,” Bea Cutting remarked. “Somehow it was fitting that on that day when all our thoughts and prayers were overseas with our men that the bell which has called our people to prayer for more than 200 years, should peal again.

In the evening, Mrs. Charles Capon added to the solemnity to the scene by playing old hymns on the organ. Many church members acted as custodians including, among others, Mrs. Stuart Edgerly, Miss Harriet Goodnow and Mrs. Cutting.

Two more casualties followed that summer. On July 4, Wayside Inn Boys School graduate PFC Ernest Flynn of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve was killed in action at Saipan.

A month later on August 3, Cpl. Edmund Barrett of Concord Road in North Sudbury, was reported missing in action. Barrett was listed as lost in the sinking of a transport in the Mediterranean.

Not all the reports from the war zone were sad. Harrison Bennett reported from his post on a PT Boat somewhere near New Guinea that, laundry facilities being few, he put his clothes on the end of a line and dragged them behind the boat to wash them. Imagine his horror when he discovered that the line had broken and his clothes were gone. “And now,” Bennett wrote home plaintively, “I haven’t any pants.

The Fletchers, Pete Eaton and Forrest Bradshaw saw to it that the happenings in Sudbury were quickly spread around the world by the Legion Newsletter. The January 1945 issue carried this account:

The tree in front of Town Hall was lighted again in honor of all the veterans home on leave. Nobody went hungry on Christmas day although some who went optimistically to the butcher’s for a turkey or goose generally came home with a roasting chicken.

Cranberry sauce soared into astronomical blue (ration) points and butter and bacon just weren’t. So we brought out the cans from our last summer’s victory gardens and beamed when the guests insisted they’d never tasted such tomato juice! Neither had we. The sweat of our brows tasted sweet. Every veteran able to leave Cushing [Veterans] Hospital had an invitation for Christmas.

We missed the Santa Claus on the roof of the Wayside Inn and the usual pageant there, but they were discontinued for the duration because of lack of gas for the audience to get there. But the school children sang carols lustily. The Congregational Church gave a pageant on Christmas Eve as many were able to walk there and many homes were open for neighborhood sings and greetings.

It was a white Christmas with snow crunching underfoot and, on the roads, icy driving. In spite of the weather, many attended Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and communion on Christmas morning. One British sailor guest explained: “I promised my wife that I’d go to Christmas morning early service and she promised that she’d be there too and so, though she’s in England and I’m here, we’ll be together.

And so were you and we together as we prayed that these wartime Christmases would soon be over and that all of you would soon be home again for the birthday of the Prince of Peace in 1945.

The Town’s eighth and final casualty was perhaps the saddest of all. On April 11, 1945, one day before President Roosevelt died at Warm Springs, Georgia, Albert Spiller was killed in action while serving with General George Patton’s Third Army. A letter from his chaplain related that Albert was killed while carrying ammunition for the heavy machine gun which was covering a withdrawal from Haagen, Germany. He is buried in an American cemetery in Germany. His parents were notified on V-E Day, May 7, 1945.
That word of Albert’s death came on V-E day was both sobering and saddening because it reminded us of the cost of that day…that it has been bought with blood and tears,” Mrs. Fletcher wrote in the Legion Newsletter. “This is America at its best. Its sacrifices make it more imperative that we insist that the peace to come must be worthy of the price that Albert and other Sudburyites have paid.

Sudbury mourned FDR’s death with the rest of the world. The First Parish church bell was tolled 63 times. Formal memorial services followed in the Congregational Church.

The formal end to the war in Europe was a bittersweet day for Sudbury. The sobering news of Spiller’s death was somewhat tempered by a telegram from “Red” Kendall who was released from a POW camp in Germany and was on his way home. Aside from a thanksgiving service at the First Parish, there was little celebration. The war in the Pacific and the lives of Sudbury soldiers, sailors and Marines fighting there were on everyone’s minds.

There were no fireworks on the Fourth of July, 1945. Those were reserved for the time when the boys would come marching home again, but there was a parade and the July issue of the Legion Newsletter carried a blow-by-blow description.

Deep thankfulness and then a spontaneous burst of celebration marked V-J Day, August 14, 1945. All the organizations in town, headed by the town fathers, joined the rejoicing. The young people hosted the town at a dance at the Town Hall and Len Stiles drove his coal truck all over town carrying an impromptu orchestra containing just about every musical instrument known to man. The sound they made was more enthusiastic than musical, but at that point nobody really cared.

The real celebration took place two days later. A thanksgiving service at the First Parish Church was followed by a mile-long parade marshalled by George Mailley and headed by veterans home on leave and the American Legion. Behind them, a motorcade of some 60 vehicles representing every organization in town celebrated the fact that, not only was the war over, but rationing was off!

As the parade wound its way past the Town Hall and gathered around the Honor Roll at the top of the Common, the mood turned somber. Rev. Dr. J. Carroll Morris, Minister of the Congregational Church offered a prayer and Coast Guard Lt. Commander William C. Mahoney delivered a short, but inspiring talk.

Then the crowd broke up, some to watch the ball games at the high school field or listen to a band concert, and others to dance on the green or sit on the Town Hall steps and take in the scene. Sue Fletcher heard one of the town’s oldest residents remark: “I’ve never seen so many people completely happy.

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Sudbury, 1890-1989, 100 years in the life of a Town, a 256-page sequel to A.S. Hudson’s History of Sudbury. Autographed copies are available from Porcupine Enterprises, 106 Woodside Road, Sudbury, MA 01776. Hardbound presentation copies are $26.25 including tax plus $3.20 postage. Trade paperbacks are $12.60 including tax plus $3.20 postage.