Adair Military Information
Lest we forget...
On May 7th, 1945, the last vestiges of the German military collapsed and the world breathed a collective (if temporary) sigh of relief as news flashed around the globe that Grand Admiral Karl Donitz, the proclaimed successor to Adolph Hitler, had formally and unconditionally surrendered the Third Reich's weary, humbled armed forces.
Nearly six long years had passed since Hitler had invaded Poland in September 1939 and plunged the world into an era of darkness, an era of "bloodshed and destruction brought on by fanatical Nazi leaders," to quote from the May 9, 1945 Adair County News. That edition of the paper proclaimed, in a banner headline, "Germans Surrender Unconditionally to Terms of Big Three On Monday"and in another headline noted that "President Names Sunday as Day of Prayer."
(Columbians stole the march on the latter. The lead sentence of another front page article stated that "Columbians gave thanks for the cessation of war in Europe with a V‑E Day service last night [Monday, May 7th] at the Presbyterian Church and a crowd gathered at 8:00 which taxed the capacity of the quaint old building." This was a union meeting of a sort, as ministers of all four of Columbia's churches took part.)
Even after the United States joined battle following Japan's cowardly Pearl Harbor attack in late 1941, the outcome of the war was far from certain, especially during 1942 and the early months of 1943, but despite all the hardships, despite the setbacks, despite the all too many dark days, the courage and steely‑eyed grit of the Allied forces would brook no final defeat, would brook no final surrender. To quote from the News from early December, 1942, almost a year to the day after the Japanese attack,
"Outraged beyond human endurance by the treachery at Pearl Harbor, America's reaction was righteous wrath... A new America emerged; militant, self‑sacrificing, fired with a single purpose . . . the cold determination to rid the world of cruel, wicked, selfish dictators..."
People on the home front did their part, giving, and giving, and giving yet again through no fewer than seven War Bond drives; giving blood for the soldiers; enduring rationing of many items and shortages of nearly everything; and raising Victory Gardens, to name but a few. Through it all, however, one unwavering sentiment regarding Germany, Japan, and the eventual outcome of the war held sway: "Bring on your worst. Do your damnedest. We're still going to whip you and whip you soundly."
By the time the war ended, almost four years after the US entered the conflict, Adair County had paid its fair share in the cause of freedom. From 1941 through the late summer of 1945, upwards of 2,000 Adair countians served in every branch of the military. Of those, 66 young soldiers, airmen, seamen and Marines gave their lives during the war‑time effort, including six whose names do not appear on the Memorial Marker at the fairgrounds. Two others, Pfc Elmo Cooley and Cpl Roy Franklin, died in 1949 while serving in Occupied Japan and Occupied Germany, respectively.
At least sixteen others were held as prisoners of war, including four ‑‑ S/Sgt Earl M. Conover, Marine Q/Sgt Richard Cooley, Marine Cpl James L. Robertson, and Cpl Nathaniel H. Simmons ‑‑ who suffered brutality beyond description at the hands of the Japanese. And, not unexpectedly, scores of others returned to the hills and hollows of home, scarred physically, psychologically, or both.
Let us never forget Adair County's greatest generation who so freely, so unstintingly offered their "blood, toil, tears and sweat" -- and yes, their lives -- in the cause of freedom.