One can only imagine how Americans must have felt when news spread about the bombing of Pearl Harbor 74 years ago on Dec. 7, 1941. The only comparison this writer can make could be the Sept. 11, 2011 New York City attack that kept us all spellbound on that unforgettable day. As terrible as that attack was, I can envision hundreds, if not thousands of Logan Countians, scurrying to get a newspaper account of what had transpired when the Japanese caught America by surprise that fateful Sunday morning; after all, there was no television and few radios. And, just like we did during World War I, West Virginians, including many Logan County men and boys, answered the call to duty. Also, just as during WW I, Logan County and the coal fields responded to the country’s needs by unheralded coal production to support the American cause. Unfortunately, today too many people, especially on the national level, have forgotten our local sacrifices, and there were many— both in the wars and in the darkness of the many scattered coal mines of the county.
There is an interesting story about a former McConnell resident’s service in the military during World War II. The story appeared Feb. 2, 1945 in the newspaper of Fort McClellan, Ala., where the young man was stationed. As an 18-year-old trainee just five weeks into the U.S. Army, he approached his first sergeant, who was astounded when Private Sam N. Lafferty, son of Mrs. Ida Lafferty of McConnell, asked his permission to pin a handful of campaign ribbons on his brand-new OD blouse. It turns out Lafferty had already been in service with the U.S. Navy after he lied about his age and managed to get himself in the Navy at the age of 15.
According to the story, Lafferty was a sophomore at Logan High School in Feb. 1942 when he, like many other young men in West Virginia, joined the armed services in defense of their country. After training at the Great Lakes he became a second class fireman and that November went to sea on a destroyer escort bound for the North African invasion. His ship helped escort a convoy which put initial assault troops ashore at Casablanca, aided their advance inland by shelling coastal areas, and continued several weeks to convoy transports bringing troops and supplies to Africa.
Early in 1943 Lafferty’s ship made the long voyage to the Southwest Pacific. There it participated in the battle of Tarawa and was finally ordered back to the U.S. that autumn. A short time after he hit port Lafferty’s age caught up with him and he was discharged from the Navy. He spent eight months back in Logan, but he did not go back to school.
“I just took it easy,” Lafferty was quoted as saying. “I guess I just joined the Navy for adventure. I was a kid at the time, but some of the rough spots I went through made me grow up pretty darned fast.”
When he turned 18, he chose to join the Army, and explained why: “My main reason was that I have a brother, Edward, in the infantry in the South Pacific and I wanted to be in the same service with him this time. At the induction station they wanted me back in the Navy, but I was able to get in the Army instead. What I’m doing down here is tougher; physically and mentally, than what I did in the Navy, boot training and all. I know from all I saw what it’s like over there—just tough, no two ways about it.”
There are many stories that explain how numerous Logan Countians were awarded for their gallantry during both World War I and II, as well as Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, and just about everywhere else the U.S.A. has sent forces. However, there are many heroes, both living and deceased, who have never officially been honored for their war efforts. Some of these men’s names are inscribed on various plaques and monuments in different parts of Logan County as a result of their deaths in mining disasters. Still, there are thousands of them who are owed this nation’s gratitude. Without their backbreaking services this country would not exist as a free society.
Brave people fought in various wars. And brave people dug the coal that made winning those wars possible. Neither should ever be forgotten.
BITS and PIECES
Now that Canada has announced its intentions of legalizing marijuana, the United States has become the “bologna of this hemisphere” as we are sandwiched in between the Mexican pot and cocaine smugglers and the soon to be pot-heads of Canada…..it is expected that tax revenues there will be bolstered incredibly, and thousands of jobs created by legalization of the stuff that grows best in the soils of our mountainous state…..what is this nation going to do now, build walls across our Canadian border, too?…..I have a friend, who, after hearing the Canadian news, declared that he was a vegetarian because “tobacco, marijuana, beer and whiskey are made from plants”…..yeah, I know, I’ve always had some strange friends…..though Logan County has very few Muslims, it is interesting to me that in 1929 the town of Logan had several Jewish owned businesses…..the following stores back then that were closed for the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana), which is in October, included The Peoples Store, J.W. Wells Store, The Quality Shop, Grimes Music Shop, Smokehouse Billiards Parlor, Liebman Brothers, Gem Billiard Parlors, Leader Department Store, Bell Department Store, The Underselling Store, Sam’s Army and Navy Store, and Weiner’s Army and Navy Store…..of these stores, the only one that I can remember that was still operating when I was a young boy is Weiner’s Army and Navy…..I prefer watching WSAZ News in the evenings better than any of the other stations, but I always mute the TV when those darned Goldy Auto commercials come on…..”Go Goldy Auto” simply gets on my nerves…..Elk Restoration will begin in West Virginia by this spring…..15 to 35 elk are to be established then, and by 2019, a total of 150 are to be in an area that encompasses all or parts of Boone, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Wayne and Wyoming counties…..DNR officials estimate that it will take eight to 10 years after that to have enough elk population to allow limited hunting…..just wondering: do elk eat marijuana plants?…..it used to be that the Democratic Executive Committee was the most powerful political part of nearly all elections…..nowadays, most people do not even know who their elected committee people are, much less what they do…..as a former elected committee member, I can tell you that members cannot get roads repaired and perform miracles like some voters believe…..kudos goes out to Wally Thornhill and The Thornhill Auto Group for the spectacular full-page ad it ran in this newspaper acknowledging the longtime and professional service of WVOW’s Speedy Bevins, who recently left the station for the insurance business…..when I think of Speedy, I can’t help but also remember his longtime radio partner, Bob Weisner…..those two guys together were good announcers…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.—Herbert Hoover, Republican National Convention, 1944…..the decision to keep WVU head football coach Dana Holgerson was generally agreed with by most local Mountaineer fans I‘ve spoken with, but he’s probably on a short leash…..my compadre, Leonard Codispoti, insists that the new Mexican restaurant (Mi Pueblito) on Cole Street in Logan is the best around…..I like the place myself, but when you have an Italian like Lenny, bragging on a Mexican eatery, I suppose that to be special…..DID YOU KNOW that Vice President John Tyler was down on his knees playing marbles when he found out about the death of President William Henry Harrison?…..FINAL NOTE: America was founded on freedom. It is a land of immigrants. The rhetoric of hatred existed in Germany when Hitler led his people to despise Jews. The KKK once lynched black Americans out of nothing but pure hatred. In the 1950’s many people, including actors and actresses, were humiliated and called Communists as Sen. Joe McCarthy declared hatred toward them. Now comes Donald Trump, preaching more hatred toward all Muslims. While I personally wish Obama was not our sitting President, I also have major concerns about who our next one will be.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.