A Veterans Day remembrance of a comrade who did not come home
Editor’s note: The following military remembrance is shared by Emery Crane Jr., a former Lockridge resident now residing in Hideaway, Texas. The remembrance was submitted by Stan Walgren of Wapello, who formerly owned supermarkets in Mt. Pleasant and New London.
By Emery Crane Jr., Col (Ret.)
US Air Force
With the arrival of Veteran’s Day, it seems an appropriate time to themeber some of our fallen service members.
This story was brought to mind by a recent visit with an old high school friend, Stanley Walgren in Wapello.
My name is Emery Crane Jr., and I grew up in Lockridge, as Junior Crane, in the late 1930s and 1940s.
Walgren and I met in about 1940, while he was working for the local grocery store and I was working for my father in a service station down the street.
My father, Emery Crane Sr., had moved off my grandfather’s farm in 1935 because of his mechanical skills and the desire for additional income during the depression of the 1930s.
I had a job pumping gas – even when I didn’t want one – because my father needed the help with a station open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. He paid me 25 cents an hour.
Walgren worked stocking shelves and bagging groceries to help out his mother.
He was two years younger than I, but in a small town we became fast friends with each other and a new boy in town, Richard Roth, who was in Walgren’s class. We all three played basketball for Lockridge High School and even won the Jefferson County championship in the spring of 1946. This was my senior year.
My father was a very aviation-oriented person as my older brother, Russell, had joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 as a pilot.
I was encouraged in my desire to take flying lessons while in high school with the money I earned while pumping gas for my dad.
Walgren and Roth developed an interest in my flying as well. Walgren’s brother had also become a pilot, in Naval Air.
During the summer of 1945, after completing my junior year of high school, I received my private pilot’s license in a piper J-3 Cub. Walgren and Roth immediately wanted to go for plane rides. I flew Roth through his first loop in an airplane.
I graduated in the spring of 1946 and went to Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant. After my junior year at IWC, I left to enter Air Force pilot’s training. I graduated in the summer of 1950, becoming a pilot and a second Lieutenant in the Air Force.
Roth and Walgren completed high school in the spring of 1948. Roth, who had been recruited by the Navy, left for Navy Boot Training immediately after graduation.
After high school, Walgren began a long career in the grocery business. He retired as a grocery store owner in New London, after many years in business.
After boot camp, Roth went through Naval Submarine Training. Immediately after graduating, he deployed on a 90-day submarine snorkel cruise. This meant his submarine did not surface for 90 days, except to snorkel depth to operate the engines to recharge the submarine batteries. This meant a continued popping of the ears as waves closed the snorkel, causing him to request transfer to fireman’s school.
While at fireman’s school, Roth discovered that he could apply for Naval Flight Training without the required two years of college.
He entered Naval Flight Training and graduated in the fall of 1951. We met in lockridge during Christmas of 1951. He was a new Marine Air pilot and I was an Air Force pilot stationed at Mobile, Ala. As a Marine pilot, he wore a bright new leather flight jacket of which I was most envious of.
Roth went on to Marine Jet Fighter training in Texas and then to South Korea and a Marine Jet Fighter squadron. The Korean War had broken out in the summer of 1950.
In the meantime, I had been transferred to an Air Force Airlift Wing in Tokyo, Japan. We had daily flights to Korea, airlifting passengers and cargo.
On a flight to an Air Base in central Korea, my flight engineer pointed out a volcanic mountain and commented that it must be where the Marine fighters had crashed. Having been away on a flight, I was unaware of the crash.
That day, upon our return to Tokyo, I went to my Post Office box for my mail. There was a letter from my mother telling me that Roth had been in a crash, the one I had just flown over.
After talking to a Marine pilot, I learned that Roth’s flight had been diverted for weather after returning from a strike over North Korea. Upon letdown, an error caused the flight to fly into the mountain.
The final chapter of this story was a letter I received from Roth’s mother about a month later. It seems he had written me a letter he had not yet mailed. It was in his room in his quarters at his fighter base. The letter was returned to his mother along with his other personal effects. She wrote me and enclosed htat letter. In the letter, Roth told me he was due for R&R in Tokyo and he planned to see me.
As we approach Veteran’s Day, it seems a most appropriate time to remember the many people who have given their lives for this great country of ours.