Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Digging up a Cemetery

In November of 2010, I attended a local ceremony on Veterans Day.  On my way home, I stopped at a local cemetery just to look around and perhaps pay some respect to those who'd given every last measure in service of their country.  I came across a grave marked for 1st Lt Emmett J. Hale, and I compared it to the list that had been part of the program that I'd attended earlier.  The only Hale on it was someone named Aimed Hale.

When I got home, I did a quick search on line and found the story of Emmett Hale.  He was a B-26 bomber pilot assigned as a test pilot at Huntsville Arsenal in Alabama and on June 27, 1944, had taken off with a full load of 500 lb bombs that were to be dropped on various targets on the proving grounds.   As the aircraft was climbing past 3000' an engine failed, Lt Hale attempted to set it down on a highway, but banks on both side of the road wouldn't allow room for the big plane to land safely, so he headed for a cotton field.  When it was apparent that he could drop some of his ordnance without endangering those on the ground, he dropped one of the 500 pounders.   It was too late, though, and the aircraft crashed in flames and exploded on impact, killing Lt Hale, the bombardier and the flight engineer.

I looked at the list from the morning's ceremony over and over, compared it to the list that was in the day's paper and came to the conclusion that those who had made up the list for the ceremony had made an error in the name they had listed.  I even came up with a possible scenario that could have ended with an inaccurate name.  I think the person who put the names on the list got them over the telephone and misunderstood the pronunciation of the name Emmet.  Aimed.  Emmett.  Accurate or not, it is a plausible explanation.

I sent a note to the organization responsible and, hopefully, next November, they'll have the name right.   It would be a shame to have a young man give his life for his country and the recognition go to someone else.

Anyway, that started me on a mission.  I decided I'd make a list of each person interred in that cemetery, with photos of their markers, and, if possible, some genealogical information on each.  It is a small cemetery, comparatively speaking, and is within a mile or so of my home.  I've taken digital photographs now and begun my research, both on line and at local libraries.  Around ten years ago there was a book published that lists the people buried there at the time and I've used it as a base.  I've found and corrected a couple of errors and a number of omissions, but the errors are inconsequential, and the omissions are mostly of folks who were buried after research for the book was finished.

1 comment:

  1. It took another year and some more prodding, but eventually the American Legion post that hosts the local Memorial Day ceremonies understood what I had been telling them. The most recent ceremony had the name Emmett Hale.