Social Studies Joe Boyle looked out at his audience of high school students and put their semester-long research project into perspective.
He told them of an old saying that goes, "As long as someone's name is spoken, they're not really dead. In a very real and tangible way, you have kept them alive."
Mr. Boyle was speaking of the 40 men with ties to northwest Ohio whose lives - and deaths - the students researched and then wrote about. The men died during World War II and the members of Mr. Boyle's distance-learning class - students from Bowsher, Start, Waite and Woodward - read their reports during the annual Fallen Heroes event at Waite High School. The event had special poignancy this year because it was held on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which catapulted the United States into the war.
Luis Mendez-Guerrero, a junior at Woodward High School, described the life and death of Clelan Croninger, who graduated from the former Libbey High School and who sailed across the Mediterranean Sea from Tunisia on the dark night of July 11, 1943. As the ship lay off the coast of Sicily, German bombers dropped high explosive bombs directly on LST-158’s deck.
Mr. Croninger and his companions attempted to contain the fire but, within minutes the crew members were ordered to abandon ship, Luis recounted. As the ship was lit up in flames, Mr. Croninger was killed in action.
Luis concluded his report by saying, "Clelan died defending our country, defending the Allies, defending his companions, and defending you and I. Will you honor his death or will you pass by without any restraint? Will you honor his effort or will you disgrace it? Will you honor not only his but, the veterans' efforts to protect our country or will you disgrace everything our veterans have done for us? I will chose to honor Clelan Overlin Croninger, his effort, and all the veterans effort in protecting our country and in defending all that we live for."
Condessa Croninger, the great-niece of Mr. Croninger, attended the Fallen Heroes event and was overcome with emotion by the work the students had put in to remember her great-uncle and others. She showed Mr. Croninger's yearbook and Purple Heart to Luis.
"This is just a wondeful program," she said.
Mr. Boyle said there's really no way of knowing the exact number of area residents who died during World War II, but he works with the number 1,192 people who lived in Toledo for any amount of time.
The students' research took them to the main Toledo-Lucas County Public library downtown and Mr. Boyle is hopeful that they learned some history.
“If they learn to write a little bit along the way, great. If they learned a little about researching, that’s fine too,” he said. “But I really want them to make that personal connection.”
The students shared stories about local men shot down in bombers and those who invaded Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, among others, and those who died tragically during training exercises or of disease.
Pvt. Chanler Acker quit his job as a longtime photographer at The Blade newspaper to be part of a photo reconnaissance squadron, reported Maegan Round, a Waite exchange student from Australia.
Mr. Acker was to fly missions from Pakistan to China but was killed in a crash in 1942.
“The unit’s job was to essentially take photos of the enemy’s front lines.”
For Start High School junior Kayla Cox, the assignment was personal.
Kayla researched the lives and deaths of Raymond and Russell Diemer, her fourth cousins who died during the war. She learned of them when she was 12, and was the first in her family to research their stories. The two privates were born in Henry County in 1919 and lived 10 miles from each other. Both joined the Army before they could be drafted.
Raymond’s unit was in the Philippines until Christmas, 1941, and then began to retreat. Many soldiers were forced to surrender to the Japanese in the Battle of Bataan April 9, 1942.
“Raymond became a prisoner of war to Japan and was forced to make the 65-mile march,” Kayla said. “During the march, Raymond’s unit was subjected to random stabbings and beatings.”
Raymond died in a Japanese POW camp July 17, 1942. A post in New Bavaria, Ohio, serves as a memorial.
Russell survived his first combat in the desert of Algeria, but he was wounded in the invasion of Italy in January, 1944. Russell died March 13, 1944.
“I’m really honored because they made such a big sacrifice,” Kayla told The Blade.
Posted on December 14, 2016