NOTE: I first wrote this column in 2009. A few edits have been made to the original.
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
That is the start of a poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a doctor in the Canadian Army during World War I. You can read the rest of it here.
Mehring Monday is taking a step away from its usual tone for Veterans Day. If not for the sacrifice of all of our veterans, Mehring Monday might not be able to be the way that it is most of the time.
Baseball has many veterans, most from World War II. Bob Feller was in the Navy. Ted Williams was a Marine fighter pilot. Yogi Berra was a gunner's mate on a landing craft for D-Day.
Click here to see the excellent Gary Bedingfield's Baseball in Wartime website. All of the bios for WWII veterans are here.
To share a few of the stories, we just picked out a few from Gary's site.
Hank Greenberg was in the drafted into the Army in December of 1940. He was discharged along with all men age 28 or older on December 5, 1941. He re-enlisted in February of 1942.
"We are in trouble," he told The Sporting News, "and there is only one thing for me to do - return to the service. This doubtless means I am finished with baseball and it would be silly for me to say I do not leave it without a pang. But all of us are confronted with a terrible task - the defense of our country and the fight for our lives."
Moe Berg's story has been told before -- and in greater detail, but it is worth revisiting again.
On August 2, 1943, Berg accepted a position with the Office of Strategic Services. In September, he was assigned to the Secret Intelligence branch of the OSS and given a place at the OSS Balkans desk. In this role, he parachuted into Yugoslavia to evaluate the various resistance groups operating against the Nazis to determine which was the strongest. His evaluations were used to help determine the amount of support and aid to give each group.
In late 1943, Berg was assigned to Project Larson, an OSS operation set up by OSS Chief of Special Projects John Shaheen. The stated purpose of the project was to kidnap Italian rocket and missile specialists out of Italy and bring them to the United States. However, there was another project hidden within Larson called Project AZUSA with the goal of interviewing Italian physicists to see what they knew about Werner Heisenberg and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. It was similar in scope and mission to the Alsos project. On May 4, 1944 Berg left for London and the start of his mission.
From May to mid-December, Berg hopped around Europe interviewing physicists and trying to convince several to leave Europe and work in America. Despite Berg's wartime vocation calling for anonymity, he did betray himself on one occasion. While at a field hospital in France, Berg could not resist the temptation to join in a game of catch with a couple of GIs. After the former major leaguer had made a couple of throws one of the soldiers remarked, "You're a pro." Soon afterwards the soldier added, "You're a catcher," another throw and his cover was blown, "and your name is Moe Berg."
At the beginning of December, Berg attended a lecture by prominent German physicist Werner Heisenberg. His orders were to kill the scientist if there was any indication that the Germans were close to building an atomic bomb. Fortunately, Berg was not required to fulfill his orders as the Germans were far behind in the race to build an atomic weapon.
Berg returned to the United States on April 25, 1945, and resigned from the Strategic Services Unit - the successor to the OSS - in August. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on October 10, 1945 but he rejected the award. Some years after his death, the award was accepted on his behalf by his sister.
Joe Tipton was a member of the Appleton Papermakers in 1941. In 1942, he was with the Charleston Senators. In 1943, he was in the military...
...serving with the Navy aboard the escort carrier USS Kadashan Bay (CVE-76) in the Pacific. He was at Leyte, Okinawa and Iwo Jima , and survived a kamikaze attack on January 8, 1945, when the Kadashan Bay was hit amidships directly below the bridge. After an hour and a half of feverish damage control effort, fires and flooding were checked.
Melvin Clark would not join the Papermakers until 1947. That was after his tour with the Navy.
From 1944 to February 6, 1946, he served with the Navy and was on a destroyer in the Pacific. Clark - assigned to a landing craft - saw action at Iwo Jima, the Philippines and New Guinea .
Louis Anschultz was a Papermaker for two games in 1941 and entered the military.
Anschultz served with the Army Air Force and was based in England where he pitched for a Bomb Group. In August 1943 he was selected to play with the Eighth Air Force All-Stars - a team of professionals who were led by former Senators' pitcher, Montie Weaver. The Eighth Air Force defeated a hand-selected team of Army professionals, 1-0, thanks to Bill Brech's outstanding no-hitter. The team then toured military bases throughout Britain playing a total of 29 exhibition games.
Dick Williams was a Papermaker in 1940 and went on to pitch for the Sheboygan Indians in 1941. He went into the Army in 1942 and didn't come home.
Williams entered military service with the Army on July 25, 1942 at Kalamazoo , Michigan. He served with the 82nd Field Artillery Battalion of 1st Cavalry Division in the Pacific and was killed in action during the battle for the Philippines on February 21, 1945.
Technician Fifth Grade Williams was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and is buried at the Manila American Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio in Manila , Philippines .
Thank you, Veterans.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.