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The “Golden Book” honors members of Indiana University who served in wartime.
I received an unexpected e-mail from Robert Newton of Hillsboro, Oregon on
June 16, 2008.
He wrote, “My uncle by the same name was in Camp 59.”
In a second note that day, he added, “BTW: My uncle was from Logansport, Indiana and attended IU before he was drafted and trained at Fort Knox.”
From my office window I can see the the tall limestone gates that mark the main entrance to Indiana University. Just beyond is the “Historic Crescent” group of early IU buildings Robert would have known as a student when he attended here in 1938-40.
During my 30 years at Indiana University I have walked daily over paths he would have traveled as a student. I know well the buildings where he would have attended classes.
Robert’s presence here is documented in yearbooks at University Archives.
I like to imagine the excitement he felt on coming to college—an opportunity few young men and women had in the late ’30s. But, I am saddened to think how Robert’s education was interrupted by war and that he never returned to school and the full life that he might have led.
In the Indiana Memorial Union there is a room called the Memorial Room.
It is a chapel of sorts, with centuries-old stained glass windows and an elaborately carved wooden mantel that supports a large, open book—the “Golden Book.” The volume contains the names of “sons and daughters of Indiana University” who served in the nation’s wars.
The room is devoted to “remembering that the cataclysm of war has entered into the lives of many members of this University.”
Last week I asked that the book be turned to the page that bears Robert’s name.
The names around Robert’s are those of other men who were killed in action during WW II—in Normandy, Germany, the Pacific, and other battlefields.
The inscription for Robert reads:
Newton, Robert Alvey
U.S.A. Tank Corps
Killed in Action in Italy, March 9, 1944.
Robert is long gone, and yet here is a reminder that he was once a student—young and hopeful.
And he will ever be remembered as our son.
Tank crew members of the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division.
Left to right—Robert A. Newton (Logansport, Indiana), Everett Gregg (California), Lee C. Kaser (Detroit, Michigan), and Philip Caldwell (Tennessee).
Corporal Robert Alvey Newton served as a gunner in the tank corps of the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division. He was captured in North Africa during battle with German forces at Sidi Bou Zid on February 15, 1943.
Of the men in the photo above, Everett Gregg was also captured. Lee Kaser was killed instantly when his tank was hit. Phil Caldwell, who was following well behind in a tank destroyer, retreated when the American forces turned back.
Robert A. Newton’s nephew of Hillsboro, Oregon—also named Robert A. Newton by his father in memory of his beloved brother Robert—told me:
“The tank driver that day was Sgt. Gregg, who was ordinarily the tank commander. But he drove when Captain Winkler was in the command tank. The assistant driver was Al Urbanoski. That was why Phil Caldwell was in a tank destroyer and not in the spearhead of the attack.
“My uncle was burned on the face and hands by the same shell that killed Lee Kaser and blinded Winkler in one eye.
“My uncle and the others were rounded up and taken to Sfax, Tunisia. From there, he and many of the wounded were evacuated to a hospital in Bari, Italy. It was actually a converted convent. A month or two later, he was taken by train up the coast to Camp 59. Everett Gregg was sent to a camp in Germany.”
This poem, an expression of longing and adoration for “the girl I love the most” by C. G. Hooper-Rogers, is this site’s Valentine’s Day feature.
C. G. Hooper-Rogers wrote two poems and co-authored a third that are recorded in Robert Dickinson’s prison camp journal.
To the Girl I Love the Most
I am a soldier in khaki dressed,
Defending my country from East to West,
And as I lie in defence of a post,
I think of the girl I love the most.
When I was on leave in London’s smoke
I bragged of things to my parent folk,
But least of all was my proud boast,
Of the beautiful girl, I love the most.
When I went abroad to foreign lands,
And trekked for weeks through desert sands,
I braved the sun’s fierce holocaust,
For the sake of that girl I love the most.
Left: Armie met Eini Seppa on while on leave in Chicago after his return from Europe. The two became engaged and soon after married in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on August 13, 1944. This is their wedding portrait.
Right: Armie and Eini enjoy a warm day at Spectacle Lake in Phelps, Wisconsin, October 1999. Armie died in April 2000.
On this site I’ve posted most of the war interview material I recorded with my father, Armie Hill. This last account covers the time he spent at the end of the war as a guard at the Port of Embarkation in New York City.
This portion of the interview picks up where “Escape—Armie Hill’s First Account” ends. The recording was done in 1976.
To New York City
After the 30 days I reported to Fort Sheridan. It was like going back into basic training again. I had to fill out all of my papers because they had been lost. And I had to have all my shots again and take some basic training.
As I was trained as an army engineer, they looked for an engineering unit that I could be assigned to. Finally the sergeant in charge said that I would be assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There I was to report to the 325th Engineer Battalion. They were called the 100th Division. Many of the fellows there hadn’t had much training. A few of them had had overseas training. I was in Company A. When I reported in at the camp it was a Sunday and a lieutenant was in charge.
He asked me, “Which outfit were you with before you went overseas?”
British gunner George Norman Davison of Sheffield, U.K., was captured in Libya in 1941. He was held at Camp 59 from February 1942 until June 1943, when he was transferred to a camp in northern Italy.
He escaped from that camp at the time of the Italian Armistice and was hidden by local farmers who had links to the resistance.
These Italians arranged passage for him to Switzerland in October 1943.
After the War, Davison wanted to return to Italy to thank those who helped him, but he never did.
Sadly, he died in 1986, just after he had retired to write his memoirs. He never saw his story published, but in 2009 his son, John Davison, succeeded in publishing the book.
The title, In the Prison of His Days, is borrowed from W. H. Auden’s poem, “In Memory of W. B. Yeats”:
“In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.”
The book may be ordered through Amazon.com.
John’s dedication of the book—in both Italian and English—is as follows:
Questo libro è dedicato alle tante persone che hanno aiutato mio padre e molti altri nel loro tempo troscorso nel nord d’ Africa e in Europa dal 1939 al 1945.
In particolare, è dedicato agli uomini e alle donne che hanno rischiato la loro vita e quella delle loro famiglie solo per la loro gentilizza ed umanità, sensa chiedere nulla in cambrio:-
Giovanni Belazzi: ‘padrone’, farmer, Sforzesca, Vigevano, Milan, Italia;
‘Gigi’ Pistoya, Vigevano, Italia;
Lidia Stoppino, membro di resistenza italiana, Via Carioli, Vigevano, Milan, Italia;
Teresina Andreanna: ‘Rosina’.
This book is in memory of all the people who helped my father and countless others in North Africa and Europe 1939-1945
In particular, it is dedicated to the following men and women who risked the lives of themselves and their families for no reason other than kindness and humanity, without asking anything in return:-
Giovanni Belazzi: ‘padrone’, farmer, sforzesca, Vigevano, Milan, Italy;
‘Gigi’ Pistoya, Vigevano, Italy;
Lidia Stoppino, Italian Resistance, Via Carioli, Vigevano, Milan, Italy;
Teresina Andreanna: ‘Rosina’.