From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

Category: Military

Dog tag found in France returns to Ohio Family

p1040002Last spring, the University Archives was contacted by Stephane Renner, a Frenchmen, who said he had discovered an American Soldier’s World War II dog tag while metal detecting in the Rosny sur alfred-l-bowlandSeine forest in northern France.  Renner hoped the Archives could assist him in tracking down the soldier’s family, so the identification tag could be returned to them.  While the Archives staff typically handles only requests that involve the University, the staff felt compelled to help Renner find the soldier’s family.

Attached to Renner’s email was a photo of his find: a rusted dog tag that had weathered almost 75 years underground.  Engraved on the tag was the soldier’s name, “Alfred D. Bowland”, and his emergency contact, which was listed as Howard Bowland (which we later found out was his father).

facebook_-2034363001In an effort to find the family, Archives staff utilized Ancestry.com, and also searched through censuses, war registration cards and city directories.  Staff soon discovered that Alfred Bowland enlisted December 9th, 1941, as a result of Pearl Harbor. Bowland survived the war, got married 1947 and had three children.  He passed away in 1995 at the age of 80.

The Archives staff located Alfred’s son, Roger Bowland, to share the news about the identification tag recovered in France.  Soon after, the men in Ohio and France 953645dsc0044were introduced and connected over the newly discovered dog tag.

Renner sent Bowland the dog tag, along with a coin purse, ammunition and a ration of lemon powder that he also found next to the tag.  In exchange, Bowland sent Renner a photo of his father during his time in the war. Renner keeps the photo on the mantle to remind him of the find.

Veteran’s Day reminds us to thank all military personnel, like Alfred Bowland and his family, for the service and sacrifices they have made for their country.

dscn8594The Archives also is thankful to Stephane Renner and Roger Bowland for keeping us informed on their story and keeping history alive. A special thank you to Stephane Renner for his dedication to returning historical material to its rightful owner.

The Great Adventures of the Graf Zeppelin

In May of 1928, disaster hovered in the air above France. The Graf Zeppelin, a German airship marginally shorter than the Titanic, ten stories tall and filled with one hundred thousand cubic meters of hydrogen (the world’s most flammable gas) had lost several of its engines.

Graf Zeppelin above Tokyo

Graf Zeppelin flying over Tokyo on its around the
world flight.

The forward port engine had lost its main shaft and two other engines had immediately seized, leaving the ship floating on its last two engines. In response, Commander Hugo Eckener, a very skilled aviator, tried to return the airship to its base in Germany.   But then a fourth engine stopped, stranding the ship and its passengers with the Alps between themselves and safety.

Sketch of the Graf Zeppelin

Sketch of the side view and floor plan of the
Graf Zeppelin, reproduced here on a German postcard.

The choice was either to abandon ship, or to attempt an emergency landing in France. To land on the open ground would cause the ship to bounce, unless gas could be released fast enough to prevent it—a major fire risk. Instead Eckener maneuvered the Graf Zeppelin to an old French hangar, where French troops waited. The French helped the Graf Zeppelin to land but immediately locked down the base—“after all, the last Zeppelin landing in France had been a war machine.” [i]  The Graf Zeppelin and its passengers, as well as the two gorillas on board[ii], were saved.

It was an exciting time in the history of flight.  Two years before, Charles Lindbergh had flown from New York to Paris in about thirty-three hours, sparking a huge rise in popularity for aviators and a surge in the public’s interest in flight.  Commander Hugo Eckener and the Zeppelin Company wanted to build upon this fascination by using the Graf Zeppelin to circumnavigate the globe.

Freud, the radio operator aboard the Graf Zeppelin

Freud, the radio operator aboard
the Graf Zeppelin, dangling out a
window.

The problem? They did not have enough money. Their solution came from the American news mogul William Hearst. Hearst wanted to capitalize upon the excitement that aviators and grand adventures sparked in the American public and, after some haggling, he offered to fund half of the money for the trip in exchange for the rights to the story in the U.S. and Great Britain. Hearst had three reporters on board: the famous explorer Sir George Hubert Wilkins, Lady Grace Drummond-Hay, and Karl von Wiegand.

Hearst's reporters.

Hearts’s reporters from left to right: Captain
Wilkins, Lady Drummond Hay, Carl Von Weigand
and cameraman Robert Hartman.

Hearst also demanded that the trip begin and end in the U.S.  Eckener agreed, but planned to travel right back to the Zeppelin’s home base in Friedrichshafen, Germany after beginning in America, allowing for a complete circumnavigation from both Lakehurst and Friedrichshafen (thus satisfying both his home country and his primary sponsor).

This is how the Graf Zeppelin, after its inauspicious trial run in May, came to be traveling again across the Atlantic toward the U.S. on the 1st of August, 1929. Ninety hours after departure, the ship landed in Lakehurst, N.J. before returning to Germany. From Friedrichshafen, the Graf Zeppelin traversed Siberia before landing in Tokyo, Japan, and continuing across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles, California. The last leg was a jaunt across the United States, back to Lakehurst.

Front view of the Graf Zeppelin

View of the Graf Zeppelin as it lands
in N.J. after completing its
circumnavigation of the world.

Commander Eckener in the control room.

Commander Eckener in the control
room on the Graf Zeppelin.

By this time, the Graf Zeppelin had run out of drinking water, though this did not stop Eckener from pushing forward. Instead the passengers subsisted on wine and other alcohol—substances still illegal on the U.S. soil below their feet. Upon its arrival, the Graf Zeppelin broke the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe and was met with massive fanfare and celebration.

George Hubert Wilkins, a famous Australian polar explorer and one of Hearst’s correspondents on the Graf Zeppelin, collected photographs and memorabilia related to the flight. Over two hundred of these images were recently acquired by The Ohio State University’s Polar Archives in 2015 and join the larger Wilkins Collection held by the repository. These images range include mass-printed German postcards; images of life aboard the airship; photos of the Graf Zeppelin in flight or in a hangar; as well as photos of crowds cheering and celebrations.

Wilkins himself is not featured in many images.  He is seen in only a few formal photographs, as well as several that depict him dining with Captain Eckener and his fellow correspondents. The exception is a fabulous photo in which Wilkins is examining a book of photographs in the dining area, with a small dog (one which greatly resembles an early Boston terrier) in his lap.

Wilkins, reading, with his dog in his lap.

Wilkins, reading, with his dog in his lap.

Such depictions of life aboard the ship are numerous among the collection and cover everything from work to play. There are images of one crew member rather smugly playing the piano accordion; the radio operator Fruend precariously hanging out a window with a dangling wire; Chef Manz cooking; Commander Eckener solemnly monitoring everything on the control room; and Lady Drummond Hay happily climbing one of the gondolas while the ship was in flight.

Lady Drummond Hay climbing one of the gondolas.

Lady Drummond Hay climbing one of
the gondolas.

Other images show the world in relation to the massive form of the Graf Zeppelin. Several images depict the Graf Zeppelin landing or taking off, surrounded by small white smudges that only vaguely look like people.  Another photograph, apparently taken from the Graf Zeppelin itself, shows the Zeppelin’s shadow, which looks rather like a large missile, over a field. Even from the air, the Zeppelin’s shadow is several times larger than the houses and barns on the ground. Some photos display the huge impact of the Graf Zeppelin’s flight, even without the Graf Zeppelin being the subject of the image. One such photo displays two long rows of U.S. sailors feasting after aiding in the landing and departure of the Graf Zeppelin. Another shows Japanese florists preparing flowers for those visiting the Graf Zeppelin while it was moored in Tokyo.

Japanese Florists

Japanese florists preparing flowers for the arrival of
the Graf Zeppelin.

Finally, the collection has printed memorabilia that Wilkins gathered, mostly postcards and tiny printed cards. These seem to be German in origin, given that all are captioned in German, and display wonderful drawings of the Graf Zeppelin’s plans or of the luxurious cabins and dining areas inside. One tiny image shows the Graf Zeppelin when its frame is only half formed, extending out toward the viewer in a spiral fashion, while unattached parts mimic its swirls on the ground.

frame of the Graf Zeppelin

The Graf Zeppelin as it was being built.

For more information about Sir George Hubert Wilkins, please visit the Polar Archives website: https://go.osu.edu/polararchives.

[i] Nasht, Simon. 2005. The last explorer: Hubert Wilkins : Australia’s unknown hero. Sydney: Hodder Australia.pg, 195

[ii] These gorillas inspired one of the passengers, Merian Cooper, to create the movie King Kong.

 

 

 

Twelve Days: Archives donors deliver the goods – in so many ways

(In celebration of the University Archives’ upcoming 50th Anniversary in 2015, we bring you “The Twelve Days of Buckeyes.” This is day 9 in a series of 12 blog posts highlighting the people who were instrumental in the creation and growth of the Archives.)

Wilgus' tie, c1887-1888

Wilgus’ tie, c1887-1888

We’d like to focus today on the unsung heroes of Archives everywhere: those individuals who decide the “old stuff” in their lives needs a more permanent home. So they take on the sometimes herculean task of finding just the right place and sending the materials there.

Take, for instance, Peggy Wymore. She has absolutely nothing to do with OSU, except for the important fact that her grandfather, James Alva Wilgus, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree from OSU (1888 and 1889, respectively). He then spent many years in education, retiring from the State Teachers’ College in Wisconsin in June 1939 as a professor of History and Social Sciences. He died two months later.

Peggy Wymore, donor of Wilgus material

Peggy Wymore

So his OSU materials – the coolest thing is his scarlet-and-gray class tie –survived nearly 75 years, thanks to the Wilgus family, including Peggy, who was the last one to have these items in her possession and who contacted the Archives to see if we would want his things. We sure did. And, in fact, we were so thrilled, we wrote a blog about him.

Luckily for the Archives, there are many people like Ms. Wymore who can’t bear to discard such items as the class tie – an item we had never seen before – and they do the legwork to track down the Archives to ask if we want the materials. They carefully pack these items, often providing much-appreciated detailed explanations, then ship them to the Archives, often at their own expense, from all over the country.

Naddy's ROTC uniform

Naddy’s ROTC uniform

It is the explanation of an ROTC unifom that makes this particular donation stand out. In 2006, John Naddy donated the jacket, pants and hat he wore while he was in ROTC at OSU in the early 1940s. Back then, all male students had to take military science classes; however, at this particular time their training took on extra meaning since war was imminent. For Naddy, as with many young men of his generation, he recounted his story very matter-of-factly in a letter that is so priceless in its charm, and what it divulges about that time period, that we urge you to read it for yourself.

Then, there are the donors for whom it’s a no-brainer on where their precious keepsakes should end up permanently. Arthur “Jerry” Grundies was one such donor. Grundies was a varsity tackle who played OSU football under Coach Francis Schmidt from 1938 to 1940.

Grundie's football uniform

Grundies’ football uniform

Grundies at a 2008 football game

Grundies at a 2008 football game

Grundies didn’t play professionally after college; he went to war instead, serving in the U.S. Army in Italy and North Africa, and earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star along the way. After the war, he became a sales representative for various oil companies in the region until his retirement. In 2002, Grundies donated his football uniform to the Archives – it’s the earliest version we have and one of the most often displayed items in our collection. He had a strong connection to OSU, so strong that the Archives received holiday cards from him until his death in 2010.

No matter why people donate materials to the Archives, we are extremely grateful that they do. Such artifacts are so helpful in helping us demonstrate through exhibits and tours the history of Ohio State, and we look forward to sharing them with our patrons and visitors for many years to come.