From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

Category: World War II

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.

Varsity ‘O’ member had more to brag about than athletic ability

Editor’s Note: Recently, Peggy Knight graciously donated the Varsity “O” sweater her father, Arthur Gordon Knight, earned as a member of the OSU Track and Field Team in 1938. It turns out that while Knight had the legs of a racehorse, as it were, he also had the heart of a poet: In 1949 the then-married student, who had interrupted his studies to serve in World War II, won a short-story contest for “The Shovel.” His own story seemed intriguing, so we asked Peggy to tell us more about her father. Below is his story, which we have edited for length.

1938 men's track team. Knight is in the second row, fourth from the right

1938 men’s track team. Knight is in the second row, fourth from the right

The son of immigrants, Knight was born in 1917 and grew up in Lakewood, Ohio. One of Peggy’s first stories about her father was when he was about eight years old. His older sister had diabetes, and there were no insulin shots at the time to help regulate her blood sugar. He kept an eye on her, though, so he could prevent an “episode.” As Peggy says, “One time… as they walked together he saw she was shaking and sweating profusely. Knowing she had little time before collapsing, he reached in his pockets hoping to find a bit of candy that he normally carried for her. He did not have any but he also knew the best thing for her was a glass of orange juice.  He had no money and there were no stores about, so he ducked into a neighborhood bar. The bartender tried to run him out thinking he was a mischievous neighborhood scamp, but he quickly explained the situation and the bartender was happy to provide the juice. Even then, my dad showed great compassion and sense of responsibility.”

Knight was extremely curious about the world, so he decided after he graduated from high school to do some exploring. He spent six months traveling around Mexico, including doing some digging in the ruins of Oaxaca. When he returned home, he decided to attend OSU, thinking at the time he would become a Geology major. After arriving on campus in the fall of 1936, however, he switched majors to English Literature, in the hopes it would better prepare him for a career that would allow him to explore and write about the world.

Knight was also interested in sports, and he decided to participate in either OSU’s football or track program. After spending time in a few football practices, he realized he was not going to excel and would probably spend most of his later life nursing old injuries from the game. He focused then on track and field, helping the OSU team establish new team records in the mile-relay event in 1938. He was good enough to earn a Varsity “O” sweater that year, and he started dreaming of going to the 1940 Olympics.

Knight's Varsity "O" sweater and a photo of the 1938 team

Knight’s Varsity “O” sweater and a photo of the 1938 team

However, his dream was never fulfilled because of World War II, which also interrupted his studies. Early in 1941, he and Peggy’s mother, Betty, eloped, and in June, he enlisted in the Army. According to Peggy, her father did not talk much about the war, but he did share several anecdotes with her, one of which was about being an ordinance officer with “a knack for bombs. He became the local go-to-guy for bombs that fell but did not go off.  He was called out to defuse bombs as needed and, as a child, I saw many gold-toned flaming bomb pins in his dresser drawer that he was given after each bomb was unarmed.  He told me he was very happy he was a smoker because his matchbook was his biggest weapon against difficult bombs.  He used the flap to prevent contact between the pin and the explosives.”

When his four years of service were up, the war wasn’t over yet, so he decided to re-enlist, this time in the Air Force. It was during these three years of service – he reached the rank of Second Lieutenant – that he hatched the idea for his future award-winning short story.

A year after returning home and to Ohio State in 1948, Knight enrolled in a short story class, English 507, where he wrote “The Shovel.” It was submitted to the Columbus Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters, and won first prize. The story, about a British woman in the days just before D-Day, was described by one judge as “a very profound story,” according to a Lantern article. In the article, Knight said he planned to be a creative writer after he graduated that June.

Knight, sharing a book with his daughter, Peggy

Knight, sharing a book with his daughter, Peggy

But Knight had a family to support (Peggy was adopted in 1953) and he began working in his father’s insurance agency. He and his family eventually moved to Galveston, Texas, though, where he became vice president of the American National Insurance Company. Because of a heart condition, Knight decided to retire early, and that’s when he was really able to satisfy his curiosity about the world and his passion for writing.

In 1970, he opened a rare and antique book dealership, and at about the same time, he became a columnist for the Galveston Daily News. “Now, his life was everything he hoped for in a career,” Peggy says, “he bought and sold rare books, 13th-century manuscripts and other types of writing, and spent hours reading them before selling them.  He was filling additional hours with writing his editorial columns.  And on occasion, he locked himself in his home office where I could hear his ‘new and modern’ electric typewriter clacking away with determination.”

His career as a Galveston columnist came to an abrupt end when he submitted a column about the “Johnson Memorial.” It was about a pull-chain toilet affectionately known by that name at the Rowfant Club in Cleveland (a literary society of which Knight was a long-standing member). According to Peggy, “no matter how good the article was or what the history of the water closet was, the publishers of the paper felt that the cultured ladies of Galveston society would not be pleased with talk of toilets, even in the modern age of the ’70s.  My father refused to be censored and pulled out of the ‘editorial comment’ business.”

After a flood destroyed much of their home – including many of Knight’s books and other life treasures – he and Betty moved to Ocala, Florida, where he died in 1987 at the age of 70 from melanoma. Peggy concludes:

“In his effects, I found nine unpublished and unfinished novels on which he’d been working.

He was a great man to many, an enemy to none.  He was a hero to me.”

We would like to thank Peggy for her wonderful donations, and we say donations because she not only provided us with a beautiful Varsity “O” sweater, but also a wonderful recounting of her father’s life. Our records focus mostly on him being an OSU athlete, so we appreciate her taking the time to show that his own story was much more than that.

WWII hero Don Scott ‘brought great credit to his alma mater’

Don Scott, 1939

Don Scott, 1939

When World War II broke out, many OSU students immediately signed up to join in the fight, suspending their studies for a much greater cause. Probably none of them was more well-known than Don Scott, the archetypical Big Man on Campus.

And here’s why: After entering Ohio State in 1938, Scott participated in baseball, track, basketball, and most notably football. In addition to being on the Players’ All American team for football and the first Big 10 Championship for basketball, Scott was also elected to sophomore, junior and senior Honor Societies as well as being a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

Don Scott, 1941

Don Scott, 1941

After enlisting, by May 1941, Scott, along with other OSU athletes were stationed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Air Corps Training Detachment. By October, Scott had completed training and had advanced to get his wings and commission in the Army Air Corps. He was eventually promoted to a Captain.

Unfortunately, on October 1, 1943, at the age of 23, Scott was killed in a bomber crash over England. This marked the 100th alumnus or former student to give his life in World War II. One week after his death, on October 8, his wife gave birth to their child, Don Sands Scott.

Meanwhile, in the spring of 1942, the U.S. Navy leased Port Columbus to train its pilots. At the time, OSU was using Port Columbus for its own civilian pilot training program, and the Navy’s lease would pretty much have doomed OSU’s program to failure. However, OSU Prof. Karl W. Stinson, a lieutenant in the Air Corps of World War I and a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering went to then-OSU Pres. Howard Bevis with an idea: Build an OSU airport.

President Bevis and Carl Steeb, then-University Business Manager, considered the idea, liked it, and found $100,000 for the project. Stinson himself scouted the nearby then-countryside, and found a flat portion of land near what is now Sawmill Road. Ohio State purchased 385 acres (larger than Port Columbus), and set about building a hangar, runways and fences.

Don Scott Field, 1949

Don Scott Field, 1949

Soon after Scott’s death, President Bevis presented a resolution to the Board of Trustees that read, in part:

[Scott] was one of the nation’s great athletes; he was a sportsman in the finest sense of that term; he was a thorough gentleman, beloved by all who knew him; his life brought great credit to his alma mater. … As a fitting commemoration … I desire to propose to this Board that the airfield now owned and operated by the University be designated ‘Don Scott Field.’

The board approved the resolution and the newly named Don Scott Field was used by the Navy until the end of the war, when OSU transferred its focus to a civilian aviation curriculum.

– Filed by B.T.