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Tag Archives: Profiles of Honor

- “These are the men who took the cliffs”: Virginians on D-Day

Seventy-five years ago today, Allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches of France, launching the invasion that would push the Nazis out of France and eventually end the Second World War in Europe. This year’s commemoration may be the last to include a significant number of veterans, most of whom are now in their mid-90s. With that somber reality in mind, the Virginia World War I and World War II Profiles of Honor Mobile Tour set out to gather stories of Virginia’s men and women who helped win the Second World War. They include several who, on that historic day in June, “embarked upon the Great Crusade [to] bring about the destruction of the German war machine.”

William T. O’Neill, for example, served on the U.S. LCT (6) 544, one of more than 4,000 landing crafts that were part of the massive invasion fleet. The craft was designed to transport tanks and other cargo; on D-Day, the 544’s specific mission was to deliver a Headquarters 1st Infantry scout team and a squad of the 5th Battalion Special Combat Engineers to a beach called Fox Green. They continued to land personnel throughout the day, as well as bringing the wounded off the beaches. O’Neill also witnessed, and photographed, the sinking of the USS Susan B. Anthony.


Major Thomas Dry Howie, who taught at Staunton … read more »

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- Then You Owe Me a Drink!: W. W. Poland’s WWII Short Snorter

W. W. Poland (right) and companion.

Recently Susan Chiarello brought in a very unusual item to be scanned for the Virginia World War I/World War II Commission—her grandfather’s short snorter. Measuring about 80 inches (6 feet 8 inches) long, it is a series of currencies from different locales taped together, with each individual bill containing signatures of various people.

The tradition of creating a short snorter began around 1925, probably invented either by Alaskan bush pilots or by Jack Ashcraft, a flyer with the Gates Flying Circus. As pilots flew from airfield to airfield, they exchanged bills with other pilots, crew members, and passengers. The next time two pilots met, they would be called upon to show their bills. If one did not have his short snorter, he was required to buy a snort (or drink) for whomever did. Since many participants were pilots and ostensibly needed to remain sober to fly, the snort needed to be a short one—hence the term “short snorter.”

During World War II, short snorters became popular among pilots, flight crews, and others traveling by air. The actress Marlene Dietrich, who entertained troops for the USO, had a short snorter that recently sold at auction for over $5000. Captain John Gillen, a stenographer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, had one that was 100 feet long.

Susan Chiarello’s grandfather, Winfred Wilson Poland (known as W. … read more »

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- Over The Top and at “em”: 100 Years at Fort Lee


This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I.

Soon after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the War Department acquired land between Petersburg and Hopewell to construct a new military cantonment. The camp, named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee, was soon designated as a division training center. Construction began on Camp Lee in June 1917, and by September the facility had more than 1,500 buildings and was ready to begin receiving members of the 80th Division for training. At its peak, the camp was the third-largest population center in Virginia behind Richmond and Norfolk, with some 60,000 doughboys passing through its training facilities on their way “Over There.”


The camp hosted a number of Army organizations, including an auxiliary remount depot, an office of the judge advocate, an infantry officers’ training school, a base hospital and later a convalescent center. As the area worked to accommodate the needs of this sudden influx of young men, a number of  social organizations also had a presence on the camp, including the YMCA, Jewish Welfare Board, and Knights of Columbus. The American Libraries Association, which had established a Library War Service headquartered at the Library of Congress, created a camp library with the assistance of Dr. Henry McIlwaine … read more »

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