Accident in 1950 claimed 33 soldiers headed for service in Korea
WILKES-BARRE — One day after Americans all over the country paused to remember the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, soldiers from the 109th Field Artillery commemorated the anniversary of a 1950 tragedy that hit close to home.
The members of the 109th Field Artillery, along with guests from District 12 of the Sons of the American Legion as well as from AMVETS Post 59 in Hanover Township, held a special ceremony on Sunday afternoon to honor the 33 soldiers killed in a train derailment on Sept. 11, 1950.
The train was heading to Camp Atterbury, Ind., where the troops aboard were to be mobilized for service in the Korean War.
“The loss of our 33 soldiers forever changed the valley,” said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Tornambe, the commander of the 109th Field Artillery. “Everyone in attendance today has been impacted by the selfless service of our armed forces.”
Spc. Chris Brown of the 109th Field Artillery served as the ceremony’s main speaker, walking guests through the background of the horrific crash.
On that day 71 years ago, the train had stopped on the tracks near Coshocton, Ohio, for repairs. A small passenger train, The Spirit of St. Louis, failed to heed the signs that the train had stopped ahead of them, and rear-ended the Army train.
Thirty-three soldiers were killed, and 278 were injured above the troop train.
“It was the worst peacetime disaster ever for Pennsylvania soldiers,” Brown explained.
The troops of the 109th Artillery stood at attention as dog tags were placed around a number of individual crosses, each representing armed conflicts fought with manpower from the Wyoming Valley, from the American Revolution all the way up to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Additional tags were dedicated to the lost soldiers of the 109th on Sept. 11, 1950, and to the lives lost in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Following the placing of the tags, ceremonial wreaths were presented by the Sons of the American Legion, represented by District 12 Commander Leonard Biel and Bernie Dorshefski from the Plymouth American Legion Post 463, as well as from AMVETS Post 59.
Commander Lucius Washington and Post 59 members Michael Price and Kevin Armitage presented the wreath on behalf of their post.
In closing, Tornambe expressed a simple sentiment in regard not only to the 33 109th Artillery soldiers lost in 1950, but to all soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice for this country: remember them and honor them.
“May we never forget the sacrifice of our soldiers,” he said.