ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


S. Sgt. W. E. West

1923 - 1944

S. Sgt. W. E. West Is Among Dead in Wreck

Twisted Mass of Wreckage Marks Spot of Accident


West, Wallace E., b. Apr 17, 1923, d. Sep 14, 1944, Sec 25, S Sgt 15th Air Force




Terre Haute, Ind. – A twisted mass of wreckage, still sprinkled with campaign ribbons and the personal effects of army air force personnel, today marked the spot where 29 persons died in the head-on collision between the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad’s luxurious Chicago-Miami Express and a northbound mail train north of Terre Haute early yesterday.


Twenty-six of the dear were army airmen, many of them veterans of the Italian campaign, and the remainder were train crewman, the chief dispatcher of the railroad at Danville, Ill., reported.


All of the dead airmen were riding in the first car, which was ripped open when the passenger train, speeding through a heavy fog, rammed into the stationary mail train.  The dispatcher also reported 37 persons were injured in the wreck.


The first three cars of the passenger train contained army personnel.  Some of the men were on furlough and others were en route to Miami for reassignment. 


All of those seriously injured were air force men with the exception of one train crewman.  Physicians said that all civilian injured were released from hospitals but the trainmen. 



Had Just Ended 30 Day Furlough with Parents in City


Staff Sgt. Wallace E. West, 21, son of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph West, 608 North Montgomery Street, was among those killed yesterday morning in head-on collision of the Dixie Flyer and a mail train on the Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad north of Eastern Illinois railroad north of Terre Haute, Ind., his parents were informed in a telegram received here shortly before 11 o’clock last night.


Young West, who was a veteran of the Italian campaign with 36 combat missions to his credit, had been home on a 30-day furlough and ended his visit with his parents Sunday night.  He was en route to Miami, Fla., to report for further service when he met his death. 


Sunday night West’s family and a group of other relatives had gathered to bid him farewell.  They went to the station to see him off.  “I want no tears,’” he told them, “so if anybody is going to cry when I leave I want them to stay at home.”  They promised to keep dry-eyed and all joined in the merry crowd that saw him off.


During his visit here he recalled that he had had numerous narrow escapes while on combat flights, and he was “lucky” to be back.  On one occasion his plane was so badly riddled that it was forced to make a crash landing, but only after the pilot had been able to get it off enemy territory.  In the landing West received a minor arm injury.  “I was just lucky,” he told friends.


He was supposed to report to Fort Sheridan, Ill., when his furlough was up here, and after reporting there the orders had been changed and he got word he was to go to Miami where he was scheduled to again go overseas for more combat duty.  It was while on the crack Dixie Flyer that he, along with 23 other soldiers and several civilians, was killed.     


Parents Had Premonition


His parents had a premonition last night that all was not well.  They had read of the wreck in the evening papers and had heard the name of Lt. James Joyce of Madison mentioned as one of the servicemen on the train who escaped.  They knew that Joyce was their son’s pilot and not having heard a word from their son they became anxious.  They finally got E. Chas. Doerr, Red Cross chairman, to make a checkup for them.  In a call to Fort Sheridan he was informed last night that the families of all the dead had been notified.  Not having received message, they were a bit relieved, but still apprehensive, and shortly before 11 o’clock last night their home received a call from the Union station here that a telegram had been received for the mother, Mrs. Gertrude West.  The operator declined to read it over the telephone and suggested someone come to the station with Mr. Doerr.  The father and Mr. Doerr went there and learned the sad news.  In the meantime, arrangements were made to have the news broken to the mother by the Rev. E. F. Quandt, assistant pastor of St. John’s Lutheran church to which the family belongs.  He did so as gently as possible.


“Wallace always said that if he had to go he wanted to go swiftly and without knowing what was happening, and I guess that is what did happen,” said a relative of the dead boy today.  “He got his wish.”


It is sad and terrible, but we must bear it.  It is perhaps better to have had it happen this way than in actual war, where we could not have him with us and not know where his grave would be.”


His family recalled the pleasant memories of his recent stay home.  His mother cooked the things he liked best and he enjoyed every minute of his stay.  He even put on some weight as a result of his mother’s cooking, a member of the family proudly recalled, adding “He was so happy when he left, telling us not to worry and above all, not to cry.”


His two younger brothers, Randall, 15, and Gene, 10 looked upon him as a hero and were with him every minute they could be in his company, listening to accounts of his experiences.


Sgt. West was born in Watertown and was 21 years of age last April 17.  Everybody knew him as “Bud.”


He was a graduate of St. John’s Lutheran school and of the Watertown high school, class of 1941.  He was inducted in February, 1943, and had been overseas, in Italy since March of this year.


Before entering service, he worked at several local filling stations and for a time was employed in the Carnation Milk plant at Oconomowoc.  He had also worked for a time at a bomber plant in Michigan, where he had dreams of someday flying a bomber in combat, a determination that later was realized many times.


Local filling stations he was employed at included Garden Homes, and the Sinclair station, on North Church street, and at the Great Western near Memorial bridge.


He received his army technical training at Lowry Field and Fort Meyers Gunnery school.  He served in Italy as an armorer-gunner.  He was on a B-21 Liberator bomber, serving with the Fifteenth Army Air Force.


He is survived by his parents, his two younger brothers, a grandfather, Peter West, and a grandmother, Mrs. Clara Luedtke.  There also are numerous other family relatives here.  The father is an employee of the Wisconsin Gas and Electric Co. 


West held the coveted air medal “for meritorious achievement in aerial flight while participating in sustained operational activities against the enemy,” and was also awarded the good conduct medal “for exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity.”  He also held two oak leaf clusters.


The body will be brought to Watertown. The casket will arrive late Saturday night.


The funeral will be held Monday at 1:30 p.m. from the Hafemeister funeral home, with services at 2 o’clock in St. John’s church.  The Rev. F.H. Eggers will officiate.  Burial will be in Oak Hill Cemetery.  


Adolph H. West

1898 - 1966


West, Adolph, b. Sep 24, 1898, d. Aug 23, 1966, Sec 25


Adolph H. West, 67, of 1350 Boomer Street, a retired meter reader for the Wisconsin Electric Power Co., died Tuesday evening at Watertown Memorial Hospital after suffering a heart attack.


Mr. West retired in 1963 after 32 years with the utility company.


He was born in Watertown Sept. 24, 1898, to the late Mr. and Mrs. Peter West and was a lifelong resident here.  He married Miss Gertrude Luedtke in 1923.  She survives.  Also surviving are two sons, T-Sgt. Randall West of Sun Prairie, and Gene West of Wauwatosa.  There are six grandchildren.


One son, Wallace West, died in a train wreck on Sept. 14, 1944 while in the U.S. Army.


Mr. West is survived by five brothers and two sisters, Ervin, Arnold and Percy West, Watertown; Harry West, Minneapolis, and Clarence West, Lebanon; and Mrs. Emil Wahl and Mrs. Herbert Birkholtz, both of Watertown.  Two brothers and two sisters preceded him in death.


Mr. West was a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church and had served as a church elder for six years and was a member of the parish counting committee up to the time of his death.


Mr. West was widely known throughout the community.  He was a man held in high regard and was well liked.


Services will be at St. John’s Church at 2 p.m. Friday, the Rev. Eugene Gunther officiating.  Interment will be in Oak Hill Cemetery.




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