In Search of the Real Rosie the Riveter

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:




Author: James Mann

As part of the effort to save the Willow Run Bomber Plant from demolition, some 776 women dressed as Rosie the Riveter to set a Guinness Book of World Record. The requirements for participation were stringent, the white poke-dots on the red bandanna had to be the right size and the women had to have on the right shoes and pants. The women succeeded in achieving their goal. Pity, none of the women who set the record were dressed as Rosie the Riveter.

The requirements were based on the World War II era “We Can Do It” poster. This poster has come to be accepted as the image of Rosie the Riveter, urging women to leave the traditional role of homemaker and replace men in the factory. The problem is the girl in the poster was not Rosie the Riveter. There is nothing in the poster, to indicate that her name is Rosie or that she is a riveter. The poster tells us, “We can do it,” but does not tell us what we are to do.

The “We Can Do It” poster was the work of graphic artist J. Howard Miller, who was commissioned by the Westinghouse Company to create a series of posters. The purpose of this series of posters was not to empower women, or encourage women to join the workforce, but to discourage disputes between labor and management. Workers were encouraged to meet production goals, cooperate with management and accept corporate values. Workers were not to consider joining a union, demand higher wages or better working conditions. The posters were displayed in employee only areas of Westinghouse plants, and were never seen by the general public during the war years.

On the bottom of the “We Can Do It” poster is the Westinghouse logo, as well as the words, War Production Coordinating Committee, a Westinghouse committee to deal with issues that might affect war production. The woman is wearing a badge on her collar, such as workers wore on the plant floor, and includes an employee number. In the bottom left corner of the poster are the instructions: “Post Feb. 15 to Feb. 28.” The poster was taken down after this time and forgotten until the 1980's, when it reemerged as a feminist icon.

The young woman in the poster was most likely molded after Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who graduated from high school in Ann Arbor, and at age 17, found employment as a metal presser in the American Broach & Machine Co. of Ann Arbor. She left the factory after only a few weeks, because as a cellist, she feared she might injure her hands in the machine. During her brief time at the factory, she was photographed by a wire service photographer. The photograph shows Doyle standing at the metal press, wearing a bandanna with white poke-dots. This image may have inspired J. Howard Miller to create the We Can do It poster. Doyle did not know of the poster, until 1984.

At about the time the We Can Do It poster was being taken down, to be replaced with the next one in the series, the song Rosie the Riveter was being released. The song was the work of Redd Evens and John Jacob Loeb. The two may have been influenced by the story of Rosalind P. Walter, who was employed by Corsair, building the F4U marine gull-winged fighter plane.

All the day long, whether rain or shine
She's a part of the assembly line
She's making history, working for victory
Rosie, brrrrrrrrrrr, the riveter

Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage
Sitting up there on the fuselage
That little frail can do more than a male can do
Rosie, brrrrrrrrrrr, the riveter

Rosie's got a boyfriend, Charlie
Charlie, he's a Marine
Rosie is protecting Charlie
Workin' overtime on the riveting machine

When they gave her a production 'E'
She was as proud as a girl could be
There's something true about, red, white, and blue about
Rosie, brrrrrrrrrrr, the riveter

Doo-doo-doo-doo
Ev'ryone stops to admire the scene
Rosie at work on the P-19
She's never twittery, nervous or jittery
I'm Rosie, hm-hm-hm-hmm, the riveter

What if she's smeared full of oil and grease
Doin' her bit for the old lend-lease
She keeps the gang around, they love to hang around
Rosie (Hm-hm-hm-hm, that's me, the riveter)

Rosie buys a lot of War Bonds
That girl really has sense
Wishes she could purchase more Bonds
Putting all her extra cash in National Defense

Oh, when they gave her a production 'E'
She was as proud as a girl could be
There's something true about, red, white, and blue about
Rosie the riveter gal

While other girls attend their favorite cocktail bar
Sipping dry Martinis, munching caviar
There's a girl who's really putting them to shame
Rosie is her name

Oh, Rosie buys a lot of War Bonds
That girl really has sense
Wishes she could purchase more Bonds
Putting all her extra cash into National Defense

Oh, Senator Jones, who was in the know
Shouted these words on the radio
Berlin will hear about, Moscow will cheer about
Rosie (Hah-hah-hah-hee-hee-hee), Rosie (Hee-hee-hee-hee)
Rosie the riveter gal

The song was originally recorded by Kay Kyser, the big band leader, and was played on radio, becoming a hit.

Norman Rockwell, the popular cover illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, was almost certainly among those who had heard the song. This was when women were leaving the home to work in industry, as the men were entering military service. Early in the war effort, there was not only a call to arms, but a call to the production line. At Willow Run, the work force would hit a high of 60% women out of the 42,000 workers there.

Rockwell asked Mary Doyle Keefe, then a 19 year old red-haired telephone operator, to pose for a picture. Mary Doyle Keefe agreed, and posed twice for Rockwell, and for this she was paid $10. The finished picture was the cover for the May 29, 1943, Memorial Day, issue of The Saturday Evening Post. This image is clearly “Rosie the Riveter.”

We know this is Rosie, because her name is on her lunchbox. She is clearly a riveter, as there is a large rivet gun in her lap. The focus of the cover is her large masculine arms, and she is wearing rouge and lipstick, as well as nail polish. She is dressed in overalls, as women did not wear pants in public at this time. That would change as the war went on. She wears penny loafers, as there were no safety shoes made for women until July of 1943. One foot rests on a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf. This gal means business.

In fact, Mary Doyle Keefe did not have the masculine build of the cover image, and she took a lot of ribbing because of it over the years. “The kidding you took was all my fault,” wrote Rockwell in a 1967 letter, “because I really thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.”

Rockwell was known for his penchant for touches of humor and satire in his work. Not long after the publication of the issue, it was noticed the Rosie bore a remarkable resemblance to Michelangelo's Prophet Isaiah from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The Rockwell Rosie is not as well known today as the “We Can Do It” poster, perhaps in part because of concerns over copyright. The cover was published soon after the release of the song “Rosie the Riveter” and the publishing company may have feared it could be sued over copyright infringement.

At about this time Hollywood leading man actor Walter Pidgeon arrived at the Willow Run Bomber Plant near Ypsilanti, Michigan, to appear in a promotional film for war bonds. There he met Rose Will Monroe, who was employed as a riveter. A real woman named Rosie, who was working as a riveter in an aircraft factory was too good to pass up. She was asked to appear in the film, and she agreed. As her daughter Vicki Javis noted years later, “Mom happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Born Rose Will Leigh on March 12, 1920, at Pulaski County, Kentucky, she was one of nine brothers and sisters. “She was,” as her daughter recalled, “the one who was a tomboy who could use tools. She could do everything.”

She moved to Michigan with her two children, after the death of her husband in an automobile accident, to seek employment in the war industry. Her hope was to be chosen to learn to fly transport planes to carry aircraft parts around the country. She was passed over, because she was a single mother. Instead, she went to work on the line, as a riveter.

The movie was shown throughout the nation in theaters between the features, to encourage the sale of war bonds. After the war, Rose drove a cab, operated a beauty shop and founded a construction company called Rose Builders. She died at the age of 77 in 1997.

Geraldine Doyle, of the We Can Do It poster, married Leo Doyle, a dentist, in 1943. The couple had six children. She died at the age of 86 in 2010.

The experience of the war years changed life in America, including the role of women. Before the war, women were expected to be content as housewives and mothers. Working and living on their own brought a new freedom to many, and they were never going back to the old ways. The number of women working outside the home has never dropped to prewar levels since.

There is no wonder in this, as They Can Do It.

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The original “We Can Do It” poster.

Photo 2: The original “We Can Do It” poster may have been inspired by a photograph of Geraldine Hoff Doyle taken by a wire service photographer.

Photo 3: Normal Rockwell, the cover illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post asked Mary Doyle Keefe to pose for the cover of the 1943 Memorial Day issue.

Photo 4: Walter Pidgeon visited the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti and asked Rose Will Monroe to appear in a film, which she agreed to do.

Memphis Belle vs. Hot Stuff: How History Came to Celebrate the Wrong WWII Airplane

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


Author: Scott Orr – The Daily Courier – November 16, 2014

(reprinted with the permission of The Daily Courier - Prescott, Arizona)

If you’ve seen the 1990 film “Memphis Belle,” you know the story of the B-17 and her trusty crew, the first heavy bomber of World War II to complete 25 missions and return home.

It’s a stirring tale and the movie included an all-star cast.

Only problem, it isn’t true.

Memphis Belle was not the first to complete the required number of missions. In fact, she may have been the third.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Professor William Waldock, an accident investigator and “aviation archaeologist,” has studied the history and explained why that myth has persisted Wednesday night at ERAU’s Davis Learning Center as part of the school’s Aviation History series.

Once an aircrew wrapped up 25 missions, the War Department, predecessor to the Department of Defense, would bring the bomber home and have the plane and crew do a nationwide promotional tour to sell war bonds to fund the war effort, Waldock said.

But Memphis Belle was beaten to the punch by another B-17, six days earlier.

It was named “Hell’s Angels,” Waldock said, and “there was a little bit of concern about promoting “Hell’s Angels” and trying to promote the war bonds with it.”

That airplane is listed in some publications as the first to complete 25 missions.

“But that’s not right, either,” Waldock said.

The very first was a B-24 named “Hot Stuff,” he said.

“Hot Stuff flew her 25th mission on the 7th of February, 1943. It’s well-documented. That was three-and-a-half months before Memphis Belle,” he said. “So how come we haven’t heard of her? Why isn’t she in the movies? Why isn’t the crew the famous folks?”

The answer, Waldock said, is because the B-24 crashed and was destroyed, and this is where the story takes a strange turn.

Hot Stuff was set to return to the U.S. on May 3, 1943. But first, the plane was set for an “Inspection tour” of Iceland with a VIP aboard: Lt. Gen. Frank Andrews, the commander of the U.S. forces in the European Theater.

Andrews, an experienced, instrument-rated pilot, bumped the normal co-pilot off the plane and flew in his place.

Also aboard were Andrews staff and four clergymen, who bumped five other crewmen.

“There are plenty of anecdotal sources that say the real purpose of General Andrews’ travel was that he was going back to Washington, D.C. to be blessed by Congress and the president, awarded his fourth star, and formally named Supreme Allied Commander of Europe,” Waldock said.

But he doesn’t make it. The plane skipped a scheduled stop at which the crew would have learned the weather at their destination in Iceland was miserable, with zero visibility. And the aircraft’s radio was apparently not working.

Because the B-24’s commander was a captain and the co-pilot was a three-star general, it’s likely that Andrews was making the decision, Waldock said.

The plane made it to their destination airfield, but couldn’t land, and headed for another airfield. It, too, was socked in, so Andrews decided to turn back to the original field.

The plane climbed to 900 feet, and, slightly off course, Hot Stuff crashed into a 1,100-foot mountain. Fourteen of the 15 people aboard were killed.

U.S. officials, hoping to divert attention from the crash and death of a high-ranking military official, decided to promote Memphis Belle as the first airplane to complete 25 missions and sent the crew on the promotional tour, Waldock said.

After Andrews death, Dwight D. Eisenhower was named Supreme Allied Commander, and went on to become president.

In 1948, the base for the president’s airplane was named after Andrews.


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: ERAU Professor William Waldock spoke Wednesday on the strange circumstance that caused history to celebrate the Memphis Belle instead of Hot Stuff, the bomber that actually first flew 25 missions in World War II.

Photo 2: The B-24 named “Hot Stuff” that actually was the first bomber in World War II to complete 25 missions.

Photo 3: The World War II crew of the B-24 Bomber “Hot Stuff.”

Photo 4: The B-24 “Hot Stuff” flew her 25th mission on 7 February, 1943, three-and-a-half months before Memphis Belle. The bomber crashed in Iceland 3 May, 1943. Capt. Robert H. Shannon (pilot) had completed his tour and was flying home. Lt. Gen. Frank Andrews had taken the place of the co-pilot when it crashed in terrible weather conditions.

The Force Behind the Yankee Air Museum

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:




Author: Phil Barnes

(Dennis Norton – The Ypsilanti Kid who Grew Up to Lead the Effort to Raise 5.2 Million Dollars that Enabled the Yankee Air Museum to Fly Again.)

Dennis Norton, son of Austin and Dorothy Norton, along with his sister Cindy, grew up on Ypsilanti’s east side at 735 Lowell Street, next to Norton’s Flower Shop. Dennis attended kindergarten through second grade at the old Ypsilanti High School, third through sixth grade at Central on Forest Avenue, entered the new West Junior High School as the first class in the Fall of 1959, and then graduated from Ypsilanti High School in 1965. He had a non-stop approach to everything, academics as well as athletics. While attending Ypsi High, he was one of the key performers on the swim team. His personal best was 23.7 for 50 yards. He, along with Roger Buxton, Doug Peterson and George Sayre, set a school record in the 200 freestyle relay. They were very proud of the accomplishment of breaking this long standing record.

As a youngster Dennis and his Dad, Austin, spent many hours at Willow Run Airport watching aircraft take off and land. Flying aircraft became a hobby later on. Dennis earned his pilot’s license in 1966 and eventually became an instructor teaching new students and current pilots the intricacies of flying. In 1970 Dennis graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Major in History. While a college student, Dennis worked at Motor Wheel and that experience convinced Dennis that factory work was not for him. He then joined his father, Austin, working in the family business, Norton’s Flowers, which had expanded and moved to the Washtenaw Avenue site. Dennis also became involved in the Jaycees and worked on many projects.

Dennis Norton is well known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm and has been known as a “bulldog” by his close friends. When his mother, Dorothy, was asked about his motivation for the establishment of the Willow Run Yankee Air Museum, Dorothy replied, “When Dennis gets an idea, even as a teenager, he has had a fierce determination to see that idea through to completion.” It’s a well known story that in 198l with his enthusiasm for flying and for preserving aircraft history, the Yankee Air Museum was born. Dennis was the founder and became its first president. Unfortunately, in October of 2004 the museum burned to the ground. However, Yankee staff and volunteers were able to rebuild and in 2010 the new Yankee Air Museum was dedicated. The Michigan Aerospace Foundation was founded to make plans for expansion with Dennis as the President. He has owned a number of planes, including a 1947 French bi-plane, a STAMPE. Through the years he has enjoyed flying the museum planes, the C-47, B-25 and the pride of the Yankee fleet, the B-17.

This all led to an idea to secure part of the Willow Run Bomber plant. In 2011 the question of “where would the B-17 be stored?” was posed. Dennis called Bob Lutz and found that the Bomber Plant was not owned by GM anymore. GM had gone bankrupt in 2010 and the Bomber (B-24) plant was turned over to the RACER trust. In 2011, Dennis contacted the RACER Trust. Ray Hunter, who flew rescue helicopter missions in Vietnam, and Dennis then spearheaded an effort to gain control of at least part of the remaining buildings including a hangar capable of parking the Yankee Air Force B-17 and additional space to expand the Yankee Air Museum. In 2012, a Letter of Intent was signed for one year. Energies were stepped up by Dennis and the foundation to collect funds and 5.2 Million Dollars was raised.

This was the thrust Dennis needed and soon after, in 2013, a purchase agreement was signed and the funds generated by Dennis Norton were secured from the donors. Finally, on October 30, 2014, the purchase was closed and the Yankee Air Museum now owns 144,000 square feet of the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant, saving the last small piece from demolition. Only four Willow Run B-24s still exist out of almost 9,000 that were built. None of the Willow Run B-24s still fly, and only two B-24s that were built in California still fly.

A highlight of the Bomber Plant effort was a reunion of all the “Rosies” and under the new brand the emergence of women in the workforce during the war will be emphasized. In 2014, Twenty-one of the original “Rosie the Riveters” gathered to join in a successful effort to set a World’s Record for the most Rosies gathered in one place. “Rosie” was named for Rosie Monroe of Kentucky when in 1943 Walter Pigeon showed up at the plant to assist in filming a War Bond Special, and Rosie was selected to help. Vickie Croston, Rosie Monroe’s daughter from Texas was pleased to be able to attend the 2014 reunion and help set the World Record.

The new effort will expand the mission of the Museum, change its name from the Yankee Air Museum to the National Museum of Aviation and Technology, and launch a new fund-raising campaign to raise an additional 8.2 million to renovate the space and overhaul the museum exhibits. Under the new expanded mission an effort will be made to emphasize the history of the 5-million-square-foot plant that served as the Arsenal of Democracy during World War II and produced 8,685 B-24 Bombers.

Another focus of the new mission of the Museum is to advance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education with hands-on learning stations.

Plans have been drawn up to include space needed for all the aircraft the Yankee Air Museum owns, expand the aerospace museum which would be comparable to the one at Dayton and Selfridge, and provide a meeting and convention facility that will seat up to 1,000 people, the largest in the area. The next big event will be the Air Show at the Yankee Air Museum on August 29 and 30, 2015 that will include flying demonstrations by the US Navy “Blue Angels.”

Dennis currently lives in Dexter with his wife Carol. One daughter and four granddaughters live in Gaylord, one son and two grandsons live in Dexter and one daughter lives on Portage Lake.

Dennis remains very proud of the success of his efforts and the efforts of the many volunteers who worked to secure pledges for funds. However, he reminds the public that 8.5 million dollars remains to be raised. Call Dennis at 734-971-2750 to pledge or donate to the project.

(Phil Barnes is a frequent contributor to The Gleanings and served on the U.S.S. Philippine Sea (CV47) in the Korean War.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Dennis and his sister Cindy grew up on Ypsilanti’s east side at 735 Lowell Street, next to Norton’s Flower Shop.

Photo 2: Dennis at the controls of the B-17 owned by the Yankee Air Force. Dennis also serves as the President of the Michigan Aerospace Foundation.

Photo 3: One of the promotional signs being used for fundraising for the preservation and renovation of part of the Willow Run Bomber Plant for use by the Yankee Air Museum.

Photo 4: Dennis at the controls of his 1947 STAMPE with son David in the front seat (1985).

Photo 5: Some of the proposed themes, storylines, exhibits, and facilities for the new National Museum of Aviation and Technology.

Photo 6: The section of the Willow Run Bomber Plant that was recently purchased by the Yankee Air Museum.

Photo 7: Dennis in 2013 with the “Rosie the Riveter” re-enactors.

Photo 8: Dennis with Ray Hunter on November 7, 2014 when they received an award for “Deals of the Year” by the Ann Arbor News in recognition of the October 30, 2014 purchase and saving from demolition of the last remaining piece of the old Willow Run Bomber Plant.

A Tribute to Those Who Served

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Virginia Davis-Brown

Our newest exhibit is found on the second floor of the museum. It is a tribute to the men and women who have taken time out of their private lives to serve in our military to preserve the FREEDOM we enjoy every day. Our exhibit displays items from the War of 1812 up to the Gulf War.

As we were putting the exhibit together, the thought kept running through my mind “if that uniform could only talk, what stories it would tell.” The Naval Officer, Floyd Lieb who fought in both World War I and World War II, fought in the first war as an enlisted man in the Army and the second war as an Officer in the Navy.

There are two Marine uniforms of the Harwood brothers, Earl and Jim who took part in the occupation at the time of the Korean War. Frank Sinclair was a medic in the Marine Corps serving in the Pacific on several invasions. Red Cross Nurse Polly Bartlett helped save lives in WWI. George Walker was in the Navy and served in the Pacific. We have two WWII uniforms that are in beautiful condition and it is hard to believe that they are 100 years old, one belonging to Robert Schrepper. How about the uniform of Elizabeth Isaacson, an 18 year old who served on the S.S. Carl Vincent in the Gulf War. Along with her 500 sisters, Elizabeth served with 5,000 men seeing battle so far from home.

There are many items on display including a Vietnam MIA bracelet remembering someone who was missing in action; the reproduction of a water canteen from the Spanish American war; right down to the 2 inch can opener that could hang on the dog tags. There are also Ration Stamps. No stamps, food, gas, clothing or other items could be bought without them.

It is our hope that as you come to the Museum to help us celebrate the Holiday Season you will take time to visit this exhibit and say “Thank You” to our service men and women who gave so much for all of us.

Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season.

(Virginia Davis-Brown is the past Chair of the Museum Advisory Board and has made significant contributions of time, money and expertise to the Society over many years.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The military display is a tribute to the men and women who have served in our military.

The Soldiers' Monument at Highland Cemetery

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Standing at the south end of Highland Cemetery, near the bluff that overlooks the city, is the monument dedicated to honor the memory of those who died in the American Civil War defending the Union. The monument is twenty-two feet three and a half inches tall, at the top of which is the figure of a Union solider holding a flag. The monument is made from blue Westerly Granite, and is carved from solid rock.

The idea of honoring the memory of those who had died in service during the Civil War first came to light in about 1891, and $50 was contributed. There was some talk of building a Memorial Hall, but nothing more came of the idea at that time. The suggestion was made to use the money for some other noble purpose.

Florence Babbitt was placed in the executive chair of the Woman’s Relief Corps in January of 1893, and she was very interested in the perpetuation of the memory of those who had fallen. Mrs. Babbitt consulted with Mrs. Mary Ann Starkweather, who asked, “Why don’t you build a monument?”

The work to secure the needed funds was started on March 19, 1893. The women of the Corps worked for several years to raise the funds for the monument. The members of the Corps canvassed the city to solicit contributions. After a good start, the effort slowed and seemed to come to an end. The nation had fallen into a depression, a tornado had swept a path of ruin through the city, and in May of 1894 the high school building was destroyed by a fire. By the time of the high school fire, the committee had raised only $350. All this had caused a sense of discouragement to set in. A prominent businessman sent a question to the committee: “This always going to erect a monument to the memory of some ones, and never doing it, is what might be called a monumental farce.”

Mary Ann Starkweather informed the committee overseeing the effort that she would give $1,000 if the Woman’s Relief Corps first raised the same amount in six months. Six months later, to the day, Mary Ann Starkweather made good on her promise, and gave $1,000 as the ladies of the Corps had fulfilled their end of the bargain.

None of the designs that would cost $2,000 were satisfactory to Mary Ann Starkweather or the committee. The decision was made to secure a monument at a cost of $3,000. Mary Ann Starkweather pledged she would assist in securing the needed funds.

The monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895, beginning with a procession from the city. Mrs. Babbitt read a history of the monument, then pulled a string and unveiled the figure. “Then the bands struck up a lively strain and a salute was fired right royally. The Woman’s Relief Corps marched around the base of the monument and covered it with flowers. The chosen flower of this Corps is the Michigan rose, and we fully agree with the ladies that they could not have chosen any flower more beautiful or fragrant,” reported The Washtenaw Evening Times of Friday, May 31, 1895.
Every year since then, on Memorial Day, a ceremony is held at the monument to honor those who died in defense of the nation.

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The American Civil War monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895.

The Vietnam War Memorial

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

The only memorial in Washtenaw County to those who served during the war in Vietnam stands on the grounds of the Ypsilanti Township Civic Center, at 7200 South Huron River Drive. The Washtenaw County Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America at first hoped to construct the memorial in Veterans Park in Ann Arbor. This plan was aborted after the Ann Arbor City Parks Advisory Commission failed to support the project. The Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees approved a resolution to locate the memorial on the Civic Center grounds in October of 1990.

The memorial is similar to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D. C., but on a smaller scale. The memorial is made of black granite and is triangular in shape. The wall of the memorial has five sides to represent the five branches of the armed forces, and is eight feet high and twenty-two feet long. The names of those who died are listed under the name of the community from which they came.

Three flags at the memorial honor the memory of the three soldiers from Washtenaw County listed as missing in action. Benches at the memorial are set twenty-one feet away from the wall, as this was the average age of soldiers in the war. The Memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1991, the day before Veterans Day. “There was a flag rising and a 21-gun salute: there was a helicopter flyover from the Selfridge Air National Guard base; there were teary-eyed family members, who laid flowers at the foot of the memorial in honor of the brothers and sons the war took from them,” reported The Ann Arbor News of November 11, 1991.

The keynote speaker was retired General William Westmorland, who said: “One can conclude that a soldier’s reward is honor proudly won and that is the sentiment behind the memorial we dedicate today.”

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1991.

The G. A. R. Hall

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Standing at 110 Pearl Street is the building known as the G. A. R. Hall. These letters were, for many years, visible above the entrance. The letters stand for Grand Army of the Republic. This was the association of men, who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Here, beginning in 1913, was the headquarters of the local chapter, called Carpenter Post 180.

The national Grand Army of the Republic was formed in 1866 to perpetuate friendships, revive memories and provide mutual support and assistance.

The local chapter was formed at a meeting held September 13, 1883, at Light Guard Hall, on the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street. The Hall was on the third floor, which has since been removed. At this meeting the chapter was formed and the name Carpenter Post was chosen. It was the practice of the chapters to name the post after a solder or sailor who had died while in service during the war. They chose the name Carpenter, after two brothers who had lost their lives in the service of their country.

Two years after the formation of the Post, the members were presented with a Memorial Record Book. This book is now in the care of the Archives of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum.
A local chapter of the Woman’s Relief Corps, an auxiliary to the G. A. R., was formed on November 11, 1885. “I well remember our first effort at relief work,” wrote Mrs. Seth Mereness for The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Tuesday, May 12, 1914. “We rented a booth on the fairgrounds and sold lunches during the week of the Eastern Michigan Fair. To our surprise at the close of the week, we were able to turn over to the Post about sixty dollars.”

They held their meetings at Light Guard Hall for years after, paying rent for the use of the space. Still, the G. A. R. and the W. R. C. wanted a home of their own, and so saved money for this purpose. The amount saved did not seem enough to secure a place of their own. Then in1912, two women, Mrs. Lois Leetch and Mrs. Katherine Sherman, gave a donation of $1,000 each. This money was used to purchase the Stein building on Pearl, then the site of the Dillon Manufacturing Company. This building was built in the 1880’s and appears on the 1890 bird’s eye view map of Ypsilanti.

“The first floor will be remodeled to meet the needs of the post and corps. There will be a lodge room and a kitchen and the quarters when completed will be well adapted to the needs of the orders. The second floor will be rented and thus secure a regular income to the owners of the building. Later it is possible that the good basement under the building will be turned into a dining room and kitchen, but this time of expansion probably will not arrive during the present season,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Thursday, January 2, 1913.

The dedication of the Hall was held on November 25, 1913, the 50th anniversary of the charge up Missionary Ridge, ending the Siege of Chattanooga. The dedication was held in the Masonic Temple on North Huron Street, now the Riverside Arts Center. “A pleasing feature of the dedication is that, owing to the hard work of the G. A. R. Veterans and women of the Relief Corps and the personal solicitation by H. C. Rankin, the hall was practically dedicated out of debt. There still remains a small sum to be raised but Mr. Rankin states that he will have that within a few days,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Wednesday, November 26, 1913.

“Exercises in the temple commenced shortly before eight o’clock and the entire program was exceedingly well carried out,” continued the account. There was patriotic music.

“Glenn Hiser, a Cleary College student, recited Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address with a feeling that aroused the enthusiasm of the audience and “Sheridan’s Ride,” pictured by H. C. Rankin, followed after a solo by Mrs. Crawford. The speaker was at his best and the thrilling story was well presented. The speaker of the evening, Commander-in-chief Gardner was introduced by Col. O. A. Janes of Detroit. The address was not only well suited to the occasion but it was masterfully delivered and distinguished by an individuality exceedingly well suited to the occasion. With the advantage of experience, he reviewed the battle scenes and the storming of Missionary Ridge, the fiftieth anniversary of which this dedication was arranged to commemorate.”

The last Civil War veteran residing in Ypsilanti was Oscar L. Austin, who died December 15, 1937. The W. R C. continued to use the building for years after. In 1948 G. Mennen Williams announced his first run for Governor of Michigan in front of the G. A. R. Building.

The building was renovated in 1988 and is still in use today. At this time the 1st Step Referral Services occupy the building.

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: G.A.R. Hall at 110 Pearl Street.

Photo 2: 1st Step Referral Services currently occupies the building at 110 Pearl Street.

An Artist at the Bomber Plant

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Don Choate

The following article was contributed by Pam Shepherd DeLaittre, the author’s niece. Pam lived in Ypsilanti until 1956 when her family relocated to the Minneapolis area.

“Yes, I was lucky not to be in the war! At Willow Run I started out on the production floor testing and oiling the superchargers that went on the planes (B24s). I would sing while working and my boss who was a funny Italian guy wanted me to enter a talent show of the factory workers. So I went to a Detroit theater and sang to a record and came in first. He was always asking me to sing this and that song. I remember the center wing section where they did riveting. The roar of the riveting was enough to make you sick to your stomach when you walked through there. They used little people to be inside of the wing during the riveting process.

I had signed up to be in the engineering department but had to wait until they had an opening. Finally, I was transferred to the drafting department where they designed all of the decals that went on the plane. I worked under a guy who had worked in New York designing advertising lettering. He taught me a lot about the art of lettering. Ironically, I got a D in lettering in art school. But when I went to New York I made a living doing lettering that led to my job designing at Norcross. What was remarkable about the Willow Run plant is that it produced 14 B24 planes a day. Hard to believe that whole period. It’s like I have gone through three or four lives.”

(Don Choate was an artist and activist who worked at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during World War II. He passed away in Columbia, Missouri on October 9, 2008. He was a native of Greenville, Michigan and came to this area to attend college. Don led a long and interesting life including attending art school in New York where he became familiar with the poets and writers of the Beat Generation. He was hired by Norcross Greetings but was later dismissed because of supposed connections with Communists. Don was interested in politics and different points of view and like many others during the McCarthy era was wrongly accused of Communist Party leanings. He continued his career in art, achieving recognition and success.)


Photo Captions:

1. Don worked in the Drafting Department at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during World War II. Workers in this Department were responsible for the various markings on each plane which are visible in this photo of a B-24 on a mission.

2. Don Choate leans against the carved wooden door he made for the Tofle, Hajicek & Oxenhandler law offices in Columbia, MO.

3. Don stands between two of his drawings from his “In Your Face” series and behind a self-portrait (photo by Jenna Isaacson).

Dedication of Civil War Memorial Marker

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2012,
Winter 2012
Original Images:


Author: Michael E. Van Wasshnova

On Saturday, September 22, 2012, at 10 a.m., several area residents witnessed the dedication of Ypsilanti’s latest historical marker. The marker was installed in front of the Thompson building that, during the Civil War, was used as barracks for soldiers on their way to the front. Members of the 17th Michigan Re-enactment Unit had worked hard to have the marker installed. These men and women re-enact many of the battles that the original 17th Michigan fought during the war. Members of the 17th in attendance were; Capt. Doug Nosbisch, Gary Pritchard, Gerald Turlo and John Delcamp. The women of the 17th were represented by Lynn Kalil, Sofia Malynowskiyj, Sally Nosbisch and Sandi Pritchard. The men were dressed in their period uniforms, the women in period dresses.

Also in attendance were three Camps of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). The Camps involved were Gilluly-Kingsley Camp 120 from Howell, Carpenter/Welch Camp 180 of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti and Sergeant John Cosbey Camp 427 from Dearborn. Members of the SUVCW promote the motto: “Keeping green the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic.” The one member of Camp 120 in attendance was Commander Bill Dixon. Members of Camp 180 were; Commander William Eaton, Dan Benfield, Dave Speer and Michael Van Wasshnova. Members of Camp 427 were; Commander Rick Danes, Jack Underwood, Ed Binkley, Dave Curtis, Rick Bower, John Reed, Jerry Jacobs, Allen Treppa and Gary Pritchard.

The ceremonies were held under partly cloudy skies with a stiff wind blowing. Introductions of the principal participants were given by Captain Doug Nosbisch. Gary Pritchard told of his work in getting the marker installed and the history of the 17th Michigan Company E., also known as the Normal Company. It was named the Normal Company due to the large number of Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) graduates and students of the college. The company fought in many of the major battles of the war.

Ypsilanti’s newest marker has the following inscription:

The Barracks
When the Civil War began in 1861, this corner site housed a commercial building called the Norris Block. Its location across the street from the railroad station made it an ideal place for short-term lodging for enlistees waiting to be sent off to battle, and locals soon dubbed it “The Barracks.” The Ypsilanti Light Guard, a local militia company that became Company H, First Michigan Infantry, stayed here in the spring of 1861. They mustered in Detroit on May 1 and arrived in Washington, D.C., on May 16. Recruits for the Fourteenth Michigan Infantry, including 129 men from Washtenaw County, spent six months here from September 1861 to February 1862 while the regiment’s ranks were filled. The Fourteenth first saw action as part of the siege of Corinth, Mississippi.

Ypsilanti in the Civil War
More than 4,000 soldiers from Washtenaw County served during the Civil War. Hundreds bivouacked here, in the Norris Block, before mustering into service. More than thirty men who were students or graduates of the Michigan State Normal School (now Eastern Michigan University) joined Company E of the Seventeenth Michigan Infantry in 1862. Their first action was at South Mountain in Maryland. In December 1863, the First Michigan Colored Infantry stopped here as part of its state-wide recruiting drive. In 1902 veterans of the Twenty-Seventh Michigan Infantry held their reunion here. Since the 1880s this site has been known as the Thompson Block and has had a variety of commercial uses.

Pritchard also described some of the people and organizations who helped the 17th in their dream of having a historical marker realized in Ypsilanti commemorating the veterans of the Civil War. These people were William Christen, Ted J. Ligibel PhD., Eastern Michigan University; Connie Locker, city history contact for the city of Ypsilanti; The Beal Group for doing the work of installing the marker; Matt Van Acker of the State of Michigan; the City of Ypsilanti; Jack Dempsey of the Civil War 150th Commission and Glen Anderson, State Representative.

Commander Eaton of SUVCW Camp 180 was asked to speak a few words for the dedication. John Delcamp, a Son of Ypsilanti and member of the 17th, spoke about the portraits that had been painted on the wall of the building by art students from Ypsilanti High School. There are three portraits of citizens of Ypsilanti on the murals that were instrumental in the war effort. John also read a poem that was written at the war’s end that was very emotional.

The unveiling of the marker was performed by Gary Pritchard and John Dempsey. Following the unveiling, a prayer was read by Capt. Nosbisch, and then a wreath was laid at the marker by Lynn Kalil representing the Ladies of the 17th.

Many folks in the area were not prepared for the next event––a rifle salute followed by taps. The rifle salute was performed by members of Company E of the 17th Michigan Re-enactors. Taps was performed by another of their members.

A pot-luck dinner was offered to the participants at John Delcamp’s house after the ceremonies.

[Michael E. Van Wasshnova participated in the marker dedication ceremonies as a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) Camp 180 of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti.]

SIDEBAR

Over 3500 State Historical Sites in Michigan
20 in Ypsilanti:

Ballard House
125 N. Huron
Brinkerhoff-Becker House
601 W. Forest
Civil War Barracks
River @ Cross
Cleary College (info site)
2170 Washtenaw
William M. Davis House
(Ladies’ Lit)
218 N. Washington info site)
Eastern Michigan College
College Place @ Forest
First Baptist Church
1110 W. Cross
First Methodist Episcopal Church
209 Washtenaw
First Presbyterian Church
300 N. Washington
Hutchinson House
600 N. River
Elijah McCoy
(commemorative site)
229 W. Michigan
MCRR Freighthouse
435 Market Place
Michigan Interurbans (info site)
E. Michigan & N. Park
Prospect Park
Prospect @ E. Cross
Science & Manual Training Bldg.
(Scherzer Hall)
Putnam @ W. Forest
Starkweather Hall
901 W. Forest
Willow Run Bomber Plant
Tyler/Hudson @ US 12
Ypsilanti Area
(Ypsilanti Historical Society
Museum) 220 N. Huron
Ypsilanti Historic District
Approximately 200 properties
Ypsilanti Water Works Stand Pipe
(water tower) Cross @ Summit


Photo Captions:

1. Ladies and gentlemen of the 17th Michigan Re-enactment unit

2. Camp 427 of Dearborn in front of the Ypsilanti High School paintings

3. Camp 180 from Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti in front of the marker

4. Rifle salute by 17th Michigan Re-enactment members

5. Commander William Eaton reading dedication speech

Bob Arvin - An Ypsilanti Hero

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2012,
Summer 2012
Original Images:





Author: Bill Nickels

Our country was in the middle of World War II when Carl Arvin served his country as a Military Police officer. Carl and his wife Dorothy’s first child, Carl Robert “Bob” Arvin was born in 1943 while he served. Carl and Dorothy would have to live their lives to learn the complete role the military would play in their lives.

The family moved to Ypsilanti and lived at 907 Pleasant Drive for most of Bob’s youth. Being across the street from Recreation Park, Bob’s youth fit the ideal 1950s stereotype. He was a prize-winning paper boy for the Ann Arbor News while he attended St. John’s Elementary School. Joining Troop 240 of the Boy Scouts of America at St. John’s Catholic Church, Bob became an Eagle Scout and counseled younger scouts at the Bruin Lake Boy Scout Camp.

A neighborhood girl, Merry Lynn Montonye, frequently saw Bob at Recreation Park. According to Merry Lynn, they never became friends because he was “playing with sticks and doing boy stuff.”

When it came time to attend high school in 1957, Bob choose not to attend a smaller private school and moved to Ypsilanti High School where he hoped his talents could be better exhibited. The fit turned out to be perfect for him.

Bob excelled in both team and individual sports. He played varsity football for four years and was the team’s starting quarterback. He wrestled for four years. During his senior year he was the 154-lb State Champion and co-captain when Ypsi High won the State Championship. Wrestling teammate Tino Lambros remembers “the long, cold, and dark school bus trips to Lansing, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, and other places. “Bob would curl up in those ‘wonderful’ bus seats, pull out a small flashlight and a book and study.”

Among his circle of friends at Ypsi High was that neighborhood girl, Merry Lynn Montonye, who now was captain of the cheerleaders. They dated sporadically, even when the year-older Merry Lynn went off to Duke University.

His club activities included four years on the Debate Team and four years with the Forensics Team where “keys” were earned by representing Ypsi High in interscholastic debates or in District speech contests. Two years with the Thespians led to the lead in the school’s senior play. He also spent two years with the school newspaper and his senior year with the yearbook staff.

Leadership skills were developed by being a Home Room Officer in the ninth grade, Class Officer in the tenth grade, Student Council President in the eleventh grade, and Class President in the twelfth grade. Leadership was broadened by participation in Boys’ State, County Government Day, and the Model United Nations. His high school record was topped by being the Valedictorian for his class and membership in the National Honor Society.

In 1989, classmate Dr. Frank Sayre said “Greatness was in his life. If anyone was destined for major accomplishments, for a national presence, it was Bob Arvin.”

West Point
Upon graduation from Ypsi High, Bob received an honor scholarship from Harvard and scholarships from six other schools. Bob’s mom said, “A Yale scholarship didn’t turn Bob’s head, he was West Point bound.” He became a plebe at the U. S. Military Academy at West Point in July of 1961. The following summer, at Camp Buckner, New York, he distinguished himself by winning both the Triathlon (swimming, cross country and rifle) and “Recondo” competitions. The latter was a hand-to-hand combat pit fight where he was the last man standing among more than 700 classmates.

Bob was also a star athlete at West Point, lettering in wrestling during all three of his varsity years. During his senior year, he was elected captain. His coach was instrumental in conceiving the Arvin Wrestling Award which is given annually to “the graduating member of the wrestling team who best exemplifies the qualities of Carl Robert Arvin in the area of leadership, scholarship, and commitment to Army wrestling.”

As in high school, Bob was active in other areas of student life. He was a leader in the Student Conference on US Affairs (SCUSA) at West Point. SCUSA was a four-day conference where students discussed issues facing our country. His editing interest continued as co-editor of the HOITZER student publication. His devotion to his
Catholic faith continued as a member of the Catholic Chapel Choir and a Catholic Chapel acolyte. Both were some of his most cherished times.

After Merry Lynn graduated from Duke, her first teaching job was in White Plains, New York, a short drive from West Point. It was said their relationship ran hot and cold during this time.

It was the responsibility of General Davison, Commandant of Cadets, to select the First Captain and Brigade Com- mander of the Corps of Cadets during their senior year. He remembered, “It was my privilege as Commandant to select Bob to be First Captain. I admired him greatly; he was a concerned, compassionate leader who held the complete respect of his fellow cadets.” As First Captain, Bob hosted Dwight Eisenhower for his Fiftieth Reunion of the Class of 1915 and broke ground for a new campus building with Eisenhower. He later led the Corps of Cadets in President Johnson’s inaugural parade in Washington D.C.

Bob graduated 44th out of a class of 596 in 1961. He received the Pershing Writing Award where graduates are asked to reflect on their four years at West Point and express what West Point meant to them. As the cadet who best exemplifies the traditions of the United States Military Academy and the United States Army, he also received the Association of the United States Army Award. For exhibiting military efficiency, he won the Avarian Award. He was truly honored as a student at West Point. He received further distinction as a finalist for a Rhodes scholarship.

United States Army
After graduation as a 2nd Lieutenant, Bob went to Fort Benning, Georgia in August of 1965 for specialized training. He completed both Ranger and Airborne Jumpmaster schools. He selected the famed 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as his first assignment. The selection of the 82nd Airborne was indicative of his desire to serve up front with the action.

While in Ranger School, Bob’s West Point friend Mike Moseley invited Bob and his girlfriend Merry Lynn Montonye to a beach house in Delaware. While driving together, Bob asked Merry Lynn to marry him. They married in Ypsilanti at St. John’s Catholic Church on July 30, 1966. They had nine months together before Bob’s assignment to Vietnam in early 1967 as an advisor in the Military Assistance Command Vietnam

Vietnam
Captan Bob Arvin reported to his advisory detachment, the 7th Vietnamese Airborne Battalion, in May 1967. His West Point classmate Chuck Hemingway was also with the 7th Battalion and was killed in June 1967. Bob was assigned to take his place.

The 7th Battalion was assigned to protect the vital Hue Phu Bai Air Base near the town of Hue (the air base is now Hue International Airport). Hue was in the center of a cluster of towns that included Khe Sanh and Da Nang just south of the DMZ that separated North Vietnam from South Viet Nam.

While serving as advisor to the 7th Battalion, the US Army later officially recognized his value: “Captain Arvin was noted for the inspiration he provided the Vietnamese soldiers and was instrumental in assisting them in successfully accomplishing their missions.”

The pace and intensity of the war picked up in the summer of 1967. According to the US Army, on 5 September 1967 “the battalion was deployed in a three-pronged assault on suspected enemy positions. As the unit approached the objective area, the entire left flank came under intense mortar and small arms fire from Viet Cong bunker and trench complexes located on the rice paddy perimeters. An element on the left flank was overwhelmed by the fierce fire and withdrew, leaving Captain Arvin, his counterpart, and two radio operators alone. Undaunted by the perilous circumstances, Captain Arvin led the group forward to engage the enemy. In doing so, one of the radio operators was wounded. Although wounded, himself, Captain Arvin, with complete disregard for his personal safety, moved through enemy fire to the man and dragged him to a relatively protected location. Returning to the group, he began directing repeated armed helicopter gunship strikes as all elements of the battalion now engaged the enemy. Then, heedless of the increasing volume of enemy fire, Captain Arvin established a landing zone and supervised the evacuation of the wounded. Refusing evacuation himself, he returned to the front to continue to advise and assist in the conduct of the battle. As a direct result of Captain Arvin’s indomitable fighting spirit, positive leadership, and calm courage throughout the hours-long battle, the insurgents were forced from their positions and the 7th Battalion was able to secure the objective. Captain Arvin’s conspicuous gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflected great credit upon himself and the military service.”

Following a brief hospitalization, Bob returned to his battalion which was preparing to clear enemy forces from the air base. On 8 October 1967, “Bob’s unit was completing a sweep of a suspected enemy base when an entrenched regiment was engaged.” Again, according to the US Army, “Captain Arvin was accompanying the battalion in a sweep of suspected enemy positions when the unit came under intense hostile mortar and automatic weapons fire. As the volume of enemy fire increased, Captain Arvin called for helicopter gunships to support the attacking Airborne soldiers. Realizing that the battalion was facing a determined enemy, Captain Arvin left his relatively safe position and raced through fireswept fields to a forward position where he expertly began directing the gunships on target. With enemy activity temporarily suppressed, the battalion continued to move forward until it was resubjected to punishing mortar and small arms fire. Once again Captain Arvin valiantly and in full view of enemy gunners, moved through the fire to a forward vantage point. There, as fighting raged about him, he directed extremely accurate, close range gunship passes onto enemy positions. As a direct result of Captain Arvin’s unremitting attention to duty, resolute courage, and superb direction of ground forces and supporting aircraft, a strong and determined enemy was forced to flee in defeat. Captain Arvin’s conspicuous gallantry in action was in keeping with the time-honored traditions of the United States Army and reflected great credit upon himself and the military service.”

In moving forward with his Vietnamese counterpart, Bob was mortally wounded by small arms fire and died on the field of battle. By the request of General William Westmoreland, Bob was days away from being transferred to Saigon as one of his staff.

Epilogue
Arvin’s body was returned to Ypsilanti to lie in state in St. John’s Church, the first layman to do so there and, two days later, a Catholic funeral mass was conducted. His school and Boy Scout life began in the same church that saw the end of his life.

Arvin was buried at West Point on 17 October 1967 with military honors. Mourners included wife Merry Lynn, parents, brother David, Ypsilanti and West Point classmates, West Point wrestling team, 82nd Airborne members, and the Academy Superintendent.

For his engagement with the enemy on 5 September, Bob was posthumously promoted to Captain and awarded a Silver Star for gallantry in action and a Purple Heart for his wounds. For the engagement on 8 October, he was awarded a second Silver Star Oak Leaf Cluster for gallantry and a Purple Heart as a result of being mortally wounded.

Our Vietnam veterans were not welcomed home like veterans of earlier wars but, on 25 February 1989, West Point did their part to keep their memories alive: the cadet gym was officially dedicated and renamed the Arvin Gymnasium in honor of Bob. West Point follows criteria requiring athletic facilities to be named after graduates who distinguished themselves in a sport related to the facility and had fallen in battle while in the prime of life. Graduates back to the founding of the Academy in 1802 were eligible.

A $97 million 495,000-square-foot addition to the 1910 cadet gymnasium was completed in 2005.

The complex was rededicated on 9 September 2005 as the Arvin Cadet Physical Development Center. The ceremony was part of the 40th Reunion of West Point’s Class of 1965. That class lost twenty-five members in Viet Nam––more than any other class. Like Eisenhower, Sherman, Lee, MacArthur, Pershing, and Grant, the name Arvin on a West Point building honors a military hero from the academy.

Frankenmuth resident Stan Bozich saw the need to tell the story of Michigan’s military heroes in 1987 with the construction of the Michigan Military Museum in his home town. Identifying Arvin as one of Michigan’s heroes, he asked the family for some of Bob’s military possessions for an Arvin display and they gladly agreed.

Arvin is memorialized locally as well. On 15 June 2002, the Ypsilanti Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2408 dedicated their post to Bob. It is now and will forever be called the “C. Robert Arvin VFW Post 2408.” In order to personalize Bob’s memory, the VFW asked the Michigan Military Museum for display items to duplicate their display. With agreement from the family, display items were shared and the display was duplicated.

VFW Post 2408 created the “Captain C. Robert Arvin Educational Fund” to honor Bob’s legacy. By 2004, golf outings raised enough money to annually award $1000 scholarships to six-to-twelve local high school graduates. To date, over $80,000 have been awarded! In 2008, the Fund was redesignated as the “Captain C. Robert Arvin Foundation” and is now a Michigan nonprofit corporation. The purpose remains the same.

Ypsilanti High School initiated an “Athletic Hall of Fame” in 2004. Bob Arvin was quickly added to the “Hall” on 30 September 2005. He is immortalized in the school that provided the environment for him to grow into the leader he would become.

During the winter of 2012, David Arvin and Merry Lynn thought about increasing the visibility of Bob’s display housed inside VFW Post 2408. Discussing the issue with Stan Bozich from the Michigan Military Museum, Pete Raymond Commander of VFW Post 2408, and Charles Kettles, they decided to ask if the Ypsilanti Historical Museum would accept the display. The Museum gladly accepted. More will now see Bob’s heroic story.

Why should we keep Bob’s heroic story alive? He became a leader by preparing himself both physically and mentally, making the right choices in life, and making sure the people he associated with were people he could trust. As a result, others accepted him as a leader. That is an important story for all people to learn and know. That story cannot be learned by becoming his friend, but it can be virtually learned through West Point, the Michigan Military Museum, and here in Ypsilanti.

Few are honored nationally, in their state, and locally. Even fewer who lived a brief life of 24 years earn the recognition. We are proud that one such person was an Ypsilantian.

Thanks to David Arvin, Merry Lynn Brondos, Charles Kettles, Jay Baxter, and Tino Lam- bros for providing pictures, memories, and to references from:
West Point Assembly, September 1983.
West Point Assembly, July 1989.
The Ann Arbor News, July 8, 1989.
The Ann Arbor News, May 27, 2002.
Speech to Captain C. Robert Arvin Foundation, June 27, 2008.

[Bill Nickels is a member of the Ypsilanti Historical Society, a constant volunteer, and a regular contributor to GLEANINGS.]


"He was one of the most outstanding young men I have had the privilege of knowing. The Army has lost one of its future leaders." - General William Westmoreland

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Clockwise from top right: Bob Arvin in 1961, receiving the U.S. Army Award, with President Eisenhower, with Vice President Humphrey, Purple Heart and Silver Star awards, leading the President Johnson inaugural parade

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Seventh-grader, Bob Arvin raises his hand

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Ypsilanti High wrestling champ

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Cadet Arvin with his parents

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Bob & Merry Lynn, married at Ypsilanti’s St. John’s church, 30 July 1966

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Dedication of the West Point gymnasiium to C. Robert Arvin

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Ypsilanti Historical Museum intern Lauren Carpenter helps arrange the C. Robert Arvin Memorial

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