Sgt. Joseph Alton Barnes, Engineer Gunner in WWII


Sgt. Barnes is 4th from the left with a B-17 behind them.

Joseph Alton Barnes was recently featured in the Wilson Times for receiving his high school diploma at the spry age of 92 through a program called Operation Recognition.  Not long after the article appeared, Alton’s daughter, a staff member at WCPL, brought me his WWII photos to be digitized.  They will soon be on his page at Wilson County’s Greatest Generation: The Memories of the World War II Veterans of Wilson County, N.C. at DigitalNC.  But here are a few to hold you over.


Mission Record


Sgt. Barnes on a downed German plane (maybe a Junkers Ju-88 night fighter) in France.


One of the B-17s Sgt. Barnes flew in combat.


Another B-17 that Sgt. Barnes might have used.



Part of the British, Chain Home coastal radar system?


I’m not going to tell you what this is.


Alton in training in Louisiana?

Lt.Robert Anderson: letters from the front in WW1

unknowns_robert_paul_andersonIn 2014 the 100th anniversary of the First World War arrived. It has become a war that feels nearly as distant as the Civil War or the American Revolution. It is a war that was known for its high death toll as modern technology introduced machine guns, airplanes, and tanks to the battlefield. It is important to remember the men of that war as individuals, not merely numbers on a tally.
Among those men was First Lieutenant Robert B. Anderson of Wilson, North Carolina. Robert was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cantigny on May 29th, 1918, dying at an aid station a short time later. For his bravery he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (US) and the Croix DeGuerre (France).

. RBA_medals


The Anderson family has preserved keepsakes of Lt. Anderson’s service. Most cherished among these are three written before his death.
The first was to his father written on New Year’s Day, 1918. In it Robert speaks about his deep respect for his father, and the influence his father left on his life. While not dramatic in its words you can nonetheless feel certain intensity as Robert reflected on his father while looking at the war he was to fight. With his father he shares his pride in being a soldier, as well as being proud of his father.Anderson_1918_3rd_letter_1

New Years letter to Father

New Years letter to Father

The other two letters were written the same month he died. The first is a Mother’s day letter. Among other things, he describes how everyone in his unit felt how important it was to send a letter for Mother’s day. He goes on to speak of how well written some of his men’s letters were. Robert himself had enough duties that he apparently had to squeeze in the letter throughout the day just finishing in time for lights out. It has a warm and hope filled tone.



Mother's Day letter

Mother’s Day letter

The last letter was written to his mother on the 27th, just two days before his death. He was suffering from the Spanish Flu, and preparing himself for the upcoming battle. It was almost as if he knew ahead of time that he was not going to survive the fight. The letter talks about his life insurance policy ($11,000 which is a goodly sum for those days). He goes into detail that he hadn’t received all his pay so there should be back pay coming to his family should he fall in battle. Robert tells his parents to “do what they like with the money”. He then follows this practical advice with spiritual words. He says that if he dies for them to remember, “I will be in safe keeping, waiting for when God calls you and Dad and we will…be together.” Apparently, he must have felt bad for having sounded so serious and then tries to say how everything will be alright and the place he is going to be will be in the papers; a place called Cantigny.



Last Letter of Robert Anderson, two days before his death

Last Letter of Robert Anderson, two days before his death

Death Notification of  Lt. Anderson

Death Notification of
Lt. Anderson

Johnnie Zolman
Guest Blogger/Library Intern
Wilson Public Library

Who do you think you are


Chelsea Handler learning about her Grandfather’s time as a POW in Montana during WWII.

The Learning Channel, not what it used to be.  I think I used to watch great shows like Connections, Ancient Civilization Tuesdays and Desmond Morris documentaries on TLC.  Now it is Toddlers and Tiaras, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Obese and Pregnant,  which is fine if you want to enjoy something ironically.   But there is one show that’s good if you are into genealogy and that is Who do you Think You are?  I really haven’t watched this show before I watched the Chelsea Handler episode, but I had seen the Henry Louise Gates similar show on PBS called Finding your Roots.  The Gates show is a bit better but both are sensationalistic.  However that is what makes great television!

The Handler episode is interesting because she was raised Jewish but her maternal grandfather served in the German Army during the war but also awkward because she makes some bad jokes.  Being in the German Army during the war certainly doesn’t make someone a Nazi but it doesn’t make them an objector either,  so as is most things  in life the answers she finds are neither good nor bad.  He was just a man who lived in Germany during WWII and did what millions of other German men had to do to survive.

I was interested in watching the show because I visited the Dachau concentration camp and my mother’s maiden name of Baer was on the list of SS prison guards.  Seeing that made me uneasy, even though there would be no recent connection to my family.  Also there was a patron here last week looking for more information on Dachau because his mother was held in the camp during the war.  He said that she was a prisoner due to her mother being French.

Watch the episode here.

Sgt. John Gray Lamm, 36th Armored Infantry


Just created a splash page for an interview that I did with WWII veteran Sgt. John Gray Lamm.  This will be a part of the Digital NC Wilson County’s Greatest Generation project.

Yank Magazine


Yank Magazine


Chili Williams, Yank pin-up girl and GI inspiration.

I’ve got a stack of Yank Magazines from World War Two in the Local history room.  I just digitized one of them from November 1944.  Yank Magazine started in June, 1942 and ended in December, 1945.  It had 21 edition on in 17 countries (the editions we have are British). They were made for GI’s and the magazine looks like it was modeled on Life Magazine with it’s large photo’s and even the cover design.  Inside the one that I digitized you will find an article on the liberated concentration camp called Vittel, an account of the battle for the German city of Aachen (I visited the rebuilt version of Aachen 10 years ago), the Japanese threat to China, news from home, sports, letters and the most popular feature of the magazine the pin-up girl.