Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The book that was referenced on page 2 of the Daily Sun News’ “Salute to Heroes” section published last November is the story of Austin Walter Johnson, a native of Butte, Neb., who spent his final 20 years in Sunnyside and is buried in the Sunnyside Cemetery beside my mother, Lillian (Wagner) Johnson.
Two of his surviving sons, Raymond A. and George V. Johnson, still live in Sunnyside. It was my brother George who supplied the photograph for your Nov. 6 article. I want to register my thanks to George for his contributions.
I write with an update, a curiosity and a question for your readers.
Update: as currently drafted and subject to further revision, the book’s title will be “Austin in the Great War: A Nebraska Farm Boy in the 12th Balloon Company.” The book is projected at somewhere around 400 pages, including maps and images. I expect to have the completed manuscript in hand around mid-summer.
I have a question for your readers, but first, here’s a curious fact: at the time of their enlistment, two other veterans who served in the Observation Balloon Corps of the U.S. Air Service in France showed Sunnyside as their home town. Their names were Alfred V. Sullivan and Clarence Milton Morgan. My father, Austin, listed Butte, Nebraska as his home town because he relocated to Sunnyside from there by way of South Dakota, where he married and started his family, and Idaho where I was born.) Sullivan and Morgan were both privates, as was my father. Bear in mind that the entire Observation Balloon Corps complement in France amounted to only 7,000 enlisted men and officers. Considering those few numbers, it’s a rather startling coincidence for a town as small as Sunnyside in a country as large as the United States to have had three of its men serve in the Balloon Corps.
Now to my question: do any readers of the Daily Sun News possess any background information on either Sullivan or Morgan? I know that Pvt. Sullivan was a “chauffeur” in the 3rd Balloon Company but I have no information on Pvt. Morgan. He did list an “In Care of” address as follows: “D. F. Wilson, R.F.D. 2, Sunnyside.” Further investigation has revealed that person to have been a woman, Dale F. Wilson. Was Pvt. Morgan perhaps engaged to her when he entered the Army?
I’ve viewed the gravestone of Pvt. Sullivan. He is buried in the National Cemetery at San Bruno, Calif. However, I haven’t located the grave of Pvt. Morgan. It would be great to hear from your readers about these two men. Any information would be very welcome and gratefully acknowledged in my book.
/s/ Robert Eugene Johnson, 307 Emerson St., Palo Alto, Calif. 94301