Posted tagged ‘American Legion’

Illuminating Benedetto Ansuini

September 7, 2018

Ansuini, Benedetto 1942 photo from Certo 25 anniversaryOn June 13, 2017, Illuminated History held its sixth annual cemetery tour in which volunteer actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.  St. Mary’s Cemetery in the town of Perinton, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.  Benedetto Ansuini was portrayed by Doug Whitney.

Hello, friends.  My name is Benedetto Ansuini.  I came to Fairport from Italy when I was a young man.  Although I only had a second grade education, I was fortunate to get a job in the Certo factory here in the village. 

People have called me a hero.  I’m no hero.  I was just doing my job as a soldier.  When the Great War began, I left my new home to fight for the United States.  You see, I was with Company K of the 307th Infantry, 77th American Division.  Our group became known as the “Lost Battalion”, but that was just a phrase coined by a sharp-shooting reporter.  First of all, we knew where we were all the time.  We didn’t get lost. Second, we weren’t one battalion, we were two. 

So here’s what really happened.  After seven days of continuous fighting in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in the Argonne forest, about 600 of us were cut off behind enemy lines.  On October 2, 1918, we’d advanced into the forest under the belief that French forces were supporting our left flank and American units were supporting the right.  We moved beyond the rest of the Allied line not knowing that the French advance had been stalled, and found ourselves cut off from the Allies and surrounded by German forces.  After locating a good defensive position, we started digging in to an area that became known then, and ever after, as “The Pocket”.  On October 3, the Germans attacked us with trench mortars, machine gun fire and grenades. Sniper fire was ringing out all around us.  They even had a flame thrower decimating our ranks like a cookout on the 4th of July.  We suffered many hardships, as our food supply was low, fresh water was difficult to procure and ammunition was in short supply.  At times, we were bombarded with shells from our own artillery.  It was hell on earth.

To make matters worse, every runner dispatched to get help became lost or ran into German patrols and was killed or captured.  The only way we could communicate with headquarters was by carrier pigeons.  Each of the pigeons we sent out was shot down.  Finally, we were down to our final pigeon.  The pigeon’s name was Cher Ami.  He was dispatched with a canister on his right leg with a message from our commanding officer, Major Charles Whittlesey.  The message read: “Our artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us.  For heaven’s sake stop it.”  Right after releasing Cher Ami, a shell exploded directly below the bird, killing five men and stunning the pigeon.  Despite being shot in the breast, blinded in one eye and losing a foot, Cher Ami got through the lines, flew 25 miles to headquarters in just 25 minutes and delivered Major Whittlesey’s message.  It took several more days before we were saved.

From October 2nd through October 8th, the Germans continued a relentless attack against us.  The attack wasn’t only physical, but mental.  A demand to surrender was received.  “The suffering of your wounded men can be heard over here in German lines, and we are appealing to your humane sentiments to stop.”  You see, they wanted Major Whittlesey to give up, but he knew how important it was to the war effort to forge ahead.  Reporters say the Major’s response to the Germans was, “Go to hell!” but that was just to sell newspapers.  Major Whittlesey actually didn’t send a response.  He didn’t feel it was needed.  We had a job to do, and we were damn well going to do it.  All of us knew it.

Well, relief finally arrived at 15:00 hours on October 8, when the Allied reinforcements broke through the line.  They arrived in the nick of time.  We went in as a force of 600 men, but only 194 came out unscathed.  The rest were captured, missing, wounded or dead.  Among the dead were three out of the eight men in the group from Rochester.  Homer Rayson, from Pittsford, survived, only to die a hero 10 days later trying to obtain water for the regiment from a spring that was under heavy machine gun fire.  In fact, the guys from Pittsford named their American Legion Post the Rayson-Miller Post in part after Homer Rayson.

I continued serving with the military until May, 1919, when I was honorably discharged.  Life pretty much went on as if the war had never happened.  I came back to Fairport and married my sweetheart, Concetta Rinaldo, and went back to work at the Certo plant.

Concetta and I had two sons, both of whom were born in Fairport – Louis in 1921 and Salvatore in 1924.  Salvatore, who liked to be called Sam, was an all-star athlete and graduated from Fairport High in 1942.  Both boys served during World War II.  I’m proud of both of my boys.  They married and gave me wonderful grandchildren.

Another highlight in my life came in 1942, when I was brought to New York City and honored for working 25 years in the Certo division of General Foods.  I was awarded a gold lapel emblem, a $100 defense bond and an extra week’s paid vacation.  That was an honor, to be there with the other men who had worked for Certo for so long and to be recognized for it.  But, by far, the best part of the trip was when I was asked to speak about my experiences with the Lost Battalion in a radio broadcast to a nationwide audience.  That was really something. 

Lost battalion survivor Benedetto Ansuini died in 1971. He is buried at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Perinton, New York.

(c) 2017 Vicki Masters Profitt

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They Will Be Remembered. It’s the Right Thing To Do.

May 29, 2011

Thanks to the generosity of the American Legion Rayson-Miller Post 899 Auxiliary and Home Depot #1247 in Penfield, New York, all 85 of my Pittsford Civil War soldiers will have a flag by their graves this Memorial Day.

Recently the Rayson-Miller Auxiliary, of which I am a member, donated money toward the purchase of flags for my Civil War soldiers.  After researching the best prices, I decided to purchase the flags from Home Depot.  I arrived at the Home Depot in Penfield, New York, and asked the representative at the service desk if the store would give a bulk discount if I purchased flags for the American Legion Auxiliary.  The service rep spoke by phone with one of the managers, Brad, who said yes, they would deduct 10% from the cost of the flags.

I headed back to the flag endcap and began counting out flags.  Eighty-five flags were required if I was to place one by the grave of each of my Civil War boys.  A few minutes went by before a man, whose Home Depot apron identified him as Brad, came over to speak with me.  Brad asked how many flags I needed.  After hearing that I required 85 flags, Brad replied that Home Depot wanted to contribute $50 toward the cost of the flags.  I was dumbfounded by his generosity.  I thanked him profusely, to which he stated, “It’s the right thing to do”.  His response brought tears to my eyes.

Thanks to Brad and Home Depot, I was able to purchase 144 flags.  My young children assisted me with placing the flags at the graves of my soldier boys at Pittsford Cemetery.  We greeted each soldier by name as we placed their flag.  There were so many extra flags we were able to place them on the graves of soldiers of other wars as well.  These soldiers, who have rested in eternal sleep for so many years, are no longer lost to history.  They had lives and they were loved.  They will be remembered.  It’s the right thing to do.

Looking Back While Facing Forward

January 1, 2011

The end of the year brings reflection as we put to rest one year while looking ahead to a new beginning.  I’ll always remember 2010 as an incredible year for my Civil War soldiers project, as well as for the start of some new research projects. 

Martha Jewett & Evan Marshall visit Mary Jewett Telford's grave

In January, I met a descendant of one of my Civil War veterans.  Martha Jewett is the second great-grandniece of Civil War nurse Mary Jewett Telford.  Martha and her husband, Evan Marshall, drove to Fairport to attend my Illuminated History presentation for the Perinton Historical Society.  After Martha and Evan returned home, we spent a frantic two weeks emailing and calling each other in order to meet the deadline for Mary Jewett Telford’s nomination to the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  We will soon hear whether we were successful in our endeavor.

With February came a slight shift in my research, as I began to study the World War I soldiers of Pittsford.  February was also memorable as it was the first time I have formally interviewed a research subject.  Bill Cooper, a World War II veteran and survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, was my assignment.  Bill is a member of American Legion Rayson-Miller Post 899.  The stories he shared about his military experience and life with his wife, Margaret, were 

Bill Cooper, World War II vet

 inspiring.  I also had the opportunity to meet with Philip G. Maples for the first time.  Phil is the Director Emeritus of the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives.  Since then, I have volunteered research time to the RMMA, as well as spent time with Phil, who is himself a Civil War researcher and enthusiast.  I proudly headed to school in February to hear my daughter make her first presentation by portraying Civil War nurse Mary Jewett Telford.

March rang in another opportunity to interview a Battle of the Bulge veteran.  This time it was Ed Kinnen, also a   member of Rayson-Miller.  Ed and his wife, Ellen, graciously invited me into their home so I could talk with Ed about his World War II service.  We share a common love of genealogy, and I was happy to hear them speak of their children and grandchildren and the importance of sharing the family history with them. 

Lynda Skaddan & Jane Andersen, Telford descendants

The next few months went by in a blur as I once again collaborated with Pittsford Town Historian Audrey Johnson for our annual Pittsford Cemetery tour in May.  Theo X. Rojo, who researches the men of the 13th NY Infantry and the 22nd NY Cavalry, contacted me in May and we have spent much time emailing back and forth regarding those units and others.  June was the pinnacle of excitement.  I gave a tour at Greenvale Cemetery for the Perinton Historical Society members.  I was so pleased to meet Cheri Branca, one of my online friends and fellow Find A Grave contributor, who attended the Greenvale tour with her husband, Matt.  Jane Andersen and Lynda Skaddan, descendants of Robert Telford, made a special trip to Fairport with Lynda’s husband Ray so I could meet them at Mary Jewett Telford’s grave to discuss her life.  Mary was wed to Robert’s younger brother, Jacob Telford.  In June, I also had the opportunity to meet Norman and John Henry Miller, who are the nephews of Henry L. Miller.  Henry was killed at Belleau Wood during World War I.  Norm and John are not only veterans themselves, but they come from a long line of men who served their country, beginning with their great-grandfather, Civil War veteran Henry L. Mueller.

Throughout the rest of 2010, I gave a presentation for the American Legion Rayson-Miller Post 899 and discussed the 

John and Norm Miller at the grave of their uncle, Henry L. Miller

early history of the post and its members.  Audrey Johnson and I hosted another tour of the Pioneer Burying Ground in October, and I started a Facebook page for Illuminated History.  However, I think the biggest thrill has been meeting the veterans’ descendants and other researchers, both in person, by phone and online.  I spoke by phone with John R. Bacon, grandson of WWI & WWII Lieutenant Colonel Howard Bacon and great-grandson of Civil War vet John Buckley Bacon, after emailing back and forth for several years.  I spoke with veteran David Retchless about his military service, as well as those of his brother, father and uncle.  Tyler Emery, the current owner of the Retchless military memorabilia, and I have corresponded via email and he has graciously shared photos of the contents of the trunk he owns.  At the Pioneer Burying Ground tour, I met Gail and Marilyn, the daughters of World War I vet Raymond L. Hulbert.  I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Lloyd F. Allen’s daughters, Betty Anne and Katie, as well as his granddaughter, Elizabeth.  Dr. Allen, like his friend and neighbor Howard Bacon, had also served in both World Wars.

2010 was an extraordinary year.  Thank you for your interest in my project, and your appreciation for these veterans.  With your support, Illuminated History will continue to shine the light on these heroes for many years to come.

Henry L. Miller, Lost at Belleau Wood

October 29, 2010

He was supposed to be a farmer, like his father.  But when the United States entered the Great War, Henry L. Miller felt a patriotic duty to join the fight.  Henry enlisted in Co. M, 49th Infantry of the regular Army, on July 26, 1917.  Soon thereafter, he transferred into Co. M, 23rd Infantry, 2nd Division and began training in Syracuse.  Little more than one month later, young Miller shipped overseas.

Henry L. Miller was born in Perinton, New York, on April 23, 1895, but moved to Pittsford, New York, at an early age.  The third child of Charles and Reka Miller, he was their first son.  Three more daughters and another son, Norman, later joined the Miller family.  Dorothy, Henry’s youngest sibling, was just 9 years old when he went overseas.  She must have been so proud of her big brother.  Henry no doubt smiled as he received the packages of letters from his sisters and brother which sporadically reached him somewhere in France.

The letters Henry wrote home most likely inspired both pride and fear in his parents.  Henry wrote of life at the front.  He mentioned the six weeks he had spent in the trenches before being allowed a short period of rest.  He talked of going “over the top” of the trenches to pitch headlong into the thick, German artillery fire.  Somehow, Henry managed to survive.  Then came Belleau Wood.

On June 6, 1918, the Marines stationed with the 23rd Infantry sustained casualties of 31 officers and nearly 1,100 men.  The 23rd Infantry also lost many good men, including Henry L. Miller.  Four weeks after the Battle of Belleau Wood, the Miller family received official notification that Henry was missing in action.  It took another three weeks before Charles and Reka Miller were formally notified that their son, Private Henry L. Miller, had died at Belleau Wood on June 6.  Henry was buried in France and would remain there for three long years until his parents could bring him back to Pittsford.

Henry L. Miller

“Hero’s Body Arrives” touted the local papers.  Henry L. Miller was home.  On September 11, 1921, the remains of Henry Miller were interred at Pittsford Cemetery.  He was laid to rest beside his grandparents, Henry and Elizabeth Lussow Mueller.  The military honor guard that oversaw the burial were members of a one-year old American Legion Post known as Rayson-Miller Post 899, so named after Homer Rayson, who was killed in action in October, 1918, and Henry L. Miller.  This year, the Rayson-Miller Post celebrated their 90th anniversary. 

The Miller family of Pittsford has a proud history of military service.  Beginning back in the Civil War when Henry’s grandfather, Henry L. Mueller, fought for the Union with the 8th NY Cavalry, the Millers have had over 15 family members serve in the armed forces.  These Miller men have served in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea and in the Persian Gulf.  Something tells me Henry L. Miller would be extremely proud of such a legacy.

In the Works

June 23, 2010

E.J. Tyler Post 288 banner, Pittsford, New York

Now that my Pittsford and Greenvale Cemetery tours are over, I’m working on some exciting projects for the summer and fall. 

First is the booklet I’m writing about the charter members of American Legion Rayson-Miller Post 899.  The Post was organized in 1920, taking over where G.A.R. – E. J. Tyler Post 288 left off.  One of the charter members, Howard R. Bacon, was a son of Civil War soldier John Buckley Bacon.  The booklet will also commemorate the two men after whom the Post was named – Homer Rayson and Henry L. Miller.  In conjunction with the booklet is my October 30th presentation for the Rayson-Miller Post, which is open to the public.

In October, I will once again pair with Pittsford Town Historian Audrey Johnson to give a tour of Pioneer Burying Ground.  Despite the inevitable rain, discussing the pioneers of the town is always interesting.  Soldiers of nearly every conflict from the Revolutionary War through World War II are interred at the Pioneer Burying Ground.

Also in the works is a research project for the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives.  I am in the process of culling the Rochester City Directories and census records in order to produce a comprehensive list of nurses in the Rochester, New York area from the Civil War through World War II.  Using newspaper reports and genealogical sources, an article I’m writing will feature the love story between a Civil War doctor and a nurse.  A second article is about a Rochester nurse who was accused of insanity…all because she chose to give away her personal belongings to friends instead of the family members she despised.

There are plans for the continued illumination of Civil War nurse Mary Jewett Telford.  She was an amazing woman with an incredible story to tell. 

It  looks as if it will be a busy summer.  Just the way I like it!

A Salute to Our Soldiers of Yesterday and Today

November 11, 2009
Laying the wreath at Port of Pittsford Park

Laying the wreath at Port of Pittsford Park on Veteran's Day 2009

Before attending the Veteran’s Day ceremony at Port of Pittsford Park this morning, I stopped by Pittsford Cemetery to pay my respects to some of my Civil War boys.  It is difficult to believe that the Civil War came to an end 144 years ago.  So many things have changed in those years and yet some things remain the same.  We are still losing soldiers. Although most of them are lost on foreign soil, thirteen soldiers were killed at Fort Hood recently by one of their own.  America mourns these heroes just as she mourns the soldiers lost in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Civil War was not our first war, nor was it destined to be our last.  Our great country has gone to war many times since the War of the Rebellion.  Spanish-American War.  The Great War.  World War II.  Korean War.  Vietnam War.  Gulf War.  War in Afghanistan.  War in Iraq.

Today I give thanks to those who currently serve, and those who have previously served, our country during wartime and during times of peace.

  • Thank you to my Civil War boys for helping to shape our country into what it has become today. 
  • Thank you to the veterans of World War II, many of whom I am privileged to know personally through American Legion Rayson-Miller Post 899. 
  • Thank you to the soldiers of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Thank you to my family members and friends who served –  my husband, U.S. Army during the Gulf War – my father, a paratrooper in the Vietnam years – my paternal grandfather, WWII Civilian Air Patrol – my maternal grandfather, WWII Army Corps of Engineers who served at the Battle of the Bulge – and my friend G. Jeff Hall, U.S. Airforce medic who served in Iraq during the Gulf War. 

My gratitude also extends to someone whom I have never met, my friend Karen’s cousin, Staff Sgt Nekl “Nick” B. Allen.  Nick was killed in Afghanistan in September 2009.  He served with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team and was a Rochester, NY native.

We remember you today, and we thank you for your service.


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