In the season of Veterans Day, in addition to Ray Lambert, it’s appropriate to pay respect to Medfield men who went to war and paid the ultimate price.
There are 12 such men killed in the 20th century who are honored with white on blue plaques in the neighborhoods where they lived. The plaques were placed there by Medfield’s Committee to Study Memorials, which was created some 25 years ago, thanks to the impetus of Richard DeSorgher. Its purpose was to advise the planning board on choosing historically or geographically appropriate names for new streets in subdivisions.
The Committee to Study Memorials also played a key role in transforming Baxter Park in time for the 50th anniversary of D-Day.
The text of the plaques follows:
Clarence Meredith Cutler
1891 – 1921
But by 1910, when he spoke as valedictorian of the exciting challenging and opportunities awaiting his classmates as Medfield High School, all these modern conveniences were becoming common… and he’d become hooked on the Red Sox.
In 1917, when the United States entered World War I, he saw his chance to fly, so he enlisted in the Army’s new Air Corps. He became a flight instructor for new pilots, many of whom saw action on the Western Front.
Lt. Cutler loved flying. He stayed in the service after the war ended and logged over 3,000 flying hours, but in January 1921 he was killed when his DeHaviland DH-4 crashed near Irlich, Germany, close to the Rhine River.
Funeral services for Clarence were held at Chenery Hall, followed by burial, with full military honors, in Vine Lake Cemetery.
Cutler Square is at the corner of Main and Pleasant Streets.
Vincent Paul Bravo
Six weeks after Pearl Harbor, Zeke enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and became a flight engineer in the 455th Army Air Force Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group.
On June 3, 1943, en route from Iceland to a combat mission in Europe, Zeke’s B-26 Marauder bomber crashed into a Scottish mountain in bad weather. All five crew members were killed.
After the war Staff Sergeant Bravo’s body was returned to Medfield. A funeral mass was held at St. Edward Church, and “Vincent” was buried at Vine Lake Cemetery with full military honors.
When he was buried, the caisson that carried his body to the cemetery was the same one that had carried the body of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Bravo Square is at the corner of Main and Spring Streets.
John Parcell Ross Jr.
A month after he graduated with honors from Medfield High School in 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, and he eventually attained the rank of signalman third class.
John participated in the Battle of Okinawa, the longest, bloodiest battle in the Pacific Theater in World War II. He was injured when a Japanese kamikaze pilot hit his landing craft, and he died of his wounds June 4, 1945, about two months before the war’s end.
His funeral was held at the Second Congregational Church in Medfield on August 19, 1945, four days after Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender. His remains were transferred from Okinawa to the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York, on February 15, 1949.
John Ross Square is at the corner of Main and South Streets.
Robert Bernard Sproul
1920 – 1944
Robert joined the U.S. Army Air Corps on January 7, 1943, at the height of World War II. He received his pilot’s wings and was commissioned a second lieutenant the following November. He was based in England and piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress on bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe.
On August 1, 1944, eight weeks after the D-Day landings in Normandy, Robert’s B-17 was shot down fighting to liberate France; all aboard were killed.
Lt. Robert B. Sproul, 401st Bomb Group (Heavy), 615th Bomb Squadron, was buried in France in the American military cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, near Colleville-Sur-Mer. A memorial service for him was held at St. Edward Church.
In 1960 this new street was named Robert Sproul Road in his honor.
Robert Sproul Road runs between Pound and Main Streets.
Ocran George Knehr
Ocran Knehr and his brother George Jr. were the sons of George and Ethel Knehr of 52 Green Street, Medfield. At Medfield High School Ocran was a very popular student with a strong interest in electronics. After graduating in 1934, he joined the U.S. Navy and was trained as an electronics and communications technician.
Ocran was based in Iceland in 1941 during President Roosevelt’s secret undeclared war on Germany. He served as a radio operator on a Martin PBM flying boat. These patrol bombers were used to hunt down U-boats (German submarines) that tried to sink supply ships crossing the North Atlantic. In his letters, Ocran described bombing, shooting, and being shot at.
In November 1941, Ocran and the rest of the crew died when their plane crashed into a sea cliff near Reykjavik, Iceland while returning from a bombing mission.
Ocran’s body was returned to Medfield, where he was buried with full military honors in Vine Lake Cemetery on December 7, 1941. During his funeral at the Second Congregational Church, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was announced.
Twenty-five year old Ocran Knehr left behind his wife, Virginia, and their three-year-old son, George.
Ocran Knehr Square was dedicated November 11, 1991.
Ocran Knehr Square is at the corner of North and Pine Streets.
Richard Chester Werner
Richard C. Werner, son of Chester and Grace Werner, grew up at 67 Harding Street. As a child, he was stricken with polio, but he overcame the disease, though he was left with one leg shorter than the other and with numbness in his toes.
Richard graduated from Medfield High School in 1941. After the Pearl Harbor attack, he joined the Medfield unit of the Massachusetts State Guard. On February 5, 1943, he convinced military doctors he was fit to fly, and he was accepted into the U.S. Army Air Corps.
By May 1944 Staff Sergeant Werner was a turret gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator in the 461st Bomb Group (Heavy), 765th Bomber Squadron.
On May 22, 1944, his plane left a base in southern Italy on a bombing mission to Piombino. Under heavy enemy fire, the plane was hit and disappeared over the Ligurian Sea en route to Corsica. His body was never recovered. Richard was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
Dedicated May 29, 1994, in loving memory – your family and friends will never forget you.
Richard Werner Square is at the corner of Harding and West Mill Streets.
Thomas Michael Clewes
1914 – 1944
He enlisted in March 1943 and served in Company B, 164th Infantry Regiment, in the legendary American Division. In December he took part in the invasion of Bougainville in the Japanese-held Solomon Islands.
Sergeant Clewes was caught in an ambush and struck by machine gunfire. Wounded and pinned down by enemy fire, Tommy coached his men through the action before fellow soldiers dragged him to safety.
Tommy died from his wounds on January 1, 1944. His buddy Orlando Giallanardo, also part of the fatal patrol, asserted, “He was the bravest man I ever knew.” Clewes was decorated with both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals.
He was buried in the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. He is buried beside his brother Ernest of Millis, who was killed two months later in the fighting for Momote Airstrip in New Guinea.
Thomas Clewes left behind his wife, Gladys, and his three-year-old daughter, Bonny Jean.
In 2004 Thomas Clewes Road was named in his honor.
Thomas Clewes Road runs off Dale Street, between the tracks and North Meadows Road.
John Philip Crowder
John Crowder was born in Boston on December 27, 1920. He was the son of Helen and Philip Crowder and later became the stepson of Clarence Palady. The Paladys lived at 44 Miller Street.
John enlisted from Medfield into the U.S. Army nine days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. He was not quite 21 years old. John became a paratrooper in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, known as the “Screaming Eagles.”
On June 6, 1944, D-Day, Sergeant Crowder was part of the greatest invasion force ever assembled. The landings on the beaches of Normandy, France provided a foothold for Allied forces to begin to push back Hitler’s forces and liberate the Nazi-occupied countries.
Sgt. Crowder’s division left England shortly after midnight and were dropped in German-occupied France before the start of the amphibious invasion. Their job was to secure roads to prevent German reinforcements from entering Normandy and to stop Germans from fleeing the battle area.
Sgt. John Crowder was killed in battle shortly after landing in France in the early morning hours of D-Day.
He is buried in Woodlawn National Cemetery, Elmira, New York.
In 2004, John Crowder Road was named in his honor.
John Crowder Road runs off Clewes Road.
Joseph Wilson Pace
1917 – 1941
Joseph Pace, the oldest of three brothers, was born in Portsmouth, N.H. and grew up in Saugus. His widowed mother moved the family to 6 Green Street, Medfield, in 1938 to take a job at the hat factory.
Jobs were scarce, so Joe enlisted in the U.S. Navy and received training.
On December 7, 1941, Radioman 3rd Class Joseph W. Pace was stationed aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania, which was in dry dock in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
That Sunday morning quiet was broken at 7:57 a.m. by Japanese bombers roaring out of the overcast sky.
Pace was one of six members of the Pennsylvania’s antenna repair squad. Everett Hyland, the lone survivor, reported, “The third bomb hit the dock. Joe Pace and my other crew members were instantly killed by the explosion, and I ended up in bad shape covered in shrapnel. We were all fighting in shorts and T-shirts. When the bomb exploded, we were caught in the fireball.”
Joe Pace was the only Medfield serviceman to die during the attack on Pearl Harbor. His body was returned to Medfield the following October. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Saugus.
In 2004 Joseph Pace Road was named in his honor.
Joseph Pace Road runs off Clewes.
Earl Winfred Lee
1922 – 1944
Earl grew up on Park Street. In the summer he loved to walk with his brothers and sister along the adjacent railroad tracks and go swimming at Kingsbury Pond. He attended local schools and was one of 24 to graduate in 1939 from Medfield High School.
After enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps on October 15, 1942, Earl eventually became a flight engineer/top turret gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator, in the 446th Bomb Group, 707th Bomb Squadron, based in England.
On February 4, 1944, Tech. Sgt. Lee and nine others went on a bombing mission to Frankfort, Germany. En route the plane developed engine and intercom trouble, so instead they dropped their bombs on a German V-1 missile construction site they spotted near Abbeville, France, close to the English Channel.
German fighter planes attacking Earl’s plane caused it to crash and explode near Bray-sur-Somme. Earl was killed by machine gun fire while parachuting from the plane. He and the other four crew members killed that day were buried in a local cemetery. The five surviving crew members were taken prisoner.
After the war, the bodies of the five who died were returned to the United States and interred “together until the end of time” in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri on September 9, 1949.
Lee Road and Snyder Road intersect in a subdivision in the vicinity of Wilson and Stagecoach.
George Thomas Snyder
George Snyder was raised in West Virginia. He did not want to spend his life working in the coal mines, so at age 19, he moved to Harding Street, Medfield, to live with his sister Wretha and her husband, Floyd Ours. George went to work at the Atlantic Brick Yard on West Street, Medfield.
A good-natured and adventurous young man, he made many friends in Medfield. At 22, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, to train with the Fifth Armored Division for service in Korea.
Private First Class Snyder was a member of the 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. He was killed while fighting the enemy in Chorwon, North Korea on June 27, 1952, at the age of 22. PFC Snyder is Medfield’s only serviceman killed in action during the Korean War.
His body was returned to his native West Virginia, and he was laid to rest at Point Pleasant Cemetery in Abbott. PFC Snyder was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
Peter Frank Kristof was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on June 23, 1950, the son of Stephen and Kathleen Kristof. The Kristofs moved to Medfield from New Rochelle, NY in 1965 and settled on 23 Belknap Road. Peter had two brothers, David and Michael.
Peter attended Medfield High School where he was a standout on the track team, specializing in the pole vault. Peter’s friends told how he loved to race his 57′ Chevy through town and challenge others to races, which he always won. He, like most Medfield kids back then, hung out by the water bubbler in front of town hall. There Peter would tell his friends how he looked up to his older brother, David, who was in the Marines and how he always wanted to become a Marine. He graduated from Medfield High School with the Class of 1968 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps that October.
He was sent to Vietnam in April 1969 where he served in the infantry. On August 10, 1969, he was killed in action at Mutters Ridge, Hill 484, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. It was reported that Peter was in a foxhole on the wire with a PVT Turner when they took a direct hit while protecting other members of the platoon. Only six Marines walked off that hill the next morning. Peter was not one of them.
The students in Medfield’s small close-knit high school were devastated with the loss of the popular, well known former student who had given his life for his country. Peter was laid to rest in Medfield’s Vine Lake Cemetery.
On Memorial Day 1978, this street, formerly part of Grove Street, was renamed Peter Kristof Way in his honor and on Memorial Day 2016 was rededicated with the plaque.
Peter Kristof Way runs off West Street near North Meadows Road.
In preparing this feature, we noticed that there are memorial plaques yet to be made for Earle Kerr and Stephen Hinkley, though they are memorialized by Earle Kerr Road and the Hinkley swim pond, both off Green Street.