This is Memorial Day Weekend. Along with the joy that summer is here at last, there is also the somber knowledge that Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have died preserving our freedoms.
In 1946, one year after the war ended, Hibbing celebrated its 50th birthday. The town decided to combine that special event with a Victory celebration, a welcome home to all those who had served and a commemoration of those who had died in service.
Hibbing lost 104 servicemen and one servicewoman in the war.
On June 29, 1946, the Hibbing Daily Tribune published a multi-section Special Edition in honor of the town’s 50th birthday and the war’s end. The first section was devoted to Hibbing’s dedication to the war effort. A picture of nearly every Hibbingite who had died in the war was published in this section, along with many articles about homefront and Armed Forces-related contributions.
I have been so lucky to study this Special Edition, not on a microfilm machine like usual, but the actual 1946 newspaper. My great thanks to Dr. Michael Enich who loaned this edition to me. He received it from Collin Versich whose grandmother, Mrs. Joseph Ghilardi, had carefully saved it. I thank them all!
All of the articles on today’s “Years of Yore” page are taken from the Special Edition.
~ Mary Palcich Keyes
1893 – 1946: 50th Anniversary Jubilee Victory Edition
To the pioneer whose vision laid the cornerstone for one of Minnesota’s greatest communities—Hibbing, the iron ore capital of the world, and to their sons and daughters whose participation in the World Wars preserved for posterity the blessings their forefathers struggled to establish—The Hibbing Tribune dedicates this 50th Anniversary Jubilee Victory Edition.
Margaret Gallagher Didn’t Sit on Sidelines in War
No woman from Hibbing played a more direct role in World War II than did Lt. Margaret Gallagher, U.S. Army Nurse Corps, who knows war for having lived it.
She didn’t sit on the sidelines and watch. She was in it.
Her story parallels the story of many a GI in “this man’s army”.
She accompanied the invaders at Salerno, was shipwrecked off the coast when the vessel was bombed, was rescued, returned to her original base in Africa, re-equipped, re-assigned to the Italian mainland.
She was at Anzio when the German land batteries opened fire on a nurses’ unit, was in the beach hospital which was the target of Nazi bombardiers.
She was at Cassino, pushed on to Naples, to Rome.
She suffered with malaria.
She underwent privations of war in every aspect.
She saw five nurses near her killed, three wounded.
She dressed soldiers’ wounds under heavy fire.
She knows how cold and terrifying a foxhole on a damp, death-stung Italian beach can be…
It was November 16, 1944, that she took off – for the last time – the uniform in which she had served so gallantly. Three stripes, denoting her 18 months of service, are on the olive-drab uniform sleeve. And there are two campaign stars on the service ribbon pinned to it—to remember the Battles of Salerno and Anzio.
Miss Gallagher can recall every minute of her 18 months with the nurse corps and is thankful for having been given the opportunity to serve “and maybe help a little bit.”
And more than most, she always looks at a man wearing the discharge button with an expression of near-reverence, for she saw Yankees perform under fire.
Prison Camps Seen by Many
To many Hibbing boys, the oft-filmed, oft-read, oft-told tales of prison camp atrocities – of 30-day bread and water diets, death marches, beatings, existence in filth – are more than horror “stories”.
They are grim realities.
Most cannot yet recall their own terrible existence as prisoners of war—conditions in Military Prison Camp No.1 at Osaka or Stalag 7-A at Munich, for instance. They are bound by censorship restrictions to forget—or, at least, “not remember out loud”—what occurred between their falling into enemy hands and their repatriation trip on “Gripsholm”. (A ship famous for being a major means of transporting prisoners from Japan or Germany back to a neutral site and picking up American and Canadian prisoners to return them home. ~ MPK)
Two boys from Hibbing didn’t make the Gripsholm – Edward Gonsolin and Robert Hanson. They died, prisoners of the Japanese.
Here is the list of those boys—soldiers and sailors—from the Ore Capital whose misfortune it was to be captured.
The list is unofficial—and perhaps not completely accurate—for in compiling it, it could not be determined in many cases whether some were actually prisoners of the enemy or were, during the “missing” period, in the safeguard of the underground or if they had merely been disengaged from their own lines for a time.
Joseph Stimac, George Beuthe, Edward Gimse, Freidorf Maki, Arthur Maki, Walter Miller, Clifford Lynch, John Hecomovich, Harold Novak, Vernon Anderson, John Allison, Raynald Carlson, John Curran, William Lovaas, Arthur Robert Erickson, Robert Wallace, Herman Markell, Lloyd Hyatt, Bronk Smilanich, D.G. McDonald.
John Nehiba was Hibbing’s 1st Casualty
…TO EXPRESS DEEP REGRET THAT YOUR SON, JOHN FABIAN NEHIBA, WAS KILLED IN ACTION IN DEFENSE OF HIS COUNTRY IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS ON APRIL 19…
Those are the bitter words of the first war fatality telegram delivered to a Hibbing home. Words that not only rocked the very heart and soul of young John’s parents, brothers and sisters, but of every citizen in our village.
For that telegram, dated April 21, 1942, brought the war “home” to Hibbing.
Sure, Hibbing had watched busload after busload of boys leave the city for Fort Snelling, and knew many of them were already serving overseas.
But that was so far away. This was different… Hibbing’s first son had died.
And in the sorrow that made heavy the hearts of all of us, a new, war-conscious Hibbing sprung, its citizens bent on vengeance and victory.
The vengeance is perhaps small consolation to the youth who rests beneath foreign sod. But the fact that Hibbing did fight, America did win, liberty was preserved—those must be great consolation to the youth who laid down his life on the blood-drenched battlefields of Corregidor.
Young Nehiba was “in the fight,” so to speak, before it began. He felt war was inevitable that crisp January morning, 1941, when he walked into the army recruiting station in Tacoma, Washington, and signed up.
Nehiba had been on the coast for about six months, working on a ranch out there.
He left the States after only four months of training. They sent him to the Philippines.
As a member of the 60th Coast Artillery, John assumed a station on Corregidor.
Just a week before that “day of infamy,” they sent him to Bataan, where “Mac” and his fighting “Yanks”—John among them—made their immortal stand.
Somehow, some way, John survived the battle of Bataan and got back to Corregidor. There, on April 19, 1942, he died. And then the telegram came to Hibbing…
John isn’t really a native son of Hibbing. He was born in Cloquet. But he came here when just a youngster. He went to the Assumption Hall Catholic School here; graduating in 1932. Then Hibbing High School and a diploma from there in 1936. A couple of years of Junior College, work around town, then the trip out West, then war…
A conscientious Christian, a swell guy, John’s buddy’s words tell the story… “If I wrote a book on his merits, I couldn’t do justice to him. John was simply a good kid. A good American kid.”
The following items are all taken from the Special Victory Jubilee Edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune, June 29, 1946.
Mrs. Anita Kirsch, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Ban of Hibbing, is wife to an army sergeant. She assisted in five bond campaigns, playing a big part in financing the peace which became final August 14, 1945. As secretary to the War Finance committee outside of Duluth, her territory covered 60 townships between I. Falls and the outskirts of Duluth. Bond rallies, bond breakfasts, dinner meetings were arranged, bond quotas set, new ideas on keeping the drive alive were dreamed up, 30,000 records kept up-to-date- all this was included in her duties.
A total of 1,168 men were enlisted for the navy from the Hibbing area from the period of October 1942 to the present, according to figures prepared at the naval recruiting offices in the city hall.
Hibbing had half a dozen practice blackouts during the war, but the one staged on the evening of Wednesday, August 12, 1943, was the most successful of any, according to the files of the Tribune. The people of Hibbing were given official thanks when Major-General Ellard Walsh of St. Paul spoke at the Hibbing High School auditorium and praised the Hibbing Civil Defense Council. The Major-General thanked the press and radio, police and fire departments, Victory Aides and Boy Scouts for the splendid cooperation they displayed. From the lookout on top of the Androy Hotel, he saw with what efficiency Hibbing darkened within a few minutes of the alarm being given.