The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 31, 2013

12 who never returned

JOPLIN, Mo. — While thousands of men from the Four-State Area served during World War II, many never came home, including these 12 with ties to Joplin.

ALFRED AKERS

“Wilder than a new beer” was the way the men in his unit described Akers. He had no living relatives, according to records, and had grown up in an orphanage. He ran away from there, dropped out of school and for a time even joined a circus. The Army thought he wouldn’t make much of a soldier; he couldn’t even stay in step.

The Army was wrong.

His bravery in combat stood out. He was twice wounded, receiving the Bronze Star and then the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster. He was killed in 1945 in Italy, leading a platoon that was attacking an enemy-occupied hill. He was 28.

Throughout the war, Akers had been purchasing war bonds with his pay. Before he died, he had left instructions that “in case anything happens to me,” his money was to be given to orphans.

GEORGE CROWDER

A Joplin High School graduate, Crowder had worked at the Montgomery Ward store in town as a window decorator before he entered the service in 1943. He was 20 when he was mortally wounded in early 1945 during fighting for Balete Pass on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

R.J. FRANKENSTEIN

A star center on the 1941 Joplin High School football team, Staff Sgt. Frankenstein was killed in January 1945 in Belgium. A popular student, he had served as “mayor” when the senior class took over city offices for a day as part of a civics lesson. Before entering the service, he had worked in the laboratories at Eagle-Picher Lead Co. He was 23 when he was killed.

BENNETT GRIFFIN

A field artilleryman whose mother lived at 721 Brownell Ave., Griffin served as a radio man for an artillery reconnaissance crew. He had volunteered as a forward observer, relaying enemy activity to the gun crew. A letter sent to his mother in 1945 by Gen. George Patton said Griffin’s body had been placed in a church in France after he was killed, and that he later was buried nearby with military honors.

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