Letter: Honor Whittlesey and other Medal winner
Honor Major Whittlesey and other Medal winner
To the editor:
In an interesting Eagle op-ed column on Feb. 19, Rinaldo Del Gallo, III described the heroic actions of PHS and Williams College graduate Charles W Whittlesey in World War I. In October, 1918, Major Whittlesey commanded the famous "Lost Battalion" as it defended a crucial position in the Argonne Forest. Despite being surrounded and suffering overwhelming losses he refused to surrender, thus hastening the end of the war just a few weeks later.
For his heroism, Whittlesey was awarded The Medal of Honor and became a national hero. Del Gallo makes the excellent suggestion that, with the 100th anniversary of the war's end less than two years away, it's not too soon to begin planning a suitable celebration of Whittlesey's heroics.
To set the record straight, the Medal of Honor went to 119 individuals in WW I, not just three. The writer doesn't mention that the US Army Reserve Center on Barker Road is named for Whittlesey; it might be a good site for a celebration.
However, Whittlesey was not Pittsfield's first, nor its only, Medal of Honor winner. For gallantry in action during the siege of Vicksburg on May 27,1863, Sgt. James N Strong, Company C, 49th Massachusetts Infantry, was awarded the coveted medal. Records indicate that Strong entered the Army from Pittsfield, but lived in Fairfield, Iowa after the Civil War; his exploits are described on the Iowa Medal of Honor Heroes website. I believe it would be appropriate to include a commemoration of Sgt. Strong's valor in the proposed celebration.
The event might be incorporated into the 4th of July festivities in 2018, possibly with a brief ceremony at the Army Reserve Center and maybe even with a float in the parade. Pittsfield's young folks — and us old folks too — need all the heroes they can find, especially so in these difficult times.
Richard C Henneberry, Melbourne Fla and Canaan N.Y.