Memo­rial will honor 2 World War I vet­er­ans who died at Get­tys­burg

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JU­LIA BROUILLETTE

The last troops to die on the Get­tys­burg Bat­tle­field in Penn­syl­va­nia did not fight in the in­fa­mous Civil War con­flict, but in World War I.

Capt. Ge­orge Hamil­ton and Gun­nery Sgt. Ge­orge Martin — both Marine Corps avi­a­tors — died in a plane crash on the bat­tle­field dur­ing train­ing ma­neu­vers in June 1922.

As the 95th an­niver­sary of the crash ap­proaches, Get­tys­burg-area res­i­dents and the Get­tys­burg Bat­tle­field De­tach­ment of the Marine Corps League are work­ing to es­tab­lish a memo­rial to honor the fallen fly­ers.

“When those Marines got killed here, it made na­tional news,” said Richard Ful­ton, a Get­tys­burg writer/his­to­rian who helped spear­head the memo­rial ef­fort. “This is just an­other piece of his­tory that’s gone by the way­side.”

Hamil­ton, a highly dec­o­rated sur­vivor of the Bat­tle of Bel­leau Wood near the Marne River in France dur­ing World War I, was fly­ing a dive bomber over the Get­tys­burg bat­tle­field with Martin dur­ing re-en­act­ment ma­neu­vers. The plane crashed while the pi­lots at­tempted to land at a farm in south­ern Penn­syl­va­nia.

In the week be­fore the crash, the fly­ers and 5,500 other Marines marched from Quan­tico, Vir­ginia, to Get­tys­burg to per­form Civil War re-en­act­ments — a public demon­stra­tion that dou­bled as a train­ing ex­er­cise.

“They pulled out tanks and dive bombers and re-en­acted Pick­ett’s Charge, World War I style,” Mr. Ful­ton said. “Re­ally made quite a bit of noise, I’m sure. But that’s why the dive bombers were there.”

The demon­stra­tions also helped save the Marine Corps from be­ing dis­banded af­ter World War I, said Mr. Ful­ton, who co-wrote the book “The Last to Fall: 1922 March, Bat­tles & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Get­tys­burg.”

“The Marine Corps was strug­gling to present its im­por­tance to the public in or­der to save it­self,” he said.

The fa­mous bat­tle­field was used again dur­ing World War II, when it served as a camp for 800 German pris­on­ers of war. While at the camp, pris­on­ers were re­quired to work for lo­cal farm­ers. The cheap la­bor helped save the area’s agri­cul­tural econ­omy, Mr. Ful­ton said.

The memo­rial, which is slated for a ded­i­ca­tion in June, is to honor the two fly­ers who have been “buried in the fo­cus of the Civil War,” he said.

“This whole town has been kept in this lit­tle warp of three days in 1863 be­cause of the bat­tle­field be­ing here,” he said. “So a lot of the other his­tor­i­cal events that have hap­pened here have been for­got­ten.”

The Get­tys­burg Bat­tle­field De­tach­ment of the Marine Corps League set up a Go­FundMe web page to raise $7,500 for the memo­rial. The page had raised more than $2,750 as of Tuesday.

Mr. Ful­ton said the memo­rial will in­clude his­tor­i­cal facts about the pi­lots and the crash.

The Get­tys­burg Her­itage Cen­ter, a gift shop and mu­seum ded­i­cated to Get­tys­burg his­tory, do­nated a por­tion of its prop­erty near the crash site for the memo­rial.

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