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Susan Campbell, editor
Manchester Times

mteditor@lcs.net


 

Note: After receiving this message from Susan today we corresponded back and forth throughout the evening. Susan offered her story to be published and I readily took up the offer. If anyone might know of or may have known him please contact Susan so she might pass the information on to the family.

Steve 

 
 
 
 

A Soldier’s Story
WWII dog tag connects Crowley to the past

By Susan Campbell
Editor

 

A small, shiny metal object lying unseen on the ground for decades has connected a Manchester woman to the daughter of a World War II soldier from Chicago who had no idea her father was ever in the area.

Debbie Crowley, who with her husband Glen operates Crowley Paving, Sealing and Stripping on the Murfreesboro Highway, was helping her granddaughter with a riding lesson when she discovered a single dog tag on the ground that had recently been unearthed.

Crowley knew the soldier’s name – Donald W. Karsner – but little else, but with the help of the Internet, found his obituary that listed the name of his children. She called his daughter, Sharon Streske of Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

“I found out from his daughter that he died in 2006, and that he was a medic in World War II,” Crowley said. “His daughter said that he met his wife in Texas and that he served in the Army and was stationed in Germany, but he didn’t talk much about his service, so she never knew that he was in Tennessee.”

Streske, who with her brother Alan Karsner of Cicero Illinois, say they are anxiously awaiting the dog tag that Crowley has promised to return to them in the mail.

Karsner may not have spoken much about his experiences during World War II, but there is much to learn and more to imagine about this faceless soldier than his name, rank and serial number thanks to a few facts and the World Wide Web.

According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Donald W. Karsner enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army on March 17, 1942 in Chicago. He gave no preference in which branch he wanted to serve, and signed up for the duration of the war, plus six months, “subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise, according to the law.

Pvt. Karsner was a high school graduate, a textile worker, and 25 yeas old.

According to his daughter, Karsner served as a medic with the 473rd Infantry Regiment (Medical Collecting Company), assigned to the 92nd Infantry Division, and was awarded the Bronze Star for service during the Battle of the Bulge, one of the bloodiest battles during the war, where 75,000 Americans were killed, maimed or captured.

 Karsner married his sweetheart, Charlotte, shortly after the war and they raised a family in Chicago. They were born five days apart and died just five weeks apart at the age of 89 in the summer of 2006.

But the question that haunts Crowley, and one that may remain unanswered is, “How did his dog tag end up in her yard in Manchester?”

Opal Stephens, who has lived across the street from Crowley for many years may have an answer.

“They used to do maneuvers in those woods (where Crowley’s house is located) during the war,” she said. “Also, during the war there was a restaurant where the Mike’s Woods and Waters is now. He could have eaten there.”

            Stephens purchased the historic Moonlight Court cabins located on the Murfreesboro Highway 35 years ago. They were a popular destination point when U.S. Highway 41 was a major thoroughfare, she said. Two of the double cabins have been torn down due to water damage.

            The most logical explanation, of course, is that Karsner, at one point during his military career, passed through Camp Forrest, one of the Army’s largest training bases during the war. It covered 85,000 acres and was a training area for infantry, artillery, engineer, signal organizations and cooks. It also served as a hospital center and temporary encampment area for troops during maneuvers.

            Crowley may never know how the soldier’s dog tag ended up in her possession, but she and her husband Glen are now on a search for the matching one. 

            “We put the pen in for the horses about six months ago, and they must have loosened the ground enough to bring the dog tag up to the top. Maybe the other one’s out there somewhere.”

 

Email sent: Mon 8/11/2008

START of CONVERSATIONS
 

I have an update on my soldier. His daughter says he may have been attached to D Company, 107th Infantry, embarked from England in 1944, and his ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in the English Channel. He says that's what saved his life, because he was destined for Omaha Beach. I've got more information on the battles he fought, and that he assisted medically after the liberation of Dachae, but I thought that this might tie him in to Camp Forrest. (SEE "A SOLDIER'S STORY below)

Susan

 

Email sent: Mon 8/11/2008 6:07 PM

 

Would a Staff Sgt. be a junior officer? I have a copy of his honorable discharge papers and I believe it lists him as a S. Sgt. upon discharge, although he went in as a pvt. It's hard to read.

 

Sent: Wed 8/6/2008 4:21 PM

 

Susan… this is in reference to the possibility of him being an officer,

“While the 92nd was referred to as a black unit, and its enlisted men and most of its junior officers were black, its higher officers were white. The 92nd, which had fought in France during World War I, was once again activated in 1942. Under the command of Maj. Gen. Edward M. Almond, the 92nd began combat training in October 1942 and went into action in Italy in the summer of 1944. The unit continued a long and proud tradition by retaining the buffalo as its divisional symbol. Its circular shoulder patch, which featured a black buffalo on an olive drab background, was called The Buffalo–as was the division’s official publication. The 92nd even kept a live buffalo as a mascot”.

http://www.historynet.com/african-american-92nd-infantry-division-fought-in-italy-during-world-war-ii.htm

 

Email sent: Wed 8/6/2008 4:17 PM

He wasn't, and that's what I found so interesting. My research showed the regiment as "colored."

 

Email sent: Wed 8/6/2008 2:58 PM

Susan,
Was this man a black man?
Steve

 

Email sent: Wed 8/6/2008

 

Susan,

I will check through the information I have and let you know if I can help with an answer. I also will post your request for other to see in hope of an answer. I realize we can’t just assume or go on gut feelings but it sure seems likely. Can you scan the dog tag and let me post the tag along with the questions you have?

Respectfully
Steve Speer
865-983-5999

 

Email sent: Wed 8/6/2008 2:07 PM

 

Do you have records where the 473rd Infantry Regiment (or the military collecting unit?) of the 92nd Infantry Division was ever stationed at Camp Forrest?

I am writing a story on a dog tag for a WWII soldier from Chicago that was found near Manchester and we are trying to make a connection. The area where it was found on the Murfreesboro Highway was used for maneuvers, but we don't know if it is related to Camp Forrest or not.

Thanks for your help,

Susan Campbell, editor
Manchester Times

mteditor@lcs.net