Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Colonel Merle Howe: "You go there and back for a commander like him."

Merle Henry Howe was born on April 11, 1896 in Mount Pleasant, Isabella County, Michigan, to parents Henry W. Howe (1864-1916) and Edith Adell Knight (1872-1944). The family had resided in southeast Fremont Township of that same county on an 80-acre farm in Section 26. 

Howe attended the Rust and Hay School (Township District No. 5) in that area along with his sister Lena, and both went on to Central State Normal College by 1917, a teacher preparation school and the forerunner of today’s Central Michigan University. 

He had planned for a career in teaching but his studies were interrupted by America’s entrance into World War I. By then residing at 208 E. Maple Street in Mount Pleasant, Howe registered for the draft on May 30, 1917 and became a cadet at the Reserve Officer Training Camp at Fort Sheridan. His father having passed away the previous year also made Howe the sole source of support for his mother and younger siblings. His draft registration described Howe as single, tall of medium build, and having gray eyes and light-colored hair.

1908 Rust and Hay School - Merle is back row 2nd from the left; sister Lena is middle row 2nd from the left.

Howe entered the service with the rank of private on August 15, 1917, having completed R.O.T.C. He was assigned to 3rd Company of the 10th Regiment. His term as a private lasted until January 6, 1918 when he was appointed 1st Lieutenant, Air Corps. Howe was assigned as a pilot to the 158th Aero Squadron and that winter embarked for France on the Tuscania, which had been converted to troop transport duty. 

The giant Cunard ship was carrying 2,179 American soldiers, many of which were 32nd Division soldiers from Wisconsin, under British convoy when it was sunk by enemy torpedo on February 7, 1918. As many as 260 may have been lost according to The New York Times. Howe and 100 other Michigan men were on board including a unit of Michigan’s 107th Engineers. Most of them survived the sinking. Re-formed in England, the 158th trained as a Pursuit Squadron but never entered combat.

Howe's World War I Draft Registration
Colonel Howe’s father passed away in 1916 and was buried in the Green Cemetery, Strickland township. He left behind Edith, Merle, and two daughters (Ida and Lena). Merle met his future wife, Virginia Mullen, at a dance for young student pilots in 1917, and following the war they were married on March 8, 1920, having been discharged from the service on February 19th of the previous year. Virginia, born the daughter of Charles Thomas Mullen (1860-1929) and Annie Reynolds (1862-1938) on April 16, 1900 in Belleville, Illinois, settled with her husband in Grand Rapids where they set up house at 22 Highland Street SE.

Before their marriage and just after his discharge, Howe had returned to Central State Normal College and concluded his studies for a Bachelor of Science degree in teaching.  The state’s professional education publication at the time, titled “Moderator-Topics,” contained a short entry in its February 27, 1919 edition under the heading “Central Normal Notes: Lieut. Merle Howe, and old C.M.N. boy, has just received his discharge and is around the campus again, with most interesting stories of more than 12 months of overseas service as one of Uncle Sam’s airmen. Lieut. Howe was on the ill-fated Tuscania when she was torpedoed off the north coast of Ireland about a year ago, and was one of the last to leave the ship.

Central State Normal School Class of 2019 - Howe is on the left
Howe went to work as a teacher and the faculty athletic event manager at the old westside Union High School on Turner Avenue. His mother was also a teacher, working at the one-room Little Brick school in Deerfield Township west of Mt. Pleasant. This is likely an occupation chosen after the death of her husband since in those days, most school boards would not hire a married woman. Over his twenty years at Union, Merle Howe taught high school electricity, arithmetic, history and general science courses and was a member of the Grand Rapids Teachers club, Grand Rapids Schoolmen’s club, Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Industrial Education Association.

1931 Union HS Yearbook - Howe 2nd row from bottom, 2nd from left
Merle and Virginia had four children: Virginia H. born March 19, 1922; Marion September 3, 1924; John Thomas July 18, 1928; and Joseph Wehner August 30, 1932.

In January 1923, Howe joined the local Grand Rapids unit of the Michigan National Guard, then located on Michigan Street and Ionia Avenue, and was appointed second lieutenant with assignment to Service Company, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Division. The following August he was promoted to 1st lieutenant. Three years later he was promoted to captain and was placed in command of Howitzer Company and subsequently Company K, a position he held just prior to the 32nd Division mobilization for federal duty on October 15, 1940. While a company commander at the Grand Rapids Armory in 1929, Howe, along with Captain Charles Lawyer, sponsored the organization of a club for non-commissioned officers. When the post-war club was reorganized in 1950, they did not forget their old commander citing the club’s aims as “promotion of fellowship and aid in developing men who will be a credit to Brig Gen John H Schouten, the late Col Merle H. Howe, and Capt John Shirley.”

Howe mid-1930s
Howe had also served as captain of the State Rifle Team, was a Republican in his politics, and attended Park Congregational Church. He enjoyed fishing and hunting.

When Howe and the 126th were called into federal service for pre-war training in Louisiana, Virginia eventually moved the family there to share the experience with her husband, following his return from the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1941, Howe attended the Army Staff and Command School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. When the division moved to Massachusetts in 1942, she moved the family there, as well. When the order came for the 32nd to move to San Francisco for transport to Australia, she took her children and returned home to Grand Rapids.

Howe (right) and Major Henry McNaughton in Louisiana

Howe and possibly his mother (right) and wife (left) in Louisiana

Grand Rapids Press 5/21/1941 - Training in Louisiana
During the run-up to the war, Howe served at various times on the staff of the 126th Infantry Regiment and the 63rd Brigade, at least until the 32nd Division was reorganized from the old “square” model to a “triangular” division (three regiments without brigade structures).

When the 32nd Division embarked overseas to Australia, Howe was the Assistant G-3 with the rank of Major, having been promoted in April 1942. A few months later he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned as division G-3. That September, in his absence, Howe’s eldest child, Virginia, was married to Donald C. Gmeiner.

Major General Albert Waldron was commanding the 32nd Division that fall when he was wounded on December 5, 1942 and evacuated. Both he and Lieutenant Colonel Howe, Division G-3, had gone to the front in the attack on Buna Village and took charge as many small unit leaders had become casualties. They had been pushing the assault personally in the right center of the line. With complete disregard for their safety, the moved along the line of the assault platoons under heavy fire, inspiring their soldiers to great effort. Waldron received a Purple Heart medal for his wounds.

Howe earned the Distinguished Service Cross, at the direction of General Douglas MacArthur, during action in the Buna Campaign that day. Lieutenant General Eichelberger, the Commander of I Corps, paid tribute to Howe and several other officers of the 32nd Division when he wrote after the war: “There were many great combat commanders among the National Guard officers of the 32nd Division. In crises, I would like to have them again as comrades. I can mention only a few here: Colonels Merle H. Howe of Michigan and Herbert M. Smith of Wisconsin…” (Eichelberger, Robert L. Our Jungle Road to Tokyo. 1950)

The citation for Howe’s DSC reads as follows:

“The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant Colonel (General Staff Corps) Merle H. Howe, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Headquarters, 128th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 5 December 1942, near Buna, new Guinea. During an attack on Buna Village, when men of a rifle company short of Company officers were checked by heavy small arms and mortar fire at close range, Lieutenant Colonel Howe personally exposed himself to the enemy fire, moving among the advanced groups and encouraging the men to resume the attack. He led them in an attack, gaining ground which, held and consolidated, assisted materially in an advance on the succeeding day. Lieutenant Colonel Howe’s outstanding leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 32nd Infantry Division, and the United States Army.”

Howe also received a Purple Heart medal for wounds received in action near Buna Village similar to General Waldron. But it did not keep him out of the campaign.

On January 14, 1943, General Eichelberger put “the colorful Merle Howe” (as he called him) in command of the Urbana Force which included the 127th Infantry. He had been the 32nd Division G3 (operations officer), but in deciding that the current commander needed a break from active command, Eichelberger felt that Howe was “a stalwart fighting man” and elevated him to that role. In a report the next day to General Sutherland (MacArthur’s chief-of-staff), Eichelberger wrote: “Howe will take command of the left flank and the 127th Infantry. Howe is very competent. I will be glad to see him there for he is not a regular officer and I do not want to give the impression that I favor the regular army.”

Eichelberger ordered Howe to move up the coast on Giruwa the next day. In a phone conversation to Colonel Sladen Bradley, he described the situation:

“This damn swamp up here consists of big mangrove trees, not small ones like they have in Australia, but great big ones. Their knees stick up in the air . . . as much as six or eight feet above the ground and where a big tree grows it is right on top of a clay knoll.

“A man or possibly two men can . . . dig in a little bit, but in no place do they have an adequate dug-in position. The rest of this area is a swamp that stinks like hell. You step into it and go up to your knees. That’s the whole damn area, except for the narrow strip on the beach. I waded over the whole thing myself to make sure I saw it all. . . . There is no place along that beach that would not be under water when the tide comes in. . . .”

Under Howe’s leadership, the 127th was successful, fighting its way up the coast from Tarakena to Girua. Eichelberger again complimented him by noting that “…Howe, a National Guard officer and a former school-teacher, was the master par excellence of the indigo phrase, and a stalwart fighting man.” By January 21 the Papuan operation was over. The division, having taken considerable casualties, was evacuated to Australia for recovery and rebuilding. Howe remained in command of the 127th and was promoted to full colonel. On January 24, 1943, Howe was awarded the Silver Star medal for his actions at Buna while commanding the 127th:

“Headquarters, U.S. Forces, Buna Area, General Orders No. 17 (22 January 1943). Merle H. Howe, Lieutenant Colonel, Infantry, Commanding Officer, 127th Infantry, Army of the United States. For gallantry in action near Tarakena, New Guinea, January 16, 1943. On that date Lieutenant Colonel Howe made a personal reconnaissance of the frontline area across the Konombi River. With utter disregard for his personal safety, he continually exposed himself for heavy enemy sniper fire from enemy positions fifty yards away, and secured valuable information for future operations. Lieutenant Colonel Howe’s actions were over and above the ordinary call of duty and inspired his men to greater efforts.”

Howe received a second Silver Star (an Oak Leaf to be worn on the ribbon of the first award) on January 24, 1943: “For gallantry in action near Giruwa, New Guinea, January 19, 1943. During and attack near Giruwa, Company E, 127th Infantry was being held up by heavy enemy machine gun fire. With utter disregard for his personal safety, Lieutenant Colonel Howe went to the foremost elements of the company and while under constant heavy enemy machine gun and sniper fire, directed the destruction of the enemy resistance which resulted in the continuance of the advance on Giruwa. Lieutenant Colonel Howe’s courage, coolness, and exceptional leadership was an inspiration to all the troops. Headquarters U.S. Forces, Buna Area, General Order No. 18 (24 January 1943).”

Grand Rapids Press 11/6/1944
Howe continued with the 127th up through November 1944 when he was given a 30-day furlough and returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan. But not before earning a Bronze Star medal: “For meritorious achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy near Afua, New Guinea, from 19 July 1944 to 30 July 1944. Headquarters, 32d Infantry Division, General Order No. 96 (2 December 1944).” While back at home, Howe had the opportunity to see and hold his 2-month old grandson, Don Gneimer Jr. He was feted in town, made the guest of honor at a dinner of 126th Infantry World War II veterans, and led the Decoration Day (Veterans Day) parade. On his last evening in town, he sang the praises of the 126th Infantry to members of the Army and Navy Club.

GR Press 3/19/1945
When Howe returned to the 32nd Division at the conclusion of his furlough, the division was in the midst of the Leyte campaign and Howe was assigned to the division staff. On March 5, 1945, during operations along the Villa Verde Trail in Luzon, he was placed in command of his old 126th Infantry Regiment, although due to casualties and rotations, there weren’t many soldiers in the regiment that left Grand Rapids with him back in 1940. The Japanese were defending their mountain positions at all costs and the next few weeks marked some of the toughest fighting in the division’s history. The 127th Infantry had been the main effort but at the time was bogged down and eventually had to be pulled back since it could not be resupplied.

On March 22nd, the 128th Infantry replaced the 127th which went into reserve, and the 126th continued its mission along the river valleys to the west of the Villa Verde Trail area. Five days later, the commander of the 128th was killed in action and Howe succeeded him in command. At this juncture, Colonel Merle H. Howe now had the unique distinction of having commanded all three Infantry regiments of the 32nd Division.

The fighting was brutal for the 128th which at one time was down to a total effective strength of less than half its authorization. The 127th took over for the 128th in late April and the latter went into reserve until May 4. It then relieved the 126th Infantry and the division “went on to crush the Japanese so-called impregnable defense,” following 120 days of near hand-to-hand combat. Two of Howe’s battalions were cited by the War Department for performance of duty from March 23 to May 30.

On July 25, 1945, Howe was awarded the Legion of Merit medal: “For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in Luzon, Philippine Islands, from 28 March to 10 May 1945. Assuming command of an infantry regiment [128th] while it was engaged in sustained action with a stubborn enemy, Colonel Howe, through his gallant and incisive leadership, maintained his command at a high peak of morale and combat efficiency despite heavy casualties it had already suffered. While skillfully directing his forces in hotly contested action along the Villa Verde Trail, he made frequent personal visits to forward positions and through his advice and encouragement inspired his men to attack the enemy with renewed vigor and to capture or destroy strategic objectives. Colonel Howe’s brilliant and dynamic leadership and his willingness at all times to share the hardships and dangers of his men, contributed in high degree to his regiment’s success in the Luzon Campaign. Headquarters, United States Army Forces, Pacific, General Orders No. 71 (25 July 1945).”

Howe also received a second Distinguished Service Cross, in the form of an Oak Leaf to be worn on the ribbon of the first award, “for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with the 128th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 11 May 1945 at Luzon, Philippine Islands. During the fighting along the Villa Verde Trail, Colonel Howe, commanding an infantry regiment, went forward to a battalion position to observe the operations of forward elements. Shortly afterward he accompanied an advance patrol which was reconnoitering a route for tanks along the slope of a hill. Half of the patrol had traversed a narrow ravine when the enemy suddenly opened fire from concealed positions and seriously wounded a man directly in front of Colonel Howe. Taking charge of the patrol, immediately Colonel Howe sent two men forward to evacuate the casualty, and then directed covering fire into caves from which the enemy had fired. After directing removal of the wounded man to safety, he organized the patrol for sealing the caves, but was soon wounded by enemy mortar fire directed on the group. Despite the intense enemy fire he refused first aid, continued to direct the demolition squad in finding a route of approach to the caves, and assisted in providing covering fire while the caves were closed with pole charges. Under his direction five caves were sealed and over thirty enemy killed. Colonel Howe, by his quick and heroic action and his effective employment of the few troops at his disposal, prevented numbers casualties, extricated his men from a grave situation, and inflicted many losses on the enemy. His outstanding leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 32nd Infantry Division, and the United States Army. Headquarters, U.S. Forces-Pacific, General Orders No. 53 (1945).”

Undated articles probably from The Grand Rapids Herald, 1945

While commanding the 128th, Howe personally made aerial reconnaissance flights over enemy positions along the Villa Verde Trail, earning the Air Medal for participating in flights from 1 April 1945 to 10 August 1945: “During the period Colonel Howe made more than twenty aerial flights in unarmed liaison planes over enemy held territory. More than ten of these flights were made over the Villa Verde Trail area for reconnaissance of enemy positions. As a result of these flights Colonel Howe had a clear picture of the tactical situation and an accurate idea of what he would encounter. The balance of his flights were over enemy territory in the area for reconnaissance of patrol routes and the locating of enemy pockets. Due to Colonel Howe’s flights, patrols were routed over the most advantageous terrain and their missions accomplished expeditiously. For his courage, disregard for his personal safety, and participation in these operations, Colonel Howe established a high degree of meritorious achievement. 32nd Infantry Division Citation, 25 July 1945.”

John “Jack” Carlisle, reporter for The Detroit News, was with the 32nd Division during the Villa Verde action and wrote about Colonel Howe. He titled it, The Colonel Was a School Teacher, and included it in his 1945 published book, Red Arrow Men: Stories About the 32nd Division on the Villa Verde. About Howe, he wrote: “Col. Howe is a front-line leader. When I last saw him he was still limping around the front lines with a Jap hand-grenade slug in his right leg. He refused to go to the rear. ‘Some day,’ he said, ‘I’ll have that piece of shell cut out’” The rest of the story focused on the tough battle faced by Howe and his men.

In August 1945, following the dropping of two atomic bombs on mainland Japan, Lt. Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, Japanese commander for the Philippines, notified his command to cease hostilities. He then sent a letter to the 32nd Division commander implying that he was ready to surrender, but still hadn’t heard anything from Imperial Japanese Headquarters that would authorize him to do so. Colonel Howe played a prominent role in negotiations preliminary to the surrender. He was dispatched by the 32nd Division’s commanding general to the area by plane where division intelligence had reported as to Yamashita’s whereabouts. Howe dropped the surrender instructions from the plane.

The Grand Rapids Press 8/28/1945
On August 30, the eve of the actual surrender on Luzon to members of his unit and 16 days after the war had officially ended, while making a second aerial pass to drop final surrender instructions in the mountains of northern Luzon, Howe was killed in the crash of his small plane. 

Details of the crash and Howe’s death were provided by General Yamashita.

The Grand Rapids Press 9/24/1945
Tech4 Charles P. Murdock, in his featured story for the November 10, 1945 edition of The Saturday Evening Post titled, “The Red Arrow Pierced Every Line,” had this to say about Howe: “The moment of triumph was to have its anticlimax of bitter tragedy. Col. Merle H. Howe, the forty-nine-year-old Grand Rapids schoolteacher who became the 32nd’s most decorated officer, was killed in a plane crash near Yamashita’s headquarters, while making daily flights there in connection with surrender negotiations. Colonel Howe at various times had commanded all the division’s regiments. He was a sort of living symbol of what the division had been through.”

Howe was posthumously awarded a second Purple Heartfor military merit and for wounds received in action resulting in his death August 30, 1945.” In addition, he received the Combat Infantryman Badge and Presidential Unit Citation. The photo below is of a memorial held in the field with Colonel Howe’s staff, the band, and an honor guard detail.

Howe memorial ceremony 1945
Howe was laid to rest in the Fort McKinley United States Military Cemetery in Luzon, Philippine Islands (Section A, Row 5, Grave 100). His headstone reads:            
COL   128  INF    32  DIV
MICHIGAN   AUG 30 1945

APO 32, 11 September 1945


    The death of Colonel Merle H. Howe, Commanding Officer of the 128TH Infantry Regiment, who was killed in action while participating in an aerial flight on 30 August 1945, is announced with deep regret.

    For many years Colonel Howe served his country with distinction. Enlisting as a private on 15 August 1917, he emerged from World War I as an Air Corps pilot with the rank of First Lieutenant. He completed more than a year of service in France during World War I. 

    When the 32D Infantry Division was re-activated in October 1940, Colonel Howe once again volunteered his services and was assigned to the 126TH Infantry as Regimental S-3, and later rendered invaluable services as Division G-3 during the early stages of the Division’s overseas service in World War II. Serving successively as Commanding Officer of the 127TH, 126TH and 128TH Infantry Regiments, he demonstrated exceptional ability and a devotion to duty which earned him the respect and admiration of officers and men throughout the entire Division. 

     In recognition of his great qualities of leadership and the manner in which he performed his duties during World War II, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Service Cross, The Legion of Merit, The Silver Star, the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Silver Star, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal, the Purple Heart, the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

    The memory of Colonel Howe’s valiant deeds, his unselfish faithful service and fine soldierly qualities will long live in the minds and hearts of the officers and men of the 32D Infantry Division. His was an honorable and distinguished career and in his death the nation lost one of its finest citizens, the “Red Arrow” Division one of its most distinguished soldiers.

Brigadier General, U.S. Army,

The Grand Rapids Press Editorial

Grand Rapids Herald Editorial

Following the war, there were several memorials and recognitions created to honor the life and legacy of Colonel Howe. These are probably just some of them:

  • ·       In May 1946, the program for the annual banquet sponsored by the Union High School Community Council dedicated a full page as a special memorial to Colonel Merle Howe, a member of the faculty for twenty years.
  • ·       The Colonel Merle H. Howe Medal for Military Proficiency was originally awarded the best soldier in the 126th Infantry. Later this became the top award for the 1st Battle Group 126th Infantry, then the 2nd Brigade 46th Division, and eventually the 46th Brigade 38th Division, each of these units headquartered in Grand Rapids and then Wyoming, Michigan. The medal was first awarded during the annual encampment at Camp Grayling in 1949 to Sgt. Eugene J. Harmsen, Company L.
  • ·       The Colonel Merle H. Howe Trophy was awarded annually to the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp company in the Grand Rapids Public School system that received the highest rating in a federal inspection typically held at the armory. This was created as a family memorial and for a number of years, Mrs. Virginia Howe presented the trophy.
  • ·       Also, in 1948 the Earl R. Stewart American Legion Post voted to change the name of their club to the Stewart-Howe Red Arrow Post. Stewart was a former commander of the 126th and Michigan’s 63rd Brigade.
  • ·       In August 1949, the Michigan National Guardsman reported the organization of a board of officers to name roads, camp areas, or landmarks at Camp Grayling as memorials to officers and men of the Michigan National Guard who have given their lives in the service of their state or country. While no follow-up articles have been located to determine the process and results, the August 1951 edition of the Guardsman carried a map sketch of the main camp that indicated the Upper Lake Road was now named Howe Road. This was the first year the road carried that designation.
Main road at Camp Grayling renamed "Howe Road" (red arrow)

  • ·       The old Union High School football field was named in honor of Colonel Howe.
In 1949, the Michigan State Senate passed Concurrent Resolution 10 commending Colonel Howe for his distinguished heroic services.

1943 Union HS Yearbook


Virginia Mullen Howe never remarried after the death of her husband, Merle, and according to her obituary, she finished the job of raising her children, sending them to college, seeing them married, and welcoming grandchildren. During her many years of widowhood, she devoted herself to her family, to travel, and to good works in the Grand Rapids community. She served for more than a quarter century as a Red Cross volunteer in family service work. She…was an honorary member of the American Legion (Stewart-Howe Post) and the Red Arrow Club. At her death on May 2, 1997, Virginia and her late husband were survived by a daughter, Virginia Howe Gmeiner of Key Largo, Florida; son, John Tomas Howe of Los Altos, California; and son, Joseph Wehner Howe of Annandale, Virginia.

Their youngest daughter, Marion Howe Alquist of Grand Rapids, passed away in 1994, a victim of polio she had contracted in 1953. After graduating from South High School, she had earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University. Despite her disease, she served as a tutor in mathematics for a number of years and an at-home employee of the Red Cross for 22 years. She and her husband, Robert, had two daughters and four grandsons at the time of Marion’s death. In September 1954, she had been in Marquette, Michigan when doctors at that location prescribed treatments available back in Grand Rapids. However, the doctors had ruled out any long auto or train trip, so arrangements were made with the Michigan National Guard to use the Adjutant General’s plane to fly her home.

Eldest daughter Virginia Howe Gmeiner passed away on April 14, 2000 in Key Largo, Florida.

Son, John Thomas Howe enjoyed a career in engineering and the sciences in the Palo Alto region of California. Although he would be 91 at this writing, it is not known whether he still survives.

Their youngest son, Joseph W. Howe, was the top graduating student in Central High School’s class of 1950, and as a result he earned a one-year scholarship to Princeton University. He was a National Honor Society student and a member of the JROTC program all four years of high school. At Princeton, he received the Paul C. Martin 1898 Memorial Scholarship over his final three years which enabled Joseph to graduate in 1954. It is not known at this writing if he still survives.

Merle’s older sister, Ida, married Charles Hall of Mt. Pleasant in 1908 at the age of 15. They had one son and eventually divorced in 1944. Merle’s younger sister, Lena, married Victor Staley from Ohio in 1918 and they had two children. Victor died in 1953 and Lena in 1978, while residing in San Diego. Ida, Merle and Lena had one additional sibling, Florence Myrtle, who was born in 1901 but died ten months later of pneumonia. She was buried in the Lincoln township cemetery, Isabella County.

The Grand  Rapids Press 2/2/1973


126th Infantry Association Archive, Grand Valley Armory, Wyoming, Michigan


Britten, David G, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired). Courage Without Fear: The Story of the Grand Rapids Guard. Xlibris, 2004

Eichelberger, Robert L., Lieutenant General. Our Jungle Road to Tokyo. 1950

Blakeley, H. W., Major General. The 32nd Infantry Division In World War II. 1957

Carlisle, John M. Red Arrow Men: Stories About the 32nd Division on the Villa Verde Trail. Detroit, 1945

Various editions of The Grand Rapids Press and The Grand Rapids Herald

Various editions of the Michigan National Guardsman

Dunbar, Willis F. Michigan Through the Centuries. Volume IV, Family and Personal History. 1955

Official National Guard Register, 1943 (Active)

Howe, Merle H. – TracesOfWar.com

Others as noted within the text

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