Harwich’s Hidden History – Version 3.0

Perhaps the most frequent reason a town erects memorials or monuments is to recognize its citizens who served in the military, in some cases dying while fighting this nation’s wars. Many eastern seaboard communities have placed on their town greens monuments dedicated to soldiers who fought on either side of the Civil War, though memorials to combatants in the Revolutionary War seem less frequent. Considering the number of armed conflicts in which the United States has engaged over the course of its history, erecting single monuments honoring those who fought and died in different wars is understandable. Further, that they frequently date from after the War Between the States is not surprising, considering changes that occurred with that conflict. The bodies of soldiers killed in war before the mid-19th century were usually transported home for burial in their community’s or family’s plot, while during the Civil War many were buried near or on the battle field where they fell. It is understandable that their hometowns would still want to honor and memorialize them, especially as each subsequent conflict led to the creation of United States cemeteries in foreign lands. This may explain why there are several monuments honoring Harwich citizens who served in the military beginning with World War I, but none before.

Some of Harwich’s war-related monuments are non-specific, meaning that no actual names are included in the memorial, and in one case, an engraved stone intended to honor those who served in several wars required the addition of another conflict waged after its erection. For a few the date of the monument’s erection is included, as well as the group that was the catalyst for its creation, though that is not true in most cases.

The largest such stone monument in Harwich, erected sometime after the Korean Conflict, stands in Doane Park (or Wheeler Square) aside Route 28 near the Harwich Port Post Office. Its inscription reads:

HONORING THE MEN AND WOMEN OF HARWICH WHO SERVED THEIR COUNTRY

WORLD WAR I

WORLD WAR II

AND THE KOREAN CONFLICT

to which was added later

VIETNAM CONFLICT

A stone monument and plaque in the same location, dated 1948, is more specific:

IN MEMORY OF THE MEN OF HARWICH

WHO MADE THE SUPREME SACRIFICE

It lists seven names under the headings of WORLD WAR I and WORLD WAR II, many of whom are also remembered with Memorial Squares discussed in a previous Discovering Harwich column:

WORLD WAR I: Valmer H. Bassett, Clarence L. Berry, Earl[e?] M. Chase, Scott C. Nickerson, and Josiah D. Nickerson.

WORLD WAR II: Donald H. Barrett, Watson B. Eldredge, Jr., C. [Clarence] Clifford Peters, Robert V. Paine, and Robert B. Megathlin.

The other names inscribed on this monument (but not honored with Memorial Squares) are J. Wilton Berry and Leslie M. Clark (WWI), and Raymond A. Arsenault and George R. Dreher (WWII). Memorial Squares are also dedicated to Harold B. Doane and Harold Wheeler, World War I veterans whose names are not included in the Doane Park list, and two others honor men who served in other conflicts: Lt. Richard Rogers, killed during the Vietnam War, and Lt. Thomas J. Haggerty, who died in the Gulf War.

In 1923, the “CITIZENS OF THIS TOWN” erected a stone and plaque “IN MEMORIAM” monument to “HONOR HER PATRIOTIC MEN AND WOMEN WHO SERVED THEIR COUNTRY IN TIME OF WAR” at the site of the Exchange Building in Harwich Center. Its inscription reads:

TO THE DEAD - A TRIBUTE

TO THE LIVING – A MEMORY

TO POSTERITY – AN EMBLEM OF LOYALTY

TO THE FLAG OF THEIR COUNTRY

In Brooks Park there is a unique (and undated) stone monument honoring the soldiers who fought in a specific battle during World War II, erected by the Cape and Islands Chapter of the Veterans of that battle. It reads:

IN MEMORIAM

DEC.16, 1944-JAN. 25, 1945

DEDICATED TO THOSE MEN AND WOMEN WHO FOUGHT IN THE HISTORIC WORLD WAR II BATTLE OF THE BULGE IN THE ARDENNES, BELGIUM

While not exactly war monuments, two other memorials bear mentioning in this third discussion of the Hidden History of Harwich. The first, in Doane Park, is a wooden memorial to the Children of Oklahoma City who died in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, erected by the Garden Club of Harwich.

The second stands amid a number of monuments in front of the Harwich Police Department and Fire Department Headquarters on Sisson Road. It is a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and those who died when one of the planes crashed in Pennsylvania.

As my research into the Harwich’s Hidden History continues, locating information concerning those honored by its stone and plague memorials can be difficult. If you would like to assist me in compiling a more complete and detailed record of those who past generations believed worthy of being remembered and honored in this way, please email me at russallen@chronicle.com.