There are four War Memorials in Chesterfield, all contain the names of Chesterfield residents who have answered the "Call of Duty". They are Civil War/WWI, WWII, Korean & Vietnam, and a memorial in Ware's Grove that bears only two names, O'Neil/Kaiser, two men killed in Vietnam. On the other three, some names are followed by a "Gold" star designating their supreme sacrifice. Let us take time to reflect on who they were and how their stories ended in a star.
PFC Bruce R. Amidon
Bruce R. Amidon was born on Nov. 1, 1923 in Chesterfield. He was one of five 1942 Brattleboro High School graduates to die in WWII. Before signing up, he worked in a local sawmill, was a Granger, and a 4-H worker. He enlisted in the Army on March 29, 1943 and in August, married Mary Anderson of Brattleboro. He was part of the 43 Infantry Division, 172 Infantry Regiment which fought the Japanese in the Papua, New Guinea campaigns. Then, the 43rd moved to the Philippines where it was part of Luzon offensive under General MacArthur. On Jan 9, 1945, he participated in the assault landing in the San Fabian area of the Lingayen Gulf. Under heavy enemy fire, the division secured the beachhead and fought toward the Lingayen Plain. It was during this advance, on Jan. 22, 1945 that PFC Amidon was killed in action. When his body arrived in Brattleboro on July 6, 1949 (4 years later), it was met will a military escort. He was buried with full military honors in West Chesterfield Cemetery.
CHS Notebook 20 – WWII: Over There and On the Homefront
PFC William F. Ball
WWII - Army
PFC William F. Ball was born on Sept 10, 1921 and resided in Spofford. Before enlisting on Oct 1, 1942, he worked as a construction foreman. He first trained at Camp Hood, Texas and was assigned to the Reconnaissance Company 806 Tank Destroyer Battalion. Then, he was reassigned to the 806 Engineering Aviation Battalion at Camp Rucker, Dale County, AL. There on March 7, 1944, he died in the “Line of Duty” from a non-battle related accident, possibly carbon monoxide poisoning. His wife, Cloe, had traveled to Alabama in order to be close to him before what was to be his imminent deployment to the Pacific. He was buried with full military honors on March 12, 1944 in Spofford Cemetery.
CHS Notebook 20 – WWII: Over There & On the Homefront
Capt. Dennie W. Farr
Dennie W. Farr was born in Chesterfield on January 7, 1840, the middle child of 11. He was employed as a store clerk in Brattleboro when the war broke out. He married Mary Brown, daughter of his minister, in Brattleboro on July 5, 1862. At the urging of Mary's brother, Capt. Addison Brown, he enlisted in August 1862 with the 4th VT Volunteers as a 2nd Lt. Like most soldiers, Farr became ill, resiging on Dec. 25, 1862 before returning to Brattleboro to recover. However, his stay was brief, and he returned to his regiment making 1st Lt of Co. F in January 1863, then rising to the rank of Captain in August. Mary was able to visit him in camp on Dec. 24, 1863. It was the last time she saw her husband alive. On May 5, 1864, while waving his sword encouraging his troops to advance, he was shot through the head by a minie ball. He was one of the first 17,500 Union men lost in 48 hours during the Battle of the Wilderness outside of Spotsylvania, VA. In May 1865, with a military escort, Mary went to the battlefield to retrieve her husband's body using a map provided by Dennie's friends. The grave was clearly marked by a board from a cracker barrel (now located at the Cheshire County Historical Society). A ring on the finger confirmed idenification. The body was placed in a metallic lined coffin and made airtight with cement. Capt. D.W. Farr, 24, was reinterred with Masonic Honors in the West Chesterfield Cemetery.
1st LT Howard W. Kaiser
Vietnam - Air Force
Howard W. Kaiser was born March 25, 1941, grew up on Gulf Road, and was a graduate of Keene High School. He joined the ROTC at UNH, and upon graduating in 1963 was commissioned a 2nd Lt in the Air Force. He earned his pilot’s wings in September 1965. In January 1966 he arrived in Song Be, South Vietnam, where he qualified as a FAC, Forward Air Controller on OF-1 planes and as an OE-1, Bird Dog Pilot, someone who flies a small, unarmed aircraft at low altitudes in support of ground combat operations. From March until his death, he flew forward air control missions daily, flying over 600 missions with as many as 5 flights per day under the code name of Viper 9. On July 26, 1966 while flying an OE-1 aircraft on reconnaissance, he located a hostile battalion and was able to call in air strikes while repeatedly flying through intense ground fire. This earned him the Silver Star and the Vietnamese Medal of Valor. On Sept 13, 1966 he was piloting one of the small reconnaissance planes in search of a downed US helicopter, when he was shot down after radioing in its location. The wreckage of his plane was located, and his body returned to Brattleboro. 1st Lt Class Kaiser, 25 years old, was buried in Morningside Cemetery, Brattleboro. He is one of the two Chesterfield servicemen honored in the Memorial at Ware's Grove in Spofford.
Other awards issued: Air Medal and subsequent 18 Oak Leaf Clusters, the National Republic of Vietnam Service Medal, and the Purple Heart. He was also inducted in the ROTC Hall of Fame. His name appears on Vietnam Wall, Panel 10E, Line 91
More information can be found in CHS Notebook 21 – Korean & Vietnam Wars
SP-4 William (Billy) Wayne O'Neil
Vietnam - Army
SP-4 William (Bill) Wayne O’Neil was born on Oct. 11, 1949, but grew up in Chesterfield. He was outgoing and willing to help anyone in need. He loved to draw the natural world (game birds, landscapes, etc.) and refined his skills in art classes at Keene High School, his favorite classes. He graduated in 1967. In February 1969, he enlisted in the army and was deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Air Cavalry Division. During his 6 months there, he fought both in Cambodia and Vietnam and was involved in many firefights and survived multiple ambushes. In one such engagement, on Jan. 5, 1970, he distinguished himself with “heroism in sustained combat operations against hostile forces” and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Heroism. He also earned the Bronze Star. On Jan. 21, 1970, his unit was at firebase Song Bei 26 miles north of Saigon when it came under a Viet Cong mortar and rocket attack. Bill and a good friend were killed instantly by an enemy mortar rocket. When his body was returned, the originally planned Chesterfield funeral services had to be moved to Keene to accommodate all the mourners. He was buried in Friedsam Cemetery. His service is acknowledged in the O’Neil/ Kaiser Memorial at Ware Gove in Spofford.
Other Awards: Bronze Star, Purple Heart. Vietnam Wall, Panel W14, Line 54
CHS Notebook 21: Korean & Vietnam Wars
More information can be found in CHS Notebook 21 – Korean & Vietnam Wars
PVT Clarence O. Post
WWI - Army
Spofford’s Clarence O. Post had already led an adventurous life before his untimely death. Born in 1891, he went to sea in 1914 and traveled to such faraway places as Argentina on both steamers and sailing vessels. His last known ship was the S/S Rota, a defensively armed British cargo steamer. He left it on May 29, 1917, only two months before it was sunk by a German U-Boat. His Seaman’s Declaration papers, signed by S/S Rota Capt. James dated June 17, 1917 in Ipswich, England, stated he conducted himself with “Very Good Character and Ability”. When the US declared War on German in April 1918, the primary reason was the repeated attacks made on the US Merchant fleet. Already having been in a war zone, Clarence promptly volunteered for military service along with 18 others from Cheshire County. On July 1, 1918, the group was sent to the newly establish military training camp in Durham, NH. Unfortunately, Private Post died of pneumonia on Sept 20, 1918, his 27th birthday. He was Durham’s first victim in what became the notorious 1918 flu epidemic. By the end of October, the town had recorded 80 deaths. Private/Seaman Clarence Post is buried in Spofford Cemetery.
CHS Notebook 19 – WWI
PO3 Ernest Sanville
Vietnam - Navy
Petty Officer 3rd Class Ernest Sanville was born on Nov. 14, 1943 the 6th of 15 children. Although, his family moved from VT to Spofford, then North Hinsdale, Ernie was embraced as Chesterfield’s own. Ernie had two civilian nicknames, “Bug”, due to his small stature, and “Sunshine” for his every present smile and sunny disposition. On July 18, 1964 he married Shirley Bruce of Brattleboro. Soon afterward, his birthday was picked among the first in the draft lottery. Believing combat could be avoided in the Navy, he enlisted. As a result of his aptitude test, he was trained as a hospital corpsman. On May 28, 1968 he was deployed to Vietnam with the Marines where he earned the nickname “Doc”. He served with Infantry Rifle Platoons and later with the Combined Action Platoon (CAP). CAP combined a unit of marines with a Navy corpsman and local forces to provide protection to the villagers. Therefore, Doc provided care for ill and wounded Vietnamese civilians as well as wounded Marines. On August 31, 1968, while in the Quan Nam province, he replaced a sick solider on night patrol. The solider in front of him stepped on a land mine and PO3 Erie Sanville, husband, and father of two, was gone. He was buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Hinsdale.
Vietnam Wall Panel 45W, Line 16
CHS Notebook 21 – Korean and Vietnam Wars.
MM2 Chester D. Underwood
WWII - Navy
Chester D. Underwood was born in Chesterfield on Feb 1, 1919 and graduated from Brattleboro High in 1937. He was always a jack-of-all-trades doing a variety of jobs and took those skills with him when he joined the Navy in 1939. As a machinist, he was stationed on the USS Neosho, a fleet oiler which ferried aviation fuel from Seattle to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On Dec. 7, 1941, the Neosho was able to escape sinking by moving away from the battleship row, all the while firing at the enemy. Afterward, it sailed with aircraft carriers or independently as escorts, even for this type of cargo, were few and far between. As the war moved to the Coral Sea in May 1942, the Neosho followed refueling the carrier Yorktown and heavy cruiser Astoria. With its destroyer escort Sims, it was attacked by waves of planes on May 8, 1942. The Sims was sunk, and the Neosho suffered seven direct hits plus a suicide dive by one of the bombers. Ablaze aft and in danger of breaking in two, sound seamanship and skilled damage control allowed it to stay afloat. However, in the chaos, dozens of men jumped overboard, climbed into life rafts, or boarded motorized lifeboats; most were never seen again. Others suffered from deadly burns or wounds, almost all were covered in diesel fuel. In all, 158 men were declared missing including 23-year old Machinist’s Mate Second Class Chester Underwood. On 11 May, the destroyer USS Henley arrived, rescued the 123 survivors, and using gunfire, sank the ship they had kept afloat for 4 days. The family was notified that MM2 Underwood was listed as missing around July 8, 1942. The War Department officially declared him dead on May 8, 1943. In 2018, his little brother Don, placed a cenotaph to his memory in the family plot of Friedsam Cemetery.
CHS Notebook 20: WWII Over There and On the Homefront