Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday Puzzle

    One of our holiday traditions is working on a jigsaw puzzle.   We usually set up a table with a puzzle and family members work on it throughout the day.  I missed getting a picture this Thanksgiving with six of us around this 500 piece 20"x16".   
 This puzzle of a view of the Santa Barbara waterfront was special.  Not many puzzles include a picture of one's high school.  I attended St. Anthony's Seminary from 1959-1963.  You will see St. Anthony's behind Mission Santa Barbara in the upper left portion.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Visiting the Grandparents

    Yesterday, I said that I didn't have the opportunity to visit my grandparents  during the holidays.  I guess that this isn't quite true.  I was looking at pictures that I scanned during one marathon scanning session.  Here is one of the pictures that was taken during a trip from California to Ohio.  Being a grandfather myself, I love this picture of my grandparents.
That's me on my grandfather's left arm

Dick, David (me) Linda, Chas, Johnny, and Diane
     I had narrowed the date of the picture to the winter of 1946-47, based on the ages of the grandchildren involved and those not yet born.  But my brother John says he remember the trip and it was at Christmas time.  My father had been working temporarily in New Orleans and had flown up to Ohio for Christmas.  He remembers picking up my father at the airport.  
    Grandma and Grandpa Armstrong ended up with eighteen grandchildren.  Diane, the oldest, was born in 1940 and Mark, the youngest, was born nineteen years later.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving with Grandma

     My mother didn't enjoy the cold in Ohio and wanted to strike out on her own so she left for California.  My father followed soon afterwards.  They raised a family of nine children out west.  One of the disadvantages of living in a different state, far away from the rest of the family, were holidays like Thanksgiving.  
     One always hears stories about going to grandma's house for a turkey dinner.  I visited my grandparents in Ohio three times.  Only two of those were when I was old enough to remember.  We never visited Grandma's for Thanksgiving. 
    One also hears horror stories about relatives at Thanksgiving so I don't know if a visit to Grandma's house would have been a good memory or a horror story but I prefer to think it would have been a good memory.

Grandma's dinner table set for sixteen with the china that she purchased in Panama.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

For the times they are a-changin'

     Yesterday, when I was using Google Maps, I noticed some changes around where my childhood home had been located.  After my father returned from World War II, he was hired by Standard Oil of California.  He worked for a while in Santa Fe Springs.  His work was a difficult drive from our home in Altadena so we moved to Long Beach in 1948.  In 1951 my father was transferred to the oil town of Taft, California.  We lived in a company house over two miles from town in a place called 1-C Camp.
     In 1951, our house in 1-C Camp was about 250 feet from a 'gasoline plant'.  The plant did mysterious things like separating gasoline and different gases from the oil that had been pumped from the ground.  We lived 250 feet from the plant for thirteen years.  It operated day and night - 24/7.  And was it loud.     (I think those years of living next to constant noise is at least partially to blame for my current hearing loss.)  
     When we moved into 1-C Camp there were somewhere around 18 houses.  As men retired or got transferred the houses were sold and move.  We were the last to go.  Our house was used for storage of cores from the oil wells.  It eventually burned to the ground.  And now if you examine the aerial view from Google Maps, you will see that in 2013 'the Plant' is going.  
     The two palm trees that were in our front yard are still standing.  You can see them in the aerial view.  (Don't ask me how they are still surviving with no apparent water source.  They may be the last to go.
A 2008 view of 'The Plant" from where our house had been located.

An aerial view of 1-C Camp from Google Maps
We had oil wells all around our house.  Not ours, unfortunately.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nov. 22, 1963 - A Date in History

     Taft College (a two-year community college) was situated next to the high school in Taft.  They shared many of the same facilities.  My chemistry class was in the science building at the high school.  They had a similar relationship with Taft Union High School District Transportation Department.  The high school bus picked up high school and college students from outlying areas some as much as 30 miles away.  It seems strange now but back on Nov. 22, 1963, I caught the high school bus as usual out on Lincoln Highway near where we lived at 1-C Camp.          
     Nov. 22, 1963 started out as a normal Friday although it didn't stay normal. I attended classes until someone came around in the early afternoon and let everyone know that President Kennedy had been shot.  Classes for that day were cancelled.  For some reason the high school buses were not running on the same schedule (high school may have been dismissed earlier) so I remember walking the two and one-half miles home.  I stopped by my father's office on the way out of town but he couldn't break free so I finished my walk home.  (At least it wasn't uphill in the snow.)
     I had a lot of time to think on my walk home. I do remember it as a sad time. It was disappointing that someone felt it necessary to kill our county's leader.  
     I don't remember much else about that historic day.  We didn't have a television back then so most of what I remember actually was from television clips years afterwards.  We did get a newspaper (The Bakersfield Californian) so we kept up with the news that way although back then news would have been at least a day late.  I think that class was cancelled on the day of the funeral.  With today's 24 hour news coverage people would have a more visual memory of all of the history.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is this Uncle Gus?

     My grandfather, Elmer J. Armstrong, enlisted in the Army on Jan. 26, 1905 in Springfield, Illinois.  A year later he was discharged at Fort Logan, Colorado and the re-enlisted for a period of three years.  While at Fort Logan he served in the Hospital Corps.  The picture below show him behind a counter dressed in white.  Recently, my older brother saw this picture for the first time and asked where I had gotten the picture of Uncle Gus.  He is certain the the soldier standing in front of my grandfather is Uncle Gus.  

     August F. Uhl, Jr., our Uncle Gus, was born in New York to German Immigrants.  Based on records that I have found he enlisted in the army in 1909.  He married my grandmother's sister, Maud Blandford in 1916 in Colorado.   I have a couple pictures of Uncle Gus when he was much older so it is time to compare.   
Uncle Gus is pictured here with his niece, Dorothy Armstrong.  Dorothy was born to Elmer Armstrong and Mary Catherine Blandford the same year that Uncle Gus married Aunt Maud.   
Uncle Gus top right

So, what so you think?  Is the first picture of Uncle Gus?  If it is, did Grandpa introduce Aunt Maud and Uncle Gus?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Forgetful Vampires and Ancestors

   Numerous unnamed members of my family have been telling me for a few years about the magnificance of a certain vampire.  So, it was a surprise today when I was browsing the the digital images of Petitions for Naturalization and Petition Evidence 1840-1856 from Hudson County, New Jersey that I found that Edward Cullen was a forgetful vampire.
    An Hudson County Index of Petitions for Naturalizations had pointed me toward some information for James Armstrong on Oct. 18, 1852.  I didn't find anything regarding my ancestor's naturalization (yet) but I did find an Affidavit of Edward Cullen as to loss of Certificate of Naturalization  on the same date.  It appears that this vampire must have lost his certificate and needed another.  So he appeared in court to obtain a new certificate.  I am sure that I will be corrected within a few days regarding this Edward Cullen.  Is he the well known vampire that appeared in a recent movie?  Was he a forgetful vampire?  Was he even a vampire at this time or did that transformation happen later?  
"New Jersey, County Naturalization Records, 1749-1986." Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013.
   A significant number of men appeared before the court on Oct 18, 1852, probably because of the upcoming election between Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire (Democrat) and Winfield Scott (Whig) of New Jersey.  It was written in my great-great-grandfather's obituary that he had voted for Winfield Scott.  I am hoping to find James David Armstrong's naturalization and I widened my search to counties neighboring Mercer County.  I wonder if my ancestor met the vampire, Edward Cullen at the courthouse on that date.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

No Matter What You Call Nov. 11 - Armistice Day; Remembrance Day; or Veterans Day

In remembrance of all veterans, especially those
 in our family who have served to protect us.

In Flanders Fields 
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) 
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses row on row, 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 

In Flanders fields.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nov. 10, 1943 Silver Star

     John B. Armstrong didn't talk about his war experiences much. When he was interviewed by his grandson, Daniel, he barely mentioned why he received a Silver Star.  He told Dan, "...The next day my regimental commander sent me forward to investigate because another company had been isolated and because of this he gave me a Silver Star."
     About 10-12 years later when he was interviewed by another grandson, Tony wrote "he was commanded to find out what was causing the communication problem after her rejoined his battalion south of Cassino near Mignano…He had to go over ditches and through trenches where he had to climb over dead bodies while the enemy was dropping motor shells all around. He reestablished communications and that is why he received the Silver Star."
     I think he minimized his gallantry. The following is taken from the official record of his award:
          *  *  *  *         E_X_T_R_A_C_T          *  *  *  * 
     I - AWARD OF THE SILVER STAR.  Under the provisions of Armsy Regulations 600-45, a Silver Star is awarded the following named officer:
JOHN B. ARMSTRONG, O-354947, First Lieutenant, 15th Infantry. For gallantry in action. On 10 November 1943, near Mignano, Italy. Lieutenant ARMSTRONG, with complete disregard for his personal safety, crossed 1000 yards of open field, exposing himself for two hours to heavy small arms, mortar, and artillery fire, with shell fragments and bullets striking within 10 yards of him, in order to reach a company which was not in contact with the battalion.  Upon reaching the company he found it under artillery and motor fire. Displaying exemplary courage, he aided in reorganizing the company and the reestablishment of its communications, reporting the situation to the Battalion Commander.  His gallant actions were instrumental in the formation of necessary plans for the company to proceed to its objective. Residence at appointment: Los Angeles, California.
                *  *  *  *         E_X_T_R_A_C_T          *  *  *  * 
                By command of Major General TRUSCOTT

Probable movement of Lt. John B. Armstrong at the Battle of the Mignano Gap1

"Across the Volturno - US Army Center Of Military History." 2007. 10 Nov. 2013 <>

Friday, November 8, 2013

Nov 8 - 11, 1942 - The 15th Infantry Regiment: Fedala to Casablanca

     On Nov. 8, 1942 the United States attacked the beaches near Casablanca.  The Third Division came on shore sixteen miles north of Casablanca at Fedala. Lt. John B. Armstrong was part of the 15th Infantry Regiment. The path of the 15th Regiment is shown as a red line on the adjacent maps.  The blue line represents the border between the 7th Regiment and the 15th Regiment.  I  took that map and used it as an overlay on Google Earth. then after removing the overlay I can see the path taken by the 15th Regiment.  
     From November 8 - 11 the Third Division advanced towards Casablanca.  On Nov 11, the Vichy French surrendered.   The next few months saw the third division stay in this region until they were needed at Tunisia.

Map from the History of the Third Division in World War II 1
Google Earth with previous map overlaid on top 2
Google Earth showing path of 15th Regiment 3
A map showing the Terrain 4
1.  Taggart, Donald, History of the Third Infantry Division in World War II, Battery Press, Nashville. 1987

2. Google Earth." 2005. 7 Nov. 2013 <>

3. Google Earth." 2005. 7 Nov. 2013 <>

4.  "Google Maps Engine Lite." 2012. 7 Nov. 2013 <>

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Convoy Zig Zags to Casablanca

     Beginning on October 24,1942, the 3rd Infantry Division, 15th Infantry Regiment sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, bound for French Morocco.  
     On the attached map you can see that this was a joint exercise with the British.   This map is from a British book so it is more detailed about the British portion of the operation.  (The dates are also written in the European style with the day/month so 3/11 = Nov. 3.)  The British passed through the Straights of Gibraltar and landed farther east.  
     The Americans were scheduled to land in the area around Casablanca.  The course followed by the American fleet was designed to make the Germans think that they might have a different objective.  The zig-zag course was also used to avoid the German U-boats.  
     Lt. John B. Armstrong was in the group that was scheduled to land near Fedala at daybreak on Nov. 8, 1942.  Fedala was 16 miles north of Casablanca.  Casablanca was under control of the Vichy French who, of course were under German control. 
       Fedala was the was the first amphibious landing where Lt. Armstrong was a participant.  He also participated at Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and St. Tropez.  At that point he returned home for some R&R and began training for the invasion of Japan, which thankfully never happened.  

1.  "HyperWar: HyperWar: War at Sea 1939-1945, Vol. II: The ... - Ibiblio." 2005. 6 Nov. 2013 <>

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Camp Pickett, Virginia - Oct 23, 1942

     During the summer of 1942, the Army 3rd Division trained at Fort Ord in preparation for the United States' involvement in World War II.  In September of that year the Lt. John B. Armstrong as a member of the 3rd Division was transferred across the country to Camp Pickett near Blackstone, Virginia.  At Camp Pickett the 3rd Division went through final training for what was then a secret operation.  According to history books only 800 people in the army and government in America and England knew the final objective.
     Word must have trickled down to Elmer John Armstrong, at that time a Major in the Army and stationed at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio. He somehow learned that his son was about to be sent  overseas.  He visited his son at Camp Pickett only a few days before John was deployed.
     The following picture of Major (later Colonel) Elmer Armstrong and Lt. (later Captain) John Armstrong was taken on Oct. 23, 1942.  On Oct 24, 1942 over 100 ships and 35,000 troops began leaving Virginia and other locations on the east coast for the start of Operation Torch.

Father and Son on Oct 23, 1942 at Camp Pickett
Major Elmer J. Armstrong and Lt. John B. Armstrong

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Call to Active Duty - 1942

     While attending Ohio State University my father, John B. Armstrong served in ROTC.  He is in the front of the fourth row in the picture shown below.  Check out the antique cars in the picture.  
ROTC at The Ohio State University in the late 1930s
     As a result of this activity he was called to active duty shortly after Pearl Harbor. He entered the army as a Second Lieutenant.  He spent some time at Camp Roberts. In May, he was assigned to the 3rd Division 15th Infantry Regiment at Fort Ord, California.  No World War II enlistment record has been found, possibly because of his service in the reserves and ROTC prior to the war. (In addition, millions of military personnel records were burned in a fire at the National Archives in St. Louis in 1973.) On 16 September 1942 the Third Division was sent to Camp Pickett in Virginia in preparation for war in Africa. 
Lt. John B. Armstrong
March 1942 - California

Monday, November 4, 2013

John B. Armstrong at The Ohio State University

     John Blandford Armstrong was a member of two groups while at Ohio State University in the late 1930s.  In this 1937 OSU yearbook pages he is listed as a senior.  He was also listed as a senior in the 1938 yearbook.  This was probably because he was  enrolled in a five year program which resulted in a simultaneous bachelor and masters degrees. One of his degrees was in Chemical Engineering, hence membership in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.  

American Institute of Chemical Engineers at OSU 19371

      The Scabbard and Blade was an organization associated with ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps).  

1937 Scabbard and Blade at OSU

1. U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.  Ohio State University 1937 Makio