The West Virginia Archives and History Library of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History will continue its series of after hours workshops on Tuesday, Nov. 3, from 6 - 7:30 p.m. The session, entitled “Bastard Battalion: A History of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion in World War II,” also will include a discussion on researching military records from the Civil War to the present time. The workshop will be conducted by Terry Lowry, noted military author and historian for archives and history. The program will take place in the library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. All sessions are free and the public is invited to attend. The library will close at 5 p.m. and reopen at 5:45 p.m. for workshop participants only.
When the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion was deactivated on Nov. 26, 1945, at Camp Myles Standish, Taunton, Mass., its record included three Distinguished Service Crosses, five Legions of Merit, nine Soldiers Medals, 39 Silver Stars, 97 Bronze Stars, five Croix de Guerre, 876 Purple Hearts, 91 Oak Leaf Clusters, three Unit Citations, 508 days in combat, and an estimated 500,000 rounds fired.
The group’s firepower was felt in Sicily, Italy, France, Germany and Austria. It supported 17 infantry divisions, three armored divisions, two airborne divisions and numerous task forces, including Rangers and British commandos, and fought under six American Corps, one French Corps, two American armies and one French Army. Members fought on two continents and participated in six campaigns, including amphibious and glider assaults. The battalion also lost nearly half its number in the sinking of the LST 422, one of the worst naval tragedies of World War II. When all was said and done, the members were classified as Service Forces not entitled to wear the combat badges they had earned.
West Virginia contributed more than 30 men to the battalion, including Lowry’s father. Lowry has spent years researching the subject, interviewing numerous veterans, spending countless hours at the National Archives, attending reunions, and gathering thousands of photographs. He has published six books on the Civil War in West Virginia, including studies of the battles of Scary Creek, Carnifex Ferry and Droop Mountain; two Confederate regiments, the 22nd Virginia Infantry and the 26th Battalion Virginia Infantry; and was the co-author of a book on West Virginia Civil War images.
The author will have a display of many actual artifacts and documents from his personal collection for participants to view.
Future sessions include “A Glimpse at Some Lesser-Known Prominent West Virginians” with Dr. Kenneth Bailey, retired dean of the college of business, humanities and sciences at WVU Institute of Technology, on Dec. 1.; “Genealogy and Law: An Introduction to Some Legal Issues in Genealogical Research” with Scott Johnson, an assistant attorney general for the State of West Virginia, on Jan. 5, 2010; and “Digging into West Virginia’s 18th Century, Groundhog Style,” with Doug Wood, a living history hobbyist who teaches 18th-century Native American lifeways and interpretation skills and portrays Cherokee leader Ostenaco, on Feb. 2.
To register in advance, contact Robert Taylor, library manager, at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants interested in registering by e-mail should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information about the workshop, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.
The Archives and History Library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. The library is closed on Sunday.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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