Previously omitted Wyandotte WWII service members killed-in-action sought for memorial
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – The weather was near-perfect the afternoon of May 30 for a Memorial Day remembrance in Bishop Park, hosted by American Legion Post 217 and led by Post Commander Mark Holtus.
Local veteran groups have reinforced their resolve to research and include Wyandotte World War II service members killed-in-action who are missing from the local memorial plaque, including Chester Chormann, who died at age 18 on the USS Houston, on March 1, 1942, during the Battle of Sunda Strait in Indonesia. Some of Chormann’s relatives were present at the remembrance.
Holtus spoke of the diverse group of men and women who have lost their lives in the service of their country, who will remain forever young in the memories of those they left behind.
“They came from every background, but they shared a common goal – to serve America and make life better for others,” he said.
Holtus spoke of Chormann, who left Roosevelt High School at age 17, enlisting Sept. 12, 1940, in the U.S. Navy.
“Chet loved his country and had a deep-seated sense of patriotism,” Holtus said. “After boot camp, he was assigned to the USS Houston, a heavy cruiser.”
The USS Houston was destroyed at 12:33 a.m. March 1, 1942, during the Battle of Sunda Strait, with Seaman First Class Chormann among the 693 shipmates who perished, while others were taken as prisoners of war.
Holtus said that from the American Revolution to the global war on terrorism, more than 1 million Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“They died so we could continue to cherish the things they loved – God, country and family,” he said. “That is why we are gathered here on Memorial Day – to honor the memory of our fallen warriors who have given everything for their country.”
Holtus said that while there is nothing wrong with enjoying and celebrating the American way of life, Memorial Day is not about picnics and parades.
“Memorial Day is about gratitude and remembrance,” he said. “It is about honoring the men and women who made it possible for us to gather here today in peace, and to remember those who made our way of life possible. They are truly the guardians of our freedom.”
Rod Mclean, a nephew of Chormann, and himself a 30-year Air Force veteran who was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he never knew his uncle, who was 17 when he joined the Navy, the same age of two of his granddaughters who were in attendance.
“Think about that – here you are, a brand new 17-year-old, you’re joining the Navy and you are off to boot camp, and a year-and-a-half later, you find yourself in this horrific battle,” he said. “You are out-gunned, and you fight heroically, but in the end, unfortunately, they lost the battle, and they went down with the ship.”
Mclean said Chormann’s family lived in three different places in Wyandotte, and when the Gold Star Mothers, the parents of active-duty service members who died, sent out postcards seeking the names of those killed-in-action for the memorial, not everyone received them or responded to the mailing.
He said fundraising and publicity are the next steps, to reach the relatives of all of the World War II fallen servicemen from Wyandotte.
“If somebody has a veteran that is from Wyandotte, and were killed in WWII, we want to get their names on the list, and we need some sort of documentation from them, to show that they live here, that they were in the service and that they were killed in the war,” he said.
Mclean said relatives of World War II fallen servicemen should contact Julie Sadlowski in the mayor’s office, at 734-324-4544 or by email, at [email protected] with their information.
He said Brian Martin at the Wyandotte Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1136 would be a source of guidance as well.