This Memorial Day, the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department takes time to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom. We salute not only our veteran members, but all who have served, defended, and sacrificed for our country.
General John Logan established Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, on May 30, 1868, as a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. The first observance was held and flowers were placed on the graves of union and confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Now, Memorial Day activities are held all over the country to honor our war dead ranging from a wreath laying to just a simple moment of pause to reflect on their sacrifice. At Arlington National Cemetery there will be the traditional wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and “Flags-in.” During “Flags-in,” the 3rd U.S. Infantry (Old Guard) will place a small American flag at each of the 260,000 grave markers and 7,300 niches in the columbarium.
On this Memorial Day we remember our comrades, whose military service dates back to the Spanish American War, who have served both their community and country. Preserving our homes, our community, and our freedom has come at a great price. Families have been parted from their loved ones; our soldiers have been injured or captured, and many escaped danger by only a slim chance. Citizens were also called to action in their communities to give support and fill the void, including our own ladies auxiliary who fought fires while many of our members were called to duty.
Three of our own gave their lives in World War II. In order to honor our fallen brothers, a permanent memorial was installed on firehouse in the 1940s. The plaque honoring Hersal Cralle, Michael Korn, and Julius Vajda is part of our current station and it a visible reminder to us each day.
Staff Sergeant Hersal B. Cralle
Staff Sergeant Hersal B. Cralle was killed in action on May 8, 1944. He was assigned to 339th Bomber Squadron, 96th Bomber Group. He was the Ball Turret Operator on a B-17 bomber named “Ain’t Misbehavin.” His squadron was on a bombing mission to take out targets inside Germany, when the plane was hit by enemy fire over Lindhorst, Germany, about 200 miles west of Berlin. According to the lone survivor of the crew, who was able to parachute out in time, the plane blew up in mid air. Staff Sergeant Cralle is buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery in France. Staff Sergeant Cralle was awarded the Purple Heart, Air medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters and numerous other Army awards.
Ensign Michael Henry Korn
Ensign Michael Henry Korn was killed during a routine training flight on January 27, 1944. Ensign Korn was the pilot of the plane that crashed near Jacksonville, Florida. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Private First Class Julius M. Vajda
Private First Class Julius M. Vajda served with the 30th Infantry Division, 119th Infantry Regiment in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. After landing in Normandy on July 10, 1944, his unit was active in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe.
The 30th Infantry Division spearheaded the St Lo breakthrough and was the first unit of the Allied troops to enter Belgium and Holland. In July 1944 they were involved in one of the war’s most memorable actions, the St. Lo breakthrough in France. Although the 29th Infantry Division is credited with the victory at St. Lo, it has been noted that without the 30th Infantry Division’s assistance it would have taken much longer, and at a greater loss of life. Julius received the Bronze Star for meritorious conduct on July 29, 1944.
Julius was killed in Belgium around the time of the battle of St. Vith at the Battle of the Bulge on January 14, 1945. He was buried at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium but his remains were later returned to the United States to be re-buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
This Memorial Day take the time to pause and reflect on the sacrifices of all of our fallen military heroes, especially Staff Sergeant Hersal B. Cralle, Ensign Michael Henry Korn and Private 1st Class Julius M. Vajda. These men are decorated war heroes who gave their lives so we could live free. We can never repay them for their sacrifice but we can keep them in our hearts and minds so they are never forgotten.
To read more about these members, visit the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department’s website Veteran’s page at http://www.chvfd.org/veterans/.