Young Clarence Hamm

Headstone image found at FindaGrave memorial

You probably don’t remember anything about Clarence Hamm. That’s most likely because he was only 8 years old when he died from injuries received in a car accident in 1935.

It was a nice 80º day in Wisconsin. Clarence, his brother Arthur, his mother, Emma, and Uncle Paugel were heading home from a day of berry picking north of Antigo, when disaster struck.

The Wittenberg Enterprise, August 8, 1935 
Clarence Hamm Funeral Is Being Held This Afternoon
Funeral services for Clarence Hamm, the eight-year-old boy who died Sunday as the result of an automobile accident, is being held this afternoon at the Dobber Funeral Home and at First Lutheran church in this village. The Rev. N. B. Ursin officiated in the absence of the Rev. T. Aug. Lillehei, pastor of the congregation, who is on a vacation. Interment was in Forest Home Cemetery. The pall-bearers were Marty Swensen, Vernon and Kenneth Matson, Robert Heistad, Kenneth and Magnus Gunderson.

August 21, 1935
Clarence Hamm Dies Following Auto Crash 
Eight-Year-Old Wittenberg Boy Is Fatally Injured Early Sunday Evening 
An eight-year-old boy was killed and seven people were injured, two critically, Sunday night when two cars collided head-on on highway 45 just north of Koepenick. 
The boy, Clarence Hamm, of this village, died on his way to Memorial hospital at Antigo from a severe skull fracture. 
The injured are: Mrs. George Hamm, Wittenberg, mother of the dead boy, condition critical, suffering from a fractured skull and badly lacerated right arm; doctors doubt she will live. 
Mrs. Harold Zeiler, Chicago, broken arm and leg and body injuries. 
Albert Paugel, Wittenberg, driver of the Chevrolet coach carrying the Wittenberg party, lacerations over entire body. 
Arthur Hamm, 12, Wittenberg, son of Mrs. George Hamm, lacerations to the head. 
Harold Zeiler; Chicago, head injuries. 
Kenneth Anderson, Ironwood, Michigan, lacerations to his head.
Bert Wesley, Antigo, dislocated shoulder. 
It could not be learned definitely, just how the accident occurred, says the Antigo Journal. The Wittenberg party was bound south after a day picking blueberries. Zeiler, his wife, Anderson, and Wesley were going north in an Oldsmobile sedan. Zeiler was driving.
Paugel turned out to pass a Chevrolet truck being driven by Vernon Stoltenberg, Amherst Junction. Evidently seeing the other car Paugel tried to turn in again but side-swiped the truck. The Chevrolet then swerved directly into the path of the oncoming Oldsmobile the cars colliding head-on.
Almost all the people in the Chevrolet were thrown clear of the car. Mr. and Mrs. Zeiler were thrown through the windshield of the Oldsmobile. 
Passing motorists picked up the injured and rushed them into Antigo. Both cars, especially the Chevrolet, were demolished. Bill Hamm, 23, of Wittenberg, a brother of the dead boy, and Emil Klabunde, about 40, also of Wittenberg were sitting in the rear seat of the Chevrolet with Arthur Hamm. They were not injured, although they were thrown clear of the car. 
Zeigler, who lives in Chicago, is a traveling representative of the McClellan stores. He is stationed at Wausau at present. Anderson, also an employee of the McClellan stores, is working in the Antigo store as a relief man. 
The impact of the two cars colliding could be heard for more than a mile. Parts of the demolished cars were scattered around the wreckage for more than 25 ft. 
A warrant charging reckless, driving was issued Monday against Albert Paugel, driver of the Chevrolet coach carrying the Wittenberg party. The warrant will be served on Paugel as soon as he is discharged from the hospital, says the Antigo Journal.1

The case against his Uncle did indeed go to court and was reported in the Oshkosh paper:

WAUSAU MAN HELD NOT AT FAULT FOR FATAL AUTO CRASH
Judgment Reversed in Supreme Court Also Releases Indemnity Company From Liability

Madison (AP) — The state supreme court ruled today that Harold Zeiler, Wausau business man, was in no way responsible for a traffic accident near Antigo in 1935 in which a child was killed and several persons injured.
The high court reversed lower court judgments returned against Zeiler and  the Bankers Indemnity Company, with which he was insured, and ordered that the complaint against them be dismissed.
Nine year old Clarence Hamm was killed and several persons injured in an automobile collision on Highway, 45, 15 miles north of Antigo, Aug. 4, 1935.
I[n] one car were Harold Zeiler, Wausau business man, his wife, Vera and Bert Wesley, Zeiler was driving. In the other car were Albert Paugel, Wittenberg farmer, Emma Hamm, his housekeeper, and her son, Clarence.

HAD DEFECTIVE BRAKES
Trial of three damage suits in Circuit court disclosed that Paugel, whose car had defective breaks, turned to the left side of the road when a truck stopped in front of him and collided with the Zeiler car, approaching from the other direction.
Call uncle, and the latters insurer, Bankers Indemnity Company, were named defendants in suits brought by Mrs. Zeiler, Mrs. Hamm and Wesley. Paugel did not offer defense.
The jury, however, found that Zeiler was partly to blame for the accident by not maintaining a proper lookout.
Against Paugel, Zeiler and the insurance company the jury returned the following judgments; For Mrs. Zeiler, $3,688.75; for Mrs. Hamm, individually and for her son’s death, $5,191; for Wesley, $467.28.
Zeiler and the Bankers Indemnity Company appealed to the supreme court.2

As you can read in the article the insurance company was not happy with the outcome, so they took the case to the State Supreme Court. I was able to find a summary of it online, (use the link to see it.) The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the County court and refused any rehearing of the case.

Combining all the details from the newspaper articles, and case summaries, I was able to get a pretty good sense of where this accident happened too.

According to the court case the accident happened about 15 miles north of Antigo, by a golf course on (old) 45 (now known as B). Well, the map shows the golf course. The bit circled is where there appears to be a dip in the road as mentioned in the case, which you can see if you use google maps street view. The Paugel car was going south towards Antigo, probably heading back to Shawano where they lived.

The newspaper reported that his mother Emma was critically injured and not expected to live, but she did survive her injuries. However she died not too many years later, in 1943. Fred does not appear to have been living with Emma at the time of the accident. He was somewhere in Becker County, Minnesota, according to the 1940 census (the 1940 census asked where you were living 5 years earlier). This is confirmed by the 1934 directory for Shawano, Emma is the only Hamm listed.

Clarence was one of my grandmother Myrtle’s half brothers. I do not know if she ever met him, or even if she ever heard about his death, as he was a son from her father’s 3rd marriage. And if we have a picture of Clarence in our family albums, I am unaware of which one it might be. (The problem of unlabeled family photos rears it ugly head.)

SOURCE:
1. Clarence Hamm accident, The Wittenberg Enterprise, Wittenberg, Wisconsin, 8 August 1935, page ? column?, in Antigo Journal, Antigo, Wisconsin. (Transcription of newspaper article found online <www.ancestry.com> HAMM surname message boards.)

2. 1937-11-09, Tuesday, The Oshkosh Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin; p9, col. 8

Clarence Goes To Court

On October 30, 1931 Clarence John was driving home from a long day at work at his bowling alley in Oconto. It was 11:30ish at night and pouring rain.

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This is the road Clarence was driving on, Hwy 22 going west.

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Here is a photograph of the damage done to Clarence’s 1929 Roosevelt Coupe (the photos were in the court case file).

The driver of the motorcycle was Harvey, a 20-year-old, who was accompanied by a friend. Harvey lost a leg due to the severity of his injury. His father, acting as his guardian, sued Clarence for damages and the case was brought to Brown County Court in March of 1932, however there was a request to change the venue to Oconto County, which was consented to.

There were no witnesses to the accident other than the three people involved. The only testimony in the case is from Clarence. Below is a scan of the first page from the testimony.

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According to his testimony, he had half interest in a bowling alley in Oconto, at the armory, which he ran all by himself. He was living in Gillett with his wife, Myrtle, and his parents. They had no children at that time.

Clarence answered the suit against him with a definite ‘not my fault’, stating that the driver of the motorcycle was driving too fast for the conditions and lost control. Harvey’s lawyers and guardian denied the fault was his.

The damage that is visible on Clarence’s car does look like the other driver hit him, not the other way around. But in the end, we only have Clarence’s testimony, none from Harvey.

And, of course, no matter what we conclude seeing the evidence and reading the testimony, the jury’s opinion is the only one that matters. They found Clarence at fault, and ruled in favor of him paying damages of around $5100 for personal injuries sustained by the plaintiff. (If payment was for reparation for the loss of Harvey’s leg, it seems a bit cheap to me.)

In 1948, 15 years later, we find the case continued, because Clarence had yet to pay the $5100 he owed to the plaintiff.

The record, which consists of sworn affidavits of attorneys and the defendant, and the statements of counsel made in the record on this application, raises a serious question as to the truth of the allegations of the defendant in his affidavit. The plaintiff’s attorney at the time of the trial…swears that after the rendition of the judgment and for about nine years thereafter he industriously attempted to ascertain the financial condition of the defendant in Oconto and Forest Counties and that his investigation disclosed to his satisfaction that the defendant during that period was judgment-proof.*

From 1942-1948 no action or activity appeared to be going on regarding the collection of the debt. Until Harvey got impatient, and in 1948 started pushing for his money. Here is an excerpt from a letter from one lawyer to another regarding the matter, dated October 21, 1948:

I have checked with Findorff and they tell me that John terminated his employment with them sometime during the spring of this year. However, the motor vehicle dept. informs me that he has an automobile registered in his name – – -1936 Plymouth coach…residence being Crandon, Wisconsin.

Under the circumstances , there is no point in my filing the certified copy of the judgment, inasmuch as there is absolutely no chance of my garnisheeing his salary or having execution issued. In the event he is traced to Madison again, I will be happy to grab him by his pants. There may be a chance for you to have his car picked up if he has returned to Crandon.

This process continued until July of 1953. At this time Clarence was finally found in Wausau, and served, Harvey had made action to start the process of suing him, he was worried because the judgment would lapse in August of that year.

Clarence refused to show up in court, instead sending his attorney to file one paper which stated that since the judgment, he and his family had resided in Wisconsin all that time. They never received papers regarding the execution of the judgment, or even an attempt at communication, and that such in-action in all this time negates the ‘good cause’ requirements of the judgment. Basically, making it null and void.

But the lawyers for the plaintiff had this to say:

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It looks like Clarence really didn’t want to pay this debt. But he never asked for an appeal to the judgment, which kind of makes his excuse a bit thin.

In the end all this work that Harvey put into getting his money came to nothing. My grandfather, Clarence, died in February of the next year, (1954). On his father’s birthday.

*Wikipedia definition of judgment-proof: In the context of debt collection and civil litigation, the term judgment proof is commonly used to refer to defendants  who are financially insolvent, or whose income and assets cannot be obtained in satisfaction of a judgment.
     Being “judgment proof” is not a defense to a lawsuit. If sued, the defendant cannot claim being “judgment proof” as an affirmative defense. The term “judgment proof” instead refers to the inability of the judgment holder to obtain satisfaction of the judgment.
     If a plaintiff were to secure a legal judgment against an insolvent defendant, the defendant’s lack of funds would make the satisfaction of that judgment difficult, if not impossible, to secure.


Sources:

  1. Auto-Motorcycle Collide Friday Eve. on H’y 22, The Gillett Times, Gillet, Wisconsin, Thursday, November 5, 1931; No. 11, page 1, column 2. 
  2. Harvey Andrianssen vs. Clarence John, Circuit Court case #12741, Oconto Series 36, Green Bay ARC, UW Green Bay, Green Bay, WI. (Photographs from the accident taken from case file.)   If interested in case just ask me for a copy.

Crandon doings

The Crandon newspapers have been providing me with much amusement lately. Here is an article that includes my grandfather and his Uncle Harry:

The masquerade given here last Friday night by the Woodman Lodge drew over fifty couples, including many maskers. Prizes were won by…Harry Cain, dressed as Charlie Chaplin, and most comic gentleman…Clarence John in an Odd Fellow’s suit was best dressed gentleman. The Royal Neighbors served supper on the stage.1

I think all that fame went to gramp’s head, and he felt the need to celebrate:

Clarence John has suddenly taken a musical turn of mind and has whittled a ukalale out of a cigar box and slab and with the aid of a little hay wire is now putting in his spare time playing those popular Keith & Hiles lumberyard strains, “The Curse Of An Aching Back”, and “Working For Whisnant At Two Bones A Day.”2

ukulelelrg


Sources:
1. Friday, Mar 1 1918, p8c3, No. 26 32nd year; Forest Republican, Crandon, WI —Crandon Public library digital images.

2. Friday, Mar 22, 1918, p1c2, No. 29 32nd year; Forest Republican, Crandon, WI —Crandon Public library digital images.

  1. Ukulele plans found online: https://stansplans.com/ukulele_prplans.html. Get krackin’!

 

Clarence goes a courtin’

3215370619_83f9e115f3_oCourting Under Difficulties
Clarence John went to Cloma Sunday night, to sit up with a young lady friend. For the benefit of our readers who do not know where Cloma is located, we will state that it lies “somewhere near Nashville” and that S. W. Beggs is mayor of the village. Clarence evidently had some time, for in relating his trip he says, “I had heard it was hard to get there so I put on my bathing suit and started out at about eight bells. I walked two miles, swam a large creek, waded through mud up to my suspenders for a mile, jumped here and there on a wet corduroy road like a grasshopper and finally reached Siding Three at about twelve bells. Here I borrowed a horse from a gent and rode another mile, then a flock of large mosquitoes carried me a mile further, and at last I followed a cow into town just as Daddy Ison was getting up to feed his hog. The young lady was waiting for me so I sat down and rested a few minutes and then took a morning train back home. Talk about hard luck—I sure had it. I don’t see why girls want to move way out in the suburbs for anyway.”1

I have been having fun finding more digitizied newspapers available online. The Oconto County papers have been exceptionally good, and now I am finding some from Crandon.

This amusing tale was in the paper when Clarence, my grandfather, was 19 years old.


Source:
1. Friday, Jul 19, 1918, p1c1, No. 46, 32nd year; Forest Republican, Crandon, WI —Crandon Public library digital images.

Clarence and the Wisconsin State Guard Reserve

It was pure chance that I was preparing this post for this week, and Veteran’s Day is Saturday. Brilliant. To all the veterans in my family, past and present, thank you for your service.

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Clarence with his State Guard Reserve unit. (He is in the back row, straight back from the gentleman sitting on the far right in front.) His designation was provided by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison.

In 1904 the Wisconsin State Legislature enacted Chapter 434.

“In the event of all or part of the Wisconsin National Guard being called into the service of the United States, the governor is hereby authorized to organize and equip a temporary military force equal in size and organization to that called from the state, provided, that upon the return to the state of the troops called into the service of the United States the temporary military force shall be disbanded.”

Both my grandfather Clarence Fredrick John and his uncle Milton Cain were members of the Wisconsin State Guard (or in Clarence’s case it was the State Guard Reserve). Milton went on to fight in France with the Rainbow Division. My grandfather, on the other hand, never stepped foot in Europe, or Africa for that matter, during this war. He did not turn 21 until October 29, 1919 and the war was over a little more than a week later.

The State Guard was organized after the Wisconsin National Guard went overseas to join in the war effort in July of 1917. The first units of the State Guard that were organized were in Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac and Green Bay. The men recruited were all volunteers who were too old or too young for the draft.

Its first encampment was at Camp Douglas in July of 1918. It was comprised of four regiments of infantry and a State Guard Reserve. In total about 5,500 officers and men.

The Guard was paid an allowance by the state for: armory rent, upkeep of clothing, and the expenses connected with their training. However, the men in the Guard were all volunteers so received no wages or pay. And if you were in the State Guard Reserve, you paid for your own equipment and uniform.

The camp was commanded by BG Charles King, a retired officer of the Wisconsin National Guard. He trained the men as if they were regular army, and their competence  after a few days of intensive training, along with their own drills at home, was impressive. In his report to the adjutant general Gen. King complimented them highly.

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From the family album. Clarence Fredrick John in his State Guard Reserve uniform.

It was understood that joining the State Guard did not exempt the men from the draft. Those who were too young to join at that time would be eligible for active service when they reached the age of 21. The older men could be called up if they ran out of young blood.

The Wisconsin State Guard was needed 3 times during the World War I:
1. Sept. 16-18, 1918 Clark County; to assist in search for draft dodgers.
2. Aug. 20-24, 1919 As guards during the Cudahy riots.
3. Sept. 9-12, 1919 Troops were assembled in the armory at Manitowoc, for use in strike riots at Two Rivers, but they were not used.

The State Guard was incrementally disbanded starting on May 5, 1920, as the National Guard was slowly reactivated in full, a process which was completed in 1921.

Clarence was with the 26th Separate Company of Crandon.5 He sure does look cute in his duds. He apparently liked to say that his ship was turned around at sea because the war was over, so he never got to fight. It makes for a nice story, but I am doubtful that that was the case, as he wouldn’t have had time to be on a ship heading overseas, less than two weeks after he was of age. He might, however, have had his bags all packed and been raring to go.

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Sources:
1.  http://www.b-1-105.us/history/wsg.html.
2. Email from: Horton, Russell <Russell.Horton@dva.state.wi.us.
3. “State Guard to Camp Douglas”, The Farmer-Herald, Oconto Falls, Wis., Friday, June 28, 1918. Page 4 Column 2.
4. “Wisconsin in the World War,” by R. B. Pixley. Milwaukee, The Wisconsin War History Company, 1919. Copyright 1919:S.E. Tate Printing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A. Google Books digitized. p285
5. “…found a Clarence F. John in the State Guard Reserve microfilm. It appears he with the 26th Separate Company, which seems to be based out of Crandon” — email from Wisconsin Veterans Museum, 
30 West Mifflin Street, Madison, WI 53703.

Love at first sight?

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Clarence John and Myrtle Hamm, newlyweds.

My father remembers being told, when he was younger, that his parents had met when Clarence was injured in a train accident and Myrtle was taking care of him at a hospital in Marshfield where she was working as a nurse.

He didn’t have any more details than that. So for the past 15+ years I have waited patiently to find the newspaper article that would mention this accident and give me more details. Thankfully, the Oconto County Historical Society is currently making great efforts to digitize the Oconto County newspapers, and I have found some great articles in the past. A recent check of their progress gave me the answer I have been seeking:

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The Gillett Times, v27n50, Gillett, Wisconsin, Thursday, August 4, 1927, page 1.

The article certainly confirms that Clarence was in a train accident, and he was sent to the Marshfield hospital, where Mrytle would have been working at the time, (she had graduated from nursing school in May of that same year.)

It is believed that Clarence received a pretty hefty settlement from the railroad and this is probably the money he used to start his own business. A bowling alley.

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The Gillett Times, v28n15, Gillett, Wisconsin, Thursday, November 29, 1928, page 1.

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Here is a matchbook saved by the family from the bowling alley.

It is said that because Clarence’s venture started not long before the crash of 1929 and folks no longer had extra money to spend on luxury outings, such as bowling, the business didn’t last very long. But, I have no proof of that yet. I guess I will have to dig a little deeper.

In 1931, a little over 3 years after they met, Clarence and Myrtle ran away to Illinois and were married at the court house. Was it love at first sight? Only they know, and they aren’t talking.

Clarence John. Hero!

We are lucky in our family to have lots of bits and pieces from our John and Hamm families. One of the pretty cool items that was found in this treasure trove is this article:

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I have been unable to track down exactly when this event happened, as it is most likely that the newspaper this article appeared in hasn’t been digitized yet. I am guessing that Clarence was in his late teens to about 2oish, as he is talked about as the son of Mrs. and Mr. V. H. John, which tends to make me think he is still a young man and not on his own yet.

Kelly Lake was, and still is, a hot spot for folks vacationing in Oconto County. The size of the lake makes it a great place to boat, fish, swim, all those summer activities that you think of when you hear someone saying they are ‘going up north.’

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The red pin on the map market the location of Kelly Lake, Gillett and Oconto are on the map so one can see its location in relation to the two cities.

I am glad that my grandfather was there that day to be a hero. As, I am sure, was the lady in distress.

 

Nazis and secret bases in Greenland…

During WWII my grandfather Clarence Fredrick4 (Victor Hugo3, Fredrick William2, Ludwig1) John was too old to join as a soldier, being about 45 years of age. However, his expertise in road building, that he acquired working for the Forestry department in CCC camps in Wisconsin, was put to use in Greenland where he helped build runways for the military.

Clarence left his wife and 3 children for about a year to do his part to assist in the cause. Below is his SS Fairfax passenger list entry, after its arrival back in the US, at Boston at the end of December 1943.

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During his time in and around Greenland he took, and had taken, many pictures to remember his time there. (Because of all the snow it is difficult to see the details in many of the pictures.) He put together an album of all these pictures so that he would have something to show the students in the Crandon Grade School, when he gave a talk to over 400 students with whom he shared his adventures.

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Along with all the wonderful Inuit artifacts that he brought back with him and the stories of all he saw, there is one picture that he took that is important because of its historical military significance:

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Photo taken by Clarence.

 

The mission was boringly named by Germans as the “German Greenland Expedition,” and it wasn’t their first attempt to establish radio stations in Greenland.

The US Navy haunted the coast of Greenland with the purpose of hunting and destroying secret radio and weather bases that were being set-up in various remote locations Greenland by the enemy. And it wasn’t until  many months after this particular event occurred that the US Navy revealed what had happened, for security reasons no doubt.

Early in 1943 this secret base had been discovered, in May it was bombed by Army Air Force planes, and in September it was finally wiped out by a Coast Guard-Army expedition. The Germans occupying the small base had evacuated. But two German soldiers were eventually taken prisoner, one who had been captured and one who stumbled, accidentally, into the hands of the Americans.

The base on an uninhabited small island off the east coast of Greenland, had a small contingent of men from the German Navy. It was discovered by a sledge patrol consisting of Danish hunters who kept an eye on the coast for the US Navy while hunting. The two groups engaged in a battle and two Danes ended up being taken prisoner, another was killed. However, there were survivors who managed to get away and report the discovery to the US soldiers. After the battle the Germans banded together a party and headed north with the intentions of attacking the Danish weather station there. With machine guns under the cover of night, they attacked, but most of the Danes managed to escape.

The German commander attempted to get one of the Danish prisoners to collaborate on a mission up the coast, but at the first opportunity the Dane overpowered the Nazi and after a 40 day trip back, delivered him to the Americans.

Not much was left of the base when the Americans were done bombing it, as can be seen in the pictures. The Germans were pretty persistent and continued making attempts to establish bases, as the Navy encountered several German air patrols and engaged them over the next few months.

Clarence must have been along for the ride when the US soldiers made a trip to the base to make sure it was destroyed. At no time is an exact location given, but it must have been pretty remote for it to take 40 days to get a prisoner back to your allies.

You can read the complete details in the article, which was published in November of 1943. Clarence had a small clipping of the event from another paper in his scrapbook. He didn’t see combat, but he did get to witness an exciting intrigue related to the war. Spies and secret bases oh, my!

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A similar base discovery was filmed in 1944, so one can get a feel of what the Navy was doing when they found the bases and how the ships were getting around the frozen ice in the area at the time. While not the 1943 event, it is close enough for horseshoes.