Friday, 30 September 2022

County's first World War II casualty honored in Saturday ceremony

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Staff Sgt. Thomas C. Ferron was raised in Lakeport and eventually joined the military, where he was training for combat when he was killed in a training mission. Photo courtesy of Paul T. Ferron.




LAKEPORT – The first Lake County serviceman to lose his life during World War II was honored in a ceremony Saturday morning.


The United Veterans Council, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, family and friends gathered for the military tribute at the graveside of Staff Sgt. Thomas C. Ferron in Hartley Cemetery.


As Lake County News reported last week, local veterans decided to honor Ferron after learning more about his tragic story.


Ferron, a radio operator, died at age 22 in a B-17 bomber crash that occurred during a training mission on the night of Oct. 15, 1942.


He and eight other Army Air Corps crew members were killed when the plane, traveling at full speed, hit North Baldy peak near Magdalena, New Mexico.

 

A plaque to commemorate the crash is being dedicated in early July in Magdalena, New Mexico. Rick Webster, who grew up in the area, spearheaded an effort to have the plaque placed. It was his contact with Kelseyville's American Legion Post No. 194 in March that placed new attention on Ferron's story.


A news report at the time of Ferron's death explained that the plane had circled low over Magdalena before heading toward the mountain, where the plane's tail hit the peak causing “a terrific explosion,” in the words of Forest Ranger Arthur Gibson.


Gibson, who was among the rescue party, said parts of the plane could be found over an area of 200 to 300 yards on one of the peak's sides.


Ferron's parents, Thomas and Serena Ferron, had been planning a visit to see him in New Mexico at the time of the crash, the news report stated.


At the time of his death, Ferron had been in the service less than a year, joining the Army Air Corps on Nov. 13, 1941, according to the 1942 news report.


He had trained to become a pilot but couldn't pass the pilot's exam physical, so he instead went into training as a radio operator and gunner, the news report explained. Ferron graduated from Harlingen Army Gunnery School in Texas as an aerial gunner on Aug. 17, 1942, and was in his final test flights before combat when he was killed.


United Veterans Council Chaplain Capt. Woody Hughes eulogized Ferron, recalling how “woefully unprepared” the United States was when it entered World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

 

 

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The United Veterans Council's Military Honors Team was on hand to give Ferron a gun salute. Photo by Charlie Schreiber.
 


Honoring veterans, Hughes said, is important. He recalled George Washington's admonition that the future of the military depended on the appreciation shown those who have served.


“All veterans gave some, and some – like Thomas Ferron – gave all” to preserve the nation's freedoms, said Hughes.


Ferron's cousin, Paul T. Ferron of Nice, attended the Saturday ceremony and accepted a flag from the United Veterans Council.

 

 

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United Veterans Council Chaplain Capt. Woody Hughes (left) presents a flag to Paul Ferron of Nice, Thomas Ferron's cousin. Photo by Margaret Smothers.
 

 


Paul Ferron told Lake County News that Thomas Ferron had studied to become an electrician after high school, and had spent time living in Salinas before entering the military. The news report on Thomas Ferron's death also reported that he had attended Salinas Junior College for two years and the University of California for one year.


According to Paul Ferron, his cousin grew up in a small house on Main Street, which today houses Lake Vacation Rentals.


Thomas Ferron had two sisters, one who died as a child, Elizabeth, and an older sister, Florence, who later moved to Salinas and became an English teacher, Paul Ferron said.


Saturday's ceremony also brought out two schoolmates of Ferron's – Bob Anton of Lakeport and Harold Haas of Scotts Valley. Haas brought copies of the original news clippings of Ferron's crash.


The men remembered Ferron as an active and popular student who was student body president at Lakeport's Clear Lake High School, where he graduated with the class of 1938. They also said Ferron played all the sports and was center on the football team.


Haas, who was in the military stationed in Oregon at the time of the crash, was given leave to come home for the original funeral, which included full military honors and a plane flyover.


Anton said he couldn't attend Ferron's funeral in 1942 because he, too, was away in the Army Air Corps.


Haas said he and members of his family plan to attend the July dedication ceremony.


Ferron's death made him the first World War II-era casualty among Lake County's servicemen, according to early news reports.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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Ferron is buried in a family plot at Hartley Cemetery. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 


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