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Kiowa County Signal - Kiowa County, KS
  • Local soldier’s service uncovered: Researcher tracks soldier’s journey through European Theater

  • A military collector and enthusiast has traced the military service of a soldier with ties to a Mullinville family.
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  • A military collector and enthusiast has traced the military service of a soldier with ties to a Mullinville family. “A couple years ago I came up with the idea of creating a website, to display my collection,” said Daan Stravers a 26-year-old Eindhoven-based signalman for the Royal Netherlands Army. “It would become an online museum. It was a great idea and I thought it would be finished pretty quickly. But eventually I realized that it would take much more time than I anticipated.” Stravers works in a bi-national division, installing and maintaining mobile computer networks for the Dutch and German military. “As a kid I was fascinated by the military, and later WWII,” he said via email. “I heard stories from my grandparents about the war. They told me about all the planes passing by and how it was like to live in such circumstances.” Stravers said his grandparents gave him a few military items that sparked an interest in World War II-era history and collectibles. “I think I got infected by a “military virus” at some point when I was a kid.” For the past few years Stravers has been researching the lives and service records of 18 soldiers from the most deadly war in history. He’s compiled personal and military items from all of the soldiers and will put them on display on his website www.ww2-eto.com. “I wanted to create an archive, where I could collect all the information I had about these veterans,” said Stravers. “I started with basic information like the name, serial number and unit of each veteran. About a year ago I started collecting all kinds of records that were available and also adding these to my archive. Then the difficult part started. I had to write an article about each and every veteran, some with very limited information. That wasn’t easy and it was very time consuming.” He said curiosity for the lives of the men who wore an article of clothing was the motivation for his research. “When I go to a museum, there are many items on display. Most of them don’t have any information or personal history. They might just say something like ‘WWII jacket used by U.S. Armed Forces.’ I am more interested in the history of these items. To whom did a particular item belong? Where did he come from? What unit did he serve in? Many collectors have dozens if not hundreds of jackets or field gear without any connections to its past. Some have a name, but no history.” One of the 18 men is Sgt. Rodney Eaton, a Missouri-native who served as an auto mechanic in the 231st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 6th Armored Division. Eaton would marry Mullinville-native Eloise Miller in 1942. Acquiring a selection of Eaton’s military effects, Stravers set out to uncover information about him, his life and his time in the European Theater of the war. Sergeant Rodney R. Eaton was born on Dec. 5, 1917 in Harrison Co. Missouri to Vaughn and Ruby Eaton. He enlisted in the army on Nov. 25, 1940 a little more than a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served as an auto mechanic in the Service Battery of the 231st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 6th Armored Division. His battalion was activated on Sept. 15, 1942 at Camp Chaffee, Ark. Later that year, on Dec. 21, he married his sweetheart Eloise Miller at an intimate ceremony in Kinsley. On Feb. 11, 1944 he left for Europe from New York, arriving in England 12 days later. His unit participated in all five campaigns of the 6th Armored Division. They landed on Utah Beach, France on July 19, 1944, two years and five months after they were activated and about a month after the Normandy Invasion. On July 24 the last of the division’s troops and equipment was assembled in the vicinity of Le Mesnil near the west coast of the Cherbourg Peninsula and began operations in the Normandy region. They secured several bridges, relieving the 4th Armored Division in Avranches, which entered combat on July 17. In August 1944, the division moved to the Brittany, a northwestern region of France. It destroyed a German outpost in Plouvien after closing in on the small town of Brest. While combat command A remained in Brest, combat command B relieved the 4th Armored Division at Vannes and Lorient on Aug. 12 and Aug. 15 respectively. On Sept. 2 they relieved the 35th Infantry Division, protecting the south flank between Orleans and Auxerre. In November his division traveled to the Lorraine region, crossing the Nied River under strong opposition, reaching the German border on Dec. 6 and establishing and maintaining defensive positions around Saarbrücken. In response to the Ardennes counter-offensive, aka “The Battle of the Bulge,” the division became responsible for the sector south of the Sauer River, between Ettelbruck and Mostroff on two days after Christmas 1944. They engaged with heavy German troops in the Mageret and Wardin area, east of Bastogne on New Years Eve. They were forced to withdraw until a Jan. 8, 1945 counterattack. By late January, Eaton and his Division had driven the Germans across the Our River back into Germany. They penetrated the Siegfried Line and reached the Rhine River at Worms on March 21 and set up a counter reconnaissance screen along its west bank. They crossed the Rhine River at Oppenheim on March 25 driving onto Frankfurt capturing Bad Nauheim and continuing to advance eastward. On April 4 they surrounded and captured Mühlhausen, crossing the Saale River and assisted in freeing Allied prisoners held in Buchenwald, a notoriously heinous Nazi concentration camp. They took Leipzig, crossed the Mulde River at Rochlitz and on April 15, 1945 they awaited arrival of the Red Army. They maintained defensive positions along the Mulde River until the end of hostilities in Europe. The U.S. War Department determined Eaton had participated in the Normandy Campaign (June 6, 1944 – July 24, 1944), a campaign in Northern France (July 25, 1944 – Sept. 14, 1944), the Rhineland Campaign (Sept. 15, 1944 – Mar. 21, 1945), the Ardennes-Alsace Campaign (Dec. 16, 1944 – Jan. 25, 1945) and the campaign in Central Europe (Mar. 22, 1945 – May 11, 1945). The 6th Armored Division was deactivated on Sept. 18, 1945 at Camp Shanks, New York. Eaton’s post-war career included service to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, at the Colorado River Agency, in Parker, Colo. There he planned and directed field construction work, and directed the irrigation maintenance and rehabilitation activities for the Colorado River Irrigation Project. He trained and upgraded the skills of Indian equipment operators. In 1969 he developed, from surplus equipment, a mobile paving concrete mixer that saved the agency thousands of dollars. Eaton was married to Eloise until his death on July 5, 1995 while they were living in La Paz, Ariz. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Greensburg. Stravers has compiled stories on all 18 of the soldiers in his collection and plans to share them on his website sometime over the next year. “WWII was such an unreal period,” said Stravers. “You can hardly imagine something like that took place; a war on such a large scale. Many people, many allied soldiers left the safety of their home to liberate a country and people they did not know. They left their families, wives and children to fight overseas. This is something that can’t be forgotten. People think the soldiers featured in popular movies won the war, but that’s just not true. My displays show the actual stories of random individuals that served in all kind of units. Every single one of them made an important contribution to the war.”

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