Friday, March 3, 2017

Staff Sergeant Devere Means' story

In our email this past week was the following message from T Hirsch:
 I am a volunteer helping the Cambridge (England) WWII Cemetery with their upcoming 'Faces of Cambridge' tribute. On Memorial Day weekend 2017, they will post photos they receive next to the person's name on the wall of the missing or grave marker. I am searching for a photo of SGT Devere I Means (1921 - 1944) who was killed in WWII and is buried at Cambridge. I have not been able to find a photo of him to include in this tribute. According to military records, he went to 4 years of high school and Census records says he lived most - if not all - of his life in Petty. has no yearbooks for a high school in Petty and only books starting in the late '40's in Bridgeport and Lawrence. First I should make sure the high school was around before then? If so, would you know how I might find a yearbook for when he attended? (I am thinking it was 1936-1939-ish) Thanks for your assistance, T

K Fisher and J King got right to work.  Even though we had several photographs of Petty elementary school and several surrounding country schools, we had no Bridgeport high school yearbook for those years.  Thus our search for photographs from the school archive was unsuccessful.  

However,  J King decided to look in our old Bridgeport Leaders and he found the obit and a photo! 

On May 4, 1944 the headline read: Staff Sergeant DeVere Means Killed in Action over Germany April 18.

"Mr. and Mrs. Homer Means received a telegram Tuesday from the War Department, stating that their son DeVere Means, had been killed in action over Germany on April 18. He was a radioman and a gunner on a Flying Fortress. He had recently been made a Staff Sergeant and was near the completion of his missions.

He was born on October 1, 1920 and graduated from Bridgeport High School in 1938. On February 27, 1941 he enlisted in the Army and was sworn in at Rantoul March 3, 1941. In three weeks he was sent to Scott Field and remained there until going to Chicago about 18 months later. At Scott Field he took up radio and code. Passing his test he was then sent to Chicago where he taught radio and code in the Stevens and Congress Hotels. In May, one year ago he volunteered for overseas duty and was sent to Kearns, Utah for a few weeks training. From there he went to New York and then to England with the 8th Air Force.

He has two brothers in the service, Lawrence, a cadet at Coleman Field, Texas, and Ernst in the Navy, somewhere in the South Pacific. He is survived also by his parents, one other brother, Marvin, and three sisters, Bessie, Violet and Mrs. Otis Greenlee."

BUT what really made several of us cry though, was that the Bridgeport Leader had  published a letter written by him to his parents the week before.

April 27, 1944
The following letter was received by Mr. and Mrs. Homer Means from their son DeVere who is a radio operator on a bomber and is stationed in England. 

April 3

Dear mother, daddy and all: Well I hadn’t forgotten you not by a long site, but as you can see by some of the pictures I’ve sent I’ve been to a rest home and that’s about all I’ve done for eight days is to have lots of fun and recreation.

It was a wonderful place and the whole crew had a wonderful time. I’ll write more about it later. I only had 32 letters waiting on me when I came back, some pictures of Kathy, one of Betty Stout, also Betty Raski's graduation picture and to top that a picture of Ernie in that sailor uniform and he sure makes a good-looking sailor, even if I do say so.

I also received a box with cigars, candy and popcorn and would like to give you all a big hug and kiss for that. I know I have the most wonderful family in the whole world and I pray every day that God will keep them all well and safe for me and I know he will.

I have pictures of six of the men on the crew here. A wonderful bunch and I’ll try and get the other four soon. Sure hope that you and daddy don’t worry about me too much, mother, because I’m plenty well and safe, and hope to be home before too many months go by. I’m sure coming along fine and it shouldn’t be too long. I’ve sure had some wonderful experiences and some I’ll never forget.

I want to get this letter off as soon as possible so I’ll close now and get it in the mail. I wanted to send something nice, mom, for Mother’s Day but it’s not quite possible to do so, so I hope I’ll be remembered by saying "many happy returns" and I hope we have many more of them together and I know we will have. Will close now with loads of love and kisses to the swellest family in the whole wide world. Will write again soon, your loving son, DeVere

For more information see:  

There is also a facebook page- Faces of Cambridge. 

(Hirsch responded with Thanks and said that "the photo would be reproduced and placed in a holder of some kind so it can sit next to the marble cross and visitors could see the faces of the men who died saving their country."