Scott County

Cpl. Rudy B. Tonkovich

 

RICHARD O. FREERS AMONG COUNTY
WAR DEAD RETURN FOR BURIAL

The body of the first Muscatine soldier to be returned to this community for burial - that of Private First Class Richard O. Freers - arrived in the United States Sunday aboard the U.S. Army Transport Walter W. Schwenk. Also aboard the ship, which docked at San Francisco, are the bodies of two Marines from this vicinity, Second Lt. Lester E. Hutchcroft of Mediapolis and Cpl. Rudy B. Tonkovich of Durant.

The Schwenk carried a total of 3,257 bodies from cemeteries in the Pacific area, including more then 3,000 bodies of Americans who died in the bitter fighting for the Pacific islands. Seventy-two are being returned to the United States for final burial at the request of next-of-kin residing in Iowa.

The group aboard the Schwenk is the largest to be returned from the Pacific to date, the army reports. Two other ships have returned war dead from Pacific areas and three from the European battle zones since the army’s program of return of World War II dead began last October.

Source: Muscatine Journal, Muscatine, Iowa, Monday, March 22, 1948

ASC participates in school ceremony honoring fallen veteran graduates on Pearl Harbor anniversary

By Jon Connor, ASB Public Affairs 

Davenport, Iowa -- The world was at war and Rudy Tonkovich wanted to serve his country.

But before he ever saw action, he got in trouble for being tardy in a class at Davenport High School as it was called in 1942, said Bill Wundram, legendary columnist for the Quad-City Times newspapers who described himself as a "bold, young punk" back then.

Wundram witnessed Tonkovich getting in trouble with the teacher, who he described as pretty strict. The scolding Tonkovich received included the whole class singing "God Bless America" to him. But when asked why he was late 10 minutes late, Tonkovich said he just signed up to join the Marine Corps. All was forgiven.

Tonkovich eventually served, Wundram said, and later made the ultimate sacrifice as he was killed in the South Pacific at Iwo Jima.

Wundram was among several guest speakers who participated in Davenport Central High School's remembrance ceremony to pay tribute to those alumni that have died serving in the military.

The ceremony was held Dec. 7 – the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
"Yesterday, December 7, 1941-- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan," President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared to a joint session of Congress beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Congress immediately passed a formal declaration of war against Japan and officially brought the U.S. into World War II against Germany and Italy too.

As of the ceremony, 42 graduates were identified and remembered by the school. The school opened in 1905.

"As we remember the names of the 42 Central High School graduates who were killed in action on distant battlefields, at sea, or flying above them, let us be mindful of the price they paid for the freedoms we enjoy today," said Lt. Col. Bradley Cook, chief, Mission Systems Division of Information Management, Army Sustainment Command, Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.

"But who were these service members we gather to remember today," Cook rhetorically asked an audience of about 150 community members and students gathered in Kahler Auditorium for an afternoon ceremony.

"They were ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances; people who knew the true meaning of courage. And when placed in dangerous situations, where lives hung in the balance, they reacted and did what they had to in order to fulfill their mission -- each of them giving everything they had," he answered.

"They did not march to foreign shores armed with notions of glory. Conquest was never their goal," Cook said. "To the contrary, they went to distant lands with a simple notion -- that all peoples in all nations have a right to live in a world free from tyranny."

"And they fought with an equally simple conviction -- that freedom isn't free and some principles in life are worth dying for. All of us should recognize the debt of gratitude we owe to these 42 heroes who willingly laid their lives on the line and made it possible for us to live in a better world," he said.

"Future generations should draw inspiration from the stories of the lives of these young men from Davenport who paid the ultimate price," Cook said. "All of us here today owe a debt to these heroes, and in tribute, we should seek to serve others in some way; willing to make sacrifices for the greater good of our society."

Also addressing the audience was Davenport mayor Bill Gluba.

Gluba said the attack on the U.S. Navy resulted in 18 ships and 350 aircraft being sunk, severely damage, or destroyed.

The tribute, he said, was for both the living and the deceased.

"I salute you in remembering your fallen students," Gluba concluded.

In the attack, 1,178 people were wounded while 2,335 were killed, records show. Sixty-four Japanese were also killed in the attack which started at 8 a.m. and ended one hour and 45 minutes later.

The ceremony concept and planning was conducted by student Roy Schindler, a member of the Army Junior ROTC at the school.

Schindler, it was stated in the ceremony, is the top cadet in the school's AJROTC program and plans to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point upon graduation.

Schindler's grandfather, Roy Schindler, served as the inspiration for this tribute to veterans, the ceremony program stated. The elder Schindler was a veteran who was wounded in action and a prisoner of war eventually returning home alive.

Elise Castro, a junior, sang the national anthem and was accompanied by Sam Flesburg, a senior, for "America the Beautiful" later in the ceremony.

Attendees were given the latest edition of the school's newspaper, "The Blackhawk" which had a special 8-page military insert titled "Bigger than Us – In remembrance of the fallen…"

Source: Island Insight, Rock Island, Illinois, Monday December 10, 2012