When the United States was drawn into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the war effort was put forth by everyone from soldiers at the front to school children at home. Young Edward J. Mulqueen of Cudahy, Wisconsin, wanted to do his part, so he donated his prized hunting knife to the U.S. military.
An 11-year-old student at St. Frederick’s Catholic School, Mulqueen read about the shortages of materials for the war effort. Newspapers carried pleas for donation of quality knives, since the hardened steel used in the blades was scarce. Eddie didn’t hesitate. In late 1942, he carefully packaged up his knife and mailed it to the address published in the newspaper. He was proud to do his part. After all, with two brothers headed for the Pacific theater (and later a third) he had a personal stake in the fight.
He might have forgotten about the donation, but two letters from the U.S. military, one from a general and one from a corporal, set his heart to soaring. The first letter, dated January 21, 1943, thanked Eddie for his thoughtfulness. “Words themselves cannot fully express our gratitude,” wrote Maj. Gen. Barney M. Giles, commander of the Fourth Air Force. “However, when the battles are over and our boys are home again, we all will thrill at the tales of how they were used.”
Giles was not just some Army bureaucrat. He was commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Force in the Pacific, who later became deputy commander of the entire U.S. Army Air Force. Giles worked alongside legendary war heroes, including Adm. Chester Nimitz, Lt. Gen. James Doolittle and Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold. He closed his letter to Mulqueen this way: “This much I know. With your gift goes another weapon that will certainly do much to help our boys slap the Japs into a complete and lasting tailspin.”
The next letter, from a U.S. Army Air Force officer in February 1943, was especially meaningful to Eddie. “He wished he had a hundred, yes even a thousand knives to donate,” read an article in the Cudahy Reminder/Enterprise. “His knife was seeing action and was being useful to one of our service men fighting in the Pacific.”
Stationed in the Fiji Islands, Cpl. Lucas R. Boyson was glad to receive the knife sent all the way from Wisconsin. Boyson, 29, was even more impressed that an elementary school student was behind the donation. “I was fortunate to receive your knife and to say it was a treat would be to put it mildly,” Boyson wrote in a letter to Mulqueen on February 14, 1943. “It is grand to cut stalks of sugar cane or bamboo sticks and for that matter general miscellaneous uses. I shall carry it with me always and each time I use it, I’ll whisper a ‘thanks to Eddie.’ ”
A married enlistee from Elyria, Ohio, Boyson was serving with the 375th Air Base Squadron, part of the U.S. Army air corps. He was among the first wave of men from Lorain County, Ohio to volunteer for service in January 1941. He wrote to Eddie that the natives on the islands were impressed with the knife, compared with the “hand-pounded, crude machetes they carry with them in the jungles.”
We don’t know if Boyson ever used the knife in combat, but we do know he survived the war and returned to Ohio, where he lived an exemplary life of faith and public service. On February 28, 1946, Lucas and Wilhelmina Boyson welcomed a baby daughter, Mina. Lucas was an attorney who became actively involved with his American Legion post, St. Jude Catholic Church and a variety of civic groups and causes. At one time he headed the Lorain County Bar Association. He was also a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, a group with a special focus on patriotism. Boyson died on December 5, 1992 at age 78.
Inspired by the wartime service of three brothers and one sister, Eddie joined the U.S. Navy and served during the Korean War. After the war, he got married and started a job at Wisconsin Electric Power Co. He was an electrician for many years. Eddie and his wife Marie had three children. The couple later moved to Michigan, where Eddie died in August 1991 at age 60.©2014 The Hanneman Archive