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 WilhelminaBoyson 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.
It was just the kind of wartime story that made an emotional impact on Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. Three Irish brothers serving in World War II appeared together to promote the sale of war bonds at a series of rallies in November 1944. Two were home on leave from the front and one was about to embark on his first overseas tour of duty.
There they stood on stage, the baby-faced Thomas “Tinker” Mulqueen still in naval training, the serious Marine Cpl. Earl J. Mulqueen Jr., on crutches due to the loss of his left leg above the knee, and the curly-haired redhead, Patrick J. Mulqueen, home from more than 18 months at sea with the U.S. Navy.
“Maybe it is because they are Irish, or maybe it is because they look so much like little boys—or maybe it is because everyone at one time or another, lost his heart to an Irish grin,” wrote The Milwaukee Journal in a front-page story on November 10, 1944. “But no matter what the reason, more and more persons every day are agreeing that the Mulqueen brothers, Tommy, Earl and Patrick, are among the greatest things which ever happened to Milwaukee.”
The impact the boys had was most evident at a bond rally at Schuster’s Department Store on Milwaukee’s North 3rd Street. The event got off to a slow start. Ben Barkin, head of the local war finance committee (later a legendary Milwaukee PR man and founder of the Great Circus Parade) was worried. That all changed when the Mulqueen boys took to the stage. “They are so cute,” one woman said. “They look like little boys playing soldier.”
Now the crowd was interested. Barkin introduced the lads. The 17-year-old Tommy was first to step forward and said simply, “You buy the bonds and the Mulqueens will win the war.” Considering he had yet to set foot in a combat zone, such as statement could have been viewed as a “wisecrack by a fresh kid,” The Journal wrote. But it wasn’t. “When Tommy said it, you knew he was telling the solemn truth,” the paper wrote. (Tinker went on to serve as a sailor on the fleet oiler USS Mattaponi.)
Earl talked about the war. At 21, he had seen more fierce combat than most would ever see. He fought at Guadalcanal and Tarawa with the 2nd Marine Division. Those were two of the bloodiest, deadliest battles of the entire Pacific war. Earl was a mortar crewman, so he was right at the front.
Earl was helping prepare an invasion fleet for the 1944 assault on the Mariana Islands when his landing ship-tank (LST) blew up at Pearl Harbor. The massive chain explosion caused the loss of many ships and resulted in hundreds of casualties. Because of the preparations underway for the invasion of Saipan, the Pearl Harbor disaster was a classified secret until the 1960s. So Earl was only able to say that he “almost made it to Saipan.” (Details of Earl’s war service and loss of his leg in the West Loch disaster will be the focus of a future Archive story.)
Patrick spoke of his experience as a firemanaboard the light cruiser USS Concord (CL-10). He enlisted on August 7, 1942 and by March 1943 was among the compliment of 700 aboard the Concord. The ship escorted reinforcement convoys in the southern Pacific, and prowled the dangerous, icy waters of the north Pacific. The Concord was involved in numerous bombardments of the Kurile Islands. During 1943, the Concord was on a surveying mission of the South Pacific with retired Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the famous explorer. The ship visited Tahiti, Bora Bora and the Easter Islands. A huge explosion onboard on October 7, 1943 took the lives of 22 crewmen. Caused by ignition of gasoline fumes at the rear of the ship, the explosion threw some men overboard, while others were killed from concussion, burns, fractured skulls and broken necks. On October 8, those men were buried at sea. After participating in bond rallies in Milwaukee, Patrick was assigned duty on the USS Crockett (APA148), a Haskell class amphibious attack transport. The USS Crockett had just been commissioned on November 28, 1944.
The crowd at Schuster’s quickly figured out that these “boys” had seen and experienced the horror of war. “It was simple and short,” The Journal wrote. “No frills. No hero stuff, no dramatics—nothing but a couple of kids, one on crutches, asking people to buy and sell bonds.” The stories of the Mulqueen boys had the desired effect. Barkin exclaimed, “You know, the bond drive is going to come out all right.” He was right, for the Schuster’s bond drive raised more than $500,000.
Schuster’s was just one of many venues at which the Mulqueen boys spoke. At some rallies, they were joined by their mother, Margaret “Madge” Mulqueen, who was deeply involved with the war effort through the Wisconsin chapter of the Marine Corps League. She had four blue stars displayed in the window of the Mulqueen home at 3854 E. Cudahy Avenue in Cudahy — one for each of the three boys and one for her daughter Margaret, a Navy nurse based in San Diego.
The bond drives were a crucial part of the home-front effort in World War II. Across the nation, eight war-bond drives between 1942 and 1945 raised more than $190 billion. Investors purchased $25 bonds for $18.25. Bonds were redeemable after 10 years. Companies sponsored in-house bond rallies, and employees pledged purchases through payroll deduction. Children were encouraged to buy 25-cent war stamps to save up for their own war bond. Special sections of local newspapers were dedicated to promoting bond sales. On the radio, popular programs such as Fibber McGee and Molly dedicated entire episodes to war bonds and other home-front efforts.
Earl Mulqueen and Army T/Sgt. Louis C. Koth appeared at such a corporate event at Oshkosh B’Gosh Inc. on November 30, 1944. They were introduced by company president Earl W. Wyman. Koth was a radio operator aboard a U.S. Army Air Force B-17 bomber that was shot down during a mission over Schweinfurt, Germany. Koth was on his third mission in a B-17 Stratofortress when he was forced to parachute into enemy territory. Taken prisoner and repatriated 11 months later, Koth lost his right arm. Koth began participating in the bond tours shortly after being released from a hospital in Madison in the fall of 1944.
Koth and Earl Mulqueen toured Oshkosh Motor Truck Inc. and Universal Motor Co. Later they were interviewed live on radio station WOSH by local bond chairman Richard J. White. “Both of these boys are giving freely of their time to help the sixth war loan campaign,” White said. “They have made sacrifices beyond any that we are being asked to make, and although they will not see action again, they are both anxious to do whatever they possibly can to see that ammunition does not have to be rationed at the front.”
The bond rallies helped explain the costs of supplying the troops. Toothbrushes cost 8 cents each. A hand grenade was $1.56. An anti-tank shell cost nearly $3. A Garand rifle was $55. A 1,000-pound bomb cost $250, while a 75-mm Howitzer cost $11,350. A PT boat cost the military $145,000, while a 1,630-ton destroyer had a price tag of $10 million. A fully outfitted battleship cost $97 million. Bond drives supplied the U.S. government with needed cash, while giving ordinary citizens a concrete way to participate in the war effort.
Largely due to Barkin’s tireless efforts, Milwaukee’s World War II war-bond drives became a model for the nation. Described by The Milwaukee Journal as an “ace ward bond salesman,” Barkin was honored as Milwaukee’s man of the year in 1945 by the Milwaukee Junior Chamber of Commerce. For his $1 annual salary, Barkin popped up just about everywhere in Milwaukee: schools, churches, civic clubs and businesses. The 28-year-old was unable to enlist due to a disability, so he threw his energy into raising money for the war effort. Doctors told him to slow down, but the pitchman didn’t listen. He gave more than 1,000 speeches each year as head of the community division of the war finance committee.
“Let’s show Milwaukee what their money is buying,” Barkin said in 1943. He organized a “Wings for Victory” parade of tanks, jeeps, artillery and other hardware to do just that. Funds from the rally after the parade were used to buy military transport planes for Mitchell Field. Barkin convinced Milwaukee to rename Wisconsin Avenue “War Bonds Drive” for the duration of World War II, a practice later adopted in dozens of other cities. He understood the importance of having soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines tell their stories. The results were often heart-rending. He told the story of a Milwaukee woman who stood in line for two hours to buy a war bond for her boy, serving in North Africa. Her husband had just died two days prior. “Doggone it,” Barkin told Walter Monfried of The Milwaukee Journal,“that kinds of gets you, doesn’t it?”
So Barkin knew when the Mulqueen boys stepped on stage, the people would dig deeply into their pockets to support the war. “No matter what the mood of the meeting before the kids talk,” The Journal wrote, “when they finish, that meeting is sure of going over the top.
“Everyone who has heard the Mulqueen brothers agrees,” the paper wrote, “that the kids are among the best in the world.”
I just learned with sadness of the death of my Dad’s older brother, Donn Gene Hanneman, who died in Minneapolis at age 88. Uncle Donn was the last of the Mauston Hanneman family to pass away. My Dad, David D. Hanneman, died in 2007 at age 74.
I have many memories of my uncle. He was foremost the father of nine wonderful human beings, my cousins Diane, Caroline, Tom, Jane, Mary Ellen, John, Jim, Nancy and Thomas Patrick (March 1-4, 1949). The cousins were raised by a saintly mother, my aunt Elaine Hanneman.
Donn was a veteran of World War II and served as a seaman-second class on the USS Hoggatt Bay. The USS Hoggatt Bay (CVE-75) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier (crew of 860) commissioned in December 1943.
Donn was born on August 20, 1926, in Wisconsin Rapids to Carl Henry Frank Hanneman (1901-1982) and the former Ruby Viola Treutel (1904-1977). In 1936, the Hanneman family moved to Mauston in Juneau County, where Carl took a job as a pharmacist attached to the Mauston hospital and clinic. By that time, my father had come along (March 1933). In August 1937, the family expanded to include Lavonne Marie Hanneman Wellman (1937-1986).
As a boy, Donn had his share of illnesses and injuries. He spent more than a week in the Marshfield hospital in September 1929, then returned there in April 1930. Just before my Dad was born in March 1933, Donn was hospitalized in Wisconsin Rapids for more than a week, after an operation for appendicitis.
Just after his 11th birthday in August 1937, Donn was standing on the running board of a moving vehicle while leaving the Juneau County Fairgrounds when he fell and suffered a head injury. He was seen at the Mauston clinic and taken home, but soon after “lost his power of speech and all consciousness,” according to an account in The Daily Tribune in Wisconsin Rapids. “He was then rushed to the hospital.” Donn was diagnosed with a concussion and put on two weeks of bed rest, although that was extended. The September 8 edition of The Daily Tribune said Donn “is making a satisfactory recovery, although he will be confined to his bed for two more weeks.”
Back in those days, a family’s every move ended up in the newspaper. In the case of the Hannemans, it was thanks to the faithful correspondence of Ruby Hanneman. “Mr. and Mrs. Carl Hanneman and little son Don Gene were completely taken by surprise last evening when forty friends arrived to give them a house warming on the occasion of moving into their new home on Hale Street,” the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune reported on April 8, 1932.
Some of the most charming photographs in our library are of a 5-year-old Donn dressed up as a cowboy playing with friends on the sidewalks on the 1200 block of Washington Avenue in Wisconsin Rapids. We detailed those photos in a previous post.
As a youth Donn enjoyed books, and collected enough that his father built him a bookcase that held up to 175 volumes. Carl wrote to my then 6-year-old father about it in August 1939. Dad was staying with an aunt and uncle in Waukegan, Illinois. “Say David, I made a book case for Donn for his birthday, and you know that you still have something coming,” Carl wrote, “so what would you like to have Dad make something for you too, if so tell mother and I will try to start it as soon as I can.”
For a time Donn attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Grade School in Mauston, then run by the Benedictine Sisters. He was among the graduates attending the school’s 100th anniversary in 1995. At the event, he ran into one of his teachers, Sister Emeric Weber, who was just 19 when she started teaching at St. Patrick’s.
“Sister Emeric, I’m sorry I’m late,” he quipped, to which the aged nun replied, “What’s your excuse now? What’s your excuse?”
Like his brother David and father Carl, Donn was a longtime Fourth-Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal and service organization. He most recently belonged to Council 1013 in Rochester, Minnesota.
There are many others better qualified to provide more recent stories about Donn. And even though he tossed my father through the bay window of their Mauston home when they were boys, my Dad didn’t hold it against him. When he was ill with cancer in the fall of 2006, Dad put it simply and succinctly: “He’s my brother and I love him.”
Donn G. Hanneman (center) in his U.S. Navy uniform, with sister Lavonne and brother David in 1944.
David D. Hanneman and older brother Donn G. Hanneman, circa 1935. Read more about the photo: http://wp.me/p4FxQb-v7
Donn G. Hanneman lounges outside his Grandpa Treutel’s home in Vesper, Wisconsin, circa 1930.
Donn G. Hanneman in the world’s smallest swimming pool.
Donn at the family home in Fond du Lac.
Donn Gene Hanneman, son of Carl F. Hanneman (1901-1982) and Ruby V. (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977), sits in an indoor baby swing at the Hanneman home in Fond du Lac, Wis, ca. 1927. Carl Hanneman was a pharmacist for the Staeben Drug Co. in Fond du Lac at the time.
Donn in his cowboy threads at Wisconsin Rapids.
Donn G. Hanneman wears a convincing looking police uniform, perhaps a Halloween costume.
Donn G. Hanneman looks like a lonely cowpoke with his wagon, circa 1930.
David D. Hanneman on the shoulders of brother Donn.
Donn G. Hanneman towers over his little sister, Lavonne Marie, circa 1941.
Donn G. Hanneman at the Mauston rail station, circa 1944.
Donn G. Hanneman in his U.S. Navy uniform in 1944.