If Annie Sammons’ grown children had all marched off to war at the same time, there would have been enough to form their own unit.
Instead, they left the nest one by one to serve their country; nine sons and a daughter in World War II and another son in the Korean War.
Annie (her real name was Anna) and her husband, William, had 15 children in all that were born between 1913-1930, including one who died at 8 months old. They had three sets of twins in all, with two of the sets of twins serving in WWII.
When William passed away in 1934 at age 56, Annie was left to raise the children on her own. But several tragic events left her heartbroken.
One of her children, the oldest son, “Johnnie,” died of malaria while a prisoner of war in the Philippines. Another son, Marvin, had only been enlisted for a short while before being granted a 24-hour pass from boot camp to attend a family reunion and died as a result of a swimming accident.
After seeing a story in a daily Minnesota newspaper a few years ago about seven siblings from the same family serving in World War II, Lorna Glatz, Annie’s granddaughter, became historically interested in her own military family tree.
“I knew my grandparents had 10 children serve in World War II and another in the Korean War, and I doubted that any other family in Minnesota could claim that many,” Lorna remarked. “I contacted my cousin, John Sammons (Annie’s grandson), and he did a lot of the research on our family.”
Lorna and John both grew up in the Tracy area in southwestern Minnesota. Lorna’s mother and John’s father were siblings.
Lorna now resides in Alexandria, while John and his wife, Pat, live in Hastings (they are also snowbirds, alternating every other year between Florida and Arizona).
Lorna lived with her grandmother in Tracy during the school year of 1944-45 because her parents did not like the idea of having their daughter attend country school in a class with all boys. So, Lorna attended elementary school in Tracy that year.
“My grandma was a small lady, about 5-foot-1. But she was a feisty lady,” Lorna laughed. “I can’t imagine what it was like for her having so many of her own children in the service. It must have been really tough on her.”
John has been relentlessly researching the military angle of his family for several years, writing letters to military headquarters for information, perusing through history books, surfing the Web and also visiting gravesites.
“I requested service numbers, pay records, personnel records and things like that,” said John, who was named after his uncle John Henry “Johnnie” Sammons, the second of Annie’s children, but first to serve in the military. “I’ve visited the graves of all but one of the 11. I haven’t been to the Philippines to see where ‘Johnnie’ is buried.”
John’s father, Clarence, was Annie and William’s fourth child and second to serve in WWII.
Many of the records John was hoping to obtain were destroyed in a fire on July 12, 1973, at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The records that weren’t lost in the fire were destroyed by water damage.
The Sammons family’s military tree branches also reveal some other interesting notes.
While Lorna’s and John’s grandfather, William, never served in the military, their great-great-grandfather, John Robert Sammons, grew up in Hillsville, Virginia, and fought for the Confederate Army in the Civil War at age 16. He was 93 when he died in 1940.
And Lorna’s and John’s great-great-great- grandfather, John D. Salmons (the “l” in Salmons was later changed to an “m”) was 22 years old and a sergeant when he served in the War of 1812.
“If either of them had been killed in the war, I wouldn’t be here today,” said John, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1964-70, the last three years out of Guam as a ballistic missile submariner in the Pacific.
The first of Annie’s children to serve in World War II was Melford “Ki” (born in 1919). He was followed by brothers “Johnnie” (1913), James (1921), Raymond (1918), Melford, twins Floyd and Freeman (1923), Marvin (1925), Leslie (1926), Marie (1925; Marvin’s twin sister), and Clarence (1916).
Vernon (1930) served in the Korean War.
Annie, who lived in Currie until 1944 when she moved to Tracy, kept scrapbooks of all the correspondence from her children in the military. Upon her death in 1961, the scrapbooks that included letters from home, service photos, newspaper clippings and more, were inherited by her daughter Angeline Hudson, of Tracy.
Unfortunately, the entire collection of scrapbooks, including all service photographs of the boys, was lost when the 1968 Tracy tornado struck and destroyed Chuck and Angeline (Sammons) Hudson’s home.
John Henry “Johnnie” Sammons
Born: Jan. 15, 1913; Enlisted: June 27, 1941; Rank: Tec 4 with Ordnance Corps, U.S. Army Air Force; Died: June 2, 1942; Gravesite:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Fort Bonfacio, Taguig City in Metor Manila, Philippines.
Johnnie was the first of two siblings to die while on active duty. The Army Air Force (one entity during World War II) sent a “Declaration of Death” notice dated May 25, 1944, to Annie Sammons because on May 7, 1942, Johnnie was declared missing in action (MIA). His death was presumed to be May 8, 1944, but on June 7, 1945, the Army recovered documents and the burial rosters for Camp O’Donnell POW Camp Cemetery, and a casualty report indicated John H. Sammons died on June 2, 1942. He was 29 years old when he died. A special letter was then sent to Annie dated Sept. 4, 1945, informing her of Johnnie’s actual date of death, cause and where his remains were buried. Johnnie had volunteered for service less than six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Johnnie was on Clark Field, Philippine Island. The Japanese attacked the next day, and Johnnie was never heard from again. On April 8, 1942, the Philippine/U.S. Army of 60,000-80,000 surrendered on the Bataan Peninsula to the invading Imperial Japanese Army. Johnnie survived the Bataan Death March, a forcible march of approximately 65 miles after which the prisoners were loaded into railroad cars that took them to Camp O’Donnell POW Camp. There were many deaths during the march and the severe physical abuse administered by the Japanese Army was later judged to be a war crime.
Clarence Martinus “Pete” Sammons
Born: April 9, 1916; Drafted: June 15, 1945; Discharged: Dec. 14, 1945; Rank: Private, U.S. Army Air Force; Died: Oct. 8, 2002; Gravesite: St. Mary’s Calvary Catholic Church Cemetery, Tracy, Minnesota
Pete, as he was more commonly known throughout his life, was 28 years old and married with four children when he was drafted into the Army Air Force in June 1945. Prior to being drafted, Pete served with the Minnesota State Guard for two years. He entered the service at Fort Snelling in St. Paul before being sent to boot camp at Sheppard Field Army Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. In August, he was transferred to Jefferson Barracks Army Air Force Base in St. Louis. A month later, he was sent to East Kelly Field Army Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After a one-month stay there, he was on the move to Kingman Army Air Force Base in Kingman North, Arizona. The following month, he transferred to Victorville Army Air Force Base in Victorville, California; then was sent to Santa Ana Army Air Force Base in Santa Ana, California; where he was discharged. Pete was 86 years old when he died in 2002.
Raymond William “Ray” Sammons
Born: April 23, 1918; Drafted: Nov. 28,
1942; Discharged: Feb. 26, 1946; Rank: Corporal, machinist in field artillery, U.S. Army Air Force; Died: Sept. 14, 1969; Gravesite: Williamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon
During his time in the service in World War II, Ray served first at Fort Williams, a coastal defense Army base in Portland, Maine; then served in England, France, Belgium and Germany before being honorably discharged in February 1946. He was the last of the 10 Sammons siblings to return home from the military. While being home on furlough in June 1943, he was attending a family reunion on Lake Shetek when his younger brother, Marvin, was injured in a swimming accident and died 12 hours later at the Tracy Hospital. Ray was 51 years old at the time of his death in 1969.
Melford Ronald “Ki” Sammons
Born: Oct. 23, 1919; Enlisted: March 19, 1941; Discharged: Sept. 15, 1945; Rank: Sergeant in Medical Corps, U.S. Army Air Force; Died: Dec. 27, 1984; Gravesite: East Lawn Palms Cemetery & Mortuary in Tucson, Arizona
Melford, who served the longest of any of his siblings in the military, was known by his nickname “Ki” (pronounced KYE), which is derived from the German word Kaiser (title of authority), although the current family is unsure how that came about. Melford was stationed at a coastal defense Army base in Stika, Alaska, before being deployed to England and Europe. While in England, his younger brother, Freeman, was also stationed there, although the two did not meet overseas. Melford was also home on leave for the family reunion when younger brother Marvin died in a swimming accident at Lake Shetek south of Tracy. One of the interesting bits of information uncovered during John Sammons’ research was Melford’s final pay record which was $86 for a month of service. He died in 1984 at age 65 while living in Tucson, Arizona.
James Ralph “Jim” Sammons
Born: June 15, 1921; Enlisted: July 2, 1942; Discharged: Nov. 16, 1945; Rank: CK 1.
Cook Petty Officer 1st Class, U.S. Navy; Died: Dec. 15, 1963; Gravesite: Tracy Community Cemetery, Tracy, Minnesota
Jim enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942 and then trained at Great Lakes, Illinois. He eventually served as a petty officer 1st class on various ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific, including the USS Whirlwind Coastal Patrol, USS John Rogers Destroyer and USS Haverfield Destroyer Escort. Those ships engaged in anti-submarine duty with aircraft carrier groups. Jim and his shipmates earned the Presidential Unit Citation medal for extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty. He served over 40 months before being discharged with the highest rank of all the Sammons siblings in 1945. He was only 42 years old when he died in Tracy.
Floyd Ronald “Speed” Sammons
Born: Sept. 11, 1923; Drafted: April 2, 1943; Discharged: Jan. 10, 1946; Rank: Tec 5 with Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Air Force; Died: Nov. 21, 1984; Gravesite: Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, California
Floyd was known by his nickname “Speed” for his love of motorcycles and for his fast pace of life. He is Freeman’s older twin. Floyd was a technician fifth grade (TEC 5), a rank during World War II. Those who held this rank were addressed as corporal and called tech corporal. He served 33 months in North Africa and the China-Burma-India theater. While en route to Africa, Floyd survived the sinking of his troop transport ship which was torpedoed by a German submarine. Floyd was also home on furlough from basic training at the Atlantic City Training Center in New Jersey for the family reunion at Lake Shetek when his younger brother, Marvin, had the diving accident and later died. Floyd was 61 when he died in California.
Freeman Lloyd Sammons
Born: Sept. 11, 1923; Drafted: May 4, 1943; Discharged: Jan. 12, 1946; Rank: Private First Class, Specialty Military Police, U.S. Army Air Force; Died: April 6, 1965; Gravesite: Tracy Community Cemetery, Tracy, Minnesota
Freeman was the younger twin of Floyd. Although the two were in the service at the same time, their paths never crossed, and Freeman and his older brother Melford were England at the same time but did not see each other. Freeman entered the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943. He served 32 months and was in England, France, the Philippines and Japan. He received four overseas service bars; three Theater Service Medals (American, European/African/Middle Eastern, and Asiatic/Pacific), as well as a Philippine Liberation Ribbon. He was discharged in 1946 after serving for two years and eight months. While working construction on a bridge, Freeman drowned after falling into the spring-runoff swollen Des Moines River in Jackson County (Minnesota) on April 6, 1965. His body was not recovered until July 10. He was 41 years old.
Marvin Leone Sammons
Born: March 5, 1925; Drafted: May 24, 1943; Discharged: Not applicable; Rank: Serving at boot camp; Died: June 21, 1943; Gravesite: St. Olaf Lutheran Cemetery, between Westbrook and Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Marvin, the older twin of Marie, was the seventh Sammons brother to enter the service during World War II. On May 24, he entered boot camp at Fort Snelling in St. Paul and nearly a month later was granted a 24-hour leave to attend a family reunion at Lake Shetek State Park. On Sunday, June 20, Marvin ran down the bath house steps and raced toward the water to the swimming area. He took a water-line dive and hit his head on a sharp rock just below the surface, rendering him unconscious. The 18-year-old died 12 hours later at the Tracy Hospital from a serious head injury and a broken neck that paralyzed him from the waist down. He never regained consciousness.
Marie Elida (Sammons) Kurtz
Born: March 5, 1925; Enlisted: April 24, 1945; Discharged: Oct. 21, 1946; Rank: Sergeant, Medical Surgical Technician, U.S. Army Air Force; Died: Jan. 23, 2001; Gravesite: St. Olaf Lutheran Cemetery, between Westbrook and Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Marie was the younger twin of Marvin. Not to be outdone by her brothers, Marie enlisted into the Women’s Army Corps in 1945 and went to boot camp at Camp Atterbury Army Air Force Base in Des Moines. She was then transferred to Lackland Army Air Force Base in San Antonio where she was promoted from private to corporal on March 30, 1946. She received her medical surgical technician certificate on Sept. 6, 1946. She died at age 75 in Bemidji.
Leslie Harold “Les” Sammons
Born: Oct. 4, 1926; Drafted: Dec. 11, 1944; Discharged: Aug. 6, 1946; Rank: Private First Class (PFC), U.S. Army Air Force; Died: Oct. 1, 1996; Gravesite: Maplewood Cemetery, Luverne, Minnesota
When Leslie was inducted, he was met by several journalists all wanting to write about him being the youngest of the 10 Sammons siblings to serve in WWII. He enlisted on Dec. 11, 1944, and served 20 months before being discharged on Aug. 6, 1946. Leslie was stationed on the Island of Luzon, Philippines, where his older brother Johnnie had died while a POW and was buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery. After three visits to the cemetery, Les was able to locate the gravesite of his older brother. He is the only family member to have seen Johnnie’s gravesite, although the family has a picture of the cross tombstone through a “Find a Grave” volunteer. Les died in 1996 three days shy of his 70th birthday.
Vernon Leroy Sammons
Born: Jan. 8, 1930; Drafted: Oct. 17, 1951; Discharged: July 24, 1953; Rank: Corporal in Signal Corps, U.S. Army; Died: July 27, 1970; Gravesite: St. Olaf Lutheran Cemetery, between Westbrook and Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Vernon was the only one of the 11 Sammons military siblings to serve in the Korean War. He enlisted in 1951 when he was 21 years old. He became a Corporal with the U.S. Army Signal Corps and was stationed in Korea during the war. He was discharged in 1953 after serving 21 months. Additional information about his service time was unavailable. Vernon died in 1970 in Fresno, California, at age 39.