New exhibit examines 'Sayre and World War II'

Local recruits wait for a troop train while members of the Red Cross stand ready with food and comfort items at the Sayre station in the early 1940’s. The photograph is among several in a new exhibit “Looking Back: Sayre and World War II” at the Sayre Historical Society. The photograph is from the George and “Babe” Tymoski Collection.

SAYRE — A new exhibit at the Sayre Historical Society looks back at “Sayre and World War II.” The new display, located in the Ken Bracken Rotating Exhibit Room, features 28-panels examining the pivotal event that changed the world more than 75 years ago.

Highlights of the exhibit include the legendary Red Cross Canteen where 831,000 men and women of the armed services were provided food and comfort, the troop trains of the Lehigh Valley Railroad that carried local recruits to training and to war, and the local men and women who served their country as part of the “Greatest Generation.”

The museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. Admission to the museum is free. The second story exhibit is barrier-free and accessible by elevator.

A 28-page booklet accompanies the exhibit which is scheduled to be on display until September 2022. The exhibit and booklet were funded in part by a grant from the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.

One of the featured veterans is Orlando (Londy) Latini who was a 1942 graduate of Sayre High School who grew up on Sayre’s East Side and served three years as a member of 35th Infantry Regiment. During his recruit training, Latini recognized a fellow Valleyite, John Childs.

In an interview conducted later in his life, Latini told museum volunteer Tom Collins about his experiences.

“We were told that we would be given a demonstration of unarmed hand to hand combat,” Latini recalled. “We assembled and a captain got up to address us. I thought, hey, that’s John Childs. He would return to the Valley after the war and become a teacher and legendary football, track, and wrestling coach for Athens, Sayre, and Notre Dame high schools. He gave a speech about how you could defend yourself against an enemy even if you didn’t have a weapon. One of our officers, a captain I think, got up and said he felt that a man with a rifle, even if he was out of ammunition, had a tremendous advantage over an unarmed man. So Captain Childs said, ‘Ok, let’s find out. Attack me with this rifle.’ Our captain tried. In just a few seconds, John flipped the captain over his head and then stood there holding the rifle with our captain flat on his back with the wind knocked out of him. Everybody howled!”

There’s a story about Captain George Hammond, a 1938 graduate of Sayre, who served as a bombardier with the U.S. Army Air Corps on a daring bombing raid over the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. Hammond’s story was recounted by his son, Andrew Hammond, who is a retired captain in the U.S. Navy.

Glenn Sutton, who was a mechanic in civilian life, found himself a prisoner of war for six months after being captured in Germany. The account of his capture and subsequent liberation is told in a powerful story provided by his daughter, Nancy Fassett.

The war-time exploits of Staff Sgt. Francis (Banny) Cain of Sayre are legendary. After escaping from advancing Japanese troops in the Philippines, Cain spent two years as an American guerilla fighter. According to his Feb. 24, 1974 obituary, “Mr. Cain’s service story during World War II became world-known after the war ended.”

On the home front, employees of the Belle Knitting Corporation were recognized for their “Excellence” in the production of war materials ((Navy shirts and parachutes) in a special ceremony held on Sept. 2, 1942. An estimated 2,000 people attended the ceremony in which a large banner and plaque was presented to the company for their efforts. A letter to the company noted their extraordinary efforts.

“The patriotism that you and your employees have shown by your remarkable production record is helping our country along the road to victory,” stated the letter.

A list of “Men in Service” includes the names of over 50 Belle Knitting employees who served in the war.

A rare 1948 photograph included in the exhibit shows members of the Ukrainian Catholic War Veterans Post 773. The picture was taken on the day of a “Blessing of the Colors” banquet sponsored by the Ball-Skerpon Post in Sayre.

The historical society is a non-profit historic preservation organization located in the Lehigh Valley Railroad passenger station. The museum is supported by members and receives funding from the Bradford County United Way and the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.