EASLEY — Members of American Legion Post 52 recently decided that their post was in need of an Honor Guard.
The idea was popular among the vets and before you knew it, the Legionaries had plenty of members ready and willing to sign up.
Everything seemed to be going to plan — that is, until Adjunct Paul Smith wrote The Department of the Army requesting rifles … and the Army wanted to know what had happened to the last 10 guns they sent.
As it turns out, Post 52 did have an Honor Guard — 70 years ago.
“It took us a little aback, because we had no idea,” said Smith. “To our knowledge, we had never had a Guard. But nevertheless, that doesn’t solve the problem — we don’t know where the guns are. We have no idea.”
The rifles in question are M1917 Enfields modified to be used for ceremonial purposes. It was a rifle put to popular use during World War I.
Smith explained that the Post’s records only date back as far as the early 1980’s — about 35 years too short.
“The Post was created in 1945 and presumably that’s when they had the Honor Guard,” said Smith. “But we have no records of who might have been a part of it. We just don’t know who they were.”
Smith doesn’t suspect any intentional theft of the rifles, he just surmises that in years past, the rules and regulations concerning ceremonial guns were a little lax.
“I don’t think it was unusual back then for each member of the Guard to have been responsible for their own rifle,” he said. “They were most likely stored at home and then brought into the ceremonies as needed — and we’re talking 70 years. People die, people move, the rifles were probably just passed down in the families, but they were never the personal property of the Guard members. The guns may have been on loan to us (Post 52), but they belong to the Department of the Army. We want them back.”
Although no records are known to exist within the Post of the original Guard members, investigation by The Easley Progress did reveal the names of the original charter members of Post 52 from 1945: E.W. Ford, Trur H. Wilson, W.B. Parker Jr., Samuel D. Ribak, Awleop, Robert W. Pickens, W.P. Nicholson, James G. Snead, William P. Pickens, Jack B. Edens, H.E. Dacus, C.M. Hester, William T. Field, J. Ellin Crawford, U.J. McCall, S.R.F. Durham, G. Tom Owens, George D. Smith, M.W. Waldrop, Ben H. Martin, Joe S. Suddeth, G.H. Griffith, J.R. Houston, G.D. Putham, R.N. Bolt, Jim Duvall, Ben T. Day, P.R. Gentry, J.C. Hayes, Bunyoun Hendricks, Bobby Durham and John A. Thompson.
The records indicate that it is likely at least some of those original members were a part of the Honor Guard who were issued the 10 (now missing) rifles.
In the meantime, plans to follow through with the new Honor Guard are moving forward. Despite the loss of the original rifles, the Department of the Army has agreed to send Post 52 an additional four guns to be used in ceremonies — guns Smith insists will be safely stored.
“Oh no, these rifles will be kept under lock and key,” laughed Smith. “This isn’t the 1940’s anymore.”
If you have any information that might help solve the mystery of the missing rifles, call Post 52 at 864-036-0960.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.