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My great-grandfather's bio.

My great-grandfather's bio.

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  • Colonel Virgil F. Shaw Col. Shaw in Pentagon Office, 1940 Chief of Plans and Operations at the Battle of Okinawa Douglas McClain Shaw, Th.D. February 2012
  • In August 1970, a young couple rode a bus from Boston to Miami to make a home. He was acollege dropout; she was sixteen and expecting a child. Raleigh, North Carolina lay abouthalfway. There an elder man met them and took them home for a few days of rest and reas-surance. The respite was most timely, welcome and refreshing. Forty years later that youngcouple is still together. I was that young man. The elder was my “Granddad” Virgil Shaw:soldier, scholar, Christian lay worker and gentle man. His story follows.HOMEVirgil Farrar Shaw was born 14 October 1899 in Cambridge, the seat of Guernsey County,Ohio. His parents Joseph Cannon “Joe” Shaw and Bertha L. Farrar had grown up on adjoin-ing farms five miles west of town on the National Road. 1 At the time of Virgil’s birth, thefamily lived at 222 Highland Avenue. 2 He was the eldest of four children and the only boy.His parents were religious Presbyterians. Grandson Robert Shaw described Bertha as “a sternlady with no sense of humor.” 3 Joe was a meat cutter by trade who would later serve ascounty commissioner.EDUCATIONVirgil gained the nickname “Squire” in high school, where he engaged in several activities:editor and business manager of the school paper, football, band, glee club and quartets. 4 Hissummer job was working on the construction of S bridges, 5 for which southeastern Ohio isfamous.After high school, he entered the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York inJune 1917 as part of the Class of 1921. There his activities were more physical: footballindoor track, wrestling and sharpshooting. He also gained a reputation for “studying ballis-tics at Mermaid Cove.”Because of a prospective need for officers to fight World War I, Virgil’s class graduated quiteearly: 1 November 1918. 6 He was in the top half of his class. After the Armistice went intoeffect, the class was recalled 3 December for six months further study. The cadets graduated1 The National Road was the first highway built by the federal government. It was extended through Ohio in1825 and is now known as US Highway 40.2 1900 US Federal Census.3 Robert Welsh Shaw, telephone interview, 27 Dec. 2011.4 “Virgil F. Shaw, ‘Squire’,” The Signal, Cambridge High School, Cambridge, Ohio, 1917.5 Douglas Boyce Shaw, “Virgil F Shaw Bio,” June 2002; an S bridge was built to cross a meandering streamwhere the banks were not parallel. Piers were launched perpendicular to the banks, and a span with two curvesconnected the piers. This resulted in an S-shaped bridge.6 “West Point Breaks Graduation Record,” New York Times, 2 Nov. 1918. 1
  • again 19 June 1918, then spent the summer of 1918 touring battlefields in France, Belgiumand Italy. 7FIRST POSTAssigned to the Cavalry in July 1919, Virgil took the Basic Course in Cavalry at Fort Riley,Kansas. He appeared 13 January 1920 in the Federal Census stationed at Fort Riley as aSecond Lieutenant.8 Virgil’s family apparently had doubts about his career choice becausethe previous day, they listed him in the same census as living at home in Cambridge, Ohiowith no occupation!9Virgil met Helen Welsh, his future bride, at Fort Bliss, Texas. Her father, Colonel RobertWelsh, had been a career military officer for nearly twenty years before he was killed bymortar fire in the final week of World War I. Thus, Helen had grown up on Army bases andhad friends at Fort Bliss. Since Helen was then living in Washington, DC, Virgil proposedby letter. 10 They married 4 June 1921 at St Margaret’s Episcopal Church on ConnecticutAvenue in Washington, DC. Though the ceremony was small, both The Washington Postand The New York Times carried news of the marriage. 11Robert Welsh Shaw, their first son, was born to the couple 1 April 1922 at Fort Bliss. Helenand Virgil named him after her father.SEATTLEVirgil took a Leave of Absence from official duties to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Eco-nomics degree at the University of Washington, December 1923 to March 1927. 12 Duringthis time, he represented the US Army in laying a wreath at the cenotaph in Vancouver tohonor Canada’s war dead.Twins Joseph Cannon and James Farrar Shaw were born 21 March 1924 in Seattle, Wash-ington. The boys were named after Virgil’s father and maternal grandfather, respectively.Tragically, James died at birth. 13Virgil’s eldest son Bob recalled a “big adventure” that took place when extended familyrented a cabin on a mountain lake one summer. It was a floating cabin, separated from land7 United States Military Academy, “Virgil Farrar Shaw,” West Point, NY, Feb. 1988, p. 129. Filename: USMA6366-1919 Shaw, Virgil – Obit.pdf. Hereinafter referred to as “USMA Obit.”8 United States Federal Census. Year: 1920; Census Place: Fort Riley, Kansas; Roll: T625_533; Page: 14A;Enumeration District: 62; Image: 287.9 United States Federal Census. Year: 1920; Census Place: Cambridge Ward 3, Guernsey, Ohio; Roll:T625_1387; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 11; Image: 808.10 Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.”11 “Society,” The Washington Post, 5 Jun. 1921, p. 10; “Shaw – Walsh,” The New York Times, 5 Jun. 1921.12 Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.”13 Family Bible Record kept at the house of Joseph and Bertha Shaw; Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.” 2
  • by six feet of dock. His younger brother Joe, perhaps two or three in age and tied to a tree,chased his mother as she headed for the cabin. Joe flopped headlong into the water. Theirmother came out of the house, dressed for town. In the excitement of rescuing Joe, shedropped the car keys into the water. All the adults fished in the water for the keys to no avail.Ultimately, the family pushed the car, a Hudson Super Six, the iconic big car of the 1920’s,down the mountain to a service station to get it started.14FOUR POSTS IN TEN YEARSUpon graduating from the university in June 1927, Virgil was assigned to Fort Huachuca,Arizona. The family traveled by train to the post. A truck that lost a wheel by the train tracksbrought some excitement as the train stopped and passengers helped to remount the wheel. 15My father, Douglas Boyce Shaw, was born at Fort Huachuca, 6 October 1927. Douglas wasthe name of the nearest town; Boyce, a family name. His brother Bob recently visited the fortand found the house they lived in still standing.The next posting was Fort Riley, Kansas, where Virgil attended two short courses and com-manded a troop for six months. He was an accomplished horse rider, a love he had devel-oped at West Point. Fort Riley was the training ground for Olympic teams. He had won tro-phies in Seattle, so while stationed at Fort Riley, he tried out for the Olympics one year. Hedid not make the team. 16From Fort Riley, the next station was overseas: Fort Stotsenberg, now known as Clark AirBase, in the Philippines. The family was there just over two years, 1931-33. Virgil served inthe 26th Cavalry Headquarters as Regimental Machine Gun Officer and Intelligence Officer.Life in the Philippines is remembered for a close relationship with another family, theYoungs, for a pony named Pooking, and for Amma, a Filipina who helped with the children.From the tropical Philippines, the next post was in icy South Dakota. At Fort Meade, Virgilserved as Regimental Supply Officer, commanded a troop the entire time, and received apromotion to Captain. Helen and Virgil’s fifth child and only daughter, Barbara Porter Shaw,was born 31 December 1934 at Fort Meade. Porter was a family name.My father remembered Virgil at Fort Meade serving as a football referee and baseball um-pire. Virgil also led a horse drill team, the Black Horse Troop, which exhibited at countyfairs and other events. 1714 Robert Welsh Shaw, in telephone conversation 27 December 2011.15 Ibid.16 Ibid.17 Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.” 3
  • BACK TO FORT RILEYIn 1936, it was back to Fort Riley, where Virgil served at the Cavalry School successively asStudent Officer, Assistant Adjutant and Adjutant. This time, the family stayed five years—the longest posting of Virgil’s career. From June 1937 to May 1939, Virgil commanded the2nd Cavalry’s Machine Gun Troop. This troop’s assignment was “weapons demonstrationsfor the Cavalry School and weapons testing for the Cavalry Board.” 18 Virgil served as Adju-tant for the Cavalry School June 1939 to June 1941. 19Horseback riding with Virgil when about ten years old, my father saw some men drying net-tles on a table. When my dad asked why, Virgil answered but also rode over to camp head-quarters to report the event. The men were arrested; the nettles removed. They were, afterall, marijuana.20Virgil became active in public relations while at Fort Riley. He hosted visiting dignitaries forthe annual horse show. He was also one of the first to ride in the huge B-17 Flying Fortress.He embarked in one at Marshall Air Field, which adjoined Fort Riley, and disappeared forseveral days, only to return in the same plane. 21EARLY WARTIME ASSIGNMENTSJuly 1941, Virgil went to Washington, DC as Chief of the newly formed Public RelationsBoard of the War Department. 22 He was one of the first to occupy an office at the Pentagon,which was still under construction when he moved in. He served there until November 1942.December 1942 to May 1943, Virgil served as Commanding Officer of Division Trains at thenewly established Fort Campbell, KY. This fort was built especially for the task of trainingand sending forth soldiers to the battlefields.Virgil was recalled to Washington to attend the National War College, 23 from which he wasone of the first thirty graduates. 24 After the war, he served as instructor there from 1946-47.18 USMA Obit.19 Ibid.20 Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.”21 Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.”22 Ibid.; “Army New Division Is Put Under Dupuy,” The New York Times, 30 Sep. 1942.23 Now named the National Defense University.24 “News Briefs: Washington (AP),” The Zanesville Signal, Zanesville, Ohio, 1 Oct. 1943. 4
  • THE PACIFIC THEATERMariana IslandsIn October 1943, meanwhile, Virgil wasposted to the Pacific Theater as DeputyChief of Staff under Lieutenant GeneralHolland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith. 25 Virgilserved in both the Marianas Campaign andthe Battle of Okinawa as the Army-NavyLiaison Officer. At first, he was with Gen-eral Smith, later, with Lieutenant GeneralsSimon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell. 26Virgil served with General Holland Smith through the Battles of Saipan, Tinian and Guam.He took part in the planning and operations to capture these islands. 27 The Japanese appar-ently were not expecting an attack on Saipan. Although it was fortified, forces there lackedsufficient ammunition for the defense of the island. In addition, their pilots were inexperi-enced, recent recruits—a major factor in the “Great Turkey Shoot,” in which the Japaneselost more than 200 planes and 3 aircraft carriers, while Allies lost just 20 planes.Taking Saipan was an immense challenge. The nearest Allied-controlled base was 1,000miles away on the recently taken Eniwetok Atoll; Pearl Harbor was 3,500 miles away. Sai-pan, however, had a deep, partially enclosed harbor. It was also close enough to both theJapanese Mainland and the Philippines to launch airstrikes. Furthermore, ships based in theMarianas could crimp Japanese supply lines to operations further south. The Allied plan wasnot to retake Japanese controlled islands bit by bit, but to cut off Japanese access to distantlands. For this purpose, Saipan was ideal.Saipan and Tinian were the proving ground for the assault on Okinawa. Allies had staged thelargest amphibious assault on a Pacific island to date at Saipan. Napalm was first used onTinian. Much was learned of Japanese defense tactics, which became more reckless and sui-cidal the nearer the Allies got to the Japanese Mainland. After the war, Virgil would writethe Army account of these actions.OkinawaArmy General Buckner replaced Marine General Smith as the Commanding Officer of theAssault on Okinawa, largely due to Holland Smith’s having relieved Army General RalphSmith of command during the Battle of Saipan. The only critical thing I ever heard Virgil sayabout another was to warn us not to join the Marines because they risked the lives of too25 USMA Obit.26 The picture above shows Col. Shaw at Saipan 13 July 1934.27 Ibid. 5
  • many troops. I think he was referring to this event, in which the basic question was the paceof advance ahead of support structures.Under General Buckner, Virgil became Chief of the Plans and Operations Section of the 10thArmy in preparation for the Battle of Okinawa. 28 It was the largest amphibious assault inWorld War II and last 82 days from 1st of April to the 21s of June 1945.During the initial landing at Okinawa, kamikazes attacked the fleet. Virgil was standing onthe bridge of the Indianapolis, the flagship of the landing fleet, when one seemed to comestraight toward him. The plane was shot down before reaching the ship, but it was a terrify-ing experience. 29Virgil was on leave to attend my father’s high school graduation when a single shooter shotand killed General Buckner. 30 General Stillwell, who had been idling in Washington sinceChiang Kai-Shek ejected him from China, replaced Buckner and brought his own Chief ofStaff.POST-WAR ASSIGNMENTSAt the end of the war, Virgil served as Provost Marshal of Tokyo and as a member of theJoint Operations Review Board. 31 As Provost Marshal, he was in charge of the police. Hebrought home one trophy: a Japanese sword. 32From July 1946 to June 1948, he served on the faculty of the National War College, where helectured on amphibious landings, tactics and the Battle of Okinawa. While at the college, hepublished a book, Organization, command and staff for joint overseas operations. 33 His fieldgrade promotion to the rank of Colonel was made permanent in February 1948. 34In July 1948, he was posted to the Headquarters of the Caribbean Command, where he servedfour years as Director of Logistics. 35 There he reported to Commanding General MatthewRidgway and Deputy Commander General Blackshear Bryan, both of whom would later beactive in the Korean Conflict.36 Virgil had a moment of popular fame when a photograph of28 USMA Obit.29 Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.” Kamikazes eventually did damage the Indianapolis to the point where it had to beremoved from action; they also severely damaged its replacement, the New Mexico.30 Ibid. My father was class valedictorian.31 USMA Obit.32 Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.”33 Virgil F. Shaw, Organization, Command and Staff for Joint Overseas Operations (Washington: National WarCollege, 1947). This book is available at the US Army Heritage Collection Online, www.usahec.org.34 Department of the Army, “Recommended Lists for Promotion to Colonel,” Washington, DC, 2 Feb. 1948.35 USMA Obit.36 Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.” 6
  • him in military uniform but serving as Chairman of the Every Member Canvas of the CanalZone’s Episcopal Cathedral made the rounds of daily newspapers. 37In 1952, he accepted his last Army assignment as Professor of Military Science and Tactics atthe University of Massachusetts. 38 He retired after nearly 36 years of active service in Sep-tember 1954. 39 During his military career, Virgil was awarded the Commendation Ribbon,four Bronze Stars with the Valor Device and the Legion of Merit with the Valor Device.40RETIREMENTThen Virgil went to work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where he was Director ofthe Operational Survival Plan Project, 1955-59. 41 This was the first comprehensive stateCivil Defense Plan and became the Pilot Plan for the Federal Civil Defense Agency. 42In September 1959, Helen and Virgil moved south to Salemburg, North Carolina to undertakea post as Professor of History and Assistant President of Southwood Junior College. 43 Heretired from teaching in 1971, but he continued in active volunteer service in the county until1979. He served on the church vestry, taught Sunday school, and served as Sampson CountyChapter President of both the Lions Club and the American Association of Retired Persons.In 1974, North Carolina Governor James Holshouser named Virgil “Outstanding Senior Citi-zen” of the state. 44 A few states away, Virgil’s home county of Guernsey, Ohio inductedhim into the Guernsey County Hall of Fame, 6 December 1979.45While in North Carolina, the couple continued to travel. They preferred the extra-economyclass. In her autobiographical notes, Helen wrote of a 1961 trip that began with a cross-country to Long Beach, California, where they caught a Norwegian freighter bound for Mani-la. Continuing to ride the freighter, they rested a few days in Hong Kong while it was beingpainted. Upon arrival in Osaka, they caught a Japanese train for the 325-mile ride to Tachi-kawa Air Base, where their daughter Barbara and son-in-law Richard Abbott were stationed.37 See, e.g., “Active in Church,” The Van Nuys News, 29 Mar. 1951, p. 10-B; “Col. F. Shaw of Quarry Heights,”The Waterville, N.Y., Times, 1 Mar. 1951, p. 7. In both papers the same picture and caption is shown.38 USMA Obit.39 Ibid.; “Awards presented to Adams Cadet,” The North Adams, Massachusetts, Transcript, 14 May 1954, p.13.40 USMA Obit.41 Ibid.42 Ibid. This Civil Defense planning was widely reported in local newspapers. It resulted in public hearingsthroughout Massachusetts. See, for example, “Aviation Parley to Feature Helicopter Visit,” The FitchburgSentinel, 5 Oct. 1955, pp. 1, 4; “Civil Defense Program Tonight,” The Lowell Sun, 4 Apr. 1956, p. 18; “Discuss-ing New Plans,” The Berkshire Eagle, 23 Sep 1958, p 11; and “Berkshire City, Town Officials Get CD Briefing,The North Adams . . . Transcript., p. 3.43 Ibid.44 “Colonel Virgil F. Shaw,” Joseph Cannon Holbrook, about 1977.45 “First Local West Pointer Had Outstanding Career,” The Daily Jefferson, Cambridge, Ohio. 7
  • The ride home was on a military transport plane via Fairbanks, Alaska to Travis Air ForceBase in California.46Virgil’s favorite number was thirteen. He was therefore delighted to find a retirement homein Clearwater, Florida with apartment 1313 available. Helen and he moved there 13 July1979. She named my father as the “instigator” of this move, but Barbara and Richard alsohad a home in the area, so he might not have been solely culpable. A medical examinationtwo months later revealed myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow, at an ad-vanced stage. She died seven months later, 14 April 1980. 47Two years later on 1 May 1982, Virgil married Lois (Setzer) Renfrow, a widow of nearlythirty years who also lived at the retirement center. In the 1980s he had several slight strokes,one of which affected his peripheral vision, thus obliging him to quit driving. Virgil suffereda massive stroke about 1:00 p.m. on 25 November 1986. He died early the next morning. 48After cremation, his remains were placed beside Helen’s in Columbarium 1 at ArlingtonNational Cemetery in Virginia.46 Helen (Welsh) Shaw, untitled autobiography, 1979.47 Douglas B. Shaw, “Bio.”48 Ibid. 8