CCC contributions remembered at Friday event

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Ed Atwood talks about the memorial stones placed for Civilian Conservation Corps veterans along the side of the Warren County Visitors Bureau in Starbrick. An annual ceremony commemorating the work of the CCC was held there on Friday.

The Civilian Conservation Corps statue at the Warren County Visitors Bureau was dedicated 15 years ago in August 2007.

Each year since, a reunion and ceremony have been held at the statue.

As the years have passed, the numbers have dwindled.

But even though there are no longer any CCC Boys still in attendance, the commemoration of the CCC’s efforts — many of which live on today — continues.

This year’s version was held Friday morning at the WCVB.

The Atwood family, recognized for their efforts by the CCC Legacy organization in 2019 for the commemorative efforts, continues to drive the event.

Ed Atwood, though, said it was a CCC Boy — Charles Varro — who was instrumental in getting him involved in memorialization efforts, especially erecting the statue.

He said there were 65 CCC veterans at the initial dedication in 2007.

“They’re all gone,” he said. “They’re all good ones.”

The last CCC veteran to attend was Leo Beane, who came in 2016. A tree planter at a Forest County camp who lived much of his life in Yellowhammer, Beane died in 2017 at the age of 96.

The CCC was a program of President Franklin D. Roosevelt intended to provide unskilled conservation related jobs to young men and help families struggling to find work in the Great Depression.

ANF-1 Duhring was the second CCC camp of about 4,500 in the nation. It was the first of 16 CCC camps on the Allegheny National Forest, and the first in Pennsylvania.

The Duhring CCC Camp was opened in 1933 and closed in 1942.

According to the Library of Congress, three million young men served in the CCC and “virtually changed the landscape of the United States through conservation projects on millions of acres of lands, and through the expansion and development of the nation’s state and national parks and forests.”

The most visible vestiges of that work today include the three billion trees planted and 711 state parks created.

Friday’s event focused on the life of Hershel W. Williams, who died on June 29 at the age of 98 as the nation’s last living World War II Medal of Honor Recipient.

Williams, a Marine, was recognized for service as a flamethrower on Iwo Jima in February 1945, wiping out a series of Japanese pillboxes that were blocking the tank advance on the island.

It’s possible some of the seeds for that service were planted in CCC camps in West Virginia and Montana.

Martha Smith, secretary with the CCC Legacy organization, said Williams was one of 41 CCC veterans who earned the Medal of Honor.

He came, she detailed, from a poor farm in West Virginia, quitting school after the 8th grade.

He enrolled in the CCC in 1941 at the age of 17 and was first sent to a state park near Morgantown where he worked on rock fences on the edge of a cliff in addition to building roads and planting trees.

Williams, Smith said, was then transferred to two camps in Montana where he first worked as a general labor before shifting to fence building and then truck driving.

It was while he was at the camp that Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Smith said he was too young to join then and couldn’t join the Marines for another 13 months.

He spent a total of 7.5 months in the CCC.

While they weren’t military camps, they resembled such camps to a degree from the structure, discipline and work ethic needed.

“The three million men, who served in the CCC, easily transitioned into military life,” according to the National World War II Museum. “They were disciplined, trained in team work, and used to hard work. They were ready to join American forces in the fight against tyranny.”


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