Three additional men in 1943 image identified

Photos provided to the Times Observer The Times Observer first ran this photo of local men headed off to war in 1943 on Veterans Day. George Fill (back row, second from left) was the focus of that story. Additional men identified in the wake of that story are Harry Heenan (first row, far left), Karl Pierson (backrow, third from left) and Charles Rice (back row, second from right).

The photo of 10 men from Warren County headed off to the Navy during World War II that the Times Observer published on Veterans Day is over 75 years old.

But several of those men are remembered by family that knew them well.

The Times Observer first ran the story on Veterans Day, highlighting the service of George Fill (back row, second from left) and the fact that his son wanted to know more about the men in the photo.

An account of the men leaving appeared in the Oct. 6, 1943 Warren Times Mirror, the day after the photo was taken.

“Group From County Leaves Soon For War” the headline read.

Karl Pierson in a photo taken in 1944 in Norfolk, Virginia.

“In the group are men from almost every portion of the county and while the major number will go into the Army, the Navy, Aviation Corps, Marines get a number of the men while one goes to the Seabees.”

Courtesy of family stepping forward, three more men in the photo have been identified – Karl B. Pierson, Harry B. Heenan and Charles C. Rice.

Pierson, a 1934 Sheffield graduate and – in the photo – back row, third from left, died at the age of 85 in 2001.

According to his obituary, he was born in Kelletville in 1915 and resided in Warren from 1947 until the end of his life.

He served in the U.S. Navy Seabees in the South Pacific, Philippines and China.

“My dad talked very little about his time in the U.S. Navy,” Pierson’s son, John said. “He was on active duty from October 6, 1943 until March 6, 1946.”

“When he was shipped overseas, he went to the pacific theater including islands, New Guinea, Philippines, and China,” John explained. “On ships he was a machinist. He did some underwater demolition work with explosives to remove coral reefs so the ships could get closer to shore.”

Machinist skills would shape the rest of his life.

“He learned the machinist trade at O’Connor Machine Company in Sheffield,” John said. “They did work for the U.S. Navy during World War II. I have a picture taken in 1942 at O’Connors with all the employees outside and some Navy officers. They received an award for excellence in the work they did. I believe it may have been parts for submarines.”

Returning to the states after the war, he worked briefly at Struthers Wells before he was hired at Betts Machine Company.

“He started as a machinist, then shop foreman, plant superintendent, and later executive vice president of Betts and president of Warren Manufacturing Company (Now called Betts Lamp Division),” John said. “He retired in 1986 with 40 years service.”

Pierson’s family was highlighted in the Warren Allegheny Mail in early 1946 when Karl and his brother, J. Allan, both returned to the family’s Saybrook home on March 6.

“The brothers met for the first time in 32 months when they arrived at the separation center,” the account said, noting that there were three additional brothers – Maurice, Henry and Harley – still serving in the Navy.

Harry Bernard Heenan, Jr., front row, first on the left, was born in 1913 in Philadelphia but lived in the Tidioute area all his life.

He worked in the construction industry and, towards the end of his career, worked with his nephew, Tom, on the upper reservoir project element of the Kinzua Dam.

Tom told the Times Observer his Uncle Harry was “very private” and “always very optimistic.”

He said his uncle never shared any “sad stories” and called his Navy service an “enjoyable experience for him…. He was always upbeat, enjoyed his time serving his country.”

Heenan died in 1976.

Back row, third from right, is believed to be Charles Rice.

Rice was born in 1925 and died at the age of 63 in 1988.

He’s included as a graduate of Sheffield High School in the 1947 yearbook, pictured in his Navy uniform.


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