Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 15, 2015

Remember "The 101"

In the photo, Bob Srack has the smile of a fellow who has been selected as next-year’s co-captain of the high school football team. There is no hint of the difficulties he has had in his short life ... the loss of his father, mother and grandfather - half his family gone. There was now only his sister, his grandmother and him. He would go on to be the team’s starting quarterback, be crowned king of the prom, excel in basketball and be on the staff of the student newspaper and yearbook.

But that year was as good as it got. Srack graduated in the middle of World War II, and he and several of his classmates decided to enlist. Dave Fiser, the son of Srack’s football coach, told me, “I have a letter someplace that Bob wrote to my father. In the letter, Bob told Dad things were pretty tough fighting the Japanese. He asked Dad to take care of his grandmother because he didn’t think he’d be coming home.”

In May 1945, Marine Robert Wayne Srack became a member of “The 101." He died on Okinawa about a month after turning 20 and just three months before the war was over.

While Srack was from Manhattan, Harry Gehrt was a country boy, the oldest of five children. His family lived in the Deep Creek area several miles southeast of town. Like Srack, he graduated from Manhattan High School, but a couple of years earlier. He also played football and was on the senior class committee.

After a few months as an apprentice machinist for the Santa Fe Railroad, he joined the Army Air Corps. First Lieutenant Gerht was assigned to the 9th Air Force, 50th Squadron, 314th Troop Carrier Group, delivering men and supplies to the European battlefield. He too became a member of “The 101." He died in a crash on April 6, 1945 near Hackenburg, Germany about a month before V-E Day.

Harry’s brother Buck, now 87, remembered coyote hunting with Harry when the two were growing up. He has kept his brother’s obituary and a letter written from overseas. He said when he and his family heard about Harry’s death, they were told conditions were foggy and that the plane probably flew too close to electric lines. His body was never found. Graveside services were held in Manhattan in 1949, nearly four years after the crash.

Brothers Elmer and Forest Ebaugh also became members of “The 101.” They were about three years apart in age and grew up 10 miles northwest of Manhattan in the small community of Stockdale. There were 10 Ebaugh children supported by a father who was an auto mechanic. Both had joined the Navy before the war began and, probably at their request, were assigned to the same ship, the U.S.S. Houston. On Feb. 28, 1942, the heavy cruiser was attacked and it sank in the strait between the two main islands of Indonesia. Elmer was never found. Forest spent nearly 18 months as a prisoner of war before dying of malaria in Moulmein, Burma on Sept. 14, 1943.

After V-E Day, men in Europe began preparing to head to the Pacific to join the others already there who were dreading a drawn-out and deadly affair. But the atomic bombs led to the war ending abruptly. For awhile, people wanted to put the war behind them as best they could.

But a year after the war ended, a list of the names of those who died - “The 101" - was generated. That same year, voters in Manhattan approved an $800,000 bond to construct a living memorial to honor all those who had served and particularly those who had died. Rather than a monument, the Peace Memorial Auditorium would be built. It would include a stage and basketball court. Later, city offices and a fire station were added.

Construction was delayed to avoid high post-war prices. But Clyde Powell, whose son Glenn was a member of “The 101," expressed what many felt.

“This memorial is for the boy I lost and for many others lost in the war. I don’t think there’s any place too good to put it. The memorial is not a business proposition and I think we could put up a beautiful building in the park. I am not so much interested in where the site is but in getting started ...”

The 1100 block of Poyntz south of the city park was eventually selected and the project was completed in 1955, Manhattan’s centennial year.

Yet over 60 years, even a living memorial can fall into disrepair and later generations not understand its importance. In July 2013, the Manhattan City Commission looked into removing the existing seating to create more office space and taking out the stage to build more practice courts.

But veterans groups and others had not forgotten. After listening to them, the commission decided to keep the auditorium intact and build new offices on the north side of City Hall.

The Friends of Peace Memorial Auditorium committee and related task force are now looking at ways to restore the auditorium to its original use. Renovating the foyer, stage, basketball court and seating and finding ways to pay for it are central to the project.

Help has come from Kansas State University’s Tau Alpha Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. The group has “adopted” the auditorium and has presented holiday and spring musical events to help raise money for lighting, sound, seating and a memorial plaque with the names of the 101.

While none of these efforts will allow Bob, Harry, Elmer, Forest, Glenn or the other 96 to experience a full life, it could be said that they and others like them had a hand in allowing us to do so. So this 70th anniversary of the end of the war is a good moment to remember “The 101.”

Left: Robert Srack in his football uniform; center-left-top: Harry Gehrt's senior picture; center-right-top: Xan Perkins, left, Katie Vaughan and Zach Button, three members of In-A-Chord, perform at the Peace Memorial Auditorium in December 2013; center-bottom: Buck Gehrt, left, with friend Jim Sharp. Sharp is a Battle of the Bulge veteran and auditorium activist; right: Forest, left, and Elmer Ebaugh.


Allen, Arthur M., Jr.
Armstrong, Gerald D.
Barry, Marvin D.
Barton, Henry L.
Bayles, Ben
Buckner, Eldon
Burson, Charles J., Jr.
Caine, Douglas K. Jr.
Callahan, Leslie J.
Campbell, Forrest B.
Carlson, Arnold V.
Caster, Arthur
Chapman, Donald J.
Coffman, William J.
Corporan, Emerson W.
Crumpton, Earl
Crumpton, Elmer R.
Davenport, Leo M.
Dobson, Claude W.
Dougherty, James G.
Dresser, Francis H.
Ebaugh, Elmer M.
Ebaugh, Forest V.
Edwards, Robert E.
Ehlers, Roland A.
Eichman, Coleman J.
Emmot, Valley V.
Englebert, Leo E., Jr.
Eslinger, Lawrence H.
Evans, Kendall
Fairman, Charles E., Jr.
Fleenor, Beattie
Fulton, Donald A.
Gehrt, Harry W.

The 101

Glenn, Richard C.
Gould, Phil
Green James M.
Hagenmaier, Ralph C.
Haines, Charles M.
Hale, Edgar Leighton
Hanna, Joe Kermit
Harris, Ernest Orville
Hinrichs, Clyde
Holland, Boyd F.
Hollis, James A., Jr.
Holstrom, Chester
Hotchkiss, Richard E.
Hugos, Francis Neal
Hulse, Earl R.
Hunt, Wesley Harold
Hyres, Paul H.
Immenschuh, Gilbert
Inskeep, George N.
Jaccard, Richard A.
Johnson, Dale E.
Johnson, Samuel Loy
Joss, Vincent S.
Kilkenny, John P., Jr.
Kratochvill, William M.
Lovell, Roy C.
Miller, Joseph Dale
Mills, Charles L.
Minton, Alfred L.
Mitchell, LeRoy
Morehead, Jesse E.
Murphy, Lyle M.
Nesbitt, Edwin S.
Newell, Ralph


Nicholes, John W.
Niemeier, Norman, F., Jr.
Nonamaker, Harold L.
Parizo, Charles H.
Payne, Jerry Bryan
Pearson, Paul E.
Powell, Glenn
Ramey, Roger Dean
Rankin, Ralph T.
Reid, James K.
Richards, Forrest F.
Root, Frank P., Jr.
Schneider, Waldo B.
Shadwell, Marion R.
Spence, Dean
Srack, Robert W.
Steere, Raymond J.
Stevenson, Frank J.
Stiverson, James
Suttle, Dale E., Jr.
Thomas, Joseph C.
Toburen, Emerson L.
Trotter, Robert T.
Van De Walker, Gene D.
Van Doren, Lyle R.
Van Winkle, Richard J.
Vathauer, Neale H.
Wands, Dixson I.
Webster, Wayne E.
Wertz, Oscar Leland
Whitacre, Elden L.
Winn, William
Zarger, Grant O.

Comments? [email protected].
Earlier columns from 2015 may be found at: 2015 Index.
Links to previous years are on the home page: Home