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Column: Harold Tripp and Thomas Gere -- two brave men

Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run "Isn't That Something" columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and...

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared May 19, 2007.

 

WORTHINGTON - I would like to call Harold Tripp to mind for our Memorial Day this year. Harold’s mother and father, his sister Ruth, were living in a house on Humiston Avenue. It was late summer, 1943. The American army had invaded Sicily in The Mediterranean.

 

Ernie Pyle recalled the scary night in his book, “Brave Men.”

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“It was the night before my birthday and the German bombers kept us awake all night with their flares and their bombings, and for a while it looked as though I might never get to be forty-three years old. What happened in this special case was that one of our generator motors caught fire during the night and it had to happen at a very inopportune moment. When the next wave of bombers came over, the Germans naturally used the fire as a target.

 

“Three officers and six MPS dashed to put the fire out. They stuck right at their work as the Germans dived on them. They stayed while the bombs blasted around them and the shrapnel flew … you can visualize what those men went through. The nine of them were awarded the Silver Star.” PFC Harold Tripp of Worthington was one of the six MPs.

 

Ernie reported, “I believe those men went through more torture receiving their awards than they did earning them, they were all so tense and scared. … As the general approached, each man’s Adam’s apple went up and down two or three times in a throat so constricted I thought he was going to choke…”

 

Oh yes. Harold Tripp was a brave man. He became a Nobles County deputy sheriff. I watched him the morning a high school coach at Round Lake went berserk and stabbed his two infant daughters. Sheriff Harry Nackerud was older. Harold volunteered, “I’ll go up to the house. You cover me.” Harry held a pistol with his arm braced against a tree. Harold went to the door. Ultimately the man surrendered.

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I shouldn’t have started on this. It is fitting that we do Harold Tripp an honor. But where do you stop? There are so many of those brave young men.

 

The Medal of Honor winners. They are the rarest. Thomas Gere was the first of these we can identify with our area.

 

Tom Gere was from New York. He enlisted in the first year of the Civil War. Instead of going to Virginia or Tennessee, Tom was ordered to the Minnesota frontier. He went to Ft. Ridgely, a sergeant who was promoted to second lieutenant.

 

Aug. 18, 1862. The Sioux War exploded. Capt. John Marsh, Fort Ridgely’s commander, led a troop to Redwood Ferry. The captain died in an ambush. This left Lt. Gere commanding a frontier fort under siege by an enemy army. Commander Gere was left with 29 soldiers and 300 refugees, more or less.

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Here’s the thing: Tom Gere was 19 years old.

 

Gere was wise. He gave responsibility for the fort’s guns to a Regular Army veteran, Sgt. Jones. The army quickly got reinforcements to Ridgely - but his was not how Tom Gere, boy soldier, earned the Medal of Honor.

 

Two years and two months later - December 1864 - Lt. Gere was with the Fifth Minnesota Regiment at Nashville.

 

Gere kept a diary, which U.S. soldiers no longer may do. He wrote:

 

“(Dec. 15) It was now dark and we bivouacked. In the last charge I was struck on the wrist by a musket ball - not serious. Early on the 16th we move forward; soon to meet the enemy strongly entrenched; halt under a galling fire within 300 yards of the reb position; throw up hasty entrenchments; open all our artillery on the enemy’s line; at about half past three we assault their position; a fearful charge, hundreds fell, but we captured the works…

 

“… It was indeed a desperate thing to go through that storm of grape (grapeshot - clusters of small castiron balls fired from cannons). We who got through wonder how we escaped!…

 

“But, we won the victory! I was lucky enough to get the battle flag of the Fourth Mississippi regiment in the charge…” Tom Gere wrestled to seize that banner on the battlefield, and he brought it back to St. Paul. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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