Skydiver, National Guard to commemorate 100th anniversary of first parachute jump

BY TIM O’NEIL • | Posted: Sunday, February 26, 2012 12:05 am

Hovering over the parade ground in a primitive biplane, stuntman Albert Berry dangled from the landing-wheel axle like a trapeze artist. He let go at 1,500 feet, a wisp of cloth trailing behind him.

He plunged 300 to 500 feet before his parachute opened fully, giving Berry time for a quick scare and a soft landing near the mess hall. Hundreds of soldiers were there to cheer him.

“I was relieved when the parachute opened,” Berry told reporters.

Berry’s jump on March 1, 1912, is widely considered the first parachute descent from an airplane.

The Missouri National Guard and the Jefferson Barracks Heritage Foundation will commemorate his brave deed at 1 p.m. Thursday, the 100th anniversary, with a ceremony at Jefferson Barracks. The event includes a parachute landing onto the parade ground by veteran skydiver Lewis Sanborn of Imperial, who has made more than 7,300 jumps.

A special one-day display in the new Joint Armed Services Reserve building will include old and new parachutes, a modern ejection seat and information on the history of parachuting. The public is welcome onto the barracks grounds beginning at noon through the west gate at Sherman Drive, said Bill Florich, heritage foundation director.

Berry had made many exhibition jumps from balloons over Kinloch Field, site of today’s Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, before he jumped from the Benoist biplane. But many aviators feared that parachuting from airplanes wasn’t possible, said Art Schuermann, Missouri National Guard historian at Jefferson Barracks.

Schuermann said the main concern was that an airplane would lose balance through a sudden loss of the parachutist’s weight. Schuermann said Berry and his pilot, Anthony Jannus, disproved the weight-loss theory by throwing anvils from their plane over Kinloch Field.

Schuermann and the U.S. Parachute Association in Fredericksburg, Va., consider Berry’s jump to have been the first, at least the first verified one. A man in California claimed to have made one earlier, and the Soviet Union declared in 1949 that a Russian had done it in 1911.

Nancy Koreen, of the Parachute Association, said Berry “is credited with the first jump from an airplane, according to the research we have.”

Sanborn was in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from 1948 to 1952, and still is a regular skydiver at age 82, said Florich. Sanborn will jump from about 4,000 feet at 1:30 p.m. and aim for the western part of the barracks parade ground. The former mess hall is near the center of the row of buildings on the south end of the wide field.

Newspaper accounts from 1912 said Jannus and Berry took off from Kinloch and reached Jefferson Barracks in “only 20 minutes” at about 55 mph. Over the field, Berry slipped into a parachute harness, climbed down from the cockpit area to the axle and dangled before letting go. The parachute, stored in a cone-shaped case beneath the wing, pulled free behind him.

Berry told reporters he was ready to do it again.

Jefferson Barracks Book Author Honored by Historical Society

Local author Sandie Smith Grassino received the award for “Jefferson Barracks.”

By Alyssa Stahr  Mehlville Oakville Patch 01/24/2012

The author behind a book about the history of Jefferson Barracks was awarded the Historian of the Year award by the Sunset Hills Historical Society.

Sandie Smith Grassino along with Art Schuermann chronicled the life and culture of the historic military base in Jefferson Barracks. “Winning this award has been an incredible and pleasant surprise,” Smith Grassino said. “I will appreciate this forever, and it is a highlight in my life.”

At the award presentation in Sunset Hills on Monday, Smith Grassino discussed her work Jefferson Barracks, and her archival research on the upcoming Sunset Hills, coming out in May. “The committee chose Sandie Smith Grassino as Historian of the Year for her historic research and dedication to that cause.” said Butch Thomas, president of the historical society. Smith Grassino said she believes that we become who we are from every generation that came before us. “We can’t know who we are until we know who we were, and therefore, who we will turn out to be,” she said.

Smith Grassino is a retired teacher from Northwest High School. The Jefferson Barracks book is available at Barnes and Noble and most local book stores for $21.99. “Some of us were working at Jefferson Barracks (‘J.B.’) after World War II and it was fun. Seeing all those fellows, when they returned from the war…they hadn’t seen women or ice cream in a long time, and they really appreciated both,” Ginny Schmitz said.

A Pictorial History Of Jefferson Barracks

by Dennis Hannon South County Times 10/21/2011

Sandie Grassino and Maj. (Ret.) Art Schuermann,

authors of the pictorial history,
“Jefferson Barracks.”

10/21/2011 – In 1826, Missouri Governor John Miller, William Clark (the renowned explorer and former governor of the Territory of Missouri) and two prominent members of the military scoured the western shore of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis in search of a site to build a replacement for the dilapidated Fort Bellefontaine on Coldwater Creek.

They found a parcel of about 1,700 acres that the U.S. government later purchased for $5 from the village of Carondelet – or “Vide Poche,” (Empty Pockets), as it was known. The military installation they built – first called Cantonment Miller for the governor who bought the property and later Jefferson Barracks for the president who bought the state it sits in – became an integral part of St. Louis history, playing an important role in every American conflict from the Black Hawk and Seminole wars in the 1830s to World War II in the 1940s.

The U.S. Army declared Jefferson Barracks surplus in 1946, and today the facility functions as a national cemetery, a base for the Missouri Air National Guard, an intelligence facility for the Department of Defense, a St. Louis County park, the home to an increasingly significant collection of museums, and a spacious and exceptionally beautiful recreational resource.

That’s a lot of functionality and a lot of history of any piece of land, and a new book, part of an “Images of America” series by Arcadia Publishing, provides a rich collection of historical photographs depicting this rich history. Included are many exceptional photographs of those who have passed through Jefferson Barracks in service to their country, and of the gravesites of many who were laid to rest in the park at the conclusion of their service.

Among the latter group is British novelist and humorist Eric Knight, a major in the U.S. Army Special Forces who was best known for inventing the world’s most famous fictional dog in his best-seller “Lassie Come Home.” Knight’s plane went down in the jungles of Dutch Guiana (now Surinam) while on the way to the famous Allied conference in Casablanca in 1943, killing 35 men – at the time the worst air disaster ever in the Western Hemisphere. The victims’ remains lie at Jefferson Barracks in a common grave.

The Douglas C-54 carrying Knight was identical to the plane Roosevelt had planned to fly to Morocco (but didn’t), and the writer’s descendants believe a Nazi submarine might have shot down his plane, mistaking it for the president’s. Roosevelt mourned the victims of the crash by wearing a black armband to the Casablanca meetings.

Also at rest in the national cemetery is Cpl. John Francis Buck, the great St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster and member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, who was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received at the Remagen Bridge in Germany.

The purpose of the Images in America series is, as the name implies, to present a collection of pictures conveying a sense of a particular American place. Each book is 128 pages long, which in the case of Jefferson Barracks means many items indispensable to the telling of its long and rich history must be crammed into the book. It is therefore by necessity chock-full – a genuine trove of historical treasures.

“Trying to tell the story in 128 pages was one of the most difficult things for me and Art to do,” said author Sandie Grassino, speaking for herself and co-author Major (retired) Art Schuermann of the Missouri National Guard, who is the historic preservation officer for Jefferson Barracks, and de facto curator of its historical artifacts.

A U.S. Army Special Forces plane went down in 1943, on its way to the famous Allied conference in Casablanca. The 35 men killed are buried in a common grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. (click for larger version

A strict chronological order is maintained for clarity’s sake, Grassino said.

“We tried that one through-line in the telling of the story that helped make it clear,” Grassino said. “As a former teacher, I wanted this to be a book that the whole family could sit down and read together. I wanted it to be a book that kids could look at even before they learned to read. We wanted it to be a book that would appeal to every member of the family. I hope that’s the book it turned out to be.”

That hope is well realized – at least for family members who are history nuts. For them, the book is a bargain: Not often are so many pictures found for the price ($21.99 list; $14.95 on

Among the gems included is a rare full-length study of Nathaniel Lyon, the principal player in the Camp Jackson Affair in St. Louis in May 1861 in which 35 civilians and 5 soldiers were killed as federal troops sought to safeguard a large cache of weapons kept at the St. Louis Arsenal.

After the incident, the conflict adjourned to the western part of the state, where it took an even more deadly form. In August, at a full-scale battle on Wilson’s Creek outside Springfield, Lyon became the first general killed in the Civil War.

The weapons soon were removed to the more secure confines of Jefferson Barracks, where the cache evolved into an important munitions depot for the U.S. Army and later for the U.S. Air Force. During World War II, the ordnance storage facility at Jefferson Barracks became truly enormous, as did its importance as an induction center, mustering in 1,000 men per day throughout the war, according to Schuermann.

Photos of this fevered activity abound in the book, along with pictures of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Washington Irving, the young Robert E. Lee (who was assigned to re-sculpt the embankments of the Mississippi at Jefferson Barracks), James Longstreet, U.S. Grant, Dwight Eisenhower and myriad presidents from Jefferson to Roosevelt.

The Lyon photo is a prime example of how the Carondelet Historical Society in St. Louis “was a great help to us,” said Grassino. “They and Marc Kollbaum (author of ‘Gateway to the West: The History of Jefferson Barracks from 1826 to 1894′) helped us just every which way they could.”

Other important sources of photographs were the Library of Congress and the archives of the University of Missouri, St. Louis University and the Missouri Civil War Museum (soon to open to the public on the grounds of Jefferson Barracks), Grassino and Schuermann said.

The book is a candy box for casual browsers, but scholars should take note: Space constraints do not permit an index.

“We wanted a book that was more popularly oriented,” Schuermann said. Those seeking treatment in-depth are referred to Kollbaum’s book.

Missouri Air Guard Unit Announces New Commander

Lt. Col. William Boothman will take over the Missouri Air Guard Unit at Jefferson Barracks.

By Sarah Flagg The Arnold Patch

Lt. Col. William Boothman, of Waterloo, IL, took command of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 121st Air Control Squadron in a ceremony performed by Jefferson Barracks Base Commander Col. David Newman on Oct. 1.

“Bill Boothman is the right man for this job,” said Gen. Stephen Cotter in a release from the Guard. “He has the right foundation and background to lead this unit.”

Boothman attended Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville and earned a degree in civil engineering. He served four years in the Air Force before joining the National Guard. Boothman started his National Guard career at Jefferson Barracks 20 years ago and has served as the base civil engineer and conversion officer.

The 121st Air Control Squadron, based out of Jefferson Barracks, consists of 185 soldiers who are in the process of setting up a $30 million air control radar system.

“This is a very technical military occupation,” Boothman said. “We train to perform long range aircraft radar command and control. We give aircrafts in the air all the information that is beyond their capabilities and feed that information back through data links or to people around the globe if necessary.”

Boothman brings with him the return of air control missions to the barracks, and said it will increase the viability of the base as a military asset.

“Everyone knows the country is in some difficult fiscal times right now, so any mission you have that pertains to current operations and combat activity is important to the state,” Cotter said. “We’re trying to maintain corps structure here so the more viable missions you have, the better chance you have to stay off the chopping block.”

Freedom River Walk Honors Sept. 11 Victims, Veterans

Video link

By Kim Hudson FOX2now.com1:39 p.m. CDT, September 10, 2011

A special September 11th observances was held Saturday morning. The Freedom River Walk was held at Jefferson Barracks Park as a way for local residents to pay tribute to those who died ten years ago in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s also a chance to show support for the men and women who serve in the military. To World War II veteran Robert Samuels, only one thing compares to the September 11th attacks.Pearl HarborThere was more people killed than in Pearl Harbor.  And it was attacked on United States,” says Samuels.

The Army veteran is one of hundreds honored at the Freedom River Walk at Jefferson Barracks.  The Grand Marshall was Crystal City, Missouri native and Silver Star honoree Jeremy Church.  For his bravery during a 2004 attack on his convoy in Iraq, he is the first Army Reservist to get the medal since the Vietnam War in the 1970s. “It’s wonderful and this group here’s wonderful, to recognize the military,” Samuels said. The walk is symbolic, but the help is real.  The Veterans Administration is asking all its vets to get help as they come home.

“I wish they were all home,” Samuels said. “With their families.” Private Samuels is stunned these men and women left in the first place. “These people today want to be in the service.  I’ll be frank,” he laughed.  “I didn’t want to be in it.”

He is also proud of the civilian first responders who left the quiet of the Midwest to calm the chaos in New York and Washington, D.C. 10 years ago. “I tell ya, they’re wonderful,” Samuels said.  “We were recruited.  You got a number and you were called to go and that was your life.  But, these people here don’t have to do that.”

Jefferson Barracks, Answering the Call. A brief film clip created by AmerenUE for the Jefferson Barracks Heritage Foundation.

Photo Gallery: JB Blast Draws Thousands for Fireworks

By Sarah Flagg Affton-ShrewsburyPatch

Fireworks, music and fun filled Veterans’ Memorial Amphitheater Friday night. Thousands of people from all over St. Louis gathered at Jefferson Barracks Friday for the annual JB Blast. Music, fireworks and food surrounded Veterans’ Memorial Amphitheater.

Visit to view Photo Gallery

Hundreds mark Memorial Day at Jefferson Barracks


St. Louis County, Mo (KSDK) – They came from across the St. Louis region to honor those who served our country.

On Sunday, several Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts decorated each and every grave site with flags, all 183-thousand.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay encouraged the audience to remember those who currently serve in the military.

“It is important for us to remember that many of our St. Louis neighbors have lost family members in this country’s wars,” said Mayor Slay in a speech at the ceremony.  “To remember that young Americans still remain at risk in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones throughout the world.”

After the ceremony, many fanned out across the cemetery to honor loved ones.


Jefferson Barracks exhibit traces state’s Civil War history

Chris Campbell Suburban Journals, Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 6:00 am

For local Civil War enthusiasts, Jefferson Barracks in Lemay is hallowed ground. The site was both a major supply base and the largest hospital west of the Mississippi River during the war.

Now it’s home to a new exhibit detailing Missouri’s rich Civil War history The exhibit, “The Civil War in Missouri,” traces the battles — both irregular and regular — that were fought on local ground.

“It covers the Jayhawkers and the Bushwhackers and just about every major battle throughout the war,” said Mark Kollbaum, curator of Jefferson Barrackls Historic Park. You won’t find many of these battles in the history books. “Some only involved 40 or 50 people,” Kollbaum said.

But for some Civil War buffs, the more obscure the better. The exhibit features text panels with pictures to guide visitors through the state’s war history. And that history is extensive. Missouri had more than 1,000 battles, both major fights and minor scraps, during the Civil War.

That ranks it third among all states in total battles, behind Virginia and Tennessee, which rank one and two, respectively. Weaponry was required to fight all those battles. Numerous Civil War-era weapons, such as two dozen muskets, revolvers, swords and bayonets, are on display.

The collection has Union calvary uniforms, a sailor’s outfit from the U.S.S. Mound City and a jacket from a Louisiana artillery unit soldier who took part in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, the first major Civil War battle that took place west of the Mississippi River. Along with weaponry, the exhibit details the practice of wartime medicine.

“We want to emphasize this history of Jefferson Barracks as the largest medical facility west of the Mississippi during the war,” Kollbaum said.

Kollbaum pieced together the exhibit with donations from friends and existing material from Jefferson Barracks. “So far it’s been very popular,” he said. “The Civil War tends to be a draw.” Especially in 2011.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The free exhibit takes about an hour to navigate.

Jefferson Barracks Gets 30-Million Dollar Military Radar Facility

ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR)— 03/23/11

A radar facility is refurbished at the Missouri Air National Guard at Jefferson Barracks in South St. Louis County. “The radars actually a 240-nautica- mile radar. Zero to 99,000,” said Lt. Col. Bill Boothman. He is the commander of the 121st Air-Control Squadron at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri.

“They can pick up aircraft and targets at that range,” Boothman said. “And then the information comes back and there’s four scopes in each O-M, operations module. The operators sit in there and analyze the data that comes in.”

We are at war overseas, so why do we need this radar in the midwest as nation’s heartland remains peaceful?

“We train here,” Boothman said. “Were worldwide deployable, so this is just where were located to train. We will be called up to support the active duty in theatre, and do our missions.”

This unit, dedicated to protecting us on the ground by keeping an ever-open eye on the skies, only took five hours to set up. And, there is more work to be done.

“Eventually, we are getting a tower,” Boothman said. “The radar will be up, which will allow us to kind of see over the trees and get a little better range. It should take us a little bit more time, but were going to get back up to speed.”

The facility is capable of taking over Lambert International Airport’s commercial air-traffic control, if necessary. But for now, this facility’s primary purpose is for training — to keep Missouri Air National Guardsmen and women at the top of their game.

New bridge should be granted a fitting name

03/23/11 BY PAT GAUEN

The Golden Gate is the name for a strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. There appears never to have been any question of what to call the only bridge ever built across it.

If only things were that simple here.

Our new bridge will span the Mississippi River. But we already have 10 Mississippi River bridges, even if not one has that exact name. Anyhow, the “Mississippi River Bridge” would be pretty bland.

Some folks are struggling to find better. That inspired me to revisit the subject, which I last explored in 2008, before derricks in the water provided visual signs of the bridge’s progress.

I consulted a list of the world’s best-known bridges for ideas.

Michigan’s famous Mackinac Bridge, like the Golden Gate, is named for its location, another strait. Louisiana has the Lake Pontchartrain Bridge over, well, guess. That title seems clever compared with the Greater New Orleans Bridge.

There are lots of bridges named for the dead. The George Washington Bridge linking New York and New Jersey is arguably the grandest. The Philadelphia area is particularly fond of these, with the Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Walt Whitman and Commodore Barry bridges. (Barry was a Revolutionary War hero from Philadelphia.)

New York City combined geography and personal tribute with the huge Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. (Verrazano was an explorer; the Narrows separate Staten Island from Brooklyn.)

Our bridges honor no commodores but two explorers, Lewis and Clark, and some dead heroes, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur. (Neither hero lived here.)

A Post-Dispatch poll found strong support for a Dred Scott Bridge, remembering a slave here who took his case for freedom all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately, he lost. (Scott was freed voluntarily by an owner in St. Louis.)

St. Louis has no bridge named directly for a president. The Jefferson Barracks Bridge reflects the military installation at its western end; the post itself was named for President Thomas Jefferson.

While our McKinley Bridge was opened just nine years after the assassination of President William McKinley, it memorialized not him but the William McKinley who founded the railroad that built it. Thus, that McKinley became a rare bird among bridge namesakes: one who lived to cross the span named for him.

In that spirit, some Missouri legislators proposed the Jerry F. Costello-William Lacy “Bill” Clay Sr. Veterans Memorial Bridge. It would commemorate a congressman and a former congressman, along with America’s military veterans,

It’s also a mouthful. Could we abbreviate to the Cos-Clay-Vets maybe? Or CCV? That would borrow a page from the Saudi Arabians, who dubbed the King Fahd Causeway, a series of bridges, for the shortened name of its then-ruler. Otherwise, it would have been the King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud Causeway. (Greater Saudi Arabian Bridge wouldn’t have been a bad idea, either.)

I imagine Cos-Clay-Vets will go the way of the Ronald Wilson Reagan Bridge, proposed previously by Missouri. The west bank’s bridge-naming record isn’t so hot. Ever hear of the Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann Bridge? You and 99.99 percent of everybody else call it the Poplar Street Bridge (itself unfortunate, as the street has neither a grand name nor an actual connection to the span).

For brevity, you cannot beat an idea from my friend, Louis Jackstadt, a former Collinsville mayor, who recently tried to sell me on the Ill-Mo Bridge. Since the new span will be a cable-stayed design, I turned for ideas toward what was once the largest of its kind, the Alex Fraser Bridge in Vancouver, Canada. It is named for a politician and crosses the Fraser River, named for a different guy who was an explorer. A double-duty name.

With that in mind, I resurrect the preference of the late Karl Monroe, my boss back at the Collinsville Herald, who thought the Poplar Street Bridge should have been called the U.S. Grant Bridge.

Think about it. The name is short. It honors Ulysses S. Grant, a former president and certainly a veteran. He lived in St. Louis, is dead and was successful. Best of all, the name is double-duty: much of the financing for the new bridge comes from U.S. grants.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Congressman William Lacy “Bill” Clay Sr. served in the U.S. Army. An earlier version of this column indicated otherwise; this version has been corrected.

Replay of riot on Olive Street begins commemoration of Civil War here

BY TIM O’NEIL • > 314-340-8132 | Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 12:20 am

ST. LOUIS • A re-enactment of a bloody riot on Olive Street will be the first big attraction among local observances planned for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The event on April 28 to May 1 in Jefferson Barracks Park in south St. Louis County is part of “Freedom’s Gateway — St. Louis in the Civil War.” On Monday, organizers of Freedom’s Gateway rolled out plans and their website — — to commemorate the war’s complicated history here and across Missouri.

In that first event, more than 200 re-enactors will recall a street battle between green Union troops and angry Southern-leaning civilians on May 10, 1861, less than a month after Fort Sumter was bombarded at Charleston, S.C. Gunfire on Olive killed 28 civilians and seven soldiers.

Missouri’s secessionist governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, had mustered the state militia to the site of present-day St. Louis University in hopes of seizing the U.S. arsenal on the Mississippi River at Arsenal Street. Troops under Union Capt. Nathaniel Lyon marched to the militia camp, named in Jackson’s honor, and quickly obtained its surrender. But as Lyon assembled his captives on Olive near Compton Avenue, gunfire erupted between troops and mob.

“Camp Jackson and the deadly riots gave notice to St. Louisans that the Civil War had come to Missouri,” said Robert R. Archibald, president of the Missouri History Museum. “St. Louis was a divided city before, during and after the bloody war.”
On Monday, Archibald outlined Freedom’s Gateway with Kathleen Ratcliffe, president of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, and re-enactors dressed as Civil War-era soldier and civilians. The featured artifact was a sword that a militia officer broke over a fence rather than surrender it to Lyon.

Ratcliffe said the new website would attract visitors and their wallets.

“St. Louis has a big story to tell in this watershed period of our nation,” she said. “History buffs, known in our business as heritage travelers, stay longer and spend more money than typical travelers.”

Freedom’s Gateway includes information about events, exhibits and lectures at places such as the Old Courthouse, the Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site and Bellefontaine Cemetery. On Nov. 11, the History Museum will open a special exhibit on the war in Missouri.

Events will be held through the four years of the nation’s commemoration. Major combat ended on April 9, 1865, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Va.

Frank Aufmuth, an organizer of the Camp Jackson event, said re-enactors from at least 10 states would form up near the north entrance of the St. Louis County park. He said the scene in 1861 was a confusion of blue-clad Union soldiers, allied German immigrant units in plain clothes, surrendering Missouri militiamen wearing blue or gray uniforms and an angry mob all around them.

On April 28, re-enactors will set up camp for public viewing. The riot is to be replayed about 2 p.m. on May 1.
Aufmuth is an eighth-grade teacher at Rogers Middle School in the Affton area. At Camp Jackson he will play Lt. Col. John Knapp, the militia officer who broke his sword in anger.

Aufmuth said the ensuing decisions of the state militia officers portrayed Missouri’s deep split during the war. Knapp’s commander, Gen. Daniel Frost, joined the Confederate army, as did fellow officer John Bowen. But Knapp joined a Union regiment.

For more information about Freedom’s Gateway, call 314-454-3137.

You can support the efforts of the Jefferson Barracks Community Council by becoming an individual, business/organization, or supporting member.

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