Ceremony honors victims, survivors of 1950 troop train crash that killed 33

By KEVIN CARROLL | The Times-Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) | Published: September 14, 2020

KINGSTON, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — Seventy years after a horrific train crash claimed the lives of 33 members of Wilkes-Barre’s 109th Field Artillery, a group of soldiers and veterans brought the past, present and future together at a memorial service on Sunday at the Kingston Armory.

“It’s important that we continue to honor those we lost that day, and to make sure that our current troops continue to honor them and honor this country,” said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Tornambe after the ceremony.

Tornambe, the commander of the 109th Field Artillery Regiment, offered brief remarks during the ceremony, touching on the tragedy and pledging to keep honoring not just the victims of the train crash, but all those who have lost their lives in service to the country.

“This is our way of remembering the victims and bringing the past into the present, so that we never forget,” Tornambe said.

It was on Sept. 11, 1950 that a train carrying troops from the 109th Field Artillery, stopped on the tracks near Coshocton, Ohio, was struck from behind by a passenger train.

The crash killed 33 and wounded 278 troops. The train was carrying them to Camp Atterbury, Indiana to be mobilized for service in the Korean War.

Sunday’s ceremony began and ended in prayer from chaplain James Shea. Soldiers stood at attention for the national anthem, and veterans (including two survivors from the crash) sat on chairs set out on the lawn, or stood on the sidewalk to watch the proceedings.

Victims of the crash were honored and commemorated with a dog tag, placed by one of the troops around a cross, stuck in the ground in front of a monument paying tribute to the 33 lives that were lost in 1950.

Additional crosses were placed around the monument and adorned with dog tags to honor soldiers who gave their lives in war, serving in conflicts from the American Revolution all the way to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The final dog tag was placed in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 51 years to the day after the train crash in Ohio.

“I think for a lot of us here, Sept. 11, 2001 was when we realized why we get into this,” Tornambe said.

Decorated wreaths were presented in front of the monument as well, dedicated from various American Legion chapters and other outfits.

Kingston American Legion commander Rich Pries, a veteran of the Vietnam War, was one such presenter.

“Couldn’t ask for a nicer day,” Pries said before the ceremony. “I’m glad so many people are here.”

The turnout, according to Tornambe, was as good as it’s ever been.

“Everybody still knows everybody, and we all stay in touch even when we’re not here,” Tornambe said.

“We’re like a family.”

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