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A strange tale from Greenwood Cemetery

Greenwood Cemetery is an historic sleeping place with many colorful characters from Barnesville’s rich history interred there. Many will be featured on the Lantern Tour set for Nov. 3. The cemetery is full of twists, turns and legends – one of which assistant city manager and local historian Tim Turner got involved with earlier this year when an e-mail arrived at city hall from Belgium seeking information about someone buried here from Cees and Veronique Hermens Verschuur. Veronique grew up in a centuries-old farmhouse in the south Netherlands near Mastricht. On Oct. 14, 1943, a B-17 bomber crashed on the family farm. It was piloted by Lt. Doug Murdock of Barnesville. Turner was familiar with the Murdock family. The home place at 805 Greenwood Street still stands. His parents were Douglas Ortez Murdock and Willie Wilson Murdock. He even had a photo of Mrs. Murdock. He began exchanging e-mails with Veronique. ’Her father and his siblings told many tales of being prisoners in concentration camps, their American liberators and a wonderful story about Fred Astaire dancing in the garden of their farm. The had also heard tales of the B-17 crash,’ Turner said. This excerpt from a piece entitled (italics) Wrong Place! Wrong Time (end italics) by Georgie C. Kuhl gives a firsthand account of the ill-fated bomber piloted by Murdock. There was a terrific explosion between #1 and #2 engines, and the cowling was blown off #1. Both Murdock and Lt. Edwin L. Smith, the copilot, were stunned, and they momentarily blacked out from the force of the blast. Smith, who was flying the plane at the time, was the first to recover. He realized the ship had lost boost on both of the engines as the superchargers were inoperative, causing a great reduction in power. The aircraft could not keep up with the squadron and began to fall further behind. Lt. Smith could not maintain altitude. As the aircraft descended through 20,000 feet, Lt. Murdock recovered from his temporary shock and told Smith he would take over flying the plane. As the enemy kept up the pressure, Murdock headed south and continued to lose altitude. More cannon fire hit the bomber, causing it to roll and pitch downward’¦the aircraft was being shot to pieces! As some of the other crewmen began to parachute out of the aircraft, Murdock directed Staff Sgt. John E. Miller, the togglier, to salvo the bombs. However, Sgt. Miller apparently never heard the pilot’s order, for the bombs remained aboard. Murdock continued flying on a southerly heading still losing altitude and trying to evade more fighters. The German pilot broke off the engagement as the B-17 rolled over on its left wing and began to spin. At 1340 it crashed near Limmel, Holland, a small village just north of Mastricht’¦shortly after the crash, the bomb load exploded. In the sad aftermath, Veronique’s father and others gathered the remains from the crash, put them in buckets and turned them over to local officials. Murdock and his dead crew members were buried in the city cemetery there. It took years to identify them. Once Murdock was identified, his remains were shipped here and he lies in Greenwood Cemetery with his parents. Turner continued the correspondence with Veronique and sent a photo of the Murdock home. As he was typing out the e-mail, his cousin’s widow notified him she had an old photo album with photos of his grandfather Troy Turner and offered it to him. He retrieved the album and some old books. She also had a box of old letters still in the envelopes she was going to throw away. He pulled out one from the center. It had been addressed to Lt. Douglas L. Murdock, mailed on Nov. 24, 1943 and returned to the sender stamped ‘˜Missing in Action’. ‘I couldn’t catch my breath. Murdock was the subject of an e-mail I had sent to Veronique just 20 minutes earlier,’ Turner said. The majority of the letters in the box were from Katie Wilson to her nephews Doug Murdock and his brother Wayne Murdock and Jessie Miller Wilson. In some correspondence, Wayne Murdock and Jessie Wilson reported receiving letters from Leonora Ginn. ’Sure enough, Leonora remembered them. She was in school with them and told me she would come home from school each day and write letters to the boys who were serving during the war. She is a treasure trove of information about Barnesville,’ Turner said. Doug Murdock’s remains were disinterred at Mastricht on Jan. 31, 1949 and identified. He was buried in the family plot here in 1950. This summer, Cees and Veronique came to Barnesville to visit Turner who took them to Murdock’s grave. They laid flowers and spent some time at the resting place of a family they are linked to through war and and extreme acts of kindness. Veronique presented Turner with a book she has written about the plane crash and its aftermath. Sadly, it is in Dutch and he cannot read a word of it. The title translates: ‘˜The Time Has Not Been Lost Either’. ’Perhaps someone out there can read it and fill us in,’ Turner concluded. ****************** Get your tour tickets now: Lt. Doug Murdock lies just a short stroll from where the hub of activity will be during the Lantern Tour at Greenwood Cemetery Sunday, Nov. 3. Tours are set for 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Advance tickets are $25 and available at the chamber of commerce office. On the day of the tours, tickets will be $30. Participants will meet at the depot for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before being transported via golf cart to the cemetery. Judge Byron Smith will bring to life Barnesville Buggy magnate George L. Summers. Descendant Glenn Collier will portray Jena Cuthbert (J.C.) Collier, a wealthy planter. Susan Walter will portray her grandmother, Evelyn Collier Cason. Monica Walters will channel Augusta Lambdin. Capt. Dan Rainey will play Col. J.J. Rogers and Al Medcalf of the SCV will hold forth in the Confederate portion of the cemetery and honor Dr. J.H. Connally. Stafford King Gudenrath of Macon, a direct descendant, will portray Sarah Ann Blalock Stafford, wife of J.W. Stafford. For more information, contact the chamber office at 770-358-5884.

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