|Friday, June 13, 1997 :: History :: 6004 Views ::
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Forty-one young men from Howard Beach have lost their lives in military service during the 20th century. Bernard Coleman of 156-34 Deer (101st) Street was the first to die in service; Frank M. Charles of West Hamilton Beach was the first to be killed in action.
Bernard Coleman held the rank of Seaman Second Class, U.S. Navy. He enlisted on April 16, 1917 and served aboard the U.S. S. Texas. Bernard was born on March 22,1898 and was killed in a shipboard accident on his twentieth birthday, March 22, 1918. Bernard had been climbing up a shipboard ladder when a cargo of stores came loose above him; he was struck by three boxes that crushed his skull. His body was returned home and buried in St. Raymond's Cemetery, Bronx, N. Y
Seaman Coleman had two sisters and three brothers, one of whom became a priest. In memory of his sacrifice, Lilly Place at the Howard Beach train station was renamed Coleman Square in his honor A monument and flagpole were erected at the square and the Bernard Coleman Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars was established.
Frank Martin Charles was born September 27, 1894. His father, Bill, purchased property at Hawtree Basin (now Hamilton Beach Park) around 1905 and later, with his son's help, built six bungalows on the land which he rented out for extra income. Before World War One Frank summered in West Hamilton Beach helping his Dad construct the bungalows.
Frank went to France with Company B. 307th Regiment of the 77th Infantry Division; also in Frank's Division and Regiment was Charles Prince, for whom the Prince-Renn Post of the American Legion in Broad Channel was co-named, although Prince was with Company E.
On July 15,1918 the German army attacked on both sides of Reims, an assault which developed into the Second Battle of the Marne, ending August 6th with a German retreat.
Frank M. Charles was killed in action on July 21, 1918, along with Captain Barrett, Commander of Company B. Frank had been manning his machine gun when his post was overrun and he was bayoneted to death. Pvt. Charles' body was returned to the states and interred at Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, N. Y He was survived by his parents and four sisters.
The Frank M. Charles Post of the American Legion was chartered on July 1, 1926 at Howard Beach. The post was headquartered at The Casino building in William Howard's Park (now Frank M. Charles Memorial Park). The building was renamed Legion Memorial Hall, but locals still referred to it as The Casino.
Until fate ruined his future plans, Frank Charles anticipated his return home from the great world war In a letter to his sisters five weeks before his death Frank stated that he had seen "both French and English [girls] and there is nothing like the American girls (sic). "
The sacrifice of Bernard Coleman and Frank Charles was a portent Of things to come; Howard Beach's next war fatality would occur at Pearl Harbor on December 7,1941. More wars, more heroism and much more sacrifice would follow.
Coleman and Charles were the first of4l Howard Beach patriots who gave their lives for their nation and fellow citizens. These forty-one heroes are now an elite unit unto themselves whose memory and sacrifice we survivors continually honor and always remember.