WHS Class of 73

Search This Blog

December 8, 2016

James Seymour "Jim" Whitfield,1926-2016, U.S. Navy WWII, Warrensburg, Missouri Hometown Hero

James Seymour "Jim" Whitfield
1926-2016
Past Executive Director American Legion
James Seymour “Jim” Whitfield, 90, of Warrensburg, passed away Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, at the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg.
He was born on Jan. 12, 1926, in Warrensburg, the son of William Henry “Dub” and Mary Virginia (Asbury) Whitfield.
On Jan. 3, 1957, he and Ruby Virginia Raker were united in marriage in Warrensburg. She preceded him in death on March 12, 1999.
On July 19, 2003, he and Kathryn Henry were married in Louisiana, Mo. She preceded him in death on March 26, 2013.
Whitfield was a life member of The American Legion in Warrensburg. He served The American Legion Boys State of Missouri in several capacities since 1953. He was secretary-treasurer from 1953 to 1955. He served on the site committee, which made the decision to move Boys State to the campus of CMSU (UCM) in 1953. In recognition of his lifetime of untiring service, in 2000 Whitfield was given the title "Honorary Lifetime Commander" of the Missouri Department of the American Legion. This honor had been given to only three other men, including former U.S. President Harry S. Truman.
Whitfield's service to the Missouri Boys State program is unsurpassed. Whitfield served as a city counselor from 1956 to 1959 and was named dean of counselors in 1959. Under his direction, the staff of Missouri Boys State took a pro-active approach to teaching the principles of democracy to the young men who participated in the Boys State program. As dean, Whitfield wrote the first counselor's handbook. The original form of that handbook is still in use today. Whitfield voluntarily retired from his position as dean of counselors in 1970. Along with Charles Hamilton, Whitfield was instrumental in creating the intricate structure of the program that has evolved into one of the finest programs of its kind. In his over four decades of service to the program, Whitfield has been at the center of every major decision affecting the program. He has been instrumental in helping the program grow into a youth leadership program of national prominence.
Whitfield was given the distinction of having a Boys State city named in his honor, becoming the first Boys State leader outside of the four founders to be given that honor. In 2001, the Missouri Boys State Board of Directors and Executive Committee voted in favor of renaming Smith City to Whitfield City. He was inducted into the Missouri Boys State Hall of Fame in 1988.
Whitfield was named one of the original trustees of the A.B. Weyer Memorial Trust. The Weyer Trust was created to ensure the future financial stability of The American Legion Boys State of Missouri Inc. In 1989, he was named chairman of the trust, succeeding Charles L. Bacon who died suddenly while still serving his term. Whitfield has been active in veterans affairs since his honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy in January 1947. He is a graduate of Central Missouri State University, where he was student body president. In his senior year he received the George Charno Citizenship Award. Whitfield is still serving as a life member of the Executive Committee of the American Legion Boys State of Missouri Board of Directors.
Jim was a life member of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars in the United States, and BPO Elks, all of Warrensburg. He is an honorably discharged U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, having served in the Far Pacific, North Atlantic and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean Sea aboard the same ship for 33 months. He was an active member of The American Legion since 1946, and honored for his 70 years as a member, having served in many capacities including executive director, American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Whitfield held a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Central Missouri with post-graduate studies in public administration at the University of Colorado and in finance from Iowa University. He received the George Charno Student Citizenship/Leadership Award his senior year at UCM where he also served as Veterans Affairs coordinator for the University with the VA, as well as president of the student body. He started the Warrensburg Jaycees and was its first president
Whitfield served as the first chairman for a period of four years of the Missouri Veterans Commission and served a total of 10 years on the Commission. During his tenure as chairman, the Missouri State Veterans Home system of seven homes and the State Veterans Cemetery system were established. Following his employment at The American Legion National Headquarters he was administrative manager and convention director for the North American Equipment Dealers Association with offices in St. Louis County, Missouri.
He was appointed to the Commission by the American Legion.
Jim served as the western area coordinator for the Missouri Military Funeral Honors Program of the Missouri National Guard until his death. He was an avid season ticket holder for the Missouri Mavericks hockey team and a big Cardinals fan.
Jim is survived by his sister, Shirley Brockman, of Warrensburg; two nephews, Scott Dunham and wife, Carol, of Warrensburg, and Wayne Raker and wife, Kathy, of Valrico, Florida; three nieces, Ann Shideler and husband, John, of Wheatland, Kit Raker Gudde and husband, Lynn, of Chilhowee, and Clayton Raker Hasser, of Overland Park; a sister-in-law, Wilma Flawsburg and friend, Al Stewart, of Independence; and good friend, Brenda Brown, of Lee’s Summit.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg, with R. Todd Simpson officiating. Interment will follow in the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville with full military honors by the Warrensburg American Legion Post 131, Mike’s National Guard Team and the Patriot Guard Riders. Pallbearers will be Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity brothers. 
The family will receive friends Sunday evening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg, with the Phi Sigma Kappa funeral ritual at 8 p.m.
1300 Veterans Rd, Warrensburg, MO 64093 (660) 543-5064
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to the Phi Sigma Kappa Foundation, the American Legion Missouri Boys State Memorial Trust, or the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery Assistance League and can be left in care of Sweeney-Phillips & Holdren Funeral Home. This is a tribute page to his incredible life of giving.


Phi Sigma Kappa
A genuine and iconic Phi Sig, James S. “Jim” Whitfield (Central Missouri ’50) joined the Chapter Eternal Tuesday, December 6, 2016. Jim was more than just a brother to so many Phi Sigs, and he will be deeply missed at leadership schools, conventions, as well as regional and local events. He was a critical, and influential part of the Phi Sigma Kappa and Phi Sigma Epsilon merger and his leadership will forever have impacted the Fraternity.
Grand President Jacobson wrote:
“I was sad to learn early today of the passing of Brother Jim. My condolences go out to all of our members and friends who share in our loss. Jim had a huge heart. He loved his Country and his Fraternity. He rarely turned away an opportunity to serve with everything that he had and all that he could give. A personal highlight of mine was attending the 85th Epsilon Iota Reunion last year and hearing all the stories of how Jim touched so many lives. I sat there as generations of Phi Sigs sounded off about his impact on them personally, both as undergraduates and later as alumni. I was lucky to be able to hear all the stories and hear the love that surrounded Jim and will always surround his memory. He embodied so many qualities that I admire: Brotherhood, Friendship, Justice, Wisdom, and Honor. He is certainly one of our great leaders and will be missed by all. I have directed IHQ staff to fly our Fraternity flags at half-mast in Jim’s honor. May he rest in peace in the Chapter Eternal.”

As of right now, details and plans are still being finalized. If you have any questions about logistics or these details as they develop, email Chief Operating Officer Michael Carey at, Michael@phisigmakappa.org.
Jim Whitfield, American Legion

Jim Whitfield was a life member of The American Legion in Warrensburg. He served The American Legion Boys State of Missouri in several capacities since 1953. He was Secretary-Treasurer from 1953 to 1955. He served on the site committee which made the decision to move Boys State to the campus of CMSU (UCM) in 1953. In recognition of his lifetime of untiring service, in 2000 Whitfield was given the title "Honorary Lifetime Commander" of the Missouri Department of the American Legion. This honor had been given to only three other men, including former U.S. President Harry S. Truman.

Whitfield's service to the Missouri Boys State program is unsurpassed. Whitfield served as a City Counselor from 1956 to 1959 and was named Dean of Counselors in 1959. Under his direction, the staff of Missouri Boys State took a pro-active approach to teaching the principles of democracy to the young men who participated in the Boys State program. As Dean, Whitfield wrote the first counselors handbook. The original form of that handbook is still in use today. Whitfield voluntarily retired from his position as Dean of Counselors in 1970. Along with Charles Hamilton, Whitfield was instrumental in creating the intricate structure of the program that has evolved into one of the finest programs of its kind. In his over four decades of service to the program, Whitfield has been at the center of every major decision affecting the program. He has been instrumental in helping the program grow into a youth leadership program of national prominence.

Whitfield was given the distinction of having a Boys State City named in his honor, becoming the first Boys State leader outside of the four founders to be given that honor. In 2001, the Missouri Boys State Board of Directors and Executive Committee voted in favor of renaming Smith City to Whitfield City. He was inducted into the Missouri Boys State Hall of Fame in 1988.

Whitfield was named one of the original trustees of the A.B. Weyer Memorial Trust. The Weyer Trust was created to ensure the future financial stability of The American Legion Boys State of Missouri, Inc. In 1989, he was named Chairman of the trust succeeding Charles L. Bacon who died suddenly while still serving his term. Whitfield has been active in veteran's affairs since his honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy in January of 1947. He is a graduate of Central Missouri State University where he was Student Body President. In his senior year he received the George Charno Citizenship Award. Whitfield is still serving as a life member of the Executive Committee of the American Legion Boys State of Missouri Board of Directors.


James (Jim) S. Whitfield of Independence, Missouri, was a Life Member of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars in the United States, and BPO Elks, all of Warrensburg, Missouri. He is an Honorably Discharged U.S. Navy veteran of World War II having served in the Far Pacific, North Atlantic, and Indian oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea, aboard the same ship for 33 months. He was an active member of The American Legion since 1946, and honored for his 70 years as a member, having served in many capacities including Executive Director, American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, IN.

Whitfield held a B.S. Degree in Business Administration from the University of Central Missouri with Post Graduate studies in Public Administration at the University of Colorado and in Finance from Iowa University. He received the George Charno Student Citizenship/Leadership Award his senior year at UCM where he also served as Veterans Affairs Coordinator for the University with the VA, as well as President of the Student Body. He started the Warrensburg Jaycees and was its first president.

Whitfield served as the first chairman for a period of 4 years of the Missouri Veterans Commission and served a total of 10 years on the Commission. During his tenure as Chairman the Missouri State Veterans Home system of seven homes and the State Veterans Cemetery system were established. Following his employment at The American Legion National Headquarters he was Administrative Manager and Convention Director for the North American Equipment Dealers Association with offices in St. Louis County, Missouri.
He was appointed to the Commission by the American Legion.

Dept of Missouri Commander Dennis Woeltje, James "Jim" Whitfield and Matthews-Crawford Post 131 Commander Peter Zwally.  2014 Honored as a 70-year Member. Warrensburg, MO
Jim Whitfield, American Legion, Missouri
Jim Whitfield, American Legion, Missouri
Jim Whitfield, American Legion, Missouri
Jim Whitfield, American Legion, Missouri
Whitfield, affectionately known as "Mr. American Legion," joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 and served for 33 months aboard the USS Gen George Squier off the coast of Africa, transported troops into southern France in 1944 and served in the Pacific Theater. He is also credited with three days of submarine duty.

Whitfield has served in many capacities at the post, district, department and national levels of The American Legion. He is the senior past commander from Post 131 and in 2000 was an honorary department commander. He was elected to the Missouri Boys State Hall of Fame in 1988 and was appointed by then American Legion National Commander Dan Dellinger as the Legion's representative to the National World War I Centennial Commission.

'A big opportunity'

Jim Whitfield, American Legion, Missouri
By Matt Grills
June 22, 2015
On paper, James Whitfield seems an ideal representative for The American Legion on the nation’s World War One Centennial Commission.
For 70 years, he’s been a member of Matthews-Crawford Post 131 in Warrensburg, Mo. He spent 57 years serving the Missouri Boys State program. During his time as head of the Missouri Veterans Commission, the state established seven veterans homes and a veterans cemetery system. And he’s an honorary lifetime commander of the Missouri American Legion – an honor Whitfield shares with just three others, including President Harry Truman.
More, he’s a longtime supporter of the Liberty Memorial, dedicated in Kansas City in 1926 as a monument to the sacrifices of U.S. service members during the Great War. In December, President Obama signed legislation granting the site national status. 
But for Whitfield, his World War One Commission appointment is personal. Veterans of the war were his friends, his mentors, and the guys who told his father that “Jimmy” needed to be part of The American Legion. They were the generation that started it all, and to speak for the organization they founded is “a hell of a responsibility,” Whitfield says.
He recently spoke with The American Legion Magazine about his reverence for the Americans who fought in World War I and the commission’s plans to honor them.
Growing up in the years between the world wars, did you know many veterans?
My father had a dairy, so I became acquainted with a number of World War I veterans because we delivered milk to them. I was enthralled with the idea of how these men had been in France. I remember one talking about his tour around Château-Thierry, where a lot of Missourians were during the war. It was always a pleasure to meet and talk with these men. I respected them because they had served our country, and that was important to me, even as a kid.
In the middle of high school, World War II broke out. I enlisted as a senior in 1943, but I promised my parents I would wait until I graduated. I went through boot camp in Farragut, Idaho, and was in the Navy about four years. It was a great tour of duty. I’ve often said that the Navy was very good to me. I just hope I was good to it. 

Where did you serve during World War II? 
After boot camp, I was assigned to the advance detail of a troop transport: General George O. Squier, named for a World War I general. I ended up being on it 33 months. Because it was a troop-carrying ship, I did get to the States once in a while, but there was always a quick turnaround. When we were scheduled to sail, we sailed on time. 
We were in the South Pacific for a few months and took troops into New Guinea and other areas. Then we transferred to the Atlantic for reinforcing troops in Europe. We were also involved in the invasion of southern France. The troops went down the sides on rope ladders to get into the landing crafts. Battleships were on the other side of us, and we could hear their projectiles over our heads going into the beach. That was something.
And when you returned home, you joined The American Legion. 
Through the dairy, I got acquainted with A.C. “Gus” Bass, who ended up being state commander of the Legion. When I got out of the Navy, he happened to be president of Citizens Bank in Warrensburg and encouraged me to keep my GI insurance. If I needed a couple hundred bucks, I could go see him. He was instrumental to my early Legion career. In fact, the World War I guys elected me post commander when I was in college. They helped me a lot. Whatever success I had, they made it happen. They were genuine people – very patriotic, very community-minded. They were good solid Americans, and they expected me and my generation to be the same. 

Describe the World War One Commission and its work thus far. 
Our mission is to provide opportunities for Americans to learn about the history of the war and our nation’s involvement, as well as to honor all who served and those who did their part back home in the war effort. 
We meet in person once a quarter and are required to meet at least once a year here at the National World War I Museum. Congress charged us with certain things to be done, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish. We’ve got volunteers and have reached out to each governor, encouraging them to establish some kind of state World War I committee or commission to help disseminate information and educational materials. 
For example, they may or may not know how many thousands served from their state. In Missouri, few people know that we had six Medal of Honor recipients from World War I. In fact, there’s a boulevard in St. Louis named after one of them, and I doubt if people in St. Louis know it. So that’s how we’re going to get the word out, through education and various projects that develop locally and get radio, TV and the newspaper in that community talking about something specific. And, of course, we’re on Facebook and Twitter. Social media is probably going to do more for us than anything. 
And there are finally plans for a national memorial in Washington, D.C., correct? 
The Liberty Memorial here in Kansas City was thought of as the national memorial, but it wasn’t officially that. The American Legion’s Resolution 15, passed by the National Executive Committee in October 2010, called for it. And in the fiscal 2015 defense bill that just passed was a bipartisan amendment renaming this location the National World War I Memorial and Museum.
At the same time, we’re refurbishing Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., so that it will be a national memorial. There will be no more monuments on the Mall, but we’ll have better recognition of World War I in the capital. There was once talk of renaming the District of Columbia War Memorial, but it only recognizes 499 citizens of the district who died in the war. A national memorial will satisfy most everybody. There’s a design competition going on now, and a committee of experts will decide which entry is best, with a final OK from the commission itself in January. 

What else is in the works? 
We’re cooperating with the American Battle Monuments Commission on plans for an interpretive visitors center at the Argonne in France, with a tentative dedication in November 2016. We’ve also set the date of April 2017 to have some function here at the museum marking the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the war, and hopefully the president will come. Down the road, we’re talking about some kind of parade on the day the troops marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue 100 years ago, and special events for Veterans Day in 2018 and Memorial Day in 1919. A lot of our activity will be cooperating with state and local groups. 

How can American Legion posts and departments support the commission? 
We hope they’ll take up the banner and do something locally. The Legion has its own centennial committee, so hopefully we will supplement each other. Some posts are named for World War I veterans; they could do some kind of history. They could take a survey of World War I monuments and memorials in their city, their county, and refurbish them. In the process, they’re going to get recognition, which then tells the public that World War I was important. 
If a state has a World War I centennial commission or committee, I’d hope the department is friendly enough with the state government that it would be a part of that commission or committee. Whatever is happening to mark the war’s centennial in their states and their communities, departments should be a part of it. 

This is a big opportunity. World War I reshaped the world. World War II was a product of it, and I think our problems in the Middle East and other places today can be traced back to World War I – how things were handled and countries were renamed and realigned. So I think it’s important for the American people to understand that what’s happening today is not just happening today. There’s some history behind it. 
Matt Grills is managing editor of The American Legion Magazine.

Independence-man-devotes-life-to-serving-veterans-like-himself
May 2012
Jim Whitfield's life has never been the same since being introduced to patriotism in Warrensburg, Mo., as a young lad.
By Frank Haight, The Examiner

Jim Whitfield, American Legion, Missouri
Jim Whitfield's life has never been the same since being introduced to patriotism in Warrensburg, Mo., as a young lad.  This 86-year-old Independence veteran has literally devoted his life to fellow veterans and to the service of his country since joining the Navy in World War II. And today he's still serving veterans and their families in the Missouri National Guard Office of Missouri Military Funeral Honors as its western area supervisor. From his office in the National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Jim is responsible for providing funeral honor guards for veterans in 50 western Missouri counties - if requested by the family. Honor guard volunteers are active members of the Guard. They are assigned to one of five honor guard teams in the western area: Kansas City, St. Joseph, Warrensburg, Joplin and Springfield."We work very closely with the American Legion, the VFW and a couple of other organizations," he says, explaining his office certifies members of veteran organizations so they can execute the elements of firing volleys, playing or providing taps and folding and presenting the flag to families of the deceased.
"It is very important that we have them because we could not do the missions we do without them," says Jim, who has been with the program since it became a state law on July 1, 1999.
"I have been with it from the beginning," he declares. First, he served as coordinator and then moved into the supervisor role five years ago.
As supervisor, Jim receives personal satisfaction, he says, knowing families also receive satisfaction from the program, which is part of the Office of the Adjutant General of the Missouri National Guard.
"It was set up so that we could work with the Guard to make this program possible," he explains.
Jim has World War I veterans to thank for instilling in him the respect of Old Glory and the honor of service. He often listened as the veterans swapped war stories. He also observed them demonstrate their patriotism in Warrensburg.
As 16-year-old Jim sat on the curb in front of his father's restaurant on Dec. 7, 1941. His patriotism soared when a nearby radio announced the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Without a second thought, the high school junior knew what he had to do.
And he did. Two weeks after receiving his high school diploma, the 17-year-old joined the Navy - with his parents' consent - and was assigned to the USS Gen. George O. Squier, a new troop-carrying ship out of Treasure Island, Calif.

USS General G. O. Squier
USS General G. O. Squier (AP-130) was the lead ship of her class of transport ship for the U. S. Navy in World War II.
USS_General_G._O._Squier_(AP-130) Link
Specifications: USS General G. O. Squier
Displacement 9,950 t.(lt) 17,250 t.(fl) 
Length 522' 10" 
Beam 71' 6" 
Draft 26' 6" (limiting) 
Speed 16.5 kts. (trial)
Complement
Officers 32
Enlisted 324 Troop Accommodations 
Officers 270
Enlisted 3,595 Largest Boom Capacity 5 t. Cargo Capacity 1,900 DWT 
non-refrigerated 70,000 Cu ft Armament 
four single 5"/38 cal dual purpose gun mounts
four twin 1.1" gun mounts (replaced by two twin 40mm AA gun mounts)
fifteen twin 20mm AA gun mounts Fuel Capacity 
NSFO 13,300 Bbls Propulsion 
one Westinghouse geared turbine
two Babcock and Wilcox header-type boilers, 465psi 765°
double Falk Main Reduction Gear
three 400Kw 240V D.C. Ship's Service Generators, single propeller, 9,000shp
Jim says his patriotic parents signed the enlistment papers, knowing their son wanted to be in the Navy, knowing he would be drafted when he turned 18 and end up in another branch of the service. Jim never regretted joining the Navy. "The Navy was really good to me," he says. "I hope I was just as good to it."
He spent 33 months aboard the troop-carrier without receiving a scratch and became a "plank owner" of the Squier, which was involved in both theaters of war. "(The Squier) was in the South Pacific a short time, then we got shifted to the Atlantic ... and we were in the second or third wave of reinforcements on the D-Day invasion of Normandy," he recalls. As a navigation quartermaster, Jim corrected charts for navigational purposes, kept the ship's log and stood watch on deck with the Officer of the Day. But those weren't his only duties.
"My general quarters station was that of helmsman of the ship," Jim says, noting he followed the captain's orders on where to steer the ship.
As part of a convoy, the Squier safely zigzagged across the Atlantic Ocean to avoid the menacing German subs.
Though his ship was never attacked, Jim knew the U-boats were there. At night, "the ship would shake because our escorts were dropping depth charges" on subs they could hear.
Jim also knows where he was on V-J Day.
When the war ended, "Our ship was in the Caribbean one day out of the Panama Canal headed for Japan ... We were moving all our troops out of Europe directly to Japan for a heavy invasion."
The Squier, though, never made it to the Canal. With the unconditional surrender of Japan, the ship was ordered to sail for New York.
If nothing else, Jim says the three years, seven months and nine days he spent in the Navy "permanently ingrained my patriotism."
Upon his discharge, Jim immediately joined American Legion Post 131 in Warrensburg and became involved in patriotic activities, such as meeting trains bringing home the remains of area veterans killed overseas.
The train from Kansas City arrived in Warrensburg at 1:10 a.m., followed by the train from St. Louis at 5 a.m., recalls Jim, who was vice commander of the Legion post.
Regardless of the time, Jim was faithful meeting each train regardless of the weather or circumstances.
"I just felt like it was my duty," Jim says, recalling he met more than 50 trains carrying the remains of area veterans over a two-year period.
"I made them all. I never missed a train," he recalls proudly. "I felt extremely good about that."
Not only did Jim stand at attention and render a salute as a flag-draped casket was moved from the train to the hearse, he also attended some of the services. And on one occasion, he presented the flag on a casket to a family member he didn't know.
And, yes, Jim shed a tear or two, he admits, especially for those he personally knew.
After the war, as Jim studied and observed veteran activities and what they stood for, he decided "That's for me."
His patriotism led him to the Legion national headquarters in Indianapolis, where he worked for 21 years. It also resulted in him serving 18 years as the Legion's legislative chairman for Missouri.
He also was the Legion's state adjutant for three years, as well as post and district commander. He coordinated veteran enrollments at Central Missouri State College during his senior year.
Jim is proud he has never missed an American Legion state convention since his first one in 1947. But that's not his greatest achievement. Jim believes that was his efforts in establishing the Missouri Veterans Commission in 1989 and his appointment as its first chairman.
Saying he might be one of the state's oldest workers, Jim calls his life of service "a fascinating one" and says he has enjoyed the opportunities afforded him to be of service to the veterans.


86-year-old Missourian dedicates life to fellow veterans 
By Jennifer Archdekin ngmo.pao@us.army.mil KANSAS CITY, Mo. – 
On Dec. 7, 1941, the attacks on Pearl Harbor immediately affected millions of Americans. It put into motion a chain of events that would set the course of a then 16-year-old boy. Unbeknownst to Jim Whitfield, of Independence, that day would be the start of a lifetime of service for his country and fellow veterans. For over seven decades, Whitfield has worked both in and out of uniform to preserve and protect the honor of service members. He started as a Navy quartermaster during World War II. Upon his return from the war Whitfield began volunteering with the American Legion and has done so for 66 years. Currently he works for the Missouri Military Funeral Honors Program. Whitfield knows exactly where he was when he received the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked, thrusting America into an already raging war. The surprise strike against U.S. Naval forces further solidified this young man’s impression of patriotism and duty. “I was sitting on the curb in front of my dad’s restaurant, of all places to be, but that’s where I was,” said Whitfield. “I heard it on the radio. It was Sunday, lunch was over, and I was out sitting on the curb and there it was. It was shock and surprise.” Like many Americans, the news of the invasion painted a blurry picture of what it meant to the future of the country. “I didn’t grasp the news,” said Whitfield. “Maybe it was because I was 16 years old. I think the magnitude of it really didn’t hit anybody, right at that moment anyway.” What was clear for Whitfield was a sense of duty. At the age of 17, Whitfield joined the Navy in the middle of the war. In June 1943, two weeks after he graduated high school in Warrensburg, he became a seaman recruit. Out of his senior class of 54 students, 26 out of 27 boys served in the military. “It was just expected that you serve your country,” said Whitfield. “It was just the mood of the country at the time.” Whitfield eventually became a petty officer second class in his nearly four years in the Navy, serving in both the South Pacific and North Atlantic theaters. “I was in all of the oceans really,” said Whitfield. “Most of the time I was on North Atlantic convoy duty on a troop ship carrying troops for the reinforcement of Europe. I was among the first, probably the second wave, of reinforcements at Normandy.” March 16, 2012 R12- Missouri National Guard Page 2 As a quartermaster, Whitfield assisted with the navigation of the USS Gen. G. O. Squier. “I was actually on the same ship 33 months,” said Whitfield. “It was a surface ship and I was very fortunate I was on a troop-carrying ship, therefore I did hit the United States fairly often to pick up troops. It was a quick turn-around. You weren’t in port very long.” While at sea, Whitfield and his shipmates were well aware of the danger they were in, but he said he didn’t dwell on the potential peril. “At night our ship would shake from the depth charges that our escort ships were dropping, so you knew there were subs around there pretty close,” said Whitfield. “We were fortunate our convoy was never hit. I knew there was a possibility we would be torpedoed, I knew that, but I never thought about it. I guess it was just the duty, and that was it.” After the war, Whitfield returned to Warrensburg to attend college. He felt compelled to continue his service to his country and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. He became an officer with the local American Legion Post 131 and in 1947-1948 he arranged to be at the train station to meet patriots coming home to their final resting place. “We had a lot of causalities in World War II,” said Whitfield. “The Families had a choice to have their Family member buried in a military cemetery overseas or bring them home. That was my first real experience dealing with that. Fifty-two different times I met a train that had a body on it. It was just a matter of respect that some of us meet them.” Whitfield said trains from Kansas City would arrive at the station at 1:10 a.m. and trains from St. Louis would come in at 5:10 a.m. As a college student, he would adjust his sleep and study schedule to accommodate the fellow veterans coming home one last time. “In the process I also attended most of those services, and as part of the Legion I actually folded and presented the flag way back when,” said Whitfield. “Of course in a small town I actually knew some of them. Most of them were older than me, but I knew them from working in the restaurant and delivering milk when I was younger.” Whitfield said that those experiences in the late 1940s indirectly led him to what he does today with the funeral honors program. As the western area supervisor he works full time to provide funeral honors in 50 counties. Though it may seem commonplace now for veterans to receive recognition for their service, it hasn’t always been the case. It wasn’t until 1999 that Missouri led the way to ensure its veterans were properly honored at their burial. “In the mid 90s it came to veterans’ attention that Families were not receiving honors because it was not available,” said Whitfield. “I actually wrote the resolutions that the American Legion adopted urging the Missouri legislature to establish a military honors program.” Missouri National Guard Page 3 In May of 1999 Whitfield came on board ahead of the program and has been with funeral honors ever since. He said that the program, which is under the office of the Missouri National Guard adjutant general, now gives full honors, which includes presenting and folding the flag, playing Taps and firing three volleys. “The federal government didn’t have anything at that point,” said Whitfield. “Later on congress directed the Department of Defense to provide honors for all veterans with two people—to fold the flag and play Taps.” All of the personnel with the funeral honors in Missouri are National Guardsmen. Whitfield’s office coordinates with the National Guard, certified veteran service organizations and the active duty component to present at funerals when requested by the Family through the funeral director. “Most states are not in the position to give full honors like we do,” said Whitfield. On average, Whitfield said about 800 funerals a month statewide receive funeral honors. During the program’s first year about 4,000 funerals were attended. Currently they provide honors to over 9,000 veterans a year in Missouri. He added that since the program’s inception in July 1999 they have provided honors for more than 105,000 Missouri veterans. “It’s very rewarding,” said Whitfield. “Sure it’s a state job, but I don’t look at it as a job. It’s rewarding—the fact that we are actually honoring those who have served and knowing some of them have served during the same period of time I did even though I don’t know them personally.” Whitfield said his office gets many notes of appreciation from loved ones expressing just what the service meant to them and how they know their Soldier would have appreciated it. At the age of 86, when most people have long since retired, Whitfield said he has no plans of slowing down. In addition to his full time job, he is also extremely active in other service organizations including the American Legion, Boys State and Veterans of Foreign Wars. “I just don’t want to retire I guess,” said Whitfield. “It’s not on my radar right now. I’ve been doing veterans stuff all my life. I’ve seen a lot and I’ve been very blessed that I’ve had the energy to do it.” With the countless experiences Whitfield has encountered in his lifetime it would be understandably difficult to pinpoint the most momentous event that remains seared in his memory—but he can. “There have been many of them, but the first one that comes to mind was the announcement of V-J Day,” said Whitfield. “We were one day out of Panama Canal with troops from Europe headed to Japan.” With tears swelling in his eyes and a slight quiver in his voice Whitfield recalled the brief moment of joy that will forever be etched in his mind. At the time about 3,300 troops were on his ship and headed into harm’s way. Missouri National Guard Page 4 “That was a happy day,” Whitfield simply stated. “At that time we had about a million Soldiers at sea headed to Japan. The guys had been in Europe three years and never been home, and were headed to Japan. So, that would be one of the key ones right there. You can see it’s emotional.” Though he doesn’t remember the captain’s words exactly, Whitfield does recall that once the words, ‘the war is over,’ were uttered the guys didn’t have a chance to hear what their captain said after that. For more information about this release, please contact Jennifer Archdekin at 816-262-2893 or email at jarchdekin@gmail.com. 
Jim Whitfield, American Legion, Missouri
Before sending out his Funeral Honors Team to present full military honors to a fellow World War II veteran, Jim Whitfield (center) briefs Sgt. Jason Ledbetter (left) and Sgt. Amy Brown on the precise techniques of folding the American flag. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)

video
World War 1 Memorial Announcement Press Conference
Interview with Commissioner James Whitfield 2016


Local Veterans Train To Provide Final Salute

Daily Star-Journal (Warrensburg, MO) - 4/8/2015


April 08--HIGGINSVILLE -- Nearly 100 Honor Guard members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts met March 31 at the Higginsvile American Legion Hall for training on the proper way to fold and present a funeral flag.
Jim Whitfield, the Western Area Supervisor for the Missouri Military Funeral Honors, said the teams are certified in three elements of a military funeral.

"The vets groups will fire the volleys, play or perform taps, and may be asked to fold or present the flag," he said.

Whitfield arranges funeral honors for deceased veterans in 50 counties from western Iowa to Arkansas out of his Kansas City office, which is housed in the Missouri National Guard Armory.
"This takes the coordination of all parties," he said at the training.
Any veteran who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and was honorably discharged is entitled to military funeral honors, he said.
"Typically, the funeral director asks the family if the deceased is a veteran, and if the answer is yes, then that director makes the request that starts the process," Whitfield said.
Whitfield recommends families of veterans find the DD214, the official discharge paperwork of their veteran and keep it with other important papers.
Higginsville Veterans Cemetery Director Teddy Velleri told the attending Honor Guard members more than 5,000 veterans have precertified with the veterans cemetery.
"Veterans can fill out a form and with a copy of their DD214 receive verification of their eligibility to be buried at Higginsville Veterans Cemetery.
"Right now we have 3,130 interments at the cemetery," she said. "Your role is so important. It is a very emotional time during military honors."
By Department of Defense regulation, the branch of service is required to fold and present the flag, and a veteran's organization Honor Guard fires the volley and plays or performs taps.
"Sometimes," Whitfield said, "the honor guard teams may have to step up and provide the flag services, if something happens and the branch of service honor guard cannot be there."
Ramon Mora, the Honor Guard captain for the joint VFW Post 2513 and American Legion Post 131 Honor Guard, said it happens "rarely, but it does happen."
Fourteen members of the Warrensburg Honor Guard attended the training, with five as new members of the Honor Guard.
"We perform at least 65 military funeral honors a year, Mora said.
Whitfield said the funeral honors are "a way of honoring the veteran and respecting the family. It is a way of providing closure in a loss and recognizing the veteran's service."
He added getting enough veterans together to perform an honor guard can be challenging.
"The members are getting older and the younger members are still working," Whitfield said. "It can be difficult in a small town because the commander often has 36 to 48 hours to get the team together."
Mora said, "I have 10 people I can consistently count on. I really need some women who are willing to serve on the Honor Guard."
For two years, American Legion Post 131 Chaplain Keith Lawrence has served on the Honor Guard.
"It is a privilege to help present the last rites and giving the final salute to a fellow veteran," he said. "It is an honor." (c)2015 The Daily Star-Journal (Warrensburg, Mo.)
Visit The Daily Star-Journal (Warrensburg, Mo.) at www.dailystarjournal.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC



Congressman Ike Skeltin, Kathryn and Jim Whitfield 2012
Courtesy of ShredFed Blog
Memorial Day 2012
In Memory of
Kathryn H.
Whitfield
1939 - 2013
Kathryn Henry Whitfield 1936-2013

William H. "Dub" Whitfield, Warrensburg, MO
James S. Whitefield, January 12, 1926- December 6, 2016
American Legion

No comments: