The search for Captain Waskow
By Allison Flores
The Cuero Record
Sometimes, I don’t realize the resources my community has to offer me. In researching information related to Captain Henry T. Waskow, a WWII Purple Heart recipient born in DeWitt County, I was immediately pointed in the right directions by the Cuero Heritage Museum and the DeWitt County Historical Commission.
To begin, I received an email about a column written by Ernie Pyle in 1944 titled “The Death of Captain Waskow”. Pyle, an American journalist, and Pulitzer winner was a World War II correspondent who traveled alongside soldiers, reporting back to the states. Various resources mention that “The Death of Captain Waskow” was Pyle’s most well-known and widely- reprinted column. The column describes the somber moments when Captain Waskow’s body is brought down from Mount Sammarco in San Pietro, Italy.
“In this war, I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas.”
All of this information can be found with a simple Google search, but what I discovered required a little digging and actual human interaction.
Although Captain Waskow was merely born in DeWitt County in 1918 and his family settled in Belton when he was two, I found that his story is still relevant because he’s not the only soldier of interest from around here.
Just last year, The Record featured a story on Guadalupe ‘Joe’ Gonzalez, the 94-year-old veteran who serviced alongside his two brothers in WWII.
“’They needed aircraft artillery guys,’ Gonzales said. ‘I went to Fort Bliss in 1944, the tail end of the war. At least I got to be part of it. I liked it. It was a little rough on my ears. The shells made a lot of racket.’”
Living in Cuero for most of my life, I’ve overlooked staples like Leonard Roy Harmon Drive and what that name represents. Sure, I may have learned about Harmon during my time in elementary school here, but some stories aren’t truly understood until you can fathom the reality in which they took place.
As stated by Mayor Sara Post Meyer in a column published in The Record on Feb. 2, 2020, Leonard Roy Harmon is a posthumous recipient of the Navy Cross and first person of African- American descent after whom a Navy ship was named. Harmon was born in Cuero in 1917 and graduated from Daule High School. In 1939, Harmon enlisted in the US Navy and reported to the USS San Francisco in Oct. 1939 for duty. During the battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, the USS San Francisco was attacked by the Japanese for several days with nearly every officer onboard killed. Harmon disregarded his safety in helping to evacuate the wounded to a dressing station. He was killed while shielding a wounded shipmate from gunfire with his own body. In May 1943, Secretary of the Navy Henry Knox announced a warship would be named in Harmon’s honor. In 1977 the DeWitt County Historical Commission and Texas Historical Commission placed a marker recognizing Harmon in Cuero Municipal Park adjacent to the flagpole in front of the Clubhouse. The Cuero City Council named the park street ‘Leonard Roy Harmon Drive’ shortly thereafter.
I call myself a history buff, even though that’s nowhere near true since I didn’t know half of the information about Harmon. I’m learning that you’ve got to start local and the bigger picture will come from there.
While haphazardly searching for information on Captain Waskow, I found his entire genealogy (surprise, his ancestors traveled to the U.S. from Germany) written perfectly by Michael S. Sweeney, Ph.D., published online by The Texas Military Forces Museum. Sweeney’s research is so well done, it’s easily understood why Waskow was so loved by his soldiers.
I wouldn’t call the research I did ‘going down the rabbit hole’, it’s much more complex than that. It’s learning to have empathy for the people you read about. It’s understanding their stories and inserting that into how they were described technically in war stories or textbooks. The doors of history opened by simple research remind me of why I love doing what I do. So, take a moment to look around the town and visit our museums and historians to learn more about this great area and the people who made it that way.