PFC Howard W. Parkinson
71st Infantry Division, 66th Infantry Regiment, Co K
Drowned 7 June, 1945
-- Sandy Parkinson Wical --
Several years ago, I felt a longing to journey through the short life of my Dad. I've come a long way, but as Robert Frost said
in one of his poems, "I have miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep." Howard Warren Parkinson was born on July 10,
1924 in Cincinnati, OH, the third of five children born to Robert J. and Devota L. Parkinson.
He was only 19 years old when he was inducted into the U.S. Army in Fort Thomas, KY in March, 1943. My Dad was with the 71st Infantry
Division, 66th Infantry Regiment, Co. K, and was stationed at Fort Ord, CA, Camp Carson, CO, and Ft. Benning, GA before being shipped
over to Europe. His Division liberated several concentration camps, i.e., Gunskirchen, penetrated farther east than any other U.S.
combat unit, accepted the surrender of the German Army Group South on May 7, 1945, and was involved with the total rout of the German
Sixth SS division Nord. At one point, his unit met up with Patton's Third Army, where they crossed the Rhine to cover the rear of the
XII Corps. His bravery and valor earned him the Bronze Star.
The war had officially ended, and his Division was looking forward to going home to reunite with their families. On June 7, 1945, the
Division was on guard duty along the Enns River in Gersten, Austria. By some freak accident, my dad got caught up in a swift current
and drowned while attempting to swim across the river where his commanding officer was. His body was never recovered, and his name is
on the Wall of the Missing at Epinal American Cemetery in Epinal, France. I was able to contact one Army buddy of my Dad. He referred
to my Dad as Parky and stated that he was well liked by his comrades, and a friend to all.
Waiting so long for my search for information has cost me precious memories of my Dad's childhood from relatives long gone. I do know
that my Dad attended Hartwell High School in Cincinnati. My Mom and Dad met at a dance about two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
They were married on October 17, 1942, and their reception was held at the home of Dad's parents. My Mom told me that Dad loved to
jitterbug and slow dance to the wonderful big band music of their time. Their favorite song was "You'll Never Know (just how much I
love you)." He was a good singer and dancer. He also enjoyed swimming and playing baseball, and must have enjoyed fishing as well
because he often mentioned in letters to his parents about wanting to take the "little squirt" (his youngest brother) fishing when he
got back to the states. Before my Dad was drafted, he worked for the John Douglas Company in Cincinnati. This company later became a
defense plant called the Loroco Company, and started making war time products. My Mom had just found out she was pregnant with my sister,
Susan Carol Parkinson when Dad was drafted. In December, 1944, my Mom joined my Dad in Alabama, close to Ft. Benning, for a short stay.
This is where I was conceived.
I never had a chance to know my Dad as I was born two months after he went missing. My Mom remarried when I was a little over a year old,
and had three more children. My stepdad treated my sister, Sue and me as his own, and loved us (still does) very much. We kept in constant
contact with my Dad's family throughout the years. My sister and I always spent a week or two during the summer at my grandparents' home.
Although I had moments throughout my childhood when I would wonder what my "real" Dad was like, I never felt fatherless. Occasionally, I
would wonder what would happen if he had amnesia and came back home. What would I do if I had to choose which Dad I wanted? These are the
things that go through a child's mind. I think I was probably in my 20s when I really started asking questions. At first it was awkward,
and I would let a few years go by before bringing the subject up again. When I reached my 40s, it became more than a curiosity. I wanted
to know facts. My Mom, my stepdad, my sister Sue, and I often talk about my Dad now. My Stepdad informed me long ago that he didn't adopt my sister and me
because he wanted to keep my Dad's/his friend's memory alive in us. Now I feel we are keeping his memory alive. The conversations I have
with them make me feel even closer to my Dad as I know how much he was loved. His two remaining brothers still shed a tear when I mention
his name, but still can't seem to talk about him much. However, one of them has provided a blood sample for the DNA bank in hopes that one
day my Dad will no longer be "the unknown soldier."
Through my search for closure, I have grown to know and love my Dad very much. I found out about AWON while watching an Ancestors program
almost three years ago, joined immediately, and haven't stopped searching since. My Dad and Stepdad were very good friends, and I am very
proud of both of them, especially for choosing my Mom, who has been there for me all my life as well as in my venture for information and