From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

One of the side benefits of working on an exhibit for the historical museum is discovering people and stories of which I hadn’t been aware. The military part of our new exhibit, which opened October 2, was full of such stories. They were found in news clippings saved over the years by Rochester residents. The clippings, reporting on events during the years of World War II, evoke all the emotions that must have been felt by the friends and loved ones of those who’s stories they tell.

            One such story is the war saga of Edward C. Humphrey of Rochester, shown in the left of the picture included here. Lt. Humphrey received his commission in March of 1943 after graduating from Armored Force Officer Candidates School at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was assigned as a junior officer with the Armored Divisions and Tank Battalions.

            On February 29 of the following year, he saw action in Italy as a paratrooper and was reported missing in action, according to the information received from the War Department by his wife who was living in Rochester with the couple’s 3-year-old son. The problem with many of the news clippings saved over the years is that they are mostly undated, but it would seem that Humphrey went missing in 1944 after the landing in Anzio prior to D-Day on June 6,1944.

            Later, some of his family’s deepest fears must have been allayed when they were informed that he had been found but was a prisoner of war in a German prison camp. The story doesn’t end there, as another news story reports that Lt. Humphrey was one of 1,500 U.S. soldiers, former prisoners of war, who arrived in Boston on April 9, 1945, on a troop transport after being liberated by U.S. troops advancing into Germany.

            The more tragic story of Rochester native Edward Cebula was a two-part drama. Cebula, 29 years old, had wanted to be an Army paratrooper, but that plan failed due to health reasons. As a result, he turned to the sea and went to work on a merchant vessel carrying needed supplies across the ocean. This was dangerous work and that was made clear when his ship was torpedoed by an Axis submarine. He survived by clinging to a crate after the lifeboat he was in sank. He was in the water for one and a half hours before he was picked up by another lifeboat and taken to a United Nations ship. He returned to the U.S. to recover from his ordeal before reporting back to sea. Only a short time later, his family received news that he was reported missing at sea and believed to have been lost at sea off the coast of Africa.

            I want to thank Patricia, Mary Nutes’ granddaughter, for sharing the newspaper clippings her grandmother had saved.

By Connie Eshbach

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