The Herald Bulletin

August 10, 2013

Don McAllister: Just a couple of Roman soldiers

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Every day starts a new story. This one covers two Roman soldiers. Well, OK, one was an airman and the other a Marine and they weren’t from Rome, Italy, they hailed from Rome, Indiana.

Rome is a tiny hometown of heroes on the banks of the Ohio River. Rome even had a Helen of Troy, LaVera Young Bubenzer, who is the linchpin for both of these men.

LaVera was one of the nicest people I’ve known. She was likeable, kind, common, and comfortable. She made us feel so welcome. I see a lot of her in her son. LaVera was the sister of Cpl. Art Young, our Marine who served on Iwo Jima. She was also the sweetheart and eventual wife of Gus Bubenzer who was lost behind enemy lines for several weeks. I often think of the women back home, safe but hardly sound.

Brother Art Young was technically from Cannelton, but only 15 miles from Rome so it counts for me. Art is an easygoing and friendly guy. It’s hard to believe he was a rough and tough Marine. Art was a “Hollywood Marine.” From boot camp in San Diego they went to Maui for advanced training that put a damper on that “paradise” image. On the trip to Iwo Jima Art received the sad news that his dad had died.

Art’s 5th Marine hit the beach closest to Suribachi about 40 minutes after the first landing. He was responsible for maintaining the communication wires. While he wasn’t a front-line guy, there wasn’t a rear area anywhere on the island. The planners figured three days to conquer Iwo. It took over 30. To give some perspective, Art told of being at the CP when a Marine wondered by in a daze. Someone pointed to him and said, “That’s all that’s left of F Company.”

It’s interesting that the purpose of capturing Iwo Jima was to secure an emergency landing strip for the returning B-29s that were bombing Japan, and that Art’s future brother-in-law, Gus Bubenzer, was an airman.

Sgt. Bubenzer was in the European air war. He had established a strong relationship with Art’s sister. Gus would often walk the 15 miles from Rome to Cannelton to see LaVera. While Gus was overseas, LaVera wrote him a letter every night. One can only imagine the shock when she received the news that Gus was missing.

Gus’s A-20 was shot down over France just 10 days before the Normandy invasion. Two crewmen were rescued from the English Channel. Another spent 14 months in a German P.O.W. camp. Gus landed in an orchard and was found by two Frenchmen. One was going to turn Gus in for the reward. The other said he’d killed him if he did. For four months Gus was hidden and moved to avoid capture. Finally our troops advanced and Gus was rescued.

Two fine boys from the tip of Indiana became the tip of the sword and used it to write quite a story.

Don McAllister directs the National Veteran’s Historical Archive. His column appears the second Sunday of each month. He can be reached at and