My best friend - Johnny “Monk” Monasmith
by John Warner, 71st Regiment
'Johnny "Monk" Monasmith was my very best friend since the fourth grade in Woodland, Michigan. His mother had died and his father left three children that were separated, and his Uncle Frank adopted “Monk”, mainly to work on his goat farm located on the edge of town. John “Monk” had orangey, red hair, and I also was a redhead. This was not the easiest physical attribute to live with, and it was sheer luck that we found each other. My mother took a liking to “Monk”, and invited him to join us for meals. During the Depression, it was not common to share food, since there wasn’t enough for those years of 1930 to 1935. “Monk” and I did business selling corncobs that were used to start fires. We could earn a quarter each on a Saturday by working about ten hours. We ran a stand together at the annual Junior free fair.
I moved away to Lake Odessa after eighth grade and “Monk” stayed to graduate from Woodland. He always aspired to be a flyer and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942. Billy Hershiser and I hitchhiked to Toronto and Windsor, Ontario to enlist, and to attend the ceremony of “Monk” getting his wings. He looked so great in his Lieutenant’s uniform. “Monk” and I always kept in touch, and even after we were both in the service, we found ways to meet. We met in Chicago for New Years of 1943-44, which was the last time I saw him.
“Monk” wrote me a v-mail letter when I was in combat, which reached me when we were fighting near Sarrebourg. He said he would be flying there and could I get a twenty-four hour leave and meet him. I was able to get a permit for a day, and I waited for him and he never got there. I had my picture taken at a studio that reopened after the Germans left town, a week before and that is the photo that was used on the memorial plaque at the cross in La Jolla.
My childhood pal, John Monasmith, lost his life toward the end of the war when his plane caught fire and his parachute failed to open.
Epinal - Cemetery 60 Years Later
Our second day started with a plan to head south for Epinal. My wife located on the internet, the cemetery where many of the soldiers from my 44th Division were buried, and the many others that fought in this sector of France in WWII. We wanted to locate the grave of my childhood pal, John Monasmith, who lost his life toward the end of the war when his plane caught fire and his parachute failed to open.
The Manager at the American Cemetery was Dominque. He spent hours with us, showing us around the cemetery where 5,250 soldier’s crosses are lined up throughout the well-manicured grounds. He gave us the information about the war zone where the 44th spent the winter and gave us maps to get to the exact locations.
Dominique escorted us to the grave where “Monk” was buried after his death on March 13th, 1944. He toured us through the grounds and we picked roses and left them by his grave. Then we went through the records of the 44th Division bodies buried there, and the names of those who gave their lives for our freedom. There were lists of all the units that fought in that area. This was the most emotional part of our trip.
The inscription read:
“TAKE UNTO THYSELF O’ LORD THE SOULS VALOROUS, THAT THEY MAY DWELL IN THY GLORY”.
The following inscriptions appear in English and French on the walls above the names of fallen soldiers:
HERE ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES. IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF THOSE WHO DIED IN WORLD WAR II (1941-1945).
THIS IS THEIR MEMORIAL
THE WHOLE EARTH THEIR SEPULCHER.'
John Warner returned to Europe 60 years after his service there with the 71st Regiment. He and his son John Warner Jr. retraced the path of the 44th in the summer of 2004. The journey began at the Epinal Cemetery near Nancy, the primary resting place for the soldiers of the 44th who did not return.
By fate, John Warner's best friend, Johnny Monasmith is interned at Epinal. Monasmith, an Army Aircorp pilot and Warner were to meet for a day at Gros Rederching. A rare 24 hour pass was granted to Warner during the brief respite when the 44th was out of the line for rest. The unit set a grueling record 144 consecutive days in combat. The two WWII photographs of Warner were taken as he waited the much anticipated arrival of his friend. Monasmith did not show. Only after the war, did Warner learn why.