Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Mystery of Arthur W. Klein

On the corner of 55th Street and South Shore Drive, in front of the 5490 building, there's an aging concrete pillar, taller than a person, with a plaque attached to the top. I walked past the pillar for 25 years or more on my way to the Point before I really noticed it. There is lots of random clutter on our street corners. I finally paused one day to read it."Arthur W. Klein, Lt. USN, 1905-1944" With a Gold Star above his name.

It's a memorial to a man killed in action. In the war, a family could put a gold star in their window if their father, husband, son had been killed in action. For the Klein's, a paper gold star in the window was obviously not enough to mark their loss. According to Stephen Treffman (War Bonds), there were several of these concrete posts once scattered throughout Hyde Park, erected after the war.  All the others have rotted away and been torn down. Only Arthur's remains.

Google has been no help at all. Whoever memorialized Arthur didn't list him in the WWII Monument Registry. His service record doesn't pull up in the online services. He's not the Arthur Klein who died in the Army in 1944 and earned the Distinguished Service Cross. I assume he's not the Arthur W. Klein who enlisted from the Bronx--and seems to have survived the war, dying in 2003 in Crystal River, Florida, not far from the National Cemetery in Bushnell.

So, there's only the information on the plaque. He died in the Navy in 1944--so he might have been anywhere in the world. German U-boats were still active in the Atlantic, hunting the convoys of troop ships and materiel, but the big action was in the Pacific. Maybe he was there. He was born in 1905--old for World War II--and in the Navy. That almost certainly meant he'd volunteered since that's how you got into the Navy. Most of the draftees were fodder for the infantry. And as an officer, he'd entered the service with an education. 

Some day, I hope to stumble on more information, but in the meantime, when I walk by, I give Arthur a nod--and thank him.  

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