Stories of local patriots at World War II exhibit in Weston

Susan Gunn Bromley showcases pictures of patriots and their stories in the Memories of World War II exhibit at the Weston Historical Society. — Gregory Menti photo

Susan Gunn Bromley showcases pictures of patriots and their stories in the Memories of World War II exhibit at the Weston Historical Society. — Gregory Menti photo

The Memories of World War II exhibit at the Weston Historical Society features many interesting items and memorabilia that represent what the war was like for people in Weston and across the world.

However, the centerpiece of the war’s effect on Westonites isn’t the physical center of the exhibit, but the emotional core. The back wall of the Historical Society is covered with dozens of pictures in a section titled “Patriots and Their Stories.”

The wall showcases servicemen and women who made an impact on Weston either directly or indirectly. All the photos are documented in a booklet that is also on display and lists a brief history of the person in the picture, where the person served and an occasional anecdote about the person.

“We try for our exhibits to tell the stories of people not only living in Weston today but for people who lived here in the past and those that affect our community,” said Susan Gunn Bromley, executive director of the Weston Historical Society, who curated and designed the Memories of World War II exhibit.

“Spotlighting the local aspect of the war was a goal for us,” she said. “We want to celebrate how people before us made our lives what they are today.”

Patriots

More than 75 unique stories in the exhibit were collected from current residents and local historians. Visitors will likely find the story of a relative or a friend or a familiar face in town.

For example, there is the story of Maj. Gen. Walter A. Wood Jr., the uncle of Westonite Dick Troxell, including an excerpt from a letter Wood wrote to Troxell during the war.

Wood served in the U.S. Army and was assigned to temporary duty at the headquarters of Army forces in Western Pacific. During the assignment, the Japanese surrendered and Gen. Wood’s organization was tasked with arranging the surrender of all Japanese forces in the Philippines.

“We can’t do much until the general surrender terms are signed in Tokyo, then if he doesn’t turn in his suit we’ll have to go get him,” Wood wrote in the letter. “I guess right now it’s like arranging a wedding without the bride being sure she’ll be there.”

Staff Sgt. Pierre Peyreigne, father of Westonite Betsy Peyreigne, enlisted in the Army Air Forces at age 18, and has a photo on display at the exhibit.

During the war, Peyreigne flew a B-17 nicknamed “Ice Cold Katy” as a member of the 401st Bomb Group.

Peyreigne flew 32 missions over France and Germany and recalled that whenever he was flying over France he felt “he had family down there.”

A portrait of Pfc. Bayard Dodge is also on display. Born in Beirut, Dodge was killed in northeast France in combat. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star medals for his valor.

On loan from his nephew, a former Westonite also named Bayard Dodge, his Purple Heart and Silver Star are displayed prominently. A citation reads: “During the daylight hours of 22nd November, 1944, in the vicinity of Souley, France, Private Dodge and his squad were pinned to the ground by intense hostile automatic weapon fire. Private Dodge, with utter disregard for his life, courageously inched his way forward to within ten yards of an enemy weapon only to fall mortally wounded. His valiant action so inspired his comrades that they immediately carried on and overran the hostile position to gain the objective. Private Dodge’s outstanding gallantry was in accordance with the highest tradition of military service.”

There are letters from President Franklin Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Harry Stimson addressed to Dodge’s family expressing their sorrow for his loss.

“At the exhibit we have access to many stories like this,” said Gunn Bromley. “As I was working on assembling everything, I became enthralled with everything. I think it’s a fascinating display.”

Ending soon

The exhibit has been running since November 2016 and is scheduled to end on April 1, but Gunn Bromley said it may go a little longer if there is interest.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback thus far,” Gunn Bromley said. “We’ve heard it’s a captivating exhibit, and that is important to us.”

The exhibit also includes weapons, clothing, drawings, a motorcycle, a jeep, and more things from the war. It is open on Sundays from 1 to 4, but is also available for private tours.

To arrange a special family or guided group tour, call Gunn Bromley at 203-226-1804 or email  [email protected].

The Weston Historical Society’s next exhibit is a history of Weston Fire and Emergency Medical Service (EMS). It is scheduled to open around Memorial Day.

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