Medfield has a long history of its citizens answering our country's call in time of peril or war; from the earliest battles of the American Revolution to our soldiers today in Afghanistan.
The Committee to Study Memorials has worked hard to make sure these individuals are not forgotten by time. An aggressive plan has been in place since 1987 of having an Honor Square, Civic Square, street, sports field or park named after those who have given their life in service to our country or who have contributed above and beyond the call of duty to their community.
The Committee to Study Memorials, now in its 25th year of existence, has recommended the names of 35 of our town streets either after those killed in war or having some aspect of Medfield history, geography, fauna or flora. In addition to these streets, sports fields, American Legion Post and parks, Medfield has five Honor Squares and two Civic Squares.
Over the next couple of weeks, this column will locate and give the history behind each of these areas that have been so officially named by the town. The following are the town’s five Honor Squares:
Clarence M. Cutler Honor Square
Location of Memorial: Corner of Pleasant and Main Streets
The tradition of Honor Squares first goes back to 1921 when Town Meeting voted to name the Downtown Square, in the area of the and , after local boy and WWI hero Clarence Cutler. Lieutenant Clarence Cutler, veteran of WWI, died in Germany on Jan. 28, 1921 as a result of an airplane accident. He was killed instantly when the aircraft he was flying fell 400 feet and crashed into a field near the Rhine River. Cutler graduated valedictorian from with the Class of 1910. He enlisted in the Air Corps as soon as the United States entered WWI and was assigned the task of training other pilots. Cutler stayed in the service after the war was over. Following his death in the plane crash, he was given full military honors. Funeral services were held first in Europe and then in the Medfield Town Hall. His flag draped casket was borne on a caisson and drawn by four gray horses as it was escorted to Vine Lake Cemetery by members of and the Sons of Veterans. Cutler had flown over 3,000 hours and had trained many of the flyers who served on the western front during the war.
Vincent P. Bravo Honor Square
Location of Memorial: Intersection of Routes 109 and 27
Vincent Bravo grew up on Spring Street. Zeke, as his friends called him, graduated from Medfield High School with the Class of 1937. After Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he became a flight engineer on a B26 bomber. On June 3, 1943 on route from Iceland to a combat mission over Europe, his plane crashed into a mountain in Northern Scotland during bad weather. All five crew members on board were killed. Buried first in England, his body was returned home after the war and buried with full military honors from . His body was brought on a caisson, drawn by horses, to Vine Lake Cemetery for final burial. He was given the honor of the same caisson used to carry the body of President Franklin Roosevelt during his funeral.
John P. Ross Jr. Honor Square
Location of Memorial: Corner of Main and South Streets
John Ross Jr. was born Aug. 25, 1925 in Yonkers, N.Y. He was the son of John and Mildred (Bates) Ross. The Ross family moved to Medfield in 1939 and lived for many years at 82 Spring St. After graduating from Medfield High School in 1943, John enlisted in the US Coast Guard and attained the rank of signalman 3rd class. John’s ship was taking part in the invasion of Okinawa. It was Sunday afternoon, June 3, 1945 when his ship was the victim of a Japanese suicide plane attack. The Kamikaze slammed into the ship, killing John and severely wounded others. The injuries received were too severe for him to survive. At the time of the attack he was in the tower and it was he who received notice of the alert of oncoming Japanese Kamikazes and it was he who first sounded the general alarm in warning to his shipmates. His commanding officer said that had it not been for this consideration for the welfare of his ship and his shipmates, the casualty list would have been considerably greater.
Buried first in the military cemetery on Okinawa, his remains were transferred to the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, N.Y. on Feb. 15, 1949.
Ocran Knehr Honor Square
Location of Memorial: Corner of Pine and North Streets
Ocran Knehr grew up on Green Street and graduated from Medfield High School with the Class of 1934. He enlisted into the navy right out of high school. By 1941, President Roosevelt had the United States fighting an undeclared war against the Germans in the North Atlantic. US planes and ships were tracking German ships and U-boats and radioing their locations to British warships and planes. Knehr was a navy radio operator on a PBM Flying Boat based in Iceland. The aircraft carried bombs and machine guns.
Their mission was to bomb German submarines, strafe invading German troops, sea search and rescue and gather intelligence. In his letters he describes bombing, shooting and being shot at. In November of 1941 Knehr aircraft was returning from a mission and followed a radio signal into a sea cliff outside Reykjavik, Iceland — all 12 on board were killed. Ocran Knehr was buried from the Congregational Church in Medfield (today’s ) on Dec. 7, 1941. His funeral was interrupted to announce the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Richard C. Werner Honor Square
Location of Memorial: Corner of Harding and West Mill Streets
Richard Werner grew up on 67 Harding St. and was the son of Grayce and Chester Werner. As a child he was the victim of polio but with the loving care of his parents, he was able to defeat the disease. He was left with one leg shorter than the other and with numbness in his toes. In 1941, Richard graduated from Medfield High School. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the Medfield unit of the Massachusetts State Guard. On Feb. 5, 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.
When the Army doctors discovered the damage polio had done to his feet, they were hesitant about accepting him. Richard convinced them that he did not need two good feet to fly – By May of 1944 he was a staff sergeant aboard a B-24 Liberator and was a turret gunner. On May 22, 1944 his plane departed from a base in Southern Italy on a bombing mission to Piombino, Italy. Under heavy enemy gunfire, the plane was hit and was last seen heading towards Corsica. Richard and his crew were never seen again. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.