Dayton, Kentucky to dedicate Riverfront Common’s Trail to World War II Hero, Private First Class Edward Henry Ahrens on Thursday, August 8
At six o'clock on Thursday, August 8th, the dedication of Private First Class Edward Henry Ahrens Trail at Dayton's Riverfront Commons Trail will be held at 6:00 at the trail's beginning at the foot of O'Fallon.
Following the Ahren's Way dedication, there will be a reception at Dayton Heritage Museum, 718 Sixth, to showcase their display about Private First Class Edward Henry Ahrens and their recently acquired model of the USS Ahrens that was built by Dayton, KY resident Robert Pendery.
"On Thursday August 8th, the anniversary of the passing of Private First Class Edward Henry Ahrens, we will remember him and his heroic contribution to our country. To do so on the very shores of the river Mr. Ahrens grew up on is an honor, " said Dayton Mayor Ben Baker.
The following story appeared in our May 16th edition, beautifully written by Dayton native Tina Neyer in honor of Private First Class Ahrens. Thanks Tina for your permission to re-share your writing talent with us today, on Purple Heart Day:
“I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine”
Did his mother call him Eddie, that sleepy-eyed boy who ran the river bank and grew up with three sisters on Second Street in Dayton, Kentucky? He might have been just another factory worker had he not decided to enlist in the Marines. December along the Ohio can make a man want to be anywhere but there when the bitter wind needles the soft skin on one’s face. Imagine that boy, 21 years old and listening to the news on WLW radio, December 7, 1941. The Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor and Eddie might have given a side glance to see his father’s worried brow. Did Eddie decide that day or December 8th, or did he wait until just before he went to the recruiting office on December 12th? Maybe he talked in hushed tones to his father—Albert, not wanting to upset his mother—Marie, who wiped her hands on her apron not because they were wet but because that’s what she did when worry got the best of her.
Whenever it happened, Edward H. Ahrens from that river town in Kentucky entered basic training on February 3, 1942. What did they see in him to sign him on to the Raiders, an elite team of Special Forces that were the first responders? Did Eddie show strength that comes from tugging steamboat ropes along the bank, or did he have razor sharp aim from throwing rocks at snapping turtles? We will never know, but what we do know is that he landed with Company ‘A’ at Tulagi, Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands on August 7, 1942. He was ready. Reports had come in that the Japanese were on the offensive and that Company ‘C’ had realized a fair amount of deaths and injuries as the first wave to hit the beach. Here's how Eddie’s first and last night on that island went as reported by his commanding officer who found Ahrens on August 8.
“That evening, Company ‘A’ took positions for the night west of a cricket ground on the island, as part of the defensive line extending along the ridge. The Japanese later launched a fierce nocturnal counterattack which drove a wedge between the two Raider companies. Isolating the latter near the beachhead, the enemy concentrated its efforts on Company ‘A’ in an attempt to sweep up the ridge toward the residency, a former British government building serving as a Raider battalion command post. The Raiders, however, stood firm. During the savage battle that ensued, Ahrens, in a security detachment assigned the task of protecting the Raiders’ right flank, singlehandedly engaged a group of Japanese in hand-to-hand combat as they attempted to infiltrate the Raiders’ rear. Although painfully wounded in the groin, the gallant young marine killed as many as 13 Japanese (including the unit’s senior officer) and aided materially in stopping their infiltration.”
When he was found, mortally wounded he whispered into his buddy’s ear, “I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine.” Edward Henry Ahrens, far from the sound of a calliope, or the smell of catfish frying on a hot summer day, lost his life, gained hero status and ultimately had a ship named for him: the USS Ahrens, commissioned in December, 1943 while his mother looked on. She held in her hand the Navy Cross and a piece of paper—a certificate of the Presidential Unit Citation earned by the first Marine Division. The ship bearing the name of a dreamy boy from Dayton, Kentucky went on to troll the oceans, serving to protect U.S. shores.
Heroism can be defined in many ways, but I like to think that the best definition is a common man or woman performing uncommon acts in an effort to save others. Eddie Ahrens, who grew up in a blue collar family, with little more ambition than to serve his country, fought a battle unlike many other soldiers. My guess is that if he had survived that attack and come back to Dayton, that he would not have spoken about it. For PFC Ahrens and all of the fallen soldiers in all of the wars our country has fought, we must have the utmost respect.
Dayton Community News