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Friday, June 1, 2018

Six soldiers killed in tragic accident in Annandale 51 years ago

The temporary memorial put up by Terry Powers, with the permanent plaque in the foreground.
June 1 marks the 51st anniversary of a tragic accident that happened at Howery Field Park in Annandale, reports Annandale Blog reader Terry Powers.

Six young soldiers from Fort Belvoir were putting up a flagpole in the park for a Little League baseball field when the wind knocked it onto a power line and all six were instantly electrocuted.

The soldiers – Charles Oliver (from Vermillion, Ohio); Kenneth Steiner (St. Anne, Mo.); Marvin Harrison (Jacksonville, Fla.), Paul Briggs (Waco, Texas); Anthony Evans (Uniontown, Pa.); and Charles Whaley (Aberdeen, Ohio) – were in the 77th engineering company. They had been assigned to the project as part of Fort Belvoir’s community assistance program.

A UPI story on the tragedy published June 2, 1967, quotes an eyewitness, Bob Ramey, age 16, who had been walking past the field when he saw the soldiers struggling to steady the metal flagpole that was swaying in the wind. When it toppled onto a high-tension wire, Ramsey said, “there was this big flash and then the GIs were just lying there in the mud with their clothes on fire.”

There’s a small plaque in the ground where the incident occurred. Powers, an Army veteran who leaves nearby in Ravensworth Farms, put up a temporary memorial with flags and created a Facebook page called “Soldiers Memorial at Howery Field Park,” which has links to news articles about the accident and the soldiers.

Powers stumbled upon the plaque while walking his dogs last year. “I was amazed by how many people walked right by and didn’t realize the monument was there and didn’t know what happened,” he says. There are also smaller plaques dedicated to the soldiers at three of the fields in Howery Park, which is off Braddock Road near Glen Park Road.

The Annandale North Springfield Little League and Braddock Road Youth Club, which use those fields, have a moment of silence at the Howery Field Park every year at the start of the baseball season.

Powers has cleared away some of the underbrush that was encroaching on the plaques and wants to make sure the soldiers are not forgotten. 

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