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Part Last: One shell, 2 brothers die – Scholarly York County history journal feeds your sense of discovery

A single shell killed York County brothers John Daniel Withers, left, and Harry William Withers in fighting in Europe in World War I. Their little told story appears in the 2011 Journal of York County Heritage. Also of interest:  Part I: Scholarly journal feeds your sense of history and  Part II: Scholarly journal and Part III and Part IV and  Part V.

The final summary of content in the “Journal of York County History,” as originally published in the York Daily Record/Sunday News.

In World War I, a scene played out in York County similar to a poignant moment in the film “Saving Private Ryan.”

Speaking at the recent unveiling of 2011 “Journal of York County Heritage,” attorney/historian Ron Hershner told about the team of Army Rangers’ mission to rescue a soldier whose three brothers had been killed in World War II.

The Rangers found the soldier on the heels of the D-Day invasion.

“There are many jarring scenes in ‘Saving Private Ryan,'” Hershner noted, “but one of the most haunting shows Mother Ryan in her rural farmhouse as a car approaches. An officer and a minister deliver the news to her that she has lost three of her sons in the war.”

He pointed to a similar scene locally when Daniel and Ella Withers of York received a telegram on Oct. 4, 1918, that their son Harry had died.

“The next morning a second telegram advised that son John had been wounded,” Hershner said. “Within a few weeks they would learn that John had died as well, in fact the day after Harry.”

Hershner was introducing Christopher Buckingham’s piece in the scholarly journal about the Withers brothers. Hershner described the Withers’ account as a “wrenching story of American and York County sacrifice.”

Buckingham’s story is one of six found in the 52-page journal, an annual publication of the York County Heritage Trust.

Title: “The Withers Family’s Ultimate Sacrifice”

Author: Christopher Buckingham

About: This is a story of how a single enemy shell took the lives of two brothers, soldiers serving side-by-side in World War I.

Quotable: “John and Harry were reportedly honored with the largest military funeral York had ever witnessed to that point and possibly to this day.”

Interesting point: The Withers family was denied a pension due them in the death of their sons. Congressman E.S. Brooks’ influence reversed that decision, and the family received $20 per month.


Also of interest:

All posts about York County and war from the start.

Great War hero and pneumonia victim Jeannette Zinn of York: ‘She made the supreme sacrifice’

Hammer-wielding Yorkers helped to nail kaiser’s noggin.

*Photos courtesy York County Heritage Trust.