Crossen Combat Chronicles
Biography of a WWII Artilleryman - by Chip Heyl
Norwalk High School grad returns
By DON HOHLER - Norwalk Reflector (Ohio) Sportswriter | Friday January 25 2008, 11:50am
Norwalk High graduate Chip Heyl returned Thursday evening to a library he frequented in the 1950s as a schoolboy and along with his classmate, Sue (Crossen) McCreery, delivered the first of what is expected to many book reviews across Ohio of the detailed history of the 135th Field Artillery Battalion, a battalion commanded by Crossen’s father, Lt. Col. John R. Crossen.
Heyl, who was known more for his golfing prowess while living in Norwalk, spent 10 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and 20 more years in U.S. Intelligence as a systems engineer. With this kind of background, he was a natural in following the lead of his classmate to research the campaigns of Crossen and his unit in the South Pacific.
With Heyl talking in front of a packed meeting room in the library, the adjunct professor of Northern Virginia Community College described the third of four campaigns of the 135th, the Luzon deployment. He used PowerPoint visuals in his presentation.
“It was our 42,000 National Guardsmen that made up most of the 37th Division facing a dug-in, but an under-supplied, force of 262,000 Japanese force," Heyl explained. "The 135th made the beach in December, 1944, established a beach-head, and then, under light resistance, marched to Ft. Stotensburg where the first major battle was fought.
“Then it was on to Manila, where one of the major battles of the Pacific Theater was waged — one that took the life of 100,000 citizens — only the WWII battles of Berlin and Stalingrad had more casualties than Manila. This campaign officially closed on June 29, 1945.”
Lt. Col. Crossen would command the 135th Field Artillery Battalion in two other campaigns, the first at New Georgian and the second at Bougainville. The latter was one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war.
“I can only surmise that he was a born leader,” Heyl commented in talking about a man who’s only military back ground prior to enlisting in the Ohio National Guard was a short stint in a Canadian Prep School. “Once in the military, he was trained in a horse-drawn unit in Louisiana.”
Crossen was in the service just five years. He returned to Cleveland and became a lawyer.
Heyl and Sue (Crossen) McCreery, along with McCreery’s husband, Ron, spent 2,000 hours researching the life of Crossen and the 135th, finding much of the information at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Originally, it was a box of memorabilia containing personal notes and writings of her father, that got Sue McCreery interested in researching her father’s career. In Heyl, a classmate with a military background, McCreery found the perfect researcher. The end result is a detailed account of the initial deployment in New Zealand, followed by three major military operations.
The 160-page book, which includes 130 photographs, sells for $34 and is available at Amish Heirloom Furniture, 36 East Main St., Norwalk. "Crossen Combat Chronicles" is also available on electronic disc for $12.50. A slide show on CD-ROM can be purchased for $15.