Crossen Combat Chronicles

Biography of a WWII Artilleryman - by Chip Heyl

Prelude - by Sue (Crossen) McCreery

I asked Chip Heyl, a childhood friend and accomplished writer and an experienced researcher, to see what he could find out about my father, John R. Crossen, and his accomplishments during World War II - in the Philippines.

I am not sure why now, at age 65, that I wanted to know more about my father who passed away over 40 years ago. Maybe it was because "the Colonel" as it was suggested we call him while he was with his old army buddies (fellow attorneys and judges) only lived to the ripe old age of 60 and I had made it passed that, or if it was because my father-in-law lived with my husband and me for four years and I had that special need to get closer to my own father?

I really have only good memories of my father. This statement may sound strange to any of you who read about my father and his life, but he was a brilliant man, an interesting man, a very generous person, a good lawyer, an excellent soldier and leader and the best father that he knew how to be. I do know that even though my parents were divorced, my mother always admired my father and only spoke well of him. She would always mention how handsome he was and how intelligent he was.

I was born two days before Pearl Harbor was bombed. That in itself should suggest some of what is coming in these Crossen Chronicles for a third daughter of an officer in the National Guard that was stationed in Biloxi, MS. My mother and two sisters had been moving about the country with him and he had just been transferred to Florida. My mother wanted everyone to be together for Christmas and moved the family early in December to Florida. I was born at MacDill Army Air Corps Base in Tampa.

I am told my father left for California when I was three months old. My maternal grand-mother (Myrtle M. Allen) had come from Cleveland Ohio to help my mother with my sisters and me. When my mother had complications after my birth, I was sent to Cleveland on the train, alone at three months of age, to be greeted by my aunt and soon to be Godmother, Dorothy Lou Toth. My aunt told me several times that I was well fed and my diapers were all clean. Apparently the porters had taken good care of me. It was war time.

My father returned from the Philippines in 1945. I was three-and-one-half years old and had had only pictures and stories about my father to know him. The Chronicles will tell you about his life during the war and will share some of the adventures he experienced despite the war going on around him and his troops.

You may ask why I know my mother always loved my father. She kept all of his letters he had written to her from 1942 until his return to the States in 1945. Although my mother later remarried and had moved over six times, the letters were kept and never destroyed. The love she had was for a great person, who had problems adjusting to civilian life and she could not live with him. Not all that simple, but that is how I see the reason for their divorce.

I now want to get back to my comment that I only had good memories. After the Colonel returned home my parents only lived together for a couple of years. I don't remember that time at all but I do have years and years of memories of being John R. Crossen's daughter. I was probably part of the divorce agreement and visiting rights, but I can tell anyone who asks, children of divorced parents can be happy. I had a good life with my mother, sisters and stepfather but on weekends, holidays and every summer, I got to spend the time with my father who lived with his parents, Harriette and Thomas Crossen.

Sue at WWII Memorial - Pacific Pavilion
Sue at WWII Memorial - Pacific Pavilion

As a bonus, my cousin, Margaret Stockdale Marshall (now Maggie Weir) and her parents lived downstairs from my dad and I got to know all of her friends and experience her neighborhood as we grew up. Maggie and I played softball in the street on Brockley Avenue in Lakewood, OH when everyone played outside until dark and then ran home. We would jump on and off the buses to go to the local pool. I would ride on the bus, and sometimes a cab, to meet my dad at his office in the Union Commerce Building for lunch. I spent hours in the old penny arcade in Cleveland.

Daddy filled some of my visits with great trips. I spent some time in Georgia where he was representing a client who owned a chicken factory. That was the worst smelling place I ever visited. He also took me to Colorado Springs where we stayed with a Catholic priest he had met on a cruise he had taken to Spain. Living in the priest's home and touring the mountains was wonderful and what a great way to get out of school for a week. I even got to ride in a mule-pulled cart to visit one poor family in his parish. Another great experience. My twelfth birthday he took me to Florida to see where I had been born, where the family lived at that time and then we toured the state spending a lot of time in the Everglades and learning. My father was always about teaching, learning, trying new things. He always felt if you could read that you could do anything. He became a great cook later in life.

My father talked about the war and the happenings around him at that time. He hated the Japs, he hated the horrible things that went on in the war and he was tormented by the memories of his time in the Philippines. However, he was very proud of having been a soldier that served his country and of the accomplishments while overseas. His men were his family for a long time and he took that responsibility very seriously. I wish I would have given him more of my attention when he told a story about events during the war and I wish that I could tell him how proud I am of him, now and always have been.

John R. Crossen was a very curious, interesting, ambitious, brilliant person. Life gives everyone some "curves". His "curve" happened in the Philippines.

I think you will see that my dad was definitely a victim of the WWII.