When Charlie Barnes, adjutant of the Simpson-Hoggatt Marine Corps League Detachment, began delving into the lives of James Simpson Jr. and Harry Hoggatt – for whom the Kansas City detachment was named – little did he know his intensive research would trigger a pre-Memorial Day observance involving a group of Cub Scout Webelos.
The ceremony Sunday in Forest Hills Cemetery stems from a visit Bruce Johnson made last year to the old Kansas City cemetery at 69th Street and Troost Avenue.
While walking through the burial grounds, the Hoggatt family memorial containing the graves of Harry Hoggatt, his brother Ralph and their parents, Leila (Moore) Hoggatt and Harvey Hoggatt caught his attention.
Curious about who Harry Hoggatt was, Johnson turned to the Internet and found the biography Charlie Barnes had written about the brief life of Harry Hoggatt.
“Because of the footprints I had left, (Johnson) discovered there was a Simpson-Hoggatt Marine Corps League Detachment and contacted me” for more information about the Kansas City Marine who died in World War I, Barnes recalls.
Johnson, though, was disturbed by what he saw at the memorial. He noticed that when the 6-foot marker was originally erected, a flagpole had been attached to the top of the marker. Over the past 90 years, though, the pole had become rusty and the rust had permanently stained the weather-ravaged marker.
Someone needed to spiff up the memorial, Johnson thought. But who? Then it dawned on him that cleaning the memorial would be an outstanding community-service project for the Webelos in his son’s Cub Scout pack.
The Webelos accepted the challenge, then tackled the project, assisted by their parents.
While one of the dads replaced the old corroded flagpole with a new one and painted the fitting on the top of the monument, the Webelos from Pack 118 attempted to clean up the granite rust stains.
“We tried mild solutions (dish soap), then vinegar and baking soda, then Clorox and water, then non-abrasive Comet,” den leader Paula Holmquist wrote in an e-mail.
All their scrubbing, though, was in vain. The stains held fast.
With the grounds manicured and a new flag flying over the monument on a repainted pole, Barnes says the Webelos and their families will gather at 1 p.m. Sunday to “rededicate the memorial and raise a new flag over the family memorial in preparation for Memorial Day.”
Also expected to attend the “rain-or-shine” event are members of the Simpson-Hoggatt Detachment, a few active-duty Marines and Lt. Col. Russell W. Scott III, Inspector-Instructor of the 24th Marine Regiment at Richards-Gebaur. Scott will address the importance of remembering the sacrifices of active-duty troops, veterans and those who died in combat.
Barnes has been asked to present a short biography on Harry Hoggatt “as a shining example of anyone who has ever served their country.”
In his remarks, Barnes will note the military career of Hoggatt was a short one. Assigned to the 6th Marine Regiment, the 17-year-old Kansas City rifleman was injured just 19 days after arriving in France on Aug. 27, 1918. Twenty days later, the teenager died several months prior to his 18th birthday attempting to drive the Germans off Mount Blanc Ridge.
He was initially interred in a grave on the crest of Mount Blanc. Later he was reinterred and buried twice. First, in the Argonne-American Cemetery. Then in Forest Hills Cemetery on Aug. 31, 1921.
Following his death, he became eligible to receive the Victory Medal with ribbon, one Mihiel Battle Clasp, one Meuse-Argonne Battle Clasp and two Bronze Stars.
As for James Simpson, Barnes says the 1915 Westport High School graduate attended three semesters at the University of Missouri before enlisting in the Marine Corps on May 7, 1917.
A machine-gun operator with the 6th Marine Regiment, Simpson arrived in France on Nov. 12, 1917. He died June 6, 1918, in the Battle for Belleau Woods, leading a 7-man attack against two German machine-gun positions that were decimating his regiment. Another Marine died in the bloody assault; the other five were seriously injured.
Simpson was initially interred June 24, 1918, in Lucy-le-Biocage, Aisne, France. On Oct. 11, 1922, he was reinterred in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.
The Simpson-Hoggatt Detachment invites the public to attend the 68th Marine Corps League Memorial service at 8 a.m. May 31 at Mount Moriah Cemetery, 10507 Holmes, Kansas City.
“We are honoring all the war dead,” says Barnes, noting the hourlong service will have more of a Marine Corps flavor because “we are hosting it.”
Larry Schmidt, retired Marine Corps colonel, will bring the Memorial Day address . A member of the Simpson-Hoggatt Detachment since 1997, he retired from active duty and moved to Kansas City in 1994.
As a colonel, he commanded the 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division in Operation Desert Storm. He also served three separate tours in the Manpower Department at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. His last active-duty tour was at the Pentagon as Executive Officer to the Director, Operations Directorate, Joint Staff, and Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
- Color guard and firing detail, 24th Marine Regiment Headquarters
- Ararat Shrine Temple Bag Pipes and Drums
- Welcome, Ken Spencer, Simpson-Hoggatt commandant
- Invocation and benediction, Dr. Robert Rhodes, Simpson-Hoggatt chaplain
- Pledge of Allegiance, Aaron Satz of Midwest Young Marines.
- Placement of wreath, Scott and Candy Wasser, Gold Star parents of Lance Cpl. Christopher Wasser
- Taps, Dan Land, American Legion Post 327.
For more information, call Charlie Barnes at 816-578-4145.