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1940s Bluffton residents' brush with history

Involving Tomoyuki Yamashita, Albert Einstein,

F.D. Roosevelt, George Marshall, Mickey Rooney and Carl Spaatz



In November 1945 Bluffton resident Betty Steinman experienced a brush with history like no other person in Bluffton.

It is one of several interesting brushes with history that Bluffton residents reported in The Bluffton News. Some of those account follow Betty’s. Each of the account in this feature are from the mid-1940s. `


Betty, whose nephew Jeremy Szabo lives in Bluffton, was an eye-witness to the war-criminal trial of Japanese General Yamashita at Manila. She wrote about her experience in a letter to her parents Forrest and Joyce Steinman, which was published on the front page of The Bluffton News in late November 1945.


Click here for our 1st Bluffton brush with history feature


Click here for our 2nd Bluffton brush with history feature.


Betty was on her way to the Philippines and Japan in Red Cross welfare work, when the group she was will stopped in Manila.

General Yamashita


Here is her interesting account of the trial in her letter:


“This morning I had one of the most exciting experiences, seeing Yamashita’s trial. I wish you could have seen it. When we walked in Yamashita was on the stand talking in Japanese.


They had to use an interpreter for everything that he said and everything spoken to him, so it was quite drawn out. He is quite heavy and had a crew haircut.


When he spoke he hardly moved a muscle in his face, in fact it was hard to know if he was talking or not.


They had mikes all around to pick up voices and news reels and flash photos were taken at regular intervals.


They had a ten-minutes recess every hour. We were up in the balcony and went over to a window where standing directly below me was Yamashita. I could almost reach down and touch him. He was just standing smoking and talking now and then to another Japanese. He looked up in the window at us several times. To listen to his side of the story, he is as innocent as a newborn babe.


President Roosevelt

From April 1943 – Pvt. Harry Bogart had an unexpected privilege of serving as one of the honor guards for President Roosevelt when he visited Camp Robinson, Arkansas, recently.


Harry had practiced for the activities with his unit for two or three weeks but was under the impression that they were getting ready for a visit by an army general.


He was much surprised to see the President who stopped off at the camp on his way to the historic meeting with the Mexican president.


General George Marshall

From April 1944 – Donald “Buddie” Luginbuhl – he’s a corporal now with the army in Shreveport, Louisiana – still rates as an accordion artist.

General Marshall


If you can remember Buddie you can’t help but remember his squeeze box, for they were inseparable. Well, the other day they met up with the big moment when he played at a concert in the auditorium and none less than General George Marshall, chief of staff, the army’s big boss.


And, after the concert the chief complimented “Buddie” on his performance.


General Carl Spaatz

July, 1944 – Whenever Harvey Beidler of South Jackson Street reads the exploits of the U.S. Air Force in Europe he is reminded of the days when he and Lt. General Carl Spaatz, commander of the aerial army overseas, were schoolmates in Pennsylvania.


They were fellow students at Perkiomen school, Pennsylvania, back in 1910. Spaatz a sophomore, and Beidler, a freshman, were good friends.


General Spaatz

Today, as commander of all U.S. bomber forces in England, Gen. Spaatz is ranked as the world’s No. 1 bomber, and the great plans operating under his direction have caused more damage to German installations than all the havoc Germany piled on England in the early days of the war.


Mickey Rooney

August, 1944 – Movie star Mickey Rooney, was seen in the Los Angeles railroad station by Pvt. Kenneth Hartman, son of Mrs. Mildred Oberly of Bluffton.


Hartman and a group of buddies were stretching their legs when their troop train made a short stop at the station when they spied Rooney. Hartman says his group had no difficulty in recognizing the film celebrity although he was not as tall as they had anticipated.

Mickey Rooney


Albert Einstein

From February 1946 – Don Smucker, attending Princeton Theological Seminary at Princeton, New Jersey, says he saw Albert Einstein, the scientist, now living in Princeton, walking down the street recently and describes him as an extraordinarily striking individual combining various features to resemble something like a highly intellectual Santa Claus.



Albert Einstein


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