2016-12-08 / Front Page

WWII Collection Shared at Library

At Les Cheneaux, O’Brien Family Finds Mementos Stored in Trunks for Decades
By Erich T. Doerr


At right: Some of personal effects of the late World War II United States Army Air Corps veteran Clark O’Brien on display at the Les Cheneaux Community Library in Cedarville are seen here. The items pictured include stillsealed rations from the war, money from the Central Bank of China, a first aid kit, and several medals he earned for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Army Air Medal. At right: Some of personal effects of the late World War II United States Army Air Corps veteran Clark O’Brien on display at the Les Cheneaux Community Library in Cedarville are seen here. The items pictured include stillsealed rations from the war, money from the Central Bank of China, a first aid kit, and several medals he earned for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Army Air Medal. World War II items from the personal collection of the late United States Army Air Corps veteran Clark O’Brien are on display at the Les Cheneaux Community Library in Cedarville. The display was set up for the library’s Veteran’s Day reception Friday, November 11, and will remain in place through at least Thursday, December 8, to mark the 75th anniversary of the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor before it is removed to make room for other library programs this weekend.


At right: The World War II display at the Les Cheneaux Community Library honored the late Clark O’Brien of Cedarville, pictured here during his days in the war as an aerial engineer. Several vintage photographs taken of and by Mr. O’Brien were featured in the display. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 96. At right: The World War II display at the Les Cheneaux Community Library honored the late Clark O’Brien of Cedarville, pictured here during his days in the war as an aerial engineer. Several vintage photographs taken of and by Mr. O’Brien were featured in the display. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 96. The display was set up over several days by Mr. O’Brien’s daughter, Becky Autore, and grandson, Chip Autore. All of the items were located earlier this year while they were cleaning out a garage for a new tenant. The remarkably rare thing about Mr. O’Brien’s collection is how intact it is, as he packed everything away in 1945 after returning home, and it remained in storage together until this display.

“We’re glad we’re able to share” these artifacts, Mr. Autore said. “He kept everything.”

The late Mr. O’Brien served as an aerial engineer, monitoring an airplane’s instruments during flight and making in-flight repairs when necessary, during the war in China, India, and Burma, the country known today as Myanmar. He flew on cargo flights over “The Hump,” a dangerous but vital route through the Himalayas to resupply the war effort in China. Flying in the mountains was risky and many planes crashed along the route, often due to the extreme weather and conditions they faced. Mr. O’Brien flew more than 900 hours on a variety of aircraft including the Consolidated C-87 Liberator Express and B-24 Liberator, the Martin B- 26 Marauder, and the Boeing B- 17E Flying Fortress. His service earned him several medals that were included in the display, such as the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Army Air Medal, a medal for good conduct, and a Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation.


A unique display of World War II artifacts has been set up in the lobby of Cedarville’s Les Cheneaux Community Library throughout the last month featuring the uniforms and personal effects of the late Army Air Corps veteran Clark O’Brien, Mr. O’Brien packed all these items up after returning from the war in 1945 and the display is their first time being shown to the public. Here assistant librarian Marilyn McLeod, Mr. O’Brien’s daughter Becky Autore, and his grandson Chip Autore pose with the display Thursday, December 1. The artifacts seen here include Mr. O’Brien’s uniform and coat, hats, boots, personal effects, and a copy of the December 7, 1941, extra edition of The Sault Ste. Marie Evening News reporting on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into the war. Beneath it a wartime copy of The Republican-News and St. Ignace Enterprise from October 1942, reporting on a scrap drive organized by local women, shares space with vintage records. The display will remain in place through at least Thursday, December 8, following the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. A unique display of World War II artifacts has been set up in the lobby of Cedarville’s Les Cheneaux Community Library throughout the last month featuring the uniforms and personal effects of the late Army Air Corps veteran Clark O’Brien, Mr. O’Brien packed all these items up after returning from the war in 1945 and the display is their first time being shown to the public. Here assistant librarian Marilyn McLeod, Mr. O’Brien’s daughter Becky Autore, and his grandson Chip Autore pose with the display Thursday, December 1. The artifacts seen here include Mr. O’Brien’s uniform and coat, hats, boots, personal effects, and a copy of the December 7, 1941, extra edition of The Sault Ste. Marie Evening News reporting on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into the war. Beneath it a wartime copy of The Republican-News and St. Ignace Enterprise from October 1942, reporting on a scrap drive organized by local women, shares space with vintage records. The display will remain in place through at least Thursday, December 8, following the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. The display included a wide variety of World War II artifacts Mr. O’Brien used or was ready to use overseas. His personal effects showcased included his boots, a uniform and matching coat, his aviator hat and headphones, and his dog tags. There was also a first aid kit including morphine and sulfanilamide, with instructions on how to use them still legible. A second kit was just for the treatment of snakebites. There is vintage money from the Central Bank of China. During the war, it was often sewn into aviators’ jackets to be used to pay for help in the event they crashed. There were several cans containing rations, still sealed almost seven decades after they were made. Many of the items were displayed alongside two large vintage trunks where they had been stored, one from the Army and one that originally belonged to Mr. O’Brien’s father, Henry O’Brien. The O’Brien family trunk still bears vintage stickers promoting Great Lakes passenger ship travel.


The display of World War II artifacts from the collection of the late Clark O’Brien was accompanied by this display featuring newspapers and magazines dealing with the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. All of these materials were located for years in the same garage. The display of World War II artifacts from the collection of the late Clark O’Brien was accompanied by this display featuring newspapers and magazines dealing with the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. All of these materials were located for years in the same garage. The display also includes information about Mr. O’Brien and his role in the war. There are photographs of him during his time in the service and United States aircraft used during the war. Mr. Autore wrote the history section after he researched Mr. O’Brien’s actions during the conflict. His grandfather never talked about his time in the service.

There were several papers for people to look over, including war correspondence, a pamphlet from 1943 encouraging all military personnel not to discuss anything related to the war while on leave at home, and a copy of The Sault Ste. Marie Evening News reporting on the Pearl Harbor attack. There is even some vintage airline memorabilia from civilian-operated flights he rode on while in the service from several defunct carriers such as Chicago and Southern Air Lines. Some of the items Mr. O’Brien kept were not displayed, including his flight records.

The display has been popular during its time at the library, with many coming in to examine it.

“It’s neat to see this stuff,” Mr. Autore said.

The late Mr. O’Brien was born on Mackinac Island in 1910. He joined the armed forces sometime in 1942 after the United States entered the war and remained in the service through the end of the conflict in 1945. After the war ended, he returned to the Eastern Upper Peninsula and worked with the Department of Natural Resources for 43 years as a conservation officer. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 96. The Army Air Corps was disbanded after the war to make way for the United States Air Force in 1947.

The Autores have not decided what will be done with Mr. O’Brien’s collection after the display. It may be donated to a local museum, but they have not finalized any choices.

The display also included a number of newspapers and magazines Mr. O’Brien saved featuring stories on the November 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The papers were stored in the same garage as the war memorabilia.

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