Local historian creates in-depth index of World War II soldiers
YEARS OF RESEARCH Fred W. Edmiston, historian and Meridian native, tracked the names of thousands of World War II servicemen in microfilm copies of The Meridian Star stored at the Meridian-Lauderdale County Library. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
March 19, 2004
In 1945, when local historian and former Auburn University librarian Fred W. Edmiston was 15 years old, he began compiling a history of Lauderdale County.
Edmiston began sorting through mounds of government papers, photographs and letters. After he retired, he spent even more time on the project.
In January, he completed a 357-page index that lists each time someone serving in the military from this area was mentioned in The Meridian Star between Sept. 1, 1939, and August 31, 1945. The listings are alphabetized by last name, and include the date, page number and headline for each item.
Edmiston's index includes such well-known Meridianites as the Key brothers Algene and Fred Jr., and former U.S. Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery.
The index also includes lesser-known heroes of the war, like Howitzer, a fox terrier who became the Service Battery Unit's mascot when its members were stationed at the old fair grounds, now the abandoned Village Fair Mall. Howitzer accompanied his unit to the South Pacific.
While most of Edmiston's research was done on microfilm at the Meridian-Lauderdale County Library, he said he spent a lot of time digging in out-of-the-way places.
Edmiston said he included the names of people from Meridian and those who lived within about a 100-mile radius of the city. His index includes several references to women, blacks and Choctaws.
Edmiston said the project also refreshed his memory of the goings-on in Meridian during that time.
He said he also was surprised by the massive number of casualties that resulted from World War II.
For more information about Edmiston's index, or to buy a copy for $10, send an e-mail to Dedref@aol.com.