Whiteside County supplied soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to the World War II effort.
It supplied defense plant workers to the Green River Ordnance Plant in nearby Lee County.
And it supplied its name to an attack cargo ship, which served in the Navy’s fleet from 1944 until 1958.
Today’s Whiteside County residents likely were not well acquainted with the story of the USS Whiteside. This week, a former sailor from Missouri changed that.
Arlo Ericson is 86 years old, he lives in St. Joseph, he once served on the USS Whiteside, and he is among the dwindling number of shipmates still with us.
Ericson is proud of his service on the ship. He went to the trouble of organizing reunions of shipmates over the years.
It recently occurred to him that memorabilia from the ship, including the last flag to fly on the Whiteside before it was decommissioned, should be presented to Whiteside County to preserve for future generations.
Thus, Ericson traveled to Morrison Tuesday for a reception and presentation.
County officials were pleased to receive the items. Some will be displayed in the courthouse, while others will be stored for posterity.
The USS Whiteside was a workhorse of the Navy during the closing months of the war. It delivered cargo and ferried the wounded during key 1945 battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
When hostilities broke out on the Korean Peninsula in 1950, the Whiteside returned to harm’s way, participating in a supporting role in the Inchon landing.
Much of the Whiteside’s peacetime service involved hauling cargo through the Pacific and patrolling the West Coast.
After its 1958 decommissioning, the USS Whiteside had one more duty to perform. Navy gunners used it for target practice in 1971, and it was sunk.
We join Whiteside County officials and residents in expressing gratitude for the flag and other memorabilia from the ship.
We salute Arlo Ericson for his service to the USS Whiteside and the preservation of its memory.
The responsibility to preserve and protect the ship’s mementos now falls on the county’s shoulders.
Let Whiteside County fulfill that obligation with pride.