I am one of a very few
people left who knew what Emmitsburg was like in the 1940s
during the War. Because I was new in town, I didn’t know the
names of the men who were either drafted into the Army or who
voluntarily chose to serve. I do remember a few of the things
that Emmitsburg did to help the War effort.
There were air raid drills, both night and day, when at the
sound of the firehouse siren we were required to turn out all
our lights. There were Victory Gardens, classes in First Aid
by the Red Cross, and occasionally soldiers in training at Ft.
Ritchie would march down Main Street. (I don’t know where
their destination was.) On rare occasions, a lone soldier with
a map in his hand would come to the door for assistance in
locating a local landmark.
However, few people were aware that on the roof of the VFW
building were volunteer citizens, stationed day and night, to
watch for airplanes throughout the War and for another year or
two afterwards. They were called “spotters”.
I have spoken with Mr. Gilbert Eiker, who during the years of
1947-48 volunteered to be a spotter. This his story as I
remember it told to me.
Mr. Eiker was 21 when he drafted into the Army. His assignment
was the 106th Infantry Replacement Squad. He served overseas
and remembered D-Day when the “cease fire” was ordered. He
also remembers that he was in southern France when a group of
German Panzers refused to put down their arms. Eventually, of
course, with the help of Mr. Eiker’s squad, these Panzers
As Mr. Eiker’s story goes, he was honorably discharged in 1946
and came home to Emmitsburg. He then learned of the Civilian
Airplane Spotters in the Emmitsburg square and volunteered to
join them. “I remember some of the plane spotters formed by
the U.S. Air Force in 1947-48 after World War II, changing the
name from Army Air Corps. Each spotter would spend two hours
an evening each week for about 8 or 9 months. Our code call
was Vector Kilo 44 Black,” said Mr. Eiker.
Alan Bouey, Lee Keepers, Lumen Norris who are all gone now
were also some of the spotters in Emmitsburg.
I asked Mr. Eiker if the spotters had any binoculars or
telescopes and he said that they did not. When asked if he saw
any foreign planes he said that he did indeed and that the
protocol was to send a phone report to Baltimore and
occasionally someone of authority would come to Baltimore in
response to the Emmitsburg spotter’s report.
Besides his term in the Army and his time spent as a spotter,
Mr. Eiker worked in the bakery at Mount St. Mary’s.
I found it interesting to realize that Mr. Eiker’s pride was
not so much as a soldier in France, but rather as the job of
airplane spotter in his hometown of Emmitsburg. Listen to Mr.
Eiker’s stories and he’ll tell you about volunteering for his
country while he also tells you about volunteering for his
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