Sacrifice: Airmen honor solemn promise to fallen comrades

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs
He wrote his mother every week.

Every week, Bettie Ingram would anxiously await the handwritten letter, mailed from halfway around the world to her home on Third Street in Pratt City, Alabama.

However, this week there was no letter, only news - the worst kind. Her son, U.S. Navy Gunner's Mate First Class Osmond Ingram was dead - the first casualty of World War I.

"My boy, my boy," she said over and over, while sobbing inconsolably.

Two days earlier, Oct. 15, 1917, Ingram stood at his post on the deck of the USS Cassin as the ship pursued the German submarine U-61 off the coast of County Waterford, Ireland. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something breach the surface of the water and arc left, toward the Cassin's aft section - a torpedo.

Acting without thinking, Ingram raced toward the aft section of the ship with the intention of release the depth charges before the torpedo struck. Frantically, he began throwing the ammunition overboard just as he saw the torpedo break the water's surface one final time. Suddenly, the Cassin lurched heavily to the side as the torpedo impacted the hull just above the waterline. Ingram was killed in the explosion, his body cast into the sea, never to be seen again.

"He was the only casualty of that attack," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Dieter Bareihs, defense attaché at the U.S. Embassy in London, as he spoke during a Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony at Brookwood American Military Cemetery, England, May 24, 2015. "He saved his ship's crew during that torpedo attack, yet perished himself."

Less than 50 feet from where the general spoke, nestled between trees that seemed to touch the sky, stood a small, unassuming chapel with the words "perpetual light upon them shines," carved into the white, stone entrance. Inside are the names of 563 missing World War I Service members, including Ingram's - which is the only name tinted gold and set next to the words: "Medal of Honor."

"These individuals came from all walks of life," Bareihs continued, speaking not only to the multi-national crowd in attendance, but also to the 468 Service members buried at Brookwood, forever silenced as casualties of war. "They were different, but they had much in common - a sense of duty and a love of country. They were brave and bold, selfless and resolute - dyed-in-the-wool patriots."

As one of eight permanent American cemeteries constructed outside the United States, following World War I, Brookwood remains the final resting place for patriots who died during the "war to end all wars."

"Many didn't volunteer," the general said. "Not all were eager to leave the comforts of home to fight on distant seas, or in far off lands. But, nonetheless, they answered their nation's call to defend the freedom and liberties we hold dear."

Looking out once again, the general's eyes fell upon rows of Airmen from the 422nd Air Base Group at RAF Croughton, standing alongside Soldiers from the British Army Training Centre.

"For those whose service we honor today, we owe a promise," Bareihs said. "We owe a promise that we will never forget them or their sacrifices, a promise that their efforts were not in vain, that we will remain strong, always prepared, and, if necessary, will fight to preserve the freedoms and our way of life."