Guest Speakers

April 19th: The Lost 74 Soldiers of the Vietnam War: The public is invited to join us April 19 at 2 PM in welcoming Randy Henderson of Mayville, New York, whose brother was killed during the early morning hours on June 3, 1969 aboard the American destroyer USS Frank E. Evans along with 73 other U.S. soldiers, who are now recognized as the Lost 74 Soldiers of the Vietnam War.

At the time the 74 soldiers were killed, the destroyer was engaged in SEATO exercise Sea Spirit off the coast of Vietnam. After a direct collision, the destroyer was cut in half by the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Because the collision occurred outside of the designated war zone, the names of the 74 soldiers who were killed have not been added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (the Vietnam Wall) in Washington, D.C.

Terry Lee Henderson

Terry Lee Henderson, RD3, was the only soldier from Chautauqua County amongst the Lost 74.   Terry graduated from the Westfield Academy and Central School in 1965.  The collision took place fifty days before what would have been Terry Lee Henderson’s 22nd birthday.

Randy, his mother, and the family members of the Lost 74 Soldiers of the Vietnam War have made it their life work to ensure that all 74 soldiers are one day included on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial wall in Washington, D.C.
In addition to sharing the details of his personal experience with the loss of his brother and how it has affected his family personally, Randy will speak on behalf of the other families of the Lost 74 Soldiers of the Vietnam War. The families of the Lost 74 meet annually and have made an active commitment to this cause. Randy Henderson will have several copies of the book “American Boys: The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War by Louise Esola for sale after his talk.
The talk will take place in the Fenton History Center’s dining room. While there is no cost to attend this talk, donations will be graciously accepted.

Pictured: Photo NH: #98649: Helicopters fly near the stern of the USS Frank E. Evans, after she was cut in two in a collision


Vietnam Memorial Wall of Faces Update:

At this point, we were sure we would have succeeded in finding photos of Charles T. Thielges, who died 9-4-1969; and Dahl LaPorte, who died 8-24-1965. We have followed up on many leads, but are still looking. Please ask around and let us know if you know of anyone with these unusual last names. They are the only two Chautauqua County soldiers whose photos have not yet been found to add to the Wall of Faces.

Visit the following link, click “Advanced Search”, drop down to county and enter “Chautauqua”, and to view and honor the 37 Chautauqua County Fallen.

D-Day Veteran Discusses Normandy Invasion, Post-Journal, September 16, 2016: 

paul-arnoneThe weather was bad and the sea was treacherous when Paul Arnone started the trip from Southampton, England, to Normandy, France, in June 1944.

Arnone was the signalman on a U.S. Navy landing ship, tank, also known as an LST. The vessels were created during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying vehicles, cargo and landing troops directly onto shore. On Wednesday, the 92-year-old Arnone talked about his experience on the LST during the D-Day invasion at the Fenton History Center as part of the Vets Finding Vets program.

”The weather was bad. (General Dwight) Eisenhower didn’t know what to do,” Arnone said. ”We got the word to go. The weather was still bad.”

arnone-article-2Arnone said by the time they reached France, the weather improved and the seas abated making for calmer water conditions. However, the war was about to start for the enlisted petty officer, first class. The LST Arnone was aboard was one of more than 1,200 ships in the English Channel for the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy.

”Everywhere you looked, you got ready for a collision with another ship,” he said.

Arnone said his LST made 27 trips between England and France during the invasion, landing on three of the five Normandy beaches. He said they brought food, medication, ammunition and clothing to the troops when they landed on the shores of Normandy. On return trips to England, the LST would carry injured soldiers to hospitals for medical attention. In talking about his experience, Arnone admitted to getting sick by the brutality of war.

”Being a kid from Jamestown, I was never exposed to anything like this in my life. I got sick,” he said. ”We didn’t realize what war was. How could we?”

During his time on the LST, Arnone talked about how the anchor once got caught on a mine and how the experienced captain on board the vessel knew how to disengage the explosive device from the ship so there would be no damage. He also talked about seeing an air raid at night, with lots of tracer fire lighting up the night sky.

”It was 10 times more brilliant than the 4th of July (fireworks),” he said.

One of the worst sights Arnone experienced was seeing 20 U.S. service men floating dead in the water.

”It was one of the things that really upset me. That is what war did to me,” he said.

At the end of World War II in Europe, Arnone said they celebrated in Ireland and then traveled 19 days across the Atlantic in the LST to return home to the United States. Arnone said he got 30 days leave before returning to duty to take a long trip through the Panama Canal on his way to Hawaii. Once on the island state, Arnone said they started preparing for the invasion of Japan, which didn’t occur because the United States and the Axis nation reached a peace agreement.

In 2014, he returned to Normandy during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. He said it was surreal returning to Normandy, seeing for the first time the wide open and mostly empty beaches, which seven decades before was a crowded sight of soldiers, tanks and ships.

The Vets Finding Vets program is supported in part by a grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. The program, which was started Veterans Day 2014 allows free access to the Fenton Research Center for veterans, active military and reservists. It allows the veterans to use the research facility, resources and assistance to begin or further their family history search, locate old service comrades or to help the volunteer research staff to collect information regarding the soldiers buried in Chautauqua County cemeteries. The veterans in the program are encouraged to contribute their military record, photographs and memories of their service so they will be preserved and shared.

The Vets Finding Vets program plans to present up to four Veterans stories each year to further share the local history of local veterans. Anyone interested in joining the program is encouraged to call program manager Barbara Cessna at the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or email


On Sept 2, Patrick Kavanagh visited the Fenton History Center to donate a compilation of photos and information having to do with Western New York service men and women who died during the Vietnam War. A Vietnam Veteran himself, he is determined to do everything possible to be sure they are never forgotten.

On Sept 2, Patrick Kavanagh visited the Fenton History Center to donate a compilation of photos and information having to do with Western New York service men and women who died during the Vietnam War. A Vietnam Veteran himself, he is determined to do everything possible to be sure they are never forgotten.

Vietnam Wall of Faces By Barb Cessna, VFV Project Coordinator: Patrick Kavanagh, Historian and Archivist, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, has worked tirelessly with Norman Murray, who had contacted him for help in finishing the eight counties of western NY on the Vietnam Veteran Wall of Faces. Kavanagh contacted the Fenton History CenterC, and has enjoyed the additional research help from members of Vets Finding Vets.

VFV Project Coordinator Barb Cessna assured Kavanagh the group would be honored to focus on the three soldiers to help them finish the western NY portion of the Wall of Faces. Many phone calls and much online research, plus timely newspaper articles, social media, the Local Jamestown Chapter #865 of Vietnam Veterans of America, Sunset Hill Cemetery, and many interested people in the community have produced the desired goal.

Photos and information have yet to been found for Dahl LaPorte, Nicholas Ligammari (information has since been found on Ligammari), and Charles Thielges, as well as several others. We are, however, still in search of head and shoulder or full body photos of Dahl LaPorte and Charles Thielges.

Kavanagh was thankful enough to drive to Jamestown early one morning to deliver a gift to those who would make it accessible to the public. He explained that as a Vietnam Veteran himself, he is committed to making sure these men and women and their sacrifice will never be forgotten. Twenty years ago he began collecting photos, obituaries, stories, military background, anything that helps define that person. He has compiled many bios from the fallen men and one woman (532) in the eight counties of western NY, and bound them in a large notebook.

He has titled this work “In Remembrance Of”. His connection to Forest Lawn Cemetery makes it possible for anyone to access the notebook info online at Click on “Honoring Vietnam Veterans Killed in Action. Immediately after Kavanagh’s video, you will see an alphabetical list of names. By clicking on each name, you can see each item for that name which is in the notebook. He has emphasized that the project is not yet complete, as there are still a few he seeks. His info is included on the Wall of Faces (