Welcome to June’s edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.
We are located in the Summer Street School building while we seek a permanent home. We are currently raising money to purchase the former law offices of Primmer & Piper at 421 Summer St. A 250 Club has been started where you can give a thousand dollars as an individual, a family, a business, a club, group or any other creative donation you might have. We have until the end of June to achieve the goal of 250 thousand dollars We need your support and hope you will join us this month so we can achieve our goal to preserve St. Johnsbury’s treasures. Please check out our web site at www.stjhistory.org and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 223, St. Johnsbury, Vt. 05819 and our phone number is 802-424-1090. Thank you to the Caledonian Record for publishing this story on June 4, 2014.
Colonel Harry A. “Paddy” Flint
Whether it be an artifact, an old photo or a story, history has a way of revealing “new” things. This latest “new story” column comes by way of conversations with Jim Reed, son of Virginia and Russ Reed. Jim had returned from Oregon to visit his parents prior to the passing of his dad in April of this year. Jim graduated from the Academy in ’69 and entered Norwich and then served in the United States Army. As a Second Lieutenant, Jim served as an aide to General George S. Patton Jr. He also had the honor of meeting General Omar N. Bradley. Subsequently Jim began to read all he could about General Patton Sr. and General Bradley. From these readings he found a St. Johnsbury hero who made the supreme sacrifice in World War II – Colonel Harry A. “Paddy” Flint.
The name Flint to many probably brings to mind the Flint Bros. Druggists, just south of the Passumpsic bank on Main Street (building still standing, now a beauty salon). Along with that memory might be the name Fred Flint, Caledonia County Sheriff for 24 years or possibly his brother Ray who ran the St. Johnsbury House for years. This is the same Flint family and Harry was their brother. Born on February 12th, 1888, Harry was the third of seven children born to Mabel and Charles G. Flint. He grew up at 63 Summer Street (Diane and Larry Sharer’s home) where it was a short walk to Summer Street School which provided his first nine years of school. He then entered St. Johnsbury Academy in 1903. Summer jobs included work on farms or in lumber camps; horseback ridding, fishing and hiking were pleasant pastimes for him. In his third year, 1905, at the Academy, he was quarterback for the football team as well as captain. That was also the year he gave his heart away to Sallie Helena Emery, a dorm student from Chelsea. She resided in the Charlotte Fairbanks Cottage and she became his “lady” – a name that would endure throughout their life together.
His career goals were centered on the military and his dream was to attend West Point, and become a Cavalry officer in the United States Army. In preparation he attended Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. He took the entrance exam in 1906 for West Point; his appointment did not come as there were no vacancies even though he had done well on the exam. Plan B was to be an officer in the Navy, and he officially became a Naval Midshipman in May of 1907. Norwich had him as a student for six months and the Navy had him for seven months when he received an official appointment to West Point. Following a letter of resignation from the Navy, on March 2, 1908, Flint was admitted to the United States Military Academy. The nickname “Paddy”, often reserved those of Irish descent with a first name of Patrick, was not the case of the Englishman Flint. He had admiration for the Irish and maybe it was his choice but regardless how it originated, he was “Paddy” when he became a cadet.
1912 was a big year as he graduated from West Point in June at the age of 24. He ranked 41 out of a class of 95 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of the 4th Cavalry. In August, he married his “Lady” on Cove Island in Lake Memphremagog. One year later at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii on September 2,1913, their first and only child, Sallie, was born. And yet another St. Johnsbury connection in this small world; this child, Sallie would go on to become the mother of former Athenaeum librarian, Lisa von Kann, making Paddy and his wife Sallie her grandparents! Lisa provided the picture for this story.
In the picture, one can see A A A O; Jim Reed refers to the book A Soldier’s Story by General Bradley for an explanation-
“Soon after the Tunisian campaign ended Manton Eddy asked for a regimental commander to spark up his 39th Regiment which then showed signs of sluggishness in contrast to its spirited companions. “What we need in the 39th is character,” Eddy said. I sent him Paddy Flint.
After landing in Sicily, Manton reported to corp at Nicosia with Paddy Flint in tow. The 39th was to be attached to Terry Allen for the Troina attack. The remainder of Eddy’s 9th Division had not come ashore. “Brad,” Eddy whispered when Paddy ambled off to the G-3 tent for a briefing, “have you seen this?” He held Flint’s helmet in his hand. On its side there was boldly stenciled “AAA-O.””And just what the hell does this mean?” “Anything, anytime, anywhere, bar nothing – that’s what it means. Paddy has had this stenciled on every helmet and every damned truck in the whole damned regiment.” I grinned. “But haven’t you issued some kind of corps order about special unit markings?” “Manton,” I answered, “I can’t see a thing today – Nope, not even that helmet of Paddy Flint’s.”
Paddy’s military career covered two wars and ended in World War II in Normandy. On July 24, 1944. Colonel Flint was struck in the head by a German sniper’s bullet and died the next day. He was laid to rest at the 26th in the United States Military Cemetery No. 2 at Ste-Mere-Eglise, France. There he remained until April of 1948 when his remains were brought back for reburial in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. A caption under a picture of combat-ready Paddy read in part “He never asked a G.I. to do something he himself would not do.”
Today’s column is just a snapshot of Paddy Flint. Additional reading of the life of Paddy can be found in the book Paddy by Robert A. Anderson. Excerpts of his career are included in Omar Bradley’s A Soldier’s Story and Patton by Carlo D’Este.
Jim Reed, President of the Oregon Coast Veterans’ Association, had the plaque made up honoring Paddy; John Hall presented the plaque at the Memorial Day exercises on May 26th. It will be displayed in the History & Heritage Center.