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November 10, 2015 • Headline News
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Parachute made into memory of vet’s service

A parachute from World War II has become a family heirloom and, moreover, a reminder of their beloved family member’s contribution to our country. Carolyn Hankins, the Versailles postmaster, said that her father, Harold E. Smith, was a member of the 410th Bomb Group and the 647th Bomb squadron. He had left in November of 1942 only two weeks after he married on Oct. 11, 1942. An airplane mechanic and rifle marksman, her father had served in the army in northern France, Rhineland, Central Europe, Ardennes, Air Offensive Europe, Battle of the Bulge and Normandy. “He was on his way home from Germany on July 31, 1945. He had 30 days at home with his wife and parents and then he was to depart for Japan.” While he was home on August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and he did not have to go to Japan. Smith, who became a sergeant in the army, had three brothers and a brother in law all serving in the war at the same time.

Parachute dressParachute dressParachute dressParachute dressSUBMITTED PHOTOS
The Smith sisters wore the dress made from their dad’s parachute. Pictured from left are Levada Smith Bladen, Connie Smith Kirkpatrick, Carolyn Smith Hankins, postmaster of Versailles, and her granddaughter, Bailey E. Hankins.

He carried his parachute with him on the plane on the way home from Europe. “None of the other guys had thought to bring their parachute. So he helped each one cut a gore section of his parachute and saved one for himself as a souvenir,” according to Hankins. That piece of silk from the parachute was later made into a baby dress for her. Her mother, who was raised in northeastern Jefferson County, not far from where Hankins served as the Canaan postmaster for many years, was friends with Allie Peelman, a talented seamstress nearby. “After I was born on December 26, 1946, Mrs. Peelman fashioned and sewed a baby dress and little slip for me out of the piece of silk from my Daddy’s parachute. She decorated the little dress with tiny purple ribbons, also a souvenir of the war. The ribbons were used by the U.S. and its allies to confuse the German radar. It was dropped from planes in big clumps. Her picture was taken when she was 10 months old in the dress, and later in 1948, her sister Levada had her picture taken wearing it, and again in 1950, another sister Connie had her picture taken in the same pretty dress. The dress has since been worn by two more generations. “Levada and Connie each had daughters who also had their pictures taken in the dress but we had two sons, Michael and Mark. When Michael got married, he and his wife had a son, Cody but no one to wear the dress,” Hankins said. However, their youngest son, Mark and his wife had daughter Bailey, born on October 25, 2001, and “I got the dress out and had it cleaned and ready for her to have her picture taken in when she was 9 months old.

“I am so proud to have pictures of me and both my sisters and of my little granddaughter, Bailey in my baby dress made of a small piece of silk from my Daddy’s parachute from WWII.”

Sgt. Smith received an honorable discharge from Camp Atterbury on September 21, 1945, and also received six bronze stars and a Good Conduct ribbon.
Smith died in December, 1993 of cancer, but this baby dress and photos provide a unique reminder to his family of him and his service to the United States.

Tri Kappa Winter Wonderland is Saturday

Just in time for the upcoming holidays, the annual Tri Kappa Winter Wonderland will be held this Saturday. The works of artisans and vendors throughout the area will be featured at the annual arts and crafts bazaar that will be at the South Ripley Elementary School on Benham Road in Versailles from 9 to 3 p.m. Special guest Santa will be there for picture taking. There will also be supervised art projects for children so parents can shop freely. Breakfast and lunch will also be served featuring their popular cinnamon rolls and broccoli soup. Net proceeds from the bazaar go toward funding local scholarships and donated to local charitable organizations and endeavors.

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