A late Herrin man will be remembered as a “man among men” during a Veterans Day ceremony Sunday.
Dwayne Linton was a World War II pilot and prisoner of war.
“He was a man among men, a great family man and a great father,” said Jim Gentile, a friend of the Linton family.
A Veterans Day Ceremony will be this Sunday, Nov. 11, at Herrin’s Doughboy statue on Park Ave., starting at 10:30 a.m.
Linton served as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in WWII.
“You don’t think about Dad being a hero, but it set in in my 20s the magnitude of it,” said Doug Linton, Dwayne’s youngest son.
Dwayne Linton was born in Marion on Sept. 29, 1917, and graduated from Herrin High School in 1935. Before graduation, Linton married Margaret Ruth Richmond. They had their first son, William Dwayne, in 1938 and Dwayne worked as part of the Work Process Administration (WPA).
Linton had developed a passion for flying throughout the years. He learned how to fly at the Marion Airport in his spare time.
“My dad wanted to be a fighter pilot, but the U.S. Air force was not accepting recruits,” Doug said. This was before the U.S. had entered the war.
Dwayne then decided to try to join the Air Force in Canada, but they were not accepting married men. He and Margaret decided to divorce so he could apply. They planned to remarry after the war. He enlisted in the RCAF in 1940 and was sent to Canada for training.
After training was done, Dwayne was sent to England where he was stationed with the 411th Fighter Squadron.
Linton wrote letters home often to friends and family. He wrote home that his plane was a Supermarine Spitfire that he named “Miss Herrin.” His squadron worked from a dispersal hut. There they received plans for raids and were notified when needed for a mission against the enemy.
As the war went on, he wrote home that he went to war with 18 friends and there were only four left.
In September 1942, a newspaper clipping read “Pilot Officer Dwayne Linton, Herrin’s hero of the Royal Canadian Air force, shot down two German planes before he was shot down in the allied raid over Dieppe, France Aug. 19.” That November there was a memorial service for Linton held at the first Baptist Church in Herrin.
Linton’s plane was shot down at 17,000 feet and exploded over the English Channel near Dieppe, France. His plane had a fuel tank in front of the cockpit. Since his fellow pilots saw his plane explode and ignite on fire, they reported that Linton was killed in battle.
However, Linton had parachuted into the channel. He was burned from the fuel tank, especially his face. He watched the battle continue from a rubber dinghy.
Page 2 of 3 - After the battle, he paddled to shore and the Germans took him prisoner.
They left him on a stretcher for two days. Several days later they took him to receive medical attention in France. The moved him to a different location where two German doctors treated him. He received medical treatment for nine weeks; they took care of his burns and restored his face.
His son Doug said the Germans were somewhat advanced with burn technology at the time so they saw his father as “a guinea pig.”
After he was better, Linton was transferred to several German prison camps. Five months went by before Herrin received word that Linton was still alive and a prisoner of war. He was prisoner for 33 months.
In April 1945, he was rescued when the U.S. Army began to invade Germany. Linton was taken back to England and discharged in August 1945.
Dwayne and Margaret met in St. Louis and remarried there. Linton was given five medals: the Dieppe Bar, The Air Crew Europe Star, The Atlantic Star, The 1939-1945 Star and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal. Dwayne was a member of the VFW, American Legion, Eagles, Herrin Junior Chamber of Commerce, Herrin Rotary Club. He was also a Mason and was President of the Illinois Chapter of Ex Prisoners of War.
In 1946, their son Rick was born and then, in 1951, Doug was born.
Linton brought home a pilot’s reflective mirror from the war. He later gave this to Rick the day his son left for Vietnam. Dwayne gave it to him for good luck and Rick later returned it when he came back. He still has the reflective mirror today.
“It went through WWII and Vietnam ... it is probably a good luck charm,” Rick said.
While in England, Linton met John Magee, a RAF pilot. Magee is also the author of “High Flight,” the most famous poem written about aviation. Rick said that this poem was in a frame in his dad’s office for many years.
“Our father was such a hero. I could never understand how he had the guts to get in the plane and go into battle,” Doug said.
Dwayne Linton passed away Jan. 23, 2000. Margaret passed away less than a month later, on Feb. 17, 2000. Gentile spoke at both of their ceremonies.
“This could be a war story, a love story or story about a man with a dream,” Gentile said.
The schedule for the Veterans Day Ceremony this Sunday, Nov. 11 in Herrin is as follows:
10:30 a.m.— Display of Dwayne Linton, WWII RCAF
10:45 a.m. — Patriotic Music
10:55 a.m. — Call To Order
11:00 a.m. — Sam Garanati, VFW and American Legion Honor Guard
• Post Colors, Williamson County Fourth Degree, Knights of Columbus Assembly
Page 3 of 3 - • Present Flowers, VFW and American Legion Ladies Auxiliaries
• Prayer, Chaplain Anthony T. Williams, U.S. Army
• Emcee, Jim Gentile
• National anthem, Jenna Harner, Herrinfesta Italiana Queen
• “America the Beautiful,” Matt Wilson, Southern Star II Winner
• Welcome, Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter, Introduction of special guests
• “Flanders Fields” poem, Dee Rose
• Salutations from The Dwayne Linton Family, Doug Linton
• George F. “Fred” Hunter, Royal Canadian Air force
• Featured Speaker, Rick Linton
• “High Flight” poem, Dee Rose
• Presentation of Portrait “Miss Herrin,” (photograph of Dwayne Linton in Spitfire Fighter to Baker-Ladd Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1567)
• Invitation to Dinner at VFW Post and closing remarks
“God Bless America,” Jenna Harner
• Gun Salute, Sam Garanati, VFW and American Legion Honor Guard
• “Taps,” Rick Linton and Mike Ridgeway.