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home : local news : local news February 05, 2016

9/19/2012 2:07:00 PM
Survivors recall childhood shell blast
Daily News

A former Palestine man injured as a child when a World War II shell exploded, survived his injuries and grew up to serve his country.

According to the Thursday, Feb. 23, 1961, Daily News, Lonny Coleman, 9, Palestine, and Lester "Butch" Salesberry, 14, were injured when a World War II shell Salesberry was carrying fell into the street and exploded. Both boys were injured by shrapnel tearing into their legs.

Coleman took the blast in the midsection, causing multiple lacerations and both of his pelvis bones to be broken. He was taken to the Allen Sanitarium by Goodwine Ambulance. He does not remember how long he spent in the hospital, but does remember watching a dove build a nest in his window, watching the eggs hatch and babies fly away.

The shell, which was later identified as a 20 mm shell by the Crane Naval Station, had been a souvenir from World War II, and had been used as a door stop in the house of a classmate of Salesberry. The shell was brought to school for a display while they studied the war era in history class.

According to Salesberry, it was after Christmas break and they were cleaning out stuff. The student who brought the shell to school did not want it back, nor did his father, and according to Salesberry the teacher let him take it home.

Salesberry said the anti-aircraft shell was designed to explode after an internal propeller turned so many times. "I guest when I dropped it, it was the last turn," he said.

Salesberry and Coleman were walking in the street in front of Hugh Ramsey's house when it hit the ground and exploded.

According to the Daily News story, shrapnel from the shell struck the Ramsey house with five pieces penetrating the walls. No one was injured inside. Another neighbor was getting out of his car when the shell exploded, but was not injured.

The parents of both boys said one good thing was that no other children were outside at the time.

Coleman, now 60, lives in Sullivan, Ind., and works at Crane. He also served in the military.

Salesberry and his wife live in New Mexico, and recently retired from being host parents at a Christian home for wayward children. He too served in the military has raised three children, and has four grandchildren.

Coleman didn't know what happen to Salesberry, only that he remembers him coming by to say he was "sorry" for what happened.

Looking back on his life, Coleman said he is often reminded of his grandmother's prayer, "Lord, thank you for looking after me and allowing me to take care of my children and my children's children."

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Article comment by: Buster Salesberry

I really enjoyed your article on my brother but his first name is Harry, not Lester. It was a rough time for both young boys but with the help of loving parents, friends and by the Grace of God, they pulled through and went on to become fine young men who served our country, they are both Hero's to me.

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