Wednesday, December 06, 2000

Veteran baffled by souvenir theft

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SHARONVILLE — Ralph Jones doesn't know why anyone would go to the trouble of taking six empty artillery shell casings — rusting hulks and almost worthless even to scrap dealers.

        Yet on Oct. 16 someone went to the trouble of lifting these shells — which weigh between 130 and 200 pounds each — from a Sharonville business' property, putting them into a car and driving off.

        Mr. Jones, who served in Vietnam from 1969-70 with the Army's 2nd Battalion/32nd Field Artillery, said the shell casings would be virtually meaningless to anyone except those who served with the Proud Americans, the moniker for the field artillery unit.

[photo] This photo of empty artillery shell casings was taken before they were stolen from a site in Sharonville.
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        “It was part of our life in Vietnam,” said Mr. Jones, 54, who lives in Deerfield Township. “Otherwise, the shells aren't worth anything, really. I don't know why the guy wants them.”

        Mr. Jones is offering a $200 reward for the return of the casings.

        The six casings were taken about 7 a.m. from a skid outside an auto body shop on Reading Road. Mr. Jones was storing them there.

        A witness saw a man with a station wagon on the business's property, putting items into the back of the vehicle. It was dark, the witness told Sharonville police, and no further description of the man was possible.

        Mr. Jones had tracked down the casings from a man in Nebraska. Mr. Jones was going to sand them, prime them and paint them in time for a reunion of Proud American veterans at Fort Sill in Oklahoma next May.

        Taken were two 8-inch shells and four 175-mm artillery rounds, all defused.

        Mr. Jones said there is an active list of about 125 veterans from the field artillery unit. The unit dates to World War II and was sent to Vietnam in October 1965, he said.

        “The battalion was always undermanned but always had their rounds on target and on time,” Mr. Jones said.

        Theirs was a reputation for protecting troops: “We were considered one of the best of the best.”

       Anyone with information about the missing shell casings can contact Mr. Jones at P.O. Box 498964, Cincinnati, 45249.

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