Greensburg Daily News
---- — While we were having lunch together in August, Julie Hanmer asked if I’d seen what had been done at the football field at the Greensburg Community High School.
I hadn’t, so she took me there to see it close up. There was a beautiful sign that spelled out “Shriver Field.” Wow! What an uplifting moment. There were some students there and Julie asked them, “Do you know why the name Shriver is up there?” They did not. This is to tell them, and anyone else who doesn’t know, what the name Shriver means to many people in this community where the family lived.
Some will remember that the old football field (dedicated Friday, Sept. 24, 1949) was named Shriver Field. At that time it was the new and modern home of the Greensburg Pirates football teams. The name was to honor two brothers, World War II veterans Paul S. and Jack G. Shriver. Both were killed during that war - just nine months apart. Their parents, John T. and Ruth Sanders Shriver, had the two sons and four daughters. One daughter, Helen, died as a baby, Argel, Dorothy and Virginia who married Gilman Stewart. Virginia also served during World War II in the U.S. Marine Corps, W. R.
Paul Sanders “Petie” Shriver was killed off the coast of Australia the day after Christmas in 1942. A tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator Bomber, he was 29 years old. He was a 1932 graduate of Greensburg High School. Although he was killed Dec. 26, 1942, his family in Greensburg got only rumors that he had been killed in an air battle somewhere in the South Pacific. The first notice was a letter that had been addressed to him and was returned with a notation “Killed in action.” Still people didn’t believe until it was verified by the government Feb. 1, 1943. His last word to his family was a Christmas cablegram stating that he was well and getting along fine. The cablegram didn’t arrive in Greensburg until Jan. 9, 1943. Before being inducted into military service March 31, 1942, Petie served as director of the physical department of the Greensburg Y.M.C.A.
His younger brother Jack Graham Shriver was on duty at Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked December 7, 1941. He was on duty when the enemy fleet was turned back at Midway. He was sent to Guadalcanal, a campaign of three months duration. He was in 16 battles including Midway, Wake Island, the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal. He had more than 750 hours of combat service. On one flight his place was forced down in the jungle infested with the enemy. Several crew members were killed before they were rescued. He was ordered back to the United States to help train other pilots; give advice to pilots going into battle and to help him recover in a cooler climate from malaria which he had contracted in the tropics.
Jack was killed Sept. 23, 1943 in a plane crash at Pratt, Kansas. Rod Dyerly was in a 7th grade English class, located on the third floor in Liberty Junior High in Pratt that day. Sixty years later, in 2003, Rod Dyerly wrote the following, “Suddenly there was a deafening roar, causing the windows to rattle and the whole room to vibrate. It reminded me of a freight train rumbling through. Because it happened so fast and everyone was so startled, there was a moment of silence before anyone said anything.”
Today we know that Jack Shriver was the pilot and that he had thought for some time that the B-29 was not safe. We know that he desperately fought to keep the B-29 flying until it reached the southwest edge of Pratt. The students in Liberty Jr. High wouldn’t know until much later that he had saved them from probable death or serious injury.
It was the opinion of other pilots that Lieut. Shriver had exercised unusual flying skill in being able to keep the heavy bomber flying with one engine as long as he did. The plane was flying too low for the three men on board to use parachutes but by expert piloting, they saved the town of Pratt and saved many lives.
In 2003 Dyerly came to Greensburg to make sure that others knew the story. Jack’s widow Holly also came to help tell the story of Jack and what he did on that day in September 1943. Their son, Jack Jr. was born after his father’s death.
It would be great if every student at GCHS could know about the Shriver brothers and what they did for all of us.