Sheldon was the first of six children (four boys and two girls) born to John Charles Delong and Mabel Esther McHarg. Sheldon was born 7th of March 1912. His father was a farmer in Fairfield County, Ohio and later in Perry County, Ohio.
Other than being a farm boy in Ohio, I know very little of Sheldon’s life; however, I think it is noteworthy to tell the story about how Sheldon died.
I have mentioned in other writings the importance of newspapers. In a small article in the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette newspaper, there was a column titled “twenty Years Ago”. I read the following:
“Sheldon S. Delong, 30, former Fairfield resident and son of Mr. and Mrs. John Delong, Glenford, was among the missing as employees in the explosion which sheltered a shell loading building at the Elwood Ordnance plant near Joliet, Illinois. Officials at the plant, gave the parents no hope of their son’s body being recovered.”
After seeing this column, I had to know what happened. I knew from the date it was WWII period. I had lots of thoughts going around in my head and I had to investigate this event.
Though both plants were designed with safety as a primary concern, at 2:45 a.m. on June 5, 1942, a large explosion on the assembly line at the Elwood facility resulted in 48 dead or missing and was felt as far as Waukegan, Illinois, over 60 miles (97 km) north. Assembly Lines were located in separate buildings which were separated by substantial distances limiting major damage to the facility as a whole.
From a United Press newspaper article written at the time, “Explosion shattered buildings of one of the units of the $30,000,000 Elwood Ordnance plant gave up the bodies of 21 workers Friday. Army officials said 36 more were missing from the blast that could be felt for a radius of 100 miles. Another 41 were injured, five of them critically, from the explosion that leveled a building…. Not one of the 68 men inside the shipping unit when the blast occurred escaped death or injury.”
After many years (2002) there is now a memorial to honor these men. The monument can be found at the Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois.
Our heros are not always found on the battlefields!