About 200 metres east of the main Ipswich Cemetery is a small open area named Manson Park. A simple white monument is in the centre and a plaque was placed there in 1971 by Major J. Watson of the United States Air Force "to honour the American Servicemen who paid the supreme sacrifice during World War II".
The monument was once the base of a flag pole which flew the American flag in the United States Armed Forces (USAF) Military Cemetery. During World War II, many American servicemen died or were killed in action in Australia or the surrounding area. It was not possible to return their bodies to America for burial so a war cemetery was set up in Ipswich.Accounts written about Manson Park say that thefinal number of burials was 1260 and that the area was a field of small white crosses. Most burials were documented but some were unknown and there were three burials for members of the Javenese Dutch Army.
At the end of the war, more bodies were transferred to Ipswich from Townsville and New Guinea. The final number of entries in the Burial Register for the USAF Cemetery was 1402.
In November 1947, the United States ship 'Goucher Victory' arrived in Australia to return the dead to their native country. To Exhume (PDF, 8 kb) the bodies, 190 Australian civilians, said to have been mainly cane cutters, were employed. A four-metre high fence of canvas was erected around the cemetery to screen it from view and the workers were instructed to observe strict decorum. The grim task was completed by December 20 and two days later, a ceremony was held in Brisbane City Hall to honour the American dead.
Captain J.B. Harris, the American officer in charge of the War Graves Unit, later wrote to the Ipswich Cemetery Trust, thanking it for 'accomplishing a resting place for our beloved deceased prior to their repatriation to their homeland and final resting place'.
A newspaper article dated 14 June 1971 revealed that 'Over two dozen trees and shrubs were planted in the programme and it is envisaged that seats, playground equipment and a fountain will later be included. The Park at the present has no name'.
Today's name, Manson Park, pays tribute to the work of a local resident Mrs Rose Manson who cared for the graves during the war and wrote to the families in America.
Dear Mrs Wheeler
I thought you would like to know, that some one as far away Australia is caring for your 'Loved' one's grave. Our garden overlooks the little Cemetary, and in appreciation for all your Boys have done for us - the token of flowers - is the least I can give to express my own personal gratitude. If you would care to write and ask anything - please do so. I would count it a privelege to be of service to you. Our best wishes.
Very sincerely yours
Rose Manson Mrs
Many of our readers have no doubt read Associated Press articles or other writeups covering interviews with Mrs. Rose Manson of Ipswich, Queensland, Australia, who is touring the United States to visit the homes of over 1,500 American soldiers, who are or were buried in a cemetery near her home. Mrs. Manson tells us how she began her work of caring for these graves on a small scale and how, as the work grew in magnitude her strength to carry on grew accordingly.
Mrs. Manson visited last week at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Wheeler, whose son Robert was laid to rest in this cemetery until the remains were returned to his home here a few weeks ago. Mrs. Wheeler was one of over 1,500 mothers whom Mrs. Manson had corresponded with and as Mrs. Wheeler told us, had given her the detailed information about the funeral service, the cemetery, etc. that she never would have known otherwise.
Mrs Manson has been in the United States over eight months, visiting 2 to 3 days at each home with some exceptions. She left yesterday for western Montana, and will go from there to the west coast, where several homes in Washingtonand Oregon will complete her itinerary.
She had nothing but the best to say of the hospitality of the American home and said she hoped her experiences here would be the inspiration for a book upon her return to Australia.
Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler were among those who contributed to the expenses of Mrs. Manson's trip but she tells us that those who were not called on before her arrival in this country have assisted her since and many who made contributions have done more after meeting her here.
Following is a brief sketch of Mrs. Manson's experiences in her own words:
"I have 8 children, the youngest are 5 and 8. Three girls and one boy were in service. My husband is a disabled veteran. I came to Australia on a troop ship in 1919 as an English bride and one of my daughters married an American and is now living in Honolulu. I have one American grandchild, a boy. I am going to see them in May, before I return to Australia.
"Near my home in 1942 the Americans started a military cemetery. I had previously been caring for 98 Australian soldiers' graves, so it seemed quite natural that I do the same for the Americans. I used to do 50 to 60 graves every Sunday, until the number grew to over 1,400, so I decided to place one bowl of flowers every night on the base of the flag pole as a memory to every mother's son. I wrote to the next of kin describing the cemetery and the burial, for I had seen from my home, every boy and girl laid to rest in that little valley. It was such a peaceful spot and as I looked over the valley at the blue hills beyond, it reminded me of God's healing acts. "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help."
"Every one of the 1,400 next of kin have received a photo of the cemetery and on Memorial Day of 1946 I sent 1,800 newspapers with various accounts of the service and the Legion poppies from the grave. All the flowers I grew from American seed, sent from different stated in the U.S. by the mothers.
"When Mother's Day came, I mailed 800 cards and on Christmas 1,000 letters. My incoming mail was equally as heavy. On Memorial Day I sent invitations to all parts of Australia and over 3,000 people came to that service. The hymns sung were chosen by the mothers of boys of every nationality resident there. Indians, and negroes, too.
"A mother in Wichita, Kansas, thought she would like to invite me to the United States so she wrote and asked me for 200 addresses. At the time I did not know why she had made the request. So I sent them to her. Mrs. Movetz then wrote to other mothers telling them that if each would be willing to contribute a little, they could by this means pay my return fare. So I came to America in August 1947.
"I have been through 45 states, traveling by truck, train, bus, mule, jeep and even hitch hiked. My only credentials are a reference from the mayor of my home town and the Salvation Army. I have had to find my own way from state to state, relying on each mother to feed, shelter and even clothe me, then see me on my way to the next place. I have lived in homes of poverty and wealth, but everywhere I have been treated with the same loving courtesy and kindness.
"In order to purchase stamps I cleaned my local post office every morning, while the little ones were still in bed. I may not be rich in earthly store, but I am rich in wonderful friendships that will live into eternity. I as an Australian have every reason to say, 'God Bless America.'"