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More Bedford Country baseball history

Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at 4:21 PM

A man born in Shelbyville in 1902 was instrumental in getting baseball recognized as an Olympc game for a period of time.

Charles "Chick" Parsons, who lived the majority of his life in the Philippine Islands and was a highly successful businessman, served as president of the Baseball Federation of Asia.

Parsons was also a true hero of World War II and after that conflict was recognized by three governemts plus Pope Pius XII.

Gen. Douglas MacArhur once referred to Parsons as the bravest man he ever knew.

This item appeared in my blog in November 2007:

With World War II raging all over the world and the outcome still in doubt, it was on Nov. 15, 1943, the submarine USS Narwhal, with Cmdr Frank Latta skipper, was running submerged in an attempt to evade Japanese aircraft, warships and submarines and slip right under the noses of enemy garrisons located close by at Nasipit on the island of Mindanao in the Philippine islands.

The mission was to unload tons of supplies to guerrilla fighters at Nasipit harbor, take aboard some American and Filipino personnel for evacuation to Australia and slip back out to sea without being detected.

Aboard the Narwhal that day to oversee that phase of the mission was Lt. Cmdr. Charles (Chick) Parsons, U.S, Naval Reserve, working directly under Gen, Douglas MacArthur in the supplying of guerrilla forces, placing coastwatchers at specific locations and sometimes slipping shore for spying activities.

Maj. Austin Shofner, U.S. Marine Corps, was one of those to be evacuated to Australia and the morning of Nov. 15 found him frantically making his way to Nasipit, sometimes walking, briefly hitching a ride on an a truck powered by an alcohol-burning engine. He finally found an old bicycle and rode it into Nasipit harbor during the afternoon.

It had been a difficult route during the early part of World War II for Shofner, who retired from the Marine Corps as a brigadier general and returned to his hometown of Shelbyville in 1959.

He became a prisoner of the Japanese when Corregidor fell in May, 1942. Shofner was held as a POW at Old Bilibid Prison in Manila for a brief time, was moved to the infamous POW camp at Cabanatuan and then to Davao Penal Colony on Mindanao on Nov. 8, 1942.

He and nine other prisoners escaped from there on April 4, 1943. They fled into a swamp jungle, worked their way through wild native tribesmen and made contact with a local guerrilla group and 35 days later made contact with a more organized and active guerrilla group. He fought the Japanese with that group, serving as deputy chief of staff and operations officer, before being notified to meet the Narwhal at Nasipit harbor on Nov. 15.

The Narwhal surfaced late that afternoon and after becoming stuck in the mud in a shallow part of the harbor Cmdr. Latta maneuvered the submarine to a small dock. With a Japanese garrison nearby and planes or warships liable to pass the area at any moment, the submariners were surprised to be greeted by a Filipino band playing "Anchors Aweigh."

The sailors unloaded tons of supplies for the guerrillas, received some native fruits in return, took those they were evacuating aboard and headed out to sea bound for Australia as the band played "God Bless America."

Shofner made a notation later that day in the diary he kept, even while in prison, that he met Lt. Cmdr, Chick Parsons and that Parsons had told him he was born in Shelbyville. As they talked they realized they were actually kin.

Parsons was a successful businessman based in Manila when the war started. He was owner of Luzon Stevedoring Co., a firm involved in transporting sugar and other commodities to the various islands of the Philippines and also to Japan and China...and also in the U.S, Navy Reserve. His knowledge of the islands and the people made him a natural for the role assigned to him by MacArthur.

This was a brief interlude in the roles the two men were destined to play in the bloody days of World War II in the South Pacific.

Shofner returned to the United States, arriving home in Shelbyville on Christmas Eve, 1943. Five months later he returned to the Pacific. He was commander of an assault battalion on the invasion of Peleliu and was wounded in action on the first day of the bloody battle. Shofner was assigned to the Army as Marine Corps liaison officer and advisor on guerrilla affairs for the invasion of Luzon as MacArthur returned to the Philippines, in fact landing shortly before MacArthur came ashore.

On April 1, 1945, his battalion was one of the assault units landing on Okinawa, remained in the front lines for most of the operation and made a breakthrough on one of the final strongholds of Japanese forces.

Parsons continued his secret work throughout the Philippines, often going ashore right among the enemy forces and even ventured into Manila, dressed as a priest, while gathering information on Japanese troop placements before American forces returned.

There are many stories within the things mentioned here involving Shofner and Parsons.

This was only a brief interlude during the bloody fighting of World War II in the Pacific when two of our most decorated heroes of that war crossed paths far from Shelbyville.

Note -- Much information can be found on the internet about these two men. The local library has the DVD "Secret War in the Pacific," about Parsons. One good website telling much about Parsons is that of RFM. You must scroll all the way to the bottom to find Parsons. www.rfm.com.ph/founders.htm

Showing most recent comments first
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Donald, I certainly do remember you as a great athlete. I still find it hard to believe I actually received a check for watching you and others grow up and play sports. The pleasure was all mine.

-- Posted by bomelson on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 2:28 PM

Hello Bo(Mr Melson) dont know if you remember me but I went to Central late 70's graduated in 80, I remember you at all my sporting events and it excited me to see you again. Just wanted to let you know what you ment to all of us back then. Hope life finds you well. Donald

-- Posted by duck_davis on Mon, Apr 18, 2011, at 3:05 AM

Hi, Bo, this is Peter Parsons checking in. Nice article you wrote about these two great men. When I interviewed Gen Shofner he related to me that he said to my dad when they met in Mindanao--"We're kin." And my dad replied, "I know." Men of few words, I guess. Would sure like to get to Shelbyville someday soon. I think you now have my email. Please give it to anyone who would like to contact me.

-- Posted by petercparsons on Tue, Mar 15, 2011, at 10:30 PM

KCPHolmes you can reach me through e-mail. melsons@cafes. net and I have also been trying to contact Peter Parsons.

-- Posted by bomelson on Mon, Mar 14, 2011, at 8:09 AM

Bo, I actually emailed this article to Peter, son of Chick Parsons. Peter is also a cousin of mine that I recently came to know through email. I think you guys worked together on getting some information together while he was in town. He was thrilled to read the article and has been asking about you. I have tried several times to contact you through the Times Gazzette.. If you get this before I am able to get in touch with you, can you send me a number or email address to give him. Thank you so much...

By the way, great job you did writing this!

-- Posted by KCPHolmes on Sun, Mar 13, 2011, at 11:58 PM

I've just added more about Chick Parsons and his local connection to the very end of my original blog. Hope some of you find it interesting.

-- Posted by bomelson on Sun, Mar 6, 2011, at 4:24 PM

WoW! That is very interesting!

-- Posted by espoontoon on Sat, Mar 5, 2011, at 8:08 AM

If you Google his name there is quite a story on what he did and how he managed to go undetected.

U.S. Distinguished Service Cross

U.S. 2 Navy Crosses

U.S. 1 Bronze Star

Vatican Order OF Saint Sylvester

Panama Order of Vasco Nunez Balboa

Phillipines Legion of Honor

Phillipines Medal of Valor

1st President of Baseball Federation of Asia in 1954.

His son sells D.V.D.'S of his Dad's life in Riverside Ca.

-- Posted by Cal t on Fri, Mar 4, 2011, at 3:45 PM

Go to www.us-japandialogueonpows.org/Parsons.h... for more information on "Chick" Parsons from his son.

-- Posted by David Melson on Fri, Mar 4, 2011, at 3:34 PM

If you Google his name there is quite a story on what he did and how he managed to go undetected.

U.S. Distinguished Service Cross

U.S. 2 Navy Crosses

U.S. 1 Bronze Star

Vatican Order OF Saint Sylvester

Panama Order of Vasco Nunez Balboa

Phillipines Legion of Honor

Phillipines Medal of Valor

-- Posted by Cal t on Fri, Mar 4, 2011, at 3:02 PM

A man I talked with this morning asked me to list specifically how Parsons was recognized.

From the United States he received the Navy Cross on two seperate occasions and the Purple Heart. Parsons was awarded the Philippine Medal of Valor. He was decorated by Pope Pius with the Order of St. Sylvester medal.

The Republic of Panama was presented him with a medal. I'll have to look that one up for the specific name.

-- Posted by bomelson on Fri, Mar 4, 2011, at 1:55 PM

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Bo Melson is a retired sports and police beat editor of the Times-Gazette. He passed away November 15, 2014, at age 81.
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