KENDALLVILLE — A Cromwell native’s diary about living aboard a World War I battleship is included among the wartime stories in “Fighting Hoosiers: Indiana in Two World Wars,” a new book published by Indiana University Press.

Guy Burrell Connor grew up near Cromwell in Sparta Township before being drafted into the U.S. Navy. He kept a diary during his service, serving as a radio man aboard two battleships, the USS Pennsylvania and the USS New Hampshire.

The USS New Hampshire was a BB-25 battleship that entered World War I in April 1917 as primarily a training vessel for gunners and engine room personnel. She escorted convoys in late 1918, when Connor was aboard, and brought soldiers back to America from France after the war. The ship was sold for scrap in November 1923 after the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty reduced the size of the signers’ navies.

Author Dawn Bakken, associate editor at the 117-year-old “Indiana Magazine of History,” included excerpts from Connor’s diary along with the first-person accounts of six other Hoosiers who served in World War I and II.

Bakken said Connor’s diary from the last half of 1918 was first published in the history magazine in 1990 by editor Jeffrey Patrick. She did not know how Patrick obtained the diary, but said many families submitted diaries to the magazine over time.

Bakken found Connor’s words compelling.

“It’s such an interesting piece. People like first-person accounts,” Bakken said in a phone interview. “Diaries in wartime were fairly common, but forbidden, but soldiers kept them anyway.”

Connor’s diary takes up 21 pages in the 200-page book. Bakken said Connor’s tone in the diary downplays the danger he was in. Connor notes that his ship encountered torpedoes, hurricanes and stealthy, battleship-hunting submarines, but he doesn’t say much about the fear he felt as he watched the ship’s crew succumb to the influenza epidemic of 1918.

“The diaries and memoirs have a matter-of-fact tone, but the experiences are terrifying,” Bakken said.

Connor’s diary is also remarkable for the glimpses into what technology was like in World War I. As a radio man, Connor describes the equipment and events on some of his watches aboard ship, but pages are missing that might reveal sensitive information such as the ship’s coordinates. He also describes the time-consuming process of “taking on coal.”

“Connor mentions the cleaning of the ship,” Bakken said. “And soot is everywhere.”

When Guy Connor lived in Cromwell, it was the smallest incorporated town in Noble County and remains so today. The town was laid out in 1853 by Harrison Wood, who named the town for Englishman Oliver Cromwell. The town still had a dirt Main Street in 1911 and didn’t get a paved street until 1925, well after Connor lived there and after his World War I service.

Ligonier historian Earle Franklin said Guy Burrell Connor was born July 19, 1894, to Mary Florence “Mollie” Connor. His mother later married William H. Longenecker.

Guy Connor apparently didn’t live with his mother and stepfather, as the 1900 census shows the 6-year-old living with his grandparents in Sparta Township. He received an eighth-grade education.

By the 1910 census, Connor was a 16-year-old roomer in Albion and working as a telegrapher for the railroad. Franklin said Connor was drafted on June 5, 1917, and his World War I draft registration listed his job as a telegrapher, but not employed.

By the 1920 census, Connor had returned from the war and was working as a core maker at a foundry. He had married Alice Luina Scott on July 5, 1919 — the Alice mentioned in the diary — and the couple moved to Auburn. Alice was born on Sept 26, 1995, and she died Oct. 16, 1981.

Connor’s World War II draft registration listed the Auburn Foundry as his employment, Franklin said.

Connor remained a resident of Auburn, according to the 1930 census and 1940 census, Franklin said, and died Dec. 9, 1968, in Auburn.

Bakken’s book also tells the first-person stories of six other “fighting Hoosiers” from their letters, diaries and memoirs as well as additional historical research. The other subjects are Alex Arch of South Bend, a Hungarian-born immigrant who fired the first shot of World War I; Maude Essig of Elkhart, an American Red Cross nurse serving in wartime France; Kenneth Baker of the Army Signal Corps, who crawled over dead bodies in the fields of France to lay phone lines for the military in World War II; Bernard Rice, a combat medic who witnessed the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp; Mamie Johnson, who fought for racial equality at her job at Kingsbury Ordnance Plant in LaPorte; and Lawrence McFaddin’s service experience in the British Isles.

Readers should come away from the book with a sense of how these service men and women rose to the challenges of wartime.

“Readers should understand how extraordinary these ordinary people were,” said Bakken. “They overcame so many obstacles — crawling across dead men in the field — and they lived it. Their incredible bravery and the things they were willing to do are amazing.

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