A historic landmark of Pettis County was vandalized over the weekend. The “Spirit of American Doughboy Statue located on the west grounds of the Pettis County Courthouse suffered significant damage as both the arm and the rifle were bent in what appears to have been an attempt to topple the statue from its granite base.
“I believe this was an attempt to topple not only the statue but the entire monument,” Pettis County Presiding Commissioner David Dick said “I do not understand why anyone would seek to destroy or damage a monument to men who gave their lives so we could enjoy all of the freedoms we enjoy today. We will seek out the individual or individuals who did the damage and punish them to the full extent of the law. This is an affront to the community.
A passerby noticed the damage to the statue and reported it to the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office.
Monday morning Capt. Tolbert Rowe, members of the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office and members from the Pettis County Maintenance staff were working to get fingerprints and DNA samples from the statue and base according to Dick. Both the Courthouse and neighboring businesses have security footage which will be used as part of the investigation.
According to Dick the statue will have to be removed for repairs to both the figure, fence and base.
Made of pressed copper and sitting on a granite base the statue depicts a uniformed World War I soldier standing “with his proper right foot back as though stepping forward with his proper left foot. His proper right arm is lifted to throw a grenade. In his proper left hand he holds a rifle at his side at arm's length. He is wearing knee-high boots, a jacket with ammunition belt, and a wide-brimmed hat that is slightly askew. There is a stump behind him, at his proper left side, and at his proper right is a knee-high post with barbed wire.
“The sculpture is mounted upon a stepped, granite base with polished rose marble over the upper section, inscribed on all sides with the names of the war dead from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The lower section of the base is rough-hewn. The sculpture is surrounded by a short fence." According to a description from the E.M. Viquesnay Doughboy Database.
Attributed to Walter Rylander, one time business partner to Viquensey, the seven foot tall statue was forged in 1920. Together with its base the monument weighs more than 450 pounds according to a report published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Democrat. The statue was provided by the American Legion of Pettis County and was dedicated on Nov. 12, 1926. The statue lists the names of 50 World War I dead on the front, and names of about 360 World War II, Korea and Vietnam dead are engraved on the other three sides.
Past Chief de Gare of the 40 & 8 veteran’s organization of Pettis County Don Barbour said he was saddened to learn of the statue being damaged.
“I really can not understand what is going on with our country,” Barbour said. This statue was and is to honor all who fought and died for us so we can act as we do today.”
According to the Pettis County President of Crimestoppers Glen Glidewell the organization is offering a $2,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the damage to the statue and monument.
Anyone with information regarding the damage to the stature is asked to contact the pettis County Sheriff’s office at 660-827-0052.