James A. Sparrow Who is Latham?
Latham Park has gotten a lot of ink this past summer because of various sculptures, events and, of course, “Marilyn Monroe.” It is a beautiful inner city park and I am very happy it is being used. I go by it every day and people are always there and seem to be enjoying themselves.
And now, here comes the “but.”
Several times I have walked around the park asking different people what or who the park is named after. What or who is Latham? “It might be the name of this section of town” or “It might be the name of a former mayor” are common guesses.
Most of what I got was simply “I have no idea.” At the southern point of the park is a stone about a foot and a half high and about 3 feet wide with a bronze plaque that reads John Latham Park, CMH, (which stands for Congressional Medal of Honor, however the right term is just Medal of Honor) along with the date Sept. 29, 1918, which is the date of the action for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. That was 100 years ago this week. Thanks to our parks department, the park is well-groomed. However. the beautiful flowers in front of the stone and plaque have now covered up the information.
Latham is John Cridland Latham. He ran the Latham Florist Shop on Bedford Street for 30 years after World War I. He was born on March 3, 1888 In Windermere England. He immigrated to the United States and joined the U.S. Army to serve in World War I.
On Sept. 29, 1918, he was serving as a sergeant in the machine gun company of the 107th Infantry Regiment of the 27th Infantry Division. His Medal of Honor citation for that day reads: “Becoming separated from their platoon by a smoke barrage, Sergeant Latham, Sergeant Alan L. Eggers and Corporal Thomas E. O’Shea took cover in a shell hole well within the enemy’s lines. Upon hearing a call for help from an American tank which had become disabled 30 yards from the, the three soldiers left their shelter and started toward the tank under heavy fire from German machine guns and trench mortars. In crossing the fire-swept area, Corporal O’Shea was mortally wounded, but his companions, undeterred, proceeded to the tank, rescued a wounded officer, and assisted two wounded soldiers to cover in the sap of a nearby trench. Sergeants Latham and Eggers then returned to the tank in the face of the violent fire, dismounted a Hotchkiss gun, and took it back to where the wounded men were keeping off the enemy all day by effective use of the gun and later bringing it with the wounded men back to our lines under cover of darkness.”
His awards are the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart and the World War I Victory Medal with three Bronze Service stars to denote credit for the Somme Offensive, Ypres-Lys and Defensive Sector battle clasps.
And that’s just what he received from the United States.
He also was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal from Great Britain, The Medaille Millitaire and Croix de guerre with bronze palm from the French Republic, the Croce al Merito di Guerra from Italy, the Medal for Military Bravery from the Kingdom of Montenegro and the Medalha da Cruz de Guerra from the Portuguese Republic.
What a man! A true combat hero who went on to operate a florist shop in Stamford. I think there is a big message in that. So the next time you are on Bedford Street maybe going to the Avon Theatre or window shopping, just check out that little corner of Latham Park and give a nod.
James A. Sparrow of Stamford served as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam and later helped guide a grassroots effort to sue chemical companies that produced Agent Orange.