How many World War II vets are still living? -- N.H., of O'Fallon
Even as we honor all veterans Sunday, the National World War II Museum reminds us that we are losing a living memory of "the Greatest Generation" every 100 seconds -- along with the sights, sounds, terrors and triumphs they all experienced.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, exactly 16,112,566 Americans served in World War II, of whom 405,399 died in service and 670,847 were wounded. As of November 2011 -- the latest figures available -- an estimated 1,711,000 were still living.
But that number is far less now. Some 270,000 veterans died in 2011, so, with more than 800 passing away every day, that number may drop to just over 1.4 million by the end of the year.
If it's any consolation, we'll likely still be honoring living World War II vets for at least two more decades. Basing their estimates on both history and longer life expectancies, the government projects that 855,000 still will be alive on Sept. 30, 2015, 57,000 on Sept. 30, 2025 -- and 370 on Sept. 30, 2036.
It may surprise you, but the last veteran of every war the United States has fought (except the Mexican) lived past 100. These included the Revolutionary War's Daniel Bakeman, who died at 109 on April 5, 1869; the War of 1812's Hiram Cronk, who died at 105 on May 13, 1905; the Civil War's Albert Woolson, who died at 109 on Aug. 2, 1956; and, most recently, World War I's Frank Buckles, who died at 110 on Feb. 27, 2011.
If you're wondering about other wars, there are still an estimated 2,275,000 surviving veterans from the Korean War, 7,391,000 from Vietnam; and 2,245,000 from Desert Shield/Desert Storm. By the way, as of September 2011, there were still two children of Civil War veterans still on the government's veterans benefits rolls.
Some final numbers to reflect on today: In all wars involving the United States from 1775-1991, nearly 42 million served, more than 1,190,000 died and another 1.4 million were wounded. Counting both times of war and peace, there were an estimated 22,234,000 veterans living as of last November.
Your recent reference to Red Skelton's skits about the sea gulls Gertrude and Heathcliff reminded me of another question I've always wondered about for a long time: Why did the cartoon lion Snagglepuss say, "Heavens to Murgatroyd?" Who or what is a Murgatroyd? -- Ronald Lay, of Freeburg
I have to feel sorry for people whose names turn into a punch line. I've certainly suffered through my share of being called Roger Dodger and Roger Ramjet. And, I'm sure my boss winces inwardly every time someone says, "Ooh, that's a Kuhl name."
So, imagine what it must be like for a family that can trace its proud ancestry back the better part of a millennium. That's right -- in 1371, a constable was appointed for the district of Warley in Yorkshire, England. He adapted the name Johanus de Morgateroyd -- meaning John of Moor-Gate-Royd, or, literally, the clearing by the way to the moor. It describes where his clan lived, according to Bill Murgatroyd's family genealogy, "The Murgatroyds of Murgatroyd."
Five centuries later, the name began working its way into modern culture. In 1887, Gilbert and Sullivan wrote their comic opera "Ruddigore," in which no fewer than 10 of the major players have a surname of Murgatroyd.
That was just the start. In 1944, Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy, who likely were well acquainted with the G&S opera, used the name in their film "Meet the People." It was voiced by Bert Lahr, whom you might remember better as the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz."
Well, when they gave Snagglepuss a bit of Lahr's vocal affectation, Murgatroyd came along with it (along with "Exit, stage left"), probably because it's such a funny-sounding phrase. By the way, Snagglepuss, voiced by the great Daws Butler, apparently debuted on the March 21, 1960, episode of "Quick Draw McGraw."
Where would a couple of fishing enthusiasts go to have their wedding performed in a muskie?
Answer to Saturday's trivia: It's kind of funny to think about now: Domino's Pizza can trace its history to 1960, the year that brothers Tom and James Monaghan bought DomiNick's, a small pizza parlor in Ypsilanti, Mich. When Tom later took over James' half of the business, he renamed it Domino's and began to expand. It was Tom's idea to add a dot to his company's familiar logo every time a new store opened, but the chain began to grow so fast, he stopped after three -- the number of stores open in 1969. Today, the Domino logo sports the 2-1 configuration of "pips" because it would be a little hard to cram 10,000 dots on it -- the number of Domino's restaurants now open in 70 countries.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org