The absorbing story told by the current movie hit, "Saving Private Ryan," is of the search for a soldier who is the last survivor of four brothers who went to World War II so that he, too, will not be killed. It is a powerful film of unrelenting combat reality whose premise, based upon a real incident, is by no means far-fetched.

For, you see, Fulton County has its own proud examples of families who sent that many, or even more, sons to help defeat the evilest yet of our nation's enemies, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Among the approximately 1,400 county men who served in that war were five Daultons, five Smileys and four Balls. Norval and Louis Ball gave their lives, each in South Pacific air war action. Surprisingly, every one of the Daultons and Smileys returned home unharmed. Meet, and remember, them now.

The five Daultons of Rochester were known as "Lucy's boys," for their mother raised them after father Charlie left for parts unknown. All now are deceased. When war came all the Daultons went into the Navy except the eldest, Joe. He was in the Army and stationed a year in Greenland as part of the force that kept that Western Hemisphere base from the Nazis. There he sustained the family's only wartime injury, a fractured knee in a baseball game. Joe lived in South Bend after the war and died in 1981, outliving wife Thelma. His brothers spent their lives in Rochester.

Ben Daulton's Navy service was as a gunner aboard a transport Liberty ship, primarily in the Atlantic. Later on a voyage to Hawaii, his ship turned back to San Francisco when struck by a cargo-wrecking storm. Ben died in 1990, first wife Edna preceding him. Second wife Noelle is in Florida.

Dale Daulton was better known as "Dirty," a nickname that originated from a character in a popular comic strip of the day, "Dirty Dalton and Texas Slim." Dale's friend Ed Campbell was so persistent in using it that it stuck for a lifetime. "Dirty" was, like brother Ben, a gunner on a Liberty ship, one that supplied ammunition to Seventh Fleet warships in the South Pacific. He served beyond war's end on an extended cruise home. "Dirty" died in 1989; his wife Mable still resides here.

There also were the twins, Wayne Daulton and Glen (Sheeny) Daulton. Wayne served 32 months, 20 as a storekeeper on a destroyer that escorted convoys in the Pacific. He won Asiatic and Philippine Liberation ribbons with bronze stars. Wayne died in 1995; wife Jean remains in Rochester.

Glen, or "Sheeny," served more than five years and briefly considered the Navy for a career. He was a bo'sun's mate aboard troop transport ships in the South Pacific, was stationed awhile in China and also won Asiatic and Philippine Liberation ribbons. His nickname originated during his childhood when he and his twin refused to dance for a local merchant unless they were paid in nickels. Glen died in 1980; wife Betty still lives in the family home.

Besides the five sons, the Daulton family also included two daughters, Goldie Swain and Velma Vigus, both now deceased.

Like the Daultons, the Smiley boys all were involved in Rochester community activities. The Smileys were John, Dean and Don (also twins), Dale and Ray. Three still are alive: John, Dean and Dale. The family also included an older brother Robert and a sister Ruth. Their father was Earl Smiley; their mother Ingrid died in 1940.

John Smiley, the only officer among these 14, was a first lieutenant in

the Air Corps. He flew 46 missions as a B-25 pilot during 13 months in the China-Burma-India theater, winning a Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. His plane never took a single bullet hole despite many low-level missions in which half of the planes were lost. He and his wife Gladys live in Sebring, Florida, and frequently visit Rochester.

The twins, Dean Smiley and Don Smiley, were members of the RHS basketball team that went to the Final Four of the 1937 state tourney. When war came, Dean chose the Army, Don the Navy.

Dean was a truck driver with the 151st Infantry in Hawaii, New Guinea and the Philippines and won the Combat Infantryman's Badge. He served 56 months from 1941 and lives today in Terre Haute with wife Esther.

Don swam ashore unharmed near Casablanca when his troopship was sunk during the North African invasion of 1942. He then became a signalman aboard LSTs delivering troops to beach assaults during South Pacific campaigns. Don died in 1977. His wife Wilma recently moved from Rochester to Dallas, Texas, to live with a daughter.

Dale Smiley, a classmate of mine at RHS, became a sergeant in the Army Air Corps intelligence unit. He was posted in England a year before D-Day and went ashore in France six days after the invasion. There his 9th Air Corps was in support of Gen. George Patton's Third Army and he spent six months in occupied Germany. Dale resides today in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, with wife Jean.

The family's youngest, Ray Smiley, needed his father's approval in order to join his brothers in service because he was only 17 years old. Earl signed the papers and Ray became a gunner's mate with a Navy crew protecting Merchant Marine vessels transporting supplies, once aboard a Norwegian freighter where only his crew spoke English. He died Feb. 16, 1998; wife Barbara survives here.

The sixth Smiley son, Robert, lived in California and spent the war working in defense shipyards there. He died in 1971. Sister Ruth now is Mrs. Mike Tullis of Wabash. The Smileys' half-sister is Mrs. Larry (Terry) Howdeshell of Rochester, whose mother was Earl's second wife, Estelle Koffard.

Reatha Ball was the widow of Norval G. Ball. She also might have sent five sons to the war except that Barton, the eldest, developed a lung ailment while working at the Kingsbury munitions plant near LaPorte and failed his enlistment physical exam.

The two who never returned were Norval J. (Killer) Ball and Louis Darrell Ball. Both were tail gunners on B-24 bombers lost in New Guinea action of the Pacific. Norval won three successive bantamweight titles in the Chicago Golden Gloves boxing tournaments and got his nickname for his aggressive ring style. He was declared missing in action over Guadalcanal on Jan. 6, 1943.

Hoping to avenge his brother's death, Louis enlisted in the Air Corps soon afterward and like Norval was made a B-24 tail gunner. Louis and three fellow crewmen bailed out of their disabled plane Oct. 18, 1943, over the New Guinea jungle. They wandered for 11 days until reaching a native village and rescue. Reassigned to another B-24, Louis's luck ended on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1944, when his bomber took a direct hit from a Japanese Zero fighter and exploded with all hands lost.

The youngest brother, Hovey James Ball, was an Air Corps sergeant, a gunner and radio technician who flew 23 Southern European bombing missions, winning the Air Medal. He died in 1966. The fifth son, Robert Lee Ball, who died in 1997, was an Army draftee who was discharged for physical disability after brief service.

The Ball family moved from Rochester to Akron in 1941 and included a sister, Willodean, known as "Bill" Ball, now deceased. Reatha Ball was the first county mother to lose a son in the war and the only one to lose two. When the second was killed she asked the War Department to release her other sons. The request was refused.

Barton Ball, also a local boxer in his young days, now is 84 and resides in Largo, Florida. He will move to Rochester in the fall to be near his son, also named Barton, who teaches science at Rochester Middle School. His daughter, Barbara (Clifford) Fergeson, lives in Plymouth.

Altogether, 396,000 Hoosiers fought in that greatest of the World Wars, 10,000 of whom died. These 14 Fulton County sons, brothers and friends stand tall in deed and memory for every one of them.

Published Aug. 25, 1998