William Bloys Post 2, The American Legion located in Tempe Arizona owns a bell. The bell is made of solid brass and is about 12″ in diameter. Because of its unique and unusual history, it could well qualify as “Tempe’s” Freedom Bell.
Once the “Bell” was the sole communicator between the “Masters” and the “Slaves”. The Nazis and the prisoners, which were comprised of mostly Jewish and Hungarian professional men, and Poles, during World War II. The concentration camp, Mathousen, was located 11 miles downstream of the Danube river, near Linz, Australia’s third largest city. The “Bell” told the prisoners, who were never allowed to speak, when to arise, work eat, exercise, and retire.
In June, 1945, Tempean, the late Max Connolly, then a First Sgt., was stationed at Horshing Air Base. He was placed on detached service and his duties were to return POW’s and “displaced persons” to their homes. At this time Max decided to liberate the “Bell” also. With the help of some of the persons who had lived with the “Bell” and hated its sound day after day and year after year, Max told us the following story.
“Ond day we drove over to the camp and during the afternoon light we fooled the guards, while one former inmate scaled the building, high on the side of the quarry. He hacked down the 4×4 support pole, then lowered by rope, the unit composed of pole, bell, and tin hood. After many lengthy attempts to ship the “Bell” to my brother, Frank of Tempe Daily News, it was barely too wide and barely too heavy to put in a mailbag. After much conniving, a cooperative officer put the “Bell” in a bag for me with the words, ‘It looks about right to me’.”
Upon returning to the “States” and to Tempe, Max donated the “Bell” to William Bloys American Legion Post No. 2, stipulating that it only be rung in the name of freedom.
Shortly after, Post 2 members constructed a special belfry on top of the Post Home, located at 15 East 5th Street in Tempe, where it hung until just recently, and where it is rung on July 4th each year as a symbol of LIBERTY AND FREEDOM FOR ALL.
When Post 2 sold their building on East 5th Street and built a new building at 2125 South Industrial Park Avenue, it was decided that an appropriate structure should be built to hold “Max’s Freedom Bell”. Today you can drive by the “new” Legion building and view the beautiful “Bell Tower” atop of which is mounted “Max’s Freedom Bell” which will be run on the future 4th of July’s for many years to come. And as Max so aptly put it, as a symbol of LIBERTY AND FREEDOM FOR ALL.