Category Archives: Introduction

An American Sailor Finally Comes Home

Seaman 2nd Class Charles L. Saunders October 16, 1923 – December 7, 1941

Charles Louis Saunders (Sonny Boy) lost his life on December 7, 1941, but his miraculous journey to return to Texas has continued.
Sonny Boy was born to Mortimer Alvin and Melina Falke Saunders on October 16, 1923. He was a very caring, kind, and playful child growing up. In fact, his desire to join the navy just one month after his seventeenth birthday on November 23, 1940, exuberates these characteristics. He had a desire to serve his country but an even greater desire to help his family.
Sonny Boy was the sixth child born to his parents and one of four boys. His oldest brother Adam died at just thirteen months of age. His older sisters were Lillie Mae Saunders Franklin, Mary Alice Saunders Frankland, and Sadie Lee Saunders Dailey. His older brother was Sidney (Buddy) Edward Saunders. Born after Sonny Boy was his sister Anna Belle Saunders VonFeldt and brother Mortimer Virgil Saunders.
Times were difficult growing up as Mortimer Alvin (Sonny Boy’s father) worked in construction and in the rice fields to support his family while Melina (Sonny Boy’s mother) raised children.
Sonny Boy’s strong compassion for giving to others is remembered in a story told by his younger sister Anna Belle. He would do without so she could have shoes to make the daily walk to school. He could not bear to see his little sister struggle in any manner.
Sonny Boy served as a Seaman, Second Class on the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor on Ford Island in Hawaii. He was one of 429 sailors and marines who were killed when
the USS Oklahoma was moored in the December 7 attack by Japanese forces.
There were 390 servicemen, including Sonny Boy, recovered from the ship by divers and salvaging crews as the USS Oklahoma was prepared for righting and was refloated. This salvaging occurred from July 15, 1942 through May 10, 1944. They were initially buried at the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemetaries. In September 1947, the American Graves Registration Service disinterred the original burial sites and moved the remains to the Schofield Barracks Central Identification Laboratory in efforts to confirm identifications and return these men to their families. Congress and veteran organizations placed a great deal of pressure on the military in 1947 to find a permanent burial site. That permanent burial site was at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific also known as the Punchbowl and the first interment was made on January 4, 1949. The 390 unknown members of the USS Oklahoma were buried in 61 caskets in 45 mass grave locations.
Medals and ribbons are awarded to servicemen who give their life during their service. Sonny Boy was awarded a Purple Heart for Military Merit and three ribbons for American Defense, American Campaign, and Asiatic Pacific Campaign.
These awards were almost a lost memory. After the funeral of Melina Falke Saunders (Sonny Boy’s mother) family members were cleaning out the family home preparing items for an auction. Someone happened to open a sewing machine where an old dusty box was found. In the box were Sonny Boy’s awards.
Anna Belle, the last living sibling of Sonny Boy, had a strong passion for bringing her brother home and laying him to rest at the gravesite their parents prepared for him at the Fairview Cemetery in Winnie, Texas. Records indicate Mortimer Alvin (Sonny Boy’s father) ordered Sonny Boy’s headstone on September 30, 1964.
Up until the last day of her life (July 19, 2019), Anna Belle (Sonny Boy’s sister) never lost hope that her brother would be brought back home to Texas. It was written in her obituary that her advocacy to bring her brother home after all these years will be continued by all who survive her.
This passion became reality in 2015 when a niece (Neica Franklin Bertrand) of Sonny Boy’s was contacted by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). They had tracked her down through her mother’s death records (Lillie Mae Saunders Franklin). In 2015 the DPAA was given authorization to exhume the unknown remains of the servicemen associated with the USS Oklahoma and reexamine them using advanced forensic technology.
It was at that point the military connected with Anna Belle. She worked tirelessly with them by gathering and providing DNA of family members to make a positive identity of Sonny Boy’s remains. She attended the Family Update provided by the DPAA in Denver, Colorado on May 16, 2015, and continued frequent contact as the efforts continued. She always felt a responsibility for Sonny Boy’s death because of his desire to make life better for his parents and younger siblings during their hard times and enlisted to make this happen.
On February 11, 2021, the DPAA notified Sonny Boy’s relatives that the remains of Seaman Second Class Charles Louis Saunders, missing from World War II, had been identified. Laboratory analysis and the totality of circumstantial evidence available identified Sonny Boy’s remains. Scientists used dental and anthropological analysis and mitochondrial and autosomal DNA analysis.
Sonny Boy’s service and death are memorialized in several locations. His name is on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl where a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate his remains have been identified.
The USS Oklahoma Memorial, dedicated on December 7, 2007, on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor is next to the former birth of the USS Oklahoma. The memorial’s black granite walls suggest the once formidable hull of the ship. Each member has a white marble standard engraved with their name that symbolizes an individual in pristine white dress uniform, inspired from the naval tradition of “manning the rails”.
Sonny Boy’s journey began with a dedication to his family and his country. His family is sure that his service included laughter and adventure and for that we are thankful. It is more than likely he perished while helping others. But most of all we, the many nieces and nephews, of this genuine hero are grateful to welcome him back to Texas on December 7, 2021, eighty years after his death where he will be buried next to his parents.

The above story was published by the news staff of The Examiner, a lBeaumont publication, on November 11, 2021. While serving as a visiting Senior District Judge in Liberty County, I had the privilege of meeting Jackie Waller, Assistant Court Administrator for the 75th Judicial District Court. Sonny Boy Saunders was her father’s (Virgil Saunders) older brother.

Attached is wikipedia summary of BB37’s life:

USS Oklahoma (BB-37) was a Nevada-class battleship built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation for the United States Navy, notable for being the first American class of oil-burning dreadnoughtsCommissioned in 1916, the ship served in World War I as a part of Battleship Division Six, protecting Allied convoys on their way across the Atlantic. After the war, she served in both the United States Battle Fleet and Scouting FleetOklahoma was modernized between 1927 and 1929. In 1936, she rescued American citizens and refugees from the Spanish Civil War. On returning to the West Coast in August of the same year, Oklahoma spent the rest of her service in the Pacific.

On 7 December 1941, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, several torpedoes from torpedo bombers hit the Oklahoma‘s hull and the ship capsized. A total of 429 crew died; survivors jumped off the ship 50 feet (15 m) into burning oil on water or crawled across mooring lines that connected Oklahoma and Maryland. Some sailors inside escaped when rescuers drilled holes and opened hatches to rescue them. The ship was salvaged in 1943. Unlike most of the other battleships that were recovered following Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma was too damaged to return to duty. Her wreck was eventually stripped of her remaining armament and superstructure before being sold for scrap in 1946. The hulk sank in a storm while being towed from Oahu, Hawaii, to a breakers yard in San Francisco Bay in 1947.

Below are a collection of photos and story of the ill-fated battleship. The narrative and most of the pictures are taken from Ms. Marie Hughes’ incredible compilation of history and family stories, which was prepared in anticipation of the re-burial of Sonny Boy in 2021 at the Fairview Cemetery, Winnie, Texas. The narrative by Ms. Hughes shows the daily and hourly movements and fate of the mighty ship.

With the advent of DNA testing, and at the family’s urging, testing on the unknown sailors and marines recovered from the capsized ship and later buried at The Punchbowl on Oahu, began. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Laboratory used dental records, skeletal remains (which clearly showed Sonny Boy’s bone spur) and DNA to confirm his identification.

Much thanks to again to Jackie Waller for this incredibly poignant slice of history.




Tommy w MG


By Todd Blomerth

He is 91 years old now. When he speaks about his life you sense that despite his chronological age he is much younger at heart. He is a quiet and modest man, not prone to boasting. He tends to minimize a series of events that few of us can imagine living through.  His is a story worthy of recalling.

His name is Thomas C. Holland. Tom, or Tommy, as he goes by, was born in Lockhart in 1922. He has been a resident of Caldwell County almost all his life. Tommy’s dad, Cleveland (he went by “Cleve”) was a respected construction supervisor for Holland Page, a large construction company and traveled extensively to job sites in Texas and Oklahoma.  Tommy and his younger sister Georgia were mostly raised by Albert and Myrtle Schneider. The Schneiders lived at 1217 Woodlawn Street in Lockhart. Cleve often helped Caldwell County men get jobs during the late 30s and during World War II. During summer breaks and after high school graduation, Tommy would travel with his dad and work with construction crews. Georgia would occasionally travel with them. Bridge City and Lubbock were two of the places he worked. Slight and wiry, Tommy shoveled a lot of sand and gravel for concrete jobs. He had to be tough. There was no pre-mix in those days.

In 1942, Uncle Sam sent an invitation to Tommy to join his armed HOLLAND - HARLINGEN 1943forces. In other words, he was drafted. When he was three, he had fallen into a wash pot. The burns scarred an arm. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Army thought the scarring had limited his strength and mobility. Much to his disgust, after basic training he was assigned as a clerk at an army airbase in Mississippi. In December of 1942 he was reevaluated. He reiterated to the Army doctors that there was absolutely nothing wrong with him, and that he wanted to be allowed normal duties. He got his wish. Knowing it was a quick way to earn sergeant’s stripes, he opted for gunnery school. After graduation from gunnery school in Harlingen, Texas, the Army sent him to aircraft mechanic school as Keesler Army Air Base in Mississippi. Then, because he applied to be a pilot, he was enrolled in the University of Alabama under the Army Air Force aviation cadet program. Designed for young men with only high school educations, it was intended to help turn them into “officers and gentlemen.” After six months of college level courses, he was transferred to an airbase in San Antonio. Pilot graduation rates often depended on the number of pilots needed. With an over abundance of pilots at the time, Tommy did not become ‘an officer and a gentleman.’ Instead, he was assigned as a tail gunner on a B-17 and sent to MacDill Field in Florida to begin crew training.






Standing, L-R

S/Sgt Bernard Duwel, ENG

Lt. Charles Pearson, B
Lt. WIlliam Hoyer, P
Lt. Joseph Syoen, CP
Lt. John Riddell, N

Kneeling, L-R:
Sgt. Thomas C. Holland, TG
Sgt. Floyd Broman, WG
S/Sgt Walter Degutis, WG
Sgt Edward Thornton, WG
S/Sgt Thomas Burke, BTG

His ten-man crew began training on Boeing Aircraft’s B-17. Dubbed the Flying Fortress, it was a magnificent aircraft, and was rightly loved by those who flew in her. The crew became close, as one would expect. They trained as if their lives depended on it-because it would. The life expectancy of a bomber crew in Europe was aboutRattlesden-07-may-1946 two weeks. In late May, 1944 the crew received its orders assigning it and their bomber to the U.S. 8th Air Force’s 709th Bombardment Squadron, 447th Bombardment Group based at Rattlesden, England near Bury St. Edmunds.  Lt. Hoyer’s crew was given a brand new B-17 at Hunter Field outside of Savannah, Georgia. Because the B-17 was a four-engine aircraft, the crew flew the extremely hazardous northern route across the Atlantic, through Newfoundland and Greenland. Weather was problematic to say the least. Along with other aircraft, their bomber was grounded in Greenland by winds so violent the crew had to feather the propellers to keep the engines from being damaged. In the midst of the horrific weather, word came on June 6, 1944 that the Allies had invaded German controlled Europe.  Despite the weather, base officials told the many stranded crews to head to England. And so they did.

Much to the crew’s disappointment, upon arrival in England, their brand new B-17 was taken away from them. It would be used by more experienced crews. They would be stuck with whatever aircraft was assigned them. Like all fresh aircrews, the Hoyer crew was split up for its first missions, in order to ensure the crewmen and pilots were familiar with combat formations and tactics. Tommy’s first mission, on June 24, 1944, was either to Blanc Pignon Ferme or Wesermude – he can’t recall which as there were simultaneous attacks planned. Neither was successful, and both bomber formations came back with their bombs, as neither target was visible through heavy cloud cover.b17g

His second mission, on June 25, 1944, again with another crew, was to Area #1 of Operation “Zebra.” After a 2 a.m. briefing, the Group’s B-17s flew to Vercors, west of Grenoble, France. Instead of dropping bombs, the planes dropped 420 canisters containing ammunition, supplies, and weapons for the French resistance fighters in the area. Several OSS (the forerunner of the CIA) agents also parachute jumped in.

On June 28, 1944, and again with another crew, Tommy manned the tail guns for a run toward a target in France. Weather obscured the primary target so an airfield at Denian/Prouvy, France was hit instead.

On June 29, 1944, the Hoyer crew was reunited for its first combat mission. The target was an oil refinery at Bohlen, Germany. The crew briefing was at 2:30 a.m. At 4:50 a.m. dozens of Flying Fortresses, loaded with 100 pound bombs, started taking off. With the intercom-connected crews donning oxygen masks and heated tail gunnerclothing, the B-17s lumbered to an altitude of 24,000 feet. They were supported by fighter aircraft. German Bf 109s and Focke Wulf190s shot down many bombers during the war, but the greatest danger by far was anti-aircraft artillery. Nearing Bohlen, flak from German anti-aircraft guns began reaching for the Americans. Tommy had been told that if you saw flak, you were probably okay. However if you could hear it, you had better watch out. He could hear the flak “very well.” Just as Lt. Charles Pearson, the plane’s bombardier, finished releasing the bombs, flak hit near the Number 2 engine. Some of the crew was injured by shrapnel. Fuel streamed back, and then erupted in fire. Lt. William Hoyer’s last words heard by Tommy were, “let’s bail the hell out of this thing.”

44-6027 GOING DOWN
44-6027 GOING DOWN

ship crash goodThe B-17 tail gunner was the most isolated member of the crew. He did have one advantage however – his own escape hatch. Tommy didn’t need to be told twice. Throwing off his oxygen mask, helmet, and intercom connections and snapping on his parachute, he jettisoned the escape hatch and flung himself out of the plane. The shock of the parachute deploying knocked him unconscious momentarily. When he came to, he was floating under a canopy deep in enemy territory.  “I seemed to all alone,” Tommy remembers. “I wondered if my insurance would pay off if something else happened.”  Since he was alive, he worried that his dad and the Schneiders would not know for some time that he had survived.

Lt. Pearson was blown free of the plane as it exploded. He had chuted up, and although badly battered, survived. Cameras were mounted in various aircraft to record bomb strikes and anti-aircraft sites. In this instance, Tommy’s B-17, aircraft number 44-6027, was photographed falling out of the sky. Lt. William Hoyer and seven other crewmen all died a fiery death high over Germany.Arndt Teichmann - later Lt

Things got even more interesting when Tommy hit the ground. A welcoming committee of angry German farmers armed with scythes approached him as he landed in a hay field. It looked as if he would be chopped to pieces. He was rescued by someone his bombs had intended to kill – a German soldier. Lt. Arndt Teichmann (shown here as he appeared in 1939) waved off the farmers with his weapon and took the relieved tail gunner into custody. . (Arndt Teichmann would later be captured by the Russians and somehow survive the hell of Stalin’s gulag, coming home in 1948).

Tommy was put in a farmer’s child’s playhouse, and Lt. Pearson, much the worse for wear was then brought in. Lacerated on his face and head, he also probably had broken ribs.

His captors were gentle. He was given some bread and margarine, and a bit of sausage. He asked for water in English, and instead was given a glass of beer.

Tommy was first taken to Nobliz, a Luftwaffe airfield. Then to Wetzler, where German intelligence officers interrogating him. “Hell, they knew more about our organization than I did. I just told them I was a new crewman.”  The interrogation did not last long. The Germans knew crewmen didn’t have a lot of secret information to impart. The Germans took his electrically heated boots, and gave him a pair of shoes.

Eventually, Tommy arrived at Stalag Luft IV, a German Prisoner of War camp at Gross Tychow, Eastern Pomerania (now Poland). Inadequate shower facilities, heating, and clothing, spotty distribution of Red Cross parcels, bad food, overcrowding and poor medical attention were the order of the day. Escape was not remotely possible. Boredom reigned among the nearly 8000 American, and the thousand or so British, Polish, Czech, French and Norwegian POWs. The men slept in barracks designed for 160 men but holding 240 or more. Each barrack had a two-hole latrine, to bealagerphoto2 used only at night. During the day, POWs were required to use open-air latrines, with pits cleaned by Russian POWs. The daily ration consisted of bread bulked up with sawdust, a soup made with a mixture of potato, turnip, carrot, rutabaga, kohlrabi and horsemeat. The men also received cooked barley and millet once or twice a week. Most camp guards were benign, but some, with nicknames like Big Stoop, Green Hornet, and Squarehead, were known to be sadistic. Guards also would open Red Cross parcels and steal the best of the food before turning them over to POWs. Most of the POWs lost about between 15 and 20 pounds during captivity here. Upper respiratory infections, diphtheria, diarrhea, skin diseases, jaundice, meningitis were common. As bad as this was, at this stage of the war, the German populace in cities wasn’t faring much better.

By early 1945 terror gripped Germans in their eastern provinces. The Soviet Union’s huge armies were driving for the heart of Germany, and revenge was their byword. While German soldiers fought desperately, civilians fled east. On February 6, 1945, some 8000 men imprisoned at Stalag Luft IV were told they could take what they could carry, and then were marched west as the camp was evacuated. The ordeal became known as “The Black March.” To the distant sound of Russian artillery in the east, over 8000 POWs began a forced march across East Prussia, Poland, and almost to Hamburg. The ordeal began in one of the coldest winters in European history, and lasted for nearly three months, on a trek nearly 600 miles long. Divided into sections, the prisoners zigzagged west.

Marched during the day, they were housed in barns, or in open fields. Some men became violently ill from drinking from fecal laden ditches. Pneumonia became endemic. Food usually consisted of potatoes which were sometimes eaten raw if no firewood could be found. The sick were often carried in farm wagons. In the camp, Tommy had become good friends with Floyd Jones, another B-17 crewman. Jones was a great scrounger. His skill proved very useful. Jones stole two bottles containing water for a farmer’s bees. He and Tommy drank the water, and kept the bottles to brew dandelion tea. They ate raw soy beans. On March 28, 1945 many of the men were crammed onto a freight train at Ebbsdorf, sixty to eighty to a boxcar. Many men were wracked by dysentery but the cars remained locked until the train arrived at Stalag 357 near Fallingbostel on the afternoon of March 30. Another move was ordered by the Germans for those fit to continue. Tommy, too sick to travel, was excused by an American doctor. Floyd wasn’t, so he made himself sick by smoking all the cigars in a Red Cross packet, and vomiting on the doctor’s desk. It worked. Five days later, British forces liberated the camp. The ordeal was over.

Tommy returned to Lockhart after the war, planning to go into construction like his father. Instead, he became an auto mechanic with the local Dodge / Plymouth dealership. In 1960 he purchased a service station property from Charlie Kelly on South Main, and transitioned into small engine repair. He married Opal Lackey on November 24, 1946. The couple was blessed with two daughters and a son. His daughters became school teachers, and his son, a trouble shooter for Waukesha Pearce. Opal passed away in 2007.

Tommy got his pilot’s license in 1949. Beginning in the early 80s, he built or partnered in ownership four airplanes. No longer an active pilot, he still has an ownership interest in a kit-built aircraft hangered at the Lockhart airport. And he still fixes lawnmowers and chainsaws on South Main. Drop by and say hi some time.

tommy in one of his kit planes

Tommy takes off in a kit built aircraft.

tommy in shop

Notes: This story was published in the Lockhart Post Register and the Luling Newsboy Signal in August of 2014. Tommy passed away on January 7, 2016 at the age of 93. It was a privilege to have known him.




by Todd Blomerth

Jack Storey Lipscomb was born in Lockhart, Texas on November 25, 1925. He was the son of John William Lipscomb, Sr. and Corinne Cardwell Storey Lipscomb. The two had married in 1919, when John was 28 and Corinne was 23. Jack’s family lineage encompassed many of the ranching and farming pioneers of Caldwell County and South Texas. Jack had two siblings, older brother John W. Jr. and younger sister Beulah Jean. The Lipscomb families owned and operated several cotton gins and mercantile stores in northern Caldwell County.

 John Sr. enlisted in 1917 at the beginning of America’s involvement in World War I. After being discharged from active service in early 1918, he worked in the family businesses. He also became an officer in the Texas National Guard. The Lipscomb family lived on South Main Street, and attended Lockhart’s Presbyterian Church.

In March of 1935, John Sr., by now a captain, was appointed by Texas Governor Allred as the custodial officer of the Texas National Guard Encampment near Palacios, in Matagorda County, and the Lipscomb family moved from Lockhart. Camp Hulen, as the encampment was more commonly called, served as a Guard training facility until nationalized. It then became a U.S. Army training facility until early 1944 when it was converted to prisoner of war camp for captured Germans.

Jack thrived in Palacios. He played football at every level of schooling allowed. At one point he was nicknamed the “Mighty Mite,” when he quarterbacked the grammar school team in the late 1930s. . He was quarterback of the Palacios Sharks when the team was district co-champion his junior year. He was described by one admirer as a “happy, tousle-headed, freckled faced lad.”

But Lockhart was still considered home, and the family was often in Caldwell and other counties where the large interwoven family owned land. A June 1939 Post Register story reported that Jack’s grandmother, Mrs. A.A. (Beulah Cardwell) Storey, his mother Corinne, and sister Jean traveling to the family ranch in Zavala County, to drop off Jack, older brother John, and cousin, James Storey where the boys would spend a month. The Post-Register stated that “[t]he boys are being chaperoned by Sr. Estanislau Gomez and they are expecting a great time.”  That “great time” included a lot of hard work.

            John Lipscomb Sr.’s military duties included inspecting National Guard units, including the 141st Infantry Regimental detachment in Lockhart. When Camp Hulen was nationalized in 1940, and by now a major, he transferred to Camp Bowie, where he was the base recreation officer. In 1942, Major Lipscomb transferred to Austin, where he served as coordinator of the staff of Adjutant-General J.W. Page in the Selective Service work of that office. By 1941 older brother John Jr. was attending Texas A&M, and about to be selected for the United States Naval Academy. Jack and younger sister Jean along with their mother, continued to live in Palacios so Jack could finish high school (and continue to play football).

            Jack graduated from high school in 1943 and enrolled in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M. Corrine and Jean re-joined John Lipscomb, Sr. in Austin where John Sr. and Jean bought a new home in Highland Park West.

            Jack quit A&M after one year and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on February 21, 1944. He completed boot camp at Camp Elliott, California, where he was occasionally able to be meet up with his cousin John Cardwell, also a marine stationed nearby. John Cardwell would eventually serve as a machine gunner on a Dauntless dive bomber. John Cardwell’s older brother Gus served with a tank battalion and was killed in Italy in 1944. Jack sent a letter to John expressing his grief over Gus’s death.

Jack finished boot camp, qualified as an expert on the M-1 rifle and the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and was shipped to Hawaii. He then was sent to the island of Guam in the Marianas in mid-August, 1944 and was assigned to Company G, 2nd Battalion, 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division.  The division had just taken part in the American re-taking of the island of Guam from the Japanese. The invasion cost the Americans over 1700 dead and 6000 wounded. The 3rd Division suffered 677 deaths and over 3600 wounded. The nearly 19,000 Japanese defenders were virtually wiped out. After several months of refitting, the 3rd Division was again ready for another island landing. It would be its bloodiest.


Iwo Jima is a tiny, sulfurous blot of land in the Bonin Chain less than 600 miles from the Japanese main islands. With the Marianas in US hands in 1944, new American B-29 bombers now had bases from which to attack the Japanese homeland.  A massive bombing campaign began to take the war to Japan’s cities and industrial centers.

Iwo Jima was important to the Japanese because it lay athwart the air route from the Marianas to Tokyo, and served both as an early warning site, and an interceptor location for fighter aircraft. To the Americans, Iwo Jima’s location only 650 nautical miles from Tokyo meant it was ideally located to recover disabled or damaged B-29s returning from bombing runs over Japan. It was also close enough to allow P-51 fighters to escort the B-29s all the way to Japan. At first glance, Iwo Jima appeared to be a difficult place to defend. But the Japanese had proved masters of island fighting. The bloodbaths at Tarawa and Peleliu had taught the Americans that.

Intelligence figures estimated that at best the Japanese held the ‘dry wasteland of volcanic ash that stinks of sulfur’ (as James Bradley described it in Flags of Our Fathers) with only 12,000 troops. Hardly a small number, but 70,000 Marines seemed to be more than enough to overcome the defenders. American intelligence estimates conservatively stated that one week was all the time needed to secure Iwo Jima and its three airfields. But those intelligence estimates were wrong, and badly so. The actual number of defenders had grown to 23,000 before the island was blockaded.

The 3rd Division embarked from Guam on the USS President Adams LIPSCOMB - GEORGE COMPANY ON MOTOYAMAon February 12, 1945. It was designated as the invasion’s floating reserve. Weeks of pre-invasion ‘softening up’ of defenses proved fruitless. The 4th and 5th Divisions hitting the beaches on February 19th had so many casualties that the 3rd Division was ordered ashore on the 20th. The mayhem on the beaches wouldn’t allow its landing, so it tried again the following day. From February 21st on, Jack and his men were in continuous combat. The Americans quickly cut the island in two. But casualties soon reached epic proportions. The well trained and concealed defenders, fighting from a maze of caves, tunnels and pillboxes, supported by mine fields and interlocking fields of fire meant some units were soon down to a fraction of their original strength. By March 2nd, Jack’s battalion had less than 300 men able to fight out of the 1200 who had come ashore. It had lost every company commander and all but one company executive officer. On March 3rd, the 21st Marines took the unfinished Airfield No. 3, and were able to seize the nearby high ground northeast of the field. It was here that Jack was killed.

The family received the news of his death shortly afterward. BothLIPSCOMB - PRIEST Lockhart and Palacios were deeply affected. The Palacios Beacon ran a long tribute to Jack, written by a good friend, Claire Burton. It was re-printed in the Post-Register. The family received many letters of condolence, including several from members of the 21st Marines. Corporal P.A. Shiesler wrote: “I was not with your son at the time of his death, but a buddy of mine was, and told me that Lippy died instantly from a bullet wound. There was no suffering…. I can honestly say that he was doing more than his share when he was on Iwo. He was a good Marine.” The unit chaplain, probably numbed by the last rites given and funerals read, wrote: “You son was killed while in the heat of battle on Iwo Jima on 3 March, 1945 when he was hit in the head by an enemy bullet killing him instantly. He is buried in the 3rd Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima, Row 25, Grave 1484, Plot #6.” He went on to assure the family that after the battle was over, the entire division assembled to bestow honor on its 1,131 dead with three volleys of seven gun salutes, lowering the American flag to half-mast, and the singing of “Nearer My God to Thee.”



In 1947, the Americans began to disinter the 6800 American marines and sailors buried on Iwo. In 1949, Jack came home. On Sunday, January 16, 1949, Dr. Sam L. Joekel, pastor of Lockhart First Presbyterian Church conducted Jack’s funeral.  Superintendant Newsome of the Palacios schools was present. Casket bearers were members of Jack’s Palacios High School football team. Jack is buried in the Lockhart Cemetery.

Jack Storey Lipscomb was nineteen years old.







by Todd Blomerth

“He was larger than life. He had this big smile, and loved to laugh. He always had my back.” E-5 (Ret.) Albert Fambrough

            I want you to try to imagine the following:

            You are the parent of two adult children. The oldest is in the military, and is stationed in Iraq. The doorbell rings. You are trying to get out the door with a friend, to see a Seattle Mariners – Boston Red Sox baseball game. You assume the bell has been rung by the neighbor kid, who likes to come over and play with your dog. You peek out the front door expecting to see a small child. Your eyes fall instead on two sets of military shoes and uniform trousers. Without opening the door, you know why the men wearing them are here – your only son has been killed in action.

            That is what happened to Kei LaFleur in 2007. She, along with her ex-husband Chuck, and her daughter Megan, were confronted with the worst news of their lives. A beloved family member, vibrant and full of life, had been killed in a faraway land, serving his country in the United States Army.

            That family member was Jason LaFleur. This is his story.

            Jason Kenneth LaFleur was born on January 28, 1979 to Chuck and Kei (Warden) LaFleur. His sister Megan came along two years later. The family lived in Houston at the time, where Chuck and Kei both worked for Southwestern Bell. They transferred to the Austin area in 1985, and settled in Lockhart. The LaFleur children attended Lockhart schools. Jason’s parents instilled in them the joy of travel, and the family often took vacations to Colorado and New Mexico.10 JASON LAFLEUR soccer kid resized

Jason played soccer all through school, and was a drummer in the Lockhart High School Band. A good student, he took many college level courses. He graduated in 1997.

Jason’s folks divorced shortly after he graduated from high school. Kei moved with her job to Washington State. Chuck 16 JASON LAFLEURmoved to Durango, Colorado.

Jason received a partial scholarship to the University of Mississippi. Two years at Ole Miss, in Oxford, Mississippi, resulted in a lot of fun, but perhaps was not the route Jason wished to take. More mature, but still uncertain of what to do, Jason returned to his beloved Texas, taking some courses at Texas State University.

He then moved to Durango, Colorado to be closer to his dad. He worked at Home Depot, at the city Recycling Plant, and with his dad’s contracting business. He kept up with all the European soccer leagues, and coached kids under twelve in the Durango Youth Soccer program. He relished Colorado winters, when he could snow ski, an activity he loved almost as much as soccer.

Jason was an ardent patriot. In the words of a woman whose Durango house he boarded at, “He was just very adamant about supporting the president and defending our country.” Somewhere in this time of maturing and introspection, he decided to enlist in the Army. Jason was a big man physically, but he was overweight. He began to eat better and spend time in the gym. His mom knew he was serious about enlisting when he began running every day, an exercise he detested.

In retrospect, Kei believes her son met and visited with a retired helicopter pilot, who whetted his appetite for the Army in general, and Army aviation in particular. Although he rarely discussed it, Jason told someone, “I’ve just got to get through this first enlistment, and then I can go into aviation.” After he died some of his notebooks were found showing he had been studying for Army aviation tests between missions.

Jason enlisted in the Army in 2005. With his test scores and background, he could have chosen any number of military specialties. He chose to be an infantryman. In today’s Army, enlistees going into combat arms (artillery, armor and infantry) do both basic training and advanced combat training at one location – in his case it was Ft. Knox, Kentucky. There, he became fast friends with several other enlistees. At 25 years of age, he was an “old man” compared to other young soldiers.

About half way through this initial training, called One Station Unit Training, someone showed up from Ft. Bragg, looking for volunteers for Airborne School. Those who volunteered, and who completed the arduous three week course, were promised assignments with an Airborne Cavalry unit being formed at Ft. Richardson, Alaska.

About thirty of the young men volunteered. Some were just gung ho. Others went to jump school for more prosaic reasons.  Some of the volunteers did it  because they didn’t want the military occupation specialty of Eleven Bravo – infantryman- “so they wouldn’t have to ride in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle,” seen as a bigger target than the vehicles used by cavalry scouts.

            Jason completed the intense three weeks at Ft. Benning, Georgia and proudly wore jump wings on his uniform. He was assigned to Bravo Troop, First Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment. He joined his unit in November of 2005. His military specialty had a certain cache to it – cavalry scout, or “19 Delta.”

The 1/40th Cav (Abn) training in Alaska was arduous. Part of the 25th Infantry Division’s Fourth Brigade, It was to be a rapid deployment unit for Southwestern Asia. Ultimately, the unit would fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jason enjoyed the challenges. He thrived on the structure and discipline. And, he loved the camaraderie. He made fast friends with and won the admiration of many of the young men he served with.

Albert Fambrough, a slow talking Kentuckian, went through Basic training with Jason. In Alaska, he and his wife were expecting their first child. Jason and others often came to the Fambrough apartment for meals. Jason’s “big Texas grin” is etched in his memory. Albert and his wife thought so much of Jason that they planned to name him as one of their unborn child’s godfathers.


Inevitably, the 1/40th received orders to Iraq.


After the capture of Saddam Hussein, the United States forces were slowly withdrawn from Iraq. However, all attempts at establishing a working government quickly foundered. Al Qaeda terrorists moved into the power vacuum, disrupting any chance of peaceful resolution of political issues. Mutual hatred and distrust between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and the growth of sectarian militias, compounded a witches’ brew of long simmering problems.

In 2006, President George Bush began meeting with military and civilian leaders, trying to come up with a plan to stabilize the country. “The New Way Forward”, better known as “the Surge,” came into being. 20,000 additional troops were sent to Iraq, and the aims of the military were refocused “to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security.”

It was highly controversial at the time. While by no means unanimous, most observers, including critics such as Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, would ultimately agree that the Surge was successful.

As part of the Surge, in October 2006, the 1/40th Cav was flown into Baghdad, and then moved south to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon near Checkpoint 20, the last site under U.S. control.

When they arrived at FOB Falcon, the troop’s first sergeant ordered all the young troopers to write a letter home their moms. Jason, six years older than most of the soldiers, thought this order was silly, but in typical droll fashion, did what he was told to do.

07 JASON LAFLEUR letter home

           Jason’s first letter home to his mom, ‘complying’ with the top sergeant’s orders


The unit’s operational area consisted of around forty square miles west of the Tigris River, just south of Baghdad. Crisscrossed by irrigation canals, with fish farms, palm trees, tall grass, and narrow roads, its small villages were hotbeds of El Qaeda activity.

One such village was Hawr Rajab. Under the control of Al Qaeda and that group’s mostly foreign jihadis, it was on a major infiltration route into Baghdad for suicide bombers. Al Qaeda was armed with AK47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and a “seemingly endless supply of homemade improvised explosive devices [IEDs],” many made with urea fertilizer and nitric acid.

American patrols and sweeps always resulted in ‘contacts’ – a euphemistic term for combat, in the squadron’s area of operation.

The 1/40th’s first six months in-country saw an increase in Al Qaeda activity in their area of operation, as adjoining American forces displaced Al Qaeda jihadis into the Hawr Rajab area.

          05 JASON LAFLEUR in Iraq

Jason during a break on a recon in Iraq


Eight months into his tour, Jason received leave. He flew into Seattle, surprising his mother and sister. Equally important, Chuck happened to be in the area. Quick arrangements were made, and Jason and his father reunited for Father’s Day. It was a joyous time. It would be the last time his family would see him.

Because of growing American impatience, and the Surge, many Sunnis, originally hostile to the United States, began to rethink their positions. Tribal sheiks, or chieftains, realized that by enlisting the U.S. help, they could rid their villages of Al Qaeda fighters, who were terrorizing the local populaces. Additionally, many sheiks concluded that the U.S. could provide the Sunni Muslims with protection against the predatory practices of the largely Shiite Iraqi government forces, and various hostile militias.




After seeing the success the Americans had had in other areas in providing support and security, Sheik Ali Majid al-Dulaimi, a sheik at Hawr Rajab, of the Dulaimi tribe, cautiously approached the American Army about ridding his village of Al Qaeda. Sheik Ali was no stranger to Al Qaeda’s violence. Imbedded with the 1/40th, New York Times reporter Martin Gordon noted:  “Al Qaeda militants had killed his father, kidnapped his cousin, burned his home to the ground and alienated many of his fellow tribesmen by imposing a draconian version of Islamic law that proscribed smoking and required women to shroud themselves in veils.” Quietly, Sheik Ali began recruiting locals into a small self-protection group, and reached out to the


                       The village of Hawr Rajab, marked with red marker

Americans. Sheik Mahir Sarhan Morab al-Muini, of another tribe in Hawr Rajab, also came forward asking for help.

Most of the ‘big picture’ was not available to the trooper on the ground. Daily life was filled of staying alive, and completing the assignment ordered. FOB Falcon had ancillary fortifications in the squadron’s Area of Operations. Bravo Troop rotated platoons in and out of Patrol Base Dog. In May of 2007, a suicide bomber driving a dump truck rammed the Patrol Base. Men were lost and injured. Iraqi summers are vicious. The men rebuilt the PB in the blazing heat, and continued to patrol and scout.

With the limited number of soldiers available in the 1/40th’s area of operation, it was critical that the Americans obtain the locals’ full support. Information given the Americans resulted in a successful air strike on an ice factory where Al Qaeda fighters were hidden. A decision was made to move 1/40th’s A Troop into Hawr Rajab, to distribute food, and to help the sheiks re-assert their authority over the 8000 villagers.

In late July 2007, an abortive attempt was made to support Ali’s men attacking Al Qaeda strong points in Hawr Rajab. Blowing sands grounded supporting American gunships. Al Qaeda, tipped off to the movement, attack Sheik Ali’s force, forcing a retreat, and nearly killing a subordinate’s sister and her children.  In the following days, 1/40th made several raids against the enemy, trying to keep it off balance, while other plans were made.

On August 4, 2007, another attempt was made, this time with A Troop leading the way. The American soldiers wore Kevlar helmets, body armor, Nomex gloves, and ballistic glasses. Engineers with anti-mine vehicles moved out at five a.m., followed by soldiers who were to enter the center of the village, distribute food, and allow psychological operations to begin. The dual objective was a show of force and support for the local Iraqis, as well as an effort to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of potential allies.

There was one road in and out of Hawr Rajab from the north, simplifying Al Qaeda’s task of IED placement. Soon, an American vehicle hit an IED, blowing the cab over 50 feet and injuring the driver. As other troopers pushed into the village, they were aware of closed shutters. The locals knew something bad was up.

Elements of A Troop reached the village center. Humvees formed a protective circle, as announcements went out over loud speakers for the villagers to come get food. And then, the radio came alive. The 1/40th’s commander, Lt. Colonel Mark Odom and his humvee had hit an IED. All four of the vehicle’s occupants were badly hurt.

Jason, with Bravo Troop, was part of the squadron’s Quick Response Force. Sergeant James Allred was a section sergeant for Bravo Troop. “We weren’t in our Area of Operation. We were there to support Alpha. We were to pick up some detainees, and return to the FOB,” he told me. “Route clearance vehicles were to the front. We assumed IEDs had been cleared. Suddenly, the colonel’s humvee got hit.”

With admiration for Lt. Col. Odom’s leadership despite his extensive injuries, Allred explained that “our mission had suddenly changed.”  He and Medic Dustin Wakeman assisted in extracting the injured men from Odom’s Humvee. Sergeant Donnie Cartwright also dismounted from the humvee where Jason was gunner.  Bravo’s men and vehicle assumed defensive positions around the perimeter. Things calmed down – although in the madness of the event this is a relative term. It was time for Bravo’s men to return to FOB Falcon. “I radioed Jaron [Holliday} to back up and pick us up. The last thing he said was ‘roger.’”

The humvee hit a pressure plate, or a massive IED was activated remotely by phone. “Wakeman had gone back to the humvee to take a breather,” recalls Allred. “Sergeant Cartwright and I were standing there when the whole thing went up in pieces. We were pretty close.”

Cartwright asked, “Where is the humvee?”

The humvee was gone, and with it, three young men. Sgt. Dustin Wakeman, Corporal Jaron Holliday, and Corporal Jason LaFleur were killed instantly.

New York Times reporter Michael Gordon witnessed the mayhem from another perspective:

We drove back toward Checkpoint 20 and came upon a terrible sight. The twisted wreck of a Humvee was in the middle of the road. Combat medics were hovering over two soldiers lying in the grass. One was the turret gunner. The other was Odom, whose face was swathed in bandages. The wounded soldiers were lifted by stretcher into waiting Humvees and driven back.

Another Humvee, meanwhile, drove down from Checkpoint 20 to guard our flank. Suddenly there was a massive blast. Much of that Humvee disintegrated into fragments that rained down around us. Nobody could survive such a blast. The radio traffic reported three killed in action.

Again, in the words of reporter Michael Gordon:

When we got back to Checkpoint 20, the outpost was silent. The soldiers had lost three of their comrades. Another eight had been wounded. The enemy had suffered no casualties. Food had been given out to 40 residents.

At Forward Operating Base Falcon, the commanders imposed “River City” — they shut down the unclassified Internet connection the soldiers used to chat with their families and to blog so that word of the casualties would not spread until the next of kin were notified. That night, I went to the airfield at the base for the “angel flight.” A formation of soldiers lined up and saluted as the caskets of the three dead soldiers were carried to the tarmac so they could be flown away.

            Ordinarily, Cpl. Farmbrough was the squadron commander’s driver. On August 4, he had been assigned to man the radios in the Tactical Control Center, back at the Forward Operating Base. “When I heard what had happened, I knew who had died. I started crying over the radio.”

            In reading Michael Gordon’s account, and listening to James Allred’s version, it is in some respects like two different occurrences. The reality? The compression and expansion of perceived time, the incredible stress of combat, and the events seen through different lenses, focused on different issues.

“Jason was bold,” Allred remembers, but occasionally maddeningly hard-headed. “We butted heads sometimes. He was older closeup in gearthan me. I had joined the Army at eighteen, and was a very young NCO.” Allred had been a drill instructor, and admired the big Texan. “He was the soldier I had that made me want to do my job better.” Sergeant Allred states, “We were all a brotherhood there. I am still dealing with it.”  Allred spoke on behalf of Jason at the men’s’ eulogies at FOB Falcon. “I was able to personally say goodbye,” as Jason’s casket was loaded to be flown home.

Corporal Jason LaFleur’s body came home to Texas. His funeral was held at Lockhart’s Eeds Funeral Home. Jason hadn’t lived in Caldwell County in nearly ten years. The LaFleur family was stunned by the outpouring of love and concern shown by the large numbers of Caldwell County folks in attendance. Jason is buried as Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.

The loss of this young soldier continues to ripple through his family, and his many friends. When speaking to me, Albert Fambrough could not hold back his tears. To this day, and despite logic and reason, James Allred remains haunted by what happened. I have “what iffed’ the situation every day.”  If they hadn’t back up a few feet. If he hadn’t radioed Holliday to come pick them up so they could return to FOB Falcon. If, if, if….

            Megan, Jason’s sister, succinctly describes the devastation when she says, “I felt like I lost my whole family.” Her mother Kei understandably became “all consumed” with the loss of her only son. Her father Chuck could not deal with the loss. He withdrew, as if to protect himself emotionally. His son’s death has exacerbated health issues.

Megan’s sense of loss is nuanced. She and Jason weren’t close growing up, but that had begun to change. The ability of siblings to reach a new or renewed level of affection and understanding with age and maturity has been taken from her and her brother. “I regret the inability to get together,” she says. “This made me feel how fragmented our family had become. I feel very small.”

Kei visits her son’s grave at least once a month. She is a member of American Gold Star Mothers. Comprised of moms who have lost sons or daughters in the service of their country, the Gold Star Mothers volunteer to support veterans and those serving in the military. Gold Star Mothers offer support and friendship, but also makes the most of the members’ situations to help others even less fortunate. She is also a member of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a grief and healing organization. She has mentored  through that program, “talking to other moms who may not be as far down the road as I am.”

As I was writing this story, I received this message from Kei LaFleur: “When [Jason] told me he was going to enlist, I felt I needed to counsel him. Not to dissuade him, but to have him think about other military options. I told him in the Army, he would be sent to the desert. Probably pretty quick. He’s big and he’s strong. And he said to me, ‘I know Mom, but I am willing.’ So if people remember anything about Jason, they should remember that he was willing.”

TWO troopers killed


The three troopers killed – Holliday, LaFleur, and Wakeman

aftermath one aftermath 2 13 JASON LAFLEUR aftermath











Aftermath of several IED attacks witnessed by 1/40th troopers while in Iraq



Kei at her son’s grave Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery

14 JASON LAFLEUR gold star window

The window of a Gold Star mom

Note: I am indebted to Kei LaFleur for her time and kindness in providing pictures and stories of her son. She also helped me make contact with Megan LaFleur, James Allred, and Albert Fambrough who honored me with their time and recollections.

New York Times journalist Michael Gordon was embedded with the 1/40th. His story appeared on September 2, 2007 and can be found at

The Durango (Colorado) Herald front page story of August 9, 2007, entitled Soldier LaFleur Proud to Serve was provided to me by Kei LaFleur.





by Todd Blomerth

Hal William Dalton was the middle son of William Ewen Dalton and Delta (Martin) Dalton. He was born on February 20, 1923 in Hays County, Texas. His older brother Wesley was six years his senior. Younger brother Robert, or Bobbie, was born in 1932. Hal’s father, Ewen, began married life as a farmer in Hays County, and then changed careers. For most of Hal’s life his father was an automobile salesman. At some time between 1930 and 1935, the family moved to Luling. Shortly before Hal entered high school the family relocated to Lockhart, living at 623 Cibolo Street.

            Hal was active in the Lockhart High School Band, and was at one time an assistant drum major. According to Harry Hilgers, during the Depression, few could afford to buy band uniforms, so cast-off University of Texas Longhorn Band uniforms were obtained, and band mothers would dye them, changing the color from orange to maroon. The band mothers would then make the trousers. Caps were also from the Longhorn Band, which were also dyed appropriately. Hal’s senior year he, along with Andy Hinton, Winifred Adams, Vera Riddle, Opal Shinn, Dorothy Nell Williams, Corbett Halsell, Branch Lipscomb, and Hollis Raymond, starred in a play at the Adams gym – “Professor, How Could You?”

Hal graduated from Lockhart High School in May of 1940 and DALTON - GREAT PIC FROM PEDAGOGenrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State University). He attended for two years, and served on the Student Council. He was also a member of the Harris-Blair Literary Society. Like many others, he did not finish school, enlisting in the Army Air Forces in 1942.

Hal graduated from Bombardier School at Kirtland Airfield in Albuquerque, New Mexico, training on AT-11s and B-18As. The AT-11 was built by Beech. It was a twin-engine trainer and personnel transport that after the War became a popular business aircraft. The B-18 “Bolo” was developed in the 1930s as a medium bomber. By the onset of the War, its deficiencies were obvious – inadequate bomb load capacity and armament, and underpowered engines. It was soon relegated to anti-submarine patrols and training missions.

Hal was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant and received his bombardier’s wings. He then went overseas in May of 1944, completing thirty-three combat missions in the European Theater of Operations.

By June of 1945, the Dalton family perhaps thought it would remain intact despite others’ losses in World War II. Bobbie was too young to serve in World War II. Wesley had served with Dr. Joe Coopwood’s Medical Detachment of the 143rd Infantry Regiment, He had been wounded by artillery shrapnel in Italy, but recovered. Returning to the States, Hal was assigned as bombardier instructor at San Angelo Army Air Field. The school’s class book, “On Course!” DALTON - FROM ON COURSEshows Hal was an instructor for student Flight “E” of Class 45-15B. The war in Europe was over and he was training others to be bombardiers in the continuing fight against Japan. His assignment was a challenging but pleasant change from the high-risk operations of aerial bombardments. One thing was certain – after what he had lived through, he was not supposed to lose his life in the continental United States. But he did, and needlessly.

            Bobbie had spent part of the summer of 1945 with his big brother, Hal. Mr. and Mrs. Dalton, by now living at 4120 Tennyson Street in Houston, left Houston early on Saturday, June 30, 1945, driving to San Angelo to pick up Bobbie. Shortly after leaving, a telegram arrived at their home. Another family member saw its contents, and telephoned Wesley, now living in Lockhart. Wesley parked on the side of the highway he knew his parents would be taking to San Angelo and flagged them down as they approached. He broke the news that Hal had been killed the night before in a training accident.

            At 9:12 p.m., Central War Time, a Beechcraft Model 18 (the DALTON Beechcraft_AT-11_out_over_the_West_Texas_prairies_(00910460_103)military nomenclature was AT-11A “Kansan”), aircraft number 43-10417, took off from San Angelo Army Airfield. There were three men on board: 2nd Lt. Thomas E. Nageotte – pilot; 1st Lt. J.B. Colleps – bombardier instructor; and 1st Lt. Hal Dalton – bombardier instructor. The flight was for bombardier instructor proficiency training – in other words, Lieutenants Colleps and Dalton were maintaining that their own skill levels.

DALTON - CRASH FINAL DALTON - airview of crash


The AT-11A, powered with two Pratt and Whitney R-985 engines, rated at 450 horsepower each, crashed near Christoval, killing all three occupants. Several miles from the airbase it struck the arid ground at a shallow descent, bounced once, twice, and on the third strike exploded. Very little of the aircraft was left intact. The resulting investigation gave no clear explanation for what had happened. Report of Major Accident Number 45-6-29-21 noted:

The accident occurred at about the part of a bombing mission where the last bombardier is completing the 12 C Report on bombs dropped and the pilot is losing altitude for entrance into the traffic pattern at the home base. It is possible that the reflection of the bombardier’s nose light on dirty glass might have blinded the pilot enough to cause confusion and error.

      The investigators also surmised the possibility of an air lock, as the one hour and eighteen minute flight would have emptied the main fuel tank. “With possible air lock in fuel system, [and the plane descending from the practice bombing run altitude] the pilot may have placed his entire attention inside the cockpit long enough for the accident to occur.”  In other words, there was no clear explanation for the three deaths. The aircraft simply flew into the ground, plowing up mesquite and cactus, before disintegrating.

            A good friend, Lt. C.D. With accompanied Hal’s body home. Funeral services were held at Rogers-Pennington Funeral Home in San Marcos on July 2, 1945. Dean H.E. Speck, the men’s dean at SWTSTC spoke glowingly of Hal.  A letter from Reverend C.E. Bludworth, pastor at First Methodist Church at San Angelo, and former pastor at First Methodist in Lockhart, was read. Reverend Bludworth knew Hal as a boy in Lockhart, and became re-acquainted with him when Hal began attending church at Rev. Bludworth’s church in San Angelo. Pall bearers included Joe Lipscomb, C.E. Royal, Alton Williams, and Jack Hoffman.

            1st Lt. Hal Dalton did not reach his 23rd birthday.

DALTON HAL W - HEADSTONE 1945 KYLEHal Walton’s Headstone – Kyle




            Anna Doris, or “Jimmie” as she insisted from childhood on being called, was born to Alvin and Mamie (Whisenant) Kreuz on March 14, 1920. The KREUZ JIMMIE crop twothird of three sisters, (a

brother would come along in 1931) she was a tomboy, and excelled in sports. The Kreuz family home was at 123 Trinity Street, Lockhart. Joe Bunch grew up across the street from the Kreuz family and fondly remembered Jimmie. She always owned a horse, and would often ride her horse up to the Bunch front yard where she would tell Joe to ‘climb on’ behind her. They would then ride all over Lockhart. She graduated from Lockhart High School in 1936 and then took a business course to become a stenographer. She served as the Sunday school secretary at Lockhart First Presbyterian Church and was captain of the local women’s debating team. Jimmie worked for the Alamo Lumber Company before taking the job of Secretary of the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce. When the war began, she became Captain in the local Women’s Defense Corps.

            The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later shortened to the Women’s Army Corps or WAC) was P. Hobby. The Corps was created to fill gaps left by men leaving for the service. Ultimately, over 150,000 women enlisted, serving in all theaters of the war, and in many non-combat roles originally held by men. General Dwight Eisenhower said of them, “their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable.” The WAC success spurred the creation of Navy WAVES, Coast Guard SPARS, and Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). The WAC was intended to be a wartime organization only, but its success kept it from being disbanded until 1978, when men and women were placed on equal footing in all branches of the military (except in combat roles).

Jimmie enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps on January 9, 1943. Jimmie’s enlistment records showed her to be 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing 140 pounds.  She was the first woman from Lockhart to enlist in the WAAC. Jimmie attempted to resign from her duties at the Chamber of Commerce when she enlisted, but the Chamber members insisted that they were only allowing her to “be on leave,” promising her job would be open when she returned from the service.

Prior to reporting, she was “the subject of numerous social courtesies before her departure.” Lockhart Mayor Sam Tabor introduced her as the honored guest at a Lockhart city council meeting the first week of February 1943. Guests at the meeting included Mrs. HV Reid, Mr. and Mrs. CM George, and Mr. AW Mohle. The paper noted, “Miss Kreuz responded with a few well-chosen words.”  JimmieKREUZ JIMMIE - RECRUITING POSTER was by all accounts an extremely likeable and popular young woman. Because of these traits, and the fact that she was the first local woman to enlist in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps she received much laudatory press coverage. The Post Register described Jimmie as “[a] lady of fine personality, physically capable, experienced in making contact with people, an extraordinary executive, alert as to duties assigned. Lockhart people expect her to advance in the service of the W.A.A.C.”

After enlisting, she reported for service in San Antonio on February 7, 1943 and received her eight weeks of basic training in Des Moines, Iowa.  She then received additional training at various posts in Iowa, Louisiana, and Georgia. She was promoted to Corporal. Because of her outgoing personality, she was made a recruiter. She was a very successful one.

            On July 8, 1944, Jimmie was attending a tennis game at Maxwell Field (later Maxwell Air Force Base) in Alabama. She was seated in the bleachers when she was struck by lightning and killed instantly. Her body was shipped by train to Luling. Her casket was met there and accompanied by military units to the family home at 419 Trinity Street, where it lay in state “amid masses of exquisite flowers…” Businesses all over town closed for her funeral at the Lockhart Cemetery. Present was an honor guard of WACs from Randolph Field. A contingent of airmen from the San Marcos Air Field served as a firing squad. Among those serving as pallbearers were local Texas State Guard members Harry Annas and Gershon Rosenwasser. The Chamber of Commerce prepared a commemorative piece in the paper, noting, “No more useful or highly esteemed citizen ever lived in Lockhart that Miss Jimmie Kreuz.”

            The Post Register stated, “Her life was lived honestly, joyously, and courageously before God and her fellowmen.”

Jimmie was twenty-four years oKREUZ JIMMIE - HEADSTONEld.

Jimmie Kreuz’ Headstone-Lockhart Cemetery

FROM REFERENCE NOTES IN THEY GAVE THEIR ALL: The true stories of the brave men – and woman – from Caldwell County, Texas who gave their all in World War Two by Todd Blomerth Copyright 2016

KREUZ, ANNA (JIMMY) – Jimmy’s photo was sent to me by her younger brother, Charles Raleigh Kreuz, a retired oil company executive and consultant, living in Fredericksburg, Texas. He has kept her photo by his bedside his entire life. Joe Bunch provided much personal information about Jimmie, as well as other members of the Kreuz family.  Raleigh passed away in 2017.