All posts by tripodtab

Todd Blomerth recently retired from the bench of the 421st Judicial District Court for Caldwell County, Texas. He has written military history articles for local newspapers for many years. In 2023-2014, the Lockhart Post Register and the Luling Newsboy published over 80 stories of young Americans who died in the service of their country in WW2. In 2016, Judge Blomerth published his first book, They Gave Their All, a cumulation and expansion of his earlier newspaper stories. Judge Blomerth continues to interview combat veterans. Those stories are kindly published in the County's newspapers. A member of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band in Texas A&M's Corps of Cadets, Blomerth graduated in 1972, and later received him Juris Doctor from the University of Texas School of Law.

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.





1922 – 2005


            I moved to Lockhart in late 1981. Soon I started hearing about a fellow named Spike Strawn. He and his son Fla owned S&S Fertilizer with an office in a small building on Highway 183 about where the McDonald’s is now. S&S also had a crop-dusting service. Word was that you didn’t want to get crosswise with Spike, as he was someone who didn’t put up with a lot of guff or suffer fools lightly. He was a proud United States Marine who’d fought for our country during World War II, and his training, background, and combat experience made him a fearsome adversary.

When I finally met Spike, I concluded that everything I’d heard was true. Rawboned, tough as shoe leather, and plain spoken to be sure. But there was another side to Spike Strawn. He wasn’t some caricature. He was complex, highly intelligent, often thoughtful man. Sure, he’d let you know when he thought your thinking wasn’t on course. But he was a loving father and grandfather, a raconteur, and, if he decided you were okay, your best friend.

In short, Spike was a living, breathing example of someone whose family had survived the Great Depression, who went through four major island landings in the Pacific against America’s most ferocious and merciless foe, and who’d proved to himself and others that he had what it took. Spike had grit.

Cecil DeFla “Spike” Strawn was born on 4 January 1922 in Lytton Springs, Texas, the third of eight children of Littleton Lawson “Dill” Strawn and Beatrice Lillie (Ward) Strawn. Besides farming, Dill did whatever it took to put food on the family’s table. Dill was a gifted mechanic and could fabricate parts for just about anything. When he wasn’t farming, he worked for various oil companies in the area. Dill also played semi-pro baseball for company teams. Beatrice took care of the growing family. She gardened, canned, cooked, and ensured that Jenella, Helen Louise, Spike, Doyle Ray, Marjorie, Juanita, Herschel and Pat were clothed and clean. The 20s and 30s were lean times, and everyone in the family was expected to contribute to keeping food on the family table.

Schooling started in Lytton Springs. The place had become an oil boom town in the mid-1920s. At that time, it boasted four grocery stores, a confectionary, a barbershop, and Masonic Lodge, as well as several churches. Life was precarious. Spike would often walk to school, sometimes barefoot, even in the winter. In the second grade, he contracted pneumonia and stayed in bed for almost two months. There were no antibiotics. As he recalled in 1995, “they rubbed you with liniment and hoped for the best.” He survived, but a chest x-ray taken when he enlisted in the Marines showed his right lung stopped growing as a result of the disease. It never slowed him down. In the sixth grade, his class had to submit to a series of twenty-one shots because of a rabid dog, which Dill eventually shot.

In high school, Spike played six-man football and basketball. The oil boom was dead by this time, and Lytton Springs suffered mightily. He landed a job earning seven and a half cents an hour picking and sorting tomatoes. A long day would net him 60 to 80 cents, which was substantially more than many grown men were making. Later, he pulled corn and picked cotton. At one point, he earned 40 cents cutting and shucking corn for his uncle. At the end of the week, he’d have $2.50 – a princely sum.

Entertainment was simple. Square dances (without instruments, and only with singing), or catching a ride into Lockhart to see a movie. His best friend was his cousin, Frank Coopwood, Jr. The price of an evening in the county seat: 15 cents for the show, 10 cents for a hamburger, and 5 cents for a Coke.

War news had become commonplace in the late 1930s. Hitler’s Germany had bluffed France and England and recovered Sudetenland, stolen Czechoslovakia, and absorbed Austria. Franco’s Nationalists, with the aid of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy was quickly putting finished to Republican Spain. China was under the boot heel of the Japanese military, which had killed over 200,000 civilians in what was rightfully called “the Rape of Nanking.”

Most Americans were adamant that their country shouldn’t involve itself in another world conflict. Over intense opposition, the first peacetime draft was enacted in mid-1940. Then in late 1940, the National Guard was nationalized for one year. The country slowly awoke to the reality that “the Arsenal of Democracy” needed to do much more than talk about helping its oldest ally, Britain. Any doubts as to the extent of the conflagration were put to rest when Germany turned on a fellow aggressor and attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941.

Meanwhile, the United States imposed an embargo on steel and oil heading toward Japan. It was the last straw to the militarists controlling the Empire’s government. Already badly and surprising beaten when the Japanese Army made a move against the Soviets in Siberia and Mongolia, it turned its interests south, toward British and Dutch colonies… and the American Philippine Commonwealth.

Then came the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. America was “all in.” Less than a year later, on 3 November 1942, Cecil DeFla Strawn enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After a night in San Antonio’s Crockett Hotel, he and 98 other men from the area were loaded on a train for San Diego, California. Three long days later, they marched two miles to Camp Pendleton, had their heads shaved, and met the drill instructor. The DI quickly assured them that the training base’s colonel was “Big Jesus,” that the DI was “Little Jesus,” and that **** flowed downhill. Weeks of boot camp ensued, and then more training on the rifle range.

Spike asked to become a tanker, and surprisingly, the Marines agreed. Because the USMC didn’t have its own armored school, he spent several months at the Army’s Armored School at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Dill Strawn, determined to see his son, rode a packed train from Texas, standing up the entire way, and spent four days at Fort Knox, sleeping surreptitiously in the barracks with the Marine trainees.

Spike’s first 48 hour pass is noted on Armor School notebook

As soon as he returned to California, Spike and his fellow tankers were shipped to Hawaii and became part of a replacement detail. On the Big Island, he and three others were assigned to the 22nd Marine Regiment. He was about to enter the war. The 22nd Marines and its men soon learned they were to be part of a landing force in the Marshall Islands. Spike’s life would never be the same.


On 16 January 1944, Spike and the 2nd Separate Tank Company of the 22nd Marine Regiment boarded the USS President Monroe. After a brief stop at Pearl Harbor (after training on Maui and the Big Island) Spike noted in his pocket notebook that on 23 January he “left Pearl Harbor for the Marshall Islands.” Ten days later, Spike “witnessed my first air and naval bombardment in Marshall Islands.”

The 22nd Marines was part of a large American force attacking the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands in the advance toward the Japanese home islands. Initially held in reserve during the landing on Kwajalein, the 22nd struck Engebi, and after fierce fighting, secured the island. Spike’s notes of 19 February 1944 state: “Landed on next island [Eniwetok] after Army 106th Regiment failed. Much more opposition than expected. So far in all operations 2nd Sep[arate] Tank Co. has lost three tanks and 7 or 8 men.” Over 800 Japanese were killed on Eniwetok.

The baptism under fire continued. The island fighting was extremely vicious. The Japanese rarely surrendered. After three days and nights without rest, what Spike describes as “the last island” in Eniwetok Atoll [probably Parry Island] was attacked. The Americans did a better job of softening up Parry than had been done on Eniwetok. After two days, only 105 Japanese of the 1100 defenders survived to be captured. Spike’s tank company lost ten more men killed.

Finally, Spike’s company was put ashore on a small deserted island in the Kwajalein Atoll chain supposedly for “garrison duty” – and immediately forgotten. With little food, the men resorted to stunning fish with hand grenades. Three weeks later, someone finally remembered the bedraggled bunch and pulled them off the island.

Spike’s mail caught up with him. He discovered that his cousin and best friend, Frank Coopwood, Jr. had been killed in the mountains of central Italy on 23 December 1943 while fighting with the 36th “Texas” Division.

USS Comet AP-166, USS West Point AP-23, LST866, CVE 99 USS Admiralty Islands – some of the ships Spike traveled on in the Pacific

In 1995, Spike recorded some recollections of his time in the Marines. One incident of the Marshall Islands stood out. One of the 22nd’s mortar platoons had an undersized and very young Marine. The kid was deeply loved and treated as if he was the platoon’s mascot. During some point in the fighting, Spike recalls the platoon coming off the line, and everyone in it was “bawling like a baby.” The young marine had been killed by a Japanese flamethrower.

After Kwajalein and Eniwetok, the 22nd Marines was shipped to Guadalcanal. for refitting and training for the next landing. Many of the 22nd’s marines had trained in 1942-1943 in American Samoa. Over a thousand men were discovered to be infected with filariasis, a nasty tropical roundworm. Most had to be evacuated.

            Not all deaths were combat related. Spike vividly recalled the death of a tanker. During one operation, the Navy “got scared” and let off the marine tanks from its landing craft in “about 80 feet of water.” A marine named Drumgould was in the gunner’s seat when the thirty-three-ton Sherman drove off the ramp and immediately sank. Somehow, Drumgould pushed through an eight-inch opening, and made it to the water’s surface. His ears, nose and mouth bled from the pressure change. The tank driver was trapped when the Sherman settled, blocking his way out. He died, and Spike recalled Dromgould, haunted by the event, “walking, walking all night long.”

The regiment’s strength was rebuilt, and along with the 4th Marines and an Army regiment, formed into the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade. The newly rebuilt regiment trained intensely. The next stop – the island of Guam.

On 22 July 1944, the Americans began the attack to retake Guam, lost to the Japanese shortly after Pearl Harbor. Guam and nearby Saipan and Tinian could hold airfields within range of the Japanese home islands for the new B-29 bombers. The 1st Provisional Brigade landing was met by ferocious resistance. A beachhead was secured, and then the marines withstood repeated attempts to push them back into the sea. As the tanks landed, Spike spied seven dead marines lying behind a coconut log. All had been killed by a sniper. Spike’s platoon leader, a young lieutenant from Cuero, had predicted he wouldn’t survive. He was right. Within days of the landing, the young officer was killed.

            Japanese light tanks were no match for the American’s Shermans. But the Americans’ armor took many losses from suicidal attacks with satchel charges. At night, Spike and other tankers withdrew into the marines’ defensive lines to avoid the enemy’s intense shelling, and sneak attacks.

The island was officially declared “secured” on August 10. By that time, over 11,000 Japanese had been killed. Several thousand fled into the mountainous terrain. . As the mopping up continued, his tank company was tasked with guarding a hospital on the north end of the island. Security was relaxed – there seemed little risk. A young private in the company named Parsons joined a volleyball game nearby – and was shot dead by a sniper. Parsons was one of at least fifteen in the company killed.

            The 22nd Marines shipped back to Guadalcanal to refit. Everyone anticipated that the closer to Japan the landings became, the more ferocious the resistance would become. While on Guadalcanal, the 22nd Marines became part of the newly formed 6th Marine Division. Spike’s tank company was designated B Company, 6th Tank Battalion, 22nd Marines.

            The next landing – Okinawa. Sixty-six miles long and seven miles wide, it was the largest of the Ryukyu Islands and was considered one of Japan’s home islands. Seven American divisions – four Army and three Marine – landed on 1 April 1945 in the largest amphibious landing of the Pacific War.  Nearly 200,000 soldiers and marines,supported by the US Navy’s hundreds of warships, splashed ashore and found virtually no resistance.

Where was the enemy? Soon, the Americans found out.

Okinawa was soon split in two. The Sixth Marine Division swung north. Resistance grew worse as the division advanced. Soon, the remaining Japanese were isolated and destroyed. As noted in Spike’s notes the northern portion of the island was secured by April 22.

A page of Spike’s notes of the fighting in northern Okinawa

            The Sixth Marine Division was ordered south. There, over 100,000 Japanese soldiers, marines, naval personnel, along with conscripted Okinawan labor units had turned the island’s southern mountains into an almost impenetrable fortress. The Americans’ naval and air superiority seemed to have little effect against an enemy using an enormous array of tunnels, caves and ingenious defenses commanded by the brilliant General Mitsuru Ushijima. Spike’s notebook entries rarely contain personal reflections. However, the futility of the battle becomes vivid in entry after entry of tanks destroyed, men killed, horrible weather, and combat exhaustion.

            One can’t read these shorthand versions of hell, without being moved. Spike speaks of fifty days of rain, of mosquitoes, of casualty figures that beggar the imagination.

            Shuri Castle, the Gorge, Tombstone Ridge, Dead Horse Gulch, Naha, Kakazu Ridge, the Pinnacle, Wana Draw. These became names synonymous with misery and death. Rains began, and the front lines began to appear like something out of World War I trench warfare.

Some of the journal entries during and after Okinawa

            The enemy was often unseen, hidden in caves and spider holes. High points were taken and lost. Tanks were destroyed by artillery or mines. The killing seemed to go on forever. The horrific battle in Okinawa’s “Death Valley,” resulted in death to hundreds, perhaps thousands of Japanese. “There were 500 to 700 bodies, all over the place,” Spike remembered.

            Finally, the weight of American force pushed the remaining Japanese into a smaller and smaller area. By the end of May 1945, over 50,000 Japanese had been killed – yet the battle was far from over. The 6th Marine Division were loaded on ships and made another amphibious landing, helping seal the doom of the remaining defenders

            Suddenly, it was over. The cost was dear. Over 12,000 soldiers, sailors and marines died in the fighting and defending against kamikaze air attacks. It is estimated that over 110,000 Japanese died, either in the fighting or by suicide. Sadly, Okinawan civilian losses were huge – well over 100,000. Adding to that, the islanders had been told repeatedly that Americans would rape the women and kill the men. Those Okinawans not used as slave labor and killed during the fighting, had to be convinced that what had been told them was a lie. “The civilians just knew we were going to kill or rape them, because that is what they’d been told.” Instead, Americans went out of their way to assure of the opposite. GIs and marines handed out water, food, and medical supplies to everyone in need.

Spike’s three year tour through hell

            Like thousands of other fighting men, Spike was diagnosed with “combat fatigue.” He shipped home to USNH San Leandro, dealing with what we now call PTSD. Finally, in December 1945, Sergeant Spike Strawn was honorably discharged from the United States Marines. He’d lost over thirty pounds while in combat and was suffering from malaria. Of his 1022 days in the Marine Corps, 137 had been in some of the worst combat experienced in World War II.

            With millions of others, Spike returned home. After blowing of steam “honky-tonking” for about six months, he married and began a family. The drought of the early 1950s made him re-think farming. Like his father Dill, Spike did what was necessary to ensure his family’s well-being. He became a feed salesman for Capitol Feed at one dollar an hour. It wasn’t unusual to work seventy to eighty hours a week. Eventually, Spike started his own fertilizer company, which he operated until he retired.

            In 1994, Spike and his buddy Fred Hinnenkamp, flew to the Pacific and revisited some of the areas he’d trained in or fought in. I wonder what memories, good and bad, the trip brought to his mind.

            Spike Strawn’s proudest achievement was that “he helped raise three good kids.”

I visited Spike at his apartment a year before he died. He showed me a large United States Marine Corps blanket covering his bed. I believe his second proudest achievement was serving his country in the USMC.

Semper Fideles, Sergeant Strawn.

DOUGLAS WADE “TINKER” HENDRICKS 1925-2009 Eleven B-17 crewmen left on the mission. Seven came home.

By Todd A. Blomerth

Tinker Hendricks in 1943 as an aircrew student  

It is July of 1944. You are the parents of six sons. The oldest five are in the Armed Forces of the United States. Four are overseas in combat zone assignments. A fifth will soon be there. The only son left at home, Michael is a young boy. You proudly display five Blue Stars in your front window. You’ve seen Gold Stars appear in your neighbors’ windows and seen the grieving parents attempt to deal with the death of a child. Every day the war drags on, the chances become greater that you too will lose a child to war.

Minor, your oldest, is with the 36th Infantry (“Texas”) Division which has been badly bloodied in Italy. Arthur (“Jack”) witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor and is with the Army Air Force somewhere in the Pacific Theater. Risdon (“Buck”) is serving as a Military Policeman, somewhere in Italy. Douglas (“Tinker””) is a crewman on a B17 bomber somewhere in Europe. Harvey (“Salty”) has recently joined the Navy as a 17-year-old and will soon see combat as a sailor in the Pacific.

Douglas Tinker’s Draft Registration Card

The daily life of Risdon Hendricks and his wife Sidney Frances (Pierce) Hendricks must have at times been excruciating. Thankfully, their boys all came home. It nearly wasn’t so.

Tinker Hendricks enlisted in the Army Air Force right after his eighteenth birthday. Soon he was at Sheppard Army Field, outside of Wichita Falls, Texas beginning his training as a bomber crew member. He completed his training as B17 aircrew man at Avon Park Army Air Field. The B17, dubbed “Flying Fortress,” was a high altitude, four-engine, heavy strategic bomber. The crew consisted of ten men: flight commander, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, radio operator, flight engineer and upper turret gunner, two waist gunners, tail gunner and ball-turret gunner.  By the summer of 1943, the “G” model was replacing older models. The aircraft bristled with firepower, having thirteen heavy machineguns. Despite its name, unless escorted to the target by fighters such as the P51 Mustang, it was no match against enemy air attacks. Even with fighter support, anti-aircraft or “flak” guns remained deadly.

1st Lt. Haas and his crew – Tinker is lower right

On May 10, 1944, the crew members of a brand-new B17-G received their orders for overseas. The ten men, four officers and six sergeants, were to proceed from Grenier Field, New Hampshire to England via the North Atlantic Route. And so began Sergeant Douglas W. “Tinker” Hendricks’ combat tour as a waist gunner on a Flying Fortress.

            Tinker later wrote: We were assigned to a new B17G at Hunter Field, Georgia…From Hunter Field we flew to Fort Dix NJ to Grenier, to Bermuda to Marrakech [Morocco] to Tunis to Gioia Italy to Tortorello [Tortorella] Italy attached to the 97th Bomb Group (H) AAF-342 Bomb Squadron.

It took the crew ten days to make the Atlantic and Mediterranean crossing. The 342nd had seen combat since 1942. (Memphis Belle was part of the squadron when based in England). By 1944 the 342nd was part of the newly formed 15th Air Force, flying missions against the Axis from Italy.

            As can be seen from his mission reports, it didn’t take long for the crew to see action over enemy territory. Because of the squadron’s location, their missions were long. The heavily defended Ploesti oil refineries in Romania – 7 hours and 45 minutes. Vienna, Austria – 6 hours and 35 minutes. By July 16th, Tinker’s crew had flown eleven combat missions.

Tinker’s flight log on the B17- closed out when the plane and crew were lost over Germany

            On July 19, 1944, Tinker’s bomber, commanded by First Lieutenant David Haas, took off from Amendola, Italy with a full bomb load. Part of a large formation, its mission was to bomb a ball bearing factory on the north side of Munich. The normal ten-man crew was supplemented with a photographer. The crew consisted of Lt. David Haas (command pilot), Lt. David Hersha (co-pilot), Lt. Frank Coleman (navigator), Lt. Peter Parialo (bombardier), Tech Sergeant James Loomis (radio operator), Tech Sergeant Harold Little (engineer-armorer), Staff Sergeant Arthur Manosh (left waist gunner), Staff Sergeant Douglas Hendricks (right waist gunner), Sergeant Edward Williams (ball turret gunner), Staff Sergeant George Bernall (tail gunner), and Staff Sergeant Donald Black (photographer/gunner). Lt. Parialo, the bombardier, was not part of the aircraft’s regular crew, having been assigned the duties for the one mission.

            The escorting fighters kept any German fighters at bay. They were no help against German anti-aircraft. As the formation approached the target, the flak became heavier and heavier. Just after the formation released its ordnance from approximately 25,000 feet, Tinker’s B17 took a direct hit on its right inboard engine.  The wounded aircraft lagged back and dropped in elevation as Lt. Haas struggled to control it. Less than a minute later, he would be dead. 

After the war, Sergeant Little was interviewed. He wrote that the last time he saw 1st Lieut. Haas, the pilot was in the cockpit, and that he could not have bailed out. “According the words of the top turret gunner, the last burst of flak hit the pilot, which caused severe injury and [sic] going down with the ship.”

Lt. Parialo, the fill-in bombardier, was interviewed after the war. His recollection was vivid:

  1. We were hit by flak as we turned off the target.
  2. We stayed in formation for at least two minutes,
  3. Immediately after we were hit, I check through the interphone with each member of the crew and no one was injured,
  4. Through necessity, I disconnected my headset and helped the Navigator put out a fire under the pilot’s compartment,
  5. Suddenly the Navigator opened the escape hatch and jumped,
  6. Co-pilot followed,
  7. I stood up and looked to the rear of the ship and could see as far as the waist windows. There was no one in sight.
  8. I jumped immediately after. I knew that the Pilot was still in the ship and I though that he was the only in the ship.
  9. The plane blew up very shortly after I bailed out
  10. I was told by the Engineer-Gunner T/Sgt. Harold A. Little, whom I met in France after our liberation that he followed me out and that everybody else had jumped except the Pilot,
  11. I presumed that the pilot 1st Lt. David F. Haas was killed when the ship blew up.

            Staff Sergeant Black remembers the event a bit differently:

The post-mission interviews tell the chilling story. As shown in the typewritten comments of another aircraft’s crewman: “After it dropped about 5000 feet, it blew up.”

            The final tally – seven survived. Four did not. Lt. Haas clearly died when the aircraft blew up. Loomis and Williams may have jumped and couldn’t or didn’t activate their parachutes. Staff Sergeant Manosh was captured, and quite possibly murdered.

            Tinker was captured and shipped to Stalag Luft 4, a prisoner of war camp for Allied airmen. The subsequent months were anything but pleasant.

The Men of Tinker’s B-17. Seven captured, and four missing, later confirmed dead

            Stalag Luft 4 was located in northern Prussia It held over eight thousand downed airmen. Survival was bleak. The prisoners’ day to day existence was challenged by the weather off the Baltic Sea. By 1944, average Germans were suffering from the Allies’ continuous bombings. While Germany to a large extent attempted to honor the Geneva Convention on captured prisoners, the reality of life in Germany guaranteed that the Allied airmen in Stalag Luft 4 lived a life of deprivation. Inadequate heath and washing facilities, unheated and overcrowded barracks, open air latrines and poor quality food were the order of the day. The prisoners lost weight at an alarming rate. What correspondence allowed was heavily censored. Tinker and the other prisoners of war were not allowed to mention anything remotely disparaging about their condition and treatment.

The Red Cross food package – desperately needed

Tinker’s pencil-written letter home with envelope from Stalag Luft IV – October 26, 1944 – the camp guards censored all letters in and out of the POW camp

Delivery of Red Cross parcels was spotty due to the Axis’ damaged rail system. They were a godsend for nutrition and morale. American parcels contained, among other things, Spam, powdered milk, sugar, coffee, tuna, soap, cigarettes, and soup concentrate. Often, the parcels were stolen or pilfered by camp guards.

The dreaded telegram – your son is missing in action

The second telegraph – there is hope

Better – your son is ‘safe’

Even better – he is back in friendly hands

The best one of all – you’ll be hearing from him soon

In early 1945, the Soviet advance threatened the German homeland. Rather than releasing the prisoners, the Germans decided to march the Stalag’s POWs west. The result was a grueling 500 mile trek through one of the worst winters in European history. Dubbed the ‘Black March,’ it lasted eighty-six days. The POWs walked up to twenty miles daily, usually sleeping in the open, with little food or water. Collaboration with Germans was forbidden, but often the POWs were able to trade jewelry, watches and cigarettes for food from farmers. Water often came from ditches or snowmelt. Everyone was lice infested. Most suffered from dysentery, which they treated by eating charcoal. Pellagra, typhus, tuberculosis, trench foot, diphtheria and pneumonia were rampant.

POWs from several camps in the east arrived at Stalag XI-B near Fallingbostel around April 3, 1945. With the Americans and British encroaching from the west, the Germans decided the haggard and unhealthy men were to be moved again – this time to the east. Because of the POWs’ deteriorating condition (and their guards’ awareness that their roles would soon be reversed) they moved only four to five miles a day. Finally, on the morning of May 2, 1945, British forces liberated them.

The men were immediately checked medically, given new clothing, and placed in decent surroundings. With adequate food and medical care, they began to gain weight. Their war now really was over. 

Important to the families were the telegrams announcing sons, husbands, and brothers were on their way back to the beloved United States of America.

            Tinker’s survival was remarkable. Also remarkable was his mother’s correspondence with Sgt. Little’s wife, one which has survived over seventy years. Mrs. Hendricks’ missive, in beautiful cursive, shows her concern, and also shows an amazingly accurate recitation of the Stalag Luft 4 POWs’ trek across Nazi Germany.

Mrs. Hendricks’ letter to Sgt. Little’s wife

The Hendricks sons reunited – 1946

Tinker at the Luling American Legion POW- MIA ceremony – 2008

After the war, Tinker married Beverly Davenport from Prairie Lea. They had one child, Shirley. After Beverly’s untimely death, he married Dorothy Valla. They had two children, Russell and Mark. Tinker worked for Mobil Oil and later for a perforating company. Douglas ‘Tinker’ Hendricks passed away in 2009.

Tinker inside a B17 at an air show in San Marcos. I wonder what was going through his mind.

               Like so many of our fighting men of that era, Tinker considered his experience just part of ‘doing his duty.’ His life after World War II was that of a hard working American. He married, raised a family, and had grandchildren. His was a good and productive life. Tinker was proud of his service, but at the same time, didn’t consider it any more that part of his obligation as an American. He kept contact with some of his crew members, exchanging information on families and jobs. There was no bragging or complaining.

            He truly was a wonderful example of the Greatest Generation.



1ST Lieutenant Stromberg, Ft. Reno Remount Station, Oklahoma 1952

Billy Stromberg at his Caldwell County home in 2019

In 2014, I interviewed Billy Stromberg when I began the series of biographies on the men and woman from Caldwell County who gave their lives for our country in World War II. His older brother Richard had been killed on New Georgia in 1943 and Billy provided me with recollections and photos of his beloved sibling. At that time, Billy mentioned his own service in the U.S. Army, and I promised I’d get back with him. I finally did, five years later.

I’m thankful I did. 

William Pharr Stromberg was born in Caldwell County, Texas on June 27, 1929. He was the ninth and youngest of six boys and three girls of Hjalmar Pharr Stromberg and Ester Mary Ann (Sponberg) Stromberg. The Stromberg children spanned three decades, with Billy’s oldest sibling, Roland arriving in 1905. The Sponberg and Stromberg families were part of a wave of Swedish immigrants arriving in and around the Central Texas area in the 1870s. Many were fleeing famine that struck much of Scandinavia around that time. Most were farmers but there were also many professionals in the group. Billy’s grandfather, Richard Eustachius Stromberg was a pharmacist who for a time worked at Tobin Drug Company on Congress Avenue in Austin. One biographer sums up Billy’s Swedish stock well: They were “good, strong, hard working people.”

The Stromberg family ranched and farmed in the north end of Caldwell County. Billy’s childhood was typical of a farm and ranch kid –lots of hard work. After three years at the tiny Mendoza School, he completed his schooling in Lockhart, taking the school bus ten miles into town every day. He graduated from Lockhart High School in 1947.  Billy was a serious young man, and his love of rural life, of raising and improving livestock came early and continues to this day. Like other young men in his family, he attended Texas A&M. A&M was an all-male military college, and he was assigned to A Company, Quartermaster Corps. His senior year, Cadet Major Stromberg also served as the Supply Officer for the Composite Engineers Regiment.

Like most Aggies, he had a military obligation and requested upon commissioning appointment as a Reserve officer in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps.  So did his roommate, Gale Brundrett, from Refugio. Surprisingly, the Army honored their requests. After a sixteen week Quartermaster Officer’s Training course at Ft. Lee, Virginia, the two got lucky again. They were assigned to the 9182nd Technical Service Unit at Fort Reno, Oklahoma in January 1952.

Fort Reno has a colorful history. It was established in 1874 as a military post to protect an Indian agency from marauding tribes during the Red River War. Soon, its role changed, as the Native Americans, mostly Southern Cheyenne and Southern Arapaho, needed protection from Sooners rushing to settled the territory’s Unassigned Lands. The post was abandoned after statehood, but the fort’s Remount Depot remained. The United States Army needed horses for its cavalry up until World War II. The facility was turned over to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) in 1948, but a portion of the post continued to function. Major Lee O. Hill QM, whom Billy remembers well, explained the Remount Depot function in a 1952 Army publication:

The Remount Branch is now engaged in the procurement of horses and mules for Turkey, a sizable percentage of this procurement being comprised of breeding stock. In order to carry out the Foreign Aid Animal Procurement Programs, it has been necessary to activate the animal holding facilities at the former Reno QM Remount Depot, Fort Reno, Okla., where the animals, upon purchase, are sent for processing and conditioning prior to being shipped overseas. Animals shipped under this program have, according to reports, arrived in excellent condition, have measured up to required specifications, and are serving most efficiently the purposes for which they are intended.

Because of his skill with horses, newly minted 2nd Lieutenant Stromberg became part of the United States’ efforts at supplying Turkey, its new strategic partner and an uncomfortable neighbor to Joseph Stalin’s USSR. The Army “bought horses all over the country,” he recalls. Horse traders began filling orders. Animals aged 4 to 8 years were purchased and shipped by train in cars holding twenty-five horses. Upon arrival, they were vaccinated and had their hooves trimmed. To ensure their quality, “we had to ride them.” Billy chuckles when I ask if the animals were good mounts. “They were green broke at best!”

The civilian wranglers had strict instructions to not risk injury to the animals. Sometimes those instructions weren’t heeded. The barns were huge wooden structures with stalls on both sides of long center walkways. Large beamed rafters held up the roofs. “We had one broken down old rodeo cowboy. I never caught him at it, but I heard he’d get some pain pills in him and turn out an animal in the barn, and ride it bareback down the length of the structure, dodging rafters as the animal bucked.”

Once the veterinarians cleared the animals, they were loaded on a special train bound for Westwego, a river port across from New Orleans. During the loading process, Lt. Stromberg was billeted at Camp Leroy Johnson, south of Lake Pontchartrain, and several miles from Westwego. “I drove across the old Huey P. Long Bridge many times. Scared the heck out of me. It was narrow and there wasn’t any room for a mistake.”

Eight hundred and six horses were loaded into wooden crates and onto an old Victory ship, the USS Columbia Heights. The horses were stabled in three tiers of stalls: One on deck, one just below deck, and one in the hold. The Army’s contingent of thirty men consisted of officers, mess personnel, enlisted men and a veterinarian. The Army’s job was to ensure the animals’ safe passage to Turkey.

The SS Columbia Heights was originally the World War II Victory-class cargo ship SS Calvin Victory. After decommissioning, in 1950 the freighter was sold to Isbrandsen Company and renamed. It was one of many ships used by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Service and the Brethren Service Committee shipping livestock to countries devastated by World War II. Later, the Brethren Service Committee continued its efforts alone (it continues today as Heifer International).

Loading horses on oceangoing vessels was no easy task. The animals were hoisted aboard. Once loaded, the ship sailed down the Mississippi and out into the Gulf of Mexico. The trip to Turkey took sixteen days. The merchant marine ran the ship. The soldiers and officers cared for the animals. There was a superior officer ostensibly overseeing the shipment.  Lt. Stromberg actually ran the show on the three trips he made as “the fellow stayed in his cabin and slept most of the trip.” The SS Columbia Heights was no cruise ship. The trip over was “aromatic.” The return trip was spent cleaning and sanitizing stalls for other users. During 1952, the Israel Cattle Breeders Association and the Jewish Levinson Brothers of Newport News used the ship for transporting farm animals to the new state of Israel, totally independent from the Heifer Project. *

Billy is rightly proud of his efforts. “I made three trips, each with 806 horses. We only lost one.” While proud of his men’s efforts, he doesn’t have much good to say about some of the merchant marine. “They were a hodgepodge of nationalities and quality.” One probably overdosed and was accorded a burial at sea with full honors.


Billy made three trips on the SS Columbia Heights, alternating with his friend Gale Brundrett. Twice, the port was Iskenderun, and once it was Istanbul. His one regret was sailing up the Bosporus at night and missing some of the sights. During his trips, Billy obtained charts and plotted every day’s progress. He still has them.

Once the ship was in port, there was little time for sightseeing. Turks assisted in offloading the equine cargo as cavalry troops stood by on the dock. Once offloaded, the ship returned to New Orleans. Then the process would begin again.

There was some unintended frivolity on one of Dale Brundrett’s trips. Two merchant marine sailors smuggled on Turkish belly dancers. The newspaper account described the young women as “ballet” dancers, which they weren’t.

Billy made his last trip to Turkey in October and November 1952. The young lieutenant wore many hats.  At one time or another, he was post adjutant, detachment commanding officer, personnel officer, postal officer, Marine Corps stable officer, horseshoe officer, supply officer and fire marshal. You get the picture. There were few officers, and everyone pulled their weight. The Remount Branch also trained horses for funeral processions at Arlington National Cemetery. Billy’s photos include several of the beautiful animals he helped train.

XO-31 bound for duty at Arlington

            First Lieutenant William Stromberg separated from the active Army in late 1953. He returned to his beloved farm and ranch in Caldwell County.  In 1970, he married Sadie Garner, a speech pathologist originally from Houston County. She retired from Bastrop Independent School District in 2000. Billy and Sadie continue to live in northern Caldwell County.

            Billy’s life has been a full one. In addition to ranching and farming, he served as president of Creedmoor-Maha Water Supply Corporation for fifty years. He also served on the board of the Caldwell County Conservation District and the Agricultural Stabilization Board. Billy’s love for Texas A&M is evident. Several years ago, he and Sadie endowed quite a few acres of the Stromberg ranch to his beloved alma mater. 

            Billy’s keen interest in history and the military are evident at a visit to the Stromberg residence. Along with detailed records of his time in the Army is a collection of artifacts discovered at Fort Reno. A few years ago, he became interested in rifle and pistol cartridges. The items on display, many quite old, are a sight to behold.

            If you happen upon Billy and Sadie, perhaps at the grocery store, make sure to give them a “Howdy.” And don’t forget to thank Billy for his service to his country and community.

*For a history on the Seagoing Cowboys, see

FORREST MORGAN ‘JACK’ WILSON – a short history of a long and amazing life

Jack Wilson in 2016

I met Jack Wilson when Patti and I moved to Lockhart over 35 years ago.  I am not sure I have ever met another person who has exhibited such a great enjoyment of life. He is absolutely convinced (and most convincing) that “there is a God,” that but for God’s intervention he would not have survived to tell the stories he recounts, and most of all, and that he has been richly blessed by God. He will not hesitate to tell anyone who will listen that his life has been a whole lot of fun. Sure, there have been some tough times. But nothing has changed Jack Wilson’s belief that it has been one heck of a ride.

Jack was the youngest child of Clarrissa (Dennis) and James Floyd Wilson. His older sisters were Claudia Roberta, Martha Mae, and Julia Clarrissa. Jack’s mom was of a pioneer family from Moran, in Shackleford County, and his father was from Orange, in far East Texas. Jack’s mother and father met and married in Carrizo Springs in 1911. By 1917, the Wilson family had moved to Lockhart. James was an auto mechanic, and a gifted one, all his life. He worked for Citizens Autos in 1917, and later for Lockhart Motor Company. Jack was born in Lockhart in 1922. His nickname – Jack – was given him by a coach in high school who didn’t like his given name. He has gone by Forrest or Jack ever since.

Jack’s childhood was by his account a very happy one. “I really had a wonderful family,” he says. Sadly, in 1936 his mother died of what was described as pellagra. Normally describing a niacin deficiency, it probably was an indicator of a more serious disorder. Regardless, Clarrissa, who was deeply loved and admired, was gone. Later, James remarried to Esther Chapman. She was a stern but loving step-mom. “We were poor as hell,” Jack recalls. James Wilson worked six days a week, often twelve hours a day, to put food on the family table. But Sunday was the Lord’s Day, and the Wilson family was in very regular attendance at Lockhart’s First Presbyterian Church.

Jack attended Lockhart schools. His chums included Bobby Balser, Herb Reid, and Mack Connolly. He played football in high school. “We weren’t all that good,” Jack says, “but we sure had a lot of fun trying.” He had a burning desire to attend Texas A&M, but in June of 1941 the United States was still in the throes of the Depression. Fortunately, his sister Claudia had married a Former Student who was a successful engineer, and the couple gave Jack $1000. “I knew that would get me through an entire year,” Jack recalls. “After that I figured I’d find a way to finish up.” A fish in the Corps of Cadets, he was assigned to G Company – Infantry, in the new Quadrangle near Duncan Dining Hall (its twelve dormitories are still Corps housing). Mack Connolly’s mother drove Jack and Mack to college. They were to graduate with the Class of 1945. Neither made it. Mack would eventually drop out, become an artillery officer, and be killed in combat in Germany three weeks before the end of the war. Jack ran out of money after the first year, hitched a ride to Waco, and went to work helping build Waco Army Air Field (later James Connolly Air Force Base). He received his draft notice while working there, so decided he wanted to be an Army Air Corps pilot. First he had to pass the written test – and he didn’t! He heard the Naval Air Corps written test was easier, so he took that, passing with a 90. The grueling physical exam was a breeze to a young man who’d known nothing but hard work. When he found he was officially a Naval Aviation Cadet, ‘I thought I had gone to heaven,” he recalls. “I was in the naval air corps, and I had never been in an airplane!”

Del Monte Hotel during WW2

Things just kept getting better. Jack was inducted and sent to Schreiner Institute (now Schreiner University) in Kerrville where he took ground school classes, and soloed in a Piper Cub after 8 hours of dual instruction. From there, he entrained for California. He and other air cadets on the train thought the worst when the train passed along the misery of Ft. Ord. Once again, Jack’s guardian angel was with him. The cadets wound up housed in one of the most luxurious hotels of its time. Hotel Del Monte, in Monterey, California had been requisitioned by the Navy. Instead of tents, the aviation cadets were ensconced in fancy hotel rooms. “The place even had a heated swimming pool.” Granted, there was a lot of spit and polish, military routine, and schooling, but mostly “they were trying to make gentlemen out of us,” he remembers. “And it was near the Pebble Beach Golf Course. It was high kicking.”

PT 17s in formation

Hutchinson, Kansas was no Monterey, but here, Jack learned to fly the Stearman PT-17 “Kaydet” biplane. Then it was south to Pensacola, Florida for advanced training in a Vultee “Vibrator.” At Pensacola, he transitioned into the SNJ or AT-6 “Texan.” While at Naval Air Station Green Cove Springs, he was given a choice of staying in naval aviation, or transferring to the US Marines. Jack joined the US Marines. “I always wanted to be a Marine,” he says. “They were the toughest.”  And besides, the transition might get him into the war faster.

The beloved SNJ-6 “Texan”


He was then introduced to America’s early Marine and aircraft carrier-based workhorse, the Grumman F4F Wildcat. It was a tough bird, but could be tricky to fly. 27 cranks were required to retract the landing gear. In addition, the landing gear was narrow, which could give a pilot nightmares if there were crosswinds – it was easy to ground loop. However, with 1200 horsepower, it was a joy for a young man wanting to fly a mean combat aircraft.

While manuever flying with Wildcats over Pensacola, his four plane formation was “attacked” by Army Air Force P-47s. “They came screaming through us, and the war was on.” The chase plane instructor’s screamed radio messages to resume the formation were gleefully ignored, as mock dog fights erupted. Jack laughs as he recalls that “this was the closest I got to the war!” Another time, his flight took off for training from one of the auxiliary fields near Pensacola. When they landed, he saw all sorts of reporters and photographers standing around, waiting for several groups of pilots to enter the hangars. “I thought they wanted to interview me,” he says. Not hardly. They clustered around another tall Marine. “Who is that?” he asked his buddies. “That’s Ted Williams.” Jack asked, “Who is Ted Williams?” The response: “You dumb ——, he’s the greatest baseball player in history.” Later, Jack and his buddies got to meet the Red Sox hero. Turning down a chance to fly night fighters (“I hated night flying”) he jumped at an assignment to a training squadron in Cherry Point, North Carolina.

Jack transitioned to one of the greatest fighters of World War II – the Vought F4U Corsair. This gull-winged fighter was (and is) a thing of beauty. Although the Navy flew it off carriers in World War II and in Korea, its true home was with the Marine Corps. Powered by a 2000 horsepower Pratt and Whitney R2800 Double Wasp radial engine, it had an outstanding career as a combat aircraft. If there is any doubt as to Jack’s love for this aircraft, ask to see the ring he wears, and which he and daughter Stephanie designed – the outline of the F4U is a prominent feature.

Jack shows me his F4U ‘Corsair’ ring – he wore it every day

 He and other pilot trainees were hot to get into the war. But no matter how hard he tried, something would always derail his attempts. While training on the Corsair, he received his next set of orders – not overseas, but to Floyd Bennett Field in New York. For the next 15 months, Jack flew single engine aircraft – mostly fighters and torpedo bombers – from factories to various airfields all over the United States. He felt God’s saving grace on many occasions. One in particular: horrible weather at Jackson, Mississippi had all aircraft grounded until 4 p.m. when the tower claimed the weather was clearing, and gave Jack clearance for Ft. Worth. He had allowed a sailor to hitch a ride in the belly of the torpedo bomber he was ferrying. As he climbed into the clouds, lightning and turbulence increased. With nightfall approaching and flying conditions incredibly dangerous, he and another aircraft were dead reckoning, without radio contact. It looked like the end. “I knew I had to get that plane on the ground, but I had no idea where I was,” he says. “I looked down, and there was a tiny part in the clouds, so I spun down and darned if I hadn’t shown up in Ft. Worth! God had literally saved my life.” After landing safely, the sailor emerged badly shaken from the belly of the plane and said he would “find another ride.” He also stole Jack’s expensive Parker pen!

The war ended, and Jack was transferred to Quantico, Virginia for advanced officer classes. One day, he glanced down at the newspaper’s daily horoscope. “I NEVER read those damned things,” he says. But this day he did. The horoscope said, “You will take a long trip over water in three days.” Coincidence? Of course, but the following morning he got orders sending him to Asia. From San Francisco, he boarded a “slow boat to China.” Traveling at 8 knots per hour, it took 30 days to arrive at the Chinese mainland, where he became part of Operation Beleaguer.  Thousands of young Americans had trained intensively for the invasion of Japan. When Japan surrendered, there were over 500,000 Japanese and Korean troops in Northern China needing repatriating. Also, the US had, somewhat reluctantly provided support to the Nationalists in the fight against Japan, as well as in the decade long civil war against Mao Zedong’s communists. American Marines were landed to maintain some sort of stability, to fill the vacuum created by the surrender, and to allow the US recognized Nationalist Chinese to re-occupy many cities. American marines landing at Tientsin (Tianjin) were met with a tumultuous welcome. The First Marine Air Wing took over airfields in and around Peiping (Beijing). The early euphoria exhibited by most Chinese masked a very unsettled landscape of warring parties. It quickly became obvious that warlords, communists, Nationalists and others were going to make the American presence on the mainland of China an increasingly dangerous mission. In the words of Marine Brigadier General R.G. Owens, Jr.:

On both political and moral grounds, it was impossible for the United States to take a decisive military role in another nation’s civil war, and the average Marine on postwar duty in China found himself an uneasy spectator or sometimes an unwilling participant in a war which he little understood and could not prevent.  A steady procession of “incidents” involving Marine guards and raiding Communists continued until the last Marine cleared Tsingtao in the spring of 1949.

Jack’s involvement was mercifully short. In unarmed F4U Corsairs, he and others flew reconnaissance missions from dusty, hot airfields. “All I remember was that there were a hell of a lot of communists swarming all over the hills.” Within two months, he was ordered home. Thankfully, the return trip to the USA was on a C-54 transport. Shortly before leaving, he got into a poker game with his last twenty dollars, walking away with a large pot. “I bought Chinese silks for my step-mother and all my sisters,” he told me. Arriving in San Francisco, he entrained for San Diego and discharge. Once there he pleaded with the Marines to allow him to stay in. He loved his military flying experience and wanted to make a career of it. “Hell no,” he was told. “We’ve got thousands [of young pilots] like you. You can’t stay in.” So he didn’t. Jack returned to Lockhart and went to work for Stripling Blake Lumber Company. Jack married Fayrene Bolton in 1949. She was a West Texas girl who had attended West Texas State, and landed a job with a federal old age pension office in Lockhart. They would have two children, Stephen Floyd and Stephanie Ann (Riggin).

Soon after they married, Jack was called back to active service because of the outbreak of war in Korea. He was given the opportunity to learn another type of aviation skill – flying helicopters. After some initial uneasiness, he learned the intricacies of rotor flying near Santa Ana, California. In 1952, Fayrene gave birth to their son Stephen – now an innovative and successful architect. Jack spent a peripatetic two years on active duty.  Three things stand out of his time:

               He got to meet Igor Sikorsky, the Russian-American designer of the first viable American helicopter. He recalls this genius as a person who had a photographic memory, and who wasn’t’ afraid to ask aviators what could be done to make his designs better.

Supply run – Hawaii

               His “overseas” duty – again, the Good Lord kept him from harm’s way – as rather than the dangers of Korea, he spent several months in Hawaii, assisting in training and military exercises.

               Finally, he recalls participation in an atomic bomb test. Beginning in early 1951, the United States detonated hundreds of nuclear weapons in the Nevada desert, often within eyesight and seismic shock range of Las Vegas. It is hard to believe now, but in some early tests, American soldiers were used as guinea pigs to check ‘survivability.’ In several, helicopters were used to transport troops into nearby areas shortly after detonations. He was sitting as co-pilot in a helicopter when a ‘low yield’ atomic bomb detonated some 15 miles away, before he could turn to avoid looking at it (which he shouldn’t have been doing anyway) – or as he says, “that damned thing went off at the count of three [instead of at the zero count].” Temporarily blinded, he speaks in awe of the brilliance of the explosion that seemed “far brighter than the sun.” 

               Jack was finally discharged in 1954. The Marine Corps decided this time that it wanted him to make a career of it. He refused, saying, “I wanted to stay in after the last war and you wouldn’t let me. Now I’ve got a family, so to heck with that.”  Daughter Stephanie came along in 1955.

            In 1970, Jack and George Cardwell purchased Stripling Blake’s Lockhart operation. George retired in1980, and Jack bought out his partner. This thriving business, now Wilson Riggin Lumber Company, is owned and operated by his daughter and son-in-law Mark Riggin. They have followed Jack’s example, giving back to their community in countless ways.

            Among many other achievements, Jack has been a Boy Scout scoutmaster, avid fisherman and golfer, and remains a devout Presbyterian. He helped start the “Fun-tier Days” which is now Lockhart’s annual Chisholm Trail Roundup. In 1977, he was honored as Lockhart’s Most Worthy Citizen. His artistic, whimsical and humorous flair helped create the often hilariously and ingeniously designed Chisholm Trail parade floats for which the lumber company is famous.

His beloved Fayrene passed away twenty eight years ago. A few years later, Jack married Kathy Harrell. He has been doubly blessed by the two beautiful women he has been privileged to be with. He lives in a house that he helped design (and which son Steve helped adapt) in 1970s on Merritt Drive. Jack’s days continue to be busy. He spends most of each day at the nursing home with his wife Cathy, taking breaks to ensure Mark and Stephanie are properly running the lumber company. Until very recently, he ensured the esperanzas and other flowers in First Presbyterian’s planters were the envy of anyone with a garden.

As he says, “It’s been a heck of a ride.”

POSTSCRIPT: I wrote this story in July of 2016. My friend Jack Wilson died on June 6, 2019 at the age of 97. I think he would have approved of his death coming on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. He was a hell of an hombre. TAB






By Todd Blomerth

            In 1945, William McGregor “Bill” Taylor finally made it home from the war in Europe, but not in the way he had hoped. Severely wounded on December 9, 1944, he spent nine months in hospitals in France, England, and finally at Wm. C. Borden General Hospital in Chickasha, Oklahoma, recovering from shrapnel wounds. For the rest of his life, his body bore evidence of what he endured, including small bits of shrapnel that would occasionally come to the surface of his skin.

Bill Taylor died in 1997. His is a story of survival, almost from the day he was born. He was one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation.

Born in 1921, Bill was the eighth and last child of John Hugh Taylor and Emma (Williams) Taylor. His oldest sister, Ella, died in 1910. She was followed by Luke (1902-1946), Bauzzle Turner (1905-1959), Martha Ann (Dinges) (1907-1971), Pearl Ether (1909-1976), Myrtle Ollie (Mercer) (1913-1972), and Jess Willard (1913-1946).

The family farmed and ranched outside of McMahan. Tragedy struck early. When he was nine, Bill’s father died of a stroke. His mother died two years later. Now married, older sister Myrtle Mercer took him in to raise and for several years, Bill attended the tiny Oak Forest School, outside of Gonzales, Texas. He never finished high school. He returned to McMahan, but “got tired of milking cows,” so, at sixteen, he enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Bill was assigned to a CCC company stationed at Glorieta, New Mexico. For a year, he and other young men worked on public works projects, and were required to send most of their pay home to help support their families.

Returning home to McMahan, he worked on the family farm. Perhaps encouraged by older brother Bauzzle, on September 10, 1940, he enlisted at Lockhart in the Texas National Guard’s Company F, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th “Texas” Infantry Division.

To say that the United States was unprepared for World War II is a huge understatement. The pre-war Guard units were poorly equipped and undermanned. That didn’t prevent the Texas Division’s men from feeling greatly honored to be a part of the historic military unit. In the years to come, the 36th Infantry Division’s combat record would more than justify its members’ pride.

Bill and older brother Bauzzle in 1940 Company F roster. Company F, 141st Infantry, drilled in Lockhart. Luke was also a member. Company I, 141st Infantry, drilled in Luling. Lockhart also was home to the Regimental Medical Detachment.


Realizing that the United States would soon be drawn into the world conflict that had begun in China in 1937 and in Poland in 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt nationalized all National Guard units in late November, 1940. Bill had been in Company F for less than three months. Farmers and shopkeepers who were accustomed to weekend drills and two week summer camps found themselves in a full-time military force desperately in need of training, leadership and equipment. Early in 1941, the Division, with ranks swelling

Bill, a Texan in the harsh winter snow of Massachusetts – early 1943

with new enlistees and draftees, began training at Camp Bowie, outside of Brownwood, Texas. Bill and his buddies endured rather Spartan conditions at the unfinished post. Training accelerated, and the Division participated in pre-war maneuvers in Louisiana and the Carolinas. The Division moved to Camp Blanding, Florida, and then to Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. Finally, in late March and early April 1943, the Division loaded on ships. Bill Taylor arrived in North Africa on April 13, 1943.

The Texas boys were eager for action. What they got was more training, and occasionally, guarding thousands of Italian and German prisoners of war. The Allies invaded the island of Sicily in July 1943, but the 36th Division remained in North Africa.

Wading ashore at Salerno

On September 9, 1943, F Company, 141st Infantry Regiment, saw its first action. It was very nearly its last. The Italians had suddenly surrendered to the Allies, and some Allied commanders expected little opposition to the landings near Salerno, Italy. The American and British divisions were put onto beaches split by a river. There was insufficient pre-landing bombardment. Unknown to the Allies, German troops had quietly moved

into the surrendering Italians’ defensive positions. The 36th and 45th Divisions were nearly pushed off the beachheads by the well-entrenched enemy. Bill saw many men die that day. The 36th Infantry Division lost 250 mean killed in one day.

Destroyers and cruisers moved dangerously close to the shore and fired at almost pointblank range at the enemy. Overcoming the horrific enemy counterattacks, the 36th pushed ashore, and very slowly began the northward push toward Rome. The ‘soft underbelly of Europe’ turned out to be anything but. Mountains succeeded mountains and the Allies advanced against a well trained enemy. Rain, mud, cold, artillery barrages, snipers, and incomprehensible orders to take hills that hid German fortifications were the order of the day.  The results were predictable. Young men were wounded and killed. Somehow, Bill survived bloody battles that drained the Texas Division of many good men. San Pietro, Mt. Lungo, Cassino and the Rapido River became synonymous with often unnecessary suffering.

The battered 36th Division was pulled off the front line in March 1944 to reequip and replace men lost. Meanwhile, in a badly executed attempt at an end-run around the Germans, Americans landed a force on the beaches at Anzio, sixty miles from Rome. Again, the Germans were nearly successful in pushing this force into the sea. The 36th Division went back into action, shoring up the beachhead, on May 22, 1944. The men of the 36th were instrumental in the Anzio breakout. The 141st Infantry Regiment captured the town of Velletri. The German defenses began to crumble and Rome was captured on June 6, 1944.

The Bronze Star is awarded for acts of valor in combat. Somewhere during the fighting in Italy, Bill was awarded a Bronze Star. While his platoon was retreating under withering fire from enemy tanks, “Sgt. Taylor improvised a litter with poles and blankets and aided by a buddy ran through the fire to rescue their wounded lieutenant.”

The Silver Star is this country’s third highest combat decoration for gallantry in action. Only the Distinguished Service Cross and Medal of Honor stand above it. Sergeant Bill Taylor earned two Silver Stars.

The first was during the break-out from Anzio toward Rome. The Gonzales, Texas newspaper later described what happened:

[Sgt. Taylor] attacked a tank which was holding up the movement of his company from a road junction…, and while the tank’s guns tore limbs from the trees over his head, he slammed a bazooka shell into the enemy vehicle and knocked it out. “We fired simultaneously,” recalled Sgt. Taylor. “I had to peer through the foliage of the broken tree limbs which were covering me to get a look at that smoking tank.” His squad arose and finished off the Nazis and took 18 prisoners and the company resumed their advance on Rome. Sgt. Taylor was decorated with the Silver Star for bravery and resourcefulness.

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military. Sergeant Bill Taylor was awarded three Purple Heart decorations.

The first Purple Heart came during combat somewhere north of Rome, Italy. On June 17, 1944 a mortar shell exploded in a tree burst, and shrapnel struck him under his left arm. Fortunately, the wound was not serious, and Bill remained with Company F, where he was now a platoon sergeant.

The exhausted 36th Infantry Division was again taken out of the front line in Italy to prepare for another beach attack. Troubled by the slow movement against the Germans in the tangle of hedgerows after the Normandy Invasion, Allied commanders landed it as part of a large military force in Southern France. Thankfully, this seaborne attack went smoothly. Soon, Bill and Company F were pushing northward as the Allies tried unsuccessfully to surround and capture the thousands of enemy soldiers retreating toward the mountainous regions near the German border.

The weather turned cold and wet. The enemy retreat slowed. The Allies’ supply lines stretched thin. I’m sure the ‘old hands’ who’d been in 141st Infantry Regiment wondered constantly whether the war would ever end, and whether they’d live to see that day. As the Allies closed on the Rhineland, the terrain became a huge factor.

Bill’s second Purple Heart resulted from more serious wounds. On October 4, 1944, he and his men were returning from a successful reconnaissance mission when an enemy shell landed nearby. Its shrapnel shredded the shoulder of Bill’s field jacket and some pierced his throat. He was patched up at an aid station, where he recruited his commanding officer’s help to avoid being evacuated to a hospital.

Reading combat reports and histories of late 1944, I was struck with the descriptions of the 36th Infantry Division as being “tired and undermanned.” Clearly, attrition had begun to affect the unit’s readiness. Needing an additional four thousand men, it never got them. The reality of American combat in Europe at this time was that there weren’t enough properly trained soldiers in the pipeline to replace the large number of those wounded or killed.

By late October, the Division was down to two-thirds its authorized strength, and part of a slow moving offensive in the gloomy Vosges Mountains. Nearing the German border, the enemy became more and more desperate. Hitler ordered his generals to strike back at the advancing Allies, in part to keep attention away from the thousands of soldiers massing in the Ardennes for what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. The fighting was vicious, and often hand-to-hand.

Regimental after-action report 30 October – 1 November 1944

Near the French town of Saint Die-des-Vosges, near the German border, on November 1, 1944, Technical Sergeant Bill Taylor earned his second Silver Star. The citation speaks for itself:

William M. Taylor, technical sergeant, Company F, 141st Infantry Regiment, for gallantry in action on 1 November 1944 in France. During an attack against an enemy-held hill, Sgt. Taylor located the hostile machine gun which was delaying the advance of his platoon and immediately opened fire on the enemy weapon. After several anti-tank grenades had failed to dislodge it, he called for a friendly tank which was supporting the attack and directed it in knocking out the machine gun emplacement. Then, advancing directly in the face of heavy small arms fire, he led his platoon in an assault against the hostile force and with machine guns and tank fire, killed 12 of the enemy soldiers, captured 14 and completely routed the remainder of the hostile troops. By his personal courage and aggressive leadership, he enabled his unit to seize its objective. His gallant reflects great credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.

Bill’s modest version was that “swapping machine gun and small arms fire was getting us nowhere and looked like it would prove costly in the long run. So we had the tank blast their positions while we rushed up the hill and wiped them out. Thanks to the bravery of the men, it worked OK.”

Vicious action near Riquewihr

Bill’s luck ran out on December 9, 1944 near the town of Riquewihr.  Fanatical fighting erupted as the 141st took two small hills, and were then counter-attacked. The battle raged for hours, and Company F fought off a determined enemy in the Bois De Kientzheim. Severely wounded by mortar shrapnel, Bill was evacuated to a hospital in Paris. He later told his wife Jimmie that while in Paris, he stayed awake all night, quietly loosening bloody bandages. He knew they were to be changed the next morning, and the pain would be excruciating.

Portions of Company F after action reports of fighting in the Colmar region when Bill was seriously wounded – 9 December 44

Bill was moved to the 187th General Hospital in England, and finally to the United States. In all, he spent nearly nine months recovering from his wounds.

Technical Sergeant Bill Taylor’s discharge record with dates of wounds, and list of awards and decorations

Bill awarded his metals while recovering from wounds

Bill put the war’s miseries behind him. He farmed and ranched. In 1949, he married Jimmie Secrest in Uvalde, Texas. She comes from a ranching family with roots in Gillespie and Uvalde Counties. Jimmie recalls their wedding day laughingly. They almost didn’t make it to the Justice of the Peace. Rain began filling a low water crossing. Desperate to get to the judge’s office in Uvalde from her grandmother’s house on the Nueces River, before the water closed the road, the couple eased into the crossing, only to have their car stall in the rising water. Jimmie punched the starter button to jump the car ahead, while Bill got out and pushed. Finally out of the water, they looked back to see a relative frantically waving to get their attention. Bill had forgotten their wedding license. Back through the water he trudged. Despite the rocky start, the two had a wonderful marriage. They were blessed with two children; John Wayne, who is married to Diana Lynn, and Peggy June, who is married to Weston Voigt.  The family members were faithful members of McMahan Baptist Church.

Jimmie Taylor – a most delightful lady

Jimmie, along with her best friend, Bobbie Dan Gideon, retired from the Lockhart State Bank. Bill farmed and ranched all his life. He also raised watermelons. He suffered from heart disease, and also underwent two hip replacements. He suffered a series of heart attacks, and died at St. David’s Hospital in January 1997. He was seventy-six years old. He is buried in the Jeffrey Cemetery.

Did Bill suffer from what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of what he endured? No doubt he did, but showed little outward sign of it. Jimmie’s only recollection along that line was of the time, when firecrackers went off on the Courthouse Square, Bill instinctively threw himself to the ground. He didn’t talk much about his ordeal. He was quiet, almost bashful at times. Jeffrey Van Horn remembers him fondly. Before Bill and Jimmie build their own house between Lockhart and McMahan, the couple lived for a dozen years on the Van Horn property near Tilmon. “You couldn’t ask for a nicer man,” recalls Jeff. “He and Jimmie were good friends with my mother and father.”

In 1983, there was a reunion of some of the men who served in Company F. Bill’s former company commander, Bill McFadden attended, and later wrote a letter to Bill. Nearly forty years later, McFadden remembered that “the only time that I ever cried in WWII was when I helped you on a stretcher at Riquewihr.”

Company F Reunion 1983 – Bill’s CO is on far left standing

Bill’s Company Commander’s letter in 1983

What praise! His words speak more clearly of Bill’s courage and leadership than any military commendation.

Grandson John Paul Taylor’s shadowbox for Bill’s decorations that he made for Jimmie

Various newpaper clippings from Lockhart and Gonzales regarding Bill

Bill’s headstone – Jeffrey Cemetery


This story, researched by the hard working folks of the Caldwell County Genealogical and Historical Society, appears in the Fall 2018 edition of the award winning Plum Creek Almanac, the Society’s semi-annual publication.



Todd Blomerth  

        Almost as soon as Caldwell County was created, attempts began to satisfy its citizens’ thirst for news and opinion, and news publications of various types were begun in various parts of the county. Sadly, newsprint is ephemeral. Many newspapers appeared, and as quickly, disappeared.  Some are known only because of brief comments in other publications of the time. Some publications merged. I suspect that no one got rich in the newspaper business. The hours were long, the printing process tedious, and, like today, the risks of offending the powerful often real. This article is an attempt at listing all newspapers (or similar periodicals) known, or at least suspected, of existing in Caldwell County.

  1. The Rustler – Martindale, Texas, circa 1900. Editor – W.R. Hadley.[1] References to the Rustler appear several times in the Lockhart Weekly Post and the Lockhart Post, between 1900 and 1904. The San Antonio Express shared society snippets from other newspapers, as was the custom of the time. On November 5, 1899, it copied a Lockhart story that told that “Editor W.R. Hadley of the Martindale Rustler was in the city last Tuesday.”[2] The Lockhart Weekly Post of September 19, 1901 reprinted two news items from the Rustler:    “The hardest rain we have had in twelve months fell here last Saturday. It was a regular ground smoker and tank filler.” – Martindale Rustler. The prohibition election in the Staple precinct last Saturday resulted in a victory for the prohibitionists. The vote stood 202 to 68. – Martindale Rustler.”[3]  No copy has been found.\
  2. The Enterprise – Martindale, Texas – circa early 1900s. Editor – T.F. Harwell. It was “suspended after a short time because the business interests were not [unreadable] to give them the necessary support.’”[4] No copy has been found.
  3. Fentress Indicator – Fentress, Texas, 1903-? Editor – W. Davis. “Fentress is a growing town in the San Marcos valley and in the famous “black land” district, where an enormous lot of truck is grown by the irrigation plan. This location makes the INDICATOR a valuable advertising medium. Rates on application.”[5] No copy has been found.
  4. Luling Commercial – Luling, Texas – 1870? – Editor – S.C. Craft. The only mention of this publication is in the Brenham Weekly Banner of February 1, 1878: “S. C. Craft, editor of the Luling Commercial, died on the 25sh [sic[ inst. At Luling. He was quite an elderly gentleman.”[6] No copy has been found.
  5. Luling Reporter – 1870(?)  Editor – S.C. Croft. Nothing is known of this publication apart from the following in the Denison Daily News of January 29, 1878: “Rev. S.C. Croft, editor of the Schelenburg [sic] Argus, died at Luling on the 25th Inst., at a very advanced age. Mr. Croft once edited the Luling Reporter.”[7] It is likely that the references to ‘Croft’ and ‘Craft’ are to the same person. Whether he operated one or two newspapers is not known.
  6. Luling News – ?-1896. Editor – B.H. Goode. The only mention of this publication is in the Galveston Daily News, which on September 18, 1896 reported: “Luling, Tex., Sept. 17. – B.H. Goode, former editor and proprietor of the Luling News, has resumed control of the property and closed the News office. He has decided to remove the entire plant to Calvert, Texas and start a new weekly there. This leaves the old established Luling Signal in sole control of the journalistic field there.”[8] No copy has been found.
  7. Luling Wasp (Luling Evening Wasp) 1884-?. Editor – Jason Hodges. Virulently anti-Republican, its editor described Jefferson Davis as a “venerable patriot.” He went on to aver that “[T]he republicans deny the capacity of the people for self government, while the democratic party affirms it…”[9] Showing the anger of white Southerners toward the recently ended Reconstruction period, Hodges proclaimed that “[I]f Geo. Washington himself was a candidate before the people of Texas, upon the record the Republican party presents, he would be defeated.”[10] His disapproval of African-Americans’ right to vote was most evident.

  1. Luling Auger – 1882-? – Editor- unknown. In 1882, the Galveston Daily News reported that “The Luling Auger is to be the titled of a new paper to appear on the 9th of December, in Luling. As the prospectus says: It will be devoted to local and miscellaneous matters, and will contain a little of everything, except spring poetry and dead-head puffs.”[11] No copy has been found.
  2. Luling Gimlet – 1885 – ? Editor unknown. The only mention of this publication was found in a Dallas Morning News article entitled “Dallas and Texas 50 Years Ago,” published in 1935 and referencing an 1885 story, which noted that “Luling has
    a new paper. It is called the Gimlet.”[12]
  3. Texas Baptist Record (Luling) – 1891-?. Editors – J.P Hardwick, Sr., and R.R. White. The Fort Worth Gazette, in its “Texas Journalism” column, mentions that “Luling now has two religious papers – the Signal and Texas Baptist Record. The Signal was started several years ago by Col. J.P. Bridges. The Texas Baptist Record is a new paper, having been started by J.P. Hardwick, Sr., and R.R. White.”[13] No copy has been found.
  4. Luling Herald 1890-1893. Owner/Editor – W.B. Stevens. Editor 1891-1893 – J.D. Sanders. The Galveston News announced on May 4, 1890 that “t]he first issue of the Luling Herald is just coming from the press. It is a neatly printed five column eight page paper. The proprietor is W.B. Stevens, recently from Del Rio.”[14] The Herald and Signal teamed up “and got out a big double-sheet special edition” in 1890 touting the young city’s pluses, its railroad, and its cotton gins.[15] The Herald printed one thousand copies of a special edition in 1891, to be distributed “throughout the county in the interest of immigration.”[16] It consolidated with the Luling Signal in 1893.[17]
  5. Luling Enterprise – Circa 1901. Editor – Maurice Dowell, and later, George P. Holcomb and Jeff P. Sanders. Described as a “neatlygotten up 7-column folio.”[18]It is unknown whether this was in any way related to the Martindale publication with the similar name. A give-and-take between its editor o and the Lockhart Register’s editor appeared in the Lockhart Register regarding prohibition and criminality:

The Lockhart Weekly Post editor’s comments seem to indicate that the Luling Signal and the Luling Enterprise were perhaps in cahoots, or jointly owned.[19] Apparently they weren’t. The Enterprise’s editor groused publicly about subscribers dunning it and jumping to its competitor. In 1902, the Bastrop Advertiser mentioned the paper’s gripes:

There is hardly a newspaper in all Texas that has not often met with the experience of the Luling Enterprise, as expressed in the following: “We notice that the Signal has secured several new subscribers in the past several weeks that once took our paper. What we want to say is that they dead beated us out of money. We hope the Signal will get their money allright and have no such dirty trick played one it.”[20]

  1. Luling Signal – (Also published as Luling Signal and Tri-County News in 1939) – 1878-1974, 1977-1978. Publisher/editor – J.P. Bridges 1878-1893). Later editors: Mrs. A.C. Bridges, S.W. Huff, W.B. Stevens, J.W. Browne, J.D. Sanders, M.L. Carter, Mr. Walker, D.C. Holcomb, J. P. Bridges, H.F. Bridges, and L.H. Bridges.[21] J.P. Bridges sold his interest in the Lockhart News-Echo in 1878 and started the Signal the same year, operating it until his death in 1893. Its inaugural edition was described as a “handsome paper, the first number of which appear, at the flourishing town indicated, on the 10th instant.[22]A report in the LaGrange Journal of 1883 stated that “Col. Edmonson of the Flatonio [sic] Argus has bought the Luling Signal and will move to Luling. Col. E. is a thorough newspaper man and will make the Signal a signal success.”[23] This transaction apparently never transpired, as Bridges continued as the owner.  The newspaper merged with the Luling Newsboy in 1978. It appeared under various titles through the years, including Luling Signal and Tri-County News (in 1939) and Sunday Signal.  Austin’s Weekly Democratic Statesman of January 17, 1878 noted: ‘The Signal has made its appearance at Luling. It is a handsome sheet and reflects credit upon the community in which it is published.”[24] In an 1880 snippet, the Brenham Daily Banner’s editor joked about fellow newspapermen and their marital status: “The Gonzales Inquirer man takes a fit every time an editor gets married. The Luling Signal man and the Houston Post man have been married lately and now the Inquirer man sits and think of the time when he should do likewise.”[25] Not afraid to mix it up, the Signal’s editor took issue with its Lockhart counterpart over state political machinations:[26]

 J.P Bridges put out a good paper as reflected by these comments          in 1885: “The Luling Signal has been enlarged to a 32-column                paper and presents a beautiful appearance. Bridges is a whole               team,  as a newspaper man, and gets out a rattling good paper.              Hope he may continue to prosper.”[27]  J. P. Bridges was well                respected by other newspapermen. In 1891, he helped call a              meeting of editors, in hopes of creating a permanent organization      entitled “Editors of the Southwest.” It’s inaugural meeting was held     in Aransas Harbor [Port Aransas?].[28]

     The paper ceased production in 1974, but restarted in August of         1977. It was consolidated with the Newsboy in 1978.[29]

14. Luling Newsboy – Owner/Ray Bailey Sr. Editors/managers – Ray Bailey Sr., and Ray Bailey Jr. until 1975, then Bob McVey until 1978. Started by Ray E. Bailey, Sr. in 1940, this was a robust newspaper whose owner/editor had a strong sense of duty to men and women in the military. His publication, Our Men and Women in World War II reflects a monumental effort at honoring those in uniform, and is a priceless research tool.[30] Central Texas Newspapers purchased the Newsboy in 1975, and Bob McVey became editor.                    15.  Luling Newsboy and Signal – 1978- present. Editor- Bob McVey (1978-1981), Karen McCrary (1981-2018), Dayton Gonzales (2018 to present). Owner/publisher – Buddy Prouss. In 1978, the Signal and Newsboy consolidated. Luling Publishing Company, Inc. continued McVey as publisher/editor. The Luling Newsboy and Signal continues in publication.                                                                                              16. Luling Record/Lockhart Record – 1898-? Editor – Professor Melliff. The only mention of these publications were found in an 1898 comment in a Houston newspaper: “Lockhart, Texas, May 12. – the populists of Caldwell county have purchased the plant of the Luling Record and moved it to Lockhart, where they will immediately commence the publication of a weekly newspaper. The new paper will make its advent in about ten days, and will be under the editorial management of Prof. Melliff, a thoroughly competent and experienced newspaper man.”[31] No copy has been located.              17.  El Popular – Lockhart, Texas, circa 1901. Editor – Miguel Valdez. The Houston Post mentions this is as a Spanish language newspaper.[32] No copy has been found.                                                                                        18.  El Globo – Lockhart, Texas, circa 1893. Editor – unknown. The only mention of this publication was found in the Galveston Daily News.[33] It is possible that El Globo is mentioned in the Brenham Daily Banner of 1893: “Four newspapers, one Spanish and three American, are now published at Lockhart.”[34                                                                                                                         19. Lockhart New Test, 1893-1897. Editor – Henry Clay Gray. An African-American graduate of Fisk University (1883) and Oberlin (1885), he created the New Test in 1893. Gray drew the wrath of William Cowper Brann, publisher of the Iconoclast, mainly because Gray was black and educated.[35] Brann was a highly controversial figure, attacking those in authority, the Catholic Church, and Baylor University. Brann was killed in a Waco gunfight with an irate Baylor supporter in 1898.[36] it is possible that the New Test was published, at least for a time, in Seguin.[37] The Galveston Daily News quoted the New Test several times in its ‘Texas Newspaper Comments’ section between 1895 and 1897. As one would expect, Gray was a Republican. He appears to have been heavily involved with the party. The Galveston Daily News reported that on January 21, 1896, “Twenty-one leading colored republicans from various portions of the state met here to-day in secret conclave to decide on a candidate for president….Among the colored leaders present were… Henry Clay Gray…”[38] On February 29, 1896, Caldwell County Republicans met at the Courthouse to elect delegates to the state and congressional conventions. Henry Clay Gray was elected as a delegate to the Ninth District, which was to meet in Austin on March 5.[39] The African American Republicans were fighting a losing battle against Jim Crow. If there is any doubt as to the personal dangers attendant with bucking white Democrats, consider this: At that same Caldwell County meeting, J.W. Larremore was elected secretary. On August 4, 1904, Larremore, “a negro school teacher and a prominent local republican politician,” was murdered outside his home in Lockhart by “unknown assailants.” His friend and fellow Republican, Tom Caperton, was severely beaten.[40] I have little doubt that Gray’s publication walked a tight line to avoid, if it did, the Southern white backlash after Reconstruction. One example of this careful balance:                                                                                                               We do not pretend to indorse or defend the many monkey capers that have been cut up in Texas for more than a month in the name of republicanism, but the great principles of the party and the great statesmen who formulated them we do indorse, now and forever; but they have nothing to do with the monkey shines we are having in Texas.[41]                                                                                                                                  During the 1890s, the Populists appealed to African-American Republicans in rallying for economic causes that crossed racial lines. Gray’s position on national and state affairs were cited by other papers. Gray was quoted as saying that “[s]pending time and money trying to land McKinley electors in Texas this year is like fishing for whales in a wash tub, with pin hooks.”[42] The Austin Weekly Statesman mentioned New Test’s political leanings during the 1896 Presidential campaign: “The republicans of Caldwell county heartily approve of your mention of dealing with mercenary so-called republicans. Old Caldwell county is going to work to roll up a big vote for McKinley, Makemson and protection.”[43] (Judge Makemson, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1894 on the Republican ticket).[44]                                                                                                   Too soon, the New Test’s run was over. The Lockhart Register of July 10, 1897, in a small article, stated that the New Test had been sold to Mr. Bob Palmer, “who will remove it to Buda.” On July, 17, 1897 the Galveston Daily News reported that Palmer and W.C. Carter “have purchased the New Test printing outfit and moved it to Buda and will commence next week to publish the Buda Echo….In politics it is understood it will be democratic.”[45] Gray continued in politics and as an orator. The first African-American State Fair was held in Houston in August 1896. “Mental culture,” embracing “evidences of journalism, poetry, prose and song” was one of the many topics meant “to show the world the remarkable and unprecedented advancement of the southern negro (especially in Texas) since they merged [sic] from the darkness of slavery into the light of freedom.”[46] No copy has been found of this weekly, nor has any further information been found on Henry Gray.                                                            20.  The Colored Citizen, Lockhart, Texas, 1907-1908. Editor – Percy Tucker. Tucker apparently was a schoolteacher. An African-American publication. No copy has been found.                                                21. Lockhart Express, 1853-? Publisher – J. Hubbard Stuart and Company; Editor – Mary E. Stuart [Stewart?]. In its November 5, 1853 edition, the Gonzales Inquirer stated that “[I]t appears that our friends of Lockhart will have a paper. Mr. Stewart [Stuart?], of the “celebrated Lavaca Express,” paid us another visit a few days since and he states that he has made the necessary arrangements to commence its publication in that town at an early day. We believe he designs calling it The Lockhart Express. May you meet with ample success, Stewart.”[47] A month later, the Gonzales Inquirer noted: “The “Express” is a neat little sheet, and being the only one in the State edited by a lady, is entitled, and doubtless will, receive a hearty support.”[48] The Nacogdoches Chronicle stated: “It must not be supposed that because a woman writes for the ‘Express,’ it is a ‘woman’s rights’ paper, for we see no indication of the kind.”[49] No copy has been found, nor has any information been found on Mary Stuart. She possibly was the wife of the paper’s owner. It is possible that Mrs. Stewart is the same person referenced in a 1936 article in the Lockhart-Post Register as the publisher of the Mirror. The authors of the 1936 article state:

The first newspaper in Caldwell [sic] was “The Mirror,” a small weekly which was published by Mrs. Isabel Stewart. She not only conducted editorial department, but she worked in the mechanical department. After a struggle of about one year in a vain effort to maintain “The Mirror,” Mrs. Stewart yielded to the inevitable and removed her printing office to San Diego, California, where she published a paper for several years.[50]

22. Western Clarion, Lockhart, Texas, circa 1855. Publisher – I.G.L. McGehee. Little is know about this publication. The front page of its June 2, 1855 edition shows an impressive effort made at gathering ‘hard’ news. Its editor reported, without negative comment, on an anniversary gathering in New York City of William Garrison’s Anti-Slavery Society, printing the Society’s resolutions condemning the practice of slavery.23. Lockhart Guard – possibly 1850s. Publishers – Colonel John M. Crane and Atticus Ryman. “’The Guard’” ran for only a few months. According to an article in the Lockhart Post-Register’s Centennial Edition in 1936,  the editor had to quit printing it because he criticized the lawlessness and the gamblers in the county. The gamblers and horse thieves told him that they would run him out of town if he didn’t stop publishing this paper. He moved to Goliad and published ‘The Goliad Guard.’”[51]                                                                  24. Lockhart Rambler, circa 1859. Publisher – William Carleton. The Texas State Gazette (Austin, Texas) stated: “We learn that Mr. Carleton has removed the Rambler to Lockhart. We shall be very glad to hear of his success in that enterprising town.”[52] It appears that, while the office was located on the southeast corner of the town square, the paper’s printing continued in Austin. The Weekly Telegraph (Houston, Texas) referenced a story in The Rambler, which told of the tragic death of a seven year old boy living near Elm Creek. While playing with a horse, the child’s hand became entangled in the animal’s stake rope. The horse spooked, tearing the child’s hand off.[53] Carleton, a native of England, fought in the Texas Revolution with Philip Dimmitt’s company and was at the capture of Goliad in December 1835. He died on November 11, 1875 at the age of fifty-three.[54]                                                                                                                                         A story in the Centennial Edition of the Lockhart Post- Register tells of an incident involving Mr. Carleton. Unfortunately, as seen below, it states that Carleton started the Clarion (or Western Clarion), which is incorrect. Nonetheless, if true, it speaks of the dangers of being a journalist on the frontier:

William Carleton, an Englishman, established “The Clarion” [sic], but it didn’t stay in existence long because of a little incident. One night at supper table at his boarding house a drunk man by the name of Compton, who was a carpenter and cabinet maker, got mad at some joking remark Carleton made. Without a word of warning he attacked Carleton and disabled him temporarily. This caused a suspension of the paper, and its publication was never resumed.[55]

  1. Southern Watchman, 1857-? Publisher – E.H. Rogan. Austin’s Southern Intelligencer informed its readers in 1860 that “E.H. Rogan has started a new paper in Lockhart, called the ‘Texas Watchman.” The first number promises well for success.”[56] As seen below, The Southern Watchman existed at least since 1857. I suspect that newspaper originated in Austin, and perhaps moved its offices to Lockhart in 1860. Proudly proclaiming that “We Stand by the Constitution,” its June 6, 1857 edition told of an ill-fated American filibuster into Mexican Sonora.[57]
  2. South and West, 1865-? Publishers – Edgar H. Rogan and J.D. Buchanan. The newspaper’s publishers stated it would be “published simultaneously at Austin and Lockhart, Caldwell County.” It’s inaugural edition, dated Tuesday, December 19, 1865 listed its owners’ many aims. “To attempt, however feebly, to heal the wounds of our beloved—our native land, must, it appears, be the immediate duty of all. Pursuant to this view, every effort shall be made, by South and West, to develop; to utilize, and to mature, all our varied resources; the arts of mining, manufacturing, and husbandry.”[58]
  3. The Plow Boy, 1868-? Publishers – N.C. Raymond and E. H. Rogan. It was originally published in Austin. Raymond’s partner and the paper’s printer, withdrew from the partnership, although continuing to set type.[59] In May 1869, the operation moved to Lockhart. “We have received the May number of the Plow Boy, published at Austin, Texas, by our old friend Nat. Raymond, [wrote the Dallas Herald] – On or about the 1st of June, we understand the Plow Boy is to be published weekly. – Mr. Raymond has associated with him Mr. M.E.H. Rogan, of Lockhart, Caldwell County, at which place the paper will be hereafter published….Raymond can and will make a first-rate paper, and we will be glad to see him successful.”[60]                                                                       The 1870 American Newspaper Directory listed the Plow Boy (its motto was “Disconnected with Partisan Politics”) as the only newspaper in Lockhart ‘devoted to agriculture.’ Apparently, the Directory’s publisher, Geo. P. Rowell & Co., printed circulation figures provided by the newspapers themselves. The Plow Boy claimed 1000 as its circulation.[61] Using 1869 or 1870 information, the 1871 Texas Almanac’s only listing for a newspaper in Lockhart was the Plow Boy.[62]  In all likelihood, this figure was substantially inflated.                                                                                Raymond was something of a renaissance man. In 1857, the Texas State Times reported on Raymond’s house, then in construction, a mile from the Capitol: “The outer walls of the building are eighteen inches thick, and composed of a new material, prepared from the common soil of the country, of which Mr. Raymond claims to be the discoverer. We have no pretensions to nice artistic skill and judgment in the mechanical arts; but from the appearance of solidity and durability in these walls, we should at once pronounce them to be equally as substantial as edifices of stone or burnt brick. The idea of converting, by chemical agencies, any kind of clay or soil into a valuable material for building and fencing purposes, by a simple and cheap process of preparation, is certainly an original and bold conception. None but a mind confident in the resources of its own genius would have persevered in the attainment of its ends….” [63] In 1858, Raymond applied for and was granted a U.S. Patent on a type of composition building material that contained, among other things, charcoal and cow dung.[64] It appears the Plow Boy folded upon the death of N.C. Raymond. The January 5, 1871 edition of the Houston Telegraph, quoting the State Journal, gave an account of Raymond’s demise:

      Mr. Raymond, who has been conducting an agricultural journal at  Lockhart, started for Austin to spend Christmas with his family. On arriving at Onion creek, about eight or nine miles from home, it being late in the afternoon and very cold weather, with a sharp north wind, Mr. Raymond complained of cold and alighted to walk with the buggy drove on to the house where he was to stop for the night. An hour elapsed, and his non-arrival causing alarm, he was sought for and found dead in the road but a few paces from the place where he alighted. His death was caused by an attack of neuralgia of the heart, and was probably instantaneous.[65]

     Nathaniel Charles Raymond died on December 22, 1870. He was fifty-one years old. He is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. His wife, Lucinda, died in 1882.

  1. The Texas Digest, 1870 – ? Editor- W.D. Cary. Mentioned in another publication, little is known about this newspaper. [Illegible source] stated: “And yet another Republican journal has unfurled its banner to the breezes of republican freedom and equal rights in Texas. “The Texas Digest,” published in Lockhart, Caldwell county, and edited by W.D. Cary, reached us last evening. It is not very large, but large enough, and it is exceedingly well edited for the first number. The editorials are ably written, and in excellent spirit. We cordially welcome our new fellow laborer into the ranks of Republican journalism.”[66]
  2. Lockhart Advocate – circa 1898. Editor – unknown. The only mention of the publication is in 1898. The Dallas Southern Mercury, quoting another newspaper, the Dublin Progress, reported: “’The Lockhart Advocate has been consolidated with the Gonzales Drag Net and the latter has been increased in size from four to eight pages. The Drag Net is one of the ablest Populist papers in Texas and it is meeting with deserved success. Both the Progress and the Drag Net are excellent papers.”[67]
  3. Lockhart Phonograph – 1893- ?. Owner and Publisher – Horace Bruce Roberts. This newspaper is mentioned in several contemporary publications, but no copy has been located.  The 1894 American Newspaper Directory lists it, along with the Lockhart Register:


The Dallas Morning News, publishing reports from other Texas newspapers in a section entitled The State Press, quotes an individual named Palmer (possibly its editor): “The State Press Association met at Dallas this week, which gave editors who have apron strings around their necks at home, an opportunity to celebrate the occasion in the usual manner, full of whiskey.” [69] Given that the owner of the Phonograph was a preacher, one wonders how long Palmer lasted.                                                                                       In an 1893 article on the Lockhart Lyceum the Lockhart Register stated that a debate team discussed “Should Caldwell County build a new courthouse in the city of Lockhart.”  It further stated that “Mr. W.R. Parker and Bruce Roberts were added to our number and we welcome them among us.[70]  According to his mother Aurilla’s obituary of 1910, the Roberts family settled in the area before Caldwell County was formed.[71] Horace Bruce Roberts was born in Lytton Springs in 1869. His newspaper lasted only a short time, and by the end of the century, Rev. Roberts had moved on. On November 24, 1899, he was back in town from Cotulla, Texas, visiting with “old friends.”[72] In the ensuing years, Reverend Roberts lived in San Antonio, where he published Baptist Word and Work,[73] Moore Station in Frio County,[74] and Dilley, Texas.[75] Roberts died at the age of eighty-nine, in Uvalde, Texas. He is buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery at Carrizo Springs.[76]                                                            31. Lockharter Zeitung – 1901- ? Publisher – M. Hoffmeister. The influx of German speaking farmers into the county in the late 1890s and early 1900s created a perceived market for a newspaper printed in German. Unfortunately, the one known newspaper of this type appears to have lasted only about a year.[77]

  1. Lockhart Courier – 1908-1010. Publisher – Carey Smith; 1910-1910 John. B. Holt. This was a slick publication, with quality photographs. Its quality may explain its short lifespan. It appears that John B. Holt, a local pharmacist with a business on the west side of the Lockhart Courthouse Square purchased or leased the Courier. Most of his copy was devoted to patent medicines he had in stock. It appears that few editions were published.


  1. Lockhart News Echo, 1872-1880? Publisher – E.H. Rogan, editor and later Hallum & Co, then J.P. Bridges, owner and publisher. Described as a ‘spicy’ newspaper by the Galveston Daily News[78], it barely survived its first few months. Rogan was also an attorney. Rogan’s business was destroyed in June 1872. Quoting the State Gazette, the Galveston newspaper stated that “the News Echo printing establishment was destroyed by fire on Sunday night…. It is stated to be the work of an incendiary – a fiend incarnate, who should be ferreted out and brought to condign punishment…. We tender our sympathies to Captain Rogan for the loss he has sustained. The News Echo was edited with great ability, and we trust to see it at an early day rise Phenix-like [sic] from its ashes and resume publication.”[79]                                                              The News Echo did rise Phoenix-like, but without Rogan. W.K. Hallum and W.C. Bowen were identified as its owners in August 1872.[80]  The banners for the publication (“The Safety of the People Is the Supreme Law,” and “The Welfare of the People Is Our Guiding Star”) seemed to proclaim the paper’s populist leanings. An 1872 edition took great glee in listing many newspaper accounts describing the corruption in the Grant administration.[81] Its editor at the time, Will F. Faris, seemed to enjoy a good fight. In 1875, the Galveston Daily News commented on this. “The Lockhart News Echo keeps up a pretty lively fight with the [Austin] Statesman. Keep cool, brothers, if you can [in] this hot weather.”[82]

Ownership changed several times over the years. J. P. Bridges became publisher in 1878.[83] He would later relinquish the Lockhart paper and buy the Luling Signal, which he would publish until his death in 1893.[84] Brenham’s Weekly Banner of May 28, 1880 had a small story regarding the New-Echo’s ownership: “W.R. McDaniel has retired from the Lockhart News-Echo and W.B. Smith, an ambitious and rising young lawyer will [?] Echo-News to the people of Lockhart and Caldwell County.”[85]

  1. Caldwell County Register / Lockhart Register – circa 1880 – 1908. Publisher and editor – several. After purchasing the News-Echo, Smith, a transplanted Kentuckian, changed its name to Caldwell County Register.[86] He sold the paper in 1882 to G.M. Lassater, and returned to Kentucky. To avoid confusion with a publication in the town of Caldwell, Lassater changed the paper’s name to the Lockhart Register.[87] He may have been compelled, at least by public opinion, to do so. Brenham’s Daily Banner huffed a bit on this issue in 1880: “Texas has a number of papers of the same name, but each paper is designated by place of publication, it has two Caldwell Registers, one published in Caldwell county and the other in Caldwell town, Burleson county. The latter paper is the oldest and is entitled to the prefix Caldwell by reason of its seniority.”[88]                                                                                                                          Lassater then sold the paper to Reese Wilson. Wilson operated a newspaper in East Texas until 1885. During part of that time, B.G. Neighbors was editor and J.D. McMurtry the business manager. Reese Wilson moved to Lockhart in January 1886 and assumed control of the paper.[89] At that time, Neighbors left and purchased the Kyle News.[90] Wilson wasn’t afraid to express strong opinions about civic issues:                                                                         …Wilson also criticized the opinions and actions of other editors. Through satire and repeated criticism in print, he goaded town and county officials to action…Official laxness of duty or slowness in advancing a civil project always called forth editorial criticism by Wilson. He attacked the filth caused by keeping pigs in the city and brough about changes. He also argued for hitching racks (so the horses would not road the streets freely while their owners were inside business places and stores), water troughs, electric lights, and a water and sewer system. Wilson also campaigned – successfully—for an Opera house in Lockhart.[91                                                                                           In failing health, Wilson sold the Lockhart Register in 1908 to George Baker who then leased it to some prohibitionists. When their lease expired, the Lockhart Register was leased to anti-prohibitionists, with Luther Hurst as it editor. When Caldwell County went dry, H.E. Cutcher became the editor.

Pressroom, Lockhart Register, Early 1900s

  1. Lockhart News – 1910- ? Owners/publishers -A.M. Jordan, and Vance Smith. Editor – H. E. Cutcher. The News purchased the defunct Courier plant and began publication.[92] Cutcher left the Lockhart Register to devote his time to the Lockhart News. A.W. Jordan’s involvement appears to have been limited. Almost as soon as the News made its appearance, Jordan, a mail clerk on the Lockhart-Yoakum run of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, purchased the Love County (Oklahoma) News. Jordan’s reason for leaving the Courier, where he had been city editor, was his inability to give enough time to that project. He continued as a railway mail after purchasing the Oklahoma newspaper.[93]

  1. Lockhart Post (Lockhart Weekly Post) – 1899 – 1915. Editors and publishers, Lay and Carey Smith (1899-1906), then W.M. Schofield and Bob Andrews (1906-1915) and Stanley and J. Louis Mohle, Sr. (1913-1915). The Smiths’ “polished prose and literary writing” won it much praise.[94] Its finances were shaky, and in 1906 the paper was sold to Schofield and Andrews. Schofield was “once principal of the Lockhart public schools, and Mr. Andrews has been for years the foreman of the Lockhart Register.”[95] The two later brought in Stanley and Louis Mohle, Sr. Schofield, a strong anti-prohibitionist did most of the writing until 1913.[96]
  2. Lockhart Post-Register – 1915-present. Owners and publishers – Andrews, Schofield, Stanley Mohle, Louis Mohle, Sr. (1915-1928); Schofield, Stanley Mohle, and Louis Mohle, Sr. (1929-1940); Stanley Mohle and Louis Mohle, Sr. (1940-1948): Stanley Mohle, Louis Mohle, Sr. and Louis Mohle, Jr. (1948-1958); Louis Mohle, Sr. and Louis Mohle, Jr. (1958-1972); Louis Mohle, Sr., Louis Mohle, Jr. and Paul Mohle (1972-1979); Floyd Garrett (1979-1989); 1989- present, Dana and Terri Garrett.                                               The Post and the Register merged in 1915.[97] Financially, Lockhart couldn’t support two competing newspapers. The Mohle family acquired full ownership of the Post-Register, and Louis Jr. took over the editing duties from his father. Paul joined the newspaper in 1960, and purchased an interest in 1972. The Mohles sold the newspaper in 1979. During their ownership, the Post-Register won several awards from the Texas Press Association. Floyd Garrett’s son Dana became the newspaper’s publisher in 1979. He and his wife Terri acquired the newspaper in 1989. It continues as Lockhart’s only newspaper. A weekly, with Thursday publication date, its current editor is Miles Smith.

Co-owner Dana Garrett

  1. 2001 Tales – 1992? – 2000? (Lockhart) Publisher – Sue King, and from 1993 on – Arthur “Art” Braud. Braud obtained 2001 Tales from King. Under her, the paper only had forty-eight issues before failing. Braud, a colorful ex- merchant marine who had lost an eye, published 2001 Tales on a bi-weekly basis.[98] With an office on Market Street, Braud converted the mimeographed/copied flyer into a legitimate newspaper. “I had a good time. I used newsboys to sell it on the streets a few times. I used a linguist whom I paid fifty dollars per edition to proof it, and had a legally blind receptionist.”[99] It appears that the publication’s name was changed to 2001 Plum Creek Tales some time around 1997.[100] The publication occasionally billed Caldwell County for legal notices. Braud closed the business down in 1998.
  2. Caldwell County Citizen – 1984-1989. Editor – Willis Webb, and later Don Werlinger. Little can be found of this short-lived periodical. Don Werlinger, who at one time owned and operated the local AM radio station KCLT, apparently purchased a small periodical and attempted to get a newspaper off the ground to compete with the Post Register. In 1984, former Post-Register publisher Willis Webb along with Jerry Thames, sued Werlinger and two other individuals. The suit alleged that Webb and Thames had extended credit to Byron and Carolyn Tumlinson, with the understanding that the two would operate the newspaper, and that the profits would be split. Werlinger was alleged to have bought the Tumlinsons’ interest, freezing out Webb and Thames. In the meantime, the suit alleged substantial bank overdrafts.[101] Werlinger represented to the Caldwell County Commissioners Court that the newspaper had enough circulation to qualify for county legal notice dollars, which was strongly disputed by some. Although it did receive some county business, the publication did not survive.                                            40.  Lockhart Times-Sentinel – 2004-2006. Greg Hardin, publisher and editor. After leaving the Post-Register, Hardin, who had been the paper’s editor, started the Times-Sentinel. It lasted less than two years. Hardin then attempted to continue the effort as an internet publication. That too failed. No copy has been located.

There are three other publications not included in any depth in this story. They are the Lockhart Guard, the Baptist Visitor, and the South Texas Baptist, all purportedly printed or published in Lockhart. Other that brief mention, nothing has discovered regarding their existence.  I have little doubt that there may have been other newspapers that existed briefly. Only in recent years have attempts been made to preserve newsprint in digital form. Sadly, some outstanding writing, excellent reporting, and brilliant opinion pieces have been lost.


1  Historical Sketch of Martindale by T.A. Buckner, circa 1925.

[2] San Antonio Express (San Antonio, Texas), Vol. 34, No. 288, November 5, 1899.

[3] Lockhart Weekly Post (Lockhart, Texas), Vol. III, No. 87, September 19, 1901.

[4]  Historical Sketch of Martindale by T.A. Buckner, circa 1925.

[5] National Newspaper Directory and Gazeteer by Pettingill, 1903.

[6] Brenham Weekly Banner (Brenham, Texas), Vol. 13, No. 5, Ed. 1, February 1, 1878.

[7] Denison Daily News (Denison, Texas), Vol. 5, No. 283, Ed. 1, January 29, 1878.

[8] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 55, No. 178, ed. 1, September 18, 1896.

[9] Luling Evening Augur (Luling, Texas), Vol. 1, No. 80, August 8, 1884.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 41, No. 223, Ed. 1, December 7, 1882.

[12] Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), June 22, 1935, referencing June 22, 1885 issue of the Dallas Herald.

[13] Forth Worth Gazette (Ft. Worth, Texas), Vol. 15, No. 191, Ed. 1, April 24, 1891.

[14] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 49, No. 7, Ed. 1, May 4, 1890.

[15] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 49, No 150, Ed. 1, September 26, 1890.

[16] Ft. Worth Gazette (Ft. Worth, Texas), Vol. 13, No. 25, Ed. 1, May 28, 1891.

[17] La Grange Journal (La Grange, Texas), Vol. No. 51, Ed. 1, December 21, 1893.

[18] Brenham Daily Banner (Brenham, Texas), August 10, 1901.

[19] Lockhart Weekly Post (Lockhart, Texas), Vol. V, No. ?, February 5, 1903.

[20] Bastrop Advertiser (Bastrop, Texas), Vol. 49, No. 48, Ed. 1, December 6, 1902.

[21] Luling Newsboy & Signal (Luling, Texas), July 26, 2012.

[22] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 36, No. 255, Ed. 1, January 15, 1878.

[23] Brenham Daily Banner (Brenham, Texas), Vol. 8, No. 210, Ed. 1, September 2, 1883, quoting the LaGrange Journal (LaGrange, Texas).

[24] Weekly Democratic Statesman (Austin, Texas), Vol. 7, No. 15, Ed.1, January 17, 1878.

[25] The Daily Banner (Brenham, Texas), Vol. 5, No. 299, December 8, 1880.

[26] San Marcos Free Press (San Marcos, Texas), Vol. 11, No. 46, Ed. 1, October 12, 1882.

[27] Brenham Daily Banner (Brenham, Texas), Vol. 10, No. 265, Ed.1, October 28, 1885.

[28] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 50, No. 173, Ed. 1, September 13, 1891.

[29] Luling Signal & Newsboy (Luling, Texas), April 24, 2008.

[30] Our Men and Women in World War II, edited by R.E. Bailey (1944).

[31] Houston Daily Post (Houston, Texas), Vol. 14, No. 41, Ed. 1, May 13, 1898.

[32] Houston Daily Post, 17th yr., No. 244, Ed.1, December 4, 1901

[33] Galveston Daily News, Vol. 52, No.199, October 8, 1893

[34] Brenham Daily Banner (Brenham, Texas), Vol. 18, No. 22, Ed. 1, September 16, 1893.

[35] Lone Star Travel Guide Central Texas, by Richard Zeladne, Taylor Trade Publishing 2011, p. 208

[36] Brann and the Iconoclast, by Charles Carver, Univ. of Texas Press, 1957, p. 178.

[37] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 53, No. 364, March 23, 1895.

[38] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 54, No. 304, Ed. 2, January 22, 1896.

[39] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 54, No. 343, Ed. 1, March 1, 1896.

[40] Lockhart Weekly Post (:Lockhart, Texas ), Vol. VI, No. 30, August 4, 1904.

[41] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 54, No. 365, Ed 1, March 23, 1896.

[42] Brenham Daily Banner (Brenham, Texas), Vol. 21, No. 278, Ed. 1, October 9, 1896.

[43] Austin Weekly Statesman (Austin, Texas), Vol. 26, Ed.1, October 22, 1896.

[44] A History of Central and Western Texas, Vol. 2,; Captain B.B. Paddock, p. 710; Lewis Publishing Company, 1911.

[45] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol.56, No. 115, Ed. 1, July 17, 1897.

[46] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 55, No. 68, Ed.1, May 31, 1896.

[47] Gonzales Inquirer (Gonzales, Texas), Vol. 1, No. 23, Ed. 1, November 5, 1853.

[48] Gonzales Inquirer (Gonzales, Texas). Vol. 1, No. 27, Ed. 1,  December 3, 1853.

[49] Nacogdoches Chronicle (Nacogdoches, Texas), January 1, 1854

[50] Lockhart Post-Register (Lockhart, Texas), Centennial Edition, article by Florence Swearingen and Katheryne McMillan, August 13, 1936.

[51] Lockhart Post-Register (Lockhart, Texas), Centennial Edition, article by Florence Swearingen and Katheryne McMillan, August 13, 1936.

[52] Texas State Gazette (Austin, Texas) Vol. X, Issue 41, May 21, 1859

[53] The Weekly Telegraph (Houston, Texas), June 1, 1859

[54] Annals of Travis County and of the City of Austin (From the Earliest Times to the Close of 1875) by Frank Brown. Vol. 9. Date unknown. Carleton (or Carleston, as it was spelled elsewhere) would have been thirteen years old at the time of the Texas Revolution.

[55] Lockhart Post-Register (Lockhart, Texas), Centennial Edition, article by Florence Swearingen and Katheryne McMillan, August 13, 1936.

[56] Southern Intelligencer (Austin, Texas), Vol. 4, Issue 25, February 8, 1860.

[57] The Southern Watchman (Lockhart, Texas), Vol. 2, No. 19, June 6, 1857.

[58] South and West (Austin, Texas0, Vol. 1, Ed. 1, December 19, 1865.

[59] The Plow Boy, Vol. 1, No. 2, Ed. 1, December 1, 1868.

[60] Dallas Herald, Vol. 16, No. 35, Ed. 1, May 15, 1869.

[61] American Newspaper Directory, containing Accurate lists of all the newspaper and periodicals published in the United States and Territories, and the Dominion of Canada; Geo. F. Rowell & Co. (1870).

[62] The Texas Almanac for 1871, and Emigrant’s Guide to Texas, page 237.

[63] Texas State Times (Austin, Texas), Vol. 4, No. 20, Ed. 1, May 23, 1857.

[64] Raymond, N.C. Improvement in Compositions Used as Building Materials, Patent, October 12, 1858; 165063/: accessed march 10, 2016.

[65] Houston Telegraph (Houston, Texas), Vol. 36, No. 39, Ed.1, January 5, 1871.

[66] Unknown newspaper, September 9, 1870. accessed June 9, 2011.

[67] Southern Mercury (Dallas, Texas), Vol. 17, No. 40, Ed. 1, October 6, 1898.

[68] American Newspaper Directory 1894, George P. Rowell & Co., p. 758.

[69] Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), May 20, 1893.

[70] Lockhart Register (Lockhart, Texas), March 24, 1893.

[71] Lockhart Post (Lockhart, Texas), March 10, 1910.

[72] Lockhart Post (Lockhart, Texas), November 24, 1899.

[73] Lockhart Register (Lockhart, Texas), July 10, 1903.

[74] Lockhart Weekly Post (Lockhart, Texas), January 19, 1905.

[75] Lockhart Post (Lockhart, Texas), March 10, 1910.


[77] Houston Post (Houston, Texas), Vol. 25, Ed. 1, December 13, 1909 states that the Lockhart Herold (sic) made its appearance that week as the first German paper to be printed in Caldwell County. There is no further evidence of this publication’s existence. It certainly would not have been the first of its kind, if it even existed.

[78] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), May 17, 1872.

[79] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), June 30, 1872.

[80] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), August 15, 1872.

[81] News-Echo (Lockhart, Texas), Vol. 1, No. 7, April 27, 1872.

[82] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Vol. 35, No. 154, Ed. 1, July 7, 1875.

[83] Lockhart Post-Register (Lockhart, Texas), Centennial Edition, November 29, 1972.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Brenham Weekly Banner (Brenham, Texas), Vol. 15, No. 22, Ed. 1, May 28, 1880.

[86] Lockhart Post-Register (Lockhart, Texas), Centennial Edition, November 29, 1972.

[87] Ibid.

[88] The Daily Banner (Brenham, Texas), Vol. 5, No. 176, Ed. 1, July 16, 1880.

[89] Post Register Centennial Edition, op.cit.

[90] San Marcos Free Press (San Marcos, Texas), vol. 14, No. 5, Ed. 1, January 15, 1885.

[91] Post Register Centennial Edition, op. cit.

[92] Yoakum Weekly Herald (Yoakum, Texas), Vol. 16, No. 14, November 10, 1910.

[93] Shiner Gazette (Shiner, Texas), Vol. 17, No. 22, Ed. 1, January 13, 1910.

[94] Post Register Centennial Edition, op. cit.

[95] Houston Post (Houston, Texas), November 12, 1906.

[96] Post Register Centennial Edition, op. cit.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Seguin Gazette-Enterprise (Seguin, Texas), Vol. 108. No. 135, March 23, 1997.

[99] Author’s interview with Arthur Braud, July 11, 2018.

[100] Lockhart Post-Register (Lockhart, Texas), Vol. 126, No. 10, March 5, 1998.

[101] Lockhart Post-Register (Lockhart, Texas), Vol. 112, No. 38, September 20, 1984.




By Todd Blomerth

(These three articles were published in the Lockhart Post Register and the Luling Newsboy Signal in August/September 2011)

If you haven’t noticed, I love military history. And I have a great interest in World War II, what led up to it, and how we as Americans, with our Allies, were able to overcome two truly evil empires bent on world domination. D-Day, Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Bulge and Iwo Jima are familiar places or events in the lives of the Greatest Generation. I am about to tell the tale of one of the more obscure episodes in World War II, and one that is still not very well understood by many people – the series of sea and air actions, and island landings that happened on American soil in the Territory of Alaska. And believe it or not, this little known campaign in one of the most hostile climates in the world was decisive in the outcome of the United States’ war with the Japanese Empire.

In 1941, Alaska was about as remote a location as you could find. The US had acquired Alaska in 1867 from the Russian Empire for 7.2 million dollars, or about two cents an acre. Even so, Secretary of State William Seward, who negotiated the purchase, was publicly blasted by some for wasting taxpayers’ money on a chunk of frozen land. Apart from Inuit, Aleut, and other indigenous peoples, the only people living in this vast piece of real estate two and half times larger than Texas were a few Russian settlers, trappers, hunters, commercial fishermen, and loggers. Alaska was only ‘discovered’ by most Americans in 1896 when the Klondike Gold Rush brought hordes of gold seekers flocking to the southern end of the territory in search of riches.. When the gold played out, so did the interest in Alaska, and the territory once again reverted to a state of quiet isolation.

After the Japanese humiliated the Russian Empire in the Russo-Japanese War a few years later, many American military planners realized that sooner or later, the United States might end up fighting a war with the militaristic Japanese Empire. With that in mind, Alaska’s strategic importance began to be seen by the US military. In 1935, General Billy Mitchell, the leading military aviation pioneer of his time, told Congress, “I believe that in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world. I think it is the most important strategic place in the world.” To the Americans, the islands appeared as possible jumping off points for Japanese attacks on the American West Coast. Alaska was closer to Japan than New York. If the Japanese took Hawaii, its forces would still be 2,400 miles from the U.S. mainland. If Alaska was conquered, bombers could reach Seattle and its huge Boeing plant in three hours.

The Japanese were not unmindful of Alaska’s importance either. Stretching 1,200 miles from the western end of the Alaskan Peninsula, the Aleutian Islands represented potentially valuable real estate to Japan. It too was aware of the islands’ value as  bases to attack the heart of the United States. Likewise, the Empire knew that in the event of a war the Americans could use the islands as a staging point against their Kurile and home islands.

Both sides had a stake in controlling shipping and air lanes between American and Russian Asia as well. When America’s massive Lend Lease assistance to the Soviet Union required shipping of aircraft and other war supplies through Siberia, this would become even more apparent.

Supplying remote outposts was nothing new to the Japanese. The Japanese had been fighting in China and Manchuria since 1931. But once Japan ensured that the Soviet Union would not attack it or its conquered territory in Manchuria, it had turned most of its military attention southward, toward the oil and resource rich lands of Southern Asia. American planners were caught flat footed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, and the Philippines, and were scrambling to assemble its armed forces to respond to the seemingly invincible Japanese war machine. Lying between 51 degrees and 55 degrees in latitude, the thinly populated Aleutian chain would be very hard to defend. The islands’ distance from the Alaskan mainland was a serious challenge. There were no highways into the area. To get there from the US contiguous states, you either flew (a risky proposition) or took a steamship. In the late 1920s, President Herbert Hoover had ordered a study of the feasibility of constructing of a road from the Lower 48 States into Alaska, but the plan was shelved because of the high cost, and a route was never even surveyed (The famous Al Can Highway, built primarily by African American service troops, wasn’t completed until late in 1942).  And once ‘in’ Alaska, you were still perhaps a thousand miles or more from your ultimate destination on Attu or Kiska or one of the other islands. Attu, the further west of the island chain, was in the Eastern Hemisphere and five time zones back from the Alaska territory’s capital at Juneau! Imagine the distance from Atlanta to San Diego and you get some idea of the distances involved.


The 1,200 Miles of the Aleutian Island Chain Were Misery For The Troops Assigned There For Both Sides

            Weather conditions were also particularly harsh. The Japan Current moved up from the south where it slammed into dry, cold air from Siberia. It made for ice free oceans, but also for some of the worst weather in the world. 140 mile an hour gales were common. Fog was omnipresent. There were as few as 10 clear days in a year on many of the Aleutian Islands. Pilots dealt with ceilings that went from 500 feet to zero in a matter of minutes. Cold and wet weather was made worse by howling winds that blew down tents, flipped over airplanes, and made men go mad. An Air Force historian noted that, “oil becomes like jelly, hydraulic systems freeze, and rubber becomes brittle and fractures” under such conditions.

And there were more problems still. The frigid Alaskan soil could not sustain enough agriculture to support a large number of troops. Everything would have to be shipped from the Lower 48, but resupply ships only arrived intermittently. America was scrambling to build the infrastructure to fight a two front war, and supplying England and the Soviet Union with enough materiel aid to keep them from collapsing from the German onslaught. And those ships that did sail had few radio homing devices or radar to assist in navigation, and relied on highly inaccurate sea charts that the Russians had assembled in 1864. Aviators assigned to the territory had to use Rand McNally road maps. There were no highways of any consequence in the entirety of the Alaskan mainland – even between Anchorage and Fairbanks, the two largest ‘cities.’ Bush pilots landed on glaciers, ice or if equipped with floats, in rivers and lakes. Airfields were almost non-existent. There were none in the Aleutians.  There were no trees because winds prevented them from taking root. Beneath everything lay the muskeg – “a thin elastic crust of matted dead grasses something like celery, overlying a topsoil of dark volcanic ash which became quicksand whenever it was wet, which was to say all the time.”


Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr.


In June of 1940, Colonel Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. was assigned by Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall to command a newly created Alaskan Defense Command. The hard-bitten, plain speaking son of Confederate general, Buckner had graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1908. He was a flight instructor during World War I. In the 1930s he was an instructor at West Point, where he earned the reputation as a hard task master. Although controversial, his leadership would eventually assure the United States’ mastery of the region.


(Next – Creating something from nothing, interservice rivalry, and the bombing of Dutch Harbor).


“This Was Nobody’s Favorite War”

The attack on Pearl Harbor devastated the American Pacific Fleet. Other attacks against American military installations in the Philippines and elsewhere in the Pacific severely limited the US’ ability to strike back at the Japanese Empire. A devastating first strike was a crucial element of Japan’s war strategy. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Japan’s foremost naval strategist, had travelled extensively in America in the 1920s. He knew America’s industrial and military potential and realized that war would wake a ‘slumbering giant’ that would eventually overwhelm Japan with its superior productive capacity. Yamamoto felt that Japan’s only route to victory lay through crushing America’s will to fight by completely destroying the US Pacific Fleet and then quickly negotiating a favorable peace. However, due to a stroke of luck, none of the fleet’s priceless aircraft carriers had been at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Realizing that an attack and occupation of at least some of the Aleutian chain would provoke an American response that would given Japan another opportunity to destroy America’s precious aircraft carriers, Yamamoto ordered landings on Attu and Kiska, two of the furthest western islands in the chain, as well as an air assault on bases in and around Dutch Harbor on Umnak and Unalaska. Dutch Harbor Naval Base and Fort Mears were the main fortified naval and army bases in the Aleutians, and also served a supply points for the remainder of American forces in the area. By mid-1942, and through sheer force of will, newly promoted Alaskan theater commander, General Simon Bolivar Buckner had substantially improved Alaska’s defenses. But this improvement was relative. There were still only 45,000 soldiers to defend all of Alaska, and almost all were on the mainland, with only around 13,000 personnel at Dutch Harbor and the newly constructed airfield at Fort Glenn on nearby Umnak Island. And many of these men were in construction rather than combat units. The only other military presence in the Aleutians was a few weather stations.


USS Louisville – A Cruiser in the Small American Fleet

The US Navy was supposed to provide a defensive perimeter for Dutch Harbor to compensate for its light ground defenses, but the Navy was hampered by a lack of modern warships, which had to cover an enormous area – often without radar. A few older cruisers, destroyers, and obsolete S class submarines were assigned to the theater under Rear Admiral Robert Theobald, who was given the impossible task of establishing an airtight naval perimeter around the islands.

Further complicating matters, command authority in the North Pacific Area was divided and cumbersome. Upon reaching Alaska, Theobald became commander of the naval and air forces, while authority over the ground forces remained with Buckner.  The two were ordered to operate a joint command with “mutual cooperation,” but they answered to different bosses and did not get along with each other.

Under Theobald was General William Butler, the commander of the Eleventh Air Force.  His tiny air force consisted of a few obsolescent fighters and badly equipped B-17s and B-24s, as well as a number of PBY Catalina flying boats. One of the unit’s few bright spots was Colonel William O. “Eric” Eareckson, an incredible aviator and fearless maverick, who often became a one-man war against the Japanese. When not taking extraordinary chances with the enemy and weather, he instilled rigorous training and tactics. He was held in awe by his young aviators. His efforts also kept many of them alive in an environment where over two-thirds of aircraft losses were due to weather –not to the enemy.


To destroy the US will to fight in the Pacific, Yamamoto devised a complex strategy. Part of his forces would overrun several of the Aleutian Islands and attack the US base at Dutch Harbor. This would dilute American strength in and around Midway, and allow the Japanese, with their superior naval strength, to destroy America’s remaining carriers, and also occupy the strategically important island. The Alaskan portion of his plan was criticized by some as a dilution of the forces needed to win the all-important battle against the American fleet around Midway. The debate continued until Jimmy Doolittle and his squadron of B-25 bombers achieved a stunning surprise attack against Tokyo in early 1942 by launching off the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet after sneaking to within striking distance of the Japanese capital. The attack caused little damage to Japan, but the psychological impact was huge. The Japanese did not know how the bombers got to Japan but many assumed that they may have come from secret airbases in the Aleutians. Fear of additional attacks against the Home Islands led to the quick approval of Yamamoto’s invasion plan. On May 5, 1942, the Japanese Navy Order Eighteen authorized an invasion and occupation of the Aleutians. The Aleutian operation would go forward, siphoning many ships north, including the aircraft carriers Junyo and Ryujo that might have otherwise later turned the tide at the Battle of Midway.


The first phase of the invasion involved a surprise air strike against the islands. However, the Japanese would find American air defenses to be stronger than they had anticipated for several reasons.


In late 1941, Buckner began to secretly use funds earmarked for other purposes to build airbases at Dutch Harbor and on other Aleutian Islands. Buckner hand picked engineers to build airfields in the awfulness of the muskeg and sent them construction supplies in crates labeled as “fishery equipment.” Construction was possible only using experimental Marston steel landing mats. Japanese intelligence had no way of discovering these airfields since Buckner’s superiors were equally in the dark. Reliance on long-range I class submarines for visual reconnaissance of the defenses was a poor substitute for good aerial reconnaissance and spies – and the Japanese had none of those resources in the area. Then, on May 15th, the Americans partially broke the Japanese naval code. Intercepts revealed the Japanese invasion plan and the timing of the first attack against Dutch Harbor. American aircraft patrols were stepped up as a result, and spotted the Japanese fleet far at sea. The Americans around Dutch Harbor were ready.  Anti-aircraft crews, largely made up of National Guard units from the lower 48 state, were well trained. At 0540 on June 3, 1942 radar picked up incoming aircraft launched from the Japanese aircraft carriers. A few minutes later, anti-aircraft guns opened up as Japanese fighters strafed the airfield and Japanese bombers released their lethal loads from 9000 feet. But the actual damage done was very small. Men were killed when a barracks was hit, but for the most part, the US forward facilities were left undamaged. The Japanese returned the following day, with much the same results. Some aircraft were caught on the ground, one ship badly damaged, fuel depots set afire, and a small number of soldiers killed. The weather proved to be an intractable foe–the Japanese could not see what they were bombing. Fog prevented American defenders from seeing incoming Japanese planes but also kept pilots from seeing their targets. Sometimes visibility was so poor that planes could not take off at all. The initial assault was postponed for several hours to allow for “better” weather, when pilots could at least see the end of the carrier deck. Cloud cover and fog made accuracy impossible. The second attack saw more breaks in cloud cover, but weather still played a huge factor.

Bad weather also hampered the American defenders. The US fleet trying to prevent the attack groped around in fog four hundred miles south of the enemy fleet, never making contact with the attackers. The weather allowed the Japanese fleet to escape undetected and unharmed. Airplanes were lost or damaged, but primarily as a result of howling winds and horrible visibility. As Brian Garfield noted in his book The Thousand Mile War, “It was not Japanese cleverness, and not American blundering, that kept the opposing forces from joining in battle; it was the power of Aleutian nature.”


There was one unexpected consequence of the attack. Pilot Tadayashi Koga shot down an American PBY patrol boat and in the process received damage to his A6M “Zero”, Japan’s nimble and fast fighter. He crash landed on nearby Akutan Island, and was killed. But his aircraft was virtually undamaged. It was found by American forces some weeks later, recovered, taken apart and studied. The knowledge learned about the aircraft proved invaluable in designing aircraft that would come to outperform the Zero.







Defending Dutch Harbor                                                    



  Japanese Bombing of Dutch Harbor





The Occupation of Attu and Kiska


In the Central Pacific, the Japanese suffered a stunning defeat at Midway. Over 3000 Japanese sailors and aviators were killed and several of Japan’s most powerful aircraft carriers were sunk. Japan’s knock-out blow against the American fleet had backfired. It  was a bitter pill to swallow for the proud Yamamoto. With his defeat at Midway, Yamamoto felt that any further effort in the Aleutians was a waste of time. He was convinced otherwise by his staff, which urged him to continue with the occupation of at least some of the island chain  The American fleet was looking for the Japanese in the Bering Sea when a Japanese landing force hit the beaches on Kiska, and 350 miles further west, on Attu at 0120 hrs on June 7, 1942. The only defenders were ten men at a weather station who were captured fairly quickly. A few hours later, the Kiska landing occurred, again with no opposition.


Chichagof Harbor – Attu, Before the Attack



The Captured Weather Detachment on Kiska-The Men

Would Spend the Rest of the War in Japanese Prison Camps


Headquarters initially intended for the invaders to advance up the island chain, eventually attacking the Alaskan mainland. In the US, the Aleutian attacks and landings focused the attention of all branches of the military. Newly arrived aviators wanted to show that air power could effect Japanese submission; the Army wanted to show it had the combat skills to hurl the Japanese off American soil; the Navy was embarrassed because of its total failure to locate and destroy the Japanese fleet and prevent the invasions; and President Roosevelt was embarrassed by the occupation of American soil. Suddenly Alaska was on the minds of everyone in the command structure – and there was an immediate influx of men and materiel to counter the invasion.

The Japanese initially planned to evacuate Attu and Kiska in late 1942. It was later decided by the Japanese that they would stay indefinitely. “There is considerable conjecture [wrote one officer] about the Japanese need for such a God-forsaken hole. The general consensus seems to be that they need a submarine operating base…from which easy raids on our lend-lease shipping to the USSR can be carried out.”

It would take 10 months for the Americans to build enough strength to attempt ousting the invaders, and in that period, the number of men in the Alaskan theater grew to over 300,000. Increasing naval strength choked the flow of provisions to the invaders, making their lives increasingly unpleasant. In August of 1942, the American counterattack begin with an unopposed landing on Adak, 400 miles west of Dutch Harbor and within bombing range of Kiska and Attu Airbases continued to be built, in horrific conditions. The Japanese defenders received little additional support meanwhile due to the decline of Japanese military fortunes elsewhere. Bombing raids and reconnaissance missions over Attu and Kiska grew in size and accuracy. “For the next six months [writes Garfield] this was the strategy of the Aleutian Campaign: a nerve-racking, corrosive harassment of the enemy on Kiska.”

Believing Attu to be untenable, the Japanese commander evacuated the island’s defenders to Kiska in December of 1942. When an expected attack didn’t occur, the island was re-occupied by over 2500 men. Had the Americans been more alert, they could have occupied the island without firing a shot. Because of the lack of vigilance, horrific weather, and bad communications, as well as a change in the Japanese naval code that limited the code breakers’ best attempts, the Americans missed a huge opportunity. It would cost them dearly.


NEXT – The Retaking of Attu and Kiska, and a Postscript.  bombing-of-dutch-harbor 300px-mortar-attu-1943 attu-landing-massarcre-bay attu_battle_map_may_1943 attu-japanese-commander fox-hole-shot-of-jarmin-pass mass-suicidebuckner-photo uss-louisville tmb_battle_aleutians1 photo-of-attu-before-invasion   crashed-b-24  troops-loading-for-kiska-august-1942 sitka-midget-subs invasion-map mass-suicide fox-hole-shot-of-jarmin-pass attu-japanese-commander attu_battle_map_may_1943 attu-landing-massarcre-bay 300px-mortar-attu-1943 bombing-of-dutch-harbor


“The Theater of Military Frustration”


Famed naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison’s description of the Aleutian Campaign as “The theater of military frustration” is about as apt as any phrase can be. For both the Americans and Japanese, the remainder of 1942 and early 1943 was a period of feints and jabs, none with any knockout force, often totally missing the mark because of the horrific weather and unforgiving seas. The frustration engendered by protracted inactivity was demoralizing to both sides. American sailors and soldiers had cause to wonder why they were not fighting in a more active theater. For the Japanese, there was the inevitable sense of being left to their doom as higher-ups dealt with more pressing matters elsewhere.

The end of the Japanese occupation of American soil was slow in coming. In August 1942, an American force landed on Adak, four hundred miles west of any US base and 250 miles from Kiska. The Japanese were caught by surprise. In fact, American engineers and Seabees constructed an entire airfield with auxiliary buildings before the Japanese even knew they were there. Kiska started experiencing regular attacks from US bombers – and because of the limited number of pilots and the miserable weather, the Japanese couldn’t figure out how the Americans were able to step up their bombing campaign, which began causing greater damage and more deaths. By the time they finally found the new airbase, they had so few serviceable aircraft left that the Japanese could do nothing about it.

Because of setbacks elsewhere, Japan’s military resources and men were stretched thin – there would be little help for their forces in the Aleutians. Besides, the Japanese plan called for an evacuation during the winter anyway. Sensing the Americans would not occupy Attu, the Japanese evacuated its garrison to Sitka to concentrate their forces. The anticipated attack on Sitka never happened, but the Americans occupied several other smaller islands in the chain. After the Sitka evacuation, the Japanese high command re-assessed the strategic importance of the Aleutian Islands – perhaps the Americans could attack Japan from the north after all.  The Japanese quietly reoccupied Attu. Sitka’s fortifications were strengthened. Evacuation plans were scrubbed by October 1942 and instead decided to expand their presence in the islands by occupying more of the Aleutian chain. However, by this point further invasions were no longer possible because of American air superiority. In early December, a convoy of troops sent to make new landings was diverted to the relative safety of Kiska instead.

The tide was turning decisively against the Japanese – by the end of 1942, there were over 150,000 US troops in Alaska, and Dutch Harbor was handing nearly 400,000 tons of shipping a month. Alaskan oil and coal production boomed. And in November the 1671 mile wonder called the Al-Can Highway was completed. The Lend-Lease route to the Soviets through Siberia was opened for business. But pressing series of major campaigns being waged against the Axis powers elsewhere meant that plans to kick the Japanese out of the Aleutians took a back seat to operations in the South Pacific and in North Africa. As always, the weather discouraged offensive operations as well, and the winter of 1942-43 was another horrific reminder of the nightmare involved in trying to carry out any major operation. In Fairbanks, -67 degree weather meant that aircraft engines had to be thawed out with blow torches! Fighters landing in the fog at Adak crashed into parked B-24s. Boats capsized. Hospital and mess tents were destroyed.  The mostly Mexican-American Texans of the 176th Engineers– who had never even seen snow before – were continually blown off their feet by sudden winds called williwaws as they tried to complete the facilities at Adak.

General Buckner’s antipathy toward Admiral Theobald and his perceived reluctance to risk his few ships to the weather or Japanese finally came to a head. On January 4th, Buckner’s hostility contributed to Theobald’s replacement by Rear Admiral Thomas Kinkaid. Kinkaid and Buckner were kindred spirits who shared an offensive mindset – the inter-service rivalries died, and morale improved. There was a sense that there was some purpose in living in the frozen hell of the Aleutians – to kill Japanese. Kinkaid’s arrival marked the start of a new aggressiveness. On January 5, 1943, Americans landed unopposed on Amchitka, a mere 40 miles from Sitka. By January 28th, a new airfield had been completed there.  Kiska became the object of sometimes hourly bombing raids.


General Hidichiro Higuchi, commander of Japan’s North Pacific ground forces, demanded additional reinforcements and naval cooperation to stop the American advances. The Japanese navy demurred, and instead of sinking American tonnage, used its submarines to bring supplies to other island outposts. With woefully inadequate equipment and suffering round-the-clock bombing, Higuchi’s men could never finish airfields on either Kiska or Attu. The Japanese defenders’ last hope for relief vanished on February 5, 1943 when Higuchi was instructed to ‘hold the western Aleutians at all costs’ with his available force.  Slim chance – he had 8000 troops on Kiska and 1000 on Attu, and none were first-line troops. He possessed no artillery other than mortars. He had no tanks.

Meanwhile, Kinkaid created an effective blockade intent on starving the Japanese garrisons. More and more, supply convoys were either sunk or driven back. By early March 1943, the American air forces had sunk over forty Japanese ships. The stranglehold by the Americans was tightening. In response, the Japanese tried a desperate gambit that led to what became known as the Battle of the Komandorski Islands. A convoy of troops and supplies escorted by eight cruisers attempted to run the American naval gauntlet.  If successful, the Japanese perhaps could hold Attu and Kiska and even mount and offensive against Kinkaid’s forces. In the ensuing battle, the blockading American fleet was outnumbered two to one. The flagship Salt Lake City, an older cruiser, was heavily damaged in a running daylight battle. Gutsy American destroyers, in an attempt to protect it, made a suicide charge with torpedoes against the Japanese cruisers – and the Japanese withdrew! Afraid that American aircraft would soon be approaching to assist, the last supply fleet turned back. “Admiral Kinkaid’s ridiculous little blockade [wrote Brian Garfield in The Thousand Mile War] had achieved complete success: [it] ended Japanese navy supremacy in the North Pacific and brought the end of the Aleutian Campaign in sight.”

Now it was time to bring combat troops for the invasion of the two islands. The first to be hit would be Attu. If Attu fell, Kiska would hopefully wither on the vine. Common sense would have suggested assembling a large unit trained in cold weather combat and amphibious landings, but common sense did not prevail. Ground troops under Buckner’s command were scattered all over Alaska. None were of division strength. Instead, the 7th Mechanized Infantry Division was transferred from scheduled service in the North Africa Theater. There was one small problem – it was training in southern California for desert warfare. With no training in cold weather warfare, and with little or no appropriate clothing or equipment, the division was sent north in April 1943.  Its men were predominantly Hispanics, Mormons, Indians, and cowboys from Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. It had absolutely no amphibious training. The lunacy of the division’s selection was compounded by a timeline that gave it only three months to prepare until the landing on Attu.

American intelligence said there were only 500 Japanese troops on Attu (its forces had been reinforced actually numbered over 2500). The Alaskan command told the 7th Division’s commander, Major General Albert Brown, that a single regiment could take the island in three days. Brown responded that suggestion was nuts – the island’s terrain alone would require a full week just to cross it. His pessimism was dismissed.

Despite these obstacles, Brown tried to make the best of a bad situation, effecting two landings on May 11, 1943. The Northern Landing Force came ashore near Holtz Bay; the Southern Landing Force at Massacre Bay. A Scout Battalion, led by Captain William Willoughby, was offloaded from submarines on Beach Scarlet, to prevent the Japanese from moving west and prolonging the fight. There was to be a quick link-up of the forces. The plan was to force the Japanese back toward Chichagof Harbor, where they could be killed or captured. It was supposed to be over quickly.

The Northern Force’s landing started uneventfully, but surprise was lost when Japanese sentries spotted the forces through the fog. Artillery fire halted the American advance. At Massacre Bay, the Americans were able to move inland for about a mile before encountering fierce Japanese resistance. Japanese machine gunners, dug in on ridge lines and hidden by the ever-present fog, poured fired down on the advancing troops, killing many, including the Southern Force’s commander. The attack bogged down, with men freezing in the snow, or suffering frostbite, and equipment stuck in the muskeg. For five days, the green American troops at Massacre Bay got nowhere. Because tractors couldn’t move in the muck of snow and muskeg, a huge traffic jam grew at the water’s edge. Everything had to be hand carried. Artillery pieces would fire from the water’s edge, driving the gun into the muck – to be dug out after each shell was fired. Despite having warned of a difficult landing, General Brown was relieved of command.

The Northern Force had better luck, and was aided by a naval bombardment from the battleships Pennsylvania and Idaho and several cruisers. It was still very slow going, marked by extreme acts of bravery on the part of the advancing Americans. One example was Private Joe P. Martinez, of Taos, New Mexico. An automatic rifleman in Company K of the 32nd Infantry,  he singled-handedly walked into enemy fire armed only with a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and killed five Japanese soldiers. He reached the crest of a contested ridge before he collapsed with a mortal wound.  His stalled company cleared the remaining Japanese off the ridgeline. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

The scouts under Willoughby had better luck until they too found themselves bogged down on a wind-blown open ridge in a stand-off with Japanese infantry.

Finally, after four days, the Japanese force in front of the Northern attackers abandoned Holtz Bay, and soon after Willoughby’s scout force broke through. Of the 420 men he started with, only 165 were still able to fight – some had been killed, but most suffered from exhaustion, frostbite, and gangrene. Amputations became commonplace.

By day seven, the Americans had over 12,000 men on the island. They had suffered over 1100 casualties, of which 500 were from exposure. They were up against the remaining 2000 Japanese, who were skillfully withdrawing into more defensible positions. After holding off the Southern Force for eight days, the enemy made an orderly withdrawal toward heights protecting Chichagof Bay.

Even as they inflicted fearsome casualties, the Japanese were going through a hell of their own. Although better equipped for the weather, they were exhausted from the constant skirmishing, artillery bombardment, and lack of food.  An unknown Japanese NCO’s diary of May 20th reads, “The hours are long. Could do any type of hard work if I could only get two rice-balls a day. I haven’t slept for the past eight days. We received fierce naval gun fire.” Eventually the Japanese perimeter shrunk back toward Chichagof Bay. A last ditch attempt by the Japanese air forces flying from the Kurile Islands to assist their comrades proved disastrous when nine of sixteen bombers were shot down. It was the last outside assistance Japanese defenders received. Finally, on May 28, 1943, a key ridgeline called the Fish Hook fell. Rather than slaughter the remaining defenders, the Americans attempted to persuade them to surrender since Japanese were down to 800 able bodied soldiers, but Japan’s unbending Bushido warrior code, which equated surrender with cowardice, rendered this effort fruitless. The last desperate act by the Japanese was at hand. But first, the 400 wounded soldiers in the field hospital were killed by fellow Japanese, either by grenades or with morphine.



The Japanese commander, Colonel Yatsuyo Yamasaki, led the remaining men, many without weapons, on a sneak attack on the American perimeter. The suicidal charge was totally unexpected. Crazed attackers overran a command post and charged into a medical clearing station, killing most of the patients. Grabbing cooks, litter bearers, road builders and anyone else who could fire an M-1, the Americans re-assembled. “The 50th Engineers [writes Brian Garfield] rushing forward to man the lines, met the charge head-on with bayonets and clubbed rifles.” The onslaught failed. Colonel Yamasaki died in a final futile charge. The next day, the surviving 500 Japanese committed mass suicide by exploding grenades against their chests. The agony of Attu was over.


What was supposed to be a three day walk-over had taken three weeks. Twenty eight Japanese were taken prisoner.  Well over 2500 Japanese were killed – the exact number is not known. The Americans suffered 549 combat deaths, and over 1000 wounded, or evacuated because of frostbite, exposure or combat fatigue. Garfield notes that “In proportion to the numbers of troops engaged, [Attu] would rank as the second most costly American battle in the Pacific Theater-second only to Iwo Jima.”


American commanders were shocked at the cost. If Attu was this pricey, what would Kiska be like?  The invasion planners reassessed the support the next invasion would require. The blockade of Kiska tightened until it became impenetrable. Bombers flew an average of five missions a day against the island’s defenses. Radar equipped PV-1 Ventura bombers were able to bomb through the clouds and fog.                                             

Round the clock bombing kept Japanese defenders in a labyrinth of sophisticated caves and tunnels, except when attempting to repair bomb damage. Food became even scarcer. Whenever stray American bombs detonated in the harbor, Japanese would rush to scoop up dead fish, which they called “Roosevelt rations.”

Increased radio traffic convinced the defenders that the assault on Kiska was imminent. The huge Japanese submarines based in the Kuriles, called I-boats, were ordered to evacuate the island, but the Americans quickly sunk three of the eight I-boats before they could escape.  In desperation, Admiral Shiro Kawase assembled a small flotilla of cruisers and destroyers, and made a run to save the defenders. The blockading American fleet involved itself in the folly later known as the “Battle of the Pips”, firing countless rounds into an open sea in response to false radar images, and then had to re-fuel.  On July 28th, 1943, Kiwase’s small flotilla slid into Kiska undetected and evacuated all 5183 men in less than an hour. “Kawase had brought off one of the war’s most imaginative and daring maneuvers [writes Garfield] without a single casualty.”

Amazingly, the Americans remained unaware of the evacuation. For three weeks the Americans kept pummeling Sitka. Pilots reported no anti-aircraft bursts, nor any repairs to recent bombings. Higher-ups took no chances, choosing to believe the Japanese had merely retreated further inland to caves and redoubts. On August 15th, 34,426 American and Canadian troops landed on Sitka – and were met by a few stray dogs. The only casualties were caused by friendly fire.  The Japanese had had the last laugh. They had tied up over 300,000 Allied soldiers and sailors, as well as a fleet of ships, to attack a deserted island. General Buckner wryly noted, “To attract maximum attention, it’s hard to find anything more effect that a great big, juicy, expensive mistake.”  But it was still a retreat, still a defeat of Imperial Japan’s ambitions. 439 days of warfare for a cold and miserable part of the United States was over. Bombing runs to Japan’s Kurile Islands began – more for harassment that anything else. General Buckner wanted to plan an invasion of Japan from the north – and while that idea was shelved, fear of its possibility kept over 40,000 Japanese soldiers and sailors and 500 aircraft defending those approaches as the war crept toward Japan’s main islands from the south.


(Much information for these articles was gleaned from The Thousand Mile War, by Brian Garfield, as well as naval and other histories)



T’ODON C. ‘CHUCK’ LESHIKAR – Silver Star Recipient -“You might say I was in the thick of things”


                                          2nd Lieutenant Leshikar 1967


Chuck Leshikar 2018





“You Might Say I Was In the Thick of It”


By Todd Blomerth


A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Chuck Leshikar for this story. I planned on a couple of hours. It didn’t work out that way. Five hours after arriving at his home, the two of us were still talking. Well, mostly, I listened. To say Chuck Leshikar is an interesting human being is like suggesting that the sun is kind of warm.

Chuck Leshikar was born in Austin, Texas on January 10, 1946. The son of T’Odon Leshikar and Angel (Dexter) Leshikar, he was the second of four children. Chuck’s father, of Czech heritage from Smithville, was Bursar at the University of Texas. Raised in Austin, Chuck attended Austin High School, graduating in 1964.

Chuck enrolled in the University of Texas, intent on majoring in architecture. He flunked out. Vietnam was heating up and expecting to get drafted, Chuck decided he want to fly helicopters. Taking a preliminary flight physical that showed him to be a good candidate for Warrant Officer School and his wings, he enlisted. After basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana and Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Ord, California, he was given another flight test and told that, no, he wasn’t going to get to go to flight school – his eyesight wasn’t quite good enough.

Chuck’s Plan B? To complete Infantry Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Then, he pinned on his 2nd lieutenant bars and signed up for additional schooling. In the mid-60s, everyone ‘knew’ you wouldn’t get sent to Vietnam if you had less that a year to go on your enlistment (That wasn’t necessarily so). He figured if he took enough schools, by the time he finished them, he’d have less than a year to go on his active duty commitment, and miss the usual one year tour in Southeast Asia.

Airborne School, Pathfinder School, Ranger School, Jungle Warfare School, 4.2” Mortar Platoon Leader School. Chuck completed them all. And still received orders for Vietnam. He’d finished all the training and still had one year and seven days left on his active duty hitch!

While at Ft. Hood he was temporarily assigned to the 1st Armored Division.  Along with several thousand other soldiers, Lt. Leshikar was ordered to Chicago when riots broke out in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The mayhem and violence left its mark on him, both internally and externally. During the riots his arm was sliced open with a rioter’s rat-tailed comb.

After a thirty-day leave, 1st Lieutenant Leshikar lumbered onto a flight from Bergstrom AFB to California. At Travis AFB he and others were packed onto a commercial flight. Destination – Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. “It was miserable,” Chuck recalls. “And to top it off, the in-flight movie was Will Penny, which was a really depressing story.”

Chuck had originally been assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. That brigade had taken its lumps and had been rotated to a relatively quiet area of Vietnam. Had he remained with the 173rd, it is probable he would never have seen the horrors and intensity of the combat about which I write. However, Chuck had volunteered for the 101st Airborne Infantry Division, which was assigned to one of the hottest combat zones in Vietnam.

Chuck arrived in Vietnam on June 13, 1968 and was assigned to the 101st on July 1, 1968. He remembers July 1 ruefully. “That’s the same day the 101st Airborne Division became “Air Assault,” and went off “jump status.” This meant, among other things, his hope of receiving the much coveted “jump pay” was gone.  After processing, he was flown to Hue, only recently retaken from North Vietnamese troops after bloody building to building fighting. From Hue, a jeep took him to LZ Sally, near the A Shau Valley. Despite his training as a mortar platoon leader, he was assigned as an infantry platoon leader in the “Delta Raiders,” D (Delta) Company, 2nd Battalion, 501st Airborne Infantry Regiment (D/2/501).

Vietnam’s A Shau Valley runs north and south for twenty-five miles. Flanked by two strings of heavily forested mountains, it was a key entry point into South Vietnam for North Vietnamese (NVA) soldiers and equipment, using the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos. The 101st’s areas of operation were in this hotbed of enemy activity.                The daily log of Delta Company shows almost constant contact with the enemy. Search operations and reconnaisances in force were met with attempted ambushes. Sudden sniper and artillery fire from the well concealed enemy were encountered. Bunkers, weapons caches, were found and destroyed. 1st Lieutenant Chuck Leshikar found he was a natural leader of men. On August 18, 1968, his radio telephone operator (RTO) fell down a steep embankment and into a river. Chuck saved the man’s life, and was later awarded the Soldier’s Medal, awarded for “heroism not involving conflict with the enemy.”

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Soldier’s Medal to First Lieutenant (Infantry) T’Odon Charles Leshikar, Jr. (ASN: 0-5344035), United States Army, for heroism not involving actual combat with an armed enemy force in the Republic of Vietnam on 18 August 1968. First Lieutenant Leshikar distinguished himself while serving as a Platoon Leader in Company D, 2d Battalion, 501st Infantry. The Third Platoon, commanded by Lieutenant Leshikar, was conducting a search and clear operation along the Song Bo River, Republic of Vietnam, and, because of the nature of the mission, it was necessary for half of the element to move through the water in order to locate any enemy weapons caches along the bank. Private First Class Robert L. Walker, the platoon radio telephone operator, stepped into a deep depression in the stream bed and, because of the weight and bulk of his equipment, was unable to remain above water. Observing the situation, First Lieutenant Leshikar, fully clothed and equipped, immediately jumped from the bank into the water to rescue the man. In the absence of First Lieutenant Leshikar’s quick action, Private First Class Walker undoubtedly would have drowned. First Lieutenant Leshikar’s personal bravery and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

Three days later, while operating six kilometers east of Fire Base T-Bone, Delta Company ran headfirst into the NVA. The Silver Star, the Armed Forces’ third-highest medal for gallantry, is awarded for singular acts of valor or heroism. The description of Lt. Leshikar’s actions, as part of the commendation, speaks for itself:


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant (Infantry) T’Odon Charles Leshikar, Jr. (ASN: 0-5344035), United States Army, for gallantry in action in the Republic of Vietnam on 21 August 1968. First Lieutenant Leshikar distinguished himself while serving as Platoon Leader with Company D, 2d Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. First Lieutenant Leshikar was leading his platoon on a search and clear operation in mountainous jungles near the city of Hue, Republic of Vietnam, when it made contact with an undetermined sized enemy force. He immediately deployed his men and moved with his weapons squad under the increasing volume of automatic weapons and small arms fire to within twenty-five feet of the fortified enemy position. By successfully directing the fire of this element, he enabled another squad to begin maneuvering against the enemy in an attempt to flank the position. When the weapons squad was pinned down by sniper fire, First Lieutenant Leshikar crawled across an open spot in the trail and became the primary target of the enemy riflemen as he closed on their position. He then engaged the enemy with effective supporting fire, allowing another of his men to successfully eliminate the snipers with hand grenades. First Lieutenant Leshikar returned to his men and discovered several members of his platoon were wounded and lay directly in the line of fire. He again directed the fire of his men, while under direct enemy fire, and made possible the evacuation of the injured. First Lieutenant Leshikar carried one of the more seriously wounded to the rear. Even though he was wounded himself during the initial confrontation, First Lieutenant Leshikar refused medical evacuation, and again moved forward to the front lines. He then continued to lead the advance of his platoon by constantly moving from position to position, directing and giving encouragement to his men, while continuing to maintain accurate artillery fire support. The enemy retaliated by firing an intense barrage of rocket propelled grenades, which forced the friendly troops to withdraw. First Lieutenant Leshikar remained behind, covering the withdrawal of his men and directing the fire of helicopter gunships into the enemy positions, dangerously close to his location. First Lieutenant Leshikar’s personal bravery and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

In mid-October 1968, the Delta Raiders were operating in a rugged and mountainous area They advanced on a sharp ridgeline, eventually dubbed Blue Falcon Ridge, they were met by murderous NVA fire. During the two day battle, the enemy hit the company with one of the heaviest mortar attacks he experienced in Vietnam. At dusk, a resupply helicopter arrived. Unable to land because of the tight perimeter, its crew threw out food and ammunition and began to ascend when it was hit by an RPG. The helicopter exploded and “it fell over the side of the hill in flames,” wrote Chuck. Some of what he saw was heartbreaking:

The medevacs came out and we were trying to get the co-pilot on board. He had suffered a severe and very mangled right leg, it was just hanging on by threads. He had lost all of his finger tips and was burned over quite a bit of his body. I will never forget standing on that ridge line to hold a strobe light to guide the helicopter in with. I was a standing target for all to see. The helicopter hovered above us with its spot light shining down on us, the wind from the blades whipping around us. It seemed to be a dream. All the tragedies of that day were around us. It was if I was watching the twilight zone. I was immediately returned to reality when I heard an AK-47 fire three rounds. I knew what was about to happen and it did. The mortar tube started firing again. Again, I heard three shots and the mortar rounds shifted to the other side of the ridge line. The NVA were adjusting mortar fire on us as we tried to medevac our wounded Delta Raiders.

The medevac lowered the basket and the pilot was placed in it and as it was going up one of the other men who had been on the helicopter walked up to me and asked, “Sir, am I very bad/” I looked at him and said, “No, you’re not hurt very bad at all. You’ll be okay.” And the young man looked at me and said, “Sir, do you know who I am?” And I looked at him and said, “No, I don’t.” The man was burned all over his face, had all of his hair gone and was burned pretty bad. I was trying to comfort him and tell him that he was not very bad when he informed that he was SGT Frank Wingo, who I knew very well but I couldn’t recognize because of the extent of the injuries and burns. It caught me totally off guard when he told me his name. That moment is something that I’ve thought over the years….I can’t keep from thinking about how he must have felt – that his injuries were so bad that I didn’t recognize him. I wanted to do something, but was totally unable to. I felt helpless and that I should been able to make it all right – all of it – the burns, my failure to recognize him –everything. This haunts me still. (Excerpt from Delta Raiders, Southern Heritage Press, 1998, The Days of Blue Falcon Ridge, by Chuck Leshikar).

1st Lt. Leshikar on the radio – October 1968

In January 1969, Chuck became Echo (E) Company Commander. In May of 1969, some of the 101st units were involved in the protracted and deadly assault on Hill 937, or what became known as Hamburger Hill. The seemingly pointless extraction of blood from Americans, and the ensuing press coverage of this encounter with well dug in NVA, overshadowed an almost equally deadly battle.

While the battle raged for Hamburger Hill, Chuck’s company – a combat support unit – was in support of artillery and other 101st Airborne units securing the top of a remote hill dubbed Firebase Airborne. “It was the roughest territory I ever saw,” Chuck recalls. Upon approaching the hilltop, the helicopter carrying him and others was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in the tail boom. “I was thrown out of the chopper from about fifteen feet up,” he recalls. A defensive perimeter was constructed, and the Americans dug in. The firebase came under increasing sniper fire. E Company had ground surveillance radar, and a reconnaissance platoon. The radar and the recon both were telling 1st Lt. Leshikar that the enemy was about to hit the firebase, and hit hard. “I told the S-3 [operations officer] that we were about to get overrun,” Chuck recalls. “I was ignored.”

In the early morning hours of May 13, 1969, that is exactly what happened. Stationed with his RTO near an artillery battery, he fought for his life. “Three enemy ended up in my foxhole. You do what you have to, to survive.” By morning, the NVA had disappeared. “They had no intention of taking the firebase. Their intention was to damage us and leave,” he recounts. Some areas of the


Chuck’s photos of artillery firing at FB Airborne just hours before the night attack

firebase were held only after hand-to-hand fighting, and artillery firing deadly “beehive” rounds directly at the oncoming enemy.

The U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam’s truncated information provided to the press of ‘significant events …during May 1969’ cannot begin to describe the hell of May 13, 1969:

III MAF (THUA THIEN PROV) – At approx 0330, an elm of the 3rd Bde, US 101st Abn Div (AM) at a fire spt base 27 mi SW of Hue rec a gnd atk fr an unk size NVA force. The en atkd fr several dirs, empl hv SA & auto wpns fire along with RPG. The trps dir organic wpns & point blank arty fire at the atkg en. No en were reptd to have pent the peri & contact was lost at an unreptd time. Res: 31 NVA soldiers kd. US cas were 25 KIA & 51 WIA. 9 I/Wpns & 1 CSW was cptrd.

Carlton Meyer’s Lost Battles of Vietnam –  – describes the incident more honestly:

  1. Firebase Airborne Overrun- There are several short, vague accounts about how this artillery firebase was overrun on May 13, 1969. One veteran believes it was bait to draw the NVA into combat. VC sappers slipped inside its weak defenses and exploded the artillery ammunition dump, killing a dozen and causing confusion. The NVA swept through the base at night killing and wounding most defenders and destroying its big guns. Many Americans managed to hide until the NVA left before dawn, so the base was never officially captured. However, it was wrecked and later abandoned.

Along with the Silver Star and Soldier’s Medal, Chuck was awarded the Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars.

At the end of his tour in Vietnam, 1st lieutenant Leshikar reverted to Reserve status, joining a Texas Army National Guard Airborne unit while re-enrolling and completing his college degree. He attended Jumpmaster School at Ft. Benning, completed the Advanced Officer Branch Course by correspondence, fully intending to continue in the military. It was not to be. The U.S. Army Reserve was glutted with officers and there were no positions available, unless you were willing to “drill for points” only, in hope of one day getting a paid position. It was time to move on to other things.

In 1975, Chuck’s life took a dramatic turn. Walking into Austin’s Scholz Garden, he eyed a beautiful young lawyer. It was love at first sight. “My single days are over,” he thought. “I just knew I was going to marry her.” He and Nancy Burrell were married at Hyde Park Presbyterian Church on January 31, 1975.

Chuck became a CPA and eventually had his own company. He also developed a software program for bottle distributors. “I found out I was good with computers.” But, he was traveling all the time, so in 1989 he sold his company, and he and Nancy purchased their Caldwell County property. Unable to stay idle, he and a cousin purchased a commercial flooring business. He retired the second time in 2004. Nancy, after a legal career in both the private and public sector, also retired.

PTSD – for years, Chuck didn’t give much credence to its existence. After all, he’d come through the horrors of Vietnam unscathed mentally. Or so he thought. In the late 1990s, Chuck’s world went upside down. Nearly thirty years after the combat he’d survived, PTSD struck him down with a vengeance. Even now, Chuck’s voice changed dramatically when describing PTSD’s effect upon him and his family. “Once it hits you, it doesn’t go away.” Clinical treatment, counseling, and support got him through PTSD’s tornado-like havoc. He feels blessed that there were resources available, and that he took the often extremely painful steps needed, to overcome PTSD’s potential life-destroying effects.

The Lesihkars have two grown children. Son T.C. Leshikar III is a tax partner with Price Waterhouse. Daughter Jamie uses her skills as an excellent horsewoman to use those remarkable animals with autistic children and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers.

Chuck and Nancy share their property with two longhorn steers (“Butch” and “Cassidy”) and a bull aptly named Ferdinand and 15 longhorn cows. Chuck is an active member of The Single Action Shooting Society, the organization that organizes and sanctions Cowboy Action Shooting competitions. His interest is this type of competition gave Chuck the idea of creating his own Western town. Chuck’s Agarita Ranch sprouted a frontier town, complete with saloon, hardware store, and bordello. Carriage races, cowboy shooting, and wedding receptions, were just part of the Old West created by Chuck. He recently sold this property, but has no end to interests, primarily involving military history.

With a passion for military and American history, his collection of World War I artifacts is eye-opening. Photos of long-forgotten Doughboys line walls. I asked Chuck if any of the photos are of his family. “No,” he replied. “I’ve found them in garage sales and antique shops. It seems to me that they deserve some respect, so I gave them a home.” Complementing the photos are rare uniforms, diaries, and accoutrements of American soldiers of the early 1900s and World War I.

Next time you see Chuck, be sure to thank him for his service to his country. A simple acknowledgment of his efforts is most richly deserved.

Complete WWI American infantryman uniform                         







1913 American artilleryman’s saddle and gear





WWI Uniform with manuals





Chuck with doughboy’s WW1 Diary






Before the Purple Heart                                          if wounded, you received this





NOTE: After publishing this, I visiting with Chuck again. “It’s funny what comes back to you,” he told me. “And what, at the time, we thought was either funny, or that could have killed us, that we didn’t think much of at the time.”

  1. He recalls being in contact with the enemy and calling in fire support from the old battlewagon, the USS New Jersey, sitting off the coast. The naval gunners didn’t take into account the changes in elevation. They let look with the ship’s huge guns, only to have the shells fall the WRONG side of the hill they were dealing with. Fortunately, the impacts and explosions were 500 meters away and no one was hurt. “Cease fire, cease fire,” was quickly shouted into the radio.
  2. While at a firebase, or location of some kind – i forgot which – someone commenced firing.  The enemy was spotted on a LZ. Hopping into a LOACH (small spotter helo), he and others proceeding to get airborne and open fire on enemy. All of a sudden, the NVA opened up with a 12.5mm (.50 caliber) anti-aircraft gun. The pilot banked the helo, and took a round into the armored seat. The round extruded (but fortunately didn’t go all the way through), injuring the pilot. The pilot’s only worry: “Now I’ve got to tell my momma I got shot in the ass.”

ROBERT ‘BOB’ PEEBLES – A Peaceful man who has witnessed the horrors of war

Lt. Peebles USMC – Midway Island 1943


A Peaceful Man Who Has Witnessed the Horrors of War

By Todd Blomerth

Col. Bob Peebles USMC (Ret.) 2016

Bob Peebles was born on January 19, 1922, in the small town of Alvin, Texas. His father worked for Gulf States Utilities, and the Peebles family lived and around the Alvin area all his early years. Bob was the youngest of three children. His brother Howard (now deceased) was ten years older. Marjorie (Wyatt), who now lives in Edna, was four years older. Bob attributes much of his success academically to Marjorie. “She became my ‘teacher,’” he tells me. “We would walk home from school.  Starting when I was in the first grade, Marjorie would then sit behind an apple crate on the screened porch, and make me learn reading, arithmetic and writing. She was relentless.” Bob’s grandfather had passed down many classics, so Marjorie used some as her primers. He still remembers with clarity certain portions of stories by Charles Dickens, because they were found on pages holding his grandmother’s pressed flowers, and “we were told to be very careful with those flowers.”

Bob attended Alvin High School, and was voted ‘most popular boy’ in 1938 and “Best All Around” student in 1939. He played baseball and basketball, but his favorite sport was football. He graduated in 1939 and then enrolled at the University of Texas taking pre-med courses and playing freshman football. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he rushed to enlist in the U.S. Navy. Although he “hadn’t been within five miles of an airplane,” he signed up for naval aviation training – and flunked the physical! He had varicose veins in and around his knees from playing football. Disheartened, he hunted down a physician to fix the supposed ‘disability,’ had minor surgery, and finally, on May 1, 1942, passed the physical. He was now officially a naval aviation cadet. For the next year, Bob moved through the various phases of aviation training starting in Luscombe single engine trainers, then graduating to PT-17 Stearman “Kaydets” (nicknamed “the Yellow Peril”), to Vultee “Vibrators,” and finally to the SNJ “Texans.” His class ranking allowed him the choice of Navy or Marine Corps aviation, so he chose the Corps. Part of Flight Class 9A (42-C), he received his aviator’s wings and commission as a 2nd lieutenant at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.  On the way to combat aircraft, he took a short detour, flying C-47 cargo aircraft. He credits his time in that beloved aircraft’s cockpit for allowing him to hone his navigation skills. Apart from occasional ‘radio ranges’ there were few electronic aids in those days; no GPS, FM radios, or omni-directional beacons. Dead reckoning was a skill that would prove invaluable in the Pacific theater.

During flight training, Bob met Lesley Valentine Strandtman, whose family lived outside of Lockhart, Texas. Strandtman was a Fightin’ Texas Aggie and member of the Aggie Band. The two put college rivalries aside and became good friends. Besides a life-long friendship, Valentine’s younger sister, Adeline (“Addie”) Marie would eventually become Bob’s wife in 1946.

Bob’s next duty station was Cherry Point, N.C.  After a short time there, he was ordered to El Toro Naval Air Station, California where he transitioned into the Grumman F4F Wildcat, one of the first modern fighters able to take on the more nimble Japanese fighters. It still had some primitive mechanisms, such as having to retract landing gear by 27 hand cranks!

Lieutenant Peebles was assigned to Marine Corps VMF 114, a fighter squadron that was equipped with one of the premier American fight aircraft of World War II – the Vought F4U Corsair. The Japanese would soon describe the aircraft as “Whistling Death.” The new squadron’s top three officers were veteran combat pilots; the rest of the pilots were newly minted. VMF 114 was shipped to Hawaii where it continued training. The U.S. Navy had turned back a Japanese invasion of Midway Island in June 1942. The island’s location in the Northern Pacific was of strategic importance. As a result, combat units continued to defend the tiny patch of land. In December 1943, VMF 114 was shipped to Midway Island for three months. Then it was back to Oahu to prepare for shipment to Espiritu Santo, a staging area for the Americans’ advances against the Japanese. After additional flight and survival training. VMF 114 moved into its first combat area. Flying from the Green Island group near Papua New Guinea, the squadron suffered its first losses. The Japanese had created a huge base at Rabaul on the island of New Britain. By 1943 there were over 100,000 enemy stationed there. Although Rabaul would be ‘bypassed,’ American air and naval forces kept up unremitting attacks on it and on another enemy base at Kavieng. The Americans did not dare allow an exceeding well trained and increasingly desperate enemy any opportunity at disrupting our advances elsewhere. Weather, combat and air accidents resulted in VMF 114’s loss of nine pilots. The reality of war was now sinking in.

Over many beers during R&R in Sydney, Australia, the men designed their squadron’s new “Death Dealers” logo.

VMF 114 then was thrown into the maelstrom of the American landings in the Palau Islands.

General Douglas MacArthur’s advance into the Philippine Islands in 1944 initially required that his eastern flank be protected. The Palau Islands, some 800 miles to the east had several islands that were heavily fortified, and a plan had been in place to attack and neutralize the Japanese there. However, the American landings in the Philippines were moving ahead of schedule. Certain U.S. commanders expressed extreme doubts as to the need to invade the Palau Islands insisting that, given the circumstances, they could be bypassed and isolated. However, invasion plans were already laid on, and the Marines’ 1st Division and Army regimental combat teams were tasked with taking the Palau group’s Peleliu Island. It would set in motion a horrific battle, which to this day is still cloaked with controversy. Echelons of VMF 114 began flying northward to provide close air support on 9 September 1944. Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Emirau, Pityiliu, and Owl Island were rest and refueling points enroute. After an inadequate pre-landing naval bombardment, young Americans hit Peleliu’s beaches on September 15, 1944. They immediately found themselves in a living hell.

How does one begin to describe the protracted hell of Peleliu? Consider this: Peleliu was defended by nearly 11,000 Japanese troops. The enemy had rethought how to confront Americans in island fighting, and no longer would expend its men on massive suicide attacks. The plan was to make the Americans pay for every inch taken. The Palaus had been in Japanese hands since the end of World War I. Peleliu’s six square miles held a defensive system where virtually every square yard was covered by interlocking fields of fire. The island’s mountain range, the Umurbrogol, contained over 500 natural and man-made caves, as well as the command center. All beaches were mined, with extensive anti-tank traps and obstacles. All caves were connected with tunnels, and heavy artillery was hidden behind sliding steel doors. Caves and defensive bunkers were virtually invisible, concealed behind rock and vegetation. The Japanese even had a miniature railroad to move some artillery from firing point to firing point.

The Marine’s commander predicted the island would be taken in four days. It would take two months, and decimate the 1st Marine Division.

The squadron landed on Peleliu on September 26 (D+9) as the land battle raged less than two miles away. As Bud Daniel writes in A Cowboy Down: A WWII Marine Fighter Pilot’s Story: “All 24 Corsairs arrived in good shape. The howitzers were firing their large shells toward the caves on Bloody Nose Ridge. Marine infantry was busy fighting the ten thousand Japanese that were holed up in these caves. Peleliu looked to us like it was on a planet in another universe. Almost all of the trees had been blown to shred or splintered into pieces. The surface, nothing but coral rock, was also blown apart. We had been warned of snipers and we could hear large shells blasting, creating massive holes and generating lots of smoke. In the distance stretcher-bearers were trying to bring dead and wounded Marines down the coral precipices. It was a horrible battle and we were on the perimeter 1500 yards from the action. What I’m describing was continuous round the clock horror.” El Paso’s Tom Lea, an artist with Life magazine, was a changed man after witnessing Peleliu’s carnage. “The Two thousand Yard Stare,” is one of his most famous paintings. It captures a young Marine’s mental state as he prepares to go back into battle, after seeing many of his compatriots die:

The Two Thousand Yard Stare, by Tom Lea


The squadron’s pilots would load up with bombs or napalm, take off, often not even retracting their Corsairs’ landing gear, as some targets were fifteen seconds away. They would return to the airfield, reload, and fly another mission. For the next six months, VMF 114 labored tirelessly to support Marines and soldiers trying to root out the well-hidden and ferocious enemy. When time and circumstances allowed, “barge runs” were made in and around neighboring islands. Other Palau islands were also well defended. The carnage on Peleliu caused the U.S. to re-think invading most of them. But the Japanese on Koror, Babelthuap, Ngesebus, and Anguar were bombed and strafed continuously, to ensure no reinforcements would slip into Peleliu, and no aircraft could lift off. It was dangerous work for Bob’s squadron. The grind of battle, tension of close air support and enemy anti-aircraft artillery, long combat air patrols providing ‘cover’ for the invasion fleet, and stifling heat and humidity (Peleliu lies just seven degrees north of the equator), took its toll. Occasional beer runs to rear areas like Hollandia helped some, but not much. VFM 114 also flew long-range bombing missions – some as far as Yap Island, another enemy stronghold.

All the pilots suffered ‘gray-outs’ from the g-forces of dive bombing. Low flying attacks attracted flak, and on several occasions, Bob’s aircraft was holed by anti-aircraft shrapnel. On one occasion, Bob got shot up on a barge run over Babelthuap. Suddenly, his cockpit filled with smoke. American DUMBO aircraft (sea rescue float planes) were staged under air routes and pilots knew that if captured by the Japanese, they would be tortured and killed. Bob unbuckled his safety harness, threw back the cockpit canopy, and turned for friendly waters. As he prepared to bail out, the smoke cleared. He sat back down, hoping to make it home, It was a long thirty minutes of flying back to Peleliu, with Bob wondering when the engine would seize up. It didn’t. It turned out that shrapnel had struck his radio equipment. When his canopy was opened, the fire went out.

Others were not so lucky. The squadron’s revered commander, Major Robert “Cowboy” Stout died on March 4, 1945 on a strafing and bombing run over Koror. His death devastated the squadron.

The squadron rotated back to the United States in late March of 1945. Captain Peebles was then placed at Page Field, where he taught new pilots gunnery and rocketry at Parris Island. The war ended in August, and Bob was given a choice of staying in the military. His response was affirmative. The Marine Corps told him to go home, and he would be called in six months. As six months rolled around, he still hadn’t received his call back, so he decided he had better do something else with his life, so he re-enrolled at the University of Texas, and signed up to play football. Within a week, the Marine Corps called to invite him back into the service. “I was so sore from football practice,” he told me, “that I was never so happy to get a call in my life.”

Bob’s military career ‘took off’ after World War II. He married Adeline in Lockhart, Texas at the First Christian Church. They would have five children, Robert Jr., Bonnie, Sarah, Jo Leslie, and Patty. Fortunately, Addie proved to be a wonderful military spouse, as the growing family would move with Bob to his various military assignments. In 1950, North Korea invaded the south.  Captain (and later Major) Bob Peebles was shipped to Japan, and then to South Korea, and became the Executive Officer of a radar squadron. Then he returned to Cherry Point, N.C. The next years were fulfilling. As a major, he was appointed to the Joint Landing Force Board at Camp Lejeune, where future amphibious operations were studied. Then it was back to Korea in 1954. Duty stations included Kaneohe Marine Air Station in Hawaii. In 1959, he became squadron commander of VMF 232, flying F8 Crusaders. In 1967, Colonel Peebles served in Viet Nam as air officer attached to amphibious operations.

Bob retired in 1969, and in 1973 he and Addie moved to Caldwell County. They settled on some of the Strandtman land outside of Lockhart, living there until Addie passed away in 1999. Bob now lives in Bastrop with youngest daughter Patty. He is proud of his service to his country, but not one to brag.

The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to someone who “distinguishes himself or herself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” He received that honor for airstrikes in the Rabaul, Kavieng, and Palau Islands areas during World War II. The Legion of Merit is awarded for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.” He was honored with this award for service during the Vietnam conflict.  When asked about his Bronze Star with V device, which is only awarded for combat heroism or for someone “exposed to personal hazard during direct participation in combat operations,” he only laughs and says, “I guess I got that for bravery.” The reality is more vivid: He was the acting commanding officer of a Ground Control Intercept unit near the North Korean port of Hungnam in December 1950. The Americans were in a fighting retreat from the Chosin Reservoir area in the bitter winter, as hordes of communist Chinese tried to surround them. Those who survived the near-debacle were evacuated through Hungnam, along with tens of thousands of Korean refugees. Captain Peebles evacuated the over two hundred men in his squadron on an LST just before the port facilities were destroyed as the enemy entered the area.

Destruction of Hungnam Harbor

Colonel Bob Peebles typifies the best of the “Greatest Generation.” If you see him, be sure to tell him thanks for his service to our country.