Colville Warriors

The following article features six individuals with Colville tribal blood who fought and died during World War II: Adrian Adolph, Robert Arnold, Phillip Broncheau, Albert Sandaine, Matthew Swimptkin and Abel Williams.

ROBERT ARNOLD

A large number of Army paratroopers were present for a speech by Gen. James Gavin on June 1, 1944, prior to their jump five days later.

“He says, ‘You look to your right and look to your left,’” one paratrooper recalled. “Two out of three of you may not come back. But you’re expendable. But you have a job to do. And I expect you to do it. By the time he was done talking to you, you were ready to go to Hell and back.”

Pvt. Robert Arnold was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, the elite parachute infantry that jumped on D-Day. He was one of 12,000 from the 82nd to descend on Normandy. Their mission: “to destroy vital German supply bridges, and capture causeways leading inland across the flooded areas behind the Normandy beaches where seaborne forces would land to gain control of roads and communications,” according to a company-written history.

Members of the 82nd fought for 33 days without relief or replacements.

“The elite nature of these units led to them being committed to action not only in the way that had been intended; their quality tempted commanders to keep them in the line longer than their light armament justified, and they were testified to the limit,” one report stated.

Thousands of casualties were listed as many were either shot in the air or died fighting — at times, in isolation. In the 82nd alone, 756 were missing, 156 killed and 347 wounded.

For their bravery, the parachute infantry regiments were among the most highly decorated U.S. Army units of World War II.

“The strategic importance of the Airborne landings to the overall success of the invasion of Normandy is huge,” one World War II historian wrote. “Mission Albany and Mission Boston remain two of the most daring operations in the history of modern warfare.”

The only war-related details on Arnold come from two family members’ second-hand accounts. They recall being told he was one of the first ones shot, and that he died during the big push.

But what was the “big push?” In general, was it D-Day? That’s the biggest push of all.

However, Arnold didn’t die on D-Day, June 6. He died nearly a month later, on July 3, designated as having died of wounds sustained in battle in a medical facility.

Either he was shot and lived in a hospital for nearly four weeks, or somehow continued on for an unknown duration.

Historians say one of the 82nd’s biggest pushes was attempting capture and hold a bridge and causeway at La Fiere, just east of Ste. Mere-Eglise. This is still considered part of Normandy. It was called the bloodiest small struggle in the experience of American arms.

The only other military detail available on Arnold is that he was a part of Company F.

But despite there not being a living sibling of Arnold’s today, his relatives can still piece together part of his story.

EARLY LIFE

Arnold was born Jan. 21, 1923. He was the youngest son of Louie and Eva Arnold.

Others included Grizz, Jimmy, Birdie, Louie, Fran, Billie, and Evelyn.

Buck was a quiet guy, Andrew remembers hearing.

“He liked to be by himself,” she said. “He’d always go places to be by himself, out in the woods.”

The Arnolds grew up with another tribal family, the Sandaines, and the children interacted often.

“They were raised with the Sandaine boys,” Andrew said. “They lived right over the hill from grandma and grandpa (Eva and Louie Arnold). 

Louie had a farm on Kelly Hill, which was a family operation.

MILITARY

When Arnold turned 18, he decided to join the military.

His measurements: 5-foot-10, 158 pounds. A shrapnel scar on his back was listed for identification.

Andrew recalls hearing he enlisted with two other locals, including George McCrea.

“He was the baby in the family,” she added. “He and a lot of other young men from Kelly Hill enlisted.”

Times were tough at the Arnold home. Buck believed by entering the military he’d be one less mouth to feed, according to Andrew.

Arnold enlisted in the Army, and signed up to be a paratrooper.

While in training at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, Wash., Arnold penned a letter to his mother. It is one of the few remaining items the family has in their possession.

March 21, 1942

Dearest mom,

I received your letter a couple days ago and I sure was glad it was from you again. I know it sure is one of the happiest days moments I’ve ever had since I been in here when I get an envelope with your handwriting on it.

I always head straight for my boars nest where I have all my equipment piled all over my bunk or rather I should say under my bunk on the floor and gee you might not believe me but everything sure is getting dirty. The only thing I keep real clean is my rifle and the eye piece on the gas mask that is I keep them clean enough so that I can all through them when I put my gas mask on.

Thanks an awful lot for sending me that picture of dad and the baby as your probably noticed I sent all my pictures home with the rest of the junk I sent. About all I have now is a bunch of negatives and a garrison cap and I’ll send them as soon as I have. None of them is worth anything but I might want the after I get home. I am sure glad you liked that pillow slip I sent you I sure hoped you would and by the way mom you don’t have to keep them clothes for me give them to one of the boys if they want them. They probably won’t fit me after I get out anyhow and there’s no sense in letting them go to waste. I serve would like to see the grizzly packing his pea shooter around.

When you said he looked like the frog going to court miss mousie I bet he looked more like snuffy smith looking around for some one to bounce a rifle ball after his pumpkin head.

If anybody has to come in the Army tell them not to bring anything but for the clothes they have on because they won’t get to wear them again until the duration is over at least that’s the way it is here and the coast and if they catch a soldier with civilian clothes on he gets court martialed for desertion and boy our own general Jittering Jim sure is strict about our uniforms. Well mom I think I better close if I want to get this letter in the morning mail. I have to clean up around here before I head back to the fort for my breakfast and after breakfast I’ll try to get a couple hours sleep if they don’t have another inspection all fixed up for me again today. I sure hope not because I am kinda sleepy the morning. So long folks and I hope you write again real soon as ever I remain your loving son, Bob Arnold. 

Fred Stone said hello. I just woke him up. 

PS Tell dad that I think the baby sure looks a lot like him. When’s Birdie’s birthday and I want her address too. Love Bob.

After Arnold’s death, the family received word in the mail. A Purple Heart was also sent. It was an issue Louie and Eva did not talk about, according to his niece, Robin Clark-McBride, “because it was so painful for them.”

Arnold’s final resting place is Pia Mission.

RANSACKED 

The Arnold home was ransacked by hippies in years passed, according to the family. Some of the few belongings the family had of Robert’s were taken or destroyed.

Alena Brown Hernandez, Moses Lake, is now in possession of what’s left of Buck Arnold’s belongings, which include the negatives mentioned in his letter home.

PHILLIP BRONCHEAU

Phillip Broncheau did not drop on D-Day like thousands of others. But he did play an important role in World War II. Replacements were needed on the front lines due to the many casualties inflicted by the enemy.

DefenseMediaNetwork.com provides a history of how military replacements were sent: Replacing soldiers killed and wounded in combat units during the war was done on an individual basis, as has been the practice for most American wars. In World War II, except for those soldiers who arrived as a unit at the beginning of the war, men were sent individually to units to replace casualties.

Rather than pulling battle depleted units off the line and replacing them in combat with a fresh, rested unit, Army leadership implemented the individual replacement system. Unlike the German military, which replaced entire decimated units with similarly trained units, the Americans deemed it logistically difficult to transport across oceans the equipment which would be necessary to arm an entire replacement unit. Instead, the American Army strategy was to create replacement depots, called “repple-depples” by the GIs. These depots were located near the battle fronts, so that individual soldiers could be sent by generals to companies and battalions to replace the men lost. One man, Don Burgett, recalls the day Broncheau showed up as a replacement miles outside of Bastogne, Belgium in December of 1944 — about five months after D-Day.

“We were just recently out of 72 continuous days of combat in Holland and sorely in need of trooper replacements and new weapons,” Burgett said. “Our new or old repaired weapons had not yet arrived, but new replacements came in a constant stream, for we had lost many men. “Phillip Broncheau was one of the last to arrive before the Battle of the Bulge (in the Ardennes) erupted.” 

Burgett described how he met Broncheau in the book “Seven Roads to Hell” in a section talking about replacements.

“One such man was an American Indian from the Pacific Northwest,” Burgett wrote in ‘Seven Roads to Hell.’ “He was a stout, barrel-chested, friendly man who was visibly proud to be in our outfit.

He was in the orderly room getting his paperwork straightened out when (another man) and I walked into the barracks one day, wet and muddy from our daily drills and chores.

We did not know that he had arrived, and as we began putting our gear away, I spotted a couple of tins of fish under and old closet that stood between our bunks, pushed against the outer wall.”

Burgett was hungry.

“Hey look! There’s some canned fish here on the floor. Some troops that were here before us must have left them behind.

They can’t be bad, they’re still sealed.”

The other soldier cautioned Burgett not to touch them.

“Aw bull, we’re the only ones here,”

Burgett followed. “These are our bunks and this is our area. There’s no one else here. Somebody must have left these cans before we got here and we just didn’t see ‘em until now. Come on, let’s have some.”

The two opened the cans and began to eat them with some K-ration hardtack.

“While we were munching away, the Indian walked in and stood silently watching us,” Burgett recalled. “After a while he asked if he might sit and join us.”

Burgett and the man said “sure, sit down and have some fish. It’s good. We found it under the cabinet there.”

Broncheau laughed.

“I know,” he said. “I put it there. My parents sent it to me from Washington State, and I was saving it for later.”

The two soldiers stopped mid-bite and looked at each other.

“Oh no, I’m sorry,” Burgett said. “We didn’t know it was yours. We wouldn’t have touched it if we’d known. We thought maybe somebody who was here before us left it behind. I’m sorry as hell.”

“That’s okay,” Broncheau followed.

“My parents will send more. Next time I’ll have them send enough for the three of us.”

As the trio sat there, Broncheau explained he was from the Colville Reservation.

He talked about his family and what life was like at home. He was glad to be bunking with two troopers who had seen combat.

Broncheau “couldn’t wait to join us on our next mission,” Burgett said. “He wanted to prove himself.”

Burgett said they all called Broncheau “Chief,” and “he fit right in with us.”

During their time together, Broncheau took interest in stories of combat and sight-seeing of the other soldiers.

“He seemed to get a big kick out of all the different stories we related,” Burgett said. “He huddled in our close-knit group as we rolled over those French roads for Belgium.”

In all honesty, however, Burgett was worried about Broncheau and the other replacements. He felt they had no idea what combat truly entailed, and they would learn quickly or die.

Just prior to what would come to be known as the Battle of the Budge, Burgett recalled “we were loaded into semi-cattle trucks and race to Bastogne to hold that city. Our last order on leaving was, ‘You will hold at all costs. There will be no surrender, no withdrawal.’”

They arrived on the front lines in a small town called Champs, where they slept in an open field in below freezing temperature, without blankets, before walking five miles into Bastogne before daylight the next morning, 19 December 1944.

Burgett described the battle as follows:

“First Bn. including Company A did make the attack into Noville 19 December 1944 approximately 13:30 hrs. while 3rd Bn., 506 dug in at Foy as secondary line of defense. Second Bn. including the now famous “Easy” Company stayed billeted in barns and houses in the outskirts of Bastogne in a suburb known as “Luzery,” as reserve. Easy Company along with most of the second Bn. remained in and close around Luzery until after the first week of January 1945 when we all made a coordinated attack back into Noville.

Our first Bn. held Noville for better than 24 hours against heavy artillery and German armor. Company A was reduced from approximately 160 men 19 December 1944 in our initial attack into heavy odds of enemy troops, armor, and incoming artillery in the first four and one half hours. We held through the night and on 20 December 1944 we were ordered to withdraw from Noville to Luzery where we would take positions on line.

Noville had been surrounded during the night and we had to fight our way out, carrying our wounded with us. It was in the dead of night and dark as the inside of a whale when we had fought our way back to Luzery to re-group. We reformed into Companies, platoons and squads, then counted troops present. Many were missing but we, at that time did not who was prisoners, wounded, or KIA. It was weeks later that we received a body count, Phillip Broncheau was among the KIA in our first hour of attack into Noville. I recall that “Chief”

‘Broncheau’ was quiet and eager to enter combat very unafraid. He never hesitated but was among the very first troopers heading east on the Bourcy Road out of Noville into the oncoming enemy and tanks under command of German SS General Pieper. We lost most of our men in that initial attack with so much artillery hitting, Phillip Broncheau was among those killed at that time.

Phillip Broncheau was a quiet hero. A man, who, if he had lived, would have been a trooper one could count on. A man who would have gone down in the history of the 101st Airborne Division, First Battalion, Company A as a warrior. Phillip Broncheau did honor to his people and tribe.”

“Finding Kamiakin,” by Michael Finley and Richard Scheuermann gives a different account, with Broncheau surviving the attack.

“Broncheau, seriously wounded, was captured. A foot of snow fell in the next two days. Without huts or warming fires, the men endured conditions like military historians likened to Valley Forge. He died of his wounds in German captivity on Jan. 19, 1945. He was later buried in Nespelem, a few feet from the grave of his comrade-in-arms, Abel Williams.”

During the battle, Germany’s last major offensive, more than 19,200 American troops were lost, making it the third deadliest in history. Broncheau was buried in Chief Joseph Cemetery in Nespelem, a few feet from Abel Williams, who was also lost in the war.

RECENT DISCOVERY

A rucksack belonging to Broncheau was discovered in the attic of a stone row house scheduled for demolition in the village of Luzery, just north of Bastogne.

It contained his photograph, rifle cleaning materials and an address book listing family members on the Colville, Nez Perce and Umatilla Reservations.

“Before going out to the front line, Phillip and his company were ordered to leave everything behind that wasn’t essential,” his nephew Rodney Cawston said.

A man who found the knapsack contacted Cecelia Myrick and Alvina Cawston, the sisters of Phillip. He wanted to know more about the soldier, as he intended to put it in a military museum he was developing.

The Broncheau family wanted the belongings back, but the man refused their request.

Phillip’s great-niece Arielle traveled to Europe and hoped to meet with the man, but the meeting never occurred. 

“He told (the family) that (they) probably had plenty of things to remember him by,” she said. ”Unfortunately he doesn’t understand our traditions or history.”

ALBERT SANDAINE

The Tribune reached out to several members of the Sandaine family and received no response. Albert J. Sandaine was born March 3, 1921, the son of Arthur and Alice (Pichette) Sandaine. The family lived in the Boyds/Kelly Hill area. By age 19, both his father and mother had died.

He enlisted in November of 1942 and saw a lot of fighting overseas, according to the Northeast Washington Genealogical Society. He became a medical technician, known as a TEC5.

“After two months of aggressive patrolling, the regiment participated in the smashing Fifth army drive that helped to liberate Rome (in June 1944).

“This regiment fought almost continuously for five months. In addition to being the division’s first regiment to enter combat, the 351st was its first regiment to arrive overseas, first to arrive in Italy, first to earn a distinguished service cross and first to receive a battlefield promotion.”

He served as a TEC5 in the 351st infantry, 88th Division during World War II.

Sandaine, 23, was killed in action on Sept. 25, 1944 in Italy and was later buried at Pia Mission.

SEPT. 25

War reports document the 351st’s missions documents what happened the day Sandaine was killed while they were near Moraduccio.

After much fighting with the Germans over the course of days, a battalion of the 351st advanced slowly under around 7:15 a.m. While they were moving, artillery and machine gun fire occurred.

“During the early morning of Sept. 25, it was learned that “K” company had run into heavy cross fire from well emplaced German machine guns. The extremely heavy fire couple with the surprise effect created confusion among the men of Company “K” causing them to become widely dispersed and disorganized. Lt. Colonel Charles P. Furr, seeing that the battalion column was becoming disorganized, moved up with K Company to rectify the situation and it was this devotion to duty that resulted in his untimely death. Rather than slow the advance and lose the initiative, he took personal command.

From Private Rickenbacker of Company K, the following information was received.”

“Colonel Furr was leading,” he said.

“I was the third man in the column. We were moving down a small nose. In front of us, a curved ridge extended around both sides of the nose we were on. Colonel Furr turned left, while a platoon of K Company continued to move down the nose. I thought the Colonel must want to see if there was anyone on the left flank.

A German stuck his head up and threw a grenade at the Colonel. It high the right side of his helmet and exploded at the same time. The colonel fell with a very bad wound to his right temple.”

The company was under heavy machine gun fire from both flanks and the front. Many were wounded and several were captured.

Around 11 a.m., the 351 was notified that a battalion was being counterattacked.

They fought it off “with determined fighting and artillery fire” by about 2 p.m. One platoon in Company K was dislodged.

The remaining battalion after a day of fighting was ordered to rest and resume the attack at 6 a.m. the following morning. 

One officer recounted the two day span of Sept. 24 to 25 as follows:

“The night of 24-25 September 1944 will long be remembered by the fighting men of the 351st Infantry by the savage windstorm that lashed at them as they huddled behind rocks for protection from the sixty mile and hour gale. In the howling, driving wind it was impossible to hear the shells scream in, and courageous mule skinners took their losses and brought up food and ammunition. 

He recalled Furr’s last moments, along with other soldiers.

“He led his battalion along the side of a ridge which the German-held ridge line at right angles, roughly shaped like a letter T. The enemy allowed the screening platoon to pass through their positions and then opened simultaneous surprise fire on the remainder of Company K from six to eight machine guns at point-blank range, inflicting terrific casualties on the company.

It is unknown in which manner Sandaine perished.

MATTHEW SWIMPTKIN

Having a support system is import-ant for many soldiers. In a lot of cases, military men and women write home to mom, dad, brother, sister; anyone who has made a significant impact or plays an import-ant role in their life.

Sgt. Matthew Swimptkin wrote home often. He even wrote to his four-year-old niece Eloise.

But he was also in contact with a special person: his teacher in Disautel, Mrs. Nellie Hayes McMurray.

In the months prior to his death at age 32 on April 8, 1945, Swimptkin penned a letter to her, expressing his appreciation for what she had taught him as a student at Disautel School.

Following his death, in 1945, Hayes McMurray donated the letter, which is now in the possession of the State Historical Society of Missouri. 

MILITARY

Swimptkin was a Sergeant in the 21st infantry’s 24th division. It was considered “a Regular Army Division.” According to his great-niece Theresa Best, Swimptkin was an Okanogan (nselxcin) language code talker who was part of a team in charge of machine guns.

That division, known as the Gimlets, spent most of its World War II duration in the Phillipines. But they began in Pearl Harbor, where they survived Japanese attack.

“The 24th division was one of two divisions garrisoned in the Hawaiian Islands,” a report states. “The division suffered light casualties only. Three regiments were the 19th (Rock of Chikamauga), the 21st (Gimlets) and the 34th Infantry.

While in Hawaii, the division trained for jungle warfare and amphibious landings.

In August 1943, they were sent to the South Pacific, arriving in Rockhampton, Australia. They continued to train for eight months when D-Day in Hollandia, New Guinea occurred on April 22, 1944. 

“The regiment launched its first campaign against the (Japanese),” a report states. “On the morning of 23 April, the Gimlets bagged their first (Japanese) soldier. This was one on a list of many thousands doomed to stop Gimlet lead.”

Swimptkin’s regiment was listed in the report as having “smashed through 35 miles of rough jungle terrain in four and a half days and fought one battle en route. This campaign has since been rated as the fastest and best coordinated campaign in jungle warfare.”

Swimptkin was wounded twice in battle, according to records.

He died in a hospital in England of what is listed as “an unrelated illness.”

Up to that point, April 8, 1945, the 21st were in Dipolog, Mindanao on the Philippine Islands. It was the sixth month of a campaign in that area, which would last another four months.

Major General Roscoe B. Woodruff commended the Gimlets for their extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy.

“On 6 November 1944, the Regiment launched the first of a relentless series of attacks against Breakneck Ridge, key to the enemy defense system at the head of the Ormoc Corridor. Despite almost constant rain; the enemy’s through exploitation of nearly perfect defensive terrain; meager and uncertain supply, and dwindling reserves of manpower as compared with the enemy’s constant reinforcement, the 21st infantry took the offensive and held it against a veteran enemy force. By frontal attack and envelopment, the 21st maintained such pressure against a numerically superior enemy, that in twelve days it advanced 2,000 yards and seized complete control of the dominating high ground. The regiment counted a total of 1,779 enemy dead, an irreparable blow to one of the Japanese Empire’s finest divisions. Undoubtedly many others lay undiscovered in the tangled terrain. This bitter and sustained struggle broke the enemy hold on the northern end of the Ormoc Valley and paved the way for the subsequent capture of Limon and the ultimate neutralization of the entire island. So severe had been the fighting that every third line soldier was either killed or wounded. Seven rifle company commanders fell. The regiment then aided, after a short rest, in the annihilation of the enemy on Mindoro, Marinduque, Lubang and Luzon. It struck Mindanao on 17 April as an assault unit of the 24th Division, seized the Malabang Airstrip and the key river port of Cotabato, and took part in the Division’s lightning drive across the island. On 1 May, commencing at Bago, 140 miles from its starting point, the regiment attacked 6,500 Japanese troops concentrated in the Talomo River Valley. These elements were strongly supported by artillery, armed with an inordinately high proportion of automatic weapons, and manning expertly placed positions, built over a period of years, and naturally camouflaged by lush tropical growth. For fifty-one heat-ridden days, with thick abaca fields channelizing its attacks, but permitting strong infiltration against its flanks and rear, the 21st continued the indomitable assault, After fourteen days it was able to commit only 54% of its original strength, but it never relaxed pressure. Without losing momentum, it absorbed 1,000 replacements. By 18 June the regiment had advanced twelve miles, taken the finest airfield on Davao Gulf, killed by actual count 2,133 enemy troops, disorganized and scattered the remainder and destroyed or captured all of their organic equipment. In addition to its heavy battle casualties, the attrition of severe heat, difficult terrain and continued strain had forced the hospitalization of 1,411 other officers and men. During the grueling period every assigned objective was taken on schedule. The fierce fighting spirit of the regiment communicated itself to every man, old and new alike, and morale remained grimly high. These actions of the 21st infantry regiment reflect the finest traditions of the United States Army and will stand as a bright page in the nation’s military history.”

Swimptkin’s mother Theresa received his Purple Heart. He was buried at St. Mary’s Mission.

Japan surrendered Sept. 2, 1945.

EARLY LIFE

Matthew, born April 7, 1913, was the son of Peter and Theresa Swimptkin. The family had a ranch in Disautel. His siblings were Nancy Tonasket, Frank Swimptkin and Elmer Swimptkin.

He, along with many over the years, including his nieces and nephews, were taught by Hayes McMurray, the school mistress who later relocated to Seattle.

The teacher made such an impact in the life of the Swimptkins, she was listed in the obituaries of Peter and Alice (Swimptkin) Dobson.

Disautel at that time was relatively booming. In January of 1927, 61 children were enrolled in the Disautel school. The town was supported by a mill, which took in 2 to 2 1/2 million board feet per year. There were two grocery stores, a post office, a meat market — even a hotel. Bunkhouses and dining were available, as loggers and mill workers populated the area.

Around the time Matthew was four years old, the 1917 flu epidemic devastated the family. Their grandfather, Chief Charley Swimptkin of the Okanogan, and their father Peter, both succumbed to the illness.

ABEL WILLIAMS

The 467th bomb group played an important part in World War II. It was part of the Allies’ long range strategy to destroy areas in occupied Europe and Nazi Germany — Kiel, Bonn, Stuttgard, Hamm, Osnabruck, Brunswick and more in Germany.

Its air crews were lauded for their accuracy on dozens of missions. One post-war poster showcases in bold letters “100 Operational Bombing Missions in 140 Day! That’s the record this group has set for 2nd Bomb Division of the famed 8th Air Force in England.”

Activated on Aug. 1, 1943, its members spent the next four months training.

In the spring of 1944, it entered combat with the Eighth Air Force in England. Missions continued until April of 1945.

Mission 301, where tribal member Abel Williams was involved in, saw 626 bombers and 871 fighter planes dispatched to hit enemy targets in Germany on Thursday, April 13, 1944.

Many targets were successfully hit — 154 of 172 — by the 5.2 million leaflets disbursed upon explosion.

The sacrifice: 38 bombers and nine fighter planes. Eleven casualties, 139 missing in action.

Williams, a Nez Perce and Palus from Nespelem, was one of them. He was the left waist-gunner, shooting at targets from an opening in the back of a plane. He was connected to the plane by a static line.

The 467th’s target was Lechfeld, Germany. For the first time, they received intense fire.

The ball turret gunner, S.Sgt. Luke Haines, was killed at his position. So was the pilot, Earnest Caluori.

Williams was badly injured when he was thrown out of the aircraft on the static line. Remaining members — and perhaps, miraculously, Williams — were parachuting into Germany as their plane crashed into the ocean. He was hanging onto life when Germans

found their crew. He either died from his wounds or was killed. The remaining six crew members

were captured. 

That day was the fourth mission by the crew.

MISSION 1

On April 10, 30 bombers took off, including Katy, for Bourges, France.

Many of the first-time raiders described it as a “milk run.”

It was a nearly flawless mission. Enemy fire and aircrafts were not encountered.

“The ships flew over the base in perfect formation. A large crowd was gathered to welcome them back,” a report said. “When thirty were found present, it was a real joy to realize that all our friends returned.”

MISSION 2

The first time Williams saw fire was over Oschlersleben, Germany. On April 11, 27 aircrafts dropped 1,361 bombs.

Overall, they did not do enough damage to their primary target: the Focke-Wulf Aircraft Factory.

“The results of the raid were only fair,” a report stated. “Though bombs fell on the airfield, the factory was not obliterated by this group.”

One aircraft was lost after it crash landed into a house in England, killing seven.

RECALLED MISSION

Another mission the following day was recalled mid-air due to unexpected adverse weather conditions. They were going out to hit the Focke-Wulf factory again.

FUNERAL & MOURNING

A steel casket arrived at a funeral home in Coulee Dam, kitty corner from the current Coulee Dam Casino.

Charlie and Susie Williams came to sign the release to receive the remains.

“They sat there and grieved over him,” Abel’s nephew Albert Andrews Redstar said. “My mom (Williams’ sister) said she was sitting there and she touched the casket a few times. She stood over it. She finally told her mom, ‘He’s not in there.’”

The family proceeded with the military burial.

For the rest of her life, Susie mourned in her traditional Wasalat way.

“She would tell us, you don’t mourn when the sun reaches,” Andrews Redstar said. “Once it goes, you can do what you do, but there’s no grieving. She used to use that pole every day.”

EARLY LIFE

Williams was a good athlete for Nespelem High School, his nephew recalled hearing.

“He and Clayton, they were very, very good athletes,” Andrews Redstar said. “They did a lot of baseball for Nespelem High School way back when.”

As a teenager, Williams was determined to fly in the military.

“Apparently, he always wanted to fly,” Andrews Redstar said, noting a waist-gunner manual existed in his mother’s home as a child.

JOINING THE MILITARY

All five Williams sons — Dan, Walt, Abel, Clayton and Albert — attempted to join the military. Four were accepted. Abel’s 467th bomber group assembled at Mountain Home, Idaho Army Airfield. It stayed there about a month, from September 1943 to October.

They were temporarily based in Kearns Field, Utah, before being moved for training to Wendover Field (Utah) in November.

In February of 1944, the unit traveled by train to Camp Shanks, New York. They sailed on the USAT Frederick Lykes on the 28th of that month, arriving overseas on March 10.

For the many months he was gone,

Andrews Redstar’s mother eagerly anticipated his return.

“Abel was her favorite brother,” he said. “She grew particularly close to him. She’d often talk about this porch on the outside of her house. People would walk on that porch and knock on the door and come in. 

“There were several times during the war she heard footsteps outside.

But it was never him. She always missed him.”

LATE ANSWERS?

Author Richard Scheuermann contacted Andrews Redstar at some point in the past decade. 

He was intrigued by Williams’ story.

“Richard said one thing sticks out to me: Your uncle was shot down in Germany,” he said. “What if we retrace where he went? Do you mind if I follow up on that?” 

What they found was a story that could have concurred with Andrews Redstar’s mother.

“What we found out was there was something a little odd about all of that,” he said. “He said he found out he was alive on the ground. They were in a farm house, and apparently the Germans were coming. The feeling was that he was killed there, but his remains were still there. So he was buried there.”

Andrews Redstar wonders how his mother would have reacted to the news.

ADRIAN ADOLPH 

Adrian Adolph found humor in stressful situations. It was a trait he gained while growing up in Inchelium. After entering the Navy in 1942, he worked in a kitchen in Farragut, Idaho helping feed a camp of 3,000 sailors. 

He wrote home: “I don’t believe I had 2 hours to my self since I came here.”

“I’m peeling potatoes to win the war.”

For months, he waited for his chance to take part in the action in World War II. He received assignment as a FiremanFirst Class (1C) to the U.S.S. Princeton, a light aircraft carrier. 

Almost a year before the date of his death aboard the ship, he wrote his mother:

“I hope the ship I’m on makes history.”

The Navy transferred Adolph to a receiving station in Philadelphia. He arrived Feb. 4, 1943.

Feb. 5: “I am way and a hell over here in Phila waiting for a ship I don’t suppose it’s built yet. ... Gosh I hope I go to sea quicker than I think.”

The Navy sent Adolph back west to join the U.S.S. Princeton. Within a few weeks, he was in San Francisco. 

In July, the Princeton launched. As a fireman first class, Adolph spent his time in the ship’s boiler room providing power. He began getting a bit lonesome being on the bottom level of the ship. 

“I sure miss you and home quite a lot,” he wrote his mother in August. 

The Princeton assisted the conquest of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific in early 1944. For the next four months, its planes attacked Japanese targets and engaged in fights while Adolph manned his post. It was then part of the Invasion of Saipan, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and several other raids and attacks.

After much of the fighting, the last letter came in from Adolph on Aug. 8, 1944.

“There isn’t much to write about, well there isn’t any news,” he wrote. “The only news I like to hear is from home and I sure wish I were home with you and sis. But I think it will be a long time as things look.

“But my hopes never seem to give up I always think of home. I will be home when this war is over and I hope and hope it’s over soon. I sure like to talk about home and I never seem to get tired of it, but maybe I’ll be back some day. 

“Well mom, I’m always thinking of you.”

The Princeton was off the northern Philippines on Oct. 24, about 150 miles east of Manila. It was part of the attacks on Luzon airfields, supporting the Leyte invasion.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was one of the largest naval battles in world history with more than 350 ships. The Imperial Japanese lost 28 vessels to the United States’ 6. Casualties estimated at 12,500 for the Japanese compared to 3,000. Between the two, 500 planes were destroyed.

The Princeton fell victim to a single Japanese dive-bomber, referenced as a Judy. At about 9 a.m., it dropped a 550-pound bomb which traveled through two levels of the ship before exploding. 

Adolph would have been a floor below where the bomb went off. According to the Navy’s report, the fire room and engine rooms were abandoned almost immediately due to heat and smoke.

Within a few minutes of the explosion, the hangar holding many of the ship’s planes was completely ablaze. Only one of the four sprinkler systems was operational.

The fire grew closer to the torpedo bay. It detonated some, causing violent explosions. “These explosions blew up the flight deck, wrecked both elevators and forced evacuation of all machinery spaces. ... As a result of the explosions, the Commanding Officer ordered Salvage Control, Phase I at 1010 followed by Salvage Control, Phase II at 1020.”

It’s likely Adolph became part of the salvage patrols which fought the fires. Fellow ships Birmingham, Reno, Irwin and Morrison lent aid. About four hours after the bomb dropped, the fires were almost under control. 

With one fire to tackle, ships lending aid backed off of their efforts due to enemy threats. For an hour and 57 minutes, crews, including the Birmingham, attempted to fight the fire.

In an instant, however, a mass detonation of four hundred 100-pound bombs occurred, blowing off the stern of the ship. This explosion killed 347 men, 230 of which on the Birmingham.

Adolph was deemed missing after the explosion.

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