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Military Stories

Military Stories

Sherman County Historical Museum volunteers and editors of Sherman County: For the Record produced a permanent exhibit, Patriotism: Pride and Anguish, to honor Sherman County’s fallen, veterans, and the American Legion post members who donated the building in 1982 for use as a museum. At the center of an exhibit that displays military artifacts is a round table where visitors may study veterans’ stories in binders. Two walls are devoted to a community military bulletin board. See a list of military stories by local authors published in For The Record.

<strong>Indian Wars</strong><strong>Civil War</strong><strong>World War I</strong><strong>World War II</strong><strong>Stories: For The Record</strong>

Veterans of Indian Wars

Jay Price’s Memoirs. The Last Indian War

It may be interesting to the residents of Sherman County to know that one of the final episodes of the last Indian war, which was in 1878, happened between the John Day and Deschutes rivers. General Howard (the Indians called him “day after tomorrow”) had driven the Indians out of the Blue Mountains, and they attempted to swim the Columbia near Blalock, but were prevented from doing so, when they were fired upon by an improvised gunboat.

It was estimated there were perhaps seven or eight hundred Indians, and a large band of horses, and some cattle. That was really the end of the war, as each lot headed for their individual reservations. So about 75 Indians that belonged to the Warm Springs reservation, with quite a band of horses, forded the John Day river and were coming up Biglow canyon when Charley Helm and Ike Chapman saw them, and the Indians, seeing the men, dropped back out of sight. The men had not heard about the fight on the river and supposed that the Indians were still on the warpath, while they were really sneaking back home. The men quickly rode to the Dunlap ranch, where several families and a large band of horses had collected. The women were told that the Indians were coming and they were put in wagons and told to get across the Deschutes as quick as they could.

It was near sundown when the wagons passed our place. They stopped just long enough to tell us that the Indians were coming, and that we better run, and on they went. There were about 20 men staying at our place that night who lived east of the John Day, who had taken their families to The Dalles and had bought Winchesters and were on their way to protect their stock. After the wagons were gone they said, “You folks do as you think best, but we are going to stay here tonight and go on in the morning.” Dad and Mother said all right they would stay, too.

About that time here came the big band of horses driven by eight or 10 men. It was dark when they got in the canyon where the Fulton and Price canyons join, and they could not be moved, and stayed there until daylight.

Now at this time the stage was leaving The Dalles at 6 p.m. When the stage arrived at the Deschutes, the driver, George Shannon, was told that the Indians had crossed the John Day and he had better stop, but he said he would go on, but his two passengers got out. He knew nothing about the band of horses and it was dark and the first thing he knew he was surrounded with horses. He waited a while, but could not move. He tied up the lines and got in front and led the team, and with his whip slowly made his way for nearly a mile before he was clear of the horses, and thinking they were Indians he said, “klihiam.” The men laughed, then he knew they were white men, and I heard him say afterwards that was when his hat settled down on his head. He finished his trip and saw no Indians.

The following morning, when the men left, Martyn [Martyn Masiker, Jay’s half-brother] and another man went with them, and out near where Klondike is now, they saw a wide dusty streak leading south, showing that the Indians had passed that way headed for the Warm Springs reservation. And that was the end of the Indian war.

Civil War Stories – Do you have some to share? 
WWI Stories – Do you have some to share?

World War II Stories

World War II stories written by veterans and their families include accounts of action in the Pacific, Europe and Africa, the Merchant Marine and Home Front support activities. Second generation Isami Tsubota and his family, uprooted from their Maryhill farm during the war and then displaced by the waters behind The Dalles Dam, established businesses in Biggs Junction. Sherman County exceeded per capita support in bond drives. See their stories in Sherman County: For The Record: Carlson, Coats, Conlee, Benson, Boynton, Eslinger, Fraser, French, Harvey, Henrichs, Kaseberg, Macnab, Melzer, McClure, McCoy, McDermid, O’Meara, Sayrs, Stark, Thomas, Tsubota, Virtue, von Borstel, Young and Ziegler. Please visit the Sherman County Historical Museum’s exhibit, Patriotism: Pride and Anguish.

World War II: Camp Rufus

~ By Sherry Kaseberg

On December 22, 1944, the Sherman County Journal reported that about 1,000 men of the 1687 Combat Engineers Battalion, the 558 Heavy Pontoon Engineers and the 1490 Engineer Maintenance Company were encamped west of Rufus along the Columbia River highway. Tents were set up and trucks, jeeps, tanks and pontoon bridging sections arrived for testing upriver from Rufus and the nearby Deschutes River.

The community opened the grange hall, school, church and homes. The Red Cross chapter asked residents to provide cookies, newspapers, magazines and books, and urged families to invite soldiers to their homes. The Journal reported on cookie deliveries and paper, blood and war bond drives. Local resident, Curtis A. Tom, was camp instructor for first aid and water safety. The camp population grew to 2,500 men.

On April 13, the Journal reported the soldiers’ departure leaving the site bare with sand and dust blowing in the wind.

The next week, on April 20, the Journal reported the connection between the army engineers stationed at Rufus experimenting with pontoon bridges and the proposed bridging of the Rhine River with specifications for the pontoons at the Kaiser yards in Portland. However, their expertise was not needed because the key Rhine bridge was saved.

World War II: Camp Rufus 1944-1945

Robert C. “Bob” and Wilma (Pease) Myers gathered information and wrote about Camp Rufus to support the photographs they donated to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center Library and the Sherman County Historical Museum. Wilma was the daughter of William C. Pease of the Pease store in The Dalles, and the granddaughter of Edward C. Pease of The Dalles and Shaniko. Here their stories add to those published in Sherman County: For The Record:

The Rufus site was chosen for bridging exercises because the Columbia River, in several locations, resembled the Rhine River in Germany where troops expected to cross with heavy equipment. There was a short time turn-around between the work on the Columbia River in January and February, 1945, and actual use in Europe.

Bob Myers was assigned as a still photographer for the Army in the Headquarters and Supply Company of the 1687th Battalion to document bridge construction and other activities along with Signal Corps filming.  He was at Camp Rufus on the Columbia River in January, February and March of 1945. The 1490th Engineering Maintenance Company and the Headquarters & Supply Company 1687th Engineering Battalion were building a pontoon bridge on the Columbia River. Kaiser Corporation supplied the pontoons.

The purpose of the exercise was to train troops in the transportation and construction of the pontoon bridge across the Columbia River in various locations near Rufus, Oregon, under actual weather and river conditions during the winter of 1944-45. The location closely resembled current, width and other aspects of the Rhine River.

The bridge was designed to support a 60-ton tank on special aluminum flooring every fourth pontoon location along the length of the bridge. This would permit continuous crossing by all heavy equipment. Each pontoon location consisted of two large rowboat style aluminum pontoons bolted back to back. Photographs show men unloading pontoons from trucks, the beginning of construction, and the completed bridge across the Columbia River. The pontoon sections were anchored to two heavy cables stretched across the river and anchored on each bank. Each section was tied to an alternate cable in order to prevent loss of the bridge should one cable give way. All river traffic was halted during these exercises.

The bridge was tested several times with an actual tank weighted with sandbags for increased load. All tests were completely satisfactory, and several bridges were successfully constructed and used in actual combat situations in Europe.

To assist in training troops in Europe a Signal Corps movie unit filmed a training movie. During the latter weeks of the operation, teams of five trained soldiers were sent to Europe each week for several weeks to direct such bridge construction as was necessary to move tanks and other heavy equipment across various rivers.

The 1687th Engineer Combat Battalion was activated at Camp Bowie, Texas, in August 1944. The whole battalion was sent on three months temporary duty to Rufus, Oregon, from December 14, 1944 to March 15, 1945.  The 1490th Engineer Maintenance Company was activated at Fort Riley, Kansas, in June, 1944. The company was at Rufus, Oregon, on three-month temporary duty from December 17, 1944, to March 19, 1945.

Sherman County Group Launches William T. Sherman, WW II Liberty Ship

Mrs. Pat O’Meara Is Sponsor, Mrs. Alex Macnab Is Matron of Honor, LaVelle Schilling Flower Girl In Sherman County Ceremony of Dedication At Oregon Yards.

The William T. Sherman, 101st Liberty ship to be built at the Oregon Shipbuilding Company yards in Portland, was launched Wednesday with Sherman countians presenting the program.

Sponsor of the ship, who christened her by breaking the bottle of traditional champagne over her bow as she started to slide down the ways was Mrs. Patrick J. O’Meara of Wasco, mother of four sons in the service of the country.

Matron of honor was Mrs. Alexander Macnab of Rufus, who, too, is the mother of four sons in service.  These women were chosen to do the honors because of their sons.

Flower girl was pretty little LaVelle Schilling, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William C. Schilling of Moro, who although but six years old performed her part of the ceremony with as much aplomb as more mature members of the party.

Honored Guest Each Have 4 Stars

O’Mearas in the service include Phil, last heard from at Camp Pickett where he was staff sergeant and naval spotter; it is thought he may be in Africa, James, now at Shepard Field, Texas, Steven, somewhere in the Pacific and Richard now at Douglas Field, Arizona, where he is in the air corps.  Another son, Patty is still at home.

Macnabs who have answered their country’s call are Captain John at McChord Field, Wash., Thomas, who is in New Guinea, C.R. in naval radio school at Moscow, Idaho and Peter in Pearl Harbor.

In addition to the four sons each the sponsor and matron of honor have in the service, George Lewis Macnab was in the process of enlistment while the ceremony was going on and Patty O’Meara will join shortly to make five sons each for the O’Meara and Macnab families.

The launching party, comprised of more than 40 Sherman countians from all parts of the county, left downtown Portland at eleven o’clock and were met by representatives of the shipbuilding company and the maritime commission at the yards upon their arrival.

At 12:15 the party was admitted to the shipbuilding yards proper and guided to the platform at the bow of the Sherman.  Charles Mack, former Klamath county assessor and recent primary candidate for congress from Oregon’s second district, now public relations officer at the yards, acted as master of ceremonies.

Launching Program Short

The Singing Sentinels, a quartette of shipyard guards sang the “Star Spangled Banner”.  Palmer Hoyt, publisher of the Oregonian and state chairman of the War Savings staff, introduced Giles L. French, who made the talk for the sponsoring county.  He briefly told of the life of General Sherman, spoke of the resources of his county, how it was named, and expressed the wish that this ship by the cargoes it carries bring to our enemies new realization of the truth of General Sherman’s famous remark.

Father John Delauney of Portland University gave the invocation and with bottle poised, Mrs. O’Meara said, “I christen thee William T. Sherman” and, as the ship made its first move down the ways, broke the bottle that made the ceremony complete.

Members of the party gave hearty praise to the company for the hospitality for the occasion.  Everyone connected with the launching was most attentive to the visitors.  The ship launched, the group was the guest of the company at luncheon during which Mrs. O’Meara was presented with a silver casket containing, under glass, some of the ribbon with which the bottle was decorated and some of the broken glass as a memento of the occasion.

Preliminary arrangements were made by the War Bond staff in Portland for the naming of ships from the Oregon Shipbuilding Company’s yards for men whose names had been given to Oregon counties.  Forrest Cooper made the suggestion, Sherman was the first county selected.

Perhaps the ship is more properly entitled to bear the name of Sherman than is the county, for the county obtained the name in a peculiar manner.

In the Oregon legislative session of 1889 when E.O. (Dutch) McCoy was representative, he introduced a bill setting out the territory between the Deschutes and John Day rivers as a new county to be taken from that mover of counties, Wasco.  The new county in his original bill was to be named Fulton, after the Fulton family, early day settlers in the county.

The name Fulton was opposed by Representative J.M. Maxwell of Netarts, Tillamook county, who remembered that back in 1870 when Colonel Fulton had been a representative in the legislature he had made what was in old records termed a “violent cessationist” speech against permitting William T. Sherman to address the Oregon legislature when the general was making a tour of Oregon.  The house in 1870 was democratic and General Sherman was not invited to speak.

World War I Stories
Sherman County: For The Record ,  Volume & Number
Stories and Records by Local Authors 1983-2015

#1-2, 1983

WW I Cochran Diary

Autobiography of Giles French by Giles L. French [several parts]

#10-1, 1992

Letter: Loy Cochran on the Rhine, WWI

#18-1, 2000

Charlie Wilson, French Legion of Honor by Mark Fields

#19-1, 2001

History of Frank E. Brown Post No. 91, American Legion

WWI Draft Registration List, 1917

#22-1, 2004

Red Cross Auxiliaries, Part One by Chris Sanders

#22-2, 2004

Red Cross Auxiliaries, Part Two by Chris Sanders

World War II Stories
Sherman County: For The Record ,  Volume & Number
Stories and Records by Local Authors 1983-2015

#1-2, 1983

Autobiography of Giles French by Giles L. French [several parts]

#7-1, 1989

Camp Rufus, WWII by Sherry Kaseberg

#9-2, 1991

Camp Rufus, Army Legend

#11-1, Spring 1993

WW II Military Experiences by Paul A. Fraser

#11-2 Fall 1993

Tsubota Family, Japan & Oregon by Isami Tsubota

World War II Memories by Lloyd Henrichs

#12-1, 1994

WWII Military Experiences by Malcolm McDermid

#12-2, 1994

WWII Air Force Experiences by Bob Boynton

#13-1, 1995

WWII Army Experiences by Glenn Virtue
WWII Seabees Experiences by Stuart Macnab
WWII Navy Experiences by Byron O. “Swede” Stark
WWII Navy Experiences by Clarence A. Young

#13-2, 1995

WWII Pacific Experiences by Tom Macnab & Helen Kelly Macnab
WW II Home Front Memories by Nell Coats Melzer
WWII Home Front Memories by Dorothy Brown Benson
WWII Letters: Don & Jacque von Borstel
WWII Navy Nurse Corps by Owietus Neal McDermid

#14-1, 1996

WWII Navy Adventures by Dan Kaseberg
WWII Navy Life of Marcus & Eilene Eslinger
WWII Leyte and Back by Chet Coats
WWII Letters Frank Sayrs by Mary von Borstel Sayrs

#14-2, 1996

Thomas Fraser, USAF by Thomas H. Fraser
WWII Air Force by Howard Conlee

#15-1, 1997

WW II, Africa & Europe by Phil O’Meara

#15-2, 1997

WWII William G. Macnab’s B-17 Collision Over the North Sea by Teresa K. Flatley

#18-1, 2000

WWII Gordon O. Fraser by Richard Fraser

#25-2 2007 

WW II Stories: Conlee, Boynton, O’Meara, Fraser, Morrow, McCoy, von Borstel, Kaseberg, McClure, Macnab
WW II B-17 Collision by Teresa Flatley

#29-1 2011

Dewey Thomas’ WWII Military Reflections – Part One by Dewey Thomas with Reine Thomas
WWII Navy Experiences by Charles F. Decker

#29-2 2011

Dewey Thomas’ WWII Military Reflections – Part Two by Dewey Thomas with Reine Thomas
Rev. Roy Harvey and Captain Joe Harvey by Joe Harvey

#30-2 2012

WWII Merchant Marine Experiences of Ted Carlson by Susan R. Smith

#31-2  2013

World War II Veterans Historic Highway by Dick Tobiason

#33-2   2015

Fort Lewis, New Guinea, Philippines & Japan by Robert Ziegler

Other Military Stories 
Sherman County: For The Record ,  Volume & Number
Stories and Records by Local Authors 1983-2015

#30-1 2012

Navy Experiences, Memories of Easter 1966 by Doug Rhinehart

#31-1  2013

Lt. Commander Gordon D. Helyer, U. S. Navy by Pat (Goodwin) Helyer

Civil War Stories
Sherman County: For The Record ,  Volume & Number
Stories and Records by Local Authors 1983-2015

#19-1, 2001

Civil War Veterans in Sherman County by Sherry Kaseberg

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. – John Adams