60 years ago, D-Day Left One Cd'A on WWII Honor Roll of Casualties
Other casualties followed in the forms of war dead, in the wounded who made it home, and thru the Prisoners of War
By Donna J. Matheson
When the global commemoration of D-Day - 60 years - comes to pass on June 6, 2004, Coeur d' Alene Indians today must remember the ties connecting us to that fateful and historic day, and to the overall, six-year series of explosives and bloody conflicts known as World War II.
At the time, most of the smiling, shining faces of the Coeur d' Alene Tribe's young men were absent from the reservation because they were overseas fighting in war.
Most made it back. Four didn't.
Their names -Carl Sol Louie, (a.k.a. Charles K. Louie), Elmer J. Falcon, Moses W. Aripa, and Adolph Alexie- are forever etched into the World War II honor roll of men killed in action or who died of wounds sustained in combat.
D-Day:June 6, 1944
In the early morning darkness of June 6,1944 - D-Day: the day allied troops carried out operation overlord, of the massive military invasion of Europe at Normandy, France - two Coeur d' Alene Indians, Carl Sol Louie and Norbert Joseph were present and accounted for.
U.S. army medic N. Joseph was one of more than 100,000 troops in an invasion force of over 5,000 ships, boats and amphibious crafts - the largest number of vessels ever assembled.
Coeur d' Alene Indian Carl Sol Louie(a.k.a. U.S. Army PVT. Charles K. Louie) was there, in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. Sadly, Sol Louie was killed in mid-air during the paratroopers' descent to behind enemy lines.
According to tribal elder Irene Lowley, her grandmother was offered a sealed lead casket but was unsure if the casket truly contained her sons remains. So she declined.
As of today, Charles K. Louis, a direct descendent of Circling Raven, is listed on the WWII Honor Roll and on the tablets of the missing at the Normandy American Cemetery at St. Laurent-Mer, France. His status there is listed as missing in action or buried at sea. The tablets say he died on D-Day and was awarded the bronze star and a purple heart. On the list of WWII dead by state, he is listed as being killed in action.
Another Indian, a Spokane, by the name of Calvin Garry who was schooled in Plummer, also was a paratrooper in D-Day. Garry was shot during the drop, too, but he lived a long life afterward to tell the story of how his fingers were shot off that day right at that point where they held onto the straps of his parachute.
Felix S. Aripa was in the U.S. Navy and on board the USS Thompson when it transported General Eisenhower and the other allied commanders to the beachhead at Normandy on June 12, 1944
When Eisenhower saw Aripa, Aripa said he asked, "Aren't you an Indian?"
When Aripa confirmed to Eisenhower that he was, indeed, an Indian, he said Eisenhower asked him,
"What the hell are you doing in the Navy? All the other Indians are in the Army!"
"There were a lot of good Indian soliders there," Aripa said. "I got to see all the big shots in the second world war." In addition to Eisenhower, General Marshall and Arnold, as well as Admiral King were also transported to Normandy at the same time.
Before everything was said and done, Aripa survived having been wounded in action. Also, in February, 1945 it was reported that Aripa was critically ill in a New York hospital. While out of commission, it was reported that Aripa was enjoying the world of sports at New York's Madison Square Garden.
In that same time period, PVT. Louis L. Isadore was wounded in action.
Later that fall, on November 21, 1944, the brother of Felix S. Aripa - Moses, or mu'is - was killed in action at the Belgium border as allied troops moved inland towards Germany.
Gabriel Aripa, a nephew to Felix and Moses Aripa, was actually taken as a prisoner of war and had to learn how to survive when he spent time in the big German POW camp known famously from books, movies, and history as Stalag 17.
"There were cows that had to be brought in and Gabe went for the trips," Felix Aripa said. "Because of that, the rest of the guys were starving but he had a feast. He told us if he kept to himself and kept quite the Germans left him alone. It's when the prisoners complained that they were mistreated. He also had work, at wood cutting to keep him busy."
The Italian Alps
In World War II Marcus Nicodemus distinguished himself with his leadership, as recognized by his superior in the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division As sergeant, he was instrumental in leading his squad in special elite operations, such as the battle for Mt. Belvedere, in the treacherous Italian Alps that were strategic to allied advancement through secret paths into Germany. The 10th Mountain Division specialized in winter warfare as ski solders in rugged mountain terrain that involved skiing and climbing among sheer, rock-faced mountain sides and sheer, vertical drops. He attended his division's 50 year anniversary reunion in 1994 in the Italian Alps.
The Pacific Theater
Two more Coeur d'Alene Indians made the ultimate sacrifice in WWII, this time in the Pacific theater of the war.
Private First Class Adolph Alphonse Alexie was killed in action in the South Pacific. He was on Okinawa Island on April 6, 1945 and was buried in the 96th Infantry Division Temporary Cemetery there.
Elmer Falcon died of wounds he received in combat on the island of Layte in the Philippines. Falcon was the first husband of Margaret (Joseph) Stensgar, the mother of current Coeur d'Alene Tribal chairman Ernest L. Stensgar.
The Details of other information of Coeur d' Alenes who served in WWII are a little more difficult to elaborate upon in trying to avoid excluding anybody. A newsletter published by Lawrence Nicodemus during the war called the DeSmet Morning Star, offers some insight into more information.
Evidently, according to tribal language director Raymond Brinkman, Nicodemus went with Donald George to enlist but Nicodemus wasn't accepted into the service. Instead, Nicodemus opted to publish a newsletter to keep the Coeur d'Alenes in the war connected with home.
Cpl. Donald George ended up as an assistant cook in the Marines. His brother, PFC Oswald C. George, served in the North Africa campaign,and for at least 51 months in the Infantry. Oswald had pushed for a permanent monument to be erected on the Coeur d' Alene Indian Reservation to honor the tribe's war dead. Donald George made good on his first opportunity to visit Adolph Alexie's grave at Okinawa to pay his proper respect.
The Seltice brothers, Herman and Pete were both there and in the army. Herman "sqwarshn" Seltice was a medic who wrote home about his service in Germany. Pete was at the Dungeons of LaHarvre.
The Aripa brothers, Lawrence and Henry were both there: Lawrence served in the Navy and Henry served as a sergeant in the Army and was one of 900 survivors of German bombers who attacked their mission of 2,500 while in troop ships in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Aripa served in North Africa and in China.
Celina (Garry) Iyall Goolsby was a corporal and was the first Coeur d' Alene Indian woman to enlist in the armed forces.
The twin LaSarte brothers, Bernard "Happy" and Francis "Hookum" were in the Army.
Sgt. Alexander J. Camille, son of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Camille, was the first local, full blooded Indian to be discharged from the Army after four years of service.
After being discharged, Sgt. Henry SiJohn had plans to continue his musical education.
PFC. Eugene A. Seyler of the 406th Infantry was awarded a bronze star for heroic action in combat under intense enemy fire.
Also listed in the search for Coeur d' Alenes having served in WWII include: Sam Peone Sr, Francis Adams, Herman Zachary, Luke Morrel, William "Bill" Ignace, Hector Bazil, Leonard Joseph Stubby Ford, John Abraham Sr, John DeLorme, and Anthony "Tony" Aripa.
Other names still missing
The above-referenced names were all I was able to come up with during a month of research. I think it's probably pretty unlikely that there aren't other Coeur d' Alenes who served in WWII, whose names I didn't come across or was unable to uncover. If your family member's name and information belongs with this group of information, I encourage you to submit that information to me and I will publish it.
Only those believed to be Coeur d' Alene were included here, except the Spokane wounded on D-Day. Otherwise, the specifics of my own father's WWII experiences would have been included. Don't feel overlooked.