Friday, November 11, 2011

Our Gage Veterans - Highlighting Orland & Bernard

Every young man who went off to fight for his country has a unique story and family.  Neither one of my grandfathers served in World War II – one because of health reasons and I’m sure the other one was too valuable as a farmer and logger.  Each one of my grandmothers had two brothers who went off to war – I’ve told the story about Jack & Claude…now it’s time for Orland and Bernard!

Orland is the oldest of the 10 children (and six sons) to be born to Ora and Florence Shawver Gage.  Much of his youth was spent working with his father and grandfather farming and doing whatever needed to be done – whether it was building the family cabin with his father and brothers or cutting wood to help bring extra income for his family.  

Orland & Bernard on leave - 1945
Orland volunteered for the Army in the fall of 1943 and was inducted in late December of 1943.  He left at home his wife and newborn son.  Orland was part of the 38th Bomb Group and fought in the 823rd Squadron.  He was a tail gunner in B-25. I still find it difficult to believe that my tall uncle fit himself in that tiny spot.  I had watched the movie Memphis Belle and remember watching Henry Connick, Jr.’s character fit himself in that tiny area – Orland told me that he had considerably more room.  Orland went overseas on Easter Sunday of 1945 and flew 18 missions until the end of the war.  He wasn’t able to come home until February the interim he showed the skills that made him successful in life.  Orland was sent to Fukuoka, Japan as acting First Sgt with orders to strip a manufacturing plant and build quarters for the Bomb Group that was expected in November. According to Orland, he complained to the Colonel when the mill they were using wasn’t getting lumber to them quickly enough and told them that he knew a little something about mills.  Before they knew it, Orland had that mill running and producing more than enough lumber to get the job done plus a few other important projects like a 32-hole latrine.  After he returned home, Orland began working for Potlatch Corporation.  He joined the Idaho National Guard unit in Lewiston, ID and was in Company A of the 200th Tank Battalion as First Sergeant. By the time, he was called back up to active duty in 1951, Orland was a 2nd Lieutenant and the Tank Battalion was now the 148th Field Artillery Battalion.  He served in Korea as well and continued to serve in the Idaho National Guard until 1979.  

Orland writes “I have always taken pride in the way my brothers all were members of the military. Bernard spent 8 years in the Marines and flew F4U Corsairs as an enlisted pilot and returned home from China as a 2nd Lt. Don served three years as a Marine and was in Korea as a member of the 1st Marine Division. He returned as a Sergeant from Korea. Byron was a member of the 148th Field Artillery Battalion when it was recalled for the Korean War. He went to Korea and was assigned to the 196th Field Battalion Communications section. He became a Tech/Sgt in charge of the section before coming home. He left the Washington National Guard as 1st Lt. My brother Duane was a member of the 148th Field Artillery Battalion after the war and left the guard as a Tech/Sgt. He was a good soldier in peace time and would have been good at anything he tried in the service. We boys purchased a brick for Dad and each of his sons that will be placed at the “I AM AN AMERICAN” monument that stands in front of the Veteran’s Home on 8th Street in Lewiston.”

Gage Men - Left to Right - Ora, Orland, Bernard, Don, Byron & Duane
Orland has been a proud Veteran who has worked hard to preserve the history of his bomb group from WW II.  He has worked diligently to maintain contact with the other members, scanned thousands of documents and pictures and worked to get a unit history published for his bomb group.  If you are interested - please check out

Bernard flying over Emeraru in Corsair
Orland’s little brother, John Bernard Gage, was a pretty unique character himself.  When he passed away a few years ago – our family experienced a military funeral that was especially emotional for most of us.  Most of us knew that Bernard or Uncle Bun as he was called by the family served in WW II and we all knew he was a pilot – but I don’t think we ever really knew the whole story.  One of the cool things in our family is that Orland, Grandma Marian, and Bernard all graduated the same year from high school in 1939.  (Sickness and stubbornness were probably the true causes of Orland and Marian not graduating on time)  Bernard joined up with the Marines in early 1940 – lying about his age by a few months.  He was flying in China before World War II started for most Americans.  He flew a F4U1 – Corsair for over 400 missions from China to the South Pacific.  Part of his job was to photograph missions from up above on some of the bombing missions of the B-25’s below.  He and Orland figured out one time that they were actually flying the same mission at the same time – just in different planes.  The most unique thing was that Bernard flew all those missions and what was probably one of the hottest planes of the war as a Sergeant.  This was almost unheard of – Bernard refused to become an officer if his buddies weren’t being offered the same opportunity.  When he found out that officers were being released early – Bernard became an officer and was soon on his way home. When he arrived home in 1946, he came home with a wife and a new son and settled to farm up on Hatter Creek.  There isn’t one person who knew him well who didn’t marvel at his mechanical knowledge and sharp mind.  During his later years, it became a bit difficult to talk to Bernard because he couldn’t hear.  He had spent too many years working on engines to have much hearing left.

To my knowledge, the Gage and Shawver families have served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Iraq War and have served their countries in times of peace and of war through both the National Guard and regular military.  I know the hardships that my great grandmother faced when her two oldest sons and her son-in-law were over fighting the war in World War II as well as her three sons in Korea.  She also saw her grandson go off to fight in Vietnam.  It is pretty remarkable that they all returned home safe.  God bless all of those veterans who have served and all of the family who waited and prayed for them to return to them safely.

(Orland took the time to write his life story a few years ago and I have taken some of the detail from that story – he has truly lived a remarkable life and continues to be active to this day)

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