Newspaper Archive of
The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
December 7, 2012     The Catalina Islander
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December 7, 2012

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From page 1 sire to present to you, Dear Read- er, who these individuals were, how they died, and where they are now. It is a project I have worked on for at least fou.r years and it's a project that, unfortunately, is not complete. Due to less-than-inspir- ing government recording-keep- ing, fading memories and the pass- ing of friends and family members who could have contributed to this compilation, the finished product here still leaves much to be de- sired. At the suggestion of our illus- trious editor and office manager, Jennifer Leonhardi, I have decided to devote this week's column to the six casualties about whom I could find little or no information. Next week I will focus on the remain- ing five KIA's about which I have more information. The idea behind the ordering of these two columns, of course, is that more information might come out of the historical woodwork over the course of the next week and can be included in the second instalment. I am especially interested in the connection to Catalina that these men had. I suspect some of them were not permanent residents of the Island, but were perhaps the relatives of property owners or even frequent visitors to the Island. Whatever their relationship to the Island, they were evidently deemed "1o- car' enough fo have their names listed in the Honor Roll each week. The first "KIA" star to appear in the Honor Roll was placed next to the name of William Rexford Smith in the Maroh 5, 1942, edi- tion of the paper. Smith was an aviation cadet with the U.S. Marine Corps Re- '!' serve and was based at the newly-formed Na- val Air Station at Cor- pus Christi, Texas, at the time of his death. According to his obituary in the Cata- lina Islander, Smith was only 9 months Jim Watson old when the family Columnist moved to Avalon in 1919. He had spent 'most of his life on the Island, a place he "loved deafly," and spent summers working as a deckhand on the glass bottom boats. He graduated from junior high at Avalon Schools before the fam- ily moved to Santa Monica where he later graduated from Santa Monica High. On the evening of March 2, 1942, Smith was practicing night dive bombing when his plane--probably a T-6 or a BT- 13 Valient--crashed, killing him instantly. His parents, Sherman and Irene Smith, received the tele- gram in the early morning hours of March 3. Today, William Rexford Smith can be found in plot L80-4 at the Los Angeles National Cemetery in West Los Angeles. Of the 11 ca- sualties in the Avalon Honor Roll, geographically-speaking he is the closest to the Island. Another one of the early KIA's on the Honor Roll was "Johnny Botello". Sandy Putnam is much too young to remember the war, but she does remember the Botello family and be- lieves that Johnny died in the Bataan Death March in 1942. The Botel- los were family friends and Johnny and Sandy's uncle often worked on cars together in the ga- rage at the family-owned residence at 117 Whittley Avenue. Military records do show a "Pete" Botello, who served in the 200th Coastal Artillery Regiment in the Philippines and who, in fact, was classified as KIA in the Death March, but he entered the service through the New Mexico National Guard. Whether or not it is the same Botello is unknown at this point. .Sandy also remembers the fam- ily of John "Jack" Voelkel, another name on the Honor Roll, but had no information about John. I did find a grave listing for "Jack Voelker' at the Golden Gate National Cem- etery south of San Francisco. Ac- cording to the cemetery's website, he was a Marine Corps private and was born January 27, 1922. He died on March 13, 1945, location unknown. He is listed by National Archives data as having had a sis- ter, Mrs. Virginia Vivian Lund, in Alameda, California. U.S. Navy Machinists Mate 1st Class Alvin Silva was born July 12, 1912, and died on February 4, 1944. According to the weekly Honor Roll, he was in the U.S, Navy's Construction Battalion, or "Seabees." However, Gina Nichols, ar- chivist for the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum at Port Hueneme can find no record of him. I did, however, manage to find a grave for "Silva, Alvin" at the Golden Gate Na- tional Cemetery. Then there were two names on the list that eluded virtually all attempts at identifica- tion. These names did not appear on any of the casualty reports for the Army, Army Air Forces, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or Merchant Marine. They are Tom B. Jones and William Donner. There were two possibilities for Jones, including a "Thomas Booker Jones" and a "Thomas B. Jones, Jr." But the former hailed from Tennessee while the latter was from Maryland. Thomas Booker Jones was in the Navy and is listed on the Tab- lets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Phil- ippines. Thomas Jones, Jr., was in the 17th Tank Battalion and is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Netherlands Ameri- can Cemetery. The name William Donner was the greatest enigma of them all. His name first appears in the Cata- lina Islander (with a "KIA" star next to it) in the April 22, 1943, edition of the paper. But in all of my internet searches and inter- views with local Islanders, no one could place the name. I could not find any "William Donner" or any variation thereof in any of the National Archives ca- sualty reports for the Army, AAF, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or Merchant Marine. In fact, no one even with the surname "Donner" is listed as having been killed dur- ing the war. Next week, I will focus on the remaining five Islander's killed in the war about whom, as mentioned earlier, I have a great deal more in- formation. If you have any information on the above individuals, please send it to Mysterious Island, c/o Cata- lina Islander, PO Box 428, Ava- lon, CA 90704, or send email to: jim @ New Screens * Rescreening * Free Estimates P.O. BOX 2257 Avalon, California 90704 310-510-1904 Days 310-3:39-5252 Evenings Kad@Catallnatsla A crew Working o 9 a World War II era plane. The first Islander "killed in action" was practicing night bombing when his plane crashed in 1942. Courtesy photo Staying connected with Catalina ust got a ot easier,