In Memory of
US Army Air Corps 2nd Lieutenant
James Brandon Caldwell
Mobridge, South Dakota
Walworth County 
January 11, 1918 – April 2, 1944
Killed in Bombing Air Raid of Oil Refineries at Steyr, Austria

James Brandon Caldwell

James Brandon Caldwell was born January 11, 1918.  James Caldwell, Jr. was born the son of James Caldwell and Maude Brandon Caldwell.  Maude Brandon Caldwell opened the first hairdressing establishment in Mobridge in 1910.  James’ sister’s name is Barbara Caldwell Shay.  James grew up and attended grades 1 through 12 in Mobridge, South Dakota.  He graduated from Mobridge High School in 1935.  James later became a graduate of the Minneapolis School of Arts and was also a Beauty School graduate. 

James began his first art lessons down by the riverbanks from the time he could walk down by himself.  He would go down to the riverbanks from early spring to late fall.  He would carry a copybook along to note his findings in bird watching and nature observation.  Some of the pages in his copybook were devoted to maps and catalogued listings of Indian sites he had explored.  Going out to the Indian mounds became his second passion in life.  He had a collection of beads, pottery, and stone artifacts and a medal he found at the Double Ree village north of Mobridge, near Wakpala.  While attending the Minneapolis School of Arts he made a number of sculptures such as the Coulee Dam worker, for which he won the Van Derlip scholarship. 

James entered the active service of World War II in June 1942.  He attended training in Hondo, Texas, where he graduated from flight school.  Lieutenant Caldwell was head navigator and captain of his squadron.  He went overseas to Italy for 3 months with the 16th Army Air Force.    

In 1943, Lieutenant Caldwell, bombardier on a Liberator bomber, was shot down over the Anzio beachhead.  His plane was caught in heavy flank fire as he and the crew dropped bombs on German artillery positions.  One shell either hit their plane or a bomb that they had dropped caused the explosion, which set their plane on fire.  About a mile offshore is where Caldwell dropped into the sea.  Caldwell had to tread water for about 15 minutes in heavy clothes, and with no lifevest, until the rescue boat could come and pick him up.    

Mr. and Mrs. James Caldwell received this letter from their son on March 23, 1944:

We flew today but it was an incomplete mission.  Bad weather again.  Seems we’ve been doing a lot of flying but not getting to the target.  The German can thank the Italians for the bad weather they have.   Seen my name on the schedule to fly tomorrow and a good night sleep always helps.    

Lieutenant Caldwell was listed missing after the 16th Mission, when his plane was bombing oil refineries in Steyr, Austria, on April 2, 1944.  He was missing for 4˝ years.  In 1948 he was buried in a family plot at Norway Cemetery near Mobridge, South Dakota. In 1944, Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell received three awards that were won by their son.  The awards were the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, and the two Oak Leaf Clusters.

Sculpture by James Caldwell

Sculpture by James Caldwell

This entry was respectfully submitted by Erica Rowe, 11th Grade, Mobridge High School, Mobridge, South Dakota.  Information for this entry was provided by Mrs. Barbara Caldwell Shay, Yuma, Arizona, sister of 2nd Lieutenant James B. Caldwell.