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