The Mystery of Peg Leg Pete

There are many mysteries great and small from World War Two that remain unanswered to this day. This patch is one of the admittedly smaller ones that have perplexed historians and collectors for quite a few years.

This hand-painted canvas squadron patch bears the emblem of the 603rd Squadron, 398th Bomb Group of the mighty 8th Air Force that was officially approved on October 25, 1943. As was popular at the time, the 603rd choose a popular cartoon character – in this case, Disney’s Peg Leg Pete – to grace their unit patch. As a concession to his wartime duties, Peg Leg was rendered wearing appropriate flight gear and had his trademark cigar replaced with a bomb. Walt Disney actually encouraged the use of his famous cartoon characters in this manner by the U.S. Army Air Forces during the war. He even set up a special art department at his studio to fill requests for such designs by units serving both in the U.S. and overseas.

603rd Patch

Above: Walt Disney’s character Pistol Pete as interpreted by an unknown staff artist at Max Berman & Sons Costumes and Props for RKO Radio Pictures. The hand-painted canvas squadron patch measures about 5 1/4 inches in diameter. Patches such as this would have been sewn to the flight gear of members of 603rd Squadron, 398th Bomb Group during World War Two. c.1940s Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia

The mystery surrounding this patch and others like it begins with its place of manufacture – RKO Radio Pictures.  The first question that is often asked is why RKO would be producing patches with Disney characters on them. Actually, this is not that big a stretch since RKO was the original film distributor for Walt Disney so there was a history between them.

The second question that arises is exactly when and why were these patches made. There is apparently no surviving record in the RKO archives that mention the patches being made. Some people theorize that they were made as film props after the war but this seems hardly likely since there were patches for hundreds of units made by RKO many of which were extremely obscure. Also, patches for many of the now famous Tuskegee Airmen units were included by RKO in their effort and it is a sad sign of those times but one can hardly picture any studio producing a film about or featuring these all-black units in the 1940s or 50s.

603rd Patch Back

Above: The reverse side of the Peg Leg Pete patch showing the stamps of RKO Radio Picture Studios (in brown) and Max Berman & Sons (in blue) both of Hollywood California. c. 1940s Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia

It should be noted that all of these patches bear two stamps on their reverse side. One is that of RKO Radio Pictures Studio Costume and Props Department and the other is of Max Berman & Sons Costumes and Props – a costume/prop house closely associated with RKO for many years. At first, these stamps may lead one to believe that they are simply old movie props but it has been proposed that RKO produced the patches as part of their contribution to the national war effort. There is no evidence that these patches were ever distributed to the military.

Actually, the RKO stamp offers a clue to the date of manufacture. RKO Radio Pictures dropped the “Radio” part of their name in 1950 after being bought by Howard Hughes which means that these patches were all made prior to that date. So they could not have been made for film use before that date as many propose. If they were mere props one would assume that they would have been used in films but to the best of my knowledge examples of these RKO patches have never appeared on the silver screen.

It has also been proposed that these patches were intended as a wartime collectible/premiums that were to have been distributed to the public by the studio in some manner.

616th Patch

Above: Another example of the squadron patches produced by RKO/Berman. This example was for the 616th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 477th Bombardment Group, 3rd and 1st Army Air Forces. The 616th was a training unit staffed by African American pilots and aircrew. c. 1940s Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia

Personally, I believe that these canvas patches were produced by RKO and Max Berman as part of their contribution to the war effort – probably as a premium – but for one reason or another the patches were never distributed and remained in storage for many years. Then sometime during the 1970s or 80s these old stocks were sold off and entered the resale market.  At the time many of the major studios while undergoing restructuring and reorganization sold off their vast costume and prop collections as did some of the major costume shops such as Western Costume.


Ace Pilots & Candy Bars

An incredible rarity in that it survived at all, this 1930s vintage gouache painting is the original artwork for one card of 50 in the Famous Aeroplanes, Pilots & Airports series that was produced by Mars Confections Ltd which were quite similar to so-called cigarette cards popular during the same era. This specific set of cards were offered inside the wrappers on Milky Way candy bars. The original artwork actually quite small and measures 5 ¼ inches high by 2 ½ inches wide (13.3cm x 6.5cm) while the card on which the artwork was reproduced at half that size.

J A Mollison

Above: The original gouache illustration of James “Jim” Allan Mollison (left) as rendered by a now-forgotten artist and use to produce the collector’s card at right. The original artwork measures a diminutive 5 1/4 inches high by 2 1/2 inches high, about twice the size of the card. c. 1937 Source: Both items from the collection of Edward T. Garcia.

James Allan “Jim” Mollison (born in 1905) was a well-known record-setting Scottish aviator who was married to equally well-known aviatrix Amy Johnson. Both Mollison and Johnson spent their careers attempting to set new aviation records and taking part in various competitions. In many ways, Amy Johnson outshone her husband in the media and in the public imagination. She was created a Companion of the British Empire in 1930. The couple divorced in 1939. She was killed during World War Two in a crash while serving with the Air Transport Auxiliary. Mollison also served with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the war and later, after leaving flying, an opened a public house in London. He died in 1959.

J A Mollison Amy Johnson Cards Front

Above: Amy Johnson and Jim Mollison as both appeared in the Mars Confections Ltd. issue of Famous Aeroplanes, Pilots & Airports. c. 1937 Source: The collection of Edward T. Garcia.

J A Mollison Amy Johnson

Above: Amy Johnson and Jim Mollison pose in flight suits in front of their long-distance racer, a de Havilland DH.88 Comet named “Black Magic”. At the time the couple was taking part in the 1933 MacRobertson Air Race from England to Australia. They were forced to drop out at Karachi due to engine trouble. The couple was known to an adoring British public as “the flying sweethearts”. This photo, which originally appeared in The Aeroplane magazine obviously served as the model for the above-pictured cards.

J A Mollison Amy Johnson Cards Back

Above: The reverse sides of Johnson and Mollison’s Famous Aeroplanes, Pilots & Airports cards which a short biographical sketch of each pilot. The latest date – 1937 – helps to date the cards. c. 1937 Source: The collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Jimmie Allen Flying Club

From the thrilling and golden age of radio come these three premiums that were the prized possessions of the young fans of The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen, a 15-minute radio serial that was originally broadcast from Radio station WDAF in Kansas City, Missouri between 1933 and 1937. These premiums were distributed by the show’s commercial sponsors such as Skelly Oil Company or Hickok Oil Corporation and were made available at any of the companies automobile service stations – all the kids had to do was to get their father to drive them to the station to sign them up as members of The Jimmie Allen Flying Club. At the height of the show’s popularity, 600,000 copies of the Flying Club’s newsletter were being mailed out each week.

Jimme Allen Patch

Above: About three inches in diameter, this silk-screened felt “squadron” patch let everyone know that the wearer was a proud cadet of the Jimmie Allen Flying Corps. This version was made available to listeners of the show by Be-Square Motor Oil. c. 1935 Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

While entertaining to the show’s young target audience, the scripts always portrayed the show’s stars as models of good, honest and decent behavior. Radio shows targeted to young audiences without exception always sought to teach their young fans something about character and good behavior – the good guys were always good, the bad guys always bad and the good guys always bested the bad guys but did so honestly and fairly.

Jimme Allen Postcard

Above: A postcard-sized Jimmie “High Speed” Allen Flying Cadet membership card c. 1935 bearing the photograph of 16-year-old Murray McLean who leaned a face to the otherwise unseen radio character of Jimmie Allen. This particular card was mailed out by the Hickok Oil Corporation and promoted their “High Speed” brand of gasoline. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia. 

The character of Jimmie Allen was written as a 16-year-old and he was portrayed on the radio by the show’s 40-some-year old director John Frank. For personal appearances and for publicity photographs – such as the Flying Cadet membership card show above – 16-year-old Murray McLean stood in for Jimmie. The show was created by Bob Burtt and Bill Moore both who had both been pilots during World War I. After the show came to an end in 1937 Burtt and Moore continued to collaborate with their next “air adventure” being Captain Midnight.

Jimmie Allen Wings

Above: Measuring about two inches wide and made of stamped bronze colored metal, these Jimmie Allen pilot’s wings were one of the popular premiums available to loyal fans of the radio serial. This set of wings was made available by Richfield Oil and promoted that company’s “Hi-Octane” brand of gasoline. c. 1935. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Jimmie Allen Map

Above: measuring an impressive 28 inches high by 65 inchs wide, this full-color map was made available by Skelly Oil. Kids (and probably many parents) could spread the map out in front of them and follow Jimmie Allen’s aerial adventures all the while receiving an unsuspected lesson in geography and current events. c. 1935 Source: David Rumsey Map Collection.



Those Daring Young Men…

These three old real photo postcards were found in a trunk in Roseville, California a number of years ago and offer a view of the very tentative nature of early flight.

The Aircraft in question seems to be a Curtiss Model D Headless Pusher which would date the photographs to sometime around or after 1912. Whether or not they depict an actual sequence of events of a given day and relating to a specific aircraft is hard to say but such events certainly did occur with frightening regularity. The pilot can clearly be seen sitting proudly at the wheel of his flying machine and although I have found other images of him at the helm of the same aircraft I have yet to be able to attach a name to him. Captions that accompany those images seem to make him out to have been a pilot employed by the Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company as opposed to an independent pilot.

Curtis Pusher 1

Above: “Before going up.” Photo: Edward T. Garcia collection.

(based on the rather unique way he wears his hat and his facial features this “Daring young man” may be (I stand to be corrected if I error on this point) Canadian born pilot John Alexander Douglas McCurdy (1886-1961) who was instrumental in helping Glenn Curtiss start Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company. He later became the 20th Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.)

Curtis Pusher 2

Above: “Up.” Photo: Edward T. Garcia collection.

Each of the three cards as a period pencil notation on the back that express a slightly morbid sense of humor in their brevity. The first simply states: “Before going up”. The second card in which the aeroplane appears almost like a small insect reads: “Up” and the third “Down…End”. The fate of the pilot is as uncertain as his name and one hopes that he was able to walk away from the shattered pile of sticks and canvas to fly another day.

Curtis Pusher 3

Above: “Down…End” Photo: Edward T. Garcia collection.

Note: Although these three photos were found in Roseville, California they probably originated with a family that had moved to the Roseville area from Mason City, Iowa.

Postmark – U.S.S. Arizona


Seventy-seven years ago the battleship USS Arizona was sunk by Japanese bombs during the infamous surprise attack that launched a reluctant United States into World War Two.

This commemorative postal cover harkens back to a happier time on the great ship in 1938 while the Arizona was stationed at San Pedro, California along with the entire U.S. Navy Pacific battle fleet.  The cover was issued by American Naval Cancellation Society and postmarked San Pedro on board the Arizona on February 12, 1938. The recipient was a Mr. Paul Bilsland of Wenatchee, Washington.

USS Arizona Postal Cover

USS Arizona Postal Cover Reverse

Above: The front and back of the Abraham Lincoln commemorative postal cover postmarked 12 February 1938 on board the battleship U.S.S. Arizona at San Pedro, California. Source: Edward T. Garcia collection.

While postmarked on board the Arizona, the cover actually commemorates President Abraham Lincoln and bears a short quote from his Gettysburg Address: “That these dead shall not have died in vain.” The quote is especially poignant in an almost surreal way when one considers the terrible fate the ship and her crew would suffer just a few short years later.

The reverse side of the cover bears two large stamps from the American Naval Cancellation Society as well a small one that bears reads:  “M. M. Parker, USS Arizona, San Pedro, California, (A.N.C.S. 450)”. Parker, actually Melton M. Parker, created the commemorative cachet of Lincoln and hand applied the light coloring used to accent the image.

While obviously a member of the Naval Cancellation Society Parker also appears to have been a member of the ship’s crew, possibly its acting postmaster. He seems to be the same Melton M. Parker who held the rating of SK2c (Store Keeper, 2nd Class) and shows up on the muster sheet for San Diego Naval Air Station in 1939 having transferred there from the USS Arizona on May 8, 1939.

Parker would continue to serve at San Diego until transferred to the Naval Training Center at Los Angeles, California on February 14, 1942.  Parker would actively serve in the U.S. Navy throughout World War II and during the Korean War, retiring as Chief Warrant Officer after 31 years of service. Parker died at San Antonio, Texas in 1977.

Melton Murry Parker

Above: Chief Warrant Officer Melton Murry Parker in a photo taken sometime after World War Two. Photo: U.S. Navy/Parker/Stickland Family Tree/

USS Arizona

Above: Happier times – The USS Arizona in heavy seas off the coast of California in the 1930s. U.S. Navy/National Archives.

USS Arizona Memorial

Above: Still bleeding – the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor. The oil that still leaks from her fuel oil bunkers can be clearly seen in this recent photograph.

He Chose the Western Front to Paradise

2017-18 marks the 100th anniversary of the United States involvement in World War One. Very little seems to officially being done to commemorate the events and the veterans who took part in them. Some time ago I was curating a proposed exhibit that commemorated the contributions made to the war effort by African American soldiers and sailors from California. Ultimately and quite regrettably this exhibit never came to fruition but I thought I’d share the story of one of the soldiers who were to be highlighted in the exhibit. I used well-established research techniques along with a good dose of what I have learned over the past 20 years as a genealogist to piece together the life of Sergeant Edwin Mosely Thompson of the 25th Infantry and 805th Pioneer Infantry, United States Army.

Edwin Mosely Thompson.png

Above: Private (later sergeant) Edwin Mosley Thompson in a highly evocative real photo postcard portrait taken while he was stationed at Schofield Barracks, Oahu, Hawaii Territory c. 1915. Thompson would voluntarily leave the safety of garrison duty in Hawaii for service in the muddy trenches of the Western Front. Thompson wears his expert marksman badge just above the pocket of his tunic. Photo: California State Library.

Edwin Mosley Thompson was born on May 8, 1898, in Sacramento California being one of five children of William Joshua Thompson and Sarah Mosely. The elder Thompson was a plumber by trade. Little can be discerned regarding Edwin’s youth prior to his enlistment in the army. He was not yet seventeen when he volunteered in November 1914 and was assigned as a private to the 25th Infantry Regiment which was performing garrison duty in Hawaii Territory. While the World War was already raging in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Far East, America had not yet been drawn into the fighting and duty in Hawaii must have been of the preferred postings for army personnel.  The 25th Infantry was one of the famed “Buffalo Soldier” regiments of the regular U.S. Army and would remain to garrison Hawaii throughout the war.

With America’s entry into the war on April 6, 1917, Edwin Thompson volunteered for combat service in Europe. He was one of a cadre of 25 veteran members of the 25th Infantry – many of these “old soldiers” like Mosely were not long out of their teens –  were assigned to newly raised units of volunteers and draftees and by their example were expected to impart a steadying influence on the new raw recruits. Mosely was assigned to Company G of the 805th Pioneer Infantry then being organized at Camp Funston, Kansas, Nicknamed the “Bearcats”, the 805th was a white officered but otherwise all-black unit made up of men primarily from Missouri and Mississippi.

Edwin Mosely Thompson Service Card Back

Above: Filled by his mother while Edwin Mosely Thompson was still overseas, his California War History Committee service card gives a remarkable amount of detail regarding the soldier’s life prior to joining the army. One interesting detail is his pre-war job as a second cook on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Source: California State Library.

The Bearcats arrived in France in July 1918 and were assigned to the Department of Light Railways and Roads. Something of a hybrid regiment, the 805th like all pioneer infantry were generally detailed to engineering and construction duties but were also expected to act as regular infantry as the need arose. Edwin Thompson had qualified as an expert marksman while still in Hawaii and this skill must have been of more than a passing value while in France.

Colors of the 805th

Above: The colors of the 805th Pioneer Infantry as they appeared in the regiments official history: Victory – The History of the 805th Pioneer Infantry, American Expeditionary Forces by Major Paul S, Bliss (1919).

While at the front, G Company was detailed to protect, repair and maintain a two-kilometer section of the Avocourt-Esnes Road near the French town of Avocourt. On at least one occasion G Company was subjected to a German poison gas attack but suffered no casualties. In the unit’s official history – Victory: History of 805th Pioneer Infantry, American Expeditionary Forces – it is mentioned that on moonlit nights the company was also subject to German aerial bombardment. In total, the Bearcats would serve a total of 39 days at the front.


Above: Members of the 805th move a wooden decoy of a French Renault light tank. It is quite possible that the 805th may have built this decoy as well as others like it. Decoys such as this were intended to fool German reconnaissance flights. Photo: Signal Corps, U.S. Army.

With the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, Thompson and the 805th were stationed at Chateau de Chatel-Chehrey while awaiting their place on troopships home. To pass the time they busied themselves with various entertainments including inter-regimental baseball games between the Bearcats and other black units. Under the management of Captain George M. Bragan, the team kept a perfect 10-0 record. The team’s perfect record was no doubt helped by the presence of several “ringers” in the lineup. These included William P. “Plunk” Drake, High R. Blackburn, and Otto C. “Jay Bird” Ray, all of whom would go on to post-war professional baseball careers in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs.

In July 1919 Edwin Thompson along with the rest of the 805th returned to the United States on board the USS Zeppelin. At some point prior to his discharge on June 4. 1920 Thompson was promoted sergeant. The regiment was entitled to the Meuse-Argonne battle streamer on its regimental color and its individual members – Edwin Mosely Thompson included – were entitled to the World War One Victory Medal with the Meuse-Argonne battle clasp.


Above: The United States World War One Victory Medal with the Meuse-Argonne battle clasp. Each man of the 805th was entitled to this medal for his service in France during the war.

Thompson returned to live with his parents who were now residing in Los Angeles and found employment as a civilian cook with the U.S. Army – possibly at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro. He was married by this time with his wife’s name being Beatrice.

Beatrice had died by 1930 when Thompson had moved to Kansas City where he was employed as a valet at a theater. Perhaps he was bitten by the acting bug while working at the theater because in 1931 he had returned to California to marry Miss Claire Marie Countee Fields and the occupation he listed on the couple’s marriage license with that of an actor. The couple does not appear to have had any children.

Former sergeant Edwin Mosely Thompson passed away at the age of 56 on July 20, 1954, and was buried with full military honors at Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

Research Project: Tracing a Campaign Medal to a British Born U.S. Soldier.

Researching early United States campaign or service medals can be problematic at best and sometimes impossible. To put the subject of this specific medal into proper context, it might serve well to briefly outline the history of early U.S. issued campaign or service medals.

John Osborne Powell PI Medal Front

Above: The Philippine Insurrection Service Medal (Army type) No. 7239, issued to British-born First Sergeant John Osborne Powell of A Troop, 14th U.S. Cavalry.

As early as the American Civil War (1861-1865) there had been some parties in the U.S military who sought to establish the issuing of medals along the lines of European campaign awards. This idea met with stiff opposition from the military establishment who thought the whole idea reeked of European elitism, and possibly more to the point of the matter was a Congress which opposed the cost that might be entailed in creating and issuing such medals in large numbers.

During the war, the Medal of Honor was the only medal or decoration of any type issued by official sanction although at least one Union general – Benjamin Butler – took matters into his own hands and at his own expense created the so-called Butler Medal. The Butler Medal was an award for valor issued only to the African American troops serving under his command and not a campaign medal in the common sense. Interestingly Butler wrote that the British Crimean War Medal was the inspiration for his design. Lacking anything to commemorate their long, hard service during the war, other Union veterans took to wearing their Grand Army of the Republic (a private organization of Union veterans) membership badges to signify their veteran status. The badge did nothing to denote how extensive or short a veteran’s service in uniform might have been.

This issue languished until 1905 when on the 40th anniversary of the war’s end a Civil War Campaign medal was finally authorized. Still, Congress refused the needed funds and the War Department took it upon itself to create the medal in 1907. The medal was issued in two styles, one for the army and one for the navy and although called a campaign medal it was more, in fact, a service medal since the only criteria for presentation was to have served in uniform between required dates of 1861 and 1865. Additionally, the medal was only issued to veterans still alive on are after 1907.

One also runs into a problem tracing the recipients of American campaign and service medals. Unlike their British counterparts which were generally engraved with the recipient’s service number, rank, name, and unit, usually on the planchette’s rim, American medals were sometimes impressed with a serial number only.   The Civil War Medal only had the first 554 issued with a serial number and only these can be traced as to the original recipient. Unless an unnumbered medal has an unbroken line of provenance there is no way to determine to whom the medal was issued too.

Later medals, such as this Philippine Insurrection Service Medal (also first authorized in 1905) were all issued with serial numbers although only some of these can be traced to specific soldiers or sailors. Three types of serial numbers were used. Some medals used a simple serial number, other had the number preceded by a prefix of either “No.” or “M No.”. Only the Philippine Medals with the “No.” prefix can be traced. Another problem lies in the erratic nature of the medal rolls themselves.

Unlike British medal rolls which list the same service information engraved on the specific medal’s rim and which were prepared and maintained by the recipient’s regiment, American “rolls”, or possibly more correctly indexes,  are simply a numerical list of serial numbers cross-referenced to a man’s name. Sometimes the man’s rank and unit are also listed, sometimes only his branch of service. Sometimes nothing more than his hometown and sometimes just a name and nothing else.

Eventually, all pretense as to keeping track of to whom a campaign medal was issued to, was scrapped and by the time of World War One the numbering system was abandoned.

Luckily for us, this particular Philippine Insurrection Medal was impressed with a serial number preceded by a “No.” prefix – No. 7236 – which can be traced to a specific soldier, and his story is perfectly suited to the “Great Game” section of Often called the Philippine Campaign Medal. this medal was issued to U.S. military personnel who took part in suppressing local rebellions on the islands after the close of the Spanish-American War. Qualification dates were between 1899 and 1913.

John Osborne Powell PI Medal No

Above: The prefixed serial number impressed on the bottom rim of Powell’s medal.

The recipient of this medal was First Sergeant John Osborne Powell of A Troop, 14th U.S. Cavalry. Powell’s story is an interesting one. A British subject by birth, he was born on 13 December 1872 at the British Consulate in Baghdad, in what was then Turkish Arabia, to Commander Walter John Powell of the Royal Indian Marine (basically the Anglo-Indian Navy but in general practice more like an Anglo-Indian Coast Guard) and Nicocris Susan Holland. At the time of his birth, the younger Powell’s father seems to have been serving in some as yet undetermined detached duty at Baghdad. Interestingly the Commander had his master’s certificate issued to him in Baghdad in 1871.

The 1881 Census for Westbury-on-Trym, Gloucestershire, lists Powell with his mother, brother, sister, cousin and two servants. Powell’s mother, Nicocris is listed as the family head and rather curiously their address is given as Baghdad. One assumes that Westbury-on-Trym was the family’s hometown and they were enumerated in absentia. Why John Walter Powell was not enumerated or listed as the head of household is unknown.

On 1 July 1889, 17-year-old John Osborne Powell arrived at New York on board the SS Adriatic. The ship’s manifest listed him as a student but no other clues can be gleaned at why he chose to visit the United States. What he did and where he went after arrival is unknown but on 24 August 1893, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Vancouver Barracks in Washington State as was assigned to E Troop, 4th U.S. Cavalry. At the time of his enlistment, he gave his occupation as a farmer. One wonders what prompted Powell to choose a military career as an enlisted man in the U.S. He was not yet a citizen (he would become one in 1904) and one would have thought that with his father being an officer in Her Majesty’s service that certain advantages may have been available to him had he decided to pursue a military career in Great Britain.

In any event, he was discharged after his first term of enlistment on 31 July 1898 at Honolulu, Hawaii Territory with the rank of sergeant. His character was listed as “excellent”. He almost immediately reenlisted on September 17, 1898, at the Presidio in San Francisco, California with H Troop, 4th U.S. Cavalry for a one year term of service being discharged at Honolulu, Hawaii Territory on February 23, 1899, with the rank of corporal. Again his character was listed as “excellent”. Powell had clearly decided on a career in the U.S. Army by this time.

The U.S. Army’s enlistment registers may not be complete since Powell’s next enlistment is dated March 24, 1902, at New York with F Troop, 7th U.S. Cavalry and was discharged as a sergeant on February 25, 1905, at Boise Barracks, Idaho. His character being “very good”.

Powell would continue reenlisting on the following dates and locations: October 30, 1906, Vancouver Barracks, Washington State (G Troop, 14th Cavalry), 14 December 1907, Vancouver Barracks, Washington State, (F Troop. 8th U.S. Cavalry) and being promoted 1st Sergeant during this enlistment. December 14, 1910, at Fort Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands (14th U.S. Cavalry). Interestingly, Powell’s discharge from this enlistment took part onboard the United States Army Transport “Thomas” during the vessel’s transit from the Philippines to California. His rank at this time was that of ordnance sergeant.

Powell seems to disappear from the Register of Enlistments after this last entry but his career can be picked up in the U.S. Army’s Returns from Military Posts. He apparently returned to the Philippines before 1914 as an ordnance sergeant after spending some time at the Presidio at Monterey, California. Back in the Philippines, seemingly now with the Ordnance Department, he was stationed at Camp Keithley on the southern island of Mindanao. The Returns show him at Camp Keithley until March 1915 when the Return for Camp Keithley states that Powell was: “Relieved fr [sic] duty at Camp Keithley. P.I., per SO 50, HPD., dated March 5, 1915. Left post on March 25/15.” “SO 59” appears to involve leave – possibly extended – being granted to a soldier.

Powell continued to serve as an ordnance sergeant and later master sergeant with the Ordnance Department through World War One, retiring from service as a master sergeant on November 8, 1921. At some time prior to September 1, 1919, he had been promoted 1st lieutenant in the Ordnance Reserve Corps. As of now, I have been unable to determine where and it what capacity Powell served during the U.S. participation in World War One. The 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri which destroyed 80% of the enlisted service records for the World War One era may preclude finding out more regarding Powell’s wartime service, although I do intend to submit an inquiry.

Powell had married Miss Mary Bowen Hooper at Baltimore, Maryland on January 18, 1919. The couple does not appear to have had any children.

Powell applied for a passport in 1921 to visit England, Belgium, and France with his recent bride. Powell’s mother, Nicocris was still alive so the couple no doubt spent time visiting her. Powell’s father had died in 1913. There is no evidence at this point that Powell served with the American Expeditionary Force during the war, but if he did perhaps he was taking his wife to see the localities involved with his wartime service.

John Osborne Powell Passport Photo

Above: A uniformed John Osborne Powell in a photograph taken from his 1921 U.S. passport application. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration. 

In the rather voluminous correspondence involved with his passport application, Powell relates his active service in the Philippines, on the Mexican Border, and during World War One. His service in the Philippines is confirmed by this medal and its corresponding mention in the Philippine Insurrection Medal index. Additionally, the index for the Spanish War Campaign Medal lists Powell as being entitled to that medal (No.7630) and mentions him being stationed at Savanna Proving Grounds in Illinois when the medal was issued (September 19, 1919).  Powell was also entitled to the World War One Victory Medal although due to the lack of records it is not known what if any battle of service clasps to his Victory Medal Powell may have been authorized to wear on the medal’s ribbon. The current whereabouts of these last two medals are not known.

After retirement from the army Powell and his wife took up residence in Maryland where in the 1940 Census he is listed as a farmer by way of occupation. Sometime prior to 1948 the Powells’ moved to La Jolla, California, not far from San Diego.

John Osborne Powell died on March 30, 1960, at La Jolla, California and was buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.