45th Infantry Division Thunderbird, Second Worldwar

Wilson Kale

Thunderbird 45th Division, Second Worldwar

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Chickasaw Times , August 2001. Permission to reproduce given by author, Tony Choate; [email protected]


A Family Tradition of Honor and a Legacy of Service

Statistics show that Native Americans have the highest record of military service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups, but the story of one Chickasaw family from Oklahoma probably says more about that tradition of military service than any set of statistics.
When Henry A. Kale and Lurena Cheadle married in Milburn, Oklahoma on October 21, 1913, there was little way they could have known their union would result in the birth of seven sons and three daughters, or that it would lead to a legacy of military service that would be celebrated into the next century.
That, however, is exactly what happened as every one of their seven sons - Wilson, Douglas, Claywood, Jack, Henry Jr., Kenneth and Carroll - served in the armed forces of the United States of America.
"This is a legacy that all Chickasaws, and all Americans, can be proud of," said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. "The fact that these seven brothers all volunteered to serve their country says a great deal about them as individuals. Beyond that, it says so much about the parents who taught them the Chickasaw traditions of honor, courage, patriotism and a willingness to make a personal sacrifice for the good of their fellow man."
Douglas, the second oldest of the brothers, put it this way, "I think the bottom line with us is we never forgot our tradition, our heritage. Our culture is still there. It will never go away.
"We're all real proud of our record. We live in a great country, and we're proud to have served it."
Four of the brothers served during World War II, while the others served in the Korean Conflict, with one of those also seeing Cold War duty during the Berlin Crisis as well as duty in Vietnam.
Claywood, the most decorated of the brothers, earned 13 battle stars during his service aboard the navy destroyer U.S.S. Sands in World War II, where he served in the Pacific Theater for his entire military career.
The Sands participated in virtually all the major battles against the Japanese empire, including Iwo Jima, Guam and Bataan among others, and was placed in dry dock twice to repair damages sustained in battle.
Claywood was president of the student council his senior year in high school and could have attended the college of his choice, but his patriotism led him to join the navy at the age of 17.
Eldest brother Wilson was awarded seven battle stars, and participated in D-Day landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Southern France, then proceeded through France, Alsace, Lorraine and across the Rhine River into Germany. He achieved the rank of seargent.
Wilson joined Oklahoma's 45th Division in 1940, He had basic and various training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma; Abilene, Texas; Ft. Divens, Mass.; Pine Camp, New York and Camp Pickett, Virginia. He departed for North Africa in 1943 and was in Munich, Germany on V-E Day in 1945.
Even though they returned home with such an outstanding record of military service, the relationship between each of the seven brothers and the father who raised them to be such brave patriots never changed, according to Douglas.
"When we got back, it didn't matter how many battle stars we had or where we'd been, Dad was still the big chief."
Douglas joined the Army in 1943 and was stationed in Bermuda for 18 months, where he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Jack also felt the call of duty during the second world war and joined the Navy at the tender age of 16, before returning home to finish high school after his tour of duty.
While too young to serve in World War II, Henry Jr. enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. He graduated fourth in a class of 300 from the Second Armored Division Leadership School and was promoted to sergeant first class while stationed in Baumholer, Germany.

Kenneth joined the Navy during the Korean conflict and served four years aboard the U.S.S. Inslow, which was engaged in many battles.
Carroll served in the Army from 1955 to 1957 and was recalled to active service during the Berlin crisis in October 1961. He retired from the Army in 1980, after 21 years of service, including time in Korea and Vietnam.
Considering the record of service of their brothers, it may come as no surprise that each of their three sisters wound up marrying military men.
Ramona married a marine while Helen married a member of the army.
Melba married Clarence Reed from Gene Autry, Oklahoma, who eventually became a navy pilot in World War II. During his time in the service, Clarence befriended Pappy Boyington, the marine pilot on who was the inspiration for the television series "Baa Baa Black Sheep."
The sense of personal and family pride instilled in each of the children by their parents and which led to such distinguished military careers for each of the brothers was evident at an early age, according to Melba.
"When we enrolled in Dundee School we all excelled. They all were football stars. Kenneth was a golden gloves boxer. Hank was a track man. I was in band and drama.
"The superintendent told me later - 'All these other kids grew up together, but when you all moved out here to go to school, you were so competitive and so active in sports and drama and all the other activities that these other kids had to come up and compete. You don't know what you did for this school.' I thought that was one of the highest compliments we could ever get."
Melba said their parents also inspired a sense of loyalty which helped hold the family together after the tragedy of their mother Lurena's death in 1939.
"Our mother died in '39 and we had a sister, Helen, who came back and helped our father raise us," said Melba. "She was working for our aunt at a bank in Tishomingo - and jobs were hard to come by at that time - but my father didn't have to ask her to come back. She just came back - and from that time on she helped our father raise the rest of us."
Perhaps Douglas found the best way to sum up the family legacy when he said, "Our folks raised us right. We're quite a family. We're a real dedicated family, real close."

Chickasaw Nation media relations coordinator, Tony Choate, can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

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