Lt. Arbuckle

When you look at the Honor Roll Page of the Kiowa County men and woman who have died serving our country in the wars of the Twentieth Century, you will notice the name, William Nathan Arbuckle, a casualty of WWII.

William, referred to as Bill by his family, was born July 28, 1917, in Anadarko, OK, to Jesse William and Mary Etta Gibson Arbuckle. Bill, one of six siblings, was raised in Mangum and Hobart. He was a graduate of Hobart High School about 1935, where he played football.

Bill's family lived on a modest income. They owned a small house located at 310 West 4th. It was located in the vicinity of the bank drive up, Broadway and 4th, south of United Grocery. It had one bedroom for the parents, one for the two sisters, Dorine and MariAnn, and a large enclosed back porch for the four brothers, Bill, Jesse, Jr. (always called "Jay"), Lloyd and Vance. Bill's father, Jesse, worked for the local dairy and produce plant, Wright's Produce, first in Mangum, then, after 1930, at Hobart. They packaged milk, butter, poultry and eggs for Hobart and several small towns nearby. When old enough, Bill worked there after school. Mr. Arbuckle retired in 1946 and the family moved to Midland, in western AR.

He joined the Navy with the intent of becoming a career pilot in late 1937 or 1938. He acquired a spot and completed flight school at Pensacola, FL. Before WWII, he served as a test pilot at Pensacola, flew a PBY in Cuba, and cruised and flew throughout the South Pacific. When WWII came, he was assigned to the carrier, USS Kasaan Bay, in the Mediterranean where he met his death August 20, 1944, just 23 days after his 27th birthday.

Bill's brothers, Jay and Lloyd, also joined the millitary. Jay was in the Army Medical Corp and died in 1945. Because the War Department policy limited the number of deaths any family could suffer in the war, Lloyd was kept in the US until the end of the war.

Lt. Arbuckle's death left a young wife, Elodie, whom he married shortly before entering flight school, his parents, Jesse and Mary, two sisters, Dorine and MariAnn, and three brothers, Jay, Lloyd, and Vance, to mourn his loss. Kiowa County also lost one of her sons.

MariAnn recalls that Bill was especially loved by the family. "He was obviously our parents' favorite," she says, "but the funny thing is that none of the rest of the kids minded that at all. Maybe it was because he was our favorite, too." Mari Ann and Vance are the only survivng family members.

Fifty-eight years ago, August 15, 1944, the Allied invasion of Southern France, Operation Anvil - Dragoon, began. Hellcats, Wildcats, Spitfires, American and British aircraft carriers and destroyers struck at the German coastal defenses around the city of Me'ze in southwestern France, and the islands of the Mediterranean. The days would be hard fought as the Allies fight to gain a foothold in France, and many would die

Flying cover for the infantry, the skies were filled with Allied planes. Their missions were to attack the gun emplacements, road convoys and munitions trains hurrying German troops to intercept the Allied invasion. Destroyers, USS Augusta, Quincy and Nevada pounded the coastal defenses constantly, guided by the Hellcats above. Bombers of the 12th and 15th Army Air Corps dropped their loads on designated targets, to further protect the troops.

Top row, center, with pencil to mouth, Lt. Arbuckle

At 06:02 AM, August 20, 1944, VF-74 Squadron, Flight #30, lifted off from the deck of the USS Kasaan Bay, heading inland toward Montpelier. Outside Montpelier, the flight saw four wagons, which turned out to be munitions, on the roadside. They made one low level strafing run, resulting with one wagon exploding, sending debris 250’ into the air. This debris struck one of the 6 planes, knocking off sections of starboard elevator and stabilizer. The plane handled satisfactorily, the pilot apparently unaware of the seriousness of the damage, the flight continued on toward Balaruc.

On this heading, the flight located an enemy convoy of troop carriers, cargo and tank trucks. Due to poor weather in the area, the flight let down through the clouds, (ceiling approximately 600’) to strafe. The flight made four runs, in the face of light and medium Anti-Aircraft fire. Before relinquishing their attack, the pilots counted 15 troop carriers, 4 tank trucks and a command car on fire. The troop carriers were carrying enemy troops, many of whom were probably killed.

After these runs, the pilot of the aircraft damaged earlier by the exploding ammo wagon, asked Flight leader, Lt. John H. Shroff to check the damage. At this point, Lt. JG. W. N. Arbuckle, USN, one of two pilots lost on the flight, was still flying right wing of the Flight Leader. Lt. Shroff circled the damaged plane, then ordered the pilot to return to base, assigning another plane as escort. They returned safely
Immediately after these planes turned for base, Lt. Shroff looked for Arbuckle, but could not find him. Arbuckle was called on all radio frequencies, but did not respond. Lt. Shroff, Lt. Gerald G. Hogan (NY) and Lt. John M. Thomas circled the area for 10 minutes searching for him, and then continued with the flight. Lt. Arbuckle was never seen again. Unknown to them, his plane had been hit with AA fire and had crashed.(Read the Action Report)

Lt. Arbuckle crashed at Me'ze, near Sete Harbor, in Southern France, as a result of A. A. fire. He was buried in the Catholic Church Cemetery, August 23, 1944. On the grave of Lt. Arbuckle, the Mayor, Thomas Bessiere ordered the following words to be engraved:

"Here lies William Nathan Arbuckle, an American airman killed in action in the sky of Me'ze, on August 20, 1944, for our liberation. We shall never forget him."

A year later the remains were removed to The US Military Cemetery, Dinoze', near Epinol, Voges, North East France. There is a memorial stone for him, placed in the Arbuckle Family Plot at Rose Cemetery, Hobart, OK.

Navy Lt William Nathan Arbuckle was awarded the Purple Heart; American Area Campaign Ribbon; Air Medal Distinguished Flying Cross; European-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon; WWII Victory Medal; Bronze Star, and Presidential Unit Citation for his service.

On September 7, 2002, there was a Memorial held in Meze, France for Lt. William Nathan Arbuckle. The ceremony was organized by the Town Council of Me’ze, the Regional committee of the French National Memory of Me’ze and The Order of Merit of Herault members, chaired by Me’ze mayor, Mr. Henry Frisou. A delegation of United States veterans attending included former members of VF-74 Squadron, Commander Leo Horacek and wife Cora of Morgantown, WV, Mrs. Irene Johnson Rygg, sister of VF-74 pilot, Lt. Robert J. Johnson, KIA August 1944, Mrs. Rygg’s daughter, Jane Rygg, Randi Eaton and Mary Roper nephew and nieces of Lt. Johnson, Gerald Griffin Hogan, Jr, son of Lt. G. G. Hogan, that was the #4 pilot in Arbuckle’s flight, Richard Uribe, sailor and cable man on the USS Kasaan Bay, or their relatives, and Mr. James C. Faulkner, former US serviceman, now living in Balaruc.(See the Newspaper article in the Me'ze Newspaper)

Many dignitaries attended that included the General Jean-Luc Brousse, Retired, French Army, President of The French Memory, General Pierre Hubac, Retired French Air Force, member of the National Order of Merit, Mr. Re’my Pascal, familiar with the navy pilots of 1944, local personalities from the college, schools, police and firemen, along with witnesses of the events, the citizens of Meze, an American Legion group from Meze, and Mr. Marcel Ertel, the originator of the ceremony.

The French-American ceremony began at the Catholic Cemetery where Lt. Arbuckle was first buried, before the War Memorial, with the evocation, then speeches by the mayor of Me’ze, Mr. Henry Fricou, General Jean-Luc Brousse, of The French Memory and Mr. Maicent, President of the National Order of Merit.

Address of General Jean-Luc Brousse
Address of Mr. Maicent

From the cemetery, the delegations and guests proceeded by a caravan of private vehicles, through a protected and organized route to the rond-point (roundabout, traffic circle), an exit from a major highway to Me’ze about one mile to the north.

There a granite monument with a plaque, placed earlier, was draped with the flags of the US and France.

After short comments, this monument was unveiled. The plaque shows the flags of the US and France, a drawing of an F6F-5 Hellcat, such as Lt. Arbuckle flew. The plaque reads: "In Memory of Lt. USN William Nathan Arbuckle born July 28, 1917, in Anadarko. Died on the Field Of Honor on August 20, 1944 in Me’ze. The people of Me’ze do not forget".

Photo #1, first row, l-r, Gen. J-L Brousse, Marcel Ertel, Irene Johnson Rygg, Cora Horacek, Cmdr. USNR Leo Horacek, Pilot with VF-74, 15-29 Aug. 1944, Landing Southern France
Second row, Mary Roper, Randie, Eaton, Jane Rygg Ropman

This traffic circle will bear the name. “Lt. USN William Nathan Arbuckle”. Its location is near the place where Lt. Arbuckle crashed in 1944.

Address of General Jean-Luc Brousse

Following the ceremonies a reception, provided by the citizens of Me'ze , was held at the Tauras Restaurant, on Mediterrain St in Meze. Short comments were made, after which the guests ate, then mingled.

A wreath of yellow roses, with a ribbon reading "FRANCE REMEMBERS! Aug. 15, 1944; Sept. 7, 2002" and an American flag, was placed at Lt. William Nathan Arbuckle's Memorial stone in Rose Cemetery, Sept. 7, 2002.

Marcel Ertel was a career airman in the French Air Force, specializing in Military Air Control, flying on a Boeing KC-135-F, refueling in flight, jet planes for the FAF. After he retired, his love of flying and admiration for the US pilots that died in the Liberation of South France, led to researching and locating the sites of the crashes and deaths of these pilots. His efforts have culminated in formal dedication ceremonies of memorials for many of "his pilots". He has received numerous certificates and accolades from US Air Force personnel for his achievements at recognizing fellow US servicemen, who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in France.

You can check out his page here on the Liberation of South France. Please be patient as it has many photos.

Return To Kiowa County Page
Return To France Remembers

The information for this Memorial for USN Lt. William Nathan Arbuckle has been supplied by the researcher in France, Mr. Marcel Ertel, Arbuckle family members, Kiowa County records. Thank you all for making this possible. Thank you to Mayor Jacky Gerard and his town council, Me'ze, Mr. Peirre Decamps, veteran WWII 2nd Tank Division, Landing Southern France, for his prescious assistance and generosity for arranging the lodging and meals with better wines for the American delegation. Thank you also to Mr. and Mrs. Yvon Crouan, President of Veterans of WWII. Thank you to the delegations of Sailors and Airmen of Toulon. Thank you, Lt. Arbuckle, and all our military men and women, for your sacrifice for Freedom.

"People sleep peaceably at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf"......George Orwell

"Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands.
Protect them as they protect us. Bless them
and their families for the selfless acts they
perform for us in our time of need. I ask this
in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Copyright, 1998-2003
Web Page November 11,2002

NOTICE: All research materials regarding VF-74 and VOF-1 Squadrons, including but not restricted to, documents, research, photos are the exclusive property of the French Military Historian and Researcher, Mr. Marcel Ertel, Les Villettes, Haute-Loire, France. The personal photos of various pilots provided by their families are the exclusive property of the pilot's families. Photos from the collection of Captain Harry Basore, USN, remain the exclusive property of Capt. Basore. Mr. Ertel, Captain Basore and the families have graciously permitted me to use the information for this Memory Album dedicated to those pilots. Thank you all.

This information compiled, prepared and submitted to this site by Ethel Taylorand remains the property of the submitter

NOTICE: Ethel Taylor grants that this information and data may be used by non-commercial entities, as long as this message remains on all copied material, for personal and genealogical research. These electronic pages CAN NOT be reproduced in any format for profit, CAN NOT be copied over to other sites. It may be linked to, or other presentation only with written permission of Ethel Taylor.