UPDATED NOV 20 2014
Having just moved back to the Orting, Washington area after an absence of over 20 years, I’ve gotten involved with the local Orting Historical Society. One of their current projects is the restoration of the War Memorial in the Orting City Park. The Memorial was originally built sometime after August 7, 1944, as The City Council meeting notes state that the building of the War Memorial was approved on that day. Originally, the front of the wall included 3 cases in which were the names of WWII veterans that served from Orting. The names were on small bronze plates and included a star to the side of the name if the person died in the service. There were at least 261 names on the wall. I remember the cases with the names on them, as I went by the memorial on my way to school every day. Based upon an Orting Oracle photo in our files that was originally taken with a black & white Polaroid camera, the Roll of Honor cases were no longer on the front of the Memorial Wall sometime after 1961, but was likely much later, maybe as late as 1966 or 67. The rededication of the memorial took place just this last November 11.
However, there’s a rather sad mystery as deals with the three Honor Roll cases, and the story keeps evolving. At some point all the cases with the names disappeared, torn from the front of the memorial. The story as I’ve heard it was that the Orting area included included a man who served, but had Japanese ancestry (This I know, as these folks were our family friends). The family asked that his name be added to the War Memorial. The Local American Legion, who along with the Lions Club, had built the memorial, refused to add the name to the wall, stating that they would remove all the names of our Orting veterans rather than have them displayed alongside someone with Japanese ancestry. And that seems to be exactly what happened. So far, we’ve not found out what happened to the 3 cases making up the Honor Roll. Looking back from over half a century later, this seems racist, and honestly, rather stupid. Racism against those of Japanese ancestry was rampant during and for years after WWII – especially on America’s west coast. I’ve written about all this many times before, and at this point I consider it just another difficult part of our history.
Although there are no plans to add names to the memorial, I’d like to construct a listing of those folks who lived in Orting and served with the military in WWII. I may expand this as time goes on to include other wars and conflicts.
The trick is to only include those with Orting City and rural addresses – for Orting is the home of the Washington State Soldiers Home, where virtually thousands of vets have lived, and died. FamilySearch has the microfilm of the applications to live at the Soldiers’ Home, and the a Washington State Digital Archives has them digitized from 1891 to 1987. There are 9184 records in this database. However, you can’t just browse the database. All searches are based on knowing a name to begin with.
Issues of the Orting Oracle (on microfilm at the Pierce County Library), as well as the WWII Draft Registration Cards found at Ancestry.com seem to be a good starting point (keeping in mind that men didn’t necessarily serve just because they registered). I found 259 men who listed Orting as their place of residence when registering for WWII. There are also other online databases that include information that I can pull from.
So the project begins… Do you have ancestors who served from Orting? If so I’d love to here from you. Add comments – or write me at Lmeitzler@gmail.com.