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Errata: Misattributed Casualties.


The following individuals have been identified in news reports or included in lists of SCV war casualties over the years but either did not live in the Santa Clarita Valley or did not die as a result of their military service.


WORLD WAR II.

 

PVT Malcolm Lawrence Potter, U.S.M.C. — Born September 28, 1921, in San Fernando to Wilbur L. Potter (1882-1934) and Amy M. (Harteau) Potter (1890-1979). Married Althea Cummings on Oct 13, 1940, in Yuma, Arizona. Wilbur Potter was the proprietor of Potters Milling Co., with feed store locations in Newhall and Pacoima. (Milling, as in feed mill.) Wilbur Potter's Newhall location was a building he erected in 1931 at Railroad Avenue and 12th Street. The building later became Newhall Lumber Company and still stands (2019). Malcolm Potter lived in San Fernando and worked at the Pacomia store when he registered for the draft in February 1942. He was assigned to A Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. He was killed in action September 15, 1944, and was laid to rest at Fort William McKinley in Manila, the Philippines. His widow, Althea, lived at 2014 6th Street in San Fernando. His mother, who was widowed (Wilbur died in a 1934 car crash), lived at 1559 Grandview Avenue in Glendale.

 

U.S. Army Air Force CAPT Milton Edison Soward — Although his parents and some of his siblings lived in the Santa Clarita Valley and various sources identify him as a Saugus or Los Angeles County resident, evidence suggests otherwise. CAPT Soward was born in Lebanon, Missouri, on May 17, 1918, to Missouri natives William Arthur Soward (1882-1964) and Lue Bertha Hamilton Soward (1887-1954). In 1920 the family lived in Missouri; by 1930 they had moved to Pasadena. Before 1940, CAPT Soward (who went by "Edison") was living with a sister in Avondale, Arizona, outside of Phoenix. Local news reports indicate he played basketball at Litchfield Park High School in Avondale in 1937-38. His draft card, filed October 29, 1940, is probably the source of confusion. He apparently picked it up in Saugus on October 16, 1940, and filed it in Buckeye, Arizona (the local recruiting station for Avondale).

Assigned to the 386th Fighter Squadron, 365th Fighter Group, known as the Hell Hawks, CAPT Soward was flying his 19th mission when on April 24, 1944, he took off from Beaulieu, England, to provide aerial support for 8th Air Force bombers returning from Southern Germany. He was last seen that afternoon north of Amiens, France, after strafing a Heinkel He 111. The official War Department report lists the cause of his disappearance as "unknown;" a German report is said to confirm he was shot down by flak and crashed near Arras in northern France. The Los Angeles Times reported him missing in June 1944, and he was still MIA in April 1945 when his mother received medals. His final resting place is Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial in France. It is unclear whether the headstone his father ordered is a grave marker or a cenotaph. No date is given on the interment card, and no death announcement has been discovered.

Exactly when CAPT Soward's family members first came to the SCV is unknown, but they had done so by 1942. At some point his parents divorced. His mother worked at Bermite Powder Company in Saugus during the war (as did his sister Nadine) and lived at 2111 Sierra Highway in Mint Canyon, probably until her death in 1954. His father lived in Pasadena when he ordered the headstone; he came (returned?) to the SCV about 1962 and lived at 26844 Sand Canyon Road until his death two years later.

 

Wallace Irving Willett Jr. — Born in Hollywood on October 3, 1926, to Wallace Jones "Jonesy" Willett (1898-1970, originally from Missouri), and Velma Simpson Willett (1898-1970, from Pennsylvania). A week after his 17th birthday in 1943, he enlisted in the Navy Seabees and was sent to basic training at Camp Peary, Virginia, where he was trained to operate a bulldozer. Three months later, en route home to visit his parents, he fell ill and was taken to an army field hospital near Needles where he was diagnosed with appendicitis and pneumonia. He was subsequently transported to Corona Naval Hospital in Riverside County where he died February 4, 1944. Although his obituary states he lived in Newhall his whole life, in 1930 the family was living in the San Fernando Valley. By 1940 (probably in 1934) the Willetts had moved to Rice Canyon, southwest of Newhall. Wallace Sr. was a ranch manager at Orcutt Ranch on Oat Mountain while young Wallace Jr. attended Newhall School and then San Fernando High School. The 1946 high school yearbook lists Wallace Jr. on a Gold Star service roster, and he was buried at Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth with full military honors despite being too young for active service. His mother died on what was reportedly her 50th wedding anniversary in 1970, and his father followed her three weeks later.

 

Research by Tricia Lemon Putnam, 2019.

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