About the "Remembering Our Own" Collection

The information in this collection is compiled from Robert Nelson's two books, Old Soldier: the story of the Grand Army of the Republic in Santa Cruz County and Remembering Our Own: the Santa Cruz County Military Roll of Honor 1861-2010. Descriptions of these two works and their contents follows.

Old Soldier: the Story of the Grand Army of the Republic in Santa Cruz County

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans includes approximately 1100 veterans of the Civil War who spent some portion of their life in Santa Cruz County. It was compiled by local researcher Robert L. Nelson, with the assistance of Santa Cruz County historian Phil Reader.

In the late 1970's, Phil Reader accumulated obituaries, biographical sketches and other facts relating to the Civil War soldiers who had either enlisted in local units, or lived in the county following the Civil War. He also gathered copies of articles, periodicals and journals relating to the Grand Army of the Republic posts in the county. Reader expanded his research by conducting surveys of several local cemeteries. From this material he developed a database which consisted of approximately 350 Civil War veterans.

In 1997 Robert Nelson, California Department Historian for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, began registering the graves of Civil War veterans in the county. Phil Reader, also then a member of the SUVCW, made his files available in order to provide an expanded database. All county cemeteries were then resurveyed to insure completeness.

An 1886 roster of members of GAR posts within Santa Cruz County, along with other GAR material, located at the Sutro Library in San Francisco, produced the names of additional "Old Soldiers". A review of the Santa Cruz Sentinel issues between 1865 and 1933 brought the total veteran count to approximately 1100. Over 455 Civil War veterans are buried in Santa Cruz County.

Military information relating to the veterans was primarily obtained from Historical Data Systems which has accumulated one of the largest single databases of Civil War veteran statistics. In some cases copies of pension records, and records of service were found which supplemented our information. Finally, records from the U.S. Soldiers Home at Sawtelle, California were reviewed and data relating to Santa Cruz County residents was retrieved.

A number of county sources provided the information used to complete the veteran statistical listing. Indexed editions of Santa Cruz Great Registers (Voters Registers) for the years 1866, 1882, 1892, 1908 and 1916 were checked for age, address, occupation and nativity. The archives of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Pajaro Valley Historical Association and the Santa Cruz Genealogical Association were searched extensively for additional statistical and biographical data, along with photographs. Death records were checked at the County of Santa Cruz Recorders Office for deaths occurring within the county, and the California Death Index was utilized to identify those veterans who died elsewhere in the state.

Remembering Our Own: the Santa Cruz County Military Roll of Honor 1861-2010

The primary purpose of this work is to provide a memorial obituary for military personnel of Santa Cruz County who died while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces during a period of war. Each of the biographies is presented in a similar format with the central focus being on their military experience and subsequent death. 

During World War I, World War II and the Korean conflict, information regarding the death of servicemen was frequently late in arriving and masked by military censors. When details were finally received in Santa Cruz, if at all, the death was yesterday's news and not printed. This has necessitated the reconstruction of an obituary or sketch for this publication. In the absence of supporting tales and remembrances, an attempt has been made to draw a picture of what our serviceman's unit was experiencing during the final phase of his life. 

Biographical sketches were placed in the chronological sequence of death dates to provide the reader with a perspective of the greater war drama in which the individual was participating. The intent of these sketches is to provide a snapshot of an individual, not a detailed genealogical document. Most resource material was derived from government agencies, newspaper obituaries, Internet and similar sources, all subject to error. Every attempt has been made to check the accuracy of the facts presented in this book; however, it must be stressed that, as in any reference document, these facts may require additional confirmation.

Photographs, when available, were included to enhance each biographical sketch. Due to the very low quality of many photos, considerable enhancement was required and the results are often of marginal quality. When photos of individuals were unavailable, a photo of their headstone was substituted when locally obtainable. If neither was available, a cemetery photo was often added when the burial location was known. If no source is credited for the photograph, the photo is by the author.

Residency Criteria

How should Santa Cruz County residency be defined in identifying its war dead? For the US government the answer was simple. If an individual designated the county as their residence or that of their next of kin at the time of their enlistment, that became their home of record. While objectively simple this poses subjective problems. Should servicemen who were only temporarily assigned in the county be considered residents? Should former residents who were born, educated, worked and lived in Santa Cruz County and moved to another community prior to entry into the armed forces be excluded? 

During World War II the Santa Cruz Sentinel did not address the questions of when the deceased veterans lived in the community, why or for how long. To be included in their roll of honor they merely solicited the names of "those individuals from northern Santa Cruz County serving in the armed forces of the United States." The Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, on the other hand, stipulated that "to be eligible for the Pajaro Valley Roll of Honor the member of the armed forces must have his or her bona fide home in this valley." It was their belief that if a resident moved, the new community would recognize them. To resolve these differences, this updated Military Roll of Honor has combined all of the previously used residency parameters in establishing the following criteria: 

1. The state of California defines residency as occurring when an individual makes their home or takes a job in the state. A driver’s license application states that "Residency is established by: voting in California elections; paying resident tuition at a California college or university; filing for a home owner's exemption; obtaining a license, or receiving any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents." This updated Military Roll of Honor incorporates these parameters and extends the interpretation to include their minor children. 

2. The boundaries of Santa Cruz County determine the area of residency for purposes of this roll of honor, with one exception. The Pajaro Valley overlaps into San Benito and Monterey counties and those residents have been considered part of greater Watsonville and included in their honor rolls. This roll of honor continues that practice. 

3. If a military casualty had identified Santa Cruz County as his or her residence when enlisting in the armed forces during a period of war, they were included in this roll of honor. 

4. If a high school, community memorial, or a newspaper honor roll recognized an individual, they were included in this roll of honor, unless that listing was proven to be incorrect, which occasionally occurred. 

5. If through birth, education, employment, marriage, church affiliation, organizational membership, local military association, and so forth, there was evidence that the casualty had a bona fide residency link with the county, they were included. 

6. Service personnel who were temporarily assigned to one of the military facilities in the county were not included unless they specifically chose to be identified as residents.

Type and Cause of Death

The lists of war dead appearing on the United Veterans Council updated Military Roll of Honor represent all the types of death included in previous honor rolls. 

Following World War II, the US War Department classified casualty types as Killed in Action (KIA), Died Non Battle (DNB), Died of Wounds (DOW), Finding of Death (FOD) and Missing (M). This system was modified by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) during the Korean War and changed again during the Vietnam War. In all of those conflicts only war-related and limited service related deaths were included on their listings. 

From the Civil War through the Vietnam War, illness and accidents represented a sizeable portion of the military deaths, yet those deaths have frequently been omitted from honor rolls. Local veteran and high school memorials have occasionally included them, though not consistently. Santa Cruz and Watsonville newspapers have similarly been inconsistent at including non-combat related deaths on their honor rolls. 

To maintain consistency this memorial will not attempt to differentiate in types of death and will honor all county residents who died in service during a period of war. 

Periods of War

The dating of United States conflicts has not posed a significant problem; however, some modifications had to be made. The official listing used by the US government to define war years is the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) "Periods of War for VA Benefits Eligibility." The dates for those conflicts are: 

Indian Wars January 1, 1817 - December 31, 1898 
Spanish American War April 21, 1898 - July 15, 1903 
Mexican Border Period May 9, 1916 - April 5, 1917 
World War I April 6, 1917 - November 11, 1918 
World War II December 7, 1941 - December 31, 1946 
Korean War June 27, 1950 - January 31, 1955 
Vietnam War 
Serving in Vietnam February 28, 1961 - May 7, 1975
All other VW period vets August 5, 1964 - May 7, 1975 
Middle East Wars August 2, 1990 - 

That document will be used in this roll of honor with three exceptions: 

1. The DVA listing does not include the American Civil War. April 12, 1861, the firing on Fort Sumter, and April 9, 1865, the surrender at Appomattox, are commonly used to define the beginning and ending of the American Civil War. This roll of honor extends that period into the DVA Indian War period (1817-1898) to accommodate local men recruited during the Civil War and who continued to serve and died at frontier forts. 

2. During World War I, three county servicemen died early in 1919 while awaiting discharge. Local honor rolls included them, as will this roll of honor. 

3. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, began the US combat phase of World War II, yet the country mobilized reserves and instituted the draft for the war in early 1941. On May 27, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued a "Declaration of Unlimited National Emergency," which became the starting date for the War Department's World War II Honor list. I have similarly chosen to use that date to include four county veterans who died during that period.