Ernest D. Bettencourt (1950/11/27)

For three years Juanita Bettencourt waited to hear what had become of her husband Ernest.

Ernest David Bettencourt was born in Santa Cruz County, California on May 21, 1928, to Edmond and Evangeline Bettencourt. During his two years at Watsonville High School, Ernest lived in the rural Interlaken district with his mother and her second husband, Ray Cantonwine. After leaving school, Ernest was employed at a local mortuary.

On February 7, 1946, Bettencourt enlisted in the regular army and was assigned to the Military Police Corps in Hawaii for training. Following basic training, he transferred to the Army Medical Corps and after receiving instruction as a medic, he was stationed in Japan for the next four years. In 1950 he was reassigned to a medical unit attached to the 2nd Engineers Combat Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Division stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. On July 17, 1950, he and Juanita Churchill of Watsonville were married in Olympia, Washington.

Ernest Bettencourt's unit was shipped to Korea on July 20, 1950. In November the 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, supported by A Battery of the 503rd Field Artillery Battalion, was fighting on the high ground near the Kunu-ri Anju-Sinanju road in North Korea. It was near that location that Ernest Bettencourt earned his Silver Star. The citation accompanying the award noted that
“On November 27, 1950, Sergeant Bettencourt, a medical corpsman, volunteered for a scouting patrol in enemy territory. While on high ground in the vicinity of Wollyong-ni, Korea, the patrol was attacked by small arms and machine gun fire. The two lead scouts were wounded and five other men in the patrol hit. Sergeant Bettencourt exposed himself to the hail of fire, gave first aid to the men and then supervised their evacuation when the patrol was ordered to withdraw.”

In 1951 Juanita received notification that Ernest had won the award and awaited his return to share her excitement, but that would not occur. Soon afterward she received notification that he was missing in action. For the next three years Ernest's fate was unknown. Not until January 1954 did the army confirm his death to Juanita. His body was never recovered. In addition to the Silver Star, Ernest D. Bettencourt was posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class and awarded the Purple Heart.

(CBR; NARA2; NARAK; ABMC, Korean War Almanac Pg. 242, WRP July 27, 1950 3:4, January 8, 1954 1:5)

Creator: Nelson, Robert L.
Source: Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010.
Date: Undated
Type: OBIT
Coverage: 1950s
Rights: Reproduced by permission of Robert L. Nelson and The Museum of Art & History.


Nelson, Robert L. “Ernest D. Bettencourt (1950/11/27).” Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010. SCPL Local History. Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.