Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995 Page: 114
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
Sgt. William David Austin
March 7, 1919 - November 17, 1941
The first casualty from Colorado County is not included on the courthouse
plaque. He was Sgt. William David Austin of Eagle Lake. He was overlooked perhaps
because his death came twenty days before Pearl Harbor. Obviously, at that time, no
one was keeping statistics on war casualties. Austin, the son of Thomas E. and Ethel
Magee Austin, was born March 7, 1919. He attended Eagle Lake schools.
In November 1941, he was stationed at Randolph Field in San Antonio, but
had been home on a short furlough. Driving back after midnight on a Sunday night, he
was killed in an automobile accident, a head-on collision, on Highway 90, one-half mile
east of Vasek's store in Borden. The accident occurred when Austin swerved his car to
the left to avoid hitting an unlighted trailer, which was stopped in the road, and met an
oncoming vehicle. Austin was taken to John H. Bell Memorial Hospital in Columbus,
where he died shortly thereafter of head injuries. He was buried at Lakeside Cemetery
in Eagle Lake with full military honors. The services included a detachment of soldiers
from Randolph Field. Austin was twenty-two-years-old when he died. He was survived
by two sisters, Pauline Clark and Mrs. J. M. Colburn, and a brother, Cordell Austin.6
Austin's name has not been included in most war memorials, presumably
because his death did not take place during the period of hostilities. However, the Eagle
Lake High School marker included Austin's name among the war dead from the school.
His name is not on the plaque at the courthouse and, since he does not have a military
gravestone, his grave is often not marked with the traditional American flag on Veterans
and Memorial Days. Ironically, in addition to his name and dates of birth and death, his
gravestone is inscribed with the motto, "gone but not forgotten." Austin's first cousin,
Carl W. Austin, named his son William David Austin II in memory of the young man.
The hostilities ignited by the Japanese sneak attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet
at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, quickly thrust Americans, Colorado County men among them,
into hazardous duty. Although men were missing or wounded very early on, no Colorado
County man is known to have died in the opening hostilities. In 1975, the Weimar
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Auxiliary placed a marker, which aimed to commemmo-
rate the dead of all wars from the Weimar area, and which, since Weimar is so close to
the county line, therefore obviously includes some men who cannot be considered
Colorado County casualties. The marker states that Wallace Taylor died at Pearl Harbor
on December 7, 1941. Any connection he might have to Colorado County has not been
determined. He is not listed on the Veterans Commission lists for Colorado, Lavaca, or
At any rate, Colorado County got a taste of death soon enough. Residents
learned the sad truth that someone could die, as indeed a great many would, without
entering combat, and without even leaving the United States. These truths came quickly
home with the news of the deaths of Orville Baker and Frank Shimek.
6 Colorado County Death Records, vol. 5, p. 560; Weimar Mercury, November 21, 1941; Eagle Lake
Headlight, November 21, 1941; Colorado County Citizen, November 20, 1941.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995, periodical, September 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151395/m1/6/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.