Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995 Page: 115
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Supreme Sacrifice: Colorado County's World War /I Dead
Seaman 2nd Class Orville Lee Baker
February 24, 1920 - January 9, 1942
Orville Lee Baker was the first Colorado County boy who died in the military
after Pearl Harbor. As such, the event drew substantial attention, even though his death
was not combat-related. At the time of his death, from blood poisoning, Baker was a
seaman second class serving in the navy in California. According to Baker's brother,
Hume Baker of Sheridan, Orville had had a ruptured appendix in the late 1930s, and Dr.
J. R. Laughlin had told him that it had gone untreated so long that it would affect his
health in the future. Doctors in California confirmed that the blood poisoning that killed
him was a complication of the ruptured appendix.7
Born in Columbus on February 24, 1920, Baker was the son of Oscar and
Mamie Townsend Baker. He volunteered for the navy on July 21, 1941. A military funeral
was arranged after a group of sailors had escorted the body from the west coast to Rock
Island. The little church in Rock Island could by no means hold the crowd who came to
honor him. According to the Eagle Lake newspaper, many in attendance stated that it
was the largest funeral ever held in Rock Island, and "a ceaseless stream of friends
passed in review before his casket." He was survived by two brothers, Lewis and Hume,
and a sister, Annie Baker.8
Cpl. Frank I. Shimek
Died May 23, 1942
Little is known of Frank I. Shimek. He had served for five years, the last two
of them in Hawaii, when he died there at the age of 23 on May 23, 1942 of jaundice.
He was survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ignac Shimek, and by seven brothers and
sisters, Mrs. Anton Kocurek, Mrs. Bennie Schobel, Mrs. Adolph Mahalitc, Mrs. Elo
Schobel, Mrs. Albert Layesdecka, Leo Shimek, and Herman Shimek.9
Concurrently with Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched massive assaults
throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The Japanese advance captured, in short
order, Singapore, Malaysia, Guam, the Philippines, and Wake Island, and made large
inroads into Burma and New Guinea. The citizens of Columbus received more grim news:
a local boy, Kearby Watson, was missing in action in the Philippines.
At the end of April 1942, the Japanese resumed their advance with the aim
of isolating Australia. The American fleet checked their initiative in the Battle of Coral
Sea, fighting the Japanese Imperial Navy to a standstill. The Battle of Coral Sea began
May 7, 1942. It was the first sea battle fought completely by aircraft of opposing fleets.
That engagement was quickly followed by the first truly offensive action of the war on
the part of the United States, the landing of marines on Guadalcanal.
7 Eagle Lake Headlight, January 23, 1942. Hume Baker was himself a tank driver in the 3rd Armored
Division of General Omar Bradley's U. S. First Army in Europe in World War II.
8 Colorado County Birth Records, vol. 4, p. 20; Eagle Lake Headlight, January 23, 1942.
9 Colorado County Citizen, June 4, 1942.
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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/m1/7/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed November 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.