Sylvia Caldwell Rankin, Editor/TCFA

A memorable Christmas …

by Sylvia Caldwell Rankin, Editor/TCFA on March 30, 2014

This story was sent to us by Puett L. (Cauble) Willcox Jr. who was a Christmas Prisoner of War during World War II

puett“Seventeen days prior to my twentieth birthday I was in a B24 ball turret flying out of Italy heading for a bombing mission over Weiner Neaustatd Austria. On the take-off roll I saw Jesus, He informed me that something bad was going to happen but He would take care of me.  Six hours later and 29 minutes of flack our B24 was hit and burning.  The fire drove me from the turret, while I was snapping my chest parachute to my harness the plane blew in half and knocked me unconscious.  I woke up hanging from the place that my turret had been with control cables around my legs.  The tail of the plane was trying to fly but was falling and I kicked loose and fell from 25,000 feet to about 3,000 feet when I opened my parachute.  There was a welcoming committee of 30 soldiers shooting hole in my parachute. 

Oh! I forgot to mention that this was our radio operator’s 21st birthday and he didn’t get a party for his birthday, we told him that we thought that’s what all the fireworks was about.  The Austrians kelp almost 1,000 American Airmen that they had shot down that day, May 10 1944, for 5 days before putting us in box cars and moving us to Frankfurt Germany.  After being interrogated in Frankfurt for six days they put us plus some 600 more airmen in box cars with 100 prisoners per car and sent us to a new prison camp in Poland.  The camp was about 20 miles from the Russian border and 5 miles from the North Sea.  The camp was named Stalagluft IV and had only 5 barracks for prisoners finished.  They kept us outside until we were processed which was only about 50 prisoners a day. I was the 436th prisoner to be processed so my POW number was 1436.  They added a thousand to our number to tell Berlin that they had more prisoners than they really had so as to get more food.  That didn’t work because there were no supply trains coming to that part of Poland.  I weighted 160 on May 10th and on June 22nd I weighed 92 pounds. This was typical of every prisoner in camp.

Now. Let us fast forward to Christmas Eve December 24 1944 and the camp had grown to more than 15,000+ American and British Airmen as prisoners. Every day the German guards would run us into our barracks at 5:00 PM and put the shutters on the windows and the bars on the doors until 7:00 AM.  Christmas eve they surprised the more than 15,000+ of us and turned on all of the outside lights and let us stay outside until 9:00 PM.  The sky was clear and full of stars; the ground was covered with snow, a sight that we had not seen since our capture.  About 7:30 one of the prisoners started singing “Silent Night” and without a prompt all 15,000+ prisoners joined in.  At the end of the first verse we all stopped and the German guards sang the first in their language.  We continued in this manner from on Christmas carol to the other until 9:00 when the guards politely ask us to return to our barracks.  No one has convinced me that our Lord Jesus wasn’t there that night. “

Footnote by Puett Willcox, Jr:
I was raised in Longview Texas from 1930 until entering the Army Air Corps in 1942.  My dear mother, Ruby Bernice (Cauble) Willcox moved to Memphis, Tennessee the same time that I enlisted. She received a telegram telling her that I was a prisoner of war and sent the information to our church and friends in Longview.  One of these advised the Longview news paper and somehow in the transmission the paper printed that I was killed in action.  This error was only corrected after I returned to Longview and knocked on a few doors and had a few women faint.  I went to the paper and they took a picture of me and wrote an apology stating that I was very much alive.  I have had 69 very wonderful Christmases since the one in Stalagluft IV, Praise The Lord!    

A Christmas Journey in 1950

by Sylvia Caldwell Rankin, Editor/TCFA on December 25, 2013


A most memorable Christmas for the family of Jack and Gean Cauble
as told to Kelcey Colclazer-Edwards (granddaughter)

In November of 1950, the U.S. Navy sent Jack Cauble a one-way ticket to Bremerton, WA. He was to report for duty on the U.S.S. Essex, docked at Naval Station Bremerton. Jack would leave behind a young wife, Gean, and two small daughters, Jackie (2) and Olive (5 months). This would also mean that they would not be together for Christmas.

Towards the beginning of December, Olive became seriously ill with pneumonia, and there was worry she would not survive. Messages were sent through the Red Cross to the Navy to try to get Jack back home on emergency leave. Checking in with the personnel office on the Essex, the Yeoman on duty informed Jack that the request had been denied. The Yeoman quoted the official response of the powers that be…”the child was not old enough to have formed an attachment to her” and there was no need for him to go home. Having taken extreme exception to that statement, Jack went sailing over the counter, intent on proving his displeasure to the Yeoman, who had the unfortunate job of delivering this thoughtless message. Luckily, a fellow sailor had gone with Jack that day, and managed to hold him back from throttling the Yeoman, and essentially keeping Jack out of the brig.

With her husband 1900 miles away, Gean did what a mother does. She took care of her babies. Olive seemed to get better day by slow day. She and Jack had planned for her and the children to go to Washington, but with Olive’s fragile state, they were afraid the trip would not happen. Finally, the doctors gave Olive the all clear to travel. On the afternoon of December 21, 1950, a ticket in hand, suitcases packed, and babies bundled up, an anxious young country girl, who had scarcely been out of Howard County, TX, boarded a train and set out on a journey see her young husband.

Apprehensive about the long trip with two small children, Gean’s unease must have been visible. A kind porter took it upon himself to check on her and the girls frequently. He would come by her compartment to see if she needed anything, or to carry or hold Jackie’s hand to the dining car. As Olive had been ill and had not had milk for quite a while, she was starting to get hungry. The doctors had said she could have some, and Gean was assured that she would be able to get it in the dining car, but the dining car was closed when she needed it. About this time, they were pulling into the depot in El Paso. Once again, the benevolent porter came to the rescue. He told Gean, there was no way that baby would make the long trip without some milk, and he would make sure she had some, and he knew just where to get it. He got off the train, went to a nearby café, and brought back milk for Olive.

Twenty-eight hours after their departure, around midnight, the weary passengers reached Los Angeles. Jack’s uncle, Buck Rogers, picked up Gean and the girls, and drove them to his home in Whittier, CA. There they got a few hours sleep, then headed back to the station to catch the 8 am train to Portland, OR.

Upon arriving in Portland, Gean learned that there would be a layover, due to weather. Tired and anxious, she pleaded with the ticket agent to get her on the next train to Seattle, because her husband was waiting for her. You see, Jack didn’t know that the train was delayed, and would be leaving soon for Seattle to wait for his wife and kids. Luckily, they were able to put Gean and the girls on the next train to Seattle, but she would come in to a different platform. She sent a telegram to the Essex, hoping to catch Jack before he left.

Jack in the meantime, had arrived at the depot in Seattle, and settled in with a book to wait for his family. Deciding that the chairs were more comfortable in another area of the depot, he moved there, knowing he had enough time to get back to where Gean would come in. So, he waited for hours…..and hours.

Gean arrives, and gets off the train to find that Jack is not there. Of course, she doesn’t know that he didn’t receive her telegram. It is late in the night, and they are tired and scared. She makes her babies as comfortable as she can and settles in to wait for her husband. At the other end of the station, Jack sat, reading his book. A station employee stopped and asked him if he was waiting for someone. Jack informs them that he is indeed waiting for his wife and kids. The person tells him that there is a young woman with two kids at the other end, but Jack assures them that it is not his party, because he knew what time they would be arriving. More waiting. Again, the employee urges Jack to just check and see if the young lady is his wife. Then he mentions that one of the little girls is wearing a little green jacket. Knowing Jackie had a little green jacket, he finally goes down to check, and there sat his covey of dove.

Jack had gotten a room at a nearby hotel, because it was Christmas Eve, and would be too late to head back to base. Off they go, to get some rest before the last leg of their journey. The next morning, the four of them hopped the ferry for Bremerton.

Ecstatic that their family was finally together and their long journey over, Jack escorted his ladies into the small, freezing base apartment that would be their home for the next three months. There on the table, sat a 15-inch Christmas tree, with a little string of lights, and two small teddy bears. One for each of his babies.

When asked about their most memorable Christmas, this is the story they told. Gean kept the bears and the lights from that Christmas for many years, along with many other family and holiday mementos. One year, a tornado ripped through their farm in Iraan, TX, destroying the barn where the mementos were kept. Though the physical pieces of those memories are gone forever, Jack and Gean have kept them in their hearts and minds always.


Continuing the story …

by Sylvia Caldwell Rankin, Editor/TCFA on June 28, 2013

Family Group Sheet (download now)

storyWe have unfortunately lost primary access to our history collected through the years by a family member.  A newly formed History Committee may be announced by TCFA President James Cauble at the 2013 reunion.  

The Committee’s goal will be to collect not only vital statistics on descendants of Peter Cauble and Mary Ann Rotan, but to collect photos, digital family momentos, and more.  We are interested in where our kin lived, how they worshipped, and what their livelihood was.  We will research why they may have moved to certain places … and what made them move on later.

Often a genealogist will follow only the direct blood line of their own surname.  We want to include lateral lines of Peter and Mary Ann Rotan Cauble, recognizing that their stories will be adding color and texture to our historic tapestry.  We will find the war records of our menfolk, as well as their units and campaigns — and explore what life was like for the women left at home during times of conflict.

If you are connected to Peter and Mary Ann Rotan Cauble and would like to participate, you can download a Family Group Sheet from the link above.    It can be filled out and returned to the Committee at the 2013 reunion.


More than just “face-to-face”

by Sylvia Caldwell Rankin, Editor/TCFA on June 22, 2013

Facebook has evolved from an application for social interaction to a great tool for businesses, non-profit organizations, research groups and more.  One need no longer be plagued with tweet-like postings of events in the daily lives of friends and family, as there are customization options available to contain that kind of information.

Facebook offers personal pages (where you allow friends to connect) and fan-based pages.  A fan-based page can be “liked” or not, but information is openly available.  If a fan-based page is “liked”, then postings on the page will show up in the News Feed of one’s personal page.

There are some fascinating Facebook fan-based pages online now.  
Traces of Texas is one of them.  It’s an off-shoot of the website, whose stated mission is offering thousands of photos of Texas to businesses and to the public.  Images are frequently submitted from a personal collection that we might never have the opportunity to see, if it were not for the Facebook posting.


Another interesting and somewhat controversial Facebook page is Defending the Heritage.  With more than 15,000 fans, it’s mission is described by the quote in our feature box.  

“Any society which suppresses the heritage of its conquered minorities, prevents their history, and denies them their symbols, has sewn the seed of its own destruction.” Sir William Wallace 1281 A.D.

The author’s description of the page purpose is:  “A Confederate Heritage page for those who enjoy reading facts and anecdotes about our Confederate ancestors and heroes.”  Not only will one find a rich collection of Civil War photography here, but there are excerpts from various publications, stories from readers — and more.


A photo-filled page with nostalgic images and thoughts to share is Backroad Discoveries.  While many of the photos have some historic flair, the site is a contemporary collection.  It reads like a magazine … and it’s pure fun!

New Scholarship Guidelines!

by Sylvia Caldwell Rankin, Editor/TCFA on February 15, 2012

The Scholarship committee is amending the CPT Todd Christmas Scholarship award guidelines and application for those who will be applying in 2012.  

New information will be added to the website shortly.

On the left is a memorial display set up in honor of CPT Christmas at the 2011 Texas Cauble Family Association reunion.

Do you FlickR?

by Sylvia Caldwell Rankin, Editor/TCFA on February 15, 2012

Yesterday, I searched FlickR for any photos of the Cauble family, and I found Jim and Connie Waller’s photostream!  What a gold mine it is!  We are so lucky that they have taken the time to post and describe so many of the family reunion photos!  

Thank you, Connie and Jim!

I am going to post links to some of their wonderful reunion photo sets here for us all to enjoy.  If others have FlickR or Picasa accounts for photo sharing, please let us know!

General Cauble Reunion Photos  —  2007 Cauble Family Day

Texas Cauble Family Reunions by Year:
2007  —  2008  —  2009  —  2010  —  2011