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January 8, 2010

Reprinted from Looking Back on Oroville Heroes
April 2, 2004.

Oroville Mercury Register April 25, 1945
With The 37th Infantry Division In Manila
Award of the Purple Heart Medal
America’s oldest military decoration-has been made to Technical Sergeant Robert W. McGill, 28, Oroville, California for wounds sustained in action against the Japanese. A rifle platoon sergeant in the 129th infantry regiment, McGill was slightly wounded in the right shoulder by a rifle bullet while taking part in an attack at Fort Statsenburg, Luzon Island. His regiment during the rapid sweep from Lingayen Gulf of Manila secured Clark Field by knocking out enemy resistance in the fort area. After Clark Field, the 129th slugged it out through the streets of Manila, the action culminating in an amphibious assault against part of the old Walled City that resulted in the capture of Fort Santiago- A Spanish fortress along the Pasig River built in the 1500’s. McGill has been overseas 31 months serving also in Fiji and the Solomon’s. His stepfather and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Chris H. White, reside on Route 3, Oroville.

Mercury Register
October 25, 1945
Lt. McGill Decorated for Bravery
Service Corner
1st Lt. Robert W. McGill of the U. S. Army has been awarded the Silver Star for Bravery. When his Platoon encountered intense enemy fire, which inflicted casualties during the advance toward Baguio on April 22, Lt. McGill left his covered position and crawled through a fire swept zone, personally placed each man in position to continue the Attack. He then crawled 25 yards to reach two seriously wounded soldiers. He dragged them to a safe position and Administered 1st aid. Later under his skillful direction accurate fire was placed upon an Enemy Machine gun position, enabling the platoon to withdraw to safety and evacuate the wounded. Thirty two enemy soldiers were killed during the engagement. Through his gallant initiative and heroic determination Lt. Gill saved the lives of two fellow soldiers and was instrumental in withdrawing the platoon from a hazardous place, from further causalities. The above message was received from the War Dept. by his Mother, Mrs. Sadie White. Besides the Silver Star he wears the Purple Heart Medal, wounds sustained in action against the Japanese, the Bronze Star and Company Citation.

Oroville Mercury Register
September 2, 1944
Chico Flier Killed In Crash At Orland
Chico- (U.P)- 2nd Lt. Leo L. Morel, Jr., was killed yesterday when his airplane crashed near Orland during a combat training flight, Col. A. W. Tyer, commanding Chico air Field, announced this afternoon. He is survived by his widow, residing at Chico, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Leo L. Morel, Sr., Lake Charles, La.

Stu’s Notes: I found the Oct. story on 1st Lt. Robert W. McGill on the wall in the VFW Hall on Elgin and Lincoln, another of Oroville’s long forgotten heroes. I was invited in their hall after the funeral service of Navy Man Earl Baker, who used to manage the Canteen there. You don’t just go into that place uninvited as it is a place for Veterans of our Wars. Which I am not, I always feel like a guest there and thank them for that. Also note in the 2nd story the Mercury gave his mother a first name, rare back then.

They came to Chico from all over the land, young, bright, brave men in their early twenty’s. How many I don’t know but I do know that forty of them died close to our area while training and flying out of Chico Army Air Base. They died for our country, just as much as those who made it to the front. They died here and we will honor them here. This is a detailed story that committee member Daryl Autrey found on the Internet. I have a 14 page report on the crash of 2nd Lt. Leo L. Morel he flew out of Chico Army Air Field and crashed on a ranch ½ mile East of Orland. There were 12 eyewitnesses around the Ranch that he crashed on. Most of the Eyewitnesses were Farmers or their young sons. I don’t want to use their names until I hopefully talk to them. Hopefully they are still around, the ages of the young men were 12 and 15. One was “working in the almond grove beside the field in which the plane crashed, said that the plane approached from the west in a shallow dive with both engines at high speed. He said there was neither smoke nor fire visible nor was there an explosion before the plane crashed. He said that immediately after the plane struck he saw the parachute opened and spread out but not unfolded, lying on the ground about 100 yards ahead of the place where the plane struck. He said that he did not see the parachute or pilot at anytime previous to that.” Most of the eyewitnesses said basically the same. The other Pilots that were flying with 2nd Lt. Morel, said he went into a steep dive from about 9000 feet after performing authorized acrobatic maneuvers, they all dove but for some reason 2nd Lt. Morel never recovered his P38 from the dive enough and hit the ground. I have read of pilots in a steep dive blacking out and that this can happen. God only knows what happened to that young hero of America. Let’s honor him as best we can. Happy New Year!