Remembering one of our own on Memorial Day

By Christi Baron

This article was first published in May 2015

A few years ago I wrote a column for the Peninsula Daily News about the monument that once was in the Forks Cemetery and now has its home at Forks City Hall. The monument lists the names of West End residents that lost their lives in service to our country.

One of the names on the monument is George Vogel.

A relative of Vogel’s saw the article and contacted me and asked if I might provide her with his obituary, which I did. She shared with me some of the other details of the short life of Sebastian “George” Vogel. It seemed there were more questions than answers in his obituary and I am writing his story in hopes someone is still alive that can fill in some of the blanks.

S. George Vogl was born in Fergus County, Mont., in February 1921. His parents were Sebastian and Eleanor (Schwandt) Vogl. When George was just 2 1/2, his parents decided to divorce. Eleanor Vogl was to get custody but one day Sebastian came and got young George, and Eleanor would not see her son again until he was a grown man.

Sebastian and little George ended up in Clallam County and Sebastian changed the spelling of Vogl to Vogel.

While the reason for Sebastian abducting George would seem to be he wanted to be with his son, it appeared they didn’t do much living together. In 1930 when George was 9 years old, he was living with James and Mary Clark on the Quillayute Prairie and he is listed on the census as their boarder.

Sebastian was 43 years old and was working at the time as a pulp woodcutter. In the 1930 census, he is listed as a boarder with the Sheal Parker family who resided near Mora.

George also spent some of his childhood living with the Cochran family in the Bogachiel area. He attended FHS until 1940.

In October 1942, he traveled to Montana to see his family. He was best man at his cousin Betty Miller’s wedding on Oct. 26, 1942. It is believed at this time he was reunited with his mother.

George eventually was married and had a son, but his family is unsure if he ever met his child, because George had left for service in World War II.

The following is an account of his death:

George was on the ship USS St. Louis, nicknamed The Lucky Lou. They had entered the Leyte Gulf on Nov. 16, 1944, to support landings on Leyte Island. The noon chow line was forming on Nov. 27, 1944. It was slightly cloudy and the ship was streaming in a clockwise circle at about 8 knots. At 10:46 they increased speed to 15 knots.

At about 11:12 a.m. an enemy plane dove out of the clouds and dropped a bomb off the St. Louis’ starboard side.

At 11:31 a group of 10 enemy planes were spotted. At 11:35 planes broke into three attack groups.

At 11:37 the St. Louis opened fire. The first attack was an Aichi D3A Navy dive bomber. It dove on the ship while the 20 mm’s pounded the seemingly burning plane.

The plane rolled but crashed into the starboard hangar deck. The result was devastating. It penetrated the lower deck and its bombs caused fires to erupt. The smoke and flame attracted other planes hoping to finish her off.

A total of 15 enlisted men and one officer (George) were killed.

Amazingly, these casualties were quickly replaced and gun crews re-organized. Of the 12 planes sighted, nine were taken under fire, six of which were attacking the ship. The St. Louis left Leyte Gulf on Nov. 30, 1944.

Ensign Sebastian George Vogel Jr., U.S. Naval Reserve, was buried at Ft. McKinley, Manila in the Philippines.

George Vogel’s obituary in the Forks Forum

The entire communities of Forks and Bogachiel were shocked and grieved upon receiving the tragic news that Ensign George Vogel had been killed in action.

George had made his home with the Howard Cochran family from the time he was 5 years old until he completed three years of high school at Forks. He then went to Oregon to work with his father in the woods. During that time he completed his high school through correspondence.

The young Navy flier leaves a wife, Marion, and a small son (living), who live in Everett, as well as his father Sebastian Vogel.

Medals found

A few years after the above article was published I was fortunate enough to share the story about Vogel’s Purple Heart being found in an attic in Everett and returned to his surviving relative.

Memorial Day 2020

On Monday, May 25, Memorial Day, there will be a short ceremony at the Forks Cemetery. The public is welcome.