Adams County

Sgt. Gordon L. Watts


Dewees, Rider, Watts Reported
Killed In North Africa Battle

Relatives Notified By War Department

The horrors and sorrows of war were again brought inertly home to Adams county people this week when the War Department officially announced the death of three more soldiers from this community, all three having been killed in action in North Africa.

The latest casualties are Pfc. Ernest L. Dewees, son of Charles Dewees of Corning; Sgt. Albert Rider, son of Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Rider of Nodaway; and, Sgt. Gordon Watts of Villisca, but well known in the Nodaway community. This brings to nine the Adams county men who have paid the supreme sacrifice in World War II. Five have been listed in the North Africa campaign, one in the Pearl Harbor attack, on in South America and two met death in accidents in line of duty in this country.

Killed May 3

Mrs. Bertha Edwards of Corning last Saturday received a telegram from the War Department in Washington stating that her brother, Pvt. Ernest L. Dewees, was killed in action on May 3 in the North Africa war area. At this time, no further information regarding the casualty has been received.

Ernest, the son of Charles Dewees of Corning, entered the service May 8, 1941, and before leaving, was an employee of the Pattison Pool Hall in Corning. Ernest is the first Corning boy to give his life in front light action on a foreign battle field in World War II and the second from Corning killed in the line of duty. John Turner was the first from here, killed while in service in the present war.

Ernest, better known to friends and acquaintances here as “Red” Duncan, was among the first Americans to be sent- to the North African area.  [illegible] Dewees, was in World War one and in [illegible] due to shell shock [illegible] [Page 4] [illegible]

Member Co. F

Tuesday, Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Rider of Nodaway were notified by the War Department that their son, Sgt. Albert Rider was killed in action in the North Africa war at [illegible] on April 28. Sgt Rider was a member of Co. F, the Villisca National Guard unit, one of the first to go overseas. Mrs. Albert Rider, the former Marie Hair, is a member of the WAACs at Ft. Riley, Kansas.

Sgt. Rider was raised in the Nodaway community were he is well and popularly known. He was born March 11, 1917. He is a brother of Mrs. Walter Brown of Corning. His parents received a letter from him May 2, which was written April 15.

The third death reported this week was that of S. Sgt. George Watts [illegible] reported killed in action in the North Africa war zone on April 27. Sgt. Watts was with Co. F of Villisca and his next of kin is a brother, Verne Watts of Hepburn, Iowa, who received the official notice from the War Department.

Gordon’s parents are deceased and he was never married. Prior to his enlistment he was engaged in farming near Nodaway. A nephew of Gordon Watts, Sgt. Howard Watts, also with Co. F, was wounded on the same day Gordon was killed. The following is from the Villisca Review and tells of the wounding of Howard Watts:

“Mr. and Mrs. Verle C. Watts of southeast of Villisca received a letter Monday from their son, Sgt. Howard Watts, in North Africa in which he states he was at that time in the hospital, wounded in the fighting in Tunisia April 27. Ironically it was a German gift to him on his twenty-first birthday.

“Sgt. Watts is a member of Co. F of Villisca and has been overseas two years. In a letter written home to his parents April 23, he stated he was at the time in a quiet sector and was not anticipating trouble. However, four days later he was wounded.”

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, May 27, 1943, Pages 1 & 4

Rider, Watts, Dewees,
Awarded Purple Heart

Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Rider of Nodaway, have officially received from the War Department the certificate and emblem of the Purple Heart, which was awarded to their son, Sgt. Albert L. Rider, who was killed in North Africa, April 28. Also, relatives of Sgt. Gordon Watts, formerly of Nodaway, have received a similar communication. Sgt. Watts was also killed in North Africa about the same date. Chas. Dewees of Corning has also received the Purple Heart certificate and pendant awarded his son, Pfc. Ernest L. Dewees, who was killed in North Africa May 2.

Mr. and Mrs. Rider have also received letters from Nodaway boys who were serving with Sgt. Rider, stating that they had visited his grave, and giving other details in so far as censorship would allow. To Sgt. Milo L. Green fell the duty of assisting in the burial of his comrades.

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, July 01, 1943, Page 1

Letters From Our Readers

It was with profound sorrow that the Mt. Zion community received the word a few weeks ago that Gordon Watts and Albert Rider had given their all on the far away battlefield of North Africa. Then Gordon’s obituary, so ably penned by Milo [L. Green] in last week’s edition of the paper, brought home more vividly the loss to the community of a good friend, neighbor and citizen. The Watts brothers, Gordon and Dean, had for the last several years been farming the old Bowers homestead one-half mile east of the Mt. Zion church. (Milo was in error that they were farming near Hepburn.)

Gordon was among the first to answer his country’s call and enlisted early in 1941. Dean entered the service later that year. Both boys were well liked and by their manly ways and pleasing personalities made many friends. The writer well remembers the first contact with the boys. It was on a Memorial day several years ago when on their way to services at Nodaway they stopped and asked for “a few flowers for mother’s grave” and how glad we were to comply with the request. They seemed such fine young men it was an honor to serve them. Then each succeeding year we had the same privilege till the boys left. Now we miss them when Memorial day rolls around. And this year on receiving word just the day before Decoration that Gordon was a “casualty” how we wanted to send flowers for him for that grave, but rain thwarted our plans.

The mother died several years ago while the family lived near Nodaway and the father made his home with the boys till his death about four years ago.

Gordon is the first war casualty of this community and his name is second on the Honor Roll which hangs in the Mt. Zion church, the names being entered in the order in which they entered the service and are as follows:

Dean Kester, Gordon Watts, Roy Stalder, Albert Hedinger, Harold Stalder, Leo Stalder, Ralph Kester, Dean Watts, Kenneth Freuck, Arthur Pullen, Ronald Kester, Cleve King, Wayne Ross and Wayne Walter.

All of these young men who have been closely identified in the life and social activities of the community, and we feel certain that each service in the little old church that silent prayers ascend for each name recorded there.

Albert didn’t live in this community but he was also well and favorably known by many of our residents, and all our people sympathize with the loved ones of both these boys who have made the great sacrifice. Yes, and to all other families who have thus suffered, for whether we know them or not, we are aware of the sorrow it brings and the thought that they gave all for us causes a tug at the heartstrings even though they are strangers.

A Free Press Reader

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, July 08, 1943, Page 4

Memorial Services Held For Rider, Watts

Impressive Sermon By Rev. Kishpaugh

Faithful devotion to the memory of two loyal neighbors and friends, as well as patriotic dedication and consecration to two soldiers, Albert Rider and Gordon Watts, who have given their full measure of sacrifice in defense of their country, was most fittingly exemplified by the good people of the Nodaway community, when a large crowd gathered at the Methodist church in that little rural town last Sunday afternoon. It was a wonderful demonstration of the character of the Americanism which is to be found in Rural Town.

In spite of the humid and intense heat of the summer afternoon, the large church auditorium was filled long before the hour set for the Memorial Service, which was in charge of Rev. H. B. Kishpaugh, pastor of the church. By 2:30 the attendance was beyond the seating capacity. Chairs were placed in every available corner and the overflow crowd went to the church basement where the service was listened to over a loud speaker system.

Close Attention

The close attention given to every word of the service reflected in the deep interest the community has in the welfare of the boys in service, particularly for the memory of these two fine young men who have given their all that those at home may continue to enjoy the freedom of the democratic way of life. Relatives of Sgts. Rider and Watts were seated in the center seats of the church, in a reserved section. Flowers were in profusion about the pulpit, most of them gifts from friends and neighbors. A special flower offering was sent by the United Service Club of Villisca.

The pulpit of the church was fittingly decorated to commemorate the two men, their photographs standing on a table, on either side of a large cross. Two vacant chairs, draped in black, stood by the table with a large American flag near each chair. Although not purposely a part of the arranged decorations, one could not help but note the life-like painting of The Christ Child hanging in its regular place on the wall behind and above the table, and the significance of the painting in relation to such a service.

Piano Prelude

The Memorial Service opened with a piano prelude rendered by Mrs. Martin Taylor, who also presided at the piano for the mixed quartette which furnished music for the Memorial. Members of the quartette were Roy Means, Mrs. Harold Everett, Mrs. G. R. Dismukes and Martin Taylor. Rev. Kishpaugh offered prayer and read the Scripture Lesson from the 27th Psalms. The quartette sang an old favorite hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.” Rev. Herbert Marsh of the First Presbyterian Church of Shenandoah also took part in the service by offering prayer and read a second Scripture Lesson. The quartette sang “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” and “Does Jesus Care.” Major Blackburn of Shenandoah, of the Iowa State Guard, was then introduced, who stated that he was the official representative of Gen. Grahl, who was unable to be present. The major extended sympathy to the bereaved relatives and friends and paid a tribute to the two soldiers in whose memory the service was being held. He state that their lives will not have been given in vain when the day of victory comes as it must, because as he said, “Might never conquers over right.”

Impressive Sermon

Rev. Kishpaugh then presented the sermon of the afternoon on the theme that “If Man Dies He Shall Live Again.” It was a masterful address and urgent appeal for all of us to “have faith at times like these.” His word, based on Scripture, proved that man does live again and was a source of much consolation to the bereaved relatives and friends of Albert Rider and Gordon Watts. A short sketch of the life of each man was read during the service and these are printed herewith, under the picture of each.

A brief summary of the sermon delivered by Rev. Kishpaugh is as follows:

“_ _ _ _Our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel = 2 Timothy 1, 10.

“Through all the ages speculation on what lies beyond death has continued unabated. There is something about this question that intrigues every generation, and is common to every race and class. There are times, as in this great conflict, when the question becomes more poignant. In such hours faith overleaps unbelief; we want some assurance that our lives are not wasted.”

Base For Belief

“It is to be feared that we often base our belief of immortality on the fact that the ancients believed in it. But we find that Paul, the great apostle, found belief in life after death unsatisfactory on any other basis than the accomplished work of Christ Jesus. We do not relish the idea of a spooky, shadowy after life; the Christian believes in a reality, a survival of the personality after death.

“The Christian belief in immortality rests no upon facts proven in a chain of logic, but upon a faith resting on the reasonableness of God; not upon precise data from those who have made the long journey, but upon a steadfast faith that God is wholly trustworthy.
The answer to the longings in the souls of men has been answered in Jesus. ‘Then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in Victory.’ It is through death that the higher values are preserved; through death and sacrifice the finest things of life are achieved. In these great principles of the Christian faith, we can say with Whittier:

“I dimly guess from blessing know
Of greater out of sight;
And, with the chastened Psalmist, own
His judgments too are right.

“I long for household voices gone,
For vanished smiles I long,
But God hath led my dear ones on,
And He can do no wrong.

“I know not where His islands life
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His live and care”

The service close with benediction by Rev. Ernest Stewart of Minburn, Iowa, who was a former pastor of the Nodaway church before the two boys left for service. The audience stood while relatives retired from the church and “Taps” were sounded in the distance. The entire service was most impressive.

[NOTE: Portions of this article regarding Sgt. Albert Rider have been omitted but appears on his individual webpage within this site.]

Sgt. Gordon L. Watts

Gordon Lewis Watts was born near Watson, Atchison County, Missouri, July 20, 1905. He moved with his family to Iowa at the age of eight. He had lived near Villisca and Nodaway from then until he enlisted with Company F [168th Infantry] about the first pf February, 1941. His mother passed away in 1931, and his father in 1938. He last made his home with his brother, Dean, east of Nodaway.

Gordon went with Company F in February, 1941, to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. While there he advanced from a private to the rank of sergeant. He was released after the new ruling regarding age limit in December, 1941, but was recalled to service in January, 1942. He went with his company to Fort Dix, New Jersey, from there he accompanied it to Ireland, Scotland, and finally to North Africa where he met his death in action for his country April 27, 1943.

Gordon is survived by one sister, Mrs. C. A. Manrose of Riverton, Iowa; five brothers, Lyle R. of Rockport, Missouri, Verne G. of Hepburn, Iowa, Veryle F. of Nodaway, Iowa, Jack of Shenandoah, Iowa, and Dean of Camp Chaffee, Arkansas.

Source: Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, Thursday, July 15, 1943, Page 1