Announcing our first Virtual Exhibit!

We at the Issaquah History Museums are pleased to announce that our very first virtual exhibit has been published today, titled “‘Poetry in Motion:’ Remembering the Issaquah Skyport.”

The Skyport was a recreational airfield which operated from 1961-1987 (located where the Issaquah Costco is today). The planes and parachutes consistently flying overhead quickly became the symbol of Issaquah, and its grass field the home to countless spectators and pilots bringing their dreams to life. Beloved as it was, the airfield was eventually forced to shut down operations to make way for today’s Pickering Place shopping center.

A decorative cover for a brochure. Blue sky with black mountain silhouette, the peaks of which is capped in white. A smiling cartoon person floats down with a parachute open. A glider plane zooms through the middle. Three hot air balloons are below. Text reads "Issaquah One Mile" "Seattle 12 Miles." SKYPORT/ FLY SKY SPORTS.
Cover of a Skyport brochure.

The exhibit details the Skyport’s history from the first time the land was used as an airfield to the day it closed. We explore both sides of the fight to save or pave it; the depth of meaning it had for Issaquah’s visual identity; what happened when it was lost; and where the city’s inhabitants now identify as distinctly ‘Issaquah.’ Look forward to:

—learning how the Skyport was connected to the unsolved mystery of D.B. Cooper;
—a video made using the voices of community members who experienced the airfield;
—a catchy song that was made in an effort to save the Skyport;
—and a video of Skyport activity from 1961-65.

Click here to dive in! The webpage works well on mobile devices, but we recommend using a desktop if possible to get the best possible viewing experience.

A person wearing a white jumpsuit and helmet has just jumped out of a plane. Their legs and arms are spread out. They are wearing a parachute backpack and jumping boots. An aerial view of the town is below.
A diver leaps from a plane above Issaquah.

This exhibit was made possible by a grant from the City of Issaquah’s Arts Commission.

Curated by IHM’s Kayla Boland.

‘The Issaquah History Museums Collection’ (as featured in the Spring 2021 Vol. 1 E-Newsletter of the Costume Society of America, Western Region)

| By Julie Hunter, Collections Manager

This piece was originally written for and published in the Costume Society of America‘s February 2021 e-newsletter.

Issaquah, Washington, is fifteen miles east of Seattle, in the homelands of the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Indian Tribes. Whites settled the valley in the 1860s and a town based on agriculture, lumbering, and coal mining was soon established. It remained a small town until the 1960s, when improved highways and a booming regional economy brought rapid development. Residents wanting to save their local history formed the Issaquah Historical Society in 1972. Since the first professional museum director was hired in 1999, the organization has become the Issaquah History Museums, with a staff of four.

To meet IHM’s mission “to discover, preserve and share the history of Issaquah and its environs,” we hold over 36,000 artifacts and images. The costume collection numbers approximately 900 pieces, providing a tangible and personal link back through all of the generations to the pioneering families of the area. The collection includes wedding dresses, bodices, skirts, jackets, dresses, underclothes, baby clothing, costume jewelry, hats, accessories, and shoes. As is typical, menswear is underrepresented, but we have some, especially jackets and T-shirts from after 1950. A silk shirt (see photo 1) that belonged to the town’s first pharmacist, as well as a Masonic apron belonging to his brother, the town’s first doctor, are key pieces. Also typically, we have many special event garments. In addition to a Campfire Girl Ceremonial Gown from 1920, party dresses, dance outfits, and several wedding gowns, we have a beautifully preserved bridesmaid’s dress from 1958 (see photo 2).


A white collared shirt on a hanger. Black vertical lines go down the front, while horizontal lines go across the cuffs.
1. Pharmacist John H. Gibson wore this shirt, which dates to 1913, often enough that the buttonhole to hold the detachable collar at the back of the neckband had to be repaired. [Image produced at the CSA Angels Day, April 16, 2019. IHM 2007.020.001]
2. Issaquah’s Nancy Trostle Horrocks wore this commercially made, multi-layered, embroidered dress when she was her aunt’s matron of honor at a June 1958 wedding in Seattle. [Image produced at the CSA Angels Day, April 16, 2019. IHM 2008.013.001]

Our earliest garments date to the 1830s and 1850s. During CSA’s Angel’s Day in 2019, we learned that a woman’s cap in 1850s style was probably a reuse for a fine fabric woven in India in the 1830s. It came from one of the earliest white families in the valley. A quilted underskirt, with provenance from Pennsylvania in 1855, was brought here by the maker’s daughter when she came to set up shop as a milliner in 1907.

The collection’s newest artifacts are a sash, cat ear headband, and fluffy pink tail, all of which were worn by Issaquah residents participating in Women’s Marches in Seattle and Washington, D.C., on January 21, 2017. Our strong continuum of items relating to Issaquah High School goes back to a graduation dress worn by a member of the first graduating class in 1911. We have generations of letter sweaters, as well as class rings and pins. Recently we were given a football player’s letter jacket from 1989 and a wardrobe of cheerleading uniform clothing from that era.

IHM was the grateful recipient of the 2019 CSA Angels Day. Along with the generous supply of storage materials, tools, and the expertise of the professionals, the photography from that day is very valuable to us. It allows us to show a good amount of the costume collection online. If you would like to see more of our collections, please visit our website at https://issaquahhistory.org/.

Confronting the Past in the Quest for an Antiracist Future: Introducing The Series

By Kayla Boland, Communications Coordinator at the Issaquah History Museums

CONTENT WARNING: Racism, violence

As part of both Issaquah’s and the nation’s history, and to inspire further progress, these are stories that the Issaquah History Museums need to tell. We encourage parents to review the content here and throughout the series, and invite families/the community to discuss this article together.

. . . . .

Oftentimes it seems easier to ignore mistakes from our past. Other times, it seems more productive to brush them under the rug and instead focus on the progress we’re making now. Issaquah’s deep roots in racism and exclusion, for example; it’s something that many of us are aware of. It’s something that community leaders and members have fought against for years. But, like nearly any town out there, underneath all of this incredible progress are sometimes dark, even violent sides to the past. We benefit from examining these periods of exclusion and violence because they help us gain a deeper, more all-encompassing knowledge of who we have been versus who we are today. By learning from history, we can begin the attempt at ensuring that the same mistakes are not made again.

Speaking in contemporary terms, Issaquah still has a ways to go concerning ethnic diversity: the 2019 Census tells us that the Black population in Issaquah was 2.1%; 0.1% Native American; 9% Latino; 23.2% Asian; and 0% Pacific Islander. [1] Still, we’ve come a long way; the City has an equity initiative, students all across the District are committing themselves to diversity and inclusion work, [2] and the community in general is more interested in learning about antiracism. But what have we come a long way from? What was life like for a person of color in Issaquah 150 years ago? 70 years ago? 20 years ago?

Historic sites from a June 1986 issue of The Issaquah Press.

The first white settlers of Issaquah were not welcoming to—well, anyone, really. [3 (2:26-12:45)] If a newcomer was white, but from a European country, that newcomer likely faced some kind of discrimination. If their skin color was also different, it only got worse; for example, in 1855, three local Chinese laborers were killed and three more injured, likely at what is now Confluence Park (article forthcoming).

There are many facets of racism in Issaquah’s history that need to be unburied, which is why we will be publishing several articles that will examine the racial, and sometimes racist, past of our city. The first one, to be published soon, will confront the history of the KKK in the area. We will also write about inequities experienced by Native Americans, early Chinese immigrants, and Japanese Americans during WWII.

The articles will be released slowly over the next year, as we want to ensure that we devote serious time to research and write about these important topics. Acknowledgement and accountability are key steps in healing, growing, and breaking the pattern of seeing history through a single lens.

As a Museum, we have not been proactive about researching the racial history of Issaquah. We have not been diligent enough in seeking out stories from and about BIPOC Issaquahns, either, which means that we do not have the fullest understanding possible of the area and those who built it. For that, we sincerely apologize, and pledge to continue pursuing this vital line of research. Although the content in this series will primarily be centered around inequities experienced by racial minorities in the area, it is important to clarify that we are also researching and celebrating the achievements of local BIPOC.

In that vein, we are seeking out individuals of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and individuals with disabilities to conduct oral history interviews with; so far in 2021, we have interviewed six people of color, have two more in the works, and are always looking for more. These stories are incredibly important because they help paint a fuller picture of Issaquah in their own words. They help future residents understand Issaquah’s evolution from an exclusive small town to a more diverse, thriving city, from the perspective of the person who lived it! If you or someone you know is interested in having an oral history interview with us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Read our statement of antiracism, along with our action plan to make our Collection a more diverse one, here.

Stay tuned for our first article on the KKK’s presence in Issaquah. If you have any questions about our research, please let us know.

_______________

Footnotes:

[1] 2019 Issaquah Census data

[2] Issaquah School District Equity Council website

[3] YouTube video from the City of Issaquah’s Welcoming Week 2020. Watch 2:26-12:45 to watch our Director, Erica Maniez, give an overview of Issaquah’s unwelcoming early days.

Issaquah Depot Museum to Reopen for Summer 2021!

After more than a year closed to the public, we are delighted to announce that the Issaquah Depot Museum will reopen to the public on Friday, May 28, 2021! Museum hours will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 AM until 3 PM.

Visitors to the Issaquah Depot Museum can view recently restored Depression-era ‘hobo’ graffiti; see how the Depot’s order board was used to communicate with passing trains; and hear the sounds of an operating telegraph. They’ll also learn more about the impact that coal mining and rail service had on the small farming community, then known as Squak Valley.

The Issaquah Depot was constructed in 1889 for the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern Railway and played a critical role in transforming the small farming community into a booming coal mine town. The Depot was in use until its closure in 1958.

In the early 1980s, the City of Issaquah purchased the Depot building and appointed the Issaquah History Museums as its caretakers. Dozens of volunteers spent more than ten years restoring the Depot to its original beauty. Today, the Depot is one of the most photographed buildings in downtown Issaquah.

The Issaquah History Museums are grateful recipients of support from Visit Issaquah, which is making it possible to open the museum for the summer.

To learn more and purchase tickets, visit our Eventbrite page. Ticket purchasers can select visit time and day for family or friend groups of 1-7. Please keep in mind that social distancing from those working at the Museum is required. Masks are also required, vaccinated or otherwise. We’re excited to see you!

AT A GLANCE:
What: Issaquah Depot Museum
When: Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 11 AM-3 PM [between May 28 & September 5, 2021]
Where: 78 First Ave. NE, Issaquah [link to Google Maps]
Cost: $20 per group visit slot* (1-7 visitors).
*Members get FREE admission year-round (and more)! To become a member before getting tickets, click here.
Tickets: Eventbrite Page
Questions? Contact Erica Maniez at erica.maniez@issaquahhistory.org.

About the Issaquah History Museums
The mission of the Issaquah History Museums is to discover, preserve and share the history of Issaquah and its environs. For more about the Issaquah History Museums, continue exploring this website.

Statement in Response to Violence Against Asian-Americans

We at the Issaquah History Museums stand firmly in solidarity against the racism and violence targeting Pacific Islander and Asian Americans, including the recent murder of eight people in Atlanta.

A vital part of our mission as a Museum is working to better understand and represent the full compass of human experiences. Xenophobia and racism towards Asian Americans have been a terrible reality in this country, and in Issaquah specifically, for far too long.

The recent rise of anti-Asian hate crimes has everything to do with racism, stereotypes, and senseless conspiracy theories. Especially at this critical juncture, we urge everyone to be actionable. Great places to start are by supporting local organizations which fight this issue; and, of course, seeking educational resources which will help us learn about the experiences of Asian Americans and how to be of support.

Since our original statement of antiracism in June 2020, we have solidified our action plan to become an antiracist organization:

  • Conduct equity training for our board and staff members, scheduled for April and May 2021.
  • Write a series of articles about Issaquah’s racial and racist past, some of which will address the inequities experienced by Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian Americans in the area. We will also continue to highlight and celebrate the important contributions that Asian American Issaquahns have made to this community, past and present.
  • Conduct oral history interviews with BIPOC in our community, including Asian American Issaquahns.
  • Review our collections for gaps in representation.
  • Contextualize collections items that are inherently racist or reference racism.
  •  Review our exhibits for gaps and bias, and correct as resources are available.

We at IHM are determined to lift up marginalized voices and to share the authentic history of Issaquah, even when parts of that past are reprehensible. We are also determined to support our Pacific Islander and Asian American community in any way possible. These action points exist as part of a living document; if you have any questions or recommendations for us, please contact us at info@issaquahhistoryorg.

Further Reading:

We offer our condolences and sympathies to the victims of the Atlanta shootings, and to their families.

Daoyou Feng, 44

Paul Andre Michels, 54

Hyun Jung Kim, 51

Suncha Kim, 69

Soon Chung Park, 74

Xiaojie Tan, 49

Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33

Yong Ae Yue, 63

The Worst Year Ever!

Was 2020 the worst year ever? IHM volunteer and long-time resident Jane Garrison muses over the similarities and differences between the 2020s and the 1920s. Click to read more!

Skyport Memories

By Jane Garrison, Volunteer & Long-Time Issaquah Resident

In the early 1980s Carl Easters, my husband, and I moved to Issaquah. We rented a house on Hepler  Lane at the base of Squak Mountain. We loved that place. The micro-climate and soil were amazing; our vegetable garden was prolific; but best of all, the water coming right out of the tap was to die for,  in a good way, of course. It tasted like water burbling over rocks in a high mountain stream. When my  cousins visited from Southern California, I thought they would drink the aquifer dry. 

The majority of Issaquah’s water was supplied by wells from that aquifer. It occupied a large area near Lake Sammamish at the mouth of Issaquah Creek, where it had existed undisturbed under Native  American settlements for centuries, and later, under open farm lands, mainly Pickering farm, since the  1860s. By the 1980s it was still open space used by the Skyport for recreational parachuting. 

It was then that Carl and I would go down to Pickering Field to watch the parachuters. We would take  a picnic lunch and an old blanket to spread out over the tall grass and weeds near the barn. We  watched the little planes take off again and again and the parachuters drop to earth again and again.  No phones, just warm sun, buzzing flies, lots of blackberry bushes, and best of all, no traffic noise. 

Not long after that I found myself on the Issaquah Development Commission, tasked with making a  decision about the fate of the Pickering property. The property was zoned for commercial use with  very strict standards for development. The developers came and brought professionally designed  plans, beautiful colored graphics, and sophisticated, articulate attorneys to present to us. The thought  of a shopping center on that property galled me, but I didn’t know how to protect it, because the  developers met every condition and even exceeded some. Zoning matters. 

Months went by, and we heard testimony after testimony, mostly against development. Ruth Kees,  Issaquah’s famous environmentalist, begged us to understand the importance of the aquifer  underlying the property, but the developer had a solution for each and every concern. 

When the vote came, I stayed awake the entire night before the meeting. At the meeting, the house  was packed. People were in the hallways and outside. I couldn’t legally deny the developers based on  their proposal, because they met every condition. Even so, I felt that this historic, environmentally  sensitive, and beloved place with its iconic use was already legally lost. Not willing to give up, I denied  approval based on the fact that the Development Commission didn’t have the authority to take down  one business for another, in other words, to remove the Skyport in favor of a shopping center. Pretty  weak, I know. The shopping center failed at the Development Commission, but Council voted for it.  The Skyport was out, and Pickering Place was built. 

We now have Poo Poo Point, and it’s wonderful to see the hang gliders floating down off the top of the  Issaquah Alps to the valley below. But it’s important to note that the water from the tap never tasted  as good again.

Collecting Our COVID-19 History

Robert Baskett, Issaquah Soldier in Normandy

by John Boland, Historian, US Army Retired

“I don’t care what happens as long as it doesn’t happen to me”

—Robert Baskett’s senior quote in the Issaquah High School 1943 yearbook

Most people in America have heard of World War Two and D-Day; they have seen Tom Hanks storm Omaha Beach and of the herculean struggles of Dick Winters and the men of Easy Company 506th PIR. The untold story of one former Issaquah soldier is the intersection of these two tales and sheds light upon a struggle that is little remembered today.  The young man was a senior at Issaquah High School, class of 1943; for some reason he had withdrawn during the second semester. Was it due to the outrage over the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or just patriotism? He had not yet reached his 18th birthday. Fifteen months later Sergeant Robert C. Baskett, an Infantryman with E Company, 2nd Battalion of the 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division found himself on a French beach at 0630 on June 6th, 1944. He and his troops were among the first of the seaborne assault to set foot upon Utah Beach.

No plan survives first contact with the enemy.  This one did not make it that far.  

“The landing plan went wrong from the beginning. Strong currents beset the landing craft, and the area was obscured by smoke from the preceding shore bombardment. But the main problem was the loss of three of the four designated control craft to mines. The fourth control craft eventually rounded up the confused landing craft looking for directions and, using a bullhorn for communication, led them in. The force landed 1,800 metres (2,000 yards) east of the designated landing area, in the less-defended Victor sector and almost astride causeway number 2.  The assistant division commander, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., quickly realized the error. Uttering his famous remark “We’ll start the war from here!” he ordered the division to advance. Three hours later exits 1, 2, and 3 had been secured, and by 1200 hours contact had been made with paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division around the town of Pouppeville. By the end of the day the 4th Division had pushed inland about 6 km (4 miles), and its westernmost units were within a mile of the 82nd Airborne’s perimeter near Sainte-Mère-Église.  For an assault that had begun with such terrible confusion, the Utah Beach landings ended as a spectacular success beyond the most optimistic expectations. The 1,800-metre error had placed the landing force away from the heavily defended area of Les Dunes de Varreville and into a less-defended section of beach. Twenty thousand troops and 1,700 motorized vehicles had landed at Utah with surprisingly few casualties—fewer than 300 men.”[1]

Landing plan, Utah Beach

Although the gods of war were merciful to the men of the Eighth Infantry Regiment on that first day, their leniency soon came to an end.  That afternoon, pushing inland from Utah beach farther and farther away from the auto repair shop that his father Calvin had owned in Issaquah, Sergeant Baskett may have witnessed Sergeant Elbert E. Legg, a member of the 4th Platoon, 603rd GR Co carefully hammering wooden stakes fashioned from a rations box into the ground in a field near Blosville.  They would meet again. 

For the next three weeks Sgt Baskett led his men, on foot, northwest from Utah Beach through the harrowing bocage, villages and towns to the critical Allied objective: the port of Cherbourg. This action made possible bringing over General Patton’s Third Army with all of its armored forces.  On June 8th SGT Baskett led his soldiers in a battle to seize the French town of Neuville-au-Plain, made notable in the scene from “Saving Private Ryan” in which the French family hands over the little girl to American soldiers.

Still from Saving Private Ryan

To accompany the mud and rain was the ever present smell of death and decay.  So strong was stench, that it overpowered the sweet smells of the fruit orchards and baguettes.

No creature was spared from the death that became known as Hedgerow Hell.

Although neither Robert nor his men fought in Cherbourg itself, they had the unenviable mission to attack and eliminate determined German concrete and reinforced positions in the towns, hills and hedgerows on the approach to the port.  The fierce German defense, withdrawing from one hardened improved position to another, made progress through the hedgerows gut-wrenching.

“On the evening of D+2, the 8th Infantry Regiment and the 505th Parachute Regiment caught two battalions of German troops trying to relieve each other and demolished both battalions, killing approximately 500 men.  After the attack, we tried to get some sleep.  We had been attacking for almost 72 hours.  D+3 found us attacking toward Cherbourg.  The count of men at the end of D+3 was fifteen left of our original forty.”

—Harry Bailey, Columbia, S.C. Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, from War Stories, D-Day to the liberation of Paris, Deeds Publishing 2001, 2014, 2019 p.255
Example of German hedgerow position.

No terrain in the world was better made for defensive action with the weapons of World War 2 than the Norman bocage, or “box-country” in French. These hedgerows, mounds of earth to contain cattle and to mark borders of ownership, began in Roman times. Typically there was only one entry into the small field enclosed by the hedges, which were inconsistent in size and set at odd angles. On the sunken roads the brush often met overhead, giving Robert and his men a feeling of being trapped in a leafy tunnel. In every direction they witnessed only walls of vegetation.

“The sunken roads between the hedgerows in Normandy were another dread for drivers. Along with all the above mentioned hazards, hidden anti-tank guns, zeroed in enemy artillery, dead cows, destroyed and burning vehicles, and on many occasions, bodies of those who were victims of war. Some of the dead were American. Seeing enemy dead didn’t bother me. The sight of our own was a different story. I remember one GI I thought I could help. I stopped to see but he had been hit in the head by a shot from a sniper. He was propped against a tree. I cried when I saw a snapshot, presumed to be his wife and two little girls. They looked to be about one and three years old. The picture was fastened inside his steel helmet liner. The shot up helmet was alongside him. Those steel helmets didn’t stop sniper bullets. Something like that is hard to get out of your mind.”

Former T/5 John K. Lester

Sunken lane in Norman hedgerow country.

Undertaking an attack in the hedgerows was risky, costly, time-consuming, and fraught with frustration—really more like fighting in a labyrinth. Robert’s squad found themselves completely lost a few minutes after launching an attack, at times becoming separated. The small fields limited deployment possibilities; seldom during the first week of battle did a unit as large as a company go into an attack as a complete unit, being forced to attack the hedgerows in smaller units.

Where SGT Baskett and his men got lost, the tenacious Germans were at home. The German 6th Fallschirmjäger (Parachute Infantry) Regiment (the concures of Crete, and warriors of north africa) had been in Normandy for months, training for this clash. Further, the Germans had formulated mechanisms of defense at capitalizing upon the redoubt potentiality of the hedgerows over the past four years. In the early days of the battle, some of Sgt Baskett’s infantrymen may have been killed or wounded because they dashed through the opening into a field, just the kind of aggressive tactics they had been taught, only to be felled by pre-sighted machine-gun fire, artillery, mines, flame throwers, or mortars.

In deciphering Robert’s journey I have set eyes and ears on hundreds of oral histories from the soldiers of the Ivy Division concerning the fighting upon the bocage of the Cotentin Peninsula.  One common thread emerges: no one ever told them about the hedgerows.

As though the Germans trying their damndest to shoot, stab, blow up, or drop artillery on his head, hiding from tanks, and avoiding the plethora of land mines all while keeping a group of weary soldiers alert and moving forward through a maze of death were not enough to ask of a nineteen year old sergeant, they had to contend with the rain—the most severe experienced in the area for 50 years.  Rivers escaped their banks, transforming into lakes and swamps; streams became swift moving rivers, hampering any plans of a rapid advance.  The Germans knew where Robert and his troops would come from, and they were waiting.

Théâtre de Cherbourg

Following the liberation of Cherbourg, Robert and his squad spent the 28th and 29th of June patrolling the streets, keeping law and order and dealing with sporadic German holdouts.  I wonder if, upon passing the Théâtre de Cherbourg, Robert would regale his teammates with tales of his brief acting career: the Issaquah High all school play “Apron-string Revolt” during his sophomore year. On the next day they headed south, having been relieved by 101st Airborne units.

After weeks of surviving on canned rations, a hot meal was most welcome.

They loaded trucks and headed south toward Gourbesville to refit, train replacements, and issue replacement gear that had been destroyed or worn out.  Their mail may even have caught up with them.  I know for a fact that Robert received and sent mail while in Normandy.  After 24 days in the maelstrom, they ate hot chow!  They may have been temporarily removed from the fire, but life in the frying pan is still hot.  They had to maintain security patrols while in the assembly area as the Germans were still in the game. 

On the fifth of July, Robert’s unit headed further south to the vicinity of Appeville for one more day out of the hell that was hedgerow combat. Mailing letters, checking their new replacement soldiers, pre-combat checks, going over the plan, rehearsals, last hot meal for a while, and maybe even a warm beer or two.

I don’t know if Robert received letters from a girl waiting for him at home, but I do know that he kept in touch with his mother and father. Cal and Mazie Baskett lived at 210 Williams Street in Renton; Cal had sold his auto service shop in Issaquah and they moved, enabling Cal to be closer to his job as a plant superintendent at the ice plant. The move corresponds with Bob’s withdrawal from Issaquah High.

After moving into their attack position on the 6th of July, the 12th, 22nd, and 331st Infantry Regiments had been attacking along the Periers-Carentan Road, advancing slowly with horrendous losses; one life lost for every yard gained. To break the stalemate the 8th Regiment and SGT Baskett would conduct a night attack, in the rain, across the chest-deep marsh. The men of the 1st Battalion, attacking alongside the second, were subject to a hail of gunfire midway through the bog.  They were decimated and had to return to their start point.  Robert and his men, on the other hand, found a path through the rancid swamp only to discover in the growing light of dawn that they would also need to withdraw.


The almost constant rain, combined with the flooding of fields by the Germans, kept the GIs wet.

‘The enemy defended organized log and sandbag emplacements with rifle and automatic weapons, utilizing good fields of fire and covering the narrow corridor through which the leading elements had to pass.”

4th ID AAR (After Actions Report)

For the past 31 days Robert had led his men from the beach, through the hell that is hedgerow fighting.  The rain and flooding had created a muddy morass that not only kept their feet sopping but, more alarmingly, it severely limited the effectiveness of the armor and air force. The hedgerows themselves stifled the use of observed artillery fires. This was a medieval infantry fight, and SGT Baskett and the men of the Eight were the infantry. The follows is an extract from the Eighth Infantry Regiment’s 1946 yearbook describing the battle of the hedgerows:

“The hedgerow campaign, where some of the grimmest battles fought by the Eighth Infantry were unfolded, were recorded for American newspaper readers by a grey and gentle reporter, known to hundreds of ‘doughs’ as ‘Ernie’, the late Ernie Pyle. Hedgerows are earthen fences around fields and orchards.  Roughly four to eight feet high and three to six feet thick, covered with tangled bushes, they form an obstacle surmountable only with the greatest of courage and the stoutest of heart.  Once burrowed under these hedgerows, hidden like rats in the earth, not even a direct hit with a large artillery shell would convince the fanatic Nazi defenders that their positions should be abandoned.  Only a grenade in the foxhole or a bayonet in the belly furnished the proof.  Each field required an individually planned and coordinated attack.  Every Nazi’s foxhole was a miniature fort, to be reduced by grenade and bayonet.  A scant hundred yards separated the opposing forces during the infamous hedgerow fighting.  From Utah Beach to Cherbourg, from Periers to the base of the Cotentin Peninsula, it was yard by yard, field by field; fire as fast as you could and run like hell to the next hedgerow.  Get the supplies and repeat, repeat the grinding sequence, hour by hour, day by day, week by week.”

Eighth Infantry Regiment 1946 Yearbook

“15 July 1944 – D+39

The 17th SS Panzer Division withdrew under the covering of the 6th Parachute Regiment.

Considerable shelling of the rear areas and increasing numbers of mines found which had been

hastily laid by the retreating enemy.  The 8th Infantry launched an attack at 1015 in conjunction

with the 12th Infantry.  Upon reaching the objective at 1800, the regiment organized positions for

defense.  The 12th Infantry did the same at 2100.  The 22nd Infantry remained in assembly area

as a division reserve.”

4th ID AAR

During this attack, after enduring 39 days in combat, Sergeant Robert Calvin Baskett was felled by German airburst artillery shell fragments, somewhere northeast of the small French village of Raids along the Carenten-Periers road. His body arrived back at Blosville Temporary Cemetery (pictured below), the location he had fought through on route to his initial objective on June 6th.  He was laid to rest in a grave, dug by German prisoners, in the cemetery laid out on D-Day by Sergeant Elbert E. Legg. His parents were notified by telegram on August 4th, 1944.

He would lay in rest in the French field until the repatriation of his remains in 1948.  He now rests in Issaquah’s Hillside Cemetery beside his father, who had passed away less than six months after receiving the news.

Cal and Mazie Baskett were not alone; 82 other men from E Company, 8th Infantry Regiment, would pay the ultimate price.  No man gives his life for his country, he has it violently torn away from him.

Ernie Pyle summed it up in a most fitting manner:

“Some of the men carried grenades already fixed in the ends of their rifles. All of them had hand grenades. Some had big Browning automatic rifles. One carried a bazooka. Interspersed in the thin line of men every now and then was a medic, with his bags of bandages and a Red Cross arm band on the left arm. The men didn’t talk any. They just went.

They weren’t heroic figures as they moved forward one at a time, a few seconds apart. You think of attackers as being savage and bold. These men were hesitant and cautious. They were really the hunters, but they looked like the hunted. There was a confused excitement and a grim anxiety on their faces.

They seemed terribly pathetic to me. They weren’t warriors. They were American boys who by mere chance of fate had wound up with guns in their hands sneaking up a death-laden street in a strange and shattered city in a faraway country in a driving rain. They were afraid, but it was beyond their power to quit. They had no choice.

They were good boys. I talked with them all afternoon as we sneaked slowly forward along the mysterious and rubbled street, and I know they were good boys.

And even though they aren’t warriors born to the kill, they win their battles. That’s the point.”

Ernie Pyle
Ernie Pyle
Ernie Pyle’s signature

***For an interactive map which details Robert Baskett’s journey from Issaquah to Normandy and back again, click here.

Many thanks to the following historians:

  • Bob Babcock CEO of Deeds Publishing LLC; Past President/Historian, 4ID Assn
  • Michael Belis, DMOR 22nd Infantry Regiment, 22nd Infantry Regiment Society Historian
  • Jérémy Andersen Bö, Reenactor in Paris, France
  • Gerry W. Howard, Past President, National 4th Infantry (IVY) Division Association
  • Wesley Johnston, Historian, 7th Armored Division Association
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