Family trees show “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” of a family’s history. Some families have more than their share of the “Bad and Ugly” and can seem to be reliving the life of the bible story “Job”.
The Mitchell and Patzke families of Oregon and Washington are connected not only by marriage but by heart wrenching, “Job like” tragedies.
- On April 30, 1944, during World War II, while serving in North Africa and Italy as a Radio Operator/Gunner on a B17G Flying Fortress Bomber (Serial #42-32014), Jack D. Patzke gets shot down and is taken prisoner by the Germans. Jack is transported to Stalag Luft III, in eastern Germany. In early 1945, when the Soviets were overrunning the east part of Germany, the POWs were moved to southern Germany (Bavaria). On April 5, 1945 during the forced march to the new camp, Jack escapes and three days later on April 8, 1945 he is shot and killed. (link to blog post of his story)
- On May 5, 1945, one month after Jack D Patzke gets killed in Germany, his brother Dick Patzke and sister Joan Patzke are killed in Oregon, by a Japanese balloon bomb. Also killed are Sherman Shoemaker, Edward Engen, Jay Gifford, as well as Elsie (Winters) Mitchell wife of Rev. Archie Emerson Mitchell. (See Feb 2013 Post)
- On February 6, 1947, Leonard Mitchell age 16, brother of Archie, dies of Encephalitis.
- On May 17, 1961, Jackie Lynn Sanders, age 11, niece of Archie dies.
- On May 30, 1962, Archie Emerson Mitchell is taken prisoner by the Viet Con, while on a missionary tour of duty for “The Christian and Missionary Alliance”, in Ban Me Thuot, Vietnam where he and his wife Betty (sister of Jack D Patzke) ran a leprosarium in a Montagnards (Dega) village.
- In March of 1975, Betty (Patzke) Mitchell, the wife of Archie Emerson Mitchell and sister of Jack D. Patzke, is taken prisoner by the Viet Con while working at the Ban Me Thuot, Vietnam leprosarium.
- On May 18, 1980, at 9:20 am, Vernon C Mitchell brother of the still missing Archie Emerson Mitchell, is killed when his crop dusting plane hits a power line. It just so happens that at 8:40 am on that day, approximately 93 miles to the south west of where Vernon was flying, Mt. Saint Helen’s erupted. Did he hear and see the eruption from his vantage point in the air? Was he distracted by the sound and sight? We will never know, because Vernon Mitchell died and is buried in Ellensburg, Washington along with his family members and the family members of the Patzke family.
As Guy Ferstl of Goodyear, Arizona, put it “I have never encountered so much personal tragedy as that involving the Mitchell/Patzke families.” Guy (gtferstl) is a a family tree owner who provided the Jack D. Patzke story.
The body of Jack D. Patzke, who was killed in Germany in 1945, was returned to the USA from Europe around 1948 and he is buried in Oregon [link to blog posting].
The fate of Rev. Archie Emerson Mitchell was never known and it is presumed that he died and is buried in some remote jungle village in Vietnam.
Betty (Patzke) Mitchell never lost hope in having Archie back and she continued the missionary work with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
The following Sep 24, 2004 Lexington, N.C. newspaper item in The Dispatch gives a little bit of her story.
Still one more “Job like” incident can be recorded on this family tree branches and that is the story of Dr. David Thompson who married Becki Mitchell, the daughter of Archie and Betty Mitchell.
David’s parents who were also missionaries in Vietnam were killed by the Viet Con during the 1968 Tet offensive.
Here is a link to Dr. David Thompson’s story: http://www.cbn.com/700club/guests/bios/Dr_David_Thompson_022712.aspx
Other newspaper items about the balloon blast, Archie’s capture and Betty’s ordeals can be found in the following links:
Newspaper articles 1945 to 2004
“Six Persons Killed In Oregon Blast”
Bend, Deschutes County, Oregon
The Bend Bulletin, May 7, 1945, Monday
Newspaper item on the 50th anniversary of the Oregon blast. –
The FREE LANCE-STAR, May 5, 1995, Friday
– AP Report from: Grants Pass, Oregon —–
“The bombs that fell from the sky”
The Free Lance-Star, May 5, 1995
“50 years ago Japan floated a balloon”
Beaver County, Penn.
Beaver County Times, May 5, 1995
“Fifty years ago, six killed by balloon bomb launched from Japan”
The Argus-Press, May 6, 1995
“Six killed by balloon 50 years ago”
McCook Daily Gazette, May 5, 1995
“Bombing deaths mark 50th year”
Gadsden Times, May 5, 1995
AP – Grants Pass, Ore
“Mr. Mrs. Mitchell Have Family Reunion”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Aug 3, 1960
“No reports on fate of Rev. Mitchell”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Jun 4, 1962
See to the left and up from this link:
“Letter tells of Mitchell kidnap”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Jun 11, 1962
“Former Ellensburg Man Still Missing”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Oct 5, 1967
“Captured Missionary Found Alive”
Ellensburg Daily Record – May 17, 1968
“Missionary Alive and Well Says…”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Jun 20, 1968
“Missionary Held 9 years By Reds; Wife Still Hopes”
St. Petersburg, Florida
The Evening Independent – Mar 16, 1973
“Missionary Lost for 11 Years, but Wife’s Hope Remains”
Spokane Daily Chronicle – Mar 16, 1973
“Hasn’t Lost Hope For Her Husband”
Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach Morning Journal – Mar 17, 1973
“Mrs. Betty Mitchell visits her local family”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Jun 7, 1974
“Betty Mitchell Trapped in Vietnam”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Mar 10, 1975
“War comes home to the Mitchells”
Report from San Diego in
The Miami News – Mar 11, 1975
“U.S. missionaries reported in Saigon”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Apr 30, 1975
“Missionary may be released”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Oct 23, 1975
“Various stories about Betty Mitchell”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Oct 30, 1975
“Prison camp experience”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Jan 15, 1976
“Church conference – Becki Mitchell Thompson and Betty will speak”
Ellensburg Daily Record – Jan 22, 1976
“Memorial Day Was 26th Anniversary of Capture”
Lexington, North Carolina
The Dispatch – Jun 1, 1988
“Missionary speaking at area church this weekend”
The Dispatch – Sep 24, 2004, Saturday
If you are not familiar with the Job story, the following two web sites have good summaries.
Book of Job Summary
Jose from Clarkston, Michigan
What?! This is wild and awful. How did you discover all these connections? Gee. What a horrible constellation of tragedies.
Thank you for stopping by my posting.
The family history of these two families makes us thankful for our own uneventful family histories.
Jose from Clarkston, Michigan
My word, how does one keep a level head about them after all this? So tragic.
Thanks for stopping by and for giving me the initial inspiration, without your post I would have never known about the balloon bombs or the missionary family.
Jose from Clarkston, Michigan
I always hope my posts might be able to teach something new now and then – Thank you for that!