Off Beat: Family archivists preserve stories of fallen relatives

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

Published:

 

Robert Quatier Reported missing in action in Korea in 1950

? What: Vancouver Memorial Day Observance.

? When: 11 a.m. today.

? Where: Bandstand at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, opposite Officers Row.

What: Vancouver Memorial Day Observance.

When: 11 a.m. today.

Where: Bandstand at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, opposite Officers Row.

Many of the war fatalities we are remembering today have family members who are carrying on the names of the fallen.

Younger generations are keeping memories alive, sharing stories they’ve heard from older relatives.

Carol Graber has a particularly personal tie to the story of her family’s missing soldier. She contributed a DNA sample to military officials, on the chance that it might help bring Robert Quatier home.

“Bobby” had been in Korea for less than 10 days when he was killed, Graber said. Her uncle’s unit was overrun on July 16, 1950; his body was never recovered. The family got a telegram indicating that he was missing in action.

“He was declared presumed dead on Dec. 31, 1953,” Graber said. “I was about 6 months old.”

All the family members have been champions of keeping his legacy alive — particularly one of his brothers, Richard Quatier (pronounced “Kwa-teer”).

“I was interested as a child in helping my Uncle Richard,” Graber said.

Richard Quatier and Dick Kim were instrumental in establishing a Korean War memorial on the local Veterans Affairs campus.

“It was dedicated on Sept. 18, 2009,” Graber said. “My mom couldn’t walk or speak, but she indicated with a nod that she wanted to go.”

After Richard Quatier’s death in 2011, Graber assumed the role of family historian.

The Clever family

Rod Swanson also has become a family archivist. The Vancouver man never knew Lt. Robert Clever, but the Doolittle Raider was family.

“He was my late wife’s uncle,” Swanson said. “I have most of his war-related things.”

Clever, a Portland native, enlisted at Vancouver Barracks on March 15, 1941. He was among 80 airmen who flew 16 B-25 bombers in a mission over Tokyo on April 18, 1942. (Vancouver’s Wayne Bissell was another Raider; he died in 1997.)

Fifteen planes were lost; either the pilots crash-landed or the crews bailed out before the fuel ran out.

Clever suffered serious head and leg injuries but quickly returned to duty.

Clever’s role in the raid is part of a book and a film, Swanson noted. His pilot, Capt. Ted Lawson, wrote “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” which was turned into a movie.

Clever never saw Hollywood’s portrayal of him. He was a navigator on a B-26 that crashed in Ohio, on Nov. 20, 1942. The film was released in 1944.


Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.