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Private Francis Stokes Caffey was born August 16, 1922 in Kansas, likely in Sedgwick County, where the Caffey family lived in 1925. Pvt Caffey was the third of five sons born to Preston Francis and Amzel Ludy (Stokes) Caffey. The family moved to the Phillipsburg area of Union Township, Laclede County, Missouri sometime before 1930, where Preston Caffey worked in road maintenance.
The family next moved to Myrtle Point, Oregon in 1936, where Preston Caffey worked as a laborer on a cattle and dairy ranch. His son, Pvt Caffey, completed the 8th grade at Myrtle Point in 1937. In 1940, at the age of 17, Pvt Caffey was working in Myrtle Pint, Oregon as a pin setter in a bowling alley.
Pvt Caffey joined the Marine Corps on December 13, 1941. He served and trained at many locations around the world, including: California, Washington, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Guadalcanal, Gilbert Islands, Hawaii, and Saipan.
Three of Pvt Caffey’s four brothers also served in World War II: Clifford Neil Caffey (1916-1984), Preston Clay Caffey (1918-1978), and Harold Thomas Caffey (1925 – 1979). Their youngest brother, William Lee Caffey, was only 11-years-old when the war ended.
From October 1942 until his death, Pvt Francis Stokes Caffey served with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. The 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines is also “known as ‘The Ready Battalion’ or ‘2/6 Spartans’, [and] consists of approximately 800 Marines and Sailors.” (2nd Battalion, 6th Marines)
The 2/6 participated in the Battle of Guadalcanal, codenamed “Operation Watchtower” by American forces. The campaign lasted from August 7, 1942 until February 9, 1943. Pvt Caffey was part of the 60,000 Allied ground troops who fought to secure the Allied victory. The Allies suffered 15,000 casualties (7,199 KIA, 7,789+ wounded, and 4 captured), while the Japanese suffered 20,000 casualties (19,200 dead, 1,000 captured).
The 2/6 next joined the Battle of Tarawa on November 21, 1943. The Tarawa Atoll, in the Gilbert Islands, “was the most fortified atoll America would invade during the Pacific Campaign.” (Battle of Tarawa) The Marines secured victory after 72 brutal hours of fighting. All but 17 of the estimated 4,500 Japanese defenders gave their lives trying to defend the beaches. In total, the Marines suffered over 3,000 casualties – more than 1,000 killed in action and twice that many injuries.
After a brief respite from combat, the 2/6 was sent to Saipan in the Mariana Islands, where on June 15, 1944, on the first day of fighting, Private Francis Stokes Caffey made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Battle of Saipan, referred to as the Pacific D-Day, was a critical American Victory in the Pacific, and led to the resignation of the Prime Minister of Japan. The battle lasted from June 15 to July 19, 1944. The Americans suffered nearly 14,000 casualties (3,426 KIA and MIA, 10,364 wounded), while the Japanese suffered a staggering 29,000 losses (24,000 KIA, 5,000 suicides, and 921 prisoners). An additional 22,000 civilian lives were lost during the Battle of Saipan, mostly suicides.
“The exploits of the 2/6 were immortalized in the World War II classic novel, ‘Battle Cry’, by Leon Uris. Although the characters were fictional, the movements of the 2/6 were historically accurate and were based on Uris’ own experiences in the 2/6 during World War II as a PFC.” (2nd Battalion, 6th Marines)
After two and a half years in the Marines and after surviving two significant battle campaigns, Private Frances Stokes Caffey gave his life in service for his country on June 15, 1944. His funeral services were held at 2:30 pm on December 23, 1948 at the National Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri. Created in 1867, the cemetery covers 18 acres and contains the remains of veterans from the Revolutionary War, Spanish-American War, the Civil War, and World War II.
He is laid to rest on the same grounds as scout for General George Washington, five Buffalo soldiers, and five recipients of the Medal of Honor.
William Lee Caffey Obituary, The World, Coos Bay, Oregon, 11 Feb 1997, Page 5
1925 Kansas, U.S., State Census Collection, 1855-1925, Wichita, Sedgwick, Kansas, family 19, Ancestry
1930 Census, Union Township, Laclede County, Missouri, family 182, Ancestry
1940 Census, Coos, Myrtle Point, Oregon, Sheet 7 B, Ancestry
FindAGrave memorial 451531 https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/451531/francis-stokes-caffey
“Five Services for War Dead to be Thursday” Springfield Leader and Press, Springfield, Missouri, 22 Dec 1948, Page 6
2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Battalion,_6th_Marines
Battle of Tawara, History.com Editors, https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-tarawa
Battle of Saipan, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Saipan
Battle of Saipan, Historynet, https://www.historynet.com/battle-of-saipan
Together We Served Memorial https://marines.togetherweserved.com/usmc/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApp?cmd=ShadowBoxProfile&type=Person&ID=374937
Guadalcanal campaign, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guadalcanal_campaign
Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served, Springfield National Cemetery, Springfield, Missouri, National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/missouri/springfield_national_cemetery.html
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smartphone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen’s name and read his/her story. If you noticed anything missing in this profile, you may contact the author.