Memorial Day was established to honor those who have died while serving our country in the United States Armed Forces. The Lower Valley has lost many brave and heroic men and women who have passed while serving to protect us. One such soldier was Vernon Elmer Bishop.
Born on March 4th, 1923 in Sunnyside, Vernon Elmer Bishop was the only child of Thomas and Vesta Bishop. His parents divorced when he was three. Single father Thomas was aided in raising Vernon by a caring family from his church, the Weeds. Thomas earned his living using horses to pack supplies into sheep camps. Attending Sunnyside public schools Vernon was well liked in High School and was a member of the school’s debate team with his friend William Aiken and his future wife Mary Glendenning.
After graduating in 1941, Vernon went to work for the United States Forest Service in the Leavenworth, Washington vicinity. According to his Registration Card completed at the age of 19, he stood approximately 5 feet 10 inches in height, weighed 160 pounds, and had brown hair and blue eyes. Working was not his only occupation around that time. He also enrolled in the Washington State College (WSC) in Pullman where he was studying pre-law along with William Aiken. Both were at WSC when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and both joined the Army in April of 1943.
Prior to Vernon’s departure from the United States as a Technician 5th Grade with Company L of the 32nd Infantry Regiment 7th Infantry Division, he married Mary Glendinning in California. After their marriage, Mary stayed in California working for the Douglas Aircraft Company waiting for his return while Vernon left to serve overseas. Sadly, he would not return alive.
With his division, Vernon participated in the Battle of Leyte, Philippines. He was reported as having received an injury serious enough to have been hospitalized at some point. After recovering enough to return to duty he was stationed in Okinawa where he ultimately paid the highest price for defending our freedom during the Battle of Okinawa. He was killed in action at the age of twenty-two, on June 18th, 1945, just days before Allied forces were able to take Okinawa.
Thomas, Vernon’s father, later received a letter from Seoul, Korea. It was written by Paul Hardcastle, a correspondent in Thomas’s unit. Hardcastle was with Thomas at the time of his death and described him as being well liked in his unit with his loss weighing heavily on those who knew him. He described Vernon as demonstrating extreme valor and bravery during his death. Hardcastle’s letter also states that along with Vernon he accompanied four other soldiers on a patrol looking for civilians in caves at the Yaigu Daki Escarpment. Afterwards they followed a path above the sea and were returning when a sniper’s bullet pierced Vernon above the heart causing him to fall. Hardcastle bandaged Vernon’s severe wound while Vernon begged that they leave him to save themselves. The five men refused to leave him behind and while under enemy fire they took turns attempting to carry him back to safety and help. Unable to lift him up a hill Hardcastle was wounded trying to climb it himself to get help. The only way to get Vernon to the help he desperately needed was to lift him up by rope. While Vernon was being lifted, he was struck by enemy fire in the neck and died instantly.
Vernon Elmer Bishop was initially being buried in a cemetery in Okinawa. His body was later returned to Sunnyside for burial at the Old Sunnyside Cemetery. His burial arrangements were handled by the Ball Funeral Home and the application for his military headstone was completed by his father Thomas in March of 1949. Thomas never remarried and passed away decades later, in 1986. He was laid to rest next to his only son Vernon who died as a hero in World War II.