Veterans

Honoree:  Sgt. 1st Class John Raymond Rice; Kay-La-Che-Manika

Honoree Category:  Veterans

Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster
Bronze Star
Combat Infantryman’s Badge with Star
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean President Unit Citation
Republic of Korea War Service Medal
Pacific Theater Medal
World War II Victory Medal
sgtjohnricebronze
Bio – Sgt. 1st Class John Raymond Rice
Kay-La-Che-Manika
1914-1950

page 1

“John was a real gentleman and a great American,” wrote Don Shaw to Evelyn Rice, the widow of Sgt. 1st Class John Raymond Rice, on Aug. 30, 1951.

Shaw was a Vancouver, Wash., World War II veteran who served with Sgt. Rice in the South Pacific. After the war, the two men kept in touch by writing letters. Shaw learned that day from a newspaper story why he hadn’t heard from his buddy in an unusually long time.

Sgt. Rice had been killed in Korea on the Pusan perimeter near Tabu-Dong on Sept. 6, 1950. He was leading a squad of riflemen on a “most hazardous” mission.

“While diverting the enemy from close range contact…he himself became the target and was killed,” the St. Augustine Indian Mission’s Trumpet Call reported. He left a wife, three small children, his mother, brothers, sisters, other family members, many friends and Army buddies.

The newspaper story’s focus, however, was not Sgt. Rice’s heroism but rather, as Shaw described it, “the trouble in Sioux City.”

Memorial Park, a private cemetery at the southeast edge of Sioux City, had halted the Tuesday, Aug. 28, 1951, burial of Sgt. Rice just before his casket was to be lowered into the grave. Why? Cemetery bylaws restricted burials to “Caucasians only.” Sgt. Rice was a Winnebago Indian. A different final resting place would have to be found for the soldier who had sacrificed his life in a “bleak, wet valley” thousands of miles from home.

News of the war hero’s halted burial spread throughout the country, all the way to the White House. It enraged residents of Sioux City, the nearby Winnebago Reservation and citizens throughout the nation. How could a soldier who had given his life for our country be treated with such utter disrespect?

Outside of family, friends and Army buddies, few had known of Sgt. John Rice before the “trouble in Sioux City.” Now his name and all that it stood for ignited a national call to honor him. Now his memory as a gentleman, a “perfect soldier” and a great American compelled a local and national examination of conscience about justice, decency and the meaning of democracy.

“Kay-La-Che-Manika”

John Raymond Rice was born on April 25, 1914, and grew up on the Winnebago Reservation in Northeast Nebraska, 20 miles southwest of Sioux City, Iowa. His Indian name was “Kay-La-Che-Manika” or “Walking in the Blue Sky.” He attended school at St. Augustine Indian Mission in Winnebago, and the Indian boarding school in Genoa, Neb.

As a teen-ager and young adult, he farmed and was an amateur boxer. He enlisted in the Army on Dec. 24, 1940. He was one of 25,000 Native Americans who served in WWII; some 22,000 on the front lines.

Sgt. Rice was assigned to the 32nd (Red Arrow) Division, fighting in campaigns for New Guinea and the Philippines. He was an infantry scout for three years. He was wounded and contracted malaria.

In February 1945, he married Evelyn Wilcox whose family farmed on the Winnebago Reservation. Evelyn had known John most of her life. She knew he loved the Army. Two months after he was discharged, he re-enlisted. For two years he served in an Army escort unit, accompanying deceased soldiers back to their homes for burial. Race was never an issue, according to Evelyn.

Sgt. Rice was stationed in Colorado Springs, Colo., Fort Sheridan, Ill., and served in Korea with the Eighth Regiment, First Cavalry Division. On Sept. 6, 1950, he was killed by enemy fire.

page 2

Full military honors

Almost a year after he died, Sgt. Rice’s body came home on the ship Provo Victory. A military escort from Oakland, Calif., brought him to Winnebago. Evelyn paid $100 for a lot in the veterans’ section of Memorial Park, the nearest military burying ground. Some day, Evelyn would have the lot next to her husband.

Following the military funeral at Winnebago on Aug. 28, 1951, veterans of LaMere-Greencrow Post 363 and Alvin Londrosh Post 174 of the American Legion led the cortege to Memorial Park. The Sioux City Journal later noted that Post 363 was “Indian”; Post 174 was “white.”

At the cemetery, the Rev. Daniel Madlon, O.S.B., who assisted at St. Augustine Indian Mission, gave a 15-minute graveside sermon. Army officials, including the service unit escort from Oakland, were present. Lt. Edwin J. Krischel came from Omaha to act as a bugler. After the final gun salute, mourners dispersed. Evelyn returned to her parents’ Winnebago home where she and her children, Pam, Jean and Timothy, were staying. She assumed her husband’s casket would promptly be buried.

Before leaving Memorial Park, funeral director Dalton Boyd stopped at the cemetery to check on the installation of Sgt. Rice’s grave marker. During the conversation, the cemetery employee said he had noticed the large number of Native American veterans at the burial service. Was Sgt. Rice an Indian? Yes, Boyd said. Well, that made completion of the burial impossible, according to the cemetery employee. Memorial Park bylaws restricted burial to Caucasians. When the cemetery salesman sold the plot to Evelyn he didn’t ask if her husband was Caucasian “because Mrs. Rice is white.”

For the next five hours, Sgt. Rice’s casket sat over the open grave as the Rice family, Army officials and the Sioux City community reacted with disbelief, then shifted to action.

“Caucasian only”

M. Sgt. John C. Boles, the honor guard, called his Oakland, Calif., headquarters. Officials there contacted the quartermaster corps in Washington, D.C., 1st Lt. Neal McCluhan, an attorney and American Legion service officer at Winnebago, notified The Sioux City Journal. A page-one story about the incident ran in Aug. 29 editions.

The Journal reported that cemetery representatives went to Winnebago and asked Evelyn to sign a statement saying her husband was “Caucasian” so that the burial could proceed. She refused. When they tried to refund her $100 payment, she refused the money, The Journal reported.

Evelyn said she had not noticed the “Caucasian-only” clause in the contract when she bought the burial plot. “Even if I had, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it. When these men are in the army, they are all equal and the same. I certainly thought they would be the same after death, especially in a military section of the cemetery,” she told The Journal.

Evelyn and her family were no strangers to racial prejudice. Her sister was married to Sgt. Rice’s brother Henry, also of Winnebago. Yet, during her travels with her husband at various army assignments she found a surprising lack of prejudice. Her family had been treated “wonderfully” in Illinois, Wisconsin and Colorado, she told The Journal.

Getting nowhere with Evelyn, cemetery representatives asked Army officials to sign a statement saying Sgt. Rice was Caucasian. They refused.

In the late afternoon, Sgt. Rice’s body was taken from Memorial Park and returned to the funeral home. A 24-hour honor guard was established. Sgt. Rice’s mother, Fannie West Davis of Winnebago, sat silently for hours next to her son’s casket. People from the community and surrounding towns paid their respects and offered support. Evelyn did not believe the people of Sioux City and vicinity endorsed the “discriminatory” action of the cemetery association, The Journal reported.

page 3

President Truman steps in

News of Sgt. Rice’s halted burial spread across the nation. “…the whole country was ablaze with fury and indignation. The sympathies were in favor of the Indian Hero of Korea…,” the Trumpet Call reported. The following day, Evelyn received a telegram from Maj. Gen. Harry B. Vaughan, military aide to President Harry Truman:

“The President regrets the unfortunate development regarding the burial of Sergeant John R. Rice. The Department of the army will contact you to make all arrangements for interment at Arlington if it is your wish.” The government would pay the expenses.

Deeply humbled, Evelyn accepted the president’s offer. Bitterness began to soften with the outpouring of support from across the country and at home.

Sioux City’s American Legion Monahan Post 697 called for an investigation of the Rice case. It offered to pay for a plot at Sioux City’s Logan Park Cemetery, The Journal reported. The resolution committee of Sioux City’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 580 pressed for “legal action against Memorial park cemetery to remove illegal race and color restrictions as applied in burial of Sgt. John Rice.”

At its national convention in Boston, the Am-vets adopted a resolution. Sponsored by Sioux City and Iowa delegates, the resolution asked the Sioux City City Council to enact local legislation to prevent a recurrence of what happened in the Sgt. Rice case.

The Pulaski Club of Sioux City, composed mostly of war veterans of Polish heritage, offered to purchase any cemetery plot in the United States for Sgt. Rice’s burial.

Charles LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribal Council, said he hoped something positive would come of the discrimination against Sgt. Rice. “This brings out into the open conditions we know…” have existed for a long time.

The Sioux City Metropolitan Council of the United Packinghouse Workers of America adopted a resolution urging action against the cemetery, prohibiting “the display of the American flag on such an un-American piece of land.”

The Sioux City Trades and Labor assembly’s officers adopted a resolution condemning the cemetery’s action as “un-American and contrary to the democratic principles of this great nation.”

American Federation of Labor President Donald Thompson pointed out the hypocrisy of denying burial to a U.S. soldier who had made “supreme sacrifice” for his country.

Sioux City public school teachers went on record to oppose “the racial bigotry shown in this instance.” The teachers urged Memorial Park to eliminate the “obnoxious and discriminatory clause” from its lot contracts and create a policy of “genuine equality.”

Hundreds beyond the Sioux City area wrote to President Truman protesting the mistreatment of Sgt. Rice. One noted the irony that a city named for an Indian people denied a war hero “final sanctuary” because he was an Indian.

The Association of American-Indian Affairs released a statement: “This is horrible. Manifestation of such an inhuman and anti-American attitude brings disgrace upon our country.” The association called upon the cemetery group to reconsider and reverse its action. Spokesman Oliver La Farge, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Laughing Boy,” sent a telegram to Sioux City Mayor Dan Conley urging him to denounce Memorial Park’s actions and demand a public apology from the cemetery.

The NAACP, through its Iowa State chairman David Singer, called the cemetery’s action a “slap in the face for our statesmen who are trying to sell democracy to the world. Can you picture the grin over Stalin’s face as he reads the headlines in the American newspapers?”

Cemetery policies

At a special meeting two days after the halted burial, the Sioux City City Council passed a resolution expressing “sincere regret” to Evelyn Rice and the Rice family: “The city council, on behalf of the councilmen and the people of Sioux City, expresses the most sincere regret that the burial of this deceased veteran was not permitted, and the assurance that the people of the City of Sioux City would have been proud to have had the honor of having Sergeant John R. Rice buried in any cemetery within the City of Sioux City.”

The Journal checked for discriminatory policies at the city’s Floyd and Logan Park cemeteries, but found none. “There is a Negro section at Logan Park. Some time ago, the city was requested to set aside a certain section for the members of the Negro race. The city cooperated with the request. But there is no absolute demand made that Negroes be buried in that section. They can be buried any place they desire in the cemetery,” said Drew Fletcher, superintendent of parks and public property. “There is no discrimination in city-owned cemeteries.”

Rt. Rev. Msgr. Eugene Kevane, Monahan Post chaplain, official in charge of Sioux City’s Calvary Cemetery and principal of Bishop Heelan High School, affirmed that Calvary had no racial restrictions.

page 4

Apology and reversal

Letters and telegrams protesting Sgt. Rice’s halted burial poured into Memorial Park association, City Hall, The Journal, and the Sioux City Chamber of Commerce. Most had been sent before the cemetery lifted its ban on Sgt. Rice’s burial and announced it would seek elimination of the “restrictive covenant.” The reversal came after Sioux City public officials, civic and business leaders met with cemetery representatives the day after the halted burial.

The cemetery association apologized to Evelyn and offered her any lot in any part of the cemetery free. She graciously declined. Her husband’s body would rest at Arlington National Cemetery. “He loved the army and burial in a military cemetery would be what he wanted.”

The burial service was set for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5. Sgt. Rice’s body would be taken by train from Sioux City to Washington, D.C., leaving on Sunday, Sept. 2. Sgt. Rice’s mother and her daughter Helen Wolfe would accompany the body; M. Sgt. Boles and Lt. Krischel would be the honor guard. Evelyn, Henry and his wife, funeral director Dalton Boyd, and 1st Lt. McCluhan would travel in an Army plane from Sioux City to Ft. Myers, Va., on Tuesday.

March of Triumph

The journey to Arlington National Cemetery began at the Winnebago funeral home Sunday morning. Joining Sgt. Rice’s family and friends were Gen. Guy Henninger, commander of the Nebraska National Guard who represented Neb. Gov. Val Peterson.; Col. Hardin K. Sweeney, commander of the Nebraska military district; Lt. Col. Othel Stewart, executive officer of the district; Capt. Thomas Quinn, 1st Lt. William Quinn, and 1st Lt. Krischel, all of the Nebraska district; and M. Sgt. Boles. Fr. Madlon offered prayers and the Nebraska Highway Patrol escorted the cortege to the Combination Bridge.

A 20-man escort composed of members of the LaMere-Greencrow and Alvin Londrosh Winnebago Legion was sent ahead to the Combination Bridge. There they waited to join a larger procession and cross over the Missouri River. People lined the route as Sioux City motorcycle police officers and cars carrying officials from South Sioux City, Sioux City and the Monahan post proceeded across the bridge and on to the train depot.

They “now felt they were escorting a true hero to his final resting place in Arlington Cemetery, though most of them were not privileged to go farther than the train depot,” The Journal reported in a page one story.

Marching behind the cars were Nebraska district military officers, the Monahan Post band, and the official escort commanded by 1st Lt. McCluhan. Gen. Henninger and Fr. Madlon followed the escort. Eight pallbearers marched beside the body. Next came cars carrying Evelyn, Sgt. Rice’s mother and other relatives.

About 1,000 more people gathered at the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad depot at Third and Pierce streets where Fr. Madlon offered a prayer. They watched in silence as Sgt. Rice’s casket was borne into the flag-draped train. The following evening, a military escort of honorary pallbearers and military police met Sgt. Rice’s body and took it to Fort Myers, Va., adjoining Arlington National Cemetery.

page 5

Taps sounded

On Sept. 5, 1951, six gray horses pulled the black caisson bearing Sgt. Rice’s flag-covered casket from a Fort Myer, Va., to Arlington National Cemetery. The canopy-covered gravesite was next to the grave of Cpl. Edward Ryan Cassidy, a World War I veteran from New York, and a few yards from the graves of General of the Armies John J. Pershing and Gen. Walton Walker, commander of the Eighth Army in Korea.

President Truman’s honor guard from the Third Infantry stood at attention. Six enlisted men of the regiment bore Sgt. Rice’s casket. The Army band played “Nearer My God to Thee.”

With Rice family and friends were colonels from the military district of Washington, D.C., members of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior’s American Legion post, headed by Sec. Oscar L. Chapman. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Dillon S. Meyer, presented the Truman Administration. Sen. Guy Gillette, (D-Iowa), Sen. Hugh Butler (R-Neb.) and President Truman’s representative, Col. John R. Beishline, were present. A large round floral arrangement of pink and white gladiolas was at the gravesite.

Capt. John Forzell, a Fort Myer chaplain, read the Catholic service of committal. Maj. Gen. Charles B. Palmer, Sgt. Rice’s commander in Korea, delivered a five-word eulogy: “He was a fine soldier.”

“Taps sounded over Rice’s grave just one day less than one year after the 37-year-old soldier from Winnebago, Neb., was killed in action during one of the grimmest periods of the Korean war,” the Associated Press reported.

Through hell and high water

Letters to Evelyn from her husband’s Army buddies gave voice to what other Americans were only beginning to learn: Sgt. John Rice was a great American.

“I had the great privilege of serving for a time with John during our war against Japan in the Pacific,” wrote Arthur B. “Brad” McGuire, of New York, N.Y. “As he was my platoon sergeant, as we often occupied the same fox hole, and as we often slept under the same tent, I knew John Rice quite well.

“…he was the best platoon sergeant in our outfit. There was no better soldier, no more courageous man in the 32nd Division. His calmness and coolness under fire were an inspiration to all. All the troops, whether green or very seasoned, would follow him confidently through hell and high water.

“Now that I am being called back on active duty, I will have many opportunities to hold up Sgt. John Rice as an example of the perfect soldier, and brave and loyal American….”

Additional Honorees for Veterans:  Dennis Swanstrom, Walter John, Izzy Rosen, Don Forney, Bud Day, Thomas Parke, Edward Spauldin