Cordova Chronicles: 3 bridge signs honor fallen WWII Cordovans

Part three of a series on the Copper River Highway bridges

The bridge at Mile 11 on the Copper River Highway is named in honor of Leonard F. Olson, a Cordovan who was wounded twice in the span of a month during combat in France and Luxembourg and did not survive the second injuries. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

Three bridges on the Copper River Highway honor Cordovans who lost their lives in World War II. In a sad coincidence, two of them, Patrick Burchett and Norman Osborne, were classmates in the Cordova High School class of 1939.

The Sheridan River Bridge at Mile 16.3 is named in honor of Patrick A. Burchett.

Burchett was born in Cordova on Dec. 19, 1921 and died as a result of a motor vehicle accident in the Asiatic area on April 9, 1943. His father was Jerry Allen and his mother was Mrs. Emil Pennanen (formerly Burchett), but he was adopted and raised in Cordova by his grandparents, Thomas and Elizabeth Burchett.

Burchett enlisted in the Army Air Force on Jan. 2, 1940, as a ground crew member, and re-upped three years later. He served in Australia, Java, India and Palestine. At the time of his death he was a staff sergeant in the 493 Army Air Force squadron, with nine men working directly under him. He is buried in Sylvan Cemetery in Howard Lake, Minnesota with his grandparents.

The Scott Glacier Bridge at Mile 11 is named in honor of Norman D. Osborne. He was born on Sept. 1, 1921 in Cordova and died in April 13, 1945 in the battle at Okinawa after serving in Hawaii and the Philippines as a private in the U.S. Army. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Oak Leaf Cluster.

Osborne, along with his older sister Gail (Mrs. Frank Steen), and older brother Bjorn, were born and raised here, and all graduated from CHS. Their parents were pioneer Cordovans Mr. and Mrs. Ben Osborne. Norman married former Cordovan Blanche Burns. The couple lived in Seattle with their only child at the time of his induction into the Army, less than a year before he died on Okinawa in the final major battle in the Pacific of WWII.

The Scott Glacier bridge at 11 Mile is named in honor of Leonard F. Olson. He was born on Oct. 22, 1923 in Sweden and died on April 25, 1945.

Olson was a Sergeant in the 328th Infantry Regiment, 26th Yankee Division, and received the Purple Heart for wounds received in France in December 1944. He was also wounded in Luxembourg on Jan. 6, 1945 and received the Oak Leaf Cluster. He died of those wounds in April and was buried in the American Military Cemetery at Cambridge, England with full military honors.

He was the son of Leander Olson, a local fisherman, and Mrs. Hanna Michelson of North Edmonds, Washington.

A plaque at the Cordova Library presented by the CHS Class of 1943 lists all the CHS graduates that served in WWII up through the Class of 1943. It includes the year they graduated, the branch in which they served, and in some cases, their rank.

The plaque contains the name of Patrick A. Burchett, but not Norman D. Osborne, because he was inducted into the army after 1943. Also, Leonard Olson’s name is not on the plaque, as he graduated from Edmonds High School in 1942.

Three bridges on the Copper River Highway are named for Cordovans who gave their lives in WWII. Two of them, Patrick Burchett and Norman Osborne, were members of the CHS Class of 1939. CHS Annual photo

The list of names on the plaque is as follows:

  • Axel Janson, Private ’43, U.S. Army;
  • Otto Johansen, ’43 (Branch not legible);
  • Charles J. Stovall, ‘43 U.S. Army (A.T.S.);
  • Fred Johnson, ’42, U.S. Army (Engineers);
  • Clarence Jacobsen ’40. Private, U.S. Army (A.T.S.);
  • Jack Allen, ’40, Corporal, U.S. Army;
  • Frank Morris, ’40, Corporal, U.S. Army;
  • Patrick Burchett, ’39, Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Force;
  • John Jay Hoover, ’38, U.S. Army (A.T.S.);
  • Robert MacDonald, ’38, Ensign, U.S. Coast Guard;
  • Calvin Stewart, ’38, U.S. Army Air Force;
  • Lewis Brewer, ’38, U.S. Navy;
  • Reino Matson, ’37, Corporal, U.S. Army;
  • Henry Stewart, ’37, Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Force;
  • Tim Eckstrom, ’36. Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Force;
  • George F. Peterson, ’35, U.S. Army Air Force;
  • Charles Buck, ’35, U.S. Army (Signal Corps);
  • Richard Davis, ’32, Ensign, U.S. Navy;
  • Patrick O’Neill, ’32, Captain, U.S. Army Air Force;
  • Philip Lydick, ’31, Sergeant, U.S. Army;
  • Karl Rosswog, ’30, Lieutenant, U.S. Army (Airborne Engineers);
  • Philip O’Neill, ’29, U.S. Navy;
  • George Dooley, ’28, Sergeant, U.S. Army;
  • Cecil Waln, ’26, U.S. Navy;
  • Bill Field, ‘25. Sergeant, U.S. Army (A.T.S).

And there surely are countless other Cordovans who were not CHS graduates who also served.


Read parts 1 and 2 of this series


Next week: Bridges named for Cordovans who gave their lives in the Vietnam Conflict.