Civil war veterans

Aviation cadets training at Thunderbird Field II (now Scottsdale Airport) were introduced to Scottsdale’s climate and opportunities; many of them, as well as other veterans, relocated here after the war. 

As Scottsdale joins communities around the globe in commemorating the 100th anniversary of Armistice, or Veterans’ Day, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on our hometown veterans and their impact. 

From the city’s founding to the present, the men and women who have served our country have also influenced Scottsdale in a myriad of ways.

Three Civil War veterans had a hand in launching Scottsdale. 

Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell visited his namesake army post Fort McDowell in 1866 and saw soldiers spending more time growing their own food than soldiering, so he encouraged civilians to create settlements to provide food for the troops and their horses.

 W.J. Murphy and crew constructed the Arizona Canal across the Salt River Valley 1883-85, providing water for farming in what became Scottsdale.

 In 1888, Army Chaplain Winfield Scott, a thrice-wounded war vet, was the first to homestead land that is now downtown Scottsdale and promoted ‘his’ new town as a great place to farm, recuperate, visit and raise a family.

Nearly every man in 1917 Scottsdale registered for the newly-established draft, and many entered service during the Great War, later known as World War One.

 Most draftees or enlistees went to either Camp Funston, Kansas or Camp Kearny near San Diego. Townsfolk held send-off picnics and escorted the war-bound men to the Phoenix train station. Arizona’s 158th Infantry Regiment fought in France in 1918, then served as Pres. Woodrow Wilson’s honor guard and band in Paris during the treaty talks.

  At least two Scottsdale area men lost their lives during the war, at a time when our population was less than 1,000.

WWI veterans formed Post 44 of the American Legion in 1935, now Scottsdale’s oldest, continuously active civic organization. 

Great War vets who later came to Scottsdale and made their mark included Paul Galvin, founder of Motorola; Spencer Whiting, Scottsdale’s resident doctor during the 1940s and 1950s; Merle Cheney, a retired chemical company executive and early Arabian horse rancher; and Fowler McCormick, who was an ambulance driver in the American Field Service before taking the reins of International Harvester and establishing McCormick Ranch.

WWII drafted or enlisted Scottsdale youth and men into the armed services and recruited Scottsdale’s first female service members. Sadly, at least 25 lost their lives in the war, and more returned with life-altering injuries. 

American Legion Post 44 was renamed to honor the memory of Travis Sipe and Clayton Peterson; the newly-formed VFW Post 3513 was named to honor Stanley Crews.

After the war veterans flocked to Scottsdale, armed with their new G.I. Bill housing and education benefits, and the area transformed from an unincorporated farm town to a booming tourism, arts and entrepreneurial center.

The impact of the “Greatest Generation” on Scottsdale was profound, with leading veterans too numerous to mention. 

Just a few examples:  Army Air Corps pilot Bill Arthur was considered the ‘father of the Scottsdale Airport and Airpark’ and a life-long civic leader; Lloyd Kiva (Navy), Wes Segner (Navy) and George Cavalliere (Army Air Corps) started the Arizona Craftsmen Center that launched Scottsdale as an arts & crafts center; Dr. A.E. Carpenter, an Army chaplain, was a long-time administrator of then-Scottsdale Baptist Hospital (now HonorHealth-Osborn); Guy Stillman (Navy) created the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park; Tuskegee Airman Lincoln Ragsdale was a leader of the area’s civic rights movement.

Scottsdale resident Bob Myers was Arizona’s first draftee for the Korean War (1950-1953).  Six area residents are known to have died in this war.

Flying ace Joe Foss retired and established his Joe Foss Institute here.

During the Cold War, Scottsdale men and women served on active duty as well as with the Arizona National Guard and in local reserve units.

Bill Jenkins, high school teacher and mayor, served in the Navy Reserve, as did SRP executive and McDowell Sonoran Preserve champion Chet Andrews.  Members of the Arizona National Guard were deployed during the Berlin Wall crisis and other global situations.

The prolonged and unpopular Vietnam War affected many Scottsdale residents and their families. At least 25 men with ties to Scottsdale died in Vietnam, such as Curt Tarkington, a popular two-letter athlete in Scottsdale High School’s Class of 1964.

Five Scottsdale families suffered the agony of having loved ones as prisoners of war in North Vietnam, and hundreds turned out to welcome them home in spring 1973. 

Returning and relocating Vietnam veterans continue to make an impact, such as Rick Romley, former Maricopa County Attorney; Bob Littlefield, former Scottsdale City Councilman; Joe Brett, Scottsdale Sister Cities volunteer; Bob Parsons, philanthropist and GoDaddy founder; and many more.

Scottsdale soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, as well as members of the Arizona Air and National Guard and reserve units, have continued to serve in Desert Storm, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and at posts and bases throughout the U.S. and overseas.

Since 2005, local students (starting at Cactus Shadows High School) have been honoring Scottsdale area veterans through the annual publication of “Since You Asked…” books.

 Students involved in the Veterans Heritage Project interview veterans, publish their stories and submit their interviews for permanent archiving in the Library of Congress.

Scottsdale has a number of memorials to its veterans, such as The Chaplain statue at City Hall; the U.S. Marine Corps mural near Civic Center Library; the flagpole and Gratitude Train boxcar at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park; and the new Thunderbird Field II Veterans Memorial at Scottsdale Airport. A Memorial to the Fallen is also in the works.

Joan Fudala is a retired U.S. Air Force officer who first came to the Valley in 1976 when she was a public affairs officer at Luke Air Force Base. She served nine years on active duty and another 12 as an Air Force reservist in Air Force public affairs at The Pentagon.