• Indian River VFW History

The final days of two local veterans.


"Clint", as he was known, was born on May 12, 1912 and he grew up in Auburn Junction, Indiana. He was an avid hunter and fisherman and enjoyed the outdoors. When his two brothers-in-law, who lived in Indian River, offered young Cochran employment in their plumbing business here, it must have seemed to him an opportunity of a lifetime-he would have a job and he could enjoy trout fishing and hunting wild game. Zolman & Fisher was the plumbing company located here. Cochran moved to Indian River and after working for the plumbing company for a time he was called into the Army by the Selective Service Board. He was sworn in at Fort Custer, MI and then sent to Camp Blanding, FL for his basic training. From there, he was transferred to Fort Meade, MD. Then he was shipped to England where the Allies were organizing a massive army in preparation for the invasion of Europe. On the fourth day, following D-Day, Cochran landed in France with the 41st Armored Infantry, 2nd Armored Division, part of General George Patton's Third Army. After several difficult battles with the best troops Germany had to offer, Pvt. Clifton Cochran was killed on August 6, 1944, 10 miles south of St. Lo, France by an exploding German artillery shell. The battle that took place in and around St. Lo has been chronicled in history books and in the movies as one of the fiercest battles on the European continent during W.W.II. His body was interred, temporarily, in a military cemetery in Normandy and later returned to the US aboard the US Army Transport, Haiti Victory, for final burial in his home town of Auburn Junction, IN. Cochran was married to the former Dorothy Barager of Onaway, and they had two daughters, Sally and Sandra. Sally Beatty lives in Onaway and Sandra Freel lives in Millersburg. Clifton Cochran's wife remarried and lives in Onaway.


"Ted", as he was known to his friends, was the son of Walter and Bessie (Wattson) Roberts. Walter Roberts was the manager of the local lumber company and he and his family lived in the big white house that was located just south of the yard. The house still stands at 3639 Straits Hwy. Through interviews with those who were around at the time, I found that Ted Roberts was viewed as a typical young man, growing up in typical "small town America". He went to the local school, which ended in the 10th grade at that time, and then he finished his high school education in Petoskey. Word has it that young Ted had a penchant for cars and it is reported he had a heavy foot while driving - another youthful trait. Ted had a serious side to his personality and he went to work at an area mortuary, where he served as an apprentice, with the idea of becoming a funeral director some day. Ted enlisted in the Army on January 8, 1941, nearly a year before the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor. It is understood that he received his training at Fort Bragg, NC as part of the 60th Infantry Division. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, war was declared and it was not long before this country was called upon to become an active partner in the war in Europe. German troops occupied practically all of Europe and they were riding roughshod across North Africa. The British asked for our help in an effort to restrain German General Rommel and this became America's first participation in the ground war - there in the sands of the Sahara Desert.

American troops were put ashore in French Morocco at three points near Casablanca in late 1942. One of these areas was at Port Lyautey and it was there that Sgt. Ted Roberts and the 60th Division entered the war. Let me interrupt at this point to tell you that my search for information on his military background, led me to a diary that Ted Roberts kept after he went ashore at Port Lyautey. His diary covers a period of time from February 1, 1943 to November 20, 1943, during his time in North Africa and Sicily. What follows are some selected snippets from pages and pages of Ted's journal that afford us a rare opportunity for some insight into what his life was like as an infantryman.

Ted's first entry was dated Feb. 1, 1943. It reads:

Ted Roberts' diary ends on Sun. Nov. 14, 43. We know, however, that he landed in Portsmouth, England on or about November 23 and at that time he became part of the largest force ever assembled in the history of warfare, in preparation for the D-Day landing in France on June 9, 1944. Through interviews with Chuck Wattson of Indian River - a cousin of Ted Roberts I learned that Ted was wounded several times after landing in France and at one point his wounds were so bad he had to be shipped to a surgical hospital in England for proper treatment. There he met another cousin, 2nd Lt. Betty Wattson, Chuck's sister, an Army nurse. One can only imagine what conversation took place - an angel of mercy, and a cousin yet? Upon recovery, Sgt. Ted Roberts was returned to duty once again and on December 12 he was killed in action in Germany.

Pvt. Cochran and Sgt. Roberts were but, two, among thousands, who lost their lives during World War II. Since then Korea, Viet Nam, Desert Storm and other conflicts have added to their number.

On this special day among veterans, how about pausing for a minute or two and remember those who "paid the price!" And while you're at it, don't forget those confined to VA hospitals across the country. Above all, remember - Freedom is not Free!