James Neton’s History in Focus: B.C. McAnally: The Third Man
B.C. McAnally was born and raised in the Sand Springs homesteader community just south of today’s Western Knolls subdivision. On Feb. 17,1945, he died on the other side of the world in the Philippines on the island of Luzon, while fighting to regain the strategic Clark Field from Japanese militarists.
According to family tradition, Atha and Lura McAnally named their son, born in 1919, by only a simple set of initials. Tired of constantly being asked what the initials stood for, B.C. later decided to call himself Bernard Clyde.
During those early rugged years of settlement, Atha took on any work available. Moffat County papers report he cut and hauled fence posts, trapped on lower Sand Spring Gulch, built houses, mined coal at the old Gilna mine, drove sheep from Horse gulch to the Duffy ranch, plowed snow, hauled hay and, by the 1930s, operated a road grader for the county.
Curiously, B.C.’s boyhood travails flew under the radar of the local papers. The life of hard work on a homestead limited his newsworthy activities. We find quick glimpses into his life: homesteader baseball games at Lay, a Boy Scout camping trip, a Christmas recitation, and, in 1927, B.C. got his foot caught in a hay rake that “hurt so badly he was unable to walk for a couple of days.” In 1936, he quietly graduated from Craig High School, and started work as an assistant butcher at Safeway.
Then, tragedy struck. In the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 1937, a group of friends from Craig in two cars were returning from a dance in Hayden. A 1934 Chevrolet sedan, crowded with eight youth, two of whom were riding on the fenders, attempted to pass the vehicle driven by B.C. As they rounded a curve at 60 mph, they met a one and one-half ton International truck loaded with cedar fence posts. In an instant, twisted metal and bodies flew into the air and scattered across the dark highway. Seven of the eight young adults died, and B.C. witnessed their deaths. A mass funeral for four of the dead was held at the state armory (now the Museum of Northwest Colorado). A night of revelry and dancing turned into a nightmare.
Four months after the crash, B.C. resigned his job at Safeway and left for Denver to work at a store called Sav-O-Nickel. Time heals wounds, and in 1940, he returned to Craig to manage a butchering company called Colorado Locker Box.
In 1942, World War II and the 160th Infantry regiment called B.C.’s name. Trained in Hawaii, he quickly caught up with the front lines. On Jan. 9, 1945, Technical Sergeant McAnally was one of 175,000 men who came ashore on Lingayen Gulf on the island of Luzon. The Allies poured men onto the beachhead, and they swarmed south down the flat plain leading to Clark Field. Farther south lay the crown jewel of Manila.
To take the high ground from the Japanese, the 160th forced its way up the steamy jungle hills rising two to 300 meters above Clark Field. When the Americans moved along the exposed ridges and hills, the Japanese brought down a hail of mortar, artillery and machine gun fire. In response, the Americans would call in close range artillery and mortar fire, wait until the Japanese fire slowed, drive forward a few yards and repeat the process. High casualties, stifling jungle heat and combat fatigue created a slow, laborious and costly pattern of warfare.
According to an Army military history of the campaign, progress was measured in yards per day, and the 160th experienced five men KIA and 15 wounded per day. On Feb. 17, moving southwest toward Object Hill, Snake Hill West and Scattered Trees Ridge, B.C. became one of the that day’s five men pulled through the Philippine meat grinder. On Feb. 20, Clark field was secured, and the war quickly left B.C. behind and focused on the liberation of Manila.
B.C. is one of three Craig men (the others are John Wagner and John Simpson) buried at the Manila American Cemetery. His name on the new WWII Memorial in Veteran’s Park reminds us each death in any war is both a sacrifice and a tragedy.