Anthony Cooley: Apache family continues military tradition

Richard Cooley, far right, and other Apache cowboys in 1964. Photo from Anthony Cooley

Anthony Cooley shares history of his family -- his father, Richard Cooley, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, fought in World War II. His grandfather, Don, who married into the tribe, served in the Civil War:
Richard was one-quarter Apache and also a member of the tribe. As such he was not considered a U.S. citizen. Members of the Native American tribes were not made citizens of the United States until 1924.

In the mid-1960s, following the collapse of the livestock industry throughout the entire west, Don and Anne moved to Fort Apache where they got steady paying jobs. In 1927 Anne Cooley became the post mistress of the Fort Apache Post Office.

In 1935 the family moved to Cibecue where they built a trading post called Apache Traders that also housed the new Cibecue Post Office. Richard went to Globe High School where he stayed with his aunt and uncle during the school year.

In October 1941, Richard enlisted in the Army Air Corps when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. He followed in the proud tradition of the White Mountain Apache and his own family. His grandfather fought in the Civil War in New Mexico and with the Apache Scouts under Gen. George Crook during the 1870s. Several of Molly Cooley’s relatives had been Apache Scouts. One was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in 1872-73.

Dick, as he was known to everyone, was already in the service and being trained as a radio operator machine gunner on a bomber. Eventually he was sent to the South Pacific. When he arrived, there were no planes for them to fly so he was given a rifle and sent ashore for the Battle of Saipan.

From then on he served with the combat infantry, first on Saipan and later on Guam where he was wounded by a Japanese mortar. In February 1945 he went to the Battle of Iwo Jima. He survived that without physical injury “because of sheer luck and the Marines who were between me and the enemy,” he would say later.

Get the Story:
Anthony Cooley: Apache tribal member Richard Cooley fought in major battle in the Pacific (The White Mountain Independent 11/11)

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