Captain Elwood J. Euart’s Obituary

Long time supporter and friend of the South Pacific World War II Museum is Paul Vallee. Paul is Captain Euart’s nephew, and he has been kind enough to send through a copy of Captain Euart’s obituary that ran in Rhode Island newspapers today. It touchingly sums up the events leading to Captain Euart’s death and the subsequent recovery of his body this year.

‘Captain Elwood Joseph Euart October 26, 1942

Captain Elwood Joseph Euart, Field Artillery, United States Army, 1st Battalion, 103rd Field Artillery, Rhode Island National Guard, a native of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, perished in the sinking of the troop ship SS PRESIDENT COOLIDGE in the Southwest Pacific on October 26th 1942.

In those early days of World War II, the PRESIDENT COOLIDGE, carrying more than 5,000 soldiers of the 43rd Infantry Division, struck mines as she was entering the harbor at Espiritu Santo in what is now the Republic of Vanuatu. The vessel was initially grounded on a reef and nearly all the soldiers and crew were able to escape – including Captain Euart. However, on determining some soldiers remained trapped below decks, Captain Euart organized and led a rescue party back into the ship, saving all — only to be unable to escape as the PRESIDENT COOLIDGE suddenly slipped off the reef and sank.

In recognition of his heroism, Captain Euart was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (the nation’s second highest award for valor), the Purple Heart, and the Rhode Island Cross.

Captain Euart remained entombed in the hulk of the PRESIDENT COOLIDGE for more than 70 years, until discovered and safeguarded inside the wreck by a professional diver. After notice of the suspected human remains was passed from Vanuatu to Australia to the US Military in Hawaii, the US Army deployed a dive team from Hawaii in 2015 and, after recovery and DNA testing, they were conclusively identified as his.

Elwood Euart was a true son of Rhode Island: an Eagle Scout, a graduate of Rhode Island College – now The University of Rhode Island — Class of 1939, and a Rhode Island National Guardsman.
He was the son of the late Winifred Casey Euart and Elwood Francis Aloysius Euart of Pawtucket. Though unmarried, he was also survived by six siblings: Rita, Monica, John, Eleanor, Leonard, and Ruth, all now deceased. His closest survivors today are eleven nieces and nephews: Elwood Vallee of East Wakefield, New Hampshire; Sister Sharon Euart, RSM, of Silver Spring, Maryland; John Gallagher of East Blue Hill, Maine; Linda Euart Kelleher and John F. Euart, Jr. of Atlanta, Georgia; Elizabeth Badger of Morrisonville, New York; Elwood J. Euart II of Irving, Texas; Paul Vallee of Bethel, Vermont; Leonard Euart of North Dartmouth, Massachusetts; Charles Vallee of Oneida, New York, and Michelle Wise of Greer, South Carolina. He was uncle to the late James Gallagher of Chepachet, Rhode Island.

Captain Euart will return to Rhode Island at noon on Saturday, August 27th 2016 on a flight from Hawaii via Atlanta. Following the Planeside Honors Ceremony at TF Green Airport his remains will be transported to Keefe Funeral Home in Lincoln.

Relatives and friends, as well as members of the public are cordially invited to attend a Wake Service and Presentation of Awards on Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 3:30 P.M. in the Keefe Funeral Home, 5 Higginson Ave., Lincoln, followed by CALLING HOURS until 7 P.M., as well as a Mass of Christian Burial on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 10 A.M. in St. Maria Goretti Church, 165 Power Rd., Pawtucket. Burial with full Military Honors will follow in St. Francis Cemetery, Smithfield Ave., Pawtucket.’