Charles Caldwell Jr. was born on April 21, 1921 on his parents’ farm at Milan in north central Missouri. He was the oldest of seven children born to Ramah Simpson Caldwell and Charles Border Caldwell.
The family suffered death early on. A daughter, Dwyla, was one when she died of cholera in 1925. A son, William, was five months old when he died of acute enterocolitis exactly a year to the day later.
As for most families, the Great Depression was difficult for the Caldwells. Charles Jr. graduated from Milan High School in 1939. By the time of the spring 1940 Census Milan’s population was just over 2,000. Both father and son were timekeepers for federal road-construction projects. Charles Jr. worked 16 weeks in 1939 for the National Youth Administration and earned $56. His dad worked 27 weeks for the Works Progress Administration and earned $350. Their wages, equal to about $7,500 in 2020, supported a household of seven.
Charles Jr. enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 15, 1940, and was a fireman third class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
His father was an infantryman in France during World War I. His brother Robert served in the Navy during World War II, and his brother Keith in the Army during the Korean War.