Feliks Banel: Forgotten Pearl Harbor hero was a Cub Scout from Port Angeles

Jul 10, 2024, 9:49 AM | Updated: 11:39 am

Marshall Dompier of Port Angeles was one of the earliest American Cub Scouts, and likely the first ...

Marshall Dompier of Port Angeles was one of the earliest American Cub Scouts, and likely the first former Cub Scout to die in World War II. For some reason, he's buried at Oahu Cemetery, not at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. (Dompier image courtesy of Rob Ketcherside; cemetery map courtesy of Oahu Cemetery)

(Dompier image courtesy of Rob Ketcherside; cemetery map courtesy of Oahu Cemetery)

A young sailor from Port Angeles who died more than 82 years ago in the early hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor is making history and forging connections that span the Pacific Ocean and multiple generations of Cub Scouts.

Rob Ketcherside grew up in Burien and serves as scoutmaster for his son’s troop in Seattle. Ketcherside was a scout himself decades ago, and he’s a dogged local historian who’s dug into many topics he finds interesting. One topic he began looking into a few years ago is the history of the Cub Scouts and a story he uncovered—from the earliest days of scouting in the Pacific Northwest—is shedding new light on a forgotten hero of World War II.

Packs of Cub Scouts, a version of the Boy Scouts for younger, early elementary-age kids, were first organized in this country in the early 1920s. The concept had originated in the UK about 15 years earlier, and the younger scouts there were known as “Wolf Cubs.”

The first American group of Cub Scouts, says Rob Ketcherside, was organized in Port Angeles – because parents there wanted activities for their younger boys who weren’t old enough for Boy Scouts. A version of Cub Scouts had already found its way to Victoria, BC – right across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles – and that’s where the Port Angeles group found inspiration and guidance to launch the first Cub Scouts in the United States.

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“So they have Wolf Cubs in Victoria,” Ketcherside told KIRO Newsradio, since Canada is part of the British Empire. Sol Levy, one of the organizers in Port Angeles, “goes there and he hires a Cubmaster from Victoria and brings him down. This guy was a practicing architect and just gave that up to become a full-time Cubmaster.”

The Port Angeles Cub Scout group is known as Pack 4686. It’s still in operation and officially celebrated its centennial last year. The current Cubmaster is Steve Phillips, whose great-great-grandfather Benjamin was one of the founders and whose great-grandfather James was one of the first participants. Cub Scout history, apparently, runs deep in Port Angeles.

Rob Ketcherside says another one of the early members of Pack 4686 in Port Angeles in the 1920s was a local kid named Marshall Dompier. Ketcherside says Dompier joined the U.S. Navy in the late 1930s and eventually found himself stationed in Hawaii aboard the battleship USS California.

“And that’s where he was on, on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor,” Ketcherside said. “So he was on the USS California when it’s getting hit by torpedoes and a bomb.”

“He ended up dying there,” Ketcherside continued. “But the way that he died was saving other people. He pulled five men out of the ship as it was sinking, and then he went down to try and save a sixth. That’s when he died as well.”

What Rob Ketcherside determined from his research is that Marshall Dompier is among the first, and perhaps the first, former American Cub Scout to die in World War II. Ketcherside believes that no entity has tracked this information before, and it’s likely that tens of thousands of former scouts were among the roughly half-million Americans who died in World War II.

Along with his scoutmaster volunteer duties, Ketcherside works full-time. His history research and writing are essentially a hobby, but the articles he produces are clearly in-depth and high-quality work. Ketcherside has a blog where he posts his articles. He says he never knows who will read them, but he hopes that someone will find what he posts useful—that some descendant or someone doing research will find value in his work.

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“I write to share stories, but I don’t usually have a particular audience,” Ketcherside said. “And I hope that somebody will stumble across it, that it matters to them. [The hope is that] someone’s going to be doing a web search on a relative, and then they’ll stumble on a name they know.”

It’s almost as if Ketcherside views his blog posts like messages in a bottle. He tosses them into the sea of the internet and hopes they’ll wash up on some metaphoric beach somewhere, where someone will pop the cork and some kind of connection will be created.

And that’s exactly what happened recently with his story about Marshall Dompier.

Dave Morris lives in Ewa Beach, Hawaii just west of Honolulu. Like Dompier, Morris grew up in Port Angeles and he was a Cub Scout there, too. Nowadays, the 42-year-old is a Cubmaster in Ewa Beach for his own young son.

Morris recently came across Ketcherside’s blog posts and read the story of Marshall Dompier. The details of Dompier’s wartime heroism aboard a ship really resonated with him because Morris also served in the Navy aboard a ship.

“To go back down into the hatch, that takes a lot of courage, and it takes a lot of dedication and commitment to your fellow shipmates,” Morris told KIRO Newsradio. “I found that to be impressive, and basically the model of everything a Scout ought to be.”

From the blog, Morris learned that Marshall Dompier is buried in Honolulu at Oahu Cemetery along with a number of other Navy veterans. Oahu Cemetery is private, and dates to 1850s. For some unknown reason – and unlike most other military burials on Oahu dating to World War II – the graves of Dompier and the other sailors were not relocated to Punchbowl – that’s the informal name for the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu — which was dedicated 75 years ago this month.

One theory is that Marshall Dompier and the other military dead still interred at Oahu Cemetery had no living relatives to approve the relocation of their graves when Punchbowl was being built out after World War II.

Whatever the reason, Dave Morris clearly feels a connection Marshall Dompier.

“Knowing that this kid had, when he was Cub Scout age, lived in Port Angeles and sat there and watch the Navy ships out in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, that was deeply personal to me,” Morris said. “From my home in Port Angeles, I could actually see the Straits, and I used to watch the Navy ships go by, and that inspired me personally to join the Navy.”

Dompier’s story makes Morris recall his own time aboard a Navy ship, and inspires him to think about how we memorialize those who serve and especially those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“If it was a different time in history, it could have been me,” Morris said. “And so to see all these connections, it makes me feel bad that this guy is standing alone and that we’re going past and every year when the Scouts go to Punchbowl.

“He’s probably not had anybody visit his grave in 50 years,” Morris continued. “But he played such a pivotal role in some of the things that I value most.”

When Morris takes his Cub Scouts to Punchbowl Cemetery every year, it’s to put American flags on each grave to commemorate Memorial Day. Morris believes this simple yet meaningful tribute has never taken place for Marshall Dompier and for the other sailors in Oahu Cemetery, which is only about a mile away from Punchbowl.

But from now on, says Dave Morris, that’s going to change.

“We’re still working out the details, and I’ve talked to our district volunteers, as well as the scout executive for Aloha Council,” Morris said. “We’re trying to get a little bit more of the story together to make sure that we understand exactly what happened and what his historical significance was, but right now, the plan is for my unit to go up there and just kind of tell his story, and then we intend . . . [to] leave flags on the graves.”

“The fact that there’s an entire Navy plot [of graves] up there that’s been overlooked, I feel like it’s a good idea to step forward and take that on as something for our unit to adopt,” Morris continued. “And some of the feedback I’ve gotten from my unit commissioner is that maybe we can work it into the overall [Memorial Day commemorations], maybe there’s a way to incorporate that aspect.”

Rob Ketcherside is clearly pleased that his article about Marshall Dampier created this connection – that somebody found this particularly meaningful message in a bottle and decided to do something about it.

“It’s kind of too good to be true, you couldn’t dream up this story,” Ketcherside said. “I just wrote it [hoping] maybe somebody from his extended family would read it, maybe someone from Port Angeles. But for someone like Dave [to read it], where there’s so many parts of that story that resonate, that’s really meaningful.”

You can hear Feliks Banel every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien. Read more from Feliks here and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or a question about Northwest history, please email Feliks. You can also follow Feliks on X.

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Feliks Banel: Forgotten Pearl Harbor hero was a Cub Scout from Port Angeles