This article is not meant to be just the story of one young man, but rather one to remind us of all the young people who never had the chance to live a full life; the ones who lost their lives in service to their country. Thus, as we again observe yet another Veterans Day, please remember not just Dick Solver, but everyone who gave their lives in all wars.
The Lynnwood area has suffered the loss of many of its young people to war, but no conflict has taken such a heavy a toll as did World War II. One of those who died too soon was 19-year-old Dick Solver.
Dick was a local boy, growing up in Cedar Valley, a community that one day long after his 1945 death became part of the City of Lynnwood. Dick began his school years in first grade at the old Alderwood Manor Grade School, graduating from the eighth grade in the spring of 1939. The following September, he entered Edmonds High School, the only high school in School District 15 at that time.
Probably not really interested in the subject, Dick would have learned something about France during a history class taught by Mr. Hatch. Dick was a quiet respectful boy, so it is doubtful he was ever sent to Principal G. Mason Hall’s office to be reprimanded.
In the Echo, the high school’s annual, Dick was featured on the Senior Honor page for 1943, the year of his graduation. During his senior year, he served as president of his class. He was a letterman and an outstanding member of the track team for four years. Music was his main interest. He played the trumpet in both the school band and the orchestra. On the Echo’s page prophesizing the future of each senior, it was predicted that Dick would one day have his own band.
The family name was not always Solver—Dick’s paternal grandfather, Ole Olson, came from Solver, Norway. Mr. Olson changed his name to Solver when he came to this country.
Dick was a native of Washington state, born in Seattle July 28, 1925. The family moved to Cedar Valley in the early 1930s where Mr. Solver worked as a mechanic.
Dick was a boy who had a smile for everyone; he had many friends. As told by Dick’s younger brother Larry, he had three that were special, Alvin Browder, Richard Rickert and Jack Larmore. In the summertime Dick often joined his friends for a swim at Halls Lake Resort, a favorite place for summer fun. In the winter he enjoyed skiing. He had a girlfriend—Nancy. Dick’s family loved him.
Following his graduation from high school, Dick worked for a short time as a copy drafter for Kenworth Company. Soon receiving his draft notice, Dick’s service in the U.S. Army began in October of 1943. Following army training, he was sent to the European Theater of Operations (ETO), where he served as a private in the Seventh Infantry Regiment, Third Infantry Division.
Shortly after arriving in France with his division, Dick received a heart-breaking Dear John letter from his girlfriend back home. She married another soldier.
On Tuesday, Jan. 23, 1945, during an operation that became known as the Colmar Pocket, Dick’s unit was leading a spearhead attack beside soldiers of the First French Army against a larger and better equipped German Army. On that day, outnumbered and caught in an open snow-covered field, the unit was facing tremendous odds. It was here near the village of Ostheim in the Alsace region of France that Dick’s life came to an end.
If you saw the 1955 movie “To Hell and Back” starring Audie Murphy, you saw a reenactment of the Colmar Pocket action during WWII. However, even though the actual battle took place in the middle of winter, it was filmed during more spring-like weather. The movie was the story of the wartime experiences of Murphy, the most decorated American soldier from that war. Like Dick Solver, Audie Murphy served with the Third Infantry Division. Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism on Jan. 26 during the Colmar Pocket action ,three days after the battlefield death of Dick Solver.
The Third Infantry Division was twice cited for its bravery by the French Army, and on July 1, 1945, the U.S. War Department announced that the Third was the first American infantry division to receive the Presidential Unit Citation. The citation read that the Third Infantry Division was honored for its fighting on the “forgotten front’ of the war, during the successful Colmar Pocket campaign the previous winter.
Following notification of Dick’s death, memorial services were held for him on Sunday, Feb. 18, 1945 at the Cedar Valley Gospel Tabernacle. Mr. and Mrs. Solver were so devastated by their loss, they could no longer bear to live in their Cedar Valley home—a home which held so many memories of their beloved eldest son. The family then moved to Edmonds.
On May 13, 1948, almost three and a half years after his death on that frigid and snowy battlefield in France, young Dick Solver finally came home to his family. It was a homecoming long awaited. A few days later, Dick was buried at Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Cemetery in Seattle with local VFW Post 1040 serving as the honor guard for the graveside service. His resting place is identified by a government issued bronze grave marker. Dick’s father and mother, Augustine and Hattie Solver, now lie beside him.
As our young people continue to fall on battlefields, let us hope that perhaps one day the leaders of all countries shall heed words from long-ago—words spoken by Gen. George Washington and often quoted: “My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.”
– By Betty Lou Gaeng
An 80-year resident of Lynnwood, Betty Lou Gaeng is a genealogist, historian, researcher and writer who is active in volunteer work for Lynnwood’s Heritage Park Partners Advisory Committee and the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association at Heritage Park. She is also a member of the League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations (LOSCHO) and the South County Historical Society and Museum. Gaeng is the author of two books: “Etched in Stone,” which is the history of the Edmonds Museum memorial monument, and “Chirouse” about a Catholic missionary priest who came from France to Washington Territory in 1847 and became a father figure and friend to the Puget Sound area’s Native people.