FREDERICK A. SCHAEFER III / 1921-2004
Decorated WWII vet
was 1938 Punahou grad
Retired Brig. Gen. Frederick A. Schaefer III, a decorated World War II soldier who later led Hawaii's National Guard to Vietnam, died Wednesday at his home in Medford, Ore. He was 83.
"My father had a very strong sense of duty," said Schaefer's son Frederick A. Schaefer IV.
Several years after graduating from Punahou School in 1938, Schaefer was sent with the 25th Infantry Division to the Battle of Guadalcanal to relieve the U.S. Marines who had endured months of bloody battles.
During 31 days of fighting, the division helped defeat the Japanese and earned its official designation "Tropic Lightning." Schaefer was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, one of the nation's highest combat awards.
The citation reads: "Under heavy machine gun fire at close range, Lt. Schaefer displayed outstanding leadership and bravery. Though wounded twice, he continued to lead his platoon in the assault on enemy positions, and the battalion was aided greatly."
Schaefer, promoted to captain, went to Europe with the 66th Division. On Christmas Eve 1944, the division crossed the English Channel in two boats when a German submarine torpedoed one boat, sinking it and decimating the division.
Schaefer later helped reorganize the Hawaii National Guard, said Frederick Schaefer IV.
In 1968, Gov. John Burns asked Schaefer to return to active duty and lead the 29th Brigade, part of Hawaii's National Guard, said his son. The brigade was ultimately deployed to Vietnam in a piecemeal fashion, with troops attached to different divisions, he said.
During Vietnam, Schaefer served as assistant division commander of the 4th Infantry Division, setting up field hospitals and working with hill tribes.
"The military was a big part of my father's career, and that's what most people know about him," said Frederick Schaefer IV. "But my father wouldn't want to be defined by that. He would want to be known as a family man and a businessman."
Schaefer's Hawaii roots go back five generations on his mother's side and three on his father's. His grandfather, F.A. Schaefer, emigrated to Hawaii from Germany in 1857 and founded F.A. Schaefer & Co., a family mercantile business with interests in the sugar industry.
A graduate of Punahou and Cornell University, Schaefer was active on several boards including the Oceanic Institute, the Hawaii Army Museum and Winners at Work. He and his wife, Evelyn, moved to Oregon in 1999.
In addition to his wife and son Frederick, Schaefer is survived by daughter Susan James, of Honolulu; another son, David, of Hong Kong; his sister, Joan Brown, of Honolulu; brother Rob Schaefer, of San Diego; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at Thurston Chapel, Punahou School, at 4 p.m. Friday. Private family services will be held at Oahu Cemetery. The family suggests aloha attire and asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in Schaefer's memory to Punahou or Christ Episcopal Church in Kealakekua, Hawaii.