Student Highlights Lives of World War II GIs Attending WSC

Claire Thornton’s grandfather, Dell, during World War II. The WSU honors student said the photograph is special to the family because it shows her grandfather’s caring nature in the midst of terrible circumstances. Photo courtesy of Claire Thornton.

Washington State University honors student Claire Thornton grew up hearing stories of her grandfather, Dell, a combat medic during World War II. This year, Thornton studied the impact GIs had on Washington State College as they left the war behind and entered the halls of higher education.

Drafted in the Army in April 1942 and stationed with the oft-decorated 3rd Infantry Division, Dell fought in 10 campaigns and participated in four amphibious D-Day landings with more than 500 days of frontline duty, according to a family history on

He was wounded three times, received the Bronze Star for valor in battle and the French Croix de Guerre, and was made an honorary member of the French Foreign Legion for walking onto a minefield to save two injured soldiers.

After the war, Thornton’s grandfather – like nearly 8 million other GIs – returned to the United States to pursue an education, courtesy of the GI Bill. For the poor farm kid out of Tonasket, Wash., the bill was a godsend, helping Dell to earn his premed degree from the University of Washington.

Thornton chose WSU and a degree in social studies instead, but her grandfather was certainly the motivation behind her final research paper ( in History 300 (Writing about History).

“The GI Bill has always been important to my family,” said Thornton, also a Tonasket native.

For the full story, including her research in MASC, visit….