Mystery of the Missing Dragon
The information on this page appeared in various issues of the 25th Infantry Division Association's quarterly magazine, Tropic Lightning Flashes. The "Dragon," constructed in 1960 and later positioned at the entrance of Quad E at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, is nowhere to be found. Former Infantry Captain Tom Jones, who served with both the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 14th Infantry Regiment, has collected the following information in an attempt to uncover the mystery behind the disappearance of the "Dragon." My thanks to the 25th Infantry Division Association for their permission to reproduce the text and images from Flashes.
The Mystery Begins:
Tropic Lightning Flashes – March 1960
From the Archives . . . a Mystery!
MONUMENT TO THE DRAGONS
For a long time a suitable structure had been sought by the men of the 14th Infantry which would stand as a permanent monument at the entrance to Quad “E”. It seems natural that a Golden Dragon, the 14th Infantry’s symbolic emblem, would be appropriately chosen to fit the need.
By improvising and employing such tools that can be found in any mess hall plus a hammer and file, Sp4 Stephen Cardinelli and PFC Morton Munroe, Headquarters Company, spent many hours of tedious labor in producing a replica of the mythical creature, long regarded by the Chinese as a symbol of power.
The completed 800 pound, fire breathing dragon stands 7 feet high and if completely unfurled would stretch to a length of 20 feet. It is composed of a mixture containing magnasite and magnesium chloride placed over a reinforced framework of steel rods. It has a texture similar to concrete and has been coated with a transparent liquid resin to render it impervious to the weather.
Since its unveiling on 28 September 1959, the dragon was present at several of the 14th Infantry’s football games and made its appearance at the Division Organization Day celebration, where it was the highlight of the Golden Dragon display.
For a short time the dragon remained in its lair at the 14th Infantry S-4, until it again appeared as a part of the 1959 Christmas display.
The dragon has now been placed on a base of concrete (11 feet x 16 feet x 4 feet high), which has been inlaid with lava rock from the Pohakuloa Training Area. The dragon’s days of travel are over now, and it will remain permanently in the center of the Quad “E” lawn bordered by Heard and Waianae Avenues.
The cover and accompanying article from the March 1960 issue of Flashes. It is believed that most of the “skin” of the dragon was fashioned from spoons, hundreds of which were reported missing from various Schofield Mess Halls around the time that this masterpiece was created. Now the mystery - where is it? Tom Jones reports that it was left behind at Schofield Barracks by the 14th Infantry Golden Dragons when they deployed to the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1966. On several trips back to Schofield he has tried to track down this seven foot tall metal giant, but to no avail. Something this big just doesn’t disappear. If you have any ideas, please let us know.
Click the Issue cover to open this March 1960 issue of Tropic Lightning Flashes...
On June 14, 1964, prior to it's deployment to Vietnam, Company A, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, posed for this photo at Schofield Barracks, with the Dragon as a centerpiece
Has the Mystery Been Solved?:
(Article in Tropic Lightning Flashes – Winter 2008-2009)
The Case of the Missing Dragon
By Tom Jones
When the warriors of two Battalions of the 14th Infantry (Golden Dragons), 25th Infantry Division departed Quad E of Schofield Barracks in Hawaii for Vietnam in early 1966, they left behind on the lawn a seven foot tall, 800 pound replica of their namesake.
The Spring 2007 issue of the 25th Infantry Division’s quarterly magazine “Tropic Lightning Flashes” opened the “Mystery” issue by running an article (Monument To Dragons) from March 1960 detailing the origin and picturing the statue that was unveiled on 28 September 1959.
The article goes on to substantiate part of the legend that the metal scales on the dragon were nothing more than spoons purloined from Regimental Mess Halls when it states “By improvising and employing such tools that can be found in any mess hall plus a hammer and file, SP4 Stephen Cardinelli and PFC Morton Munroe, Headquarters Company, spent many hours of tedious labor in producing a replica of the mystical creature, long regarded by the Chinese as a symbol of power”.
The “Missing Dragon Mystery” first became an issue in my life around 1987 when I next returned to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. My wife and I were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and taking a special trip accompanied by our two teenaged daughters (one of whom who had been born at Oahu’s Tripler Army Hospital in 1965). I had spent hours “prepping” them for the magnificent, huge, monument I had held in my mind’s eye for so many years.
I continued my dialogue as we drove around Post in our rental car trying to locate the statue that I recalled as being located on the outer comer of Quad E. I soon discovered it was no longer there, so the search turned into simply locating the headquarters of the 14th Infantry. After several passes around the block we finally spotted their unit crest and signage. And there, tucked behind some bushes that were almost taller than the replacement cement statue stood what I would have to call (and did, after receiving a considerable amount of abuse from my family!) a “baby dragon.”
Thus began my 21-year quest. Over the years I talked and exchanged e-mail with dozens of men ranking from Private to Major General and heard varying memories and time frames of what had occurred. They ranged everywhere from natural weather disasters to deterioration from age to conspiracy theories. Nothing concrete.
My duties with the 25th Infantry Division Association again carried me to Hawaii in 2003. I visited the Active Duty 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry that was still stationed at Schofield Barracks and had my picture taken in front of still another replica “baby dragon”. (Picture Attached) Nobody in the unit could shed any light on what had happened to the original.
Work with the 25th Infantry Division Association Memorial Fund, Inc. enabled me to make several subsequent trips to Schofield Barracks and in 2007 1 had occasion to discuss the matter with Jerry McKinney, loyal 25th IDA member and Honorary Sergeant Major of the 27th Infantry “Wolfhounds”. Jerry related a tale that I had previously heard glimmers of, but had discarded because it seemed so unbelievable. He categorically stated that a group of Wolfhounds, in an act of retaliation for the death of their dog mascot, Kolchak, had destroyed the Golden Dragon statue after the 14th’s early departure for Vietnam. It had been blown apart with a bunch of artillery simulators and the pieces tossed into the foliage along the steep slopes of the road running up to the historic Kole Kole Pass.
Now that was a hard story to swallow, but nevertheless I filed it away in my mind. I must also admit that Jerry’s delivery was so compelling that, before I departed Oahu, I drove up to the summit at Kole Kole and walked around a bit on the trails to see if I could miraculously spot any obvious spoon wreckage after 41 years! No chance.
Meanwhile, other aging Golden Dragons were remembering that statue and wondering about its legendary disappearance. The subject came up around the 14th Infantry table in the Hospitality Room at the 2008 25th IDA Reunion in Orlando, Florida in August and I finally heard the facts from the 14th Infantry side that corroborated what I had heard from the Wolfhounds. They were provided by MSGT (Ret) Dan Marthers, who in late 1965 was a sharp young Golden Dragon serving as CQ (Charge of Quarters) Orderly as the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry served Guard Mount one weekend just prior to deployment.
The principle character in the story Dan unfolded was named Clarence Casto, a good soldier with more years of service than many of his counterparts. Most Army units have similar cases; a person who is a talented “field” soldier, but faces difficulty when faced with the temptations (primarily alcohol related) of “garrison” life. As Marthers related, Alpha Company’s Casto had been promoted to Sergeant more times than anyone else in Hawaii. Because Marthers was only 17 and too young to be served alcohol, at one point, as a preventative measure, the Company Commander had ordered him to stay with Casto on pass in downtown Honolulu. This didn’t happen on the night in question because only one of them had Guard Duty.
In the wee hours of the morning Casto was brought to the Guard Post, probably by some MP’s, in an extremely inebriated and agitated state. He had been found staggering around Post, so the MP’s returned him to his unit. Marthers was present as Casto was logged in and interviewed by the Officer of the Guard. The drunken soldier was actually crying about how he had “killed my best little drinking buddy.” It took a while, but further questioning revealed he had shared his whiskey by pouring some into the drinking bowl of the Wolfhound’s mascot in the adjoining Quad. It had apparently involved enough of a quantity to make the young Kolchak sick enough to die. Retribution followed as explained above by the Wolfhounds and the legend began.
As a footnote, the dog Kolchak’s replacement accompanied the 27th Infantry (Wolfhounds) to Cu Chi, Vietnam in 1966. SGT Clarence Casto was reduced in rank once again and accompanied Company A, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Task Force, 25th Infantry Division to Pleiku, Vietnam. He was among 14 men from “Alpha Army” killed in action on November 13, 1966 and at the time had regained the rank of SSG (E-6) and was Acting Platoon SGT.
The Plot Thickens:
1992 Sighting of the Original Dragon
In a letter to the editors of the Spring 2009 Tropic Lightning Flashes, Col. Les Chisholm, USA (Ret), of Lacey, Washington, writes:
Just to add a little information in the case of the missing Dragon (Flashes, Winter 2008-2009) On return from Vietnam during Jan 1969, I was assigned to the 2nd Bn 299th Inf, 29th Inf Bde at Schofield Bks. That unit was a Hawaiian National Guard Brigade activated to serve as a Pacific reserve.
Sometime during early 1970 they were re-flagged as the 3rd Bn 14th Inf, 4th Bde, 25th Inf Div. I was the Battalion S-3 and remember our S-4 shop finding the Dragon stored in warehouse on post. It was in a sad state of repair when some talented enlisted members took on the mission of a general overhaul of the statue. I forgot the letter of our Quad, but it was the first building on the left when arriving from the post’s main gate.
The refurbished Dragon (opposite page) was placed on the NE entrance of the Quad and was still there when I left in May 1970. Fast forward ...I visited Schofield Bks during the spring of 1992.
Guess what? The Dragon was in the same place it was in when I left in 1970. I’ve attached two Pic’s taken during the 1992 visit.
The Cement Dragon:
1994 Hawaii Army Weekly Newspaper Clips
Reveal the Final Chapter
April, 2014, Cesar Cruz-Bonet (Retired SFC)
If you look on top of the base, where the dragon is sitting, you will see my name. I was the soldier who cast the dragon in concrete. I've been reading the articles in reference to the 1/14th Infantry's Golden Dragon sculpture, and I would like to contribute the above newspaper article and photos published on July 21, 1994 that will shed light on many of the questions surrounding the Golden Dragon. Lt. Col. Caslen (today Lt. Gen. Caslen) asked me to sculpt a new dragon, after Hurricane Iniki destroyed the old one in 1994. I'm very proud of the Golden Dragons and the 25th Infantry Division. I will be glad to answer any questions that you may have.
"The Right of the Line".
Click here for more images of the Golden Dragon, old and new, at Schofield Barracks
Mystery of the Missing Dragon [From the 25th Infantry Division Association magazine Tropic Lightning Flashes]
Copyright © 2012 14th Infantry Regiment Association
Last modified: April 26, 2014