Cpl. Charles P. Sonett, MEMBER SUBMITTED BIO

Source: Virginia L. Sonett (his widow), Tucson, Arizona

CPL CHARLES P. SONETT
410TR Infantry Regiment, 3d Battalion, Company K


Charles P. Sonett was born January 15, 1924 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended Hollywood High School in Los Angeles, California where he was active in the High School ROTC program rising to the rank of cadet Corporal.
After graduation from High School, Charles entered UCLA majoring in Physics. He enlisted in the Army on October 26, 1942 and finished his second year at UCLA entering active duty May 12, 1943 into the U.S. Army Signal Corps. At Camp Kohler, Charles fell from a telephone pole and injured his back resulting in a three week stay in the camp hospital.

He was assigned to the 103d Infantry Division, 410th Infantry Regiment, 3d Battalion, Company K. While on patrol, March 13, 1945, near Uhrwiller, France Charles stepped on a German mine. He required a battlefield amputation of his left leg - aka above the knee amputation. CPL Sonett was transferred to the Bushnell General Hospital, Brigham City, Utah before going to Letterman General Hospital where he remained until his discharge October 30, 1946.

After leaving service, Charles returned to college where he completed his undergraduate work in Physics at The University of California Berkley. In June of that year he married Virginia Louise Hooten, also a graduate of UC Berkley.

In 1951, Charles received his Master of Arts from UCLA and Doctorate in 1954. Subsequent to his graduation, Dr. Sonett's interest shifted from nuclear physics to rocketry and its application to exploration of the solar system. This interest coincided with the beginning of the space• race. Dr. Sonett was subsequently employed by Ramo Woolridge/STL and NASA. In 1973, at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Dr. Gerard P. Kuiper, who was considered the father of modern planetary astronomy, invited Dr. Charles P. Sonett to become the director of the new Inter-Disciplinary Department; the Department of Planetary Sciences, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Dr. Kuiper, who had moved to the University in 1958, hired the first outstanding Lunar Planetary Laboratory scientist and in 1964 won NASA funding for a new building. 

Dr. Sonett continued hiring and soon built a nationally recognized department. Dr. Sonett directed the Lunar Planetgary Laboratory from 1973 until 1977. He became the first to head UA's planetary sciences department, authorized by the Arizona Board of Regents in 1972.

On April 30, 2004, the University of Arizona, Tucson dedicated the Dr.Charles P. Sonett Space Sciences Building which houses around 45 scientists and support staff. At the building's dedication, Dr. Michael J.Drake, Director,
Lunar & Planetary Lab stated, "Bringing Sonett to UA was one of Gerard Kuiper's best moves." Drake went on to add,
"this was the nucleation event. Chuck (Sonett) understood the breadth of what planetary sciences would become, and why it was important to hire first rate people. He laid the roots of the modern lab -- and what has become the best planetary sciences department in the world."

CPL Sonett's awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman's Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal with three battle stars, and the World War!! Victory Medal, Below is an extract from the Unit History and Journal from the 3d Battalion, 410th Infantry Regiment, reporting the event where CPL Sonett stepped on the German mine.

15 March 1945
Time
0130 Co I report that co L Juot left on the Patrol
0530 Love Co patrol checked in. Will be down later. Lt. FORD.
0707 Blue 6 to White 2 : white patrol got through.
0708 Blue 6 to White 2 : Our patrol got back in at 0530.
0900 Fatal 3 to OP: Meeting at Regt for Blue 3 and Blue 6 at 1030.
0937 Fatal 2 to Blue 2 : Do you think it would be advisable to report patrol tonight ( Don’t know – will think about it and let you know).
0945 G-2 periodic report.
0946 Obstacles overlay.
1145 patrol results overlay – Love patrol.
1300 OP #1 2-3 Mortar rde approx 1235 – 100-150 yd fr OP.
1410 Fatal CP to Blue CP – Fame orders you have cerise panals ready and available one per vehicle.
1645 Fame 6 in CP (departs 1501).
1650 Fatal 6 in CP (departs 1505).
1747 Fatal 3 to Blue 3: Want to 0900 tomorrow morning number of panels needed for vehicles in forward area and no of yellow panels needed to mark position troops on ground.
1750 Blue OP to Blue 35: How many panels needed? (Two full panels – 4 halves).
1800 White 2 to CP: Tell Blue 2 that my patrol will go out thru Red and cover general area already discussed with him.
2320 White 2 Blue 2: Last night’s patrol in now.
2332 Item 5 to CP: Man hurt – patrol – man evidently stepped on mine. (Will have leader call you).
2342 O’LEARY to Blue 2: Man hurt just before got to road (Did you follow pat taken by Ford?) Can’t be positive – May have been off to left – Can you pin point location mine? (Will check – looks different on daylight ) Better call off patrol.

In 1947, LOOK magazine took a photo of a number of World War II veterans who attended a party hosted by Mary Pickford at her and Douglas Fairbanks famous estate in Hollywood, Pickfair. Below is a picture of veterans who paid a severe sacrifice in the defense of freedom. Dr. Sonett is second from the right. (picture omitted, it was too poor to scan, sorry folks--please use imagination)

From Look magazine, November 11, 1947 -Amputee veterans of World War II line up for LOOK photographer Sprague Talbott at a party given for them by Mary Pickford at her Hollywood home. Standing by the swimming pool at Pickfair, the veterans, left to right are: George Michaely, 24, Los Angeles, 8th Air Force B-17 gunner wounded over Germany; Jack Maule, 25, Van Nuys, Cal, 77th Division Lieutenant, wounded at Okinawa; Leonard Moody, 33, San Gabriel, Cal, 4th Marine -Division, wounded at Iwo Jima landing; Brit MacLachlan, 30, Los Angeles, attached to RAF crashed on British field; Bill Schmalenbergh, 34, Tacoma, Wash, Americal Division, lost his leg in action at Kwajalein; Richard Dewey, 23, Hollywood, Cal, 97th Division, stepped on German mine In Czechoslavakia; Vernon C. Gardiner,
24, Alhambra, Cal, 94th Division, hit by German mortar during Rhine offiensive; Carl Quist, 34, Los Angeles, 11th Airborne Division in Germany; Calistro Guerra, 32, Los Angeles, Americal Division, hit by Jap shrapnel at Bougainville; Charles Sonett, 23, Los Angeles, 103d Division, stepped on Nazi mine near Strasbourg; L. V. Demmer, 23, Fontana, Cal, 28th Division, wounded by German mortar shell during the battle of Huerigen Forest in Germany.

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