Daulton Clifton Stephenson was born on July 29, 1921 in Mercer, Madison County, Tennessee, the son of John Stephenson and Laura Laney Stephenson. Daulton joined the Navy and became an Aviaton Machinist Mate, serving aboard a Martin Martiner PBM-5 seaplane bomber.
On June 5, 1945 Daulton and his crew, commanded by Lieutenant Deland Croze, took off from their base at Tawi Tawi, Philippines on what was to be a 12 to 14 hour routine patrol mission. Late in the patrol they spotted two Japanese freighters accompanied by a war ship and made an attack. On the third approach their plane sustained severe damage from antiaircraft fire and was forced to make an emergency landing near the island of Celebes, now known as Sulawesi, Indonesia. Two crew members were severely wounded and the skipper made the decision to go ashore to seek medical care. They spent the night on the beach and the following day the Japanese ground forces attacked in what became a day long battle. The skipper told the crew to disperse and meet up later in the north end of the island.
Daulton Stephenson, along with three other crew members, took refuge in a swampy area and remained submerged with only their heads above water while the Japanese soldiers passed within a few feet of their position. That night they made a crude raft of logs using their clothes to tie the logs together and paddled out to sea. When they reached the wave line the raft came apart and they were left with a single log. One crew member swam back to shore to look for a canoe but was immediately captured and killed. The remaining three sailors paddled back out to sea where they remained clinging to the log for over 30 hours until they were rescued by another aircraft from their squadron.
Daulton survived with only a mild case of dehydration. He died in July 1992 and is buried at Maple Springs Cemetery near Mercer, Tennessee.
Jewel Irene Vinson Stephenson
1925–2013 (m. 1943)