Monthly Archives: September 2015

Off to war today!

Wilber’s last letter before sailing off to war,  San Francisco Harbor, Oct. 1, 1942,

“Hello Beloved [Norma] — Letter No. 2 will be very short. I just want to say again that I love you more than anything else in the world. I’ll come back to you just as soon as possible.

“You know of course not to say anything about your guesses of the movements of the 43d in your letters. Censorship is on.

“Dear Darling Mate of Mine you will be in my arms so many times in spirit even if not in fact. You must not feel alone. I will be beside you all the time. You and Hale and Valerie and I will do many happy things together as soon as we can. Until then My Heart, My Interest, My Love is with all of you until I come back. Please be kind and gentle and considerate to each other so my wonderful home won’t be spoiled. It’s my family, you know.…”

Four days Before Sailing off to World War II

Here is a glimpse of Wilber’s thoughts four days before sailing from San Francisco to help stem the Japanese advances toward Australia after the Pearl Harbor attack. He was at Fort Ord, California. His artillery battalion was rushing to get ready for the long voyage to the Southwest Pacific. He writes to his wife, Norma,

“Sept. 27, 1942 10:15 P.M. — … I have made out “Safe arrival cards” for you …. These cards are held at this Post until our unit reports by wire that we have arrived safely less whoever fell off the boat. They don’t stop the boat for one man overboard, so if I slip I’ll grab a couple to go with me. My orderly is instructed that if I go overboard to yell, “Three men overboard.” Some of my “sarcastic” friends say the splash would justify it anyway. [Wilber was on the heavy side.]

“My baggage and roll goes [sic] out today so I’ll sleep in my size 48 overcoat.… — Your man & Husband, Wilber”

Wilber’s gallows humor regarding men falling overboard was not so funny in reality, but it perhaps helped preserve his and his correspondents’ sanity in those rather perilous circumstances.

Eight Days Before Sailing Off to World War II

In September 1942, the US Marines were in the midst of their fight with the Japanese defending their tenuous hold on the recently captured airfield on Guadalcanal, an island in the Solomon Islands of the southwest Pacific Ocean. The Japanese were determined to recapture the airfield and to drive further southeast in order to cut off communications with Australia. A US army division, the 43rd from New England, was ordered from its training camp in Mississippi to Fort Ord, California, and then overseas to the South Pacific to help stem the Japanese advances. My father, Wilber Bradt, was the second in command of an artillery battalion of the 43rd.

On this date in 1942, September 23rd, the division was in a frenzy of activity because it would be sailing off to war only 8 days hence. The tension is building, training with live ammunition has been intense, and new equipment and men have been acquired. The division has high priority for supplies and men as the army works to bring it to a full state of readiness for combat. Late on this Wednesday evening, Wilber wrote to me—I was 11— giving me a taste of their activities this day. Here is a bit from that letter:

“We have been loading freight onto boxcars all day and the men are pretty tired. They are busy cleaning rifles in their spare time too. Did I ever tell you the Army puts melted grease all over its guns whenever they are in storage? It makes each gun a big greasy glob that must all be cleaned off. It sure is a mess but it stops rust.

“Son, I am proud to have a boy like you to go to war for. I know you will do all you can to keep “the home fires burning” until I come back. I’m sorry to be away from you now but I would be sorrier and so would you if I were trying to keep from fighting for my country.”

Stay tuned for more of Wilber’s reporting in the following days.