Category Archives: News and Views

Joanne Patton (daughter-in-law of the WWII general) on Wilber’s War

9/7/17. Joanne Holbrook Patton came to the theatrical reading of Wilber’s War, where I presented her with a copy of Wilber’s War. On 8/24/17, she responded with a most gracious letter, portions of which I quote here, with her permission.

Norma Sparlin Bradt at her new grand piano, about 1937. {Photo: Bradt family)

“I eagerly brought the book home and the next day began to read it. I did not realize what an adventure I was about to take! Thanks to your … candid sharing of your family’s story, I can truthfully say that this was one [of] the most compelling books I have read in some time! The way you have integrated wartime events taking place in Europe, as well as in the Pacific area, interspersing their reports with personal letters and comments is remarkable…. Your book gives the reader the “Norma” story in toto … Your respect for all of your family was always clear, and I came to appreciate each one of them individually.… As a widow whose husband served in the Korean War and three times in the Vietnam Conflict, I am quite familiar of the effect that their combat experience can bring. None of them is immune to residual effects.”

Relive World War II on the 75th Anniversaries

World War II buffs: In constructing my earlier post below “43rd Division Inducted in Army 75 years ago,” I came to realize that, having just finished celebrating the end of the war (70th anniversary of V-J Day last August), we are now approaching the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. We now can relive the American experience in WW II day-by-day for the next four and a half years as we pass by the 75th anniversaries of the important events. For my Dad’s perspective of those event in the Pacific Theater, see the video here and also www.wilberswar.com. (Use discount code FBWW on that website if you decide to buy the print trilogy, to get 25% off the already reduced price.)

Please forgive the crass promotion of my trilogy. I published it myself, and thus it gets very little exposure. It is a touching, rich, and tragic story that sheds important light on the Pacific War as well as on deeply personal issues that are exacerbated in wartime. Hence I think it deserves more visibility than it is getting. Do help spread the word.

 

Wilber’s 116th birthday, tomorrow, Feb. 1

Wilber, the protagonist of Wilber’s War, was born on Feb. 1, 1900. Tomorrow will be his 116th birthday, hard to believe. Here is a photo taken of him with his grandmother and mother. Decades later, his mother described his birth in a letter to my sister, Abigail. It is a nice bit of insight into life in those years.  Here it is in full except for bits at the beginning and end:

Sunday P.M. Jan. 29, ‘61

Dear Abigail

. . . . . Sixty one years ago at this date, I was expecting Hale’s father [Wilber]. I hope I shall not bore you. We were living on Hunter Ave. in Bloomington on Friday, Jan. 27, 1900. On that day, I had trouble with the heating stove. We were burning coke and using Cannel(?) coal for kindling, but I couldn’t keep the fire going. When Hale [her husband] came home from school, I was sitting behind the stove and there was no fire. He was impatient and said I should be able to keep the fire going when he built it. He had been gone all day as usual on school days. [He was a teacher at the High School.] Took lunch from home. No school lunches those days.

When he rebuilt the fire he found the stove clogged with ashes and coke; it needs plenty of “draft” to keep it burning. Hale came to me and put his arms about me and said he was a beast to scold me. But he spoke too late. My first pain had begun. Neither of us knew anything about childbirth and were so old we were ashamed to ask any questions. I was 24 and Hale was 28.

When the fire was going, Hale had me go to bed and he went to see a doctor a fellow teacher had recommended and to send a telegram to his mother. She had promised to come to us. [Before] Hale left me, he told me I must stay in bed until he returned and I promised I would. There were not telephones near us and it took Hale some time to walk 12 blocks down to the doctor’s and the telegraph office, then back. While he was gone, I heard the fire engine bell come somewhere near; then men’s voices in excitement, and a cow bawling. Then chopping. I heard later that a barn on the opposite corner from us had burned. The owner couldn’t be located and he had t he barn locked, and he was carrying the key. The chopping was to release the cow, but she died. All that time, I stayed in bed where I couldn’t see a thing and no one came near.

I was happy to have Hale come. The fire had frightened him until he was near enough to see it. Just a short time before this, he had been vaccinated and it had “taken.” His arm was badly swollen and painful. Twenty-four hours later, we had an answer from Hale’s mother. She would come soon. I remember how both of us cried. Help was on the way!

Hale stayed with me during the next few days. I don’t remember when Mother came. I was conscious only part of the time, but I knew another doctor was called. (It was Dr. Ernest Holland’s father.) I remember thinking I must be “pretty bad” to have two doctors. I think I thought [sic] I might be going to die and I recalled that Hale’s Sunday pants had a rip in the stride. I thought “He will want to wear them to the funeral and he will find them ripped. Then he will marry some one who keeps the rips mended and he will love her better than he does me.

The days wore along, until the next Thursday, Feb. 1st. Wilber was born at 3:20 P.M. I had never seen a newborn baby. My bed had been moved into the living room by the fire and I saw Mother shaking and spanking and blowing her breath into the mouth of six lbs. of baby whose head was elongated, his skin was almost black. I didn’t know until later that the long labor had nearly taken the child’s life. I like to think Mother saved him.

Hale said, when he went back to school, there was always “Convocation” each morning, with the six H.S. teachers sitting on the platform. When he took his place all the B.H.S. [Bloomington High School] students cheered him and he felt like crying.

Hale’s college chum at Uni. of Neb[raska] was Wilber Elmore. At the time of Wilber’s birth, Mr. Elmore was a Baptist Missionary in India. While we were trying to decide on a fitting name for our baby, we had a letter from him. Hale said, “Let’s name the baby for him”, so we did. Years later, Wilber wrote to his father that Mr. Elmore was in N.Y. City. I am not sure as to whether they ever met. . . . .

Affectionately,

Elizabeth Bradt

Wilber’s grave in Arlington Cemetery

My dad, Wilber, was buried in Arlington Cemetery on a dark drizzly December afternoon of 1945. He died by his own hand, of suicide, only six weeks after returning home from a three-year deployment in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He had earned five medals and suffered two wounds during three phases of combat. There was a simple service in the cemetery chapel and a military burial, complete with a rifle salute and the ceremonial folding of the burial flag which was given to my mother.

Wilber's gravestone, rear view. Credit: Bart Hoskins.
Wilber’s gravestone, rear view. Credit: Bart Hoskins.

My son-in-law, now on temporary duty with the EPA in Washington, D.C., kindly took photographs of the gravesite and its surroundings for me. They brought back the memories of that sad day; I was just four days shy of my 15th birthday. My sister Valerie, then 14, refused to come. We were only a small group of friends and family. Wilber’s two brothers were there as was General Joseph Cleland with whom my dad had served in the Philippines. He was Norma’s escort.

A burial site was reserved for Norma next to Wilber but her eligibility for burial there ceased when she remarried. In her grief, she gave the wrong date, Feb. 2, 1900, for Wilber’s birth and that ended up on his gravestone. He was born on Feb. 1, 1900, but was always kidded about being born the day before Groundhog Day so there was often confusion about the date. Some years later, after the marble had been degraded by atmospheric pollutants, the stone was replaced with a new one that had the correct date.

Wilber's grave looking toward Porter Drive, showing red fire hydrant at left edge of tree.
Wilber’s grave looking toward Porter Drive, showing (barely if enlarged) the top of the red fire hydrant at left edge of the tree.

If you are visiting Arlington Cemetery, Wilber’s grave can be found in Section 10, number 10-10599RH. Proceed east on Eisenhower Drive to Section 10, turn right onto Porter Drive. At the red fire hydrant turn right again onto the grass and count rows heading straight for the tree in or at row 4. Keep going; Wilber’s grave is in row 6. The stone is labeled 10-10599RH.

This brings to mind, Wilber’s letter about the memorial service at Munda Cemetery in the Solomon Islands on Armistice Day 1943; see my previous blog on Veterans Day. For him, it was “so, so sad” because three of his junior officers were there in the cemetery. It seems now that Wilber was describing his own burial, which took place two short years later. Today, it is we living who are “so, so sad.”

A Novice Book Marketer

8/30/15. I return to my blog after a two-month absence with apologies. I promise to be more attentive to it. Do look for a monthly or biweekly contribution on the topics of World War II, the Pacific Theater in particular, and the adventures of marketing one’s own book. Today it is mostly the latter, while recognizing that two days from now, on Sept. 1, 1939, World War II was initiated by the German entry into Poland 76 years ago. Thus began the long road to victory nearly six years later.

Wilber’s War was officially published two weeks ago on the anniversary of V-J Day. On that day, I was in the bookstore of the National Museum of the Pacific War doing a “book signing.” I sold four of the trilogies in the first ten minutes and none the rest of the day. Later I learned that two of the four were returned. The trip cost perhaps $1500, so it was not a profitable excursion, but the reward was in the pleasure of talking to many people about the work and to be on that scene for V-J Day. I especially savored reading Wilber’s humorous story about ants on his bunk to two young boys.

Plaques on wallThe next day, we dedicated the memorials I sponsored (for the 43rd Division and four individuals – see my blogs of 4/26/15 and 5/16/15). Here I post a photo of the plaques mounted on a wall in the memorial garden. Altogether, there were perhaps 15 people there, and several were related to 43rd Division WW2 vets now deceased. Most important was the daughter of Gen. Harold Barker, the division artillery commander. She is about 92 and wheelchair bound, but she got there!

My publicist, a young lady in New Jersey, has lined up radio show after radio show that wish to interview me. I have probably done close to ten of them by now, including an in-studio interview on WBZ Boston from midnight to 1:30 AM. I find myself becoming quite adept at filling airtime. You can find two of the interviews here.

I also have had two op-ed articles published, one on foxnews.com and another in the Fredericksburg, TX, where that Museum is. Two other magazine articles were requested from me; they are written and in the works. I have given talks about the book at a launch party at the Salem Athenaeum (July 31), at the memorial dedication in Texas, at the local Marblehead Rotary, and at our Essex Condominium last week. you can see all the print items, by me and others, here.

I find that such direct contact produces a few sales each time, but so far the op-eds and radio interviews seem to have had little effect, at least for now. I have sold perhaps 50 sets as of this date. Not huge, but not bad either for the first two weeks. There are still 1950 sets sitting in Canada hoping for a home.

This is all new and a bit bewildering to me, but I am actually having fun doing it. People really appreciate the story when they hear about it.

Memorial Day remembered

5/23/15. Memorial Day is upon us again. I am reminded of another Memorial Day and an Armistice Day long ago. On Memorial Day some 20 years ago, I was working  in my study with the radio playing music in the background. I became aware that I was hearing a song about  a soldier who had died during World War II on New Georgia Island in  the Solomon Islands. It brought tears to my eyes because my father had been there.

The song was the “The Ballad of Rodger Young” by Frank Loesser about a World War II casualty and a Medal of Honor recipient. Rodger Young was killed on July 31, 1943, most likely during the American attack on Munda airfield. My father, Wilber Bradt, had been wounded twice and had lost several of his junior officers there in those very same days.

A segment of the lyrics is quoted here (Frank Loesser, Life Magazine, 5 March 1945, p. 117):

“… On the island of New Georgia in the Solomons,
Stands a simple wooden cross alone to tell
That beneath the silent coral of the Solomons,
Sleeps a man, sleeps a man remembered well.
Sleeps a man — Rodger Young,
Fought and died for the men he marched among
In the everlasting spirit of the Infantry
Breathes the spirit of Private Rodger Young.…”

 

Rodger Young was surely buried in the cemetery at Munda on New Georgia. On Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1943, shortly after the battles, Wilber partook in the ceremony his Division held at the Munda cemetery. Several days later, he wrote about it to his daughter:

” … We attended a religious and military memorial service on Armistice Day in honor of our dead comrades. We stood at salute while the firing squad fired a volley for each battalion or regiment that had one or more men killed. For us, the speaker said “For 1st Lt  ——, the first to fall in the 169th F.A. Bn. and his brave comrades that followed.” Then the volley was fired. It was a beautiful spot that had been made into a cemetery and the service was lovely but so, so sad. I hope too many more don’t “follow” in the next year.…”

In 1949, Rodger Young’s body was returned to the USA, probably at the request of his family, but many others were not. Forty years after the battles, I was tracking my dad’s story in the Pacific and was visiting the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines at which military dead from all over the Pacific were re-interred. I located there the graves of several of Wilber’s junior officers, which had been moved from Munda Cemetery after the war. The photo above shows me at the grave of one of them, Lt. Norbert Heidelberger. The photos below show the Munda cemetery in 1944 and the Manila cemetery in 1983. Every Christian Cross or Star of David has a sad-sad story associated with it. Click on the photos to expand them.

More 43rd Infantry Division memorials

5/16/2015. I sponsored four small (5 in x 7 in) individual memorials which will be mounted beside the division memorial at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas, that I described earlier. They are for four officers who played a large role in Wilber’s story: (1) General Leonard Wing the Division commander; (2) General Harold Barker, my Dad’s immediate superior, the commander of the division artillery; (3) my father, a battalion commander; and (4) Lt. Norbert Heidelberger, a forward observer in my father’s battalion. Wilber sent him in to where he was killed and this death affected Wilber deeply; he was still writing to Norbert’s mother two years later, and she was consoling him!

Memorials to the 43rd Infantry Division in Texas!

4/26/2015. There will soon be five new memorials to the soldiers who served in the 43rd Division during World War II at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. Fredericksburg was the boyhood home of Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific fleet during World War II. The Museum, founded in 1971, was initially housed in the 19th century hotel run by the Nimitz family. The museum has since become a world-class museum with additional buildings including a state-of-the-art exhibition hall, a memorial garden, and much more. The memorial garden contains low walls on which are mounted memorial plaques dedicated to ships, military units of all types, and individuals who served in the military.

I visited the Museum a year ago as part of a college “mini-reunion” and noted that among  the thousand memorial plaques there was no memorial to the 43rd Infantry Division, which was one of the first army divisions to reach the Pacific after the Pearl Harbor attack. It was the New England National Guard division in which my father Wilber served in World War II, and about which I learned so much in tracking his story.

I therefore parted with some of my retirement funds to sponsor a large memorial plaque (20 x 40 in) to the 43rd to be mounted in a highly visible location. It features both the infantry and the artillery but all units of the division are implicitly honored. The plaque design is dramatically vivid to my thinking; the credit goes to Ms. Stephanie Hagee of the Museum staff. I also am sponsoring four smaller plaques for individuals of the 43rd Division, including its commander General Leonard Wing. I will post them later. The plaques are being fabricated as I write this. They should be mounted within a month or so.

For the record, the casualty figures the division suffered that are listed on the plaque may be disputed because different sources give different numbers. For example the 43rd Memorial at the State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown, CT, carries numbers from the Zimmer history of the 43rd Division. For this memorial, I used the numbers for the Luzon campaign that are reported in the Division’s Final Report of that campaign, “Luzon Campaign” (1945) which were also used by Gen. Barker in his book on the division artillery, published in 1961. I believe they are more reliable than those in the earlier Zimmer history of the 43rd. The differences may lie partly in the criteria used for defining “wounded in action.” See my tabulation of the various summaries here and under Resources.