Monthly Archives: May 2015

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!

V-E Day in the Philippines

5/8/15 (V-E Day). The world was celebrating Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day) on May 8, 1945, but the troops of the 43rd Infantry Division had just begun an attack on Ipo Dam in the Philippines, still held by the Japanese. It was a critical water supply for Manila. On May 13, the rains began and on May 17 the Dam was captured. It was the final major campaign for the division.

A month later, my father Wilber, an artillery battalion commander, wrote about keeping the artillery functioning during the heavy rains; getting ammunition to the guns and maintaining communications were both critical and difficult:

“At one time (3 days) I had 25% of my men repairing and relaying wire. One of my men came up to me with tears in his eyes and his voice so broken he could hardly speak. He was about to drop with fatigue. (I didn’t feel too peppy either.) It was pouring rain. He said, “Col[onel]. I’ve repaired the lines here seven times this morning and that dozer driver tore it out seven times. I asked him and told him to stop and he just said, ‘To Hell with your wire, I have to build a road.’ and went ahead thru my wire again.” I know he expected me to go right over and shoot the dozer driver but all I could do was explain that he too was having trouble and had an important job too. I tried to let him see I knew just how hard he was trying to keep his lines in and how I thought he was doing a grand job, patted him on the back and went sloshing up the next hill. One feels pretty humble about commanding the American G.I.”

Trucks in the rain and mud on the newly constructed road leading to Ipo Dam, in the 103rd Infantry zone, 5/18/45. [Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps, SC 312642] The photo caption states that the men, with the help ofrr a bulldozer, drag vehicles out of a muddy hole, but the helping is not evident.
Trucks in the rain and mud on the newly constructed road leading to Ipo Dam, in the 103rd Infantry zone, 5/18/45. [Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps, SC 312642]