Heading off to Annapolis, MD

Wednesday, I am off to Annapolis, Maryland, where I will give two talks and will sign books on Thursday, January 14, about my father’s odyssey through the Pacific in World War II and about my recently published trilogy about it: Wilber’s War, An American Family’s Journey through World War II. I welcome all.  Light refreshments will be provided. The trilogy (three books in a slipcase) will be sold at both events and I will sign them if you wish. It will be a festive family event because my sister Valerie and her sons live in Annapolis and will be there. Valerie is a principal player in Wilber’s War.

The two talks are at:

Heritage Harbour Community Lodge, 959 River Strand Loop, Annapolis. 10 AM, Thursday, January 14.

The Annapolis Bookstore, 35 Maryland Ave. Annapolis, 7 PM, Thursday, January 14.

Do come to hear about Wilber’s odyssey, the impact on his family, and about the travails of someone publishing his own book.

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.”

Veterans Day op-ed

The Daily Caller published my op-ed recalling Veterans Day 1943. Wilber, had lost three forward observers (young lieutenants who spotted artillery fires from the front lines) in the previous three months of fighting in the Solomon Islands. On Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, the division gathered at Munda cemetery for a memorial service. The day before, he wrote to my mother:

Munda Cemetery, New Georgia July 8, 1944, a year after the battle began. These graves were moved to the National Cemetery in the Philippines or to the USA after the war. [Photo: U. S. Army Signal Corps, SC 526385]
Munda Cemetery, New Georgia July 8, 1944, a year after the battle began. These graves were moved to the National Cemetery in the Philippines or to the USA after the war. [Photo: U. S. Army Signal Corps, SC 526385]

“The Armistice Day will be a religious service for our dead who are in this island. It will be a sad Armistice for us for Lieutenants Payne and Malone and Heidelberger will be there in the cemetery from the 169th. However each was doing a grand job when his time came.”

A few days later he described the service to my sister: “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, 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.”

Thus passed Veterans Day in 1943.

Halloween during war

On halloween, 1943, my father wrote from the Solomon Islands to the wife of one of his artillery 2316 169FA Officers, chapel Ondongaofficers, Dixwell Goff, of Rhode Island, giving him great praise. He wrote: “I saw him save scores of lives for our infantry by placing artillery fire exactly where the Japs were sure we couldn’t put it. I watched him in a critical time adjust our artillery fire so close in to our troops that shell fragments fell all around those of us fifty yards farther back than Dixwell. That time he came back with that big grin and his eyes sparkling because he knew he had done a real Goff job.”  Two months later, the battalion officers were photographed outside their jungle chapel. On this photo our father’s face was circled in crayon by my young sister Valerie, and Goff is the second man to the right, with mustache.

 

 

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.

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.

Hurrah, a great review of Wilber’s War

6/23/15. According to Midwest Book Review (June 2015), my World War II trilogy, Wilber’s War, is “…informed and informative…thoughtful and thought-provoking…an inherently fascinating read…deftly crafted…very highly recommended for both community and academic library …collections…”

For the entire critique go to the Press page of this website or go to Midwest Book Review directly.

Getting an independently published  book recognized is not an easy task and I have encountered my share of rebuffs on this project. I had become totally ready for this work to disappear without a ripple, when (surprise) in came a review from a highly respected review service, Midwest Book Review, AND it is highly positive. They accept no money for reviews and of course are flooded with book candidates for review. A book must make the cut for possible review, and then one of their reviewers must choose to review it sometime over the next 15 weeks or so. It appears that Wilber’s War “made the cut” and was chosen for review within a week or two of its submission. The review (actually a short “critique”)  is totally favorable, though it is lacking in detailed commentary on the writing, the historical value, the design, etc.

As for other review services, I submitted the work to the Library Journal and also to Foreword Reviews and have not yet heard from either. Neither accepts payments and again one hopes one’s work is selected for review. I also submitted the work to Kirkus which charges about  $500 per book, but we differed greatly on how to handle a trilogy. Since their maximum word count for the basic fee is 200,000 words, I thought my 310,000 words could reasonably be reviewed for 155% the basic fee, but they wanted 270% (for three books, less 10%). They had gone ahead and reviewed the first book v(only), but I did not download it. In the end they agreed (with no argument) to return my money. I am curious about the  content of that review, but it would cost me $575 to find out!

In May, my publicist sent out about 60 unsolicited copies of the trilogy to organizations that might choose to review the trilogy. So far I have heard from none of them, but it is early given the August publication date. The Independent Book Publishers’ Association (IBPA) has given me a platform for advertising the book to potential reviewers and to display it at book shows. I have a few minor leads from the ads (small weekly ads), and I have exhibited the work at the Book Expo in New York and will do so next week at the American Library Association book show in San Francisco. I did attend the former and will attend the latter. In New York, I did make a few contacts that could turn out to be useful. Mostly I learned how huge the book business is and the microscopic contribution my great work makes to it.

I am still waiting for my printer to produce the slipcases for the full order of 2000 sets. In the meantime, I and my publicist get small quantities of the set for PR purposes. The publication date, V-J Day, Aug. 14, 2014, rapidly approaches!

That’s all for now from this amateur book publisher and marketer.

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.