Legacy: Stories

Daughters of WWII: Sharing Their Stories

Do you have a story to share about your father or mother's service in World War II? The Daughters of World War II are collecting these stories to share and preserve the legacy of these cherished veterans. Please send us your stories and photos to info@daughtersofww2.org


Stories:

A Letter for A Daughter of World War II

I am the daughter of deceased Army Air Corps Tech Sgt. Ellis Reece Bethany, who served in WW II, ending his wartime experience on Tinian Island in charge of the Propeller Shop. The day before he died in Tidewell Hospice House, Palmetto, FL, the Veteran's Group from Hospice House honored him with a ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, they gave him an opportunity to speak. He recounted a story I had never heard about his experience, and the gathering around his bed listened with respect. The next evening, he passed away peacefully in his sleep. Our family members have always been in awe of my father's service, and as a result, my 2 brothers, 3 of their children, 2 of my children, and 1 of my grandchildren have served in the Navy and/or Army. One of my sons served in Afghanistan and his daughter spent 10 months in Iraq. All are humbled by the dedication and comittment of our WW II veterans. My dad is in the khaki shirt on the back row, 2nd from the left. At the time, he was 24 years old. They were all so youn My dad is in the khaki shirt on the back row, 2nd from the left. At the time, he was 24 years old. They were all so young to be having such big responsibilities of ending a World War on their shoulders. During the last year of the war, my dad was stationed on Tinian and in charge of the Propeller Shop. He was awarded a Bronze Star for that service because ALL of the B-29s that pounded Japan during the final months of the war were able to go and return safely to Tinian and Saipan as a result of the repair work done in that Shop. This included the Enola Gay and Bockscar. Enola Gay's mission to Hiroshima was successfully completed as planned, and the plane safely returned to Tinian, but Bockscar had little fuel left after its mission to Nagasaki on landing at Okinawa because of tactical mistakes. My father had been responsible for alerting Col. Tibbets as to how to synchronize the propellers to conserve fuel for his trip. The weight of the atomic bombs would have made a safe return trip impossible without this modification. Another little known fact is that the planes and crews for the mission to drop the 1st Atomic Bomb were secreted away from the B-29s flying regular missions, on the far side of Tinian, and unknown to the other crews. Col. Tibbets came to see my father to get the information under top secret conditions. - Respectfully written and submitted by E. Diane Lapointe



A Letter from Veteran- Victor Hancock




A Letter from Laura Gilbert Hays

I would like you to have my father's story. His name was Robert Charles Gilbert. He joined the Army in 1940 I think. He was 21. He went to the Philippines and was stationed at an airfield. I believe he was in a battalion of AA. When the Japanese invaded he was caught on Bataan but managed to escape and swam to Corrigedor, thereby missing the Death March. He was held in the Cabanatuan camps until the Hell Ships sailed. Then he was taken to the northern most island of Japan where I believe he worked in a tin mine. He was held 3 and 1/2 years. In that time for whatever reason, he suffered damage to his optic nerve. He never would explain that. Perhaps it was just malnutrition. He normally weighed about 170lb. When the camp was liberated he weighed about 75lb. When he got home, they tried to keep him in an army hospital to treat his malnutrition and shell shock, (we call it PTSD now), but he would not stay and kept escaping and going home. To him it was another prison. Finally his Father went to the hospital and told them they just as well let him stay home. He always had optic nerve damage which made him legally blind and nightmares till the end of his life. He married my Mother in 1946 and they had 4 daughters, and worked as a pretty good handyman in spite of his eyesight. You see, to us WWII was very real. We lived with it every day. My Father passed on in 1990 of lung cancer. During his last years he became more willing to share stories, but mainly just what I have told you. I read a book to him, "The Death March" by Donald Knox and he would say that was how it was, exactly how it was.



Margaret Connor Reppond gives us a riveting account of her life with WWII Solider George William Reppond in her story, "My Life," edited by Norma Nichols of McKinney, Texas. Mrs. Reppond resides in Frisco, Texas with her daughter, Janet Alexander.

I had dated G.W. (George William) Reppond during the time I stayed with Aunt May in Norman. His parents lived across the street from my grandparents and that was in the next block from Aunt May. G.W.’s sister, Jessie Lee, was my best friend, so I was at the Green’s a lot. G.W.’s stepfather was E. C. Green. G.W.’s own father, Jesse Reppond, was killed in 1920 when G. W. was only two years old. Mr. Reppond was killed when he went into Colbert, Oklahoma to buy fresh fruit and nuts for the kid’s Christmas. He was standing up in his wagon driving his team of horses and a car passing him honked startling the horses. They jerked the wagon and Jesse fell out of the wagon. The wagon ran over his head crushing it. He died two days later on Christmas day. G. W.’s mother, Mary, married Elzie Green about 2 or 3 years after G.W.’s father, Jesse Reppond, was killed. G.W. was in CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) camp at Purcell, Oklahoma and could come home every weekend. H e asked me to marry him when I was a sophomore. But I told him I wanted to finish school…which I did! I graduated High School in 1939. In 1940, on October 15th, G.W. went into the Army at Ft. D.A. Russell at Marfa, Texas. Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County located in the high desert of far West Texas, southeast of El Paso, Texas. We started dating again and writing several times a week. Mary Lou, his sister, came with him from Whitesboro to visit a friend in Norman, Oklahoma where I was living. At that time, he was stationed in North Carolina on maneuvers and came home to Whitesboro on a 5-day pass. On October 18, 1941, we were married in the Baptist pastor’s home at Noble, Oklahoma in Cleveland County. He went back to Leesville, Louisiana Army Base (known as Ft. Polk today) and on December 7, 1941, his unit went to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. He phoned and his sister, Ola May, and I went to pick him up because he only had a 24-hour pass. This was the day the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. We took him back to Ft. Sill where he stayed on alert until he got a 7-day pass for Christmas and he got a ride to Norman with his friend’s parents. Ola May, Jessie, G. W. and I then went to Whitesboro in his Chevy Coupe. When he left Whitesboro he went back to North Carolina and I rode the bus back to Norman. G. W. was sent to Brownwood (Camp Bowie) located in central Texas. G.W. got an apartment in Brownwood. I joined him in March and stayed until April, about one month. I was pregnant and mother and daddy had moved to New Mexico. On my way to New Mexico I stayed with G. W. in Brownwood (he had rented an apartment) for about three months, then went on to Silver City, New Mexico in May, 1942. G. W. left Brownwood for maneuvers in Louisiana. He came back to Brownwood and was there when Janet was born (in Silver City, N.M.) on August 26, 1942. She had an enlarged thymus that was choking her so Dr. Watts, my doctor, sent her to a specialist in El Paso who was out of town. Because of Jan’s condition, the Red Cross sent G. W. to El Paso and we took her to William Beaumont Hospital at Ft. Bliss in El Paso. An Army physician, Dr. Ben Cooley performed the treatments on Janet. Dr. Cooley was originally from Norman and was a personal friend of the McComb family. He lived near the McComb family in Norman and I was so glad to see him!! They did deep x-ray therapy on Janet’s thymus gland to shrink it. Then GW, me and my mom, Viola, went to Silver City, NM by bus with medicine for pyloric spasms (chronic vomiting). She vomited her milk with a strong gush. We had to take her back to El Paso in 4 weeks for a 2nd treatment on her thymus gland. Dad Green sent money to me because he wanted Janet and me to come to Whitesboro for Christmas in 1942. G.W. was in Whitesboro for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I went back to Silver City, New Mexico, where my parents were and got a job at JC Penney. The first U.S. 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion was created while G. W. was at Brownwood. In the spring of 1943, before he went to Ireland, the 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion went to Killeen, Texas and raised the flag at Ft. Hood (originally known as Camp Hood). fter that he went to Ft. Nix, New Jersey, for Port of Embarkation and shipped out to Ireland. G.W. went from Dublin, Ireland, to the coast of England. On June 6, 1943, he went in on the 42nd wave to Omaha Beach in France. He was with General George Patton’s 3rd Army. His outfit was 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion and he was commander of a tank. It looked like a tank except it was half-track and half-wheels. He had a crew and they went from Omaha Beach through the hedgerows in France. The cutters had to cut a path through the heavy underbrush that went up the trenches left by Americans in World War I. They fought their way from France to Germany. At places they went on the autobahn which was like our 4 to 6 lane highways. G. W. was in western Germany when they received orders that his unit was going back to Paris, France, for some R&R but when they got to a certain place they turned back and were fighting Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. After that they went back to Saarlautern and fought in that area. The 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion participated in the race across Germany in March 1945. They continued to fight until they were in Austria. They stopped overnight at Linz, Austria, an industrial city on the Danube River near Vienna, Austria. That was June 1945 and the German WWII was over. The Japanese war wasn’t over until August 14, 1945. The reason I know that exact date is because I was working at Hardwick-Etter in Sherman, Texas, making mortar shells for the war and when it was over and the plant closed on that day. G .W. went to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia to wait for a plane to bring him back to the U.S. On his way to the U.S., he flew into Africa and then on to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He bought a pair of boots in Brazil and kept them until he died. He arrived at Camp Chaffee in Arkansas and was honorably discharged from the Army there. As commander of a tank destroyer, he came home on the point system. He had enough points to bring 4 or 5 men home with him! On July 31, 1945, he rode the train to Whitesboro, Texas. He was home! 818th TANK DESTROYER



BEFORE YOU GO

The elderly parking lot attendant wasn't in a good mood! Neither was Sam Bierstock.. It was around 1 a.m., and Bierstock, a Delray Beach , Fla. eye doctor, business consultant, corporate speaker and musician, was bone tired after appearing at an event. He pulled up in his car, and the parking attendant began to speak. "I took two bullets for this country and look what I'm doing," he said bitterly. At first, Bierstock didn't know what to say to the World War II veteran. But he rolled down his window and told the man, "Really, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you." Then the old soldier began to cry. That really got to me," Bierstock says. Cut to today. Bierstock, 58, and John Melnick, 54, of Pompano Beach - a member of Bierstock's band, Dr. Sam and the Managed Care Band - have written a song inspired by that old soldier in the airport parking lot. The mournful "Before You Go" does more than salute those who fought in WWII. It encourages people to go out of their way to thank the aging warriors before they die. "If we had lost that particular war, our whole way of life would have been shot," says Bierstock, who plays harmonica. "The WW II soldiers are now dying at the rate of about 2,000 every day. I thought we needed to thank them." The song is striking a chord. Within four days of Bierstock placing it on the Web, the song and accompanying photo essay have bounced around nine countries, producing tears and heartfelt thanks from veterans, their sons and daughters and grandchildren. "It made me cry," wrote one veteran's son. Another sent an e-mail saying that only after his father consumed several glasses of wine would he discuss " the unspeakable horrors" he and other soldiers had witnessed in places such as Anzio , Iwo Jima, Bataan and Omaha Beach . "I can never thank them enough," the son wrote. "Thank you for thinking about them." Bierstock and Melnick thought about shipping it off to a professional singer, maybe a Lee Greenwood type, but because time was running out for so many veterans, they decided it was best to release it quickly, for free, on the Web. They've sent the song to Sen. John Mc Cain and others in Washington . Already they have been invited to perform it in Houston for a Veterans Day tribute - this after just a few days on the Web. They hope every veteran in America gets a chance to hear it. GOD BLESS EVERY veteran.....and THANK you to those of you veterans who may receive this!



Original News Clippings

These are copies of the original news clippings that Paul Sine donated to the Daughters of World War II.



Original News Clippings

These are copies of the original news clippings that Paul Sine donated to the Daughters of World War II.



Original News Clippings

These are copies of the original news clippings that Paul Sine donated to the Daughters of World War II.



Original News Clippings

These are copies of the original news clippings that Paul Sine donated to the Daughters of World War II.



A Father's Service, PT 161 Skipper - LT John McElroy, USN

A Father's Service, PT 161 Skipper - LT John McElroy, USN We honor our fathers for their presence in our lives. For those who are veterans, we should also remember their service. Prior to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, John McElroy had never considered the military as a career. Impacted, however, like so many others by that horrific event, he enlisted the following day and chose the Navy for the devastation and losses suffered. Subsequently called to active duty, he was ordered to Northwestern University and the Navy's exceptional Midshipmen’s School. There college graduates were trained as naval officers and known as "90-day wonders." Upon completion of Midshipmen’s School, he was asked by Commander Bulkeley if he might consider volunteering for Motor Torpedo Boat duty. In deliberation, he felt drawn to the adrenaline and independence of torpedo boat service and the close engagement with Japanese forces. It was also nearly the only way he would ever skipper his own boat and the very thought of it intrigued him. Upon receiving notice for selection of duty with the “Mosquito Fleet,” he considered it an honor to serve. “An intensive three-week torpedo course was provided prior to reporting for two-months of torpedo boat training at Melville, Rhode Island. When I first strolled down the hill toward Narragansett Bay and saw those deadly looking boats in the lagoon, I wondered what loomed ahead. We were trained on an Elco 80-foot PT boat. She was quite a speed craft with three large 12-cylinder Packard gasoline engines, a total of 4500 horsepower, and capable of 41 knots. Each PT boat had four 21-inch torpedo tubes, and several .50 caliber machine guns. I could only imagine the kind of retribution we could unleash. We made regular torpedo runs on the Vineyard Haven light ship, patrolled outside the anti-submarine nets, ran missions to Block Island, and practiced boat handling at a dilapidated dock in the Fall River. Upon completion of Motor Torpedo Boat training, I reported to the Brooklyn Naval Yard at Bayonne, New Jersey. Assigned to a crew, I was appointed skipper of PT-161. Following training together, our boat was commissioned into service. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade, I was assigned to Squadron Ron 9 under Lieutenant Commander Robert B. Kelly in November of 1942. It was indeed a time of great tension and uncertainty, but also of great patriotism. Our squadron left the states with eight of our boats cradled on the deck of a tanker and my boat looked awkward in its position above the water. Our destination was Panama and it was January, 1943. Once through the Panama Canal, our boats were unloaded in the Gulf of Panama and we gave them a thorough shakedown at Taboga Island, the Island of Flowers. Our training at Taboga lasted about 30 days. I named our boat “Jahnz Canoe.” When you really put the throttle to her, the boat would lift up out of the water and shoot a high rooster tail wake behind us. Cruising in this patrol boat was an exciting rush. We practiced making torpedo runs on moving targets, assimilating everything but the actual live fire of our torpedoes. Our boats were subsequently reloaded onto the deck of another tanker and we headed for the South Pacific. It was a long and monotonous cruise southwestward toward the war. Our destination was New Caledonia in the Coral Sea. Upon arrival at Noumea, New Caledonia, our Ron 9 Squadron took part in boat exercises along with the battleships Washington, Indiana, and North Carolina. These took place in a storm with mountainous seas which beat us and our boats terribly. Several had extensive damage and one crewman suffered a broken leg. Our PT-161 survived but it required patching 10 cracked frames and 32 planks on the bottom of our boat. Memories I shall remember most about this place are the isolated leper colony, the barrage balloons, and the storm that nearly sunk my boat. It was indeed a rude welcome to the South Pacific. Following repairs, we sailed under our own power North by Northwest nearly 550 nautical miles to Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.” As a WW II Skipper of PT-161 assigned to Squadron Ron 9, PT Boat Base 11, Rendova Island in the South Pacific, LTJG John McElroy was designated to support his Commander during operations in the Solomon Islands, and subsequently served as Boat Captain of multiple PT boats during combat patrols. Although his "death" was reported by Tokyo Rose propaganda, he would be awarded a Silver Star for action against Japanese destroyers at Rendova Island and South Vella Gulf. Later, during enemy evacuation of Bairoko, New Georgia, he would take part in six successful engagements with more than 25 enemy barges. “I was detached from PT service on January 11, 1944 following my second bout with Malaria and the doctors told me my war was now over. There is a feeling of regret about this… but I never lost any of my men and for that I am grateful. It sure will be good to see home and family. Sailing underneath the Golden Gate was very nearly an emotional experience. My first steps back on the dry ground of America sure felt wonderful. I had not realized how great it would feel to be back in the states. The medical officers here treated me for a few more weeks and then I was reassigned to set up a Navy duty station here in San Francisco. I was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant on April 2, 1944 and reassigned as Seamanship Instructor at the US Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School, Notre Dame, where I served for the remainder of the war. We operated training craft out on Lake Michigan. Once dispatched to Jacksonville, Florida with several recruits, we took delivery of a 104-foot rescue boat. I sailed it down around the Florida Keys, west across the Gulf of Mexico, and all the way up the Mississippi and Chicago Rivers without the aid of a pilot. I enjoyed it immensely, as no one shot at us along the entire trip. It was my last fling as a Navy boat skipper.” Following more than 20 years of active and reserve duty, including the Korean War, John McElroy subsequently retired from the Navy as a Captain. He passed away on February 10, 2001 and was buried with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. -- Proud Daughter, Karen Evans



Santiago Diaz - WWII Army Medic at Guadalcanal

Born in Jalisco, Mexico amid the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution, Diaz's parents relocated to Texas while he was an infant and settled in Fort Worth. Santiago was raised there and eventually married Justina Alvina at nearly the same time the United States entered World War II. Upon learning he could receive American citizenship for serving in the military, Diaz said goodbye to his wife and their newborn son to enlist in the Army. Diaz recalled completing basic training in 1943 with his fellow recruits at Camp Barkley in Abilene. Twelve weeks later, he went to a hospital in Illinois for medical staging, bound for duty in Europe. When his orders were changed to the Pacific theater, Diaz was sent south to Louisiana to prepare for the tropics, "because there are no jungles in Illinois," he said with a smile. Diaz departed for Guadalcanal from San Francisco on a crowded ship, where many men, including himself, became seasick. Thousands of soldiers slept in bunks stacked four high to the ceiling and he recalled it took 21 miserable days to reach New Caledonia, zig-zagging the entire way to evade enemy submarines lurking in the South Pacific. Finally arriving at Guadalcanal, the ship sat offshore all day before the troops disembarked. The men climbed down rope ladders that night to the landing craft below to avoid being observed by the enemy. Most of Diaz's time overseas was spent on Guadalcanal, working as a medic associated with the 53rd Seabees before transferring to an Army Air Corps unit. While on the island, Diaz proudly took his oath and became an American citizen. When the war ended, Diaz was stationed on the island for a short time before returning to Texas on January 6, 1946. His vivid memory of returning to the States was the ship disembarking in San Francisco to the cheers of thousands welcoming them home.



Sergeant Major Robert Blatnik, U.S. Army, WWII Veteran of D-Day, North Africa, Italy, and France

A farm boy from Ohio, Robert Blatnik enlisted with the Army in 1938 in determined desire to serve his country. Assigned to the 1st Division, 26th Infantry, he worked with combat intelligence and proved skilled in drafting topographical maps following training with the Corps of Engineers. Prior to the 1st Division's initial WWII combat at Oran, North Africa in early November, 1942, Blatnik was handpicked by General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. to serve as his unofficial Sergeant Major. During WWI, Roosevelt learned the position was key for the morale of troops and valued that resource. The Division would storm the beach of Oran and later was first ashore on Sicily's tortuous terrain in July, 1943. Following the Italian campaign, the 1st Division returned to England for D-Day's intensive preparation. In attacking Omaha Beach on D-day, 6 June 1944, there were units suffering 30 percent casualties in the first hour, although Formigny and Caumont were secured in the beachhead. Assault boats, mined and shelled, were piled upon obstacles and formed additional obstructions. Men were cut down as their landing crafts dropped their ramps or died wading through the surf. A few of the early assault waves, having gained the dubious shelter of the shale ledge, were riddled by artillery bursts. Most supporting weapons were swamped or destroyed on the beach. By the time Sergeant Major Blatnik hit the water with command of 900 men at Omaha, he was considered seasoned infantry. His new recruits, however, feeling the tendency to dig in when facing the onslaught of tremendous firepower, were told the only way to survive was move forward. Instructed not to tend to the wounded, the medics would follow from the rear. Of the 900 men initially in his command, only 500 would survive to march inland. Blatnik, wounded several times during his own WWII service and a recipient of a Silver Star and 4 purple hearts, was subsequently able to return to each period of combat. Theodore Roosevelt Jr, rising to the rank of Brigadier General during WWII, served as Assistant Commander of the US Army's 4th Infantry Division during D-Day landings at Normandy, France on 6 June, 1944. The only General officer to land with the invasion forces that day, he led his men through France into the next month before dying of a fatal heart attack on July 12, 1944, following involvement in fierce fighting. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery on D-Day. Buried at Omaha Beach American Cemetery, he was laid to rest alongside his brother, Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed in the first World War. The 1st Division would follow a St. Lo break-through with an attack on Marigny, July 27, 1944 and drove across France in continuous offensive, reaching the German border at Aachen in September. Laying siege, they took the city following a direct assault on October 21, 1944. Then attacking east of Aachen through Hurtgen Forest and driving to the Roer, they moved to a rest area on December 7th, the Division's first real break in six months of combat. When the von Rundstedt offensive suddenly broke loose on December 16th, the Division raced to the Ardennes and fought continuously from December 17, 1944 to January 28, 1945, helping blunt and turn back the German offensive. Thereafter, the Division attacked and again breached the Siegfried Line, fought across the Roer on February 23, 1945 and drove on to the Rhine, crossing at the Remagen bridgehead on March 15-16, 1945. Breaking out of the bridgehead, they took part in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket, captured Paderborn, pushed through the Harz Mountains, and were in Czechoslovakia, at Kinsperk, Sangerberg, and Mnichov, when the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945. ----Decades later, in remembrance of D-Day's 70th Anniversary at Normandy, Sergeant Major Blatnik fell to his knees on Omaha Beach, praying for the souls of 400 men lost and a salute to Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr, "a soldier's soldier loved by his men." In the years following retirement, Robert Blaknit has devoted his time to the Golden Age Olympics and Veterans Hospital. A recent recipient of a Presidential Award for over 9,000 volunteer hours for the Dallas veterans facility, he still proudly wears his uniform. With an abundance of patriotism and enduring faith, Blaknit starts each morning with a rendition of God Bless America and religious hymns.



WWII Fighter Pilot, American Hero

Major M. Brooks, a P-38 and P-47 fighter pilot during WWII, flew nearly a hundred missions in support of Allied troops, including Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Having flown 82 combat missions by the age of 23, Captain Brooks’ valor earned him several medals and decorations, including the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. His citations described his “distinctive aerial proficiency, exceptional valor, great courage, and extraordinary achievement.” Hailing from mid-America, Major was born September 28, 1922 in Ardmore, Oklahoma as the son of Major and Lillian Brooks. Times were good in the small American town until the “Dust Bowl” and Depression of the 1930s left most families poor, with little food, and very few jobs. At a young age, Major was up at 3:00 each morning to throw papers and joined his father at 5:00 in the local butcher shop and grocery store. With the declaration of war, Major and 17 of his high school friends set out for California to build aircraft. Enlisting in the Army Air Corp and stationed in Ontario, California, his adventure in flight school commenced when he was first among fellow recruits in breaking the sound barrier over Santa Barbara. Many young men longed to join the Corp but few were chosen and, of those accepted, ten percent would die in training. Upon graduation, Major would leave for the flight line in 1943. In 1944, Major joined the 367th Fighter Group, later known as the “Dynamite Gang,” and initially shipped to England in preparation for war. At age 19, the men experienced exhilaration in being overseas and seeing the world for the first time but were resolute in serving their country during its greatest challenge. Their photos depicted a brief period when the world was new and exciting before the horrors and destruction of war were fully realized. Unusual for a 9th Air Force group, the 367th Fighter Group flew P-38 Lightnings from England in March 1944; only switching to P-47 Thunderbolts in February 1945 when flying out of Saint-Dizier, France. Stoney Cross, Hampshire, was their first base in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). As a base in southern England, it was the perfect location to fly short-range fighter sweeps and ground-strafing missions over German positions in northern France and provide air cover for invasion forces themselves in early June. The group flew some incredible missions in the last year of the war. For a mission on 25 August 1944, the Group received their first Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC). The mission involved attacking landing grounds at Clastres, Peronne and Rosieries through an intense anti-aircraft barrage, engaging a number of enemy aircraft and then, despite a low fuel supply, strafing a train and convoy. Later the same day the 367th flew a fighter sweep of more than 800 miles, hitting landing grounds at Cognac, Bourges, and Dijon. On 26 December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, the Group escorted C-47s dropping supplies to Allied troops encircled at Bastogne. The Group was awarded a second DUC for action on 19 March 1945 when they managed to bomb and strafe the well-disguised headquarters of the German Commander-in-Chief (West), the newly-in-post Albert Kesselring, at Ziegenburg. In WWII, fighter pilots on all sides tended to be very youthful at 21 or 22 years on average; 25 was considered mature, and 30 even more so. Yet there were many successful WWII fighter pilots aged around 30, some even older. The average life of a pilot was 5 days and by the end of the war, over 40,000 airmen were killed in combat theaters and another 18,000 wounded. Major would land in Sainte-Mère-Église on Landing Strip #2 and the 367th Fighter Group began to move from that point through France. Four men were assigned to each tent in camp and Major returned from combat one fateful day to find himself alone, after 7 of 12 pilots were shot down and among the casualties. Initially, Major made many friends but as the war progressed, he understood the sadness of loss. In the face of war and potential death, they took advantage of times during leave to enjoy what they could; even arranging a party for a Sainte-Mère-Église orphanage. Major Brooks was made flight leader and awarded the Silver Star following a heroic mission where several of his flight team were attacked and shot down. On 19 November, 1944 fighter sweep to Duren, the 367th helped to fight off 25 Focke-Wulf 190s which attacked P-47s of the 368th Fighter Group. Lt Major M. Brooks dived almost to the treetops to shoot down his first plane. Closing on a second enemy fighter, he fired a long burst and watched the pilot bail out only 50′ above the ground. A few more rounds caused a 3rd 190 to erupt into smoke and flames, tumbling crazily to the ground. Brooks then fired on another enemy fighter, causing pieces to fly from its left wing. Only when 5 German planes appeared to fire upon Major, was he forced to break his attack. Toward the end of the war, Major transferred to P-47s and a good friend, Hux, had orders to return home following his recently completed 99th mission. He chose, instead, to fly once more which would prove a fateful decision, as he was killed in action during the flight. Two other close friends were lost that same day, Cooney and Bowers, in August 1945. Major, who never fully recovered from the pain and loss would return years later to France in search of their graves. Of the 350 pilots of the 367th, over half were killed or captured during WWII. Toward the end of Major’s tour, he recovered from flight fatigue with a brief stay in an English hospital. He then joined fighting at the front with Patton’s tank army as a ground controller for air support and would later participate in the liberation of concentration and war camps. With the declaration of the end of WWII, Major was awaiting orders to the Pacific in fighting against the Japanese. Captain Major Brooks passed away on April 20, 2018 and leaves an honorable legacy for both his country and community. Having faced death during 82 missions, he faced life with abundant joy and love for his fellow man.