Greatest Generation

According to Tom Brokaw, the greatest generation was the people who survived The Great Depression of the 1930’s and World War II. That group would include my four brothers and some cousins, including Jeanne Bevier Trenholm, who served in the W.A.C.S., the Women’s Auxiliary Corps Service.

My oldest brother, Bill joined the army in 1940 as he felt war was coming (It had already started in Europe.) and he wanted to be well-trained. He would have preferred the navy, but a car accident a few years earlier, when he went through the windshield, had damaged one of his eyes and precluded his acceptance into the navy, my father’s suggested choice as he served in the Navy in WWI.

After Boot Camp, he was sent to Officers’ Training School in Virginia. I remember him coming home for Thanksgiving and climbing up to the second floor to enter through one of the few open windows in the wee hours of the morning. He served in the Pacific, starting with the New Guinea invasion and moving north through the Philippines, finally landing in Japan with MacArthur.

Always ready with his sense of humor, he told the story of finding the people of Tokyo nearly starving as the Japanese army suddenly had left after hearing of the invasion and no food had entered the city for many days. Spotting a small girl hiding behind her mother’s kimono, he offered her a Hershey candy bar. She shook her head vigorously indicating “No!” She had heard the propaganda that the U.S. soldiers would tempt them with poisoned food. So, he opened it and took a small bite, then offering it to her again. This time she smiled and accepted it.

My second brother, Bob joined the Coast Guard. (The Navy quota had been filled.) First he was in the North Atlantic on a weather ship, surrounded by Nazi submarines. They had broken our code and were sending our weather information to the German Headquarters. Later, he was in the South Pacific helping to transport home Americans who had survived the Japanese Prisoner of War Camps. These men were in very bad shape and broke down while on the U.S. ship. Bob found it so disheartening, he was allowed a long leave to recover. His discharge number was number “6”.

Pierson, my third brother joined N.R.O.T.C. while at Yale and was sent to the Pacific for the last part of the war. He and Bill met in Manila on my Mother’s birthday, September 1st 1944 and toasted her with some Scotch she had sent Pierson for Christmas in a loaf of bread! He was in charge of an L.S.T. (Landing Ship Transport) and was involved in the landing on Taiwan.

Eddie, the youngest wanted to be a pilot and joined the Air Force. I can still see in my mind’s eye, my mother on the phone commiserating with Ed for his failure to pass the rigorous training for fighter pilots due to air sickness. Tears of joy were streaming down her face. He became a rear gunner on a B-29 and would have been sent to Korea in 1950, if he hadn’t died of polio the year before.

Their many small V-Mail letters kept us informed of their doings. Unfortunately, these and other precious mementos were destroyed in a lightening caused fire that hit my home a few years ago. Today, I am proud to remember them as part of the Greatest Generation.

Lois Keating Learned
Southbury, CT © 2013

Add your story to this page!

Comment on this Story

Add a New Comment

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License