Wednesday, December 15, 2010

65 Years Ago Today

I got this email from my mom today:

"65 years ago today at 12:30 AM, Grandpa returned home from Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands. Uncle Ted picked him up in Carbondale where he had arrived by bus from Indian Town Gap via Scranton. What I remember is being awakened in the middle of the night, sitting on the floor in the kitchen, and Grandpa giving me a Hershey bar from his duffelbag. The bag was stenciled with his service number Burdick---B 33849309."

What a great Christmas present that must have been for my family.

In my quick online research this morning, I found some more information on the lives of US servicemen in the Aleutians. It definitely sounds like there was a lot more going on than what anyone in my family ever let on.

Soldier in front of Headquarters of Companies E and F, 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry, Arkansas Army National Guard, on Umnak Island, in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, 1942.
(not my Grandfather's outfit; he was from Pennsylvania)
photo from wikipedia

I don't know what unit he was in, but I know my grandfather was in the Army Corps of Engineers. I think I remember my mom saying that he helped build bridges to help the Army gain access to as much territory as possible. It was always made to sound like he didn't see any action; until today I didn't know that the Japanese had actually taken a few of the islands. Now I wonder what he saw and did, and how he felt about it. Like many of his generation, he was a very stoic man; he didn't like to talk about any suffering or trials he may have endured.

I don't have any pictures of my grandfather in uniform, or in the Aleutians. I'm sure there are some, somewhere, but I don't have access to them.


  1. A story with heart, I join you in trying to find out she went to our respective grandparents, you aroused curiosity in me.

  2. What a lovely Christmas Story - you can just visualise the family in a kitchen at midnight, children sitting on the floor and eating chocolate (no doubt a treat!)
    And also highlights how extended families were perhaps closer than we are nowadays - the uncle picks him up and brings him to your mother's house....did he live with them or was it a stop on the way home?....
    You may find that other members of your family are into genealogy - they tend to hoard photos and the like...

  3. It's a pretty sweet story, isn't it? I'm going to see if I can get more out of my mother over the holidays...there's way too much I don't know.

    I love that a Hershey bar, that ubiquitous K-ration staple, made it into my family history. It helps explain my love of chocolate! LOL

    My grandparents had moved into their own house when they married. Uncle Ted would have been living on the farm at that point; he was one of my Grandfather's younger brothers. He would have had gas for the car (or truck) because farmers were often given extra gas rations to help them run tractors and/or get goods to market. He would have left Union Dale, where the farm was, and driven to Carbondale to get my Grandfather and bring him back to Union Dale.


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