Archive for September, 2014

This past weekend, Ed and I drove up to Hudson, NY, to spend more time with our favorite 111th officer, Arthur Brooks, who was the unit’s company commander in the last eight months of WWII.

Art Brooks, outside quarters, Brake, Germany, summer 1945

Art Brooks, outside quarters, Brake, Germany, summer 1945

Seated, Art and Judy Brooks with Bob, Lori, and Louise, at their home overlooking the Hudson River

Seated, Art and Judy Brooks, with Bob, Lori, and Louise, at the family  home overlooking the Hudson River

We had first spent time with Art, his wife Judy, and their daughter Louise last January at their winter home in Florida. Art’s 97th birthday is next month, and he is as sharp as ever, as is Judy, who is 95. Art is one of four surviving members of the unit.

On the way, we stopped in Northern Virginia and had a nice long lunch with Pat Raymer Macchiarolo and her husband, Mike. Pat found us last June via this blog. She had brought along many photos and war mementos of her dad, Sgt. Bob Raymer of Pennsylvania, to share with us.

Pat (Raymer) and Mike Macchiarolo

Pat (Raymer) and Mike Macchiarolo

The New York weekend was a family affair—Art and Judy’s daughters Louise and Lori and their son-in-law, Bob, were also there. Bob had been going through file cabinets and drawers in Art’s basement office and uncovered a treasure trove of all sorts of 111th documents and photos, including about 150 or so letters Art had written home during the war.  Of course, I immediately began snapping photographs, a project that continued that day almost until midnight and again the next morning. We will share new information on this blog as we wade through this new and interesting information.

We had a wonderful time with Art, of course asking endless questions. Between that and the materials we found, we learned so much more about the 111th’s time in the war. Here a few tidbits:

— Lt. Fred Kent, who was the inventor of the M2 semi-automatic carbine, came up with the idea while the unit was based in St. Dogmaels, Wales, prior to Normandy. One night at the officers’ mess, Warrant Officer Bill Hall (a new name for us) mentioned that it was shame that “the Army hadn’t specified the M1 carbine to be designed as an automatic weapon.” Lt. Kent countered that the gun had all the necessary components to adapt it into such a rifle, at which point WO Hall bet him $10 that he couldn’t make an automatic weapon out of the carbine.  Of course, he did, and later Gen. Omar Bradley sent him to England to help lead the design team to produce it, as we described in a previous post (https://wwiitracings.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/the-111ths-inventor-lt-kent-and-the-m2-carbine/). Near the end of the war, Lt. Kent said that his parents in New Jersey wrote to tell him they had picked up a hitchhiking soldier outside New York City, and when they told him their son’s name, he asked if he was any relation to the inventor of the “Kent automatic carbine.” They said yes, and he told them it had been used extensively in the Pacific and had saved many American lives.

— One of Art’s letters home, dated August 6, 1945, contained a paragraph mentioning that he had authorized leave for a soldier to go to Wales to marry his fiancée; the soldier was my father, and the bride was my mother! They were married on August 22 in Cardiff. He mentioned that the men had taken up a collection amounting to $135 and given it to my dad to help cover honeymoon expenses. What a thrill it was to see that letter—and Art insisted I keep it.

Bremer Voll Kammerai plant, Blumenthal, Germany, on the Weser River

Bremer Voll Kammerai plant, Blumenthal, Germany, on the Weser River

— Art had a large photo of the woollen plant, the Bremer Voll Kammerai, that served as the unit’s base in Blumenthal, Germany, for a short time in May 1945.

— Here is a list of vehicles the unit had in February 1945; it is interesting to see some of the men’s names listed. (Click to enlarge the image.)111ths vehicle list

 

 

 

 

—We also found a nice 8×10 glossy photo of a small picture we had found in my dad’s things. This time, we could see the face much better—and guess who it was? Bob Raymer, father of the woman we met when we started this trip last Friday!

Bob Raymer

 

 

 

 

 

Early next month we head to St. Louis, MO, to spend a couple of days in the Personnel Records Center, where we will view the 111th’s morning reports on microfilm. We hope to learn much from this visit. It is now obvious that the book on the unit I did last spring will have to be revised and expanded.