April 19, 2020

Researchers reveal more about individual WWII experiences, including my cousin’s

In the process of researching World War II veterans’ records, I thought of my cousin Bruce Elliott’s service with the 741st Tank Battalion from D-Day on to the end of the war in Europe.
I mentioned him to Bert Caloud, a retired Marine sergeant major who has helped me with military and historical research several times. He’s tenacious. The time that sticks in my mind was when I made an inquiry on behalf of an Iwo Jima veteran about a Marine flame-thrower who was thought to have been buried in an unmarked grave under one of the airstrips on the island. I emailed Bert, who was the assistant superintendent at the Manila American Cemetery, told him what I knew and gave him the name and the unit.
Not long afterward, I was in Manila with a group touring the World War II battle sites in the Philippines. Bert had tracked the man from when he was killed on Iwo Jima to his transfer to the cemetery in Manila and took me to the grave. I took a photo and sent it to the Iwo Jima veteran, Al Jennings, who was relieved to know that his buddy was properly buried rather than being in a hastily dug and unmarked grave on Iwo Jima.
“I’ve thought about him every day since he was killed,” Jennings said, “wondering where he was.”
Recently, after I mentioned my cousin Bruce to Bert, he put me in contact with Erik Albertson, head of training and plans for WW2 Armor. I gave him some background about Bruce and sent a photo of him in uniform during World War II. Eric sent me some information, then asked if I’d like for Bruce to be listed and honored in the “Tinker Tidbit” segment on the WW2 Armor Facebook page. I thought it was a great idea and told him to go ahead. The piece about Bruce and the photo that is running with it were posted April 19 at www.facebook.com/ww2armor.
Bruce’s service in the war was extraordinary, given that he landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, was in the Battle of the Bulge and was still there at the end in Pilsen, Czech Republic, on May 5, 1945, when the war was about over. Bruce told me he wouldn’t take a million dollars for his experiences, but he wouldn’t do it again for a million dollars, either. I used that quote and much more in my novel, Wild Hands Toward the Sky.
Attached is (the) Tanker Tidbit in honor of Bruce,” Eric emailed me about the piece. “We focused on his D-Day landing, as that is a major ordeal to have been part of and survived to say the least, as we all know. A book alone could be written about him as he made it through the entire ETO with the 741st from Omaha Beach to Czech Republic. Honestly, can’t even imagine that and what he experienced, as it’s not too common to have made it all the way through as a combat arms troop. In the words of one senior NCO from the 66th Armor who fought in the MTO and ETO, ‘By the end of the war, we only had nine of our original unit members that were with us from when we left the U.S. in 1943.’”