Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

Memorial Day in the United States is the day we set aside to remember the men and women who died while serving in the armed forces.  Most of us have someone in our family history who have died in service to the country.  In my family, my mother's brother, Harold P. Hetelle, age 20, was killed in action in World War II on April 16, 1943 in the Southwest Pacific when the plane he was piloting was shot down.

Initially he was reported as missing as seen in the the article below.

I cannot imagine the emotions that were felt by my grandparents upon hearing this news.  Harold was a pilot and I am certain they feared the worst.  I found a clue to what they were thinking in my mother's (Harold's youngest sibling) scrapbook.  His sister, Annis, wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper.  It read:

"I have been a reader of your column for a very long time and I really think it is wonderful.  This is rather a plea for my three brothers who are in service.  One of my brothers (Perry, 26) is somewhere in Australia, now, and my folks received word from him stating that he hadn't received a letter from anyone for about four or five months.  We have been writing, but not enough of us good Americans write half enough to our boys in the service who are fighting so hard for freedom and peace.  Another brother (Harold, 20) last Saturday was reported missing in action; he was stationed somewhere in New Guinea.  We haven't given up hope that he isn't safe, so we are continuing to write to him also.  Another brother (Kenneth, 22) is stationed somewhere in Alaska.  I also have another brother who is just 18 this month and is expecting to be called soon.  Perhaps you know just what my parents, like all parents who have boys in the service are going through, but I know it would certainly mean a lot to them if people who are really good Americans would write a line to them once in a while.  It's not just for them I am pleading, but for every boy in service.  Letters are all they have to look forward to so please just drop a line just once in a while to all our boys who are fighting for us.  My parents are Mr. and Mrs. Ole Hetelle, who live south of Marseilles.  There five of us girls besides the four boys in the family."
Sadly, within weeks, my grandparents received word that their son Harold was killed in action April 16, 1943, when, according to the newspaper, "his plane was caught in a barrage of enemy machine gun fire while in valiant pursuit of the Nipponese in an important battle."  Here is the newspaper article:

It was a very tough time for the family.  Harold's paternal grandfather (my great-grandfather), John Hetelle, died withing a few weeks of his grandson being killed in action.  John was born in Aardal, Norway October 4, 1869.  I cannot imagine what my grandfather Ole must have been going through, losing a son and a Dad in the same month, but it was very cool to see another newspaper clipping saying that he was reading magazine articles to school children at that same time.

Harold received over 20 awards posthumously.