My father, Joseph Bryant Stewart, was an army career man. He signed up at the age of 21 and, after basic training, this Missouri boy was shipped to Hawaii. Nice gig, or so it would seem, but this was 1940, and he spent more than 18 months there. Years later, he told me that the whole time they were preparing for an attack, which they expected would come by sea, so the beaches were strung with barbed wire to keep the enemy out. Unfortunately, it also served to keep anyone on the island off the the beach.
On December 7, 1941, he was coming out of the mess hall after breakfast when a squadron of Japanese planes flew overhead. One plane dropped a bomb on a nearby water tower. Dad said he figured the pilot thought it was a fuel tank. From his perch on the mountain top in Schofield Barracks, Dad gazed below at the devastation in Pearl Harbor. Later, he was in charge of the burial detail for the sailors who were killed that day.
Now a master sergeant, he was shipped stateside and assigned to train new recruits, which he did for about 18 months. In 1943, he was shipped to England, where he waited … and waited. As part of the Army Corps of Engineers, he used to say that he built bridges for the enemy to blow up, so on June 6, 1944, he was on a landing craft in the “second wave” of D-Day, going into Omaha Beach to clear the way for the infantry and to build bridges across Europe.
He survived two theaters of World War II, and actually got out of the army for a few months, but he loved military life and so had re-upped in the late 1940s just before he met my mom. After I was born, he did two tours in Korea and Mom and I joined him in Japan when he was stationed there. In all, Dad spent 22 years in the Army, achieving the rank of warrant officer before retiring to Florida in 1962.
The story of Warrant Officer Joseph Bryant Stewart, U. S. Army, Retired is the story of so many young men and women in all branches of service. Whether volunteer or draftee, they did their best to keep the rest of us safe and free.
My grandmother probably wrote the caption on the above photo. She was a great archivist and left me notes on photos that I wouldn't have had otherwise. The picture says Europe, but I have no idea where. The same goes for the photo below. Security, of course, was very tight, so I'm actually surprised he was able to take these photos and send them home. That's him peeking out from beneath the machine gun. By the way, does anybody know what that is?
By going through some of Dad's photos that I acquired a few years back, I discovered that he went much further into Europe than I'd ever known. The photo below must have been in Poland.
Unfortunately, my Dad is no longer here to ask him the many questions that I have. What I do have is an archive of photos, that despite now being enclosed in acid free casings, are starting to deteriorate. So, if you have old photos, protect them, scan them into your computer, do what you can to preserve them, because they will be gone if you don't.
Also, write down the stories that you know and preserve them as well. I'm going to work on some of those stories for my children and grandchildren so that they too can remember Joseph Bryant Stewart was a military man as well as their softie old grandpa.
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