My father was a war veteran of both World War II and the Korean War. You'd think after that he'd have left the military, but Master Sergeant 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 January 1940 and he spent more than 18 months there.
Years later, he told me that for all of that year 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 beach, so this was no Hawaii vacation.
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 at Schofield Barracks, Dad and his fellow soldiers gazed below at the devastation in Pearl Harbor. Later, he was put 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. Then, in 1943, he was shipped to England and based in a town called Chipping Norton near Oxford, where he waited … and waited.
As part of the Army Corps of Engineers, he used to tell me that he built bridges for the enemy to blow up. 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, and sometimes rebuild, bridges across Europe.
My Dad was a war veteran, surviving two theaters of World War II, Pearl Harbor and D-Day. After the war, he actually got out of the army for a few months, but he loved military life, so he re-upped in the late 1940s just before he met my mom.
After I was born, he did two tours of duty in Korea, one in 1952 and one in 1959. I'm still sorting though those photos. In 1953, Mom and I joined him in Japan when he was stationed there. In all, Dad spent 22 years in the Army, was a war veteran of two wars, and achieved the rank of warrant officer before retiring to Florida in 1962.
The story of Warrant Officer Joseph Bryant Stewart, U. S. Army 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 taken 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 war veteran and military man, as well as their softie old grandpa.
If you do have a story to tell, please share it with us here. If you are a veteran or a military brat, here’s your chance. We’re looking for stories of veterans to add to our honor roll. Start by filing in your title below, then click to tell your story.
As a way of honoring the veterans in our communities, I've set up this page for you to tell your own story. This can be about you, someone in your family, a friend, or someone you've met. Tell us your story and say thank you to a veteran.
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