Five years ago, for Memorial Day 2014, I wrote about the five Bailey brothers of World War II. This year, I’m writing about them maybe for the last time.
Yes, there were no less than five Baileys who served in WWII. That fact is known to those who attend the annual Memorial Day parade in Mercer, Pennsylvania. The parade is pure Americana: local rotary club, high-school bands, church groups, veterans of wars.
The veterans marching today largely wear the camouflage of distant regions like Iraq and Afghanistan, or uniforms from Vietnam and Korea. Veterans from World War II, unfortunately, are a dwindling sight. I wonder if we’ll see any this year.
One exhibit has long been part of the procession: a classy old car with a placard announcing the “Five Bailey Brothers.”
Back in 2013, after several years of watching the Bailey car ride by, I took the time to track down the last surviving brother: Dick. I was pleasantly surprised to learn he lived in my town — Grove City. I called and asked if he’d give me some time to hear and write about him and his family. He agreed.
Born Christmas Eve 1922, Dick served in World War II along with his brothers Fred, Alphonse (known as “Fonnie”), Jim, and John. All five volunteered after Pearl Harbor and were dispatched into enemy territory. “All had combat,” says Dick—in Europe, the Pacific, Northern Africa; land, sea, air.
Fred was shot and taken prisoner by the Nazis. “The Germans didn’t treat him well,” Dick told me. “Fred said it was horrible…. He was only 110 pounds when he came home.” He won a purple heart.
Dick was in the Army Air Corps. He and his brother John were in the war the longest. Dick served on six Pacific islands. In the Schouten Islands, the Japanese bombed almost every night, typically two hours at a time, throughout Dick’s eight-month stay. “You didn’t sleep very much,” remembered Dick.
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