Sunday, March 14, 2010

Brothers in the Pacific

My grandfather wasn't fighting with the Marines in the Pacific, but he sure wanted to. The day after the Pearl Harbor attack Cortland marched off to his local Navy recruitment office. It was housed in the State Street Post Office in Schenectady, NY. He approached the officer there, but was promptly rejected with, “You’ve got varicose veins and not enough teeth.” “But, I’m not going to bite them,” my grandfather argued, “I’m going to shoot them.” The critical recruiter was not impressed with this skinny, seemingly unfit man standing in front of him. “He didn’t even look at my legs. He just had to write something down on the paper. I guess ‘varicose veins’ was the easiest thing to write.” A small-time gangster was in line for his mail, and oversaw the dispute. They had met back in the Prohibition days when Cortland worked as a Western Union courier. The gangster pressured the recruiter to sign-up my grandfather, but that hardly helped. Cortland wanted to serve, but he would have to wait until 1943 when he was drafted into the Army. Physical requirements has been relaxed by that time.

While Cortland was stuck at home, two of his more robust-looking brothers got in the Navy and shipped out to the Pacific. Eldest brother, James Hopkins, (above photo) joined one of the Naval Construction Battalions (the “CB’s” or “SeaBees”).

Cortland's younger brother, Francis, served in the Pacific as a signalman aboard the USS LCS(L)(3)-112. (see above photo). His ship is discussed on the NavSource site and on a tribute website run by the son of one of the other sailors.

Cortland's future brother-in-law, Leonard Bulow, was also in the Pacific. I'm not sure what kind of outfit he was in. Leonard sent the above photo to his family with a note on the back, "My home in the Pacific. Boy, the States sure will look swell after this."

I'm sad to say I'll be missing HBO's Pacific series. We haven't been watching much TV, and the shows we do like can be watched online the next day. So, we cut our cable this past summer. I guess I'll have to wait for the series to show up on DVD. Watching HBO's Band of Bothers is what got me interested in interviewing my grandfather, which then lead to writing my book. I hope this new show will encourage others to research their fathers or grandfathers who served in the Pacific.

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