"Father enlists to avenge sons' deaths at Pearl Harbor"

"Father enlists to avenge sons' deaths at Pearl Harbor"

The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Walter David Bromley tried to enlist in the Navy. According to newspaper accounts, he did not yet know that his sons Jimmie and George had been killed aboard the U.S.S. Arizona.

The Navy rejected Walter because he was 51 and the age limit for enlistment was 50. But when he found out about his sons' deaths, he applied again and the limit was waived. 

"It's the happiest news of my life," Bromley told a reporter. He'd been earning $8.25 a day at a Tacoma, Wash., door manufacturing plant, but gave that up to earn $2 a day as a third-class carpenter's mate.

His youngest son, Walter Jr., age 17, also tried to enlist in the Navy but was rejected because he was color blind. But Walter Jr. was accepted by the Army when he was 20 as a machine gunner. "The average life span of a machine gunner was only about 45 seconds," he said later. Walter Jr. was lucky and did survive the war. He died in August 2016 at the age of 93.

(The photo with this piece shows Walter David Bromley taking his enlistment oath.)

Another father who enlisted after Pearl Harbor was Gunner Chris Grundstrom, who told the Los Angeles Times in March 1942 that he wanted to take his son's place and whip the Japanese. The son, Richard Gunner Grundstrom, was 18 when he died on the U.S.S. Arizona.

The father, 44, had been a gang foreman on an outside emergency crew for Southern California Gas Co. before he enlisted. It appears that the father rose to the rank of chief shipfitter during the war and died in 1982. He is buried at the military cemetery in Phoenix.

Newspaper archives include several stories of brothers and other relatives who enlisted after their siblings died on the Arizona. One that particularly touched me was this Dec. 16, 1942, article in the Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune:

"FARGO, ND (AP) -- Garland Gebhardt, young Balta man who recently enlisted in the Navy to avenge the death of a brother, Kenneth Gebhardt, has a new ally in that mission.

"His cousin, 19-year-old Allen Gebhardt, also of Balta, enlisted in the Navy Wednesday.

"Allen is the son of Mrs. Caroline Gebhardt, Balta farm woman, who with her daughter, Iris, will direct operations of a 1,200-acre farm in McHenry county."

I was unable to find further information about Garland, but a 1998 obituary for Iris listed her brother Allen among her survivors. Iris' obit said she, too, was a veteran.

Back in 1940, the population of Balta, in north central North Dakota, was 263. Can you imagine a place so small losing one of its young men to war and then sending off two more? Or a farm woman and her teen daughter taking over the large family operation? The attack on Pearl Harbor changed families and communities in so many ways.

All this week TrueTucson.com is blogging about some of the men who died 75 years ago on the Arizona. A public ceremony at 3 p.m. Sunday will dedicate a new memorial on the University of Arizona mall. The memorial includes medallions for each of the 1,177 men and an outline of the deck of the ship in full scale.



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