Since Friday is the inaugural National Ernie Pyle Day as declared by Congress, I thought it would be good time to report on another family of five brothers who served their country in the military.
As some people may remember, Pyle was a Pulitzer Prize-winning World War II correspondent who wrote about the fighting in both Europe and the Pacific until he was killed by Japanese troops in 1945 on an island near Okinawa.
I heard from Jerry Durham and his wife, Bernice, a few months ago after my third column about brothers serving their country over the years. I know Bernice as one of my Genoa-Kingston High School classmates. Her husband, Jerry, went to school in Iowa and during his senior year he enlisted in the Navy. It seems two of his friends had joined up and when they came home from basic training he was so excited he decided to enlist. This was toward the end of the Korean War.
Jerry told me he came from a family of 16 in the small Iowa town of Knoxville. He is the youngest of the siblings and he and his closest brother Don are the only ones left. Even more remarkable is the fact he had eight brothers-in-law who also were in the military. But I only have the space to talk about his siblings.
His oldest brother, Clyde, joined the Army and fought in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Jerry recalls Clyde somehow acquired a half track at the end of the war and brought it home with him. It was like a truck with an open bed, but normally it would include a mounted heavy machine gun. I imagine the gun had been removed, but it’s a sure bet he had the only one like it in Knoxville.
Next oldest, Ken, was a tail gunner on bombers in Europe and served in the same squadron as actor Jimmy Stewart.
A third brother, Lloyd, was in the Navy and spent most of his WWII duty on the submarine USS Griffith. During the Korean War, brothers Don and Jerry served in the Navy.
I asked Jerry how he met Bernice and he explained that his brother first dated her, and later on he and she hit it off. After two years, they were married at the Kingston Methodist Church and now it is 58 years later.
He worked for Anaconda, then Turner Brass, was a trucker for 15 years and managed two gas stations, one each in Sycamore and DeKalb.
To digress, when in high school Bernice used to come to my house occasionally to sing, with Clint Strouse playing the guitar along with Paul Buzzell and me trying to carry a tune in the background. Bernice was as good as a country western singer, and had the southern accent she had retained as a native of Alabama.
When I inquired about his brother, Jerry said Don lives in Amarillo, Texas, but is coming to visit this weekend.
Good timing for this column, so they will see their photo together in uniform from 60 years ago.