The following is the ninth out of a series of articles from The Bellville Times published in 2018. It covered the players who participated in World War II.
The Boys of Fall - 1938 Brahmas - IX
As we approach Veterans Day on November 11th, I feel it is important to look back at the 1938 Brahmas and remember those who served in the Military in World War II. The team members were all born in the early 1920’s, and were destined to become participants by their age. However, the threats of an upcoming war were not on the minds of the young athletes in Bellville during the 1938 season.
In 1938, the buildup to World War II was taking place in Europe and Asia. On September 15, 1938, Adolf Hitler met with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to demand that Czechoslovakia give up a part of its country that contained a large population of Germans to Nazi Germany. Just two weeks later, the leaders of Britain, France, and Italy conceded the Sudentland, believing that they were safe from Hitler’s advance.
Earlier in July 1937, a skirmish between Chinese and Japanese troops escalated into the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese were not well equipped, but kept fighting until the downfall of Japan in 1945. Chinese civilian and military deaths numbered in the millions.
The late 1930’s and early 1940’s saw Hitler continue to expand and occupy other European countries, and in 1940 started the bombing of Britain. In June 1941, the Germans attacked Russia, and Stalin signed a mutual assistance treaty with Britain. Japan had signed a ten-year military pact with German and Italy, expecting their Axis to rule the world.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and on December 8th, the United States declared war on Japan. On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war on the United States, and Congress reciprocated the same day with their declaration of war on Germany.
To determine the impact on the team, my father and I surveyed the team roster. Utilizing his memory, I started highlighting the names of those he said had served with a star. When we reached the end of the list, almost every name had a star beside it. I was stunned, amazed, and mostly in awe looking at the list. My next thought, how can I verify and complete this?
I drive by the Austin County Veterans Memorial every day, and decided to spend some time there and see what I could find. Realizing that could take some time, a Google search revealed the information I was looking for. Bingo! The Austin County TXGenWeb Project site contained what I was looking for. A list of the known Austin County World War II Veterans is there for all to see. Using that information compiled by Joy Neely and Carolyn Zaskoda, the following list was compiled with the team members who served with their service information. Please know that this is not a final list, and may contain errors or omissions. If you have any corrections, please let me know.
Player, Rank, Service
Albert, Dalton - Sgt. US Army
Barry, Eugene - Pfc. US Army Hq Co 1st Bat So. Pacific
Barry, James - 1st Sgt US Army Inf Asiatic Pacific
Butler, James - Army Air Corps England - POW Germany
Carpenter, Malcolm - Enl Cpl US Army
Dunn, Jack - Capt 730 Engr Dep US Army Phillipines
Fisher, Clarence - Lt. Us Army Air Corps - lost over New Guinea 10/2/43
Gindorf, Stephen - Cpl US Marine Corps 34d Div Iwo Jima
A. E. Jackson - Pvt US Marine Corps, San Diego CA
Jackson, Billy - US Army Air Corps, 456BG 15th AF - POW Germany
Kamas, Tommie - 1st Lt US Army Air Corps 15th AF Europe
Kenter, Marcus - T/Sgt Us Army Air Corps, Guam
Knolle, William - 1st Lt Us Army Air Corps England
Machemehl, Chas - Capt 1st Army Airborne 82nd & 17th ETO
Machemehl, Milton - AM Mate 3/c US Navy
Smith, Bryant - Sgt Medical Corp 57th Field Hospital
Smith, Stanley- Cpl US Army Air Corps ETO - KIA in Austria
Woehst, James - Sgt US Army
Zapalac, Willie - US Army Air Corps So. Pacific
Deere, Chas - Seaman 2/c US Navy
Kiesewetter, Bobby - US Army Air Corps - California
Kutach, Dee - Pfc US Army
Lamp, James - US Army Air Corps So. Pacific
Lyth, Amborse Jr. - US Army Air Corps
McEnroe, Mike - US Marine Corps
Phillips, Earl- MOMM 2/c US Navy
Turner, Doyle - US Navy
Ueckert, Robert - Pvt US Army
In all, some 16 million men donned uniforms in World War II. Of those, only about 350,000 are estimated to be alive today. According to estimates, approximately 372 die per day, which would only leave about 2.00% remaining. Two of the team members perished while serving their country. Clarence Fisher was lost over New Guinea in October, 1943, and Stanley Smith lost his life over Linz, Austria on December 27, 1944, while bombing a German ball bearing plant. When going over the list, my father recalled the day he died, and the mission Stanley was on.
Of those that served on the team, Stanley Smith was the individual that was most familiar to me. When my father would put flowers on his parents graves in Oak Knoll Cemetery during the holidays, we would always stop at his grave and put flowers on it. I can recall him telling me a few stories about him and the War during those stops. My older brother Stanley was named after Stanley Smith, as he meant that much to my father.
Two on the team were Prisoners of War. My father was a nose gunner in a B24 bomber, and was shot down on October 13, 1944, on a bombing run over oil refineries in Czechoslovakia. Their bomber lost two engines in the heavy anti-aircraft fire, and they were forced to bail and parachute from the plane. Captured by the Germans, he was transferred to Stalag Luft IV, a German prisoner of war camp in Gross Tychow, Poland. He remained there until February 5, 1945, when the camp was evacuated as the Russian Army was approaching. In one one the coldest winters on record in Europe, him and approximately 8,000 fellow prisoners of war embarked on a forced 80 day, 540 mile march, which is now known as the deadly “Black March”. On April 25, 1945, he was liberated on the Elbe River.
Another member of the team, James Butler, was also a German POW. Stephen Gindorf fought the Japanese during the Battle of Iwo Jima, Jack Dunn was one of the Texas Aggies who was present at the famous Corregidor Muster in the Philippines, and many others were present in the deadliest battles of the War. Those team members who were not part of the military and their roles are not diminished in any way. It took the work and sacrifices of many civilians to arm the soldiers and keep the country operating during those years.
On a recent rip to Alabama, I was able to tour the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, and see how a small training airbase was operated during World War II. It was there at Moton Field that African Americans were trained to be pilots. There were similar training sites all over the United States, and visiting this one gives you a feel of the sacrifices that the men and women of that generation endured, and how the country came together to fight wars on two different fronts.
These team members and other locals, many of them leaving home for the first time and traveling from their small communities, left and fought sea, land and air battles in every quarter of the world. As our flight back to Texas was taxiing down the runway, I tried to imagine being in an unpressurized and unheated B24 bomber headed into battle, not knowing if I would return back to Base. Having never served in the military, I cannot imagine what our service members feel like going into battle. Is preparing to participate in a sports game play similar, as they “battle” each other on the playing field? I suppose you can feel the nervous energy and anticipation, but I know the final outcome is not the same.
When attending an Army Air Corps POW reunion with my father a few years ago, I recalled some family members in attendance calling those in attendance heroes. However, most said that they weren’t heroes, they only did what they had to do, their lives depending on their fellow soldiers and each other, and they didn’t want to be singled out. They emphasized a sense of duty and personal responsibility that the men and women of the United States had in that time, and a few lamented that there is much less of that character in abundance today.
The team members who served in World War II returned home and went back to school taking advantage of the GI Bill, back to work, and started building a stronger United States with other opportunities. However, most of their battle stories were held deep inside, and not discussed or told to even their immediate family members. Of those 1938 Brahma team members, unless you were knowledgeable, you would have never known that they served. It was only seeing them as members of the local VFW or American Legion, that you realized how many in our small community were part of what is known as the “Greatest Generation.”
As these historic memories and stories are taken from us daily, it is important that we remember those who served in all Wars, not just World War II. Some in todays society may not care, but even though Wars bring out the worst in humans, it also brings out the best. As we remember all those who served or currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces on this upcoming Veterans Day, let us not forget to thank them for their service before it is too late.