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A Son Honors His Dad’s Wartime Experiences in the South Pacific
A new addition to the 307th PX Book Collection
Bertrand was just a country boy with a camera when he entered the U.S.
Army in World War II. He returned home from the Southwest Pacific
Theater with over 600 photos to share with family members and friends,
never realizing the importance these unique views of the war would
far, the World War II photo memories and story of Curtis Bertrand have
remained private. Now these never-before-seen pictures, along with
official battalion diary entries, are being made available to the
public, bringing to life his battalion’s camaraderie and their
heartbreaking and harrowing experiences.
Bertrand often imagined what it was like for his dad to be in the South
Pacific during World War II. A few days before his father passed away,
he asked Neal to take care of the Japanese rifle and bayonet he found
in Manila in 1945. It was then Neal decided to place in high honor the
hundreds of photos his dad took during his tour of duty.
“I wrote Dad’s War Photos to
honor my father, that’s true,” says Neal, “but I hope it will give
younger generations, especially those whose forefathers served in the
Pacific, some insight into how far-reaching the war really was.”
book covers many aspects of Curtis’s experiences in the war: leaving
the farm in Opelousas, Louisiana, going to boot camp, being sent
overseas, and eventually coming back home, all through the photos he
took and his battalion’s military records, which Neal sought out during
Readers of Dad’s War Photos will
view pictures never seen before. They will feel the excitement and fear
of sailing through enemy waters, they will come to know the loving bond
of brotherhood and friendship amongst soldiers, and they will encounter
the grief and mourning when a buddy dies while on a mission.
Curtis’s eyes and camera lens, readers will be virtual eyewitness to
the New Guinea battle campaigns in Dobodura and Saidor; the
little-known battle for Biak Island and capture of Mokmer Airdrome; the
Philippine Islands campaign, and the Battle of Manila, its
reconstruction, and much more.
Neal Bertrand is a publisher, full-time author, and an avid genealogist and family historian.
In 2009, he began scanning his dad’s World War II photos. Neal had
never seen what was written on the backs of the photos because they had
been attached to the pages of three photo albums kept in a cedar chest
in the hallway of Neal’s childhood home.
photos were put in the albums in no particular order. But once he
figured out the timeline, Neal was able to organize them by country,
month, and year. After six months of culling the photos and researching
diary entries of his dad’s outfit, the 863rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, Neal was able to trace his father’s steps from boot camp to war and back home.
863rd Engineer Aviation Battalion was stationed in three Australian
cities during the summer of 1943: Sidney, Brisbane, and Townsville.
Brisbane became the Pacific headquarters of U.S. General Douglas
MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, after the Japanese forced him out
of the Philippines in December 1941.
stop was necessary for the complex task of getting the numerous
battalions organized, fully equipped, and putting the finishing touches
on the engineering and battle planning strategy.
that it was on to the New Guinea Campaign, including Dobodura and
Saidor. New Guinea was key in defeating the Japanese bases as laid down
by General MacArthur’s strategy called Operation Cartwheel. There are
81 photos depicting men building airstrips, camp life, native scenery,
a chapter on the Battle of Biak, the near death experiences of Curtis
and his war buddies as their boat approached the island are graphically
displayed. A photo taken of Curtis’s good friend Clifford G. Wynne, Jr.
is included, just weeks before he died on Biak. Another 60 historical
images are contained within this section.
on December 21, 1944, the battalion arrived in the Philippines. Eighty
photos cover the destruction of the Battle of Manila and its
reconstruction. Curtis’s medals and souvenirs are depicted, along with
the Japanese rifle and bayonet he brought home with him.
The homecoming and post war life chapters give an intimate
view of what many returning soldiers faced. For Curtis it was getting
back to work on the farm, meeting his lovely wife, and trying to put
bad memories aside.
About the Author
Two appendices include extensive photo coverage of WWII aircraft nose art and the daily lives of natives in the South Pacific.
Dad's War Photos is available now in the Book Collection of the 307th PX.
Click here to Open the Collection!
to starting the war book, Neal was involved in charting his genealogy.
He joined two genealogy societies and charted his ancestry back ten
generations. Genealogy is one of Neal’s favorite pastimes, as is
cooking. Having been born and raised in Opelousas, Louisiana, in the
heart of Cajun Country, Cajun and cooking are synonymous to those
familiar with the culture, so it’s no coincidence that Neal started his
company, Cypress Cove Publishing, putting out cookbooks. It’s also no
coincidence that his moniker since 2005 has been The Cookbook Dude. He
is quick to recall that family holidays always revolved around food, no
matter where he was. Whether it was barbecued steak from the cattle his
family raised, or gumbo, Neal grew up with food and fun.