Monday, May 26, 2014

Military Memories: Uncle Harold and WWII

Guest author for this post is Cousin Steve, writing about his Dad's service in WWII. Originally appeared in our family history newsletter, Spring 2011.

Harold Rae Conrad, as an enlisted man, 1942.

My dad, Harold Rae Conrad, Sr. was attending Frostburg State College, now Frostburg State University, in Allegany County, Maryland, when the first peacetime military draft was held prior to the USA getting into WWII. The bill was signed into law by FDR and the draft set in motion in October 1940. In the fall of 1941, dad was drafted even though he was in his senior year in college. According to dad, he was drafted, “because he was a registered Republican and the entire draft board were registered Democrats.” The original draft was to be for 12 months service, but shortly Pearl Harbor would change all that.

Harold went to Fort Meade for his basic training and then on to Norfolk . He had risen from the rank of private to Master Sergeant, the Army decided they needed more officers and that dad, with his 3 years of college and Sergeant ranking would make a good candidate. So in January, 1943 it was off to OCS, Officers Candidate School, to soon become a commissioned officer. He eventually achieved the rank of Captain before being discharged.

My mom, Dorothy Frances Williams graduated from Frostburg State and was teaching in the Baltimore area when she “laid down the law” and said they were going to get married or else. She had had enough of this long distance romance. So on Friday the 13th in November, 1942, Dorothy and Harold were married. Even the minister questioned whether they really wanted to get married on Friday the 13th!

Harold Rae Conrad and his young bride, Dorothy Williams Conrad, May 9, 1943.

Most of World War II had dad, and mom, stationed in Norfolk, Va. In September 1945 Dad made a cruise on the USS A. E. Anderson, aka “The Mighty A” to bring troops back to the USA. He served as a liaison officer for the troops with their Navy crew. Their destination was Karachi, India and back which had them traveling 16,200 miles. When they arrived back in New York, dad was discharged from the Army.

On the USS AE Anderson, 1945, Karachi, India


Uncle Harold and Mom's sister Dot grew up together. They were childhood sweethearts and so it was no surprise to the family that they wed. Here are some items from Mom's archive that will give you a fuller picture of their young lives. Weren't they cute?!

A keepsake of Aunt Dots, a gum wrapper souvenir of their first date. Everyone called Harold "Cooney", a shortening of Conrad. Conrad - Coonrad - then Coonie. You know how kids are.

Harold and Dot's parents in the back row on a family fun day.
They were that close growing up.

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