BRISTOL – As we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, we take a look at some letters from Robert “Bob” C. Brault, a Bristol resident and member of the Connecticut National Guard who served in World War II.
His letters were recovered from a trash container from the J.H. Sessions factory in Bristol two years ago. They have now found a home at the Bristol Historical Society, where they are being kept in a vault.
Brault was part of the 169th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the Connecticut National Guard and the Army, according to Carol Denehy, vice president of the Memorial Military Museum.
“The Bristol Historical Society has a file of WWII letters, cards, notes exchanged between employees and administration of J.H. Sessions and Son with other employees who were in the service. I have read all the letters and am most impressed by Robert C. Brault’s,” wrote Denehy. “His articulate correspondence provides a mini-history of the 169th beginning in training in the United States through warfare in the South Pacific.”
In one of Brault’s letters, dated Dec. 9, 1944, he goes into detail about being promoted and his duties.
“I forgot to tell you, while we were at Camp Shelby, I was finally promoted. After about 18 months as a company clerk, I was made Sergeant Major of the First Battalion. My duties consisted of both administrative and field work. At long last, I finally went on some long hikes and spent some time in the field. It was great sport at first, but soon proved to be tiresome,” Brault wrote.
Brault went on to explain his duties: “My duties now consist of all administrative work at Regimental Headquarters. My official title is Assistant Adjutant. Mr. Sessions no doubt knows what an Adjutant is, so I won’t try to explain it. I’m not exactly an Officer nor an enlisted man, but something in between. Don’t ask me what it is, no one has been able to figure it out, although I do eat sleep and live with the Officers. I don’t rate a salute from the enlisted men nor do I have to salute the Officers. My title is “Mr.”, no less, that doesn’t even sound like the army.”
In the same letter, he writes, “We saw the last of the state on the First of October.”
“The censor will not allow us to say where we are, although we can describe certain things about the country. I missed out on the winter season this year, we are just beginning the summer season out here. It hasn’t been very hot yet, the mosquitoes are numerous, they practically eat you alive, if you let them. It rains every other day, sometimes it forgets to stop for a day.”
According to Denehy, Brault would fight in the Pacific Theater. In the next letter he writes, he describes his location.
“Our new home is a tropical South Sea Island with plenty of coconut trees, a beautiful moon,” he wrote. “We are camped on a large plantation consisting of many thousands of acres of coconut trees.”
Further down in the letter, he talks about visiting the scene of a battle.
“Just recently I had the opportunity of visiting the scene of a recent battle. It was quite interesting and educational, however, the smell was such that we stayed no longer than was necessary,” he wrote.
Soon, Brault would be involved in a battle and his letters tell the story.
“No doubt the paper in Bristol carried our account of the campaign on New Georgia Island. The regiment took part in the action, in fact we were the first troops to actual move on the airport just before it was finally captured,” he wrote. “The fight in general was very tough and progress was slow due to the thick jungle.”
The jungle seemed to be an obstacle in the letter, as he mentions it a few times.
“Because of the dense jungle it was very difficult to control the troops and a certain amount of confusion always existed,” He wrote.
Brault would see other fights, earning battle stars.
“He understates the ferocity of battle and writes about the mundane that non-combatants would understand,” said Denehy. “He mentions his rise in the ranks but is modest. He is always grateful for the letters, bonds, gifts he receives. Never a shred of self-pity, he is allowed the one note of frustration and impatience as he waits for possible rotation home in 1945 after 25 months overseas. He is a gentleman and Everyman put in extraordinary circumstances,” she added.
In one of the last letters Brault wrote, he mentions he wants to see the United States again.
“There is a shortage of cigarettes on the island just at present, these will come in handy. Thanks. My vacation is over. I’m now in New Guinea and about to earn my third battle star. I hope it’s the last one. I’m anxious to see the States,” he wrote.
Brault would survive the war and return home to Bristol, according to city historian Bob Montgomery.
Montgomery also added that in the 1970s, Brault was a vice president of J.H. Sessions and Son. He died in Bristol on May 30, 1996. at the age of 74.