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Dad's War Photos: Adventures in the South Pacific

An intimate view of what many returning soldiers faced


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That’s my dad on the front cover of this book. He took 600 pictures during his time in World War Two in the South Pacific. Using his photos and daily journal, I traced his steps from home to war and back on a monthly basis. You can be a virtual eyewitness of this country boy’s adventures during his three years of service in Australia, New Guinea, Biak, and the Philippine Islands.

Neal Bertrand, Author and Publisher

Curtis 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 provide.

Thus 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.

The 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.

Each 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.

After 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, and more.

In 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.

Finally, 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.

Two appendices include extensive photo coverage of WWII aircraft nose art and the daily lives of natives in the South Pacific.

In 2009, Neal Bertrand 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. The 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 Battalion, Neal was able to trace his father’s steps from boot camp to war and back home.


'Net Connections:

Official Website
FaceBook Page
The Advocate
Daily World article
Audio interviews with author.

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