When I first started working at the Langsdale Library, in 1998, I was searching for books in our stacks and stumbled across an old set of volumes with the title Maryland in World War II: register of service personnel. I thought, “hmmm, my father was in World War II, maybe he is listed in this book” and so I pulled down the first of five volumes, and flipped to the “C” pages, and found my father’s name, John D. Chetelat, T/4 USA 33067907. Name, rank and serial number. Luckily, he was never a prisoner of war and was one of the few survivors from his regiment to come home and live a long life following the American Dream. Near the end of his life, around 2002/03, my father wrote down the memories he had of growing up during the depression, being a student at St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville, and his days in Northern Ireland, North Africa and Italy, during World War II.
When I was asked to be responsible for the display case for the month of May I thought, “May means Memorial day”, a day that should mean more than just the day the pool opens, or your aunt’s big family picnic. When the bugler played taps at my father’s funeral and the honor guard presented us with the flag from his coffin, all in attendance realized that they were witness to a moment of appreciation for his service to this country during the second “war to end all wars”. And my father was only one of thousands, men and women who have lived and died for the country we call ours.
I pulled out my father’s journal and typed up his story from World War II, and along the way I learned a lot. I read and looked up words like “Nissan Hut”, “Goums”, “strafing”, “bomblet” and “musette” bag. I learned of places my father had been like Fintona, Tlemcen, Fondouk Gap, San Angelo D’Alife. These words and place names may have driven my spell check crazy, but every time I checked the names online, I’d find my father was correct and with every internet search engine I discovered more and more stories about the events that took place in those villages during the 2nd world war. Below I’ve included some links to pages I discovered while researching my father’s story.
For the rest of the month of May, books and DVDs from our collection will be on display along with some souvenirs my father sent home to his mother during the war and his actual dog tag. As well, you can pick up a free copy of my father’s story of his days in World War II. My parents courted through letters written back and forth during the war, and my mother kept all of the letters she received. My brothers and I would sneak in and read those letters. All of them with the return address that included the words “Somewhere in”, Northern Ireland, North Africa or maybe Italy, and so I entitled this portion of my father’s story, “Somewhere in World War II”.
Please stop by the library to see the display and pick up a copy of this fascinating story.
Brian Chetelat, Reserve Technician, Langsdale Library.
World War II oral and written histories links:
The Story of the 34th Infantry Division:
A Partial History of the 135th Infantry Division:
The Italian Campaign of World War 2:
Second World War in Northern Ireland:
Radio Foyle (BBC) People’s War: