One of the most popular stories about members of the “Greatest Generation” is that of “The Fighting Sullivans,” five brothers who who died aboard the U.S.S. Juneau during the Battle of Guadalcanal. That story is heroic, in part, because it has to do with men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during World War II.
Whenever I hear talk about the Sullivans, however, I can’t help but think of four not-so-famous Iowa brothers — Max, Verle, Guy and Ted — who also answered their nation’s call. Like many thousands of others, they set aside any personal plans they had for a while and went into harm’s way to fight for freedom.
Max, the oldest, was among the first to be drafted into the Army. Next in line, Verle went to the Navy. Guy followed, donning Army green. By March 1943, only the youngest son remained at home. That fact prompted a conversation to take place between Ted, the youngest brother at 19, and his father.
“Ted, do you want me to declare you essential to my farm work?” his dad asked, knowing that one son from each farm family could be deferred from entering service if he was needed to work on the farm.
Ted took little time to answer.
“No. If my brothers can go into the service, then I feel that I should go also,” he said, adding, “Besides, I want to do my part in the war” and “Dad, you really don’t need me.”
It wasn’t long before Ted was drafted and assigned to the Army’s 406th Regiment of the 102nd Infantry Division at Camp Swift near Austin, Texas.
Though I don’t have many details about the service records of the three oldest brothers, I do know that two of them — and their brother Ted — saw front line combat action. In addition, I know that all four brothers came home alive.
This story is important to me, because I knew all of the men in this story. The three oldest brothers were my uncles, and the youngest was — and still is — my dad. Together, I suppose, they could have been known as The Fighting McCarty Brothers.
After the war, Max and Verle went on to own and operate a successful water well drilling company in Promise City, Iowa. Guy went to work for the federal government, playing an important role in the effort to harness atomic energy. My dad became a petroleum geologist, active in oil and natural gas exploration and development in Oklahoma for several decades.
Today, my 90-year-old dad is the only McCarty brother left to talk about the “last great war.” On Veterans Day, I salute him and all who’ve served.