Read on Wilmington Town Crier
WILMINGTON — At the start of World War II, a house on Beacon Street was home to Paul Carpenter and his eight brothers, all of whom served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The six oldest brothers, Charles, Edward, Frank, Richard, Robert, and Joe served in World War II in the U.S. Army and Navy. The three youngest brothers were underage for World War II, which meant staying home with Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter and their sister, the oldest of the 10 children.
Paul Carpenter, 86, of Wilmington, and the third youngest sibling, recalls his older brothers entering the war.
“I remember it just like it was yesterday,” Carpenter said. “I was only 10 or 11 years old and I realized what was happening, but I didn’t worry about [them leaving]. My mother and father were extremely, extremely worried about it, naturally.”
Carpenter said many families in Wilmington and across the country parted with their sons, but he specifically recalls all the young men on Beacon Street leaving for the war.
“The older boys, all the young men, everyone was drafted or volunteered,” Carpenter said. “I think that was true of the whole country. Everybody left. There wasn’t too many draft dodgers.”
Charlotte Stewart, 88, of Wilmington, and sister-in-law to Carpenter agreed that having few young men left in town was common at that time.
“One of the unique things about when we were going to high school is there were no older boys. Many of them joined the service as soon as they turned 17,” Stewart said. “It was very typical of what happened throughout the country in small towns when all the men and some of the women joined the service. [Paul’s] family was pretty typical of the times.”
All six Carpenters were dispatched and returned home at the end of the war except for one brother who decided to continue serving.
“All but one got out. It was 1945 when the war was over and it was soon after, 1946 at least, they were all home. They were all discharged but one, he stayed in the Navy,” Carpenter said. “The odds were against us, but that happened.”
After World War II ended and the Carpenters breathed a sigh of relief, the youngest brothers, Paul, Chester, and Walter joined the service for the Korean War.
Carpenter said, “I was the seventh brother, so I was the next one to go. The war was over in 1945 and I was 15, but I was just right for the Korean War and I had two younger brothers who were just right for the Korean War, too.”
Carpenter entered the Navy soon after finishing high school.
“The president was Harry Truman at the time and he just called it a police action and then it grew and grew. I was in the Navy and we didn’t see much action.”
Carpenter said he did not give joining the services much thought because it was just the thing to do at the time.
“We were just doing what we had to do,” Carpenter said. “We were serving our time and of course, we were in the Navy and that was a different thing. I was in the Atlantic. My ship went over from the West Coast and I got off at North Virginia and I got discharged and went home. Then, I was called back actually in 1952 and I was sent to a Navy base in Newfoundland, so it wasn’t very exciting, you know? It was pretty safe.”
The Carpenter brothers, all now deceased except for Walter and Paul, saw serving the country as an ordinary thing to do at the time, but Paul Carpenter now realizes how extraordinary it was to have nine brothers serve in a short time period.
“I don’t know any other family that had that many serve in such a short time — in 10 years, you know, spread [out],” Carpenter said. “We were just natural kids and at that time, Wilmington was just a farm community more or less, in fact, there was about 5,000 in town. That was the population.”
Wilmington has grown quite a lot since the Carpenter family resided on Beacon Street, to which Paul Carpenter said, “You aren’t kidding.”