May 26, 2013

World War II serviceman prepares to tour European battlefields

Henry Breton, 88, who served at Battle of the Bulge, is writing his memoirs

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

MANCHESTER — Part way through composing his memoirs — he's reached the 1940s — Henry Breton decided it was time to talk about memories of serving in World War II.

click image to enlarge

Henry Breton, of Manchester, who served in World War II in Europe, will be making a return trip there this summer.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

This 1943 photo of Henry Breton, of Manchester, shows him before he served in World War II in Europe.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Additional Photos Below

"I'm doing it for my brothers," he said. "They'd seen so much more than I did."

The three brothers are deceased, but they all survived their military service and returned to Augusta.

Now 88 and packing for a tour of European battlefields, including the site of the Battle of the Bulge, where he served, Breton's memories are clear and his speech retains the French accent that endeared him to the people of Belgium.

Black and white photos of four servicemen, Breton and three brothers, hang above the entryway to the family room he built last year.

The oldest of the band of brothers was Adjutor "Red" Breton. He was one of Augusta's first draftees: "No. 158," Henry Breton recalls.

When the draftee left the city, residents held a special sendoff for him and another soldier from Hallowell.

"They were each given a carton of cigarettes," Henry Breton recalled. "They didn't know they were giving him cancer."

Adjutor Breton served in the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, the first American offensive against Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in North Africa.

The next oldest, Alfred "Norman" Breton, enlisted in 1940. He was at Scholfield Barracks when Pearl Harbor was attacked and then lost a leg fighting on the Marshall Islands. A photo in Henry Breton's cozy basement shows a handsome, smiling Alfred raising the stump of his leg for a nurse to bandage. He died in February 2009.

The youngest brother, Lionel Breton, served in the occupation of Germany and later in Korea. He died in 2007.

A fourth brother, Doria "Jimmy" Breton, was married and had children, so he did not go into the service.

Henry Breton ended up toting a rifle even though his primary role was driver and courier for the Signal Corps in a detachment that laid communication lines at the front.

"Sometimes we were overrun by the Germans. Never mind the communications; you had to take up arms," he said. "Waiting was the worst. Once the battle begins, you don't think about it."

He didn't talk about his experiences in the service and didn't really think about it until he started writing his own life story.

"They also say soldiers never talk about their war stories," he said. "Actually they never talk about it because it's a blank. I get flashes of it here and there." Breton pulls his original Army jacket from a closet, with medals still attached, including one with three battle stars. He also has a Combat Infantryman Badge for engaging the enemy.

The jacket is still a pretty good fit. He has his cap, too.

More importantly, Breton brought home a war bride, Elizabeth Dumoulin, an accomplished pianist from Liege, Belgium, whose family didn't want their 23-year-old daughter to marry the American GI and leave home. Breton met his wife on V-E Day, May 8, 1945, after a Belgian couple realized he could speak French and invited him to their home.

Her parents refused permission for her to wed, so the couple had to wait 30 days after a public announcement was posted. They were married at 10 a.m. on June 18, 1946, and by 3 p.m. Henry Breton reported to a Bath-made Liberty ship in Bremerhaven, Germany. (Today, that's a 4 1/2-hour drive.) He was being shipped home for discharge.

At the docks, he rejected an offer to take his Jeep home for a $300 fee, a decision he regretted almost immediately. "I came home and I couldn't afford a car," he said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Henry Breton, of Manchester, served in World War II in Europe, where he met and married Elizabeth Dumoulin, an accomplished pianist from Liege, Belgium.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

  


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