Michelle Ann Kratts

Arthur Emil Barthel

In Off to War on November 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm

My grandfather, Arthur Emil Barthel, was born on September 3, 1912, to Swiss-born, Emil Barthel and Katie Bandi (also of Swiss ancestry) in Wheeling, West Virginia.  He came to Niagara Falls, New York, sometime in the late 1930’s and lived with his cousin, Mrs. Herman (Gertrude) Schmidt and their children (Carl, Marie, Elsa (Glessner), and Anna (Beeton), at 1350 Cleveland Avenue.  Herman Schmidt, who had been born in Germany, was a local tailor and an accomplished musician.   He was a member of the old Shredded Wheat Band.  The 1940 Census lists my grandfather’s occupation as mechanic.

I am slowly piecing together his war years.  When I sent to the National Archives requesting his military papers they responded with their usual story involving the great conflagration of 1973.  “If the record were here on July 12, 1973, it would have been in the area tha suffered the most damage in the fire on that date and may have been destroyed.”  They did enclose NA Form 13038, Certification of Miltary Service.

I do know a few things, though.  Things that lead me to more questions.     My grandfather served in England for two years–in a bomber squadron  in the Army Air Force.  My father had a ring that had been soddered from scrap metal from the plane that he had flown in during the war.  I wish I knew what happened to that ring.  It broke and I never knew what my father did with it after that.  It had the name of my grandfather’s  plane and the type of plane (either a B-17 or B-24).   I have postcards and photographs from England, news articles.  He came home, finally, on December 14, 1945.  His name appears (among many men’s names) on board the Queen Mary.  After the war, he served at Fort Niagara, and helped guard the German POWs that were kept there.  My father remembered that one of the German POW’s actually returned to America years later and showed up on their doorstep with a bottle of wine.  Apparently they had become friends somewhere along the line.  I often wondered how difficult it must have been for my grandfather to serve against German soldiers when his own family was German.   I imagine he enjoyed the company of the German POWs.  Perhaps they reminded him of his parents.

My grandfather died on January 21, 1978 in Largo, Florida.  Since much of my early life was spent traveling around the world as an Army brat, I never was able to truly know my grandfather.   I was never able to ask him any questions about his service during the war.  I was told that he suffered deeply from his experiences–whatever they may have been.    In fact, he even received a stipend for awhile for emotional problems that were a result of his service overseas.  I’ve always been fascinated by the Flyboys from World War 2.  It’s probably because of my grandfather.  Those men experienced some of the worst trauma of the war.

This is only the beginning.  Hopefully bit by bit, I will be able to piece his story back together like a puzzle.  And one day I will be able to truly and deeply know my grandfather, PFC Arthur Emil Barthel.

 

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  1. This is a wonderful story.

  2. Love this, Michelle. Wish I knew what Dad did with that ring.

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