Monday, February 28, 2005

Three Brothers

You have to click on the photo for Hi-Res for this one. Both Cecil, a corporal, and Maurice, a private, were in the 103rd Infanty, 43rd Division. They died within a day of each other. A Google search of the Divisions showed that Cecil and Maurice died taking Georgia Island in the Pacific and Frank, serving in Germany with the 76th infantry died shortly before the end of the war. Posted by Hello


  1. Beautiful and very sad. Makes me think of all those military cemetaries there are in my part of the world (France, I mean).

  2. Serving their country
    Monday, May 30, 2005 - Bangor Daily News

    PALMYRA — Clustered near a low stone wall, deep in the shade of a local cemetery, three white gravestones stand tall in a row. Appropriately, forget-me-nots bloom wildly at their bases.

    These are the graves of the Caldwell brothers, three young men — none of them having reached his 25th birthday — who were killed in World War II, two within hours of each other in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific and the third on the banks of a river in Germany.

    Next to them are the graves of Harry and Cora Caldwell, both born in the 1800s, who may be the only Maine parents who gave so many sons to the war.

    Nokomis Regional High School history students, a group of 10 seniors and their teacher, David Harville, used bleach and scrub brushes Friday to clean the white markers for Memorial Day. They raked leaves and put flowers on each of the three soldiers’ graves.

    "These heroes only die when there is no one to resurrect their memories," Harville, who has taught at Nokomis for 34 years, said.

    Memories of the three Caldwell brothers who died and the one who was seriously injured in WWII surround their youngest sister, Jenny Marguerite Bowman, called Greta, who lives just two houses away from the cemetery on Warren Hill Road. At 76, she still gets tears in her eyes as she recalls learning about the first of the three battleground deaths.

    Bowman, the youngest of the 13 siblings, was just 11 years old at the time.

    "We were all picking berries," Bowman said Friday, sitting at her kitchen table, surrounded by pictures of her brothers in their army uniforms. The boys’ young, smiling faces and blue eyes looked up from the table top as Bowman recalled hearing her sisters scream for their mother.

    "We ran home, and the first telegram had arrived," she said.

    Maurice Caldwell, at 21, had been killed in the Solomon Islands while stringing communications wire.

    The family barely had time to begin understanding that loss when Bowman went to the mailbox the very next morning and found a second telegram.

    Cecil Caldwell, 24, who had been in the Pacific with his brother Maurice, also had been killed. The two young men died within hours of each other.

    Less than two years later, a third brother, George Caldwell, was on his way home after losing part of his hand in a battle in Germany when he learned he was heading home for a third funeral, Bowman said. His younger brother, Sgt. Frank Harvey Caldwell, 20, had been killed while leading a patrol across the Sieg River in Germany.

    "We weren’t a special family," Bowman said Friday. But after Harry and Cora Caldwell began their large family in Codyville Plantation in Washington County, tragedy seemed to pursue them.

    Two sons were lost in a house fire in 1921. A 17-year-old cousin also was killed when he went into the burning house and threw the 1-year-old Cecil out an upstairs window.

    When their father became ill, the family moved to Hallowell to be closer to a hospital.

    Despite their trials, Bowman recalled days filled with sliding, swimming, chores and music. She said all of her brothers played the guitar and sang.

    "We were very close. We enjoyed doing things together," she said. "Even the big boys would pull us around on our sleds."

    Giggling, Bowman recalled that Frank "was a tiny, tiny thing with the most horrible bowed legs you ever wanted to see," and that Cecil played Santa Claus for the neighbor’s children.

    "I remember that Cecil and Maurice were very athletic. We lived near a 100-foot-deep quarry, and they would dive right in. All the boys knitted and made stockings and caps. We had family singalongs.

    "When I get to heaven, I’m going to listen for that chorus. Then we’ll all be together again," she said.

    After Cecil and Maurice were killed, the family moved to Palmyra to be nearer some of the older children who had set up homesteads.

    "My mother was so strong," Bowman recalled. "It must be the hardest thing to lose a child, and she lost so much, so very much. Two in the fire, three to the war."

    She recalled that her parents were extremely proud of their sons’ military service. "I know one of the reasons that we can walk free on our streets is because of what they did," Bowman said.

    When Bowman was 18, the Army brought her brothers’ bodies home from the Pacific and Europe, and they were laid to rest in the family plot in Palmyra. Hundreds turned out for the ceremony, she recalled.

    Bowman, her children and grandchildren still visit her brothers’ graves frequently. The site is full of flowers and mementos, and three plain white crosses mark the foot of the brothers’ graves.

    "They always took care of us little ones," Bowman said. "I felt less protected after they were gone, more vulnerable."

    And in another twist of fate, Greta married Richard Bowman, an infantryman from Hallowell who had served with her brothers and was with them when they died in the Solomons.

    "He never spoke of it except to say that neither brother knew the other one had died," she said.

    On Friday, as Harville walked through the cemetery while his students cleaned the brothers’ gravestones, he reflected on the extraordinary loss the Caldwell family had experienced.

    Maine lost 2,525 residents in WWII, and to have three men from one family die is incredible and could be the largest family loss in the state, Harville speculated. Many people think there is legislation that prohibits siblings from serving together, so multiple losses are not experienced, but that is not true, he said.

    Harville pointed out WWII veterans are dying at the rate of 1,200 a day. "Just last month, I had two Skowhegan veterans all ready to come to my classroom, and I ended up going to their funerals instead," he said.

    Keeping the veterans’ stories alive is important, the teacher said. "History is not just the past. It is the connection with today and the future," Harville said.

    As Harville spoke, the students finished their work at the Caldwell plot and began cleaning other gravestones in the cemetery — stones of young veterans who died far from home in other battles, in other wars: Fredericksburg, Bull Run, New Orleans.

    "This makes history so incredibly real for me," said student Josh Paradis, 17, of Corinna. "This is my passion.

    "Look," he said, pointing at another ancient slab. "This one died when he was shot with a cannon ball."

    "This is what teaching history today is," Harville said. "[It is] far less about filling the pail than it is about lighting the fire."

    Bangor Daily News Photos by Denise Farwell

    The Caldwell brothers (clockwise from left) Frank, Maurice, George and Cecil were "just babies," according to their sister Greta Bowman, when they enlisted to serve in WWII.

    The students from Nokomis High School scrubbed the Caldwell headstones with bleach as part of their cleanup of a cemetery in Palmyra. They also raked leaves and placed flowers on the graves.

  3. WOW! Absolutely stunning photo. I believe there are other similar stories..Saving Private Ryan was one. Very well done.

  4. I was just in Palmyra this past week doing genealogy and paying respects to family members buried in Warren Hill who served in the Civil War. I was very touched by the three Caldwell headstones at the edge of the cemetery glowing brightly in the late afternoon sunlight. What really caught my attention above the loss of the three brothers was the close proximity between Cecil and Maurice's deaths. Being an active duty Air Force officer it was especially moving for me to reflect on the sacrifice these brothers, and their family, made. Thanks for writing such an excellent article and a special thanks to the Nokomis High School students who help keep the veterans' headstones clean.

    - David Fitzgerald (not so anonymous)