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Wartime Heritage ASSOCIATION
Remembering World War II
Wilbert Leon Conrad Jr.
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Sources: findagrave U.S., War Department, Press Releases and Related Records, 1942-1945, July 19, 1944
Name: Wilbert Leon Conrad Jr. Rank: First Lieutenant Service Number: O-447463 Service: 132nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, US Army Awards: Bronze Star, Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart Date of Birth: August 18, 1920 Place of Birth: Whitefield, Coös County, New Hampshire Date of Enlistment: After 1942 Place of Enlistment: Unknown Address at Enlistment: Morrisville, Lamoille County, Vermont Age at Enlistment: Occupation: Unknown Marital Status: Unknown Religion: Unknown Next of Kin: Wilbert Leon Conrad (Father) Date of Death: April 15, 1945 Age: 24 Cemetery: Riverside Cemetery, Lunenburg, Essex County, Vermont Wilbert Leon Conrad Jr. was the son of Wilbert Leon Conrad (1885-1961) and Mildred Hartshorn Conrad (1899–1930) (m. 1917). His parents were married in 1917. Wilbert Junior had three siblings – Clarence Leon Conrad (1918–1918), Richard R. Conrad (1922–1998), and Joyce Mildred Conrad (1923–1968). His mother was born in Lunenburg in Essex County, Vermont and coincidently, his father was born in Lunenburg in Bridgewater County, Nova Scotia. His father moved to the United Sates in 1918, via the Yarmouth NS ferry, and worked as a surveyor for pulp wood, a wood buyer for a pulp mill, and later as an insurance agent in New England. His parents and the children lived in Lunenburg, Vermont until the 1930’s, and by 1940 were living in Morrisville, VT. Wilbert enlisted in the US Army sometime after graduating from the University of Vermont in 1942. He was assigned to the 132nd Infantry Regiment (their motto – Ever Ready), of the 7tth Infantry Division. He saw action on Attu, in the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, and on Okinawa. On January 19, 1944, Wilbert appears on the muster roll of the US Navy’s USS LST-273. LST 273 was an LST-1 Class Tank Landing Ship assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre in WWII, with LST Flotilla Thirteen, LST Group 38, LST Division 75. The ship participated in Marshall Islands operation (January, February 1944), Mariana’s operation (June July 1944), and the Tinian capture and occupation (Jul 1944). Wilbert also appears on the muster roll of the USS General W. F. Hase (AP-146), a US Navy General G. O. Squier-class transport ship, in July 1944. Wilbert served in the Battle of Eniwetok, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, fought between February 17 and February 23, 1944. Wilbert was credited “with thwarting the well-paid plans of the Japanese to blast the American invaders of Engebi and into the sea. Moving through a wall of machine and mortar fire, disregarding a bullet wound in the neck, he prevented what might have been a slaughter of doughboys [soldiers] and Marines and ensured establishment of a beachhead.” The account of Lieutenant Conrad’s busy morning on the central Pacific atoll is based on eyewitness observation of two Infantryman, Staff Sergeants William F. Stover of Box 806, Weed, California, and Henry G. Serverson of R.F.D. 1, Climax, Minnesota. “Lieutenant Conrad commanded the first wave of amphibian tractors, or ‘alligators’, carrying Assault Marine troops. As the first wave approached the beach artillery fire raised a blanket of dust that was blown over the alligators by an offshore wind, obscuring the shoreline.” “As the alligators hit the beach and the dust cleared, said Stover, who commanded one of the troop- carrying tractors, we were brought under terrific fire from [enemy] machine guns, set up an airport at the left flank of the beach.” “This beach rose abruptly into a steep bank and there wasn’t any room for the vehicles to manoeuvre, so when the Marines jumped to the ground they were immediately pinned down by machinegun, sniper and mortar fire.” “With [enemy] mortar shells falling among the Marines and Infantrymen on the beach, [enemy] snipers began picking off our machine gunners on the alligators.” “Lieut. Conrad got on top of his alligator to see what was going on. He saw the situation, saw the tractors couldn’t move, and observed the casualties resulting from [enemy] fire. He jumped to the ground and began to move the troops from around the vehicles.” “Then he led the tractors up onto the crest of the beach so we could pour more fire into the enemy positions on the airport.” “Cheering the lieutenant for his disregard of enemy fire, the Marines moved off the beach strip behind the tractors. He kept moving around, ordering each group of men and each vehicle forward. An [enemy] machine gun sliced the heel off one of his boots. He paid no attention to it.” “When the beach was cleared, permitting succeeding waves of alligators to land, Lieut. Conrad started inland to join his own vehicle. Another tractor commander warned him that a Japanese pillbox blocked his path. The lieutenant, determined to carry on with his job, disregarded the warning. A moment later, a sniper firing from the pillbox, shot him in the neck.” “But not until he was certain the beachhead had been established, did the Yankee Infantry Officer consent to treatment of his wound and evacuation to one of the troopships standing offshore.” Sergeant Severson declared: “The Lieutenant not only prevented that beach from becoming a bloody shambles for us, but he kept us from suffering many casualties even before we hit the beach. When the wind and dust shut off the island from our view, he sensed that our artillery fire still was being laid on the beach and halted the wave of alligators. This exact timing not only held down our casualties but allowed us to take full advantage of the artillery fire.” Wilbert survived the combat in the Marshall Islands and also took part in the fighting in the Philippines. First Lieutenant Wilbert Leon Conrad Jr. died of wounds received in action on April 15, 1945, in the Battle of Okinawa which was launched on April 1, 1945 (the article from the paper states he died at Guam. His body was returned stateside from Guam; but he died in the fighting at Okinawa.) Wilbert’s father chose to repatriate his body and he was interred at the Riverside Cemetery in Lunenburg, Essex County, Vermont. Wilbert’s name is also listed on the Peace Park Memorial in Okinawa, Japan.