Monday, August 8, 2011

Military Monday ~ WWII brothers die in action

World War II was a defining period in U.S. (and World) History. As a mother of boys, I can't imagine being a mother and sending three sons to fight!

Joseph and Lena Handler had six children, four boys and two girls. I am able to track the family from their immigration, to Joseph's naturalization in 1919, through the 1920 U.S. Federal Census to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, in Akron, Summit County, Ohio. The three youngest sons enlisted in the U.S. Army and saw action in WWII.

Two of them did not return home.

The U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, found at, gives me a starting place to learn a bit about the brothers and their service.

Alfred Handler
Alfred Handler was born in 1919 in Akron. He enlisted on May 28, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio, as a Private. He had two years of high school, and his civilian occupation fell under the category of: "Semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor." He was 5'8" tall and 139 lbs.

He died in Biak, New Guinea on June 23, 1944.

Undated [possibly June 24 or 25, 1944] news story from the Akron Beacon Journal
From an undated June 1944 issue of the Akron Beacon Journal
Akron Area Marks Its [?] As 8 More Soldiers Die
This is Akron's darkest day of the war.
The longest list of "killed in action" from the area was announced today. Eight servicemen gave up their lives and seven more suffered serious wounds. One is missing in action and two others are prisoners of war.
Most of the deaths came in the conquest of Biak island in New Guinea and of bloody Saipan. The invasion of France and the battling of Burma were responsible for two of them.
The list includes:
Tech. 4th grade Alfred Handler, 23, of 557 Rhodes av., killed in action at Biak.

From the same undated [possibly June 24 or 25, 1944] news story from the Akron Beacon Journal
In the Handler home, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Handler worried over the effect the news of his brother's death would have on another soldier son who is still fighting in the New Guinea area where Alfred died.
"Harry will read of the death in the Beacon Journal which he has been getting regularly," they said. Another son, Louis, is in the army in France.
Technician Handler had been overseas 10 months when he met death in the storming of the tiny but important Pacific isle. His wife, Mrs. Rebecca Handler, had just arrived from St. Louis to visit her parents-in-law when the death news arrived.


Louis Handler
Louis Handler was born in 1921 in Akron. He enlisted on November 7, 1942, in Akron, as a private. His education included two years of college, and his civilian occupation was: "Stock clerks." He was 5'7" and 144 lbs.

He died on July 8, 1944, in Normandy, France.

Undated [possibly July 10 or 11, 1944] news story from the Akron Beacon Journal
From an undated July 1944 issue of the Akron Beacon Journal
Akron Brothers Killed In War 15 Days Apart
For the second time within three weeks, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Handler, 557 Rhodes av., answered the doorbell Sunday to find a messenger standing there.
For the second time they tore open a yellow envelope with sinking hearts. Incredulously they stared at the words leaping at them from the paper. It could not be-lightning does not strike twice in the same place. But it had. Frantic calls only confirmed the thing they couldn't believe. A second son had been killed in action.
The two soldier sons perished within 15 days of each other on two major battlefronts.
One, Technician, 4th grade, Alfred, 24, died in Mafflin, New Guinea, on June 23. He left a young bride.
Sunday's telegram told of P.F.C. Louis Handler, 23, who was killed in France on July 8. His widow, Isabelle, is expecting their first child in six weeks.
This is the first time that two brothers in one family have been killed in action in the Akron area.

"I know God will help me to get home to see my baby," Louis wrote from somewhere in Normandy shortly before he was killed.
A third brother, Private Harry, 21, is now in the midst of the fighting in the New Guinea jungles. Crushed by the news of his first brother's death, he is unaware of the death of the second.
His parents are trying to contact officials in Washington to have him brought home. Harry learned of Alfred's death when a letter he had sent him was returned to him stamped "deceased." They fear he will learn of the second brother's death the same way.

Alfred, the first son of the Handlers to die, went overseas in September, 1943. Harry, the younger one, now on the New Guinea front, followed him two months later. The next spring, the Handlers told their third son, Louis, goodby, as he left for the European front.
The letter telling how Harry received the news of Alfred's death as he sat in a fox hole on the New Guinea front is a poignant epistle. "I've just had two letters back I sent to Al," he wrote. "They were stamped 'Deceased.' That can only mean one thing - I feel very bad - I want to cry - I really can't express my feelings to you - and I hope somehow that the report still is wrong.
"But Al will never really die. In our hearts he will live always. I still have faith. And we are all fighting together for the country we love - America. We've all got to pull together. Let's have courage. Let's not give up the belief we will come through-"
To a friend, Fred Goldstein, 624 Euclid av., the dead soldier wrote in a last letter the following significant paragraphs:
"Fred, I know it's plenty tough working in a factory and I considered factory work nerve-wracking and quit and joined the army.
"I disliked factory work because if you had no seniority you got all the worst shifts. And the factory was filled with dust and it got into your lungs and made you cough.
"But dammit, Fred, give me a rubber factory now and 12 hours a day and I'll be the happiest guy on earth...but I want to see this mad war over first and get into the fighting myself."
Louis Handler attended West high school and Akron university and was employed at the B. F. Goodrich Co. before he entered the service. Besides his brother, Harry, he leaves one other brother, Arthur, married and living in Atlantic City, N.J. and two sisters, Margaret and Belle, at home.

That youngest brother, Harry Handler, is my father-in-law, who enlisted on April 7, 1943, as a Private. His family was not able to successfully bring him home early, but they succeeded in having him transferred from the Pacific to the U.S. He was ultimately discharged on February 18, 1946. 

It has been said that their father died of a broken heart in December 1947.

Military Monday is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, the genealogy community's resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.


  1. Oh my, what a story. I can't imagine losing two sons let alone within weeks of each other.

  2. the sacrifices of parents in wars, past and present, is always heartbreaking. I have my own family story of such a loss. I recall President Lincoln writing a mother who lost five (!) of her sons in the Civil War. Your family lost two -- that had to be horrible. The newspaper articles of the time bring these stories home with the urgency and grief of the times. Thanks for dropping by my blog. I couldn't find where to email you/contact so I'm thanking you here. Hope to keep in touch!

  3. Thank you for your comments. Linda - thanks for the additional comment about not finding my email; I've now changed my profile to have a "contact me" appear. And thanks for following!