Letters Home from WWII

Growing Up

Kenneth as a child with his two older
siblings and Father.

On the 15th of August 1921, Emma and Ernest Bratt welcomed their third child into their family, Kenneth Linnell Bratt. He was born in Boston, Suffolk County just like both of his parents.[1] He would have three siblings when his parents were done having kids: Florence was the oldest, followed by Ernie Jr., then came Kenneth and the youngest was Audrey. Not much is known of Kenneth's childhood. As a teenager he ran with a rough group of kids that were prone to getting into trouble. While not a gang by today's vernacular, in the early twentieth century it could be labelled that. These various gangs of teenagers would challenge each other, often resorting to violence. On one such occasion, Kenneth was up in a tree when a gang of teenagers started shooting at him using .22 calibre guns. Jumping down from the tree to make his escape, Kenneth injured his right ankle. He would walk funny the rest of his life, walking along the outside edge of his foot. His son, Kenneth Jr., recalls how he also walked funny because he often wore his father's hand-me-down boots with a worn outside edge on the right boot.[2]

Kenneth was not one for school work. At the time he enlisted in the army at 18 years old, he had completed all 8 years of grammar school but had dropped out of high school after 1 year. Instead he worked odd jobs such as a stock clerk where he earned 10.00 a week. Shortly after turning 18, he enlisted in the Army.


Kenneth signed up for a three year enlistment in the Army on the 4th of October 1939. He was given the grade of "Private" and assigned to the 7th Field Artillery unit stationed at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont. Named after the American Revolutionary Patriot, Ft. Ethan Allen was used as training post during World War II before being deactivated in 1944.[3]Kenneth found himself moved from the Battery "F" of the 7th Field Artillery almost exactly one year after he enlisted. His new assignment was to the newly organized 33rd Field Artillery Battery "C" of the 1st Infantry Division. Kenneth remained at Ft. Ethan Allen until the following February, when the 33rd FA Battalion moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts to join the rest of The Big Red One. This was the first time in twenty years that the entire First Divison was together at one military post.[4] In October of 1941 the 33rd FA Battalion, as part of the 1st Division, moved south to take part in the "Carolina Maneuvers" in southern North Carolina. Every component of every service was represented in maneuvers meant to test the training of the troops.[5] By the beginning of 1942, Pvt. Bratt found himself at Fort Blanding, Florida.

Ken and Grace were married
February 12, 1942.

Pvt. Bratt went A.W.O.L. (Absent With Out Leave) during his time at Fort Blanding. In February of that 1942, he married Grace Irene Aldrich back in Boston. He was a newly wed away from his bride and it was fairly well known that the Division would be shipping out. In March, the officers were given permission to take leave and return to visit with their families. However, the enlisted men did not receive that privilege. Pvt. Bratt decided that he would rather see his wife than stick around Florida so he "deserted" his unit on March 22. He was gone for close to two weeks before surrendering himself on the 3rd of April. A special Court Martial was held for violation of the 61st Article of War A.W.O.L. As he surrendered himself voluntarily, he was sentenced to a months hardlabor and a forfeiture of $14.00 pay for the month. He later said about the sentence "It was the same hard labor everyone else was already doing."[6]

Eventually, the 1st Division moved to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in Pennsylvania. This was the staging area for overseas shipment of the Division. Final preparations were made and on the 1st of August 1942, the Division boarded the Queen Mary at New York Port and headed east towards England.[7]


1. Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Certified Copy of Birth certificate no. 08214 (1921), Bratt-Kenneth; Registry Division of the City of Boston.

2. Kenneth Bratt Jr., email to author, May 4, 2015.

3. Enlistment Papers, Kenneth Bratt, enlisted in Boston, Massachusetts, October 4, 1939. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

4. U.S. Department of the Army, A Brief History of the 33d Field Artillery Battalion First Infantry Division, Washington: Department of the Army.

5. War Department, United States, "Your Army in the Making," Internet Archive, 17:26, posted on August 11, 2013 https://archive.org/details/FB-15

6. Rick Bratt, discussion with the author, April 2015.

7. U.S. Department of the Army, A Brief History of the 33d Field Artillery Battalion First Infantry Division, Washington: Department of the Army.