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UNIT: 869 Chemical CO. POSITION: GND
SERIAL #: 32282829 STATUS: DUR




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 found from a letter written to my cousin (years later) that my grandfather had been desperate for work as the Great Depression loomed.  His aunt (who lived with her daughter in Niagara Falls) invited her nephew to come up north.  There were many jobs to be had in the factories in Niagara Falls.  So that was exactly what he did…until the war broke out.

My grandfather proceeded to train at Barksdale Field, Louisiana.   He was with the 874th Chemical Company while training at Barksdale.  Arthur Barthel, Serial No. 32282829, Group of 874th Chemical Company, Barksdale Field, LA.  

According to the separation papers my grandfather was a Chemical Handler 784.  I looked up what that could mean as I wasn’t really sure.  According to “Contrails” and some comments on Facebook from the 100th Bomb Group page, “these were the men who took charge of the chemical bombs and fuses.  When the ordnance men were called out to “bomb up” a mission, the chemical men teamed up with ordnance to load the trailers and aircraft.”  This makes sense as my father used to say that his father “loaded bombs onto planes.” 

Following my grandfather’s training he landed in Scotland on June 24, 1943.  Sometime after this he was sent to Station 139, Thorpe Abbotts, which was located in Norfolk, England.  He was with the 869th Chemical Company, 351st Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force.  I have many pictures and a few postcards that my grandfather wrote back to his mother.  One tells of the death of Franklin Roosevelt.
I don’t know much else about my grandfather’s experience during the war.  I do have a few mysteries to solve.  One involves a ring and one involves a tiny picture frame.  My father had a ring that had been soldered from scrap metal from some plane that my grandfather had made during the war.  It was just a smooth silver piece of metal…beautiful and simple.  It was precious to my father. I wish I knew what happened to that ring.  It broke and I never knew what my father did with it after that. My father has since passed away.  I know it was special to him as he knew there was some story attached to it.  It had the name of a plane on it and a type of plane (either a B-17 or B-24 if my memory is correct).  There was also a date.  But now that is all lost. 
My aunt also recently showed me something that is even more interesting, perhaps.  It is a metal engraved picture frame that is a representation of the Queen Mary—the ship that brought my grandfather home.  He kept this little trinket in a box that he kept with him his entire life.  The box included other things such as his stripes and medals, as well as his dog tags.  Of course, the trinket is quite amazing, as it is a relic of WWII, but there are two photographs inside the portholes of the ship.  One is a close-up of a woman and the other is of a woman and child.  The females in the photograph are completely unrecognizable to me.  My grandfather was in England for two years.  Were there people he left behind?  Special people?  Could there have been a child? There are so many questions I have.  Maybe I will never know the answers.  But I do know that this trinket meant so much to him.  
After the war, my grandfather 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 a while 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.

by Michelle Ann Kratts (Granddaughter) 









ID: 6123