Brothers Had Unlikely Meeting During World War II
Paul Strait, now 87, resides on Queens Row in Adams Township. John Strait, who is two years older, makes his home in Fulton County.
On Dec. 26, 1944, Paul Strait had just completed an 8 p.m. to midnight watch on board the USS Tryon, the attack transport ship to which he was assigned in Pacific waters. The Tryon carried mostly Marines on their way to invade various Japanese-held islands, but on this particular
trip, it was transporting Army troops.
An Army soldier asked Paul Strait for a drink of cold water.
Paul noticed the man’s uniform had the same anti-aircraft unit insignia as that worn by John Strait. When Paul Strait asked the soldier if he knew John Strait, the soldier replied that John was a member of his unit.
The next morning Paul Strait told his executive officer that his brother was training with the Army on Scarlet Beach. The officer granted Paul Strait permission to go to the beach to try to locate John Strait. He walked to the beach – a distance of about a dozen miles – and found John.
The brothers had supper together and talked constantly, Paul Strait said.
Then it was time for Paul Strait’s ship to set sail to Leyte Island transporting troops for another invasion.
The reunion was a pleasant surprise for the two soldiers, far away from their homes and fighting a major war.
The Strait family – seven boys and four girls – all were born in Fulton County.
All seven brothers served in the military. All were in the Army, except Paul.
Jay, Frank and Dallas served in the Korean Conflict.
“We all came back home unscathed, except Frank, who had a piece of shrapnel lodged in his lung,” Paul said.
Frank had to have the damaged lung removed at a military hospital, and then was discharged early, Paul said.
In addition to Paul and John, Dallas still is living. Of the four girls, two are still living, Ethel and Dorothy. Elmora and Edna are deceased, Paul said.
After graduating from high school in 1940 in Fulton County, Paul hitchhiked a ride to Johnstown. His first job was at the former DeRoy’s store on Market Street downtown where he wrapped and mailed packages.
He stayed at DeRoy’s for two months, then held several other jobs before joining the former Plastic Metals on Bridge Street in 1943. Plastic Metals underwent several name changes, with Paul retiring in 1988 from the Bridge Street business.
Paul met Edna Edwards of Johnstown and the couple married in June 1941. He and Edna had four children, one of whom is still living. She is Paulette Whistler, who lives with her father. Paul and his wife had a 62-year marriage, ending with her death in 2004.
Paulette moved in with her father after her husband, Everett, died.
Paul was not anticipating his Navy service. He wanted to join the Army, but was one of 10 area young men selected for the Navy. He was not happy at first, but after experiencing the Navy, he was glad he was chosen for the branch.
“I’m glad I went into the Navy,” he said. “I liked it.”
He earned the Pacific Theater Ribbon with two stars, the American Theater Ribbon, the Victory Medal and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two stars.
He served almost all of his time on board the Tryon.
Recalling when he was at the reception station being processed to enter the Navy, he said an officer asked if he had anything to say.
“I said I was hoping to join the Army,” Paul said.
The officer’s response:
“One more word out of you and you’ll go into the Marine Corps.”
“I didn’t say anything else.”
Paul formerly was an avid hunter and fisherman. He now does gardening. He uses a walk-behind mower to cut grass, shovels snow and also uses a snowblower, depending on conditions.
“I use the walk-behind mower for exercise,” he said.
He has been a member of Bethany United Methodist Church on Leventry Road for more than 55 years. His wife was a member there as well, he said.