Sister Remembers Brothers' Service

By: Ashlea Sigman Email
By: Ashlea Sigman Email

Joanna Yeager loves to talk about her big brothers. "I want them to be remembered," said Yeager.

All three of the Gravitt boys were enlisted by 1940. Floyd, the oldest, was set to the Philippines, in the Army Air Corps.

John, and younger brother Wilbert were both sent to Hawaii. Miraculously, both of them survived Pearl Harbor.

However, Wilbert would die five months later, flying back from a mission to locate Japanese submarines. "He was 20 at the time," said Yeager.

It would not be the last time, the Gravitt parents would mourn the loss of a son. They had not heard from their oldest son, Floyd, in the Philippines. Eventually, a telegram would tell the family he had been taken prisoner of war.

"We didn't receive that 'til February of 1943," said Yeager. It was nine months after Floyd was captured.

Meanwhile, middle brother John had survived Guadalcanal, and was training marines at Quantico, Virginia. He was sent back to the Pacific during the summer of 1944, prompting Joanna to write President Roosevelt.

"I said please don't send my brother over there because I thought we had lost two boys already," said Yeager. "They said they'd looked into it and he'd asked to go back. He asked to be sent back to the battle in the Pacific because he wanted to be among the group to release his brother from the Japanese prisoner of war camp."

However, along with thousands of Marines, John would die at Peleliu. The Navy Cross and Purple Heart he earned, could not ease a mother's pain.

"At that particular time when we got the telegram that John was killed and we already knew Wilbert had been killed, my mother thought Floyd was also gone. So at that time she thought she had lost all three boys," said Yeager.

Before long, Floyd was allowed to send a telegram from the POW camp. "Don't worry, we are doing well here," wrote Floyd.

It wasn't true, but Floyd was a fighter.

"He normally weighed from 190-210 lbs. By the time the war ended he weighed 96 lbs.," said Yeager.

The family would be reunited, and Floyd would live to see his 87th birthday. Today, Joanna is the last of the Gravitt siblings, and the only one left to tell their story.

"All of our veteran's stories should be told. We've got to remember what they did for us," said Yeager.

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