Family has two World War II veterans

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published December 19, 2001 in The Suburban Life, added December 14, 2017.

One World War II veteran in a family is a reason to be proud.  But in the Ertel household, there are two.  Both Arthur and Charlotte Ertel are veterans of World War II, members of the group that author Tom Brokaw calls the “Greatest Generation.”

Both were only 18 years old when they volunteered for service.  Art joined the Army in 1941.  Charlotte volunteered for the Navy WAVES a year later, in 1942.

Art was sent to Fort Sill, Okla., for his basic training.  Then he went straight to Hawaii for jungle training and on to combat duty.

Art is a bit reticent to talk about that, but Charlotte proudly tells his story.  “Art broke a record for combat duty in the South Pacific,” she says, “212 continuous days in combat.”

He went through engagements in British New Guinea and Dutch New Guinea.  Then came Luzon in the Philippines.  There, a Japanese shell hit Art’s 105 mm Howitzer killing his best buddy and wounding Art.

Art was able to stay with his outfit, and it was on to Bataan for him.

He was wounded twice-once in his eye and again in his left shoulder.  He was a gunner, and a blast hurt his left ear, which still affects his hearing today.

Charlotte, meanwhile, had enlisted in the WAVES.  She was sent to Hunter College in New York for her boot camp.  Then she was sent to the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va., her permanent assignment.  Military women were breaking new ground in those days, but they all stayed stateside.

At Norfolk, Charlotte worked at a photo lab as a Photostat operator.  “It was the most modern photo lab in the United States,” she said, with pride in her voice.  She loved the work.

She enjoyed it all and even remembers the Navy chow as “good.”

“It was a good life, really,” she said.  “Off hours, they treated us as ladies.”

She remembers lots of “hurricane alerts.” Navy Hellcats would fly in from aircraft carriers, and they would all be put on standby duty until the base was secured.

When Charlotte came home on Christmas leave, she didn’t expect to see Art.  But as she walked down the street, before she even reached her house, a neighbor saw her and called out, “Art’s home.”

Art was home. He had been discharged, but they had to wait to get married until after Charlotte’s discharge in March 1945.  They were married in August of that year.

They moved to Madeira in 1951, to a house on Camargo Road.  “I was making 95 cents an hour then,” Art said, “on the night shift.”

Of his service to his country, Art says he was doing what everyone did.  His father had been a Marine.  His brother was in the Navy.  Art said his father changed jobs during the war just so he could do something for the war effort and feel more patriotic.  It was what he had to do,” Art said.

Art and Charlotte lived in Madeira all the time their children were growing up and going through school here.

But they are a couple that have fun and enjoy doing things together.  After retired, they pulled up stakes and went on the road.  They tried the RV route, traveling and seeing the country.

Finally, they decided they needed to settle down again.  The moved back to Madeira, where they live today.

Art and Charlotte may be the busiest people I know.  I had to wait months and make an appointment to set up a meeting.

One of their things is line dancing.  They go twice a week.  When line dancing is mentioned, Art gets twinkle in his eye and a sway in his hip.

Charlotte just has a continual twinkle in her eye.  Almost any subject sets her twinkle going.

I’m not sure where he finds the time, but Art does something unusual.  He weaves rugs on a loom, beautiful rugs.  He also crochets purses, out of -don’t laugh- plastic grocery bags.  They are beautiful too.  Charlotte carries one, and I covet one myself.  He’s quite artistic and the ultimate recycler.

Art and Charlotte enjoy life, and they look back on their World War II service with pride.

And they should.  They are part of the “Greatest Generation.”