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Nelson Bryant

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by GRW, Jan 13, 2020 at 11:21 AM.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    "Nelson Bryant, a celebrated New York Times outdoor columnist and Army paratrooper who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day during World War II, died Saturday at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He was 96.
    An avid sportsman who hunted, fished and knew every inch of the Island’s back woods, marshlands, beaches and surrounding waters, Mr. Bryant had lived in West Tisbury and close to the land for nearly all his long life. Blunt-spoken, salty and smart, he recalled the war years with vivid clarity, even more than half a century after they had ended. He was one of the last surviving Islanders of the Greatest Generation, along with his war colleague Ted Morgan, who died in November 2019.
    “Sometimes I’m haunted by that goddamned war. Night after night after night,” he told the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s oral historian Linsey Lee in a 2010 interview.
    “I have a healthy respect for danger. I’m very leery of things, and think a lot about them. [But] . . . my country was at war. I detested Hitler, what was going on all over the world, and I decided that I ought to do my part. And so I tried to pick the hardest thing I could find.”
    He was born on April 22, 1923, in Long Branch, N.J. His family moved to the Vineyard in 1933 during the Great Depression.
    He attended schools in West Tisbury and Tisbury and finished high school at the Norfolk School for Boys in Connecticut.
    He was accepted at Dartmouth College and enrolled in 1942 for a summer semester.
    “It was interesting, but not very rewarding intellectually because all of us freshmen ate in one place, and we all got ill with a virulent disease,” he recalled in the interview with Ms. Lee. “Most of the time I spent in the infirmary. But anyway . . . the war was going on and I said, I can’t sit and let this go by.”
    Dartmouth had a Naval Reserve Officer Program. He tried to enroll but couldn’t get in because he had been born blind in his right eye.
    So he volunteered for the draft and joined the Army. He tested into Second Signal Service Battalion.
    “It was a high-flying intelligence outfit, decoding and that sort of thing,” he recalled. “But I had nothing to do with words or decoding. My job was to work with the supply sergeant and hand out clothes to all the people that were studying how to break codes.” He continued:
    “This was Army. And it was boring. As a matter of fact it was so boring that I memorized the names of all — let’s say there were 100 men. Just for something to do. For instance, I still remember the last one. It was Frederick W. Zander, and his identification was 12125356.”
    He was keen to join the Airborne despite his eyesight, and found a way to get in by reading the eye test on both sides with his good eye.
    He eventually qualified to become a paratrooper and excelled at rifle training, partly thanks to a lifetime spent hunting on the Vineyard, even though he could only shoot from his left side. He joined the 82nd Airborne Division’s 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    “I found my first jump unpleasant,” he recalled in the interview with Ms. Lee. “I was scared. But I had wanted to do something that was difficult. I didn’t want to hand out socks and shoes. I didn’t want to be a cook in a kitchen. I wanted to be a frontline soldier.”
    He jumped into Normandy the night before D-Day and jumped into to Holland and in the Battle of the Bulge. He left Sissonne, France, after he was wounded."
    Nelson Bryant, Acclaimed Outdoor Writer Who Jumped Into Normandy, Dies at 96
     

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