“You’ve got a message on the answering machine,” my wife told me (on May 8). The call had come in while I was at lunch with some retired broadcaster friends.
I pressed the play button on the answering machine. A man from Connecticut who identified himself as Paul Gould said in the recorded message that he had acquired some photographs of soldiers from my father’s unit in World War II.
He said one of the men pictured was Capt. Philip Ingraham, for whom I was named, and he said he probably had photos of my dad as well. He left his phone number and asked me to call him.
I was stunned. I soon picked up the phone and dialed his number. Before I get into the conversation we had, let me give you some background.
My dad, H. Raymond Roberts, who died in 2004, was born and raised in Hannibal, Mo. Stirred into action by the December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army infantry in 1942.
In his World War II memoirs, written in 1999, Dad noted that the 79th Infantry Division was just being formed when he enlisted. “So I went straight to Company C, 315th Infantry of the 79th Division….”
His commanding officer and soon to be his good friend was First Lt. (and later Capt.) Philip Ingraham.
He “took care of his guys,” Dad wrote, and “that endeared him to his boys of Company C.”
But Ingraham lost his life in 1944.
“On July 4, we formed a line and advanced across a wheat field for maybe 200 yards to get to the hedge rows on the other side,” wrote Dad, who ended up a first sergeant. “We had no problem until we got to the hedge rows. There they were. The Germans were waiting for us. Capt. Ingraham told me to take a couple runners and go to our left behind the hedge row, as we were out in the open. I didn’t know how far he wanted us to go, so I stopped and waved to him to see if we had gone far enough.
“He raised his hand, and I saw him go down. I believe that was when he was shot. … The next day we had to advance over the same field we had lost the day before. That is bad because you know every place that a German could be and the possibility of finding bodies of guys you lost the day before.
“The Germans had moved out at night, so that was good. But we did find Capt. Ingraham’s body. He had been shot in the head. There were other bodies.
“I will never forget July 4, l944, and will never celebrate the Fourth of July,” my dad wrote. “You know, this is a good time to write about Capt. Philip Ingraham. He was a second lieutenant when he joined Company C in the states. He was with us for a long time. I worked very close with him as company clerk and communications sergeant.
“In combat I was always by his side and available when he needed me. He was the best officer under which I served. He always looked after his men in his company. He always told us to solve our own problems in our area but, if we got into trouble in town, he would do what he could. Conflicts within our company confines would not be reported but instead handled as a private matter in Company C.
“I had seen many guys killed but, when he went down, it really hit me very hard. He was so close that my son, Phil, was named after Capt. Ingraham.”
In a November 2011 posting in my blog, I wished my late father a happy Veterans Day and mentioned briefly how I got my first name. I also posted my father’s picture and one of Capt. Ingraham. It was that posting in my blog on the Internet that led to the phone call from Paul Gould.
He had purchased at a flea market some items, including the Army photos, that had belonged to a Philip Ingraham.
“I was trying to find out more about him,” Paul said. “There’s a whole bunch of photos in there I was picking through.”
An Internet search took him to my blog. He compared the photos of my dad and Ingraham to the soldiers pictured in the flea market photos. He then read about Ingraham’s death. “My heart sank when I read that,” he said. “After I read it, I felt this need to call you and tell you about it.”
Since that phone call, Paul has scanned and emailed to me a number of photographs, some of which do include my father and my namesake, Philip Ingraham.
I am thankful that Paul Gould bothered to do an Internet search. And I’m grateful that he cared enough to pick up the phone and call me.
“I felt like I had to,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”
Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. Submitted as a column to the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.