- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Tom Carpenter hopes to meet a veteran or two at this weekend’s World War II ceremonies who can tell him something about a man he never knew — his father.

Joseph “Bud” Carpenter was killed during World War II in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 near the Belgian town of Bastogne. A scout with the 101st Airborne Division’s 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, he suffered a fractured skull in an artillery barrage on Dec. 19, 1944. He died five days later, on Christmas Eve, at 19.

Military documents provided those basic details, but Mr. Carpenter, who was 6 months old when his father was killed, decided about six years ago that he needed to know more.

His quest for information led him to a Smithsonian Institution Web site set up to facilitate communication between veterans and relatives of veterans, https://mb.wwiimemorial.com/messageslist.asp?noshow=true.

Mr. Carpenter’s search, and hundreds more like his, have been transferred from the electronic Web bulletin board to a real bulletin board that has been set up in the Reunion Hall tent as part of the four days of activities connected with the dedication of the National World War II Memorial this weekend on the Mall.

Mr. Carpenter and his wife are coming up from Florida to take part — and, hopefully, find some answers.

“I just want to be there, even if I’m standing way in the back. But my hope would be to bump into somebody that knew him or knew exactly what happened,” said Mr. Carpenter, 59, a partner in an accounting firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“You always have questions like: What kind of person he was and did he suffer and was somebody with him when he was killed? You never have an answer.”

About 800,000 people are expected to converge on the Mall in the next four days. About 200,000 people, half of them veterans, are expected to attend the dedication Saturday. It is expected to be the largest gathering of World War II veterans since the end of the war.

“The odds of me finding a person who was next to him when he was wounded or who knew him are one in a million,” Mr. Carpenter said.

But that’s not going to stop him from trying.

“I’m going to gather all the information I can get. This is like a one-shot deal, I think. All this information is going to be there. All those people are going to be there. You’ll probably never get another chance like this,” Mr. Carpenter said.

There are numerous children looking for information about their deceased parents. Jim Fitzpatrick’s father survived the war, but there is still much he hopes to learn about his father’s wartime experiences when he comes to Washington with his brother and his two grown sons.

William B. Fitzpatrick II also was in the 101st Airborne, in the 321st Glider Field Artillery, and was wounded by an artillery shell during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

Lt. Fitzpatrick recovered from his wounds and was back in action at Bastogne three months later. He served an unusual length of time, from 1940 to 1945.

“My dad, along with a lot of the veterans, didn’t talk much about their experiences. I feel that’s a part of their life we’re missing,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick, 58, who has owned a janitorial business in Sutton, Mass., for 35 years.

Lt. Fitzpatrick returned home to a career in roofing, carpentry and utilities in Providence, R.I. He died in 2000.

“You know somebody. Somebody can raise you and give you all the right values. But there’s some things that you really don’t know,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “I guess I’m trying to make a connection of, ‘Do we think alike? Do we have the same type of thoughts that run through our heads?’ It just seems that I’m missing something that I’m trying to find.”

Keith Wentzel’s father, Walter, was a member of 101st Airborne’s famed E “Easy” Company, featured in the HBO film “Band of Brothers.”

Pfc. Wentzel was severely wounded by machine-gun fire on June 8, 1944, two days after parachuting into Normandy on D-Day. His right leg was amputated.

Although Mr. Wentzel’s father lived until 1982, when he died of cancer, he never talked about where he was wounded.

“We don’t even know if he was fighting with his company. He might have been with the 82nd Airborne, who jumped in at the same time,” said Mr. Wentzel, 53, the vice president of a financial company in North Andover, Mass.

HBO held a premiere of “Band of Brothers” at a specially constructed theater on Omaha Beach more than three years ago, and Mr. Wentzel met numerous members of Easy Company. But none remembered his father.

This weekend, with his wife and 9-year-old son, he’ll try to unearth his father’s past again.

“We plan to spend a lot of time on the Mall,” he said.

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