Get Out Your POW Bracelet, by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

POW Bracelet-Lt. Col. Newk Grubb, 1-26-66If you’re American and old enough to remember the Vietnam War, there’s a good chance you have a POW bracelet somewhere in your stash of possessions. I stumbled across mine a couple of months ago while I was looking for something else. Since it adorned my wrist for years (as the wear testified), I remembered the name and date well: Lt. Col. Newk Grubb, 1-26-66.

I always connected Lt. Col. Grubb to my father. Not surprising, I guess, since my father served in Vietnam the year after he was captured–and the date on the bracelet happened to be my dad’s birthday.
 

Flash Backs
I have peculiar recollections of the Vietnam War, compared to most. I remember crossing the days off the calendar until my dad came home. I remember going to Newark Airport in my pajamas to greet him upon his arrival–and wondering who that strange man kissing my mom was. I remember living in an apartment filled to the ceiling with boxes of soap collected for Vietnamese orphans. (Local townsfolk had kindly gathered it, forgetting that someone had to pay to ship it–which my Nana eventually did). I remember spending Christmas day roller-skating in the Pentagon when my dad was duty officer. And I remember my father having to go to Dover to identify my cousin, Dominic Scatuorchio, who was shot down in a helicopter in 1970.

I also sadly flashed back to the days at the end of the conflict when long lists of servicemen appeared in “The Washington Post.” In the optimism of my youth, I was sure that “my” POW was coming home to his family. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
 

Lt. Col. Newk Grubb
As I let the memories wash over me, it occurred to me that I could possibly learn more about Newk. Was that his real name, for instance? I went to the closest computer. Within minutes, I learned that his full name was Wilmer Newlin Grubb and that early indications were that he would be one of the survivors. Remarkably, it’s even possible to see a photo of him in captivity.

I continued to surf and found remembrances of him scattered around the Internet– a recollection from a fellow who grew up with him in Aldan, Pennsylvania, and a series of messages, some left by others who also wore his bracelet.
 

Evelyn Fowler Grubb
But I quickly discovered something that saddened me even more. Newk’s widow, Evelyn Fowler Grubb had recently passed away. A remarkable woman, she was apparently one of the founders of the National League of POW/MIA Families, and as its national coordinator in 1971-72, she played a part in creating the league’s “You Are Not Forgotten” black-and-white flag.

I felt terrible that I had taken this long to look into the story of Lt. Col. Newk Grubb and missed my chance to communicate with his amazing widow. This is especially ironic, given that I work with the U.S. Army’s Repatriation project, locating families of those still unaccounted for from Korea, Southeast Asia, and WWII. I told my husband about this discovery, and in one of those strange coincidences life hands us, he came to me later that same day with the May/June 2006 issue of “The PennStater,” which featured an obituary for Evelyn Grubb on page sixty-six. Apparently, both she and her husband had attended Penn State, as did my husband. Fortunately, Evelyn had shared her experiences with author Carol Jose, so I should be able to read about the family in an upcoming book, which will probably be called “You Are Not Forgotten.”
 

Get Out Your POW Bracelet Now
What can you do? Don’t waste another day. With Memorial Day approaching, what better time to dig through your belongings and find your POW bracelet. Then you can research your serviceman on the Internet. You can leave a remembrance for him on The Virtual Wall. You can even see if someone in his family is looking for his bracelets at the POW/MIA Bracelet Information Exchange–although you’ll want to be sure to that you’re giving the bracelet to a genuine family member. Sad to say, there are bracelets for sale on eBay and elsewhere, so use your genealogical sleuthing skills to make sure yours is going to someone who will truly appreciate it. And finally, take a few minutes on Memorial Day to reflect on the sacrifices of “your” serviceman, his family, and those in your own family who have served their country.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, coauthor (with Ann Turner) of Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree (as well as In Search of Our Ancestors, Honoring Our Ancestors, and They Came to America), can be contacted through www.megansrootsworld.blogspot.com/, www.genetealogy.com, and www.honoringourancestors.com.

Upcoming Events Where Megan Will Be Speaking

  • Roots in the Boot
    (July 15, 2006, Pittsburgh, PA)

Details and links to upcoming events
 

22 thoughts on “Get Out Your POW Bracelet, by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

  1. Upon seeing this post, I mentioned it to my husband. He’s just that much older than me that he would remember the war better than I do. Imagine my surprise when he said he has TWO of those bracelets. Of course, he now has to find them. He remembers one of the soldier’s names but not the other. I’m hopeful he’ll be able to find the bracelets and I’ll be off and running trying to find my own information. Thank you for the tip. Without it, I never would have thought that anything existed in our house relative to the POW’s.

  2. I recently read a book called “Waiting Wives” by Donna Moreau it is about military families who had members serving in Vietnam while they were living at Schilling Manor in Kansas. A very interesting story that also describes life during those times. One of the main characters is the wife of a POW who sounds very much like Evelyn Grubb.

  3. Several years ago I purchased from a catalog a U.S. Army Helmet described as worn in WWII, but actually left over from WWI, before new helmets were issued. I believe our soldiers in the Phillipines right after Pearl Harbor had been issued these.
    I was not prepared for a helmet that had a sweat-stained, worn, leather lining. The helmet paint had been battered and rusted. It had obviously been lived in and hopefully not died in. There is a name attached inside on a small stained glued-on paper label: “MBT Schezloo C,TE Numd”. If there is a Schezloo family member who would want this helmet, I’d like him or her to contact Ancestry.com. If not, I’d like information on how to find out about the soldier via the government army records.

  4. Recently my mother gave me all of the letters my brother sent home from his tours in VietNam. He doesn’t want them and I have been going throught them and placing them in protective sheets. He mentions several of the people he served with and your post has inspired me,(or doomed me) to create a list of these people to see how many I can find. My son has been helping me because he wants to learn more about what he uncle went through so this will give us more to share an I may get him hooked yet. Thanks.

  5. She Stood There By His Graveside
    Memorial Day, 2005
    Lorelee Sienkowski

    She stood there by his graveside
    A bent and aging form
    She’d loved him from that first real date
    Now this one was the norm.
    He’d been a handsome soldier boy
    She fresh – just out of school
    They’d fallen hard; they broke the rules
    But that was World War II.

    She sat there near the monument
    And watched it late at night.
    She came here now and then alone
    To catch him in the light.
    Her husband was a medic
    They’d sent him overseas
    It wasn’t “war”, the letter said
    But he’s still gone, you see.
    They’d brought her his footlocker
    It sat there near their bed
    She’d never even opened it –
    She’d love his ghost instead.

    They came to see black granite
    Earth’s gash – like open sores
    The names had torn their world apart
    They read them all once more.
    They hadn’t wanted him to go
    But they knew duty called
    And now they see the names of friends
    On that sleek granite wall.
    He sits now in a wheelchair
    Or clings to her strong arm
    His body’s being cared for here
    He’d left his mind in ‘Nam.

    He stands there at their new front door
    Their child at his side
    A chaplain stands out on the porch
    To tell him of his bride.
    “A way to get ahead”, she’d said
    “And pay off all their loans”
    A clerk in some backwater port
    And her last chance to roam.
    A car-bomb found her office door
    Explosions took her life
    And now he hugs their only child
    And misses his young wife.

    He closed the door
    And turned around
    And looked at us,
    And said
    “Remember her,
    and him,
    and them.
    For us their lives were shed.”

  6. I JUST TODAY came upon my POW bracelet in a box of things from high school and college. With the miracle of the internet, I looked up Col. James Bean. To my sorrow, I found that he died just months ago.

    I remember watching the returning flights and hoping the man on my bracelet would come home. I was watching when the flight landed that carried Col. Bean. Apparently, he was not just the highest ranking officer on his flight, which meant that he spoke for the entire flight and I was able to see the face of the man I had prayed for, but he was the highest ranking office held prisoner in Viet Nam.

    I wish I had found the bracelet six months ago, and I could have written to Col. Bean and let him know that I prayed for him and wore his name. I wrote to a name on a press release about his death and asked them to contact the family and see if they wanted his bracelet.

    While I hate the idea of war and hate how we damage our precious young men, I thank God for the men (and women) that are willing to take the risks and do what they are called upon to do.

  7. I remember my POW bracelet well. I will never forget the day it arrived. I opened it up and was absolutely dumb-founded: It had my name on it!! I’m used to carrying a very common name, but still I wasn’t prepared for that surprise. I wore that bracelet for a long time and still have it.
    John Clark

  8. It strange sorta my cousin serves in the air force as we speak and when she came home for a vist i saw here wear one of these braclets and asked what was as she and i are so young we weren’t even thought of at the time of the war . and she prceeeded to tell it was a bracelet alot of the soldiers are wear for the families of people who served in vietnam and that they wear until the person on there bracelet is found and then they brake them and send them back to the soilder’s family.and at that momenet in time it made me think back on how my great aunt thelma must have felt until her boy james douglas welch ‘s body was sent home and the sadness she felt and the sadness these families must feel , those who have lost so much and those who go on wondering.

  9. I have a good friend of mine that has the same bracelet with Col. James Bean. He asked me to do some research to find him. Lee- could you please let me know how you found his family. My friend would also like to give them his bracelet.

  10. My brother has one of those bracelets. I believe he still wears it. I am going to find out and do some research on the person. Very nice article. Thanks

  11. I had a Vietnam POW/MIA bracelet as a child and fortunately I don’t have my bracelet anymore and here’s why. My neighbor gave the bracelet to me and she and her daughters had the same name on theirs as I did on mine. The Air Force pilot whose name was on my bracelet was a POW and fortunately he was released. I lived in Southern CA at the time and he was from that area too. When he came home there was a big planned outdoor function celebrating his return so my mom and I and our neighbors went to it. I don’t remember much from that day (I would have been around 11) but I do remember that everyone that was there that had a bracelet with his name on it dropped their bracelets into a big fish bowl. I wonder if he kept those. So I was fortunate in that I got to meet the man whose name was on my bracelet. I’ve thought about him often throughout the years and I just Googled his name and see that he and his wife live in Florida. So my story, unlike so many others with the bracelets had a happy ending.

  12. Hello…I’m asking for a bit of assistance. I, too, had a POW bracelet yet I no longer have it in my possession nor do I remember the name. I am wondering if anyone knows if there is a way to find out the name of the serviceman that was sent to individuals requesting POW bracelets? I would like to re-discover the individuals name that I wore and perhaps contact this person.
    Thanks so much,
    Beverly Wimer

  13. I have read your web site posting re Lt. Col. Wilmer Grubb and the story you read may have been mine in The Lansdowne ,Pa. web site. I have an addendum story re bracelets that you may be interested in and I will be glad to forward if you wish. His late wife Evie’s book – YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN, co-authored by Carol Jose and wonderfully done, – is due to be published shortly Bud Farrell, phone 520-818-9257. Best Regards
    Bud Farrell, Tucson Arizona

  14. Just found your reference in Family History Circle to my writing about Lt.Col. Wilmer Grubb and also that yopu apparently also attended Penn State. My wife and I met at Penn State in 1954, from Aldan, and she from ALlentown ,Pa. Hope to hear from you. Best Regards and thanks for your remembrances of “NUGIE” Grubb Frank (Bud) Farrell, Tucson, Az.

  15. My prayers continue to go out to our men/women who served during the Vietnam War, and their families. Thank you for all you have done to keep us free.

  16. Hi,

    I was Evelyn Grubbs ‘military nephew’. It was really something to come across this posting about her and Newk Grubb.

    By military nephew I mean that Newk Grub flew in my father’s squadron. Newk was also close friened of my father’s (fighter pilots often became very close, perhaps because their jobs wer so dangerous) and Newks wife Evelyn also became a very close friend of my father and mother. Consequently I always knew her as Aunt Evie and in fact could not even imagine calling her anything else.

    Since Air Force families moved constantly, we were often closer to Air Force friends as much, if not more than our real relatives. So anyway, I did not even know that Evie wasn’t my real Aunt until I was 11 or 12 years old.

    When I was 6 and a half years old I remember being at Evies house in Virginia and being shown a photograph of Newk Grubb in captivity.

    We endd up living near Evie four times– Evie and her four boys were stationed with us at Toule Air Base in Pont-A-Mousson France (where Newk flew with my father), twice in Virginia and later, when Evie was elected President of the National league of families, in the Washington D.. area where my father spent the last 8 years of his Air Force service and where Evie stayed until it was revealed that Newk had in fact died in prison camp years before (the North Vietnamese never had the decency to notify the US government).

    Anyway– you picked one hell of a family to support by buying and wearing Newks bracelet… Newk Grubb was a top fighter pilot in the Air Force and won the NATO “Royal Flush” Recce competition in Europe in the early 60′s. This placed him in the top rung of Recce fighter pilots in Europe if not the world. I was told by one of his sons that there were dreams in the family of Newk Grubb trying to become an astronaut, that was not a wild fantasy or pipe dream in Newks case– he was one of the best and whether or not he would have made the space program if he had lived, he sure could have given it a good shot.

    Evie herself was an incredible woman. As you know she was one of the co-founders of the National League of familes. She was also elected President and was a guest at the White House many times as well as having been to the United Nations, the Paris Peace talks and having met with many world figures on behalf of American POWs, MIAs and their familes. She later became an advocate for military children as well, pushing for legislation for children of war casualties.

    Evie was the kind of person that could turn body-blow negatives into positives. She also had a wonderful sense of humour, was very down to earth and incredibly humble.

    I grew up with her four sons and they were and still are the finest fellows, cut form the same great cloth as their parents. I was very lucky to know them– they taught me so much about courage as they waited 8 years for their father to come home only to eventually find out that he had died in prison camp.

    When Evie passed a away the world lost one hell of a Lady. I only hope that she is now finally with her husband after all these years.

    Phil Murray (Son of Colonel John Robert Murray, USAF retired and Barbara Berryhill Murray).

  17. Slight correction– in Pont A Mousson France there were 3 Grubb boys, Roy wasn’t born yet.

    **Sorry about the typos on the last post.

    Phil Murray

  18. Hello. I am married to Roy Grubb, youngest son of Wilmer Newlin (Newk) Grubb and I just wanted to take a moment thank everyone for their kind words about my late mother in law, Evelyn, and Roy’s dad. nowagrubb@yahoo.com

  19. It is just 4 years since I received Evie Grubb’s last Christmas card with a note telling us she was entering hospice the very next day…reflecting the same extraordinary courage that she had shown through so many difficult trials of so many years…and now may God Bless and her “Newk”, our Aldan Pennsylvania friend and classmate “Nugie”, throughout their eternal rest …PEACEFULLY & TOGETHER ONCE AGAIN. FOREVER! Bud Farrell, 24 December 2008

  20. I am looking for any information on LCDR Giles Norrington and LTJG Edward Romig from the Vietnam War. I have their bracelets for over 30 years. I only found out recently that CAPT Norrington may still be alive and living in Ohio. But I cannot find a way to contact him.
    If anyone can give me any information on these two men I would appreciate it. It is so important to me, especially to be able to talk to CAPT Norrington is he is still living,

    Thanks,

    Helen La Rose-610-800-1067 cell phone or email helenlarose@gmail.com

  21. Megan:

    What a nice thing to come across this article. I was a good friend of your cousin, Dom’s, when we were at St. Rose. He and Rick Serano and Tony Lepore and Wilfred Bremer and Terry Nearey and I used to hang out and sing folk songs and popular ballads….and just hang out. Dom would play the 12-string guitar and accompany us. He was a wonderful person and the world is that much poorer for his loss! He and I were in the Army at the same time, but I surely did not have the commitment or courage to volunteer for Vietnam like he did! I miss him a lot to this day. You missed a great guy! John (I am the John Mulshine who contributed to his entry on the NJ VV site)

  22. I wore my bracelet all through high school, vowing to keep it on until “my soldier” returned home. Unfortunately, too many laps in the swimming pool (I was a competitive swimmer) and daily showers wore down the metal. The bracelet split apart and fell to the gym floor during a volleyball game. I was upset and felt like I’d failed “my soldier”. I always wondered what happened to the man whose name embraced my wrist all those years, William Dunlap. Several years ago, the traveling Wall monument came to Janesville, WI, where I live now and a friend looked up Mr. Dunlap. I learned he’d died during the war and his remains were eventually returned home to the United States. Even all those years later, this news was saddening. My heart hurt for the young man who never got to live the life he so much deserved. I think of his family often and pray that they have found peace. I pray that I will find peace also. God bless you, young William Dunlap. You are not forgotten.

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