War-Time New Jersey Mystery Novel Brings Closure to Family
Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Sally Mott Freeman, author of “The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family’s Quest to Bring Him Home,” to learn about Freeman’s decade of research into the war-time mystery and how writing the book brought closure to her family.
"We are pleased to welcome Sally Mott Freeman, author of The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family's Quest to Bring Him Home. Good to see you Sally. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. We are not gonna spoil this for anyone. Okay. We want people to go out and get this book. A real life story of three brothers? Yes. Set it up for us. Three naval officers... World War II? World War II. All of them went to the Naval Academy. Two, much older than the youngest. One Class of '30. One Class of '33. And the youngest entered the Academy in '36. And he only made it through two years, finished at Chapel Hill. By then, the mandatory draft had been signed into law, and my father, who was the middle brother, helped him get a commission in the Nav... Say that again? Your father? My father, Bill, was the middle brother, a naval intelligence officer, helped his youngest brother get a commission with the Navy Supply Corps. Yes. Talk about that. My father, Bill, is the one in the middle, and this youngest, Barton, who was unaccounted for at the end of World War II... This is his high school graduation. You see he was quite small. He was... he was a premature baby. The beloved youngest member of this family. And the fellow on the right, Benny, was the gunnery officer on the USS Enterprise, Naval Academy Class of '30. So World War II broke out. My father was ordered to the White House from Naval Intelligence, to set up a secret map room in the basement. And then the State Department didn't know about it... What was the year? 19... it was the very beginning of 1942, right after... you know, within weeks after Pearl Harbor. So Roosevelt? Yes. Roosevelt. FDR? FDR and the... and Benny, was on the USS Enterprise, returning from Pearl Harbor a day late. They arrived on December 8th. They were delivering bombers to Wake Island, and so they narrowly escaped Pearl Harbor. And it was one of the few ships unscathed by that in the Pacific. And it went out again and again and again. The Doolittle Raid, all the early hit and run raids, Midway, and other early battles. The most decorated warship in American naval history. And... but this youngest brother was sent to the Philippines right after he was commissioned, and he was wounded and listed as missing. And it's really about the search for the youngest brother by the older two. And it was a... it was a very painful..."