Family History

The Small Family in World War II

Below is an article published in 2004 in a special supplement to The Gettysburg Times which honored local Adams County World War II veterans. Chet Small, founder of The Horse Soldier, enlisted as a Marine in 1945, and was the youngest of 7 brothers who served in the military during the war. Chet died January 8, 2010 and was laid to rest in Gettysburg's Evergreen Cemetery. Chet's brother, Maurice Small, who served in the US Army for 3 years, was killed in action at the age of 38 in St. Lo, France in July 1944, slightly more than a month after D-Day. He is buried in Soldiers National Cemetery here in Gettysburg; photos of his gravestone may be found below.

One Small Feat – Seven Local Brothers Go Off To War
by Marianne McKim

Chester Small was one of seven brothers to go off to war when the U.S. entered World War II. Only six returned.

The Cashtown resident's memories are few. He was 15 years old when he learned of his elder brother's death. Maurice "Gus" Small was killed in action in St. Lo, France on July 13, 1944. Small explained that it wasn't right for him to be in the war.

"He was 38 years old when he was killed, most (men) in the military were young… 19, 20, 21 (years old)," Chester said of his brother. "Maurice was married. He was promised when he went into training that he would not go overseas." He served in the U.S. Army for three years before he was killed.

According to documents, Maurice was originally listed as "Missing In Action." His wife and family received letters stating so. A few days later, the family was informed that Maurice had been killed and according to records, Small stated, the injury was a head wound.

"His wife never accepted that he was dead," Small said. "But two of my brothers visited his grave in France – at different times. His wife then signed the papers for his body to come back to the United States. The day before it arrived, she had a heart attack and died."

The brothers who were serving in the war were informed of the death through letters that their sisters had written them. Small said there was a total of 19 children; 11 boys and 8 girls. Maurice received a Purple Heart, which was sent to his family.

Robert "Jake" Small was the next son to enlist in the service. Robert made a career of the Merchant Marines and retired after 30 to 40 years of service, Small said.

William H. "Bill" Small joined the U.S. Coast Guard and remained in it for 2-1/2 years. William participated in the invasion of the Ryukyu Islands.

Philip "Phil" Small enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps – the original name of the U.S. Air Force, Small said. He served for 24 years. At one point during his tour of duty, he was in North Africa and met up with his brother, Norman. The two hadn't seen or heard from each other since the war began, since it was difficult for the soldiers to keep in touch.

Norman "Barney" Small spent five years overseas in the U.S. Army. He served for seven years and Small said that he was probably the most decorated brother of the seven.

Thomas "Tub" Small served in the U.S. Navy for 2-1/2 years. He was stationed, for a large part of the time, in the South Pacific.

Chester "Chet" Small was the last brother to join the service. In 1945, Small decided that he didn't want to go on to school and wanted to "do something." He joined the U.S. Marines and served in the 1st Marine Division.

"One of the biggest reasons I decided to join the Marines was because of my uncle, Maurice. They called him "Gunny" because he was a gunman," Small said. "He was my idol. He served in the Marine Corps for 40 years."

Not everyone was happy that Small decided to join the military. Small's mother died when he was only a young boy. Joining the military at a very young age, his father was adamant about him enlisting.

"We argued for about two or three weeks because Dad was so reluctant," Small said. "He really didn't want me to do it."

But when he finally made the decision, Small was sent to Parris Island and Camp Pendleton before he was stationed in Guam for two months. He was a refrigeration mechanic for the Marines and served under "Gen. Rocky" who was a graduate of Gettysburg College.

During his time in Guam – after the country was secured, Small said that he was ordered to look for Japanese hiding in the hills, or "hideouts."

His next tour-of-duty was in China. He spent most of his time in Tienstsin, from 1945 to 1946. The unit was sent there "for the surrendering of the Japanese." Small was also stationed in Chinwangtao, China. While there, his primary job was to build and fix bridges and railroad tracks that had been blown up by the Communists.

"My outfit was with a construction company, and we were always fixing up thing because the (Communists) loved to blow the tracks up," he said.

One of the worst experiences that Small had to endure was the death of one of his crewmen. While in Tienstsin, Small was in charge of a group of Japanese workers that would load frozen food and supplies from U.S. ships into trucks.

"The top sergeant came one day and told me that I was going to lose half my crew – because they were being sent home the next day," Small said. "I went up to one of my guys who spoke English pretty well and told him. He just couldn't believe it. So after the others found out, they were continuing (to work) and a slab of (frozen) beef came down and one of my men didn't get out of the way in time and it killed him. It was very sad, all those years (approximately five) that they were here working and the next day he was to go home – but he died."

The 1st Marine Division was taken out of China and Small was then sent back to the United States. He was stationed in Salt Lake City, Utah where he worked "gate duty" at the Naval base. Small was soon pulled out and transferred to Puerto Rico. He explained that his time in Puerto Rico is his best memory.

"We opened up a camp that was closed," Small said. "I got to run the base for refrigeration. I was down there for four months... over Christmas... Christmas in Puerto Rico."

Small was sent back to Utah after his time in Puerto Rico. He served in the U.S. Marines for four years. Although Small and his brother Robert never saw action in the war, his five other brothers all fought. To his knowledge none of his brothers besides Maurice were wounded.

Small received the World War II Victory Medal, the Asian Pacific Medal, the China Occupation Medal and a medal of Good Conduct.

Chester J. Small

Chester J. "Chet" Small, a lifelong resident of Gettysburg, was born on June 3, 1928, the son of Walter and Ada Small. He passed away peacefully at his home on January 8, 2010. He was survived by his loving wife of 59 years, Patricia Small, and his five children. He was a loving grandfather of ten grandchildren. Chet was the last survivor of a family with fourteen siblings. He attended Gettysburg High School and left school at age 16 to join the US Marine Corps during World War II, enlisting in 1945. He was the youngest of seven brothers who represented every branch of the military service during WWII. From 1945 to 1946 he served in Tien Tsin and Tsing Tao, China. He later served in Company C, 1st Pioneers in Puerto Rico. He was honorably discharged in 1949 in Ogden, Utah.

In addition to his military service, Chet was an active volunteer for many service organizations in Gettysburg including the American Legion Post 202, the Last Man's Club of WWII, the 40/8 Veterans Organization, and the VFW. He was a 59 year member of the Gettysburg Volunteer Fire Department. He was also active with Adams County Senior Citizens.

Chet retired from Mack Truck in Hagerstown, MD in 1987 after 21 years of service. Prior to his retirement, he developed his hobby of collecting Civil War artifacts into a more entrepreneurial adventure in 1971, founding The Horse Soldier with his wife, Pat, and the assistance of his children.

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