Dad's War Photos: Adventures in the South Pacific

Dad's War Photos: Adventures in the South Pacific


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Dad's War Photos: Adventures in the South Pacific by Neal Bertrand

Curtis Bertrand, a country boy with a camera, returned home from WWII in the South Pacific with over 600 photos. These never-before-seen pictures from his private stash, along with official battalion journal entries, and near-death experiences add drama, adventure, and expose the reality of war. Readers of Dad's War Photos will follow his photographic "breadcrumb trail" from home to war and back again with the help of 420 photos and 21 maps. Dozens of WWII aircraft with nose art, and photos of South Pacific natives in daily life are included.

The book covers many aspects of Curtis's experiences in the war: leaving the farm in Opelousas, Louisiana, going to boot camp, being sent overseas, and eventually coming back home, all through the photos he took and his battalion's military records.

Readers of Dad's War Photos will view pictures never seen before. They will feel the excitement and fear of sailing through enemy waters, they will come to know the loving bond of brotherhood and friendship amongst soldiers, and they will encounter the grief and mourning when a buddy dies while on a mission.

Through Curtis's eyes and camera lens, readers will be virtual eyewitness to the New Guinea battle campaigns in Dobodura and Saidor; the little-known battle for Biak Island and capture of Mokmer Airdrome; the Philippine Islands campaign, and the Battle of Manila and its reconstruction.

Thus far, the World War II photo memories and story of Curtis Bertrand have remained private. Now these pictures, along with official battalion diary entries, are being made available to the public, bringing to life his battalion's camaraderie and their heartbreaking and harrowing experiences.

The 863rd Engineer Aviation Battalion was stationed in three Australian cities during the summer of 1943: Sidney, Brisbane, and Townsville. Brisbane became the Pacific headquarters of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, after the Japanese forced him out of the Philippines in December 1941.

Each stop was necessary for the complex task of getting the numerous battalions organized, fully equipped, and putting the finishing touches on the engineering and battle planning strategy.

After that, it was on to the New Guinea Campaign, including Dobodura and Saidor. New Guinea was key in defeating the Japanese bases as laid down by General MacArthur's strategy called Operation Cartwheel. There are 81 photos depicting men building airstrips, camp life, native scenery, and more.

In a chapter on the Battle of Biak, the near death experiences of Curtis and his war buddies as their boat approached the island are graphically displayed. A photo taken of Curtis's good friend Clifford G. Wynne, Jr. is included, just weeks before he died on Biak. Another 60 historical images are contained within this section.

Finally, on December 21, 1944, the battalion arrived in the Philippines. 80 photos cover the destruction of the Battle of Manila and its reconstruction. Curtis's medals and souvenirs are depicted, along with the Japanese rifle and bayonet he brought home with him.

The homecoming and post war life chapters give an intimate view of what many returning soldiers faced. For Curtis it was getting back to work on the farm, meeting his lovely wife, and trying to put bad memories aside.

Two appendices include extensive photo coverage of WWII aircraft nose art and the daily lives of natives in the South Pacific.


I've never seen a book that covers so much of the war in a pictorial form. This book presents a month-by-month account in pictorial form of what it was like to serve in an engineering battalion in support of the fighting troops in the South Pacific. The author has also included official accounts of the activities directly from the battalion history records. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in seeing WWII from a different view.
Hughes Glantzberg

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936707249
Publisher: Cypress Cove Publishing
Publication date: 11/24/2014
Pages: 306
Sales rank: 1,218,278
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Neal Bertrand was born and raised in Opelousas, Louisiana, in the heart of Cajun Country. Cajun and Cooking are synonymous to those familiar with the culture, so it's no coincidence that Neal started his company, Cypress Cove Publishing, putting out cookbooks. It's also no coincidence that his moniker since 2005 has been The Cookbook Dude.

He is quick to recall that family holidays always revolved around food, no matter where he was. Whether it was barbecued steak from the cattle his family raised, or gumbo, Neal grew up with food and fun.

The cookbooks he has written and published have sold over 100,000 copies, and they are available both as print and e-book on Amazon, and through his website at

In 2009, Neal and his son Jeremy began scanning and photo-editing the war pictures of Neal's dad. Neither had ever seen the backs of the photos until then because they had been attached to the pages of three photo albums kept in a cedar chest in the hallway of Neal's childhood home.

The photos were put in the albums in no particular order. But once he figured out the timeline, Neal was able to organize them by country, month, and year. After six months of researching battalion diary entries and culling the photos, Neal was able to trace his father's steps from boot camp to war and back home and he began compiling his findings into his latest book, Dad's War Photos: Adventures in the South Pacific.

Prior to starting the war book, Neal was involved in charting his genealogy. He joined two genealogy societies and charted his ancestry back ten generations. Genealogy is one of Neal's favorite pastimes, as is starting a major creative project and watching it come to life, which he has done admirably with Dad's War Photos.

Visit his website at

Table of Contents

Foreword, Author's Note, Introduction, Chapter 1: A Brief History of the Bertrand Family Ancestry, Chapter 2: Life Prior to World War II, Chapter 3: Leaving Home, Chapter 4: A visit to Australia, Chapter 5: Dobodura: Their First Stop New Guinea, Chapter 6: The Invasion of Saidor, New Guinea, Chapter 7: The Battle for Biak Island and the Capture of Mokmer Airdrome, Chapter 8: The Battle of Manila and Its Reconstruction, Chapter 9: Returning Home, Chapter 10: Postwar Life, Acknowledgments, Appendix 1: World War II Airplanes and Their Erotic Nose Art, Appendix 2: South Pacific Natives in Daily Life, Glossary, About the Author

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