Get to know the seven Powell brothers who all served and survived the Second World War. Only one of the seven, George Powell, remains alive today at 99 and is hopeful that he will still be around when the resolution to rename a part of the U.S. Route 67 in Greene County – about 35 miles in length – to Powell Brothers Memorial Highway gets approved and becomes a reality.
According to historians, it wasn’t rare for multiple siblings to enlist and serve in the military during World War Two, so, the seven Powell brothers was not a special case.
For one, the well-known Spielberg war film which came out in 1998, Saving Private Ryan, is believed to be based upon the real life story of the Niland brothers who were from New York. Two of the Niland siblings perished during the Normandy invasion while the third one died when he was shot down in Burma. The fourth Niland brother was rescued from combat and was sent home safe.
Furthermore, there is, at least, one family who outnumbered the Powell brothers when it came to sibling service during the Second World War — the Fedele brothers who were from Rochester, New York. Eight siblings from the Fedele family all went and fought in WWII.
But what makes the Powell brothers stand among the rest was the fact that the seven brothers served in the war with all of them surviving until the end to tell their tales.
The Powell Family
Jim Powell, son of Fred Powell who served in the USS Sturgis troop carrier as a gunner’s mate during the war, described the Powell family as “a stoic, conservative and highly patriotic group”.
He added that after the Japanes Imperial Army attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, many young Americans were inspired to serve in the war effort including the brothers. It was the thing to do during those times, he stated. Jim even pointed out that the family was not the only one to sacrifice, to see loved ones go out to war with the big possibility that they may never come back alive again – the only difference was, “there were more of them”.
The Seven Powell Brothers
The oldest of the Powell brothers, Arthur, already saw military action during the First World War where he served as a minesweeper. He, eventually, returned to active military duty as a recruiter in 1939.
The other six Powell brothers – Earl, Fred, George, Everett, Max and Adrian – saw action in the different theaters of the Second World War. George worked as an aviation mechanic and was stationed in various Pacific islands including Guadalcanal. He also was an aerial gunner.
His brother, Max, flew surveillance missions in the Pacific. Still, another of the Powell brothers, Everett, became a fighter pilot during the war, was even shot down in Europe and experienced how it was to be a prisoner of war.
An eight member of the Powell siblings was set to enlist. However, World War II already ended before he could enter military service.
While the seven Powell brothers served in the war, six other Powell siblings – four brothers and two sisters – stayed in their farm home and worked to keep it going.
Jim recounted how his uncle, Everett, got shot down in Belgium and was reported missing. Their mother suffered a heart attack after hearing the devastating news. Fortunately, Everett did not end up dead. He was liberated at the end of WWII much to the joy of his family.
All of the seven Powell brothers eventually returned to the farm they called home before they went to war though at differing times and with equally differing lengths of stay. No civic celebrations were held upon their return and like many other WWII veterans, the Powell brothers kept mum about their wartime experiences.
Ultimately, four of the seven Powell brothers who served in the war went on to have their own military careers with one elected as sheriff of Greene County upon his retirement from active service.
George Powell, for his part, quit the army after the war and worked at an auto body manufacturing plant in Michigan. He got married, had two children and moved on to work for the state liquor control commission as an investigator.
George Powell is not just the only living member of the seven Powell brothers who served and survived WWII, he is also the only lone survivor of the thirteen Powell siblings.
Upon interview, George said that he wanted to go and attend the ceremony if the resolution for the renaming of a part of US Route 67 in his and his brothers’ honor did push through. However, he also added that though he is willing, he still doesn’t know if he will be able to make it. “I am not as rough and ready as I used to be,” he stated.
He has suffered several health setbacks over the recent years. But, according to his daughter Paula, her father remains sharp-minded though his health is failing. He still remembers the exact date he enlisted for the army – April 14, 1942 – with his reason for joining being he knew that the draft was coming for him anyway.
George can also still recall the harrowing trips he made from one Pacific island to another while aboard a destroyer. He and his comrades didn’t only have to contend with firing enemies, they also had to go through rough weather to survive.
When WWII ended, George Powell was still in service. He recounted how they celebrated by getting drinks where they were able to get them.
Of the pending honor, George feels proud of it and thinks it’s alright. However, he also let out the question, “Why us?”, as he believes there were millions out there who deserve the same thing as he and the other Powell brothers did.
On the other hand, state Sam McCann is working on getting the resolution approved.