Ernest Earl Bradley was born June 6, 1918 in Schooner Creek, Indiana to James and Etta Bradley. He was the fourth of seven children. The family moved to a farm near Attica, Kansas and in 1933 due to the Dust Bowl, the family moved to DeRidder, LA.
He graduated high school in DeRidder in 1936. Right out of high school he found employment at a local saw mill. Between his wages and those of his older sister Elsie at the local laundry, the two were able to support the rest of the family. In June 1936, having just turned 18, Ernest became a merchant seaman, journeying on Texaco's SS Shenandoah throughout the Americas. With the passage of the Wagner Act of 1935, he gained his official seaman papers. In 1939 he received his fireman, oiler, and water tender licensing papers. Following the three-year minimum, he successfully sat for his 3rd Asst. Marine Engineer's License, and shortly thereafter took a position on the SS Nevada.
While serving as an Oiler, Ernest met a girl named Ella Gertrude Easley, who worked in a drugstore in Port Arthur, Texas. He saw her every port call in Port Arthur for about a year. US Merchant Marine operations changed significantly after Hitler invaded Poland in September, 1939. Shortly thereafter he asked Ella to marry, which they did on October 21st, 1939 in Beaumont, Texas. He set sail for the Panama Canal. Operations never stopped. His son Allen was born in Sept 1940 while Ernest was enroute to South Africa. He traveled safely through Torpedo Ally between the African Coast and Madagascar where 700 seaman's bodies have been recovered from ships sunk in that stretch of water.
By this point much of the world was at war and under the Neutrality Act no US flagged ship could enter belligerent waters. So, upon his assignment to Texaco's SS New York out of Galveston, Ernest's license was transferred to Panama along with the rest of the ship's crew and flag. Thus American Merchant Mariners were part of the WW II Allied logistics long before Pearl Harbor.
There is one thing Ernest wished to mention concerning the role merchant seaman played during WW II: 733 American Flag Ships lost and over 6,000 seaman lost their lives (source: "Heros in Dungarees: The Story of the Merchant Marine in World War II by John Bunker printed by the Naval Institute Press).
Ernest was a certified US Merchant Marine Veteran with service during WW II. He was commissioned as a Commander US Coast Guard on June 7th, 1948. During WW II he served in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Middle East, Pacific, and North Sea. Ernest received the following US Coast Guard decorations: Merchant Marine Emblem, Atlantic War Zone Medal, Pacific War Zone Medal, Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone Medal, Victory Medal, Honorable service, and Presidential Testimonial Letter.
After the death of Ella in November 2014, Ernest moved in with his younger brother, Clifford, in DeRidder, Louisiana. This arrangement allowed the brothers to spend time with each other and share 24-hour care provided by a wonderful team of caregivers. In addition to visits by his son, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Ernest had daily contact with his nieces, nephews and a group of new friends. Ernest received great medical care from Dr. Tom Dobbins and Robin Yew and the nursing staff of Beauregard Memorial Hospital and Beauregard Home Health
Ernest became quite the celebrity while back in DeRidder. He and his brother were recognized for their service to their country and featured in a story as "Hometown Heroes" by Lake Charles television stations. As the only surviving member of the 1936 DeRidder High Baseball team he received a home visit by the team, apparel, and was honored at the home ball game. The brothers were visited by a US Congressman who presented each with a US flag that had been flown over the US Capital.
Reverend Jay Alexander of Bilbo Church of Christ ministered to Ernest every Wednesday at his home. Ernest was always quick with a smile and funny comment. He shall be missed greatly.
Ernest was preceded in death by his parents; his wife Ella in November 2014; his son Richard and daughter Sharon Elois Steadman; granddaughter Clarissa Bradley; his sisters Ina Hobbs, Elsie Ellender, Setta Hudry; and his brothers Leslie, Kenneth and Clifford Bradley. He is survived by his son Allen James; grandchildren Richard, Corette, Shannon and Jennifer; many great grandchildren; and a wonderful assortment of nieces and nephews who remained very close to Ernest through his final hours.
Visitation will be Saturday, 30 December 2017 from 12 to 1 pm at Lakeview Funeral Home in Longview, Texas. Graveside funeral services will follow at 2 pm at the Gum Springs Cemetery in Longview, Texas.