When George Preston Granberry was killed in action at age 23 during World War II, his family back home in Winona was notified with a telegram and received a small box of his possessions.
Granberry, who was known as “Buddy,” died July 16, 1944, while fighting in the 112th Cavalry regiment during the Battle of Driniumor River in Papua New Guinea.
Over the years, different family members held on to his personal items: the letters he wrote home, his Purple Heart and its citation and various photos of Granberry.
The personal items included his Bible, wallet, watch, sunglasses, a ring, some foreign currency and some change.
In an effort to keep the items safe and preserved, the family donated the possessions to the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, the only museum in the continental United States dedicated to World War II in the Pacific.
His brother, Carl, 83, of Winona, was 5 when Buddy died in 1944.
He remembers when the telegram came saying that Buddy was killed. He was surprised to see the small amount of belongings in a shoe box.
“It was the first time I’ve ever seen my dad cry and it was hard,” Carl Granberry said. “I didn’t know what to do. It scared me.”
Stephan Granberry, Buddy and Carl’s nephew, said the possessions were spread among family members, and when researching places for Buddy’s personal effects to go, he came upon the museum.
“I thought that would be a much better home for the personal effects,” he said. “They (family members) agreed that would be a good thing to do.”
The soldier was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart on Sept. 8, 1944, as someone who was wounded or killed in the line of duty. His body was returned to the family in 1949.
His funeral included a military ceremony, rifle salute and buglers playing taps. He was buried at the Center Cemetery in Winona.
He was the oldest sibling of 11.
“All of the sisters said he was just a sweet soul,” Stephan Granberry said. “Always a great big brother. He loved his mom very much.”
Buddy was also a part of the Civilian Conservation Corp. that built Tyler State Park. He joined the reserves for the 112th Texas Cavalry, which was federalized in World War II.
Buddy wrote several letters, including some to his Army mates, which mostly consisted of trying to help his family and friends. He wrote his last letter two weeks before he was killed, Stephan Granberry said.
“It shows what kind of person he was,” Stephan Granberry said. “The thing that I found so interesting was what he took. It was like a time capsule.”
When he read the letters, Carl said he was struck by the fact that Buddy was going to war and how he was always sending money and thinking about somebody else.
“I felt like it (the donation) was a good thing to do. A way to preserve his legacy. He never had any children,” he said. “I think it’s nice that he could be remembered in some way. They can see this was a young man that did his duty and paid for it with his life.”
Buddy also helped his parents, who were renting their home, purchase the house and land while he was alive. The government insurance money after his death helped them purchase the farm, he explained.
Due to his young age at the time, Carl Granberry can recall one memory of Buddy. On his way to West Texas, Buddy stopped by his family’s home at night from a training exercise in Louisiana.
“I saw him in his cavalry outfit,” he said.
All five of the Granberry brothers served in a branch of the military. Carl and one brother served in the Air Force for two tours in the Vietnam War, another served in the Korean War, and another served in the Navy.
Carl Granberry was the ninth child out of the 11 siblings. Four of them are still alive and they’re very close to this day. He said this experience has made them closer.
“For me, it was like a brother I never had. It didn’t know personally and then reading his letters, I got a better understanding,” he said. “I felt like it was the right thing to do. It’s very humbling to think of the sacrifice he had made for us. And not just him, but thousands of those like him.”
Stephan Granberry said the museum was a great place for the documents and items to be available for family and researchers alike.
“The one in Fredericksburg deals with the Pacific War and campaign and he’s a Texas boy,” he said.
National Museum of the Pacific War Director of Collections Reagan Grau said the museum’s items tend to be a lot more personal in nature like those donated by the Granberrys.
“We strive to reach people who don’t have a visceral experience with World War II,” Grau said. “These are one of a kind items related to an individual. We do have a record of his experiences.”
The donation will soon be archived by the museum and made available to anyone who would like to have access, Grau said.