Bremer County

Cpl. Wilbur E. Mahlstedt




Brother From Tripoli in
Chance Reunion at Miami

It was a complete surprise to both of them when Cpl. Wilbur E.
Mahlstedt (left), back from 35 ½ months overseas duty, stepped from
the big air transport command plane at Miami, Fla. air field and
spotted his kid brother, Pfc. Willis Mahlstedt, who was on MP duty
at the busy ATC terminal. Wilbur and Willis, who had last seen each
other nearly four years ago, are the sons of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Mahlstedt
Of Tripoli, Ia.

Miami, Fla. – The odds were a 1,000 to one it wouldn’t happen, but that gets us ahead of the story.

The scene is the busy terminal at the air transport command’s Miami army air field, through which thousands pass on their way to or returning from war theaters all over the world. On duty at one of the terminal gates leading out to the flight line is Pfc. Willis Mahlstedt, an MP.

From out of the southeast, a big ATC Transocean plane, brining returnees home from overseas, slices in for a landing, then taxis up to the ATC terminal. Willis gives it jut a casual glance. He’s been seeing them come and go for many days and, anyways, he’s busy at the gate.

The plane cuts its engines and the “cargo” piles out – a bunch of fellows laughing and joking, happy to be home again. Willis has seen hundreds of these fellows, too, and he just glances at them casually as they approach the gate.

But that fourth chap – there’s something familiar about him. Willis looks again.

No, it couldn’t be – but it is! He forgets for the moment he’s an MP and yells out, “Wilbur!”

First Meeting in Four Years.

That’s how it happened, how Pfc. Willis Mahlstedt and Cpl. Wilbur E. Mahlstedt, brothers, met for the first time since Wilbur left their home at Tripoli, Ia., nearly four years ago to join the army air forces. The surprise was complete.

Willis didn’t even know his brother was coming home and Wilbur did not know he was to land at ATC’s Miami army air field until the big plane came roaring in over the coast of Florida.

“When I learned we were coming into Miami I was plenty excited,” Wilbur explained. “I knew my kid brother was stationed here, but I didn’t expect to see him as soon as I stepped off the plane. What a homecoming this has been.”

Willis was still in school when his brother left for the army in April, 1941. Two years later he, too, let home after finishing his preliminary army training was assigned to a military police unit and sent to Miami army air field.

A veteran of the African campaign, Wilbur served overseas for 35 ½ months and was with the first American troops to land on the Anzio beachhead and to push into casino. A rifleman, he wears the Combat Infantryman’s badge.

Most Exciting Experience.

“My most exciting experience,” he recalled, “came during the first push on Cassino. We were slowly forcing the Germans out of the city and it was rough going, street to street fighting. Five of us had cleared out a two-story building, but the Jerries were still in the next building, just a few feet away.

“We went up to the second floor, crawled through a window, and jumped to the other building, thinking we could surprise the Jerries. Well, it didn’t work out that way. They opened up on us and we had to barricade ourselves in one of the upstairs rooms. We couldn’t even get back to our own building. We stayed there for four days without water and with nothing to eat the last two days. On the fourth day our troops drove the Jerries out.

“Scared? We were scared to death in that trap!”

After a short visit with his brother here, Wilbur will go to Tripoli to visit his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Mahlsted, whom he hasn’t seen for nearly four years.

Source: Waterloo Daily Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, Sunday, February 11, 1945, (photo included)