The story of 1st Lt Robert Maxwell PENNELL (101 Airborne, 506 PIR 3HQ - WWII)
his brother Lt Edward S. PENNELL (Marine corps, flag raising on Iwo Jima - WWII)
A story of two brothers in World War II: one a Screaming Eagle, the other a Marine.
Not uncommon, two brothers each deployed to a different part of the world. One in the European Theater of Operations, the other in the Pacific. The story goes much further than that though. In 2011, sorting through my father's (P.M. PULLES) collection of 101st Airborne related items, I came across an original WWII armband with the US flag commonly worn by 101st Airborne paratroopers.
In the plastic bag holding the precious item was a newspaper clipping about "BOWDOIN alumnus" BOB PENNELL. With the idea of putting up an image of the item on this website, I showed it to
my mother Nell. She immediately recalled how my father was given the armband by his former colleague, friend and fellow citizen of Eindhoven, HARRY DE WIT.
Harry, as a young man lived in the Strobloemstraat in Eindhoven and had become friends with Bob Pennell during the liberation of Eindhoven in September 1944. Bob had signed the armband
"with best wishes of your friend Bob Pennell 1st Lt" and had given the armband to Harry. Quite a story in itself since Bob Pennell was killed in action (head injury) a few days later North of Eindhoven on the road between Uden and Veghel on September 25th, 1944 when the 101st
was moving North together with the British groundtroops to make their way to Nijmegen (where the American 82nd Airborne Division had jumped) and Arnhem (British paratroopers).
How my father came by the newspaper clipping is unknown. Perhaps Harry corresponded with the Pennell family in Maine after the war who may have sent Harry the clipping.
Left and right:
scans of the armband given to Harry de Wit (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) in September 1944 by 1st Lt Robert PENNELL
The story preparing the webpage I looked up "Bowdoin" and "Pennell" only to discover Robert Carr's webpage honoring the more then 2000 men of Maine (US) who gave their lives in WWII.
Carr's website includes the article "Heroics that inspired the nation" by David Hench, written in 2006 which describes part of the story behind the well known film "Flags of our fathers", about
the World War II assault on Iwo Jima and the famous flag-raising that rallied the United States. In reading the article, I discovered that 2nd Lt EDWARD S. PENNELL, company commander for
three of the Marines who raised the flag, was ROBERT PENNELL's brother... And that makes for quite a story too. For as we know, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the flag-raising was taken Feb. 23, 1945, by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. The image was so compelling that the government had the survivors re-enact the flag-raising in front of crowds to help sell war bonds. David Hench writes that Edward Pennell attacked Iwo Jima knowing
his brother had been killed in Europe. Edward Pennell was awarded the Navy Cross for risking his life to rescue five injured men who were pinned down by Japanese machine gun fire. Edward died
in 1998.