Legacy Children – by Mary Branning
Why do my siblings and I continue to support the Association and attend the Annual Yorktown Reunions? I could sum it up in two words – My Dad. But that wouldn’t make for much of an article.
My Dad, TMV/2 Ed Branning, only served on the Yorktown from 1943-1945, fighting in the Pacific during WW11, but those two years impacted his entire life. Dad attended most of the reunions – he’s right in front on the picture from the first reunion and we think he only missed a handful since 1948 until his death in 2012. I don’t really remember him leaving to go away to the Reunions when I was very little, but I know he did. And when we all got older, my Mom would attend with him. We heard all the stories of who they saw, who the speakers were, all the events and pictures of the Reunions. We always got one of the wallet size photos of the professional pictures that were apparently offered. Dad always wore either his navy-blue Yorktown blazer or was casual, wearing his Yorktown hat. Either way, they were always great pictures of Dad, because he always had a huge smile being back on the ship.
Dad loved going back and talking over old stories with all the guys. There were men that he kept in touch with after 65 years and they never got tired of talking about the Yorktown. Mr. Bob Courtet, also a torpedoman, was one of Dad’s good friends and because the Courtet’s lived in PA and we live in MD, Mom and Dad visited with the Courtet’s often.
Growing up, our bathroom was not the bathroom – it was the “head”. Dad got a metal plate from the ship that had identified the “Officers W.C., W.R. and Showers”. That hung on our bathroom door for years. (And now it sits in mine). We were frequently told at dinner, “Take all you want, but eat all you take.”, because that it what he was told in the Chow Hall. Daily, we walked past a painting of the Yorktown in our hallway, along with framed medals, awards, and the certificate for crossing the International Dateline. Oh, and don’t ever call it a boat – it’s a ship!
In 2010, when Dad was 86, my brother, Tim, took him to what would be his last reunion. A poster of the ship was to be given out that year with signatures of many of the men that served, and Dad was asked to be one of the signers. You would have thought that he had be asked to sign the Declaration of Independence, it meant so much to him. People lined up to get them and he signed countless posters. He came home feeling like a rock star handing out autographs.
After 65 years, Dad could still recount stories like it was yesterday. He was interviewed in 2007 for a project on WW11 by the National Archives so many of those stories were preserved. As kids, we didn’t really “get it”. We didn’t see how important these stories are for us and for all that come after us. Supporting the Yorktown and attending the Reunions keeps these stories alive. And in some way, it keeps Dad and all those that served alive too. Per his wishes, we scattered Dad’s ashes off the bow of the ship when he died, and I know that his spirit is still there.
My brother, Tim and my two sisters Barb and Beth, have all attended at least one reunion and I was finally able to attend my first reunion in 2016. We were lucky that Tim, Barb, her son Brendan and I were able to attend in 2017 and were able to sit at dinner with Mr. Courtet’s daughter, Sue and grandson Eric!
The Yorktown was always a presence in our lives growing up. And now that Dad is gone, this is our way of keeping it there. It brings just a little bit of Dad back to us when we step into the Torpedo Shop and see him in the picture that hangs there. Although they were at war, there is a special bond that only those that have served can know, so I know his spirit is still there puttering around.
Our WW11 veterans are rapidly dwindling. The stories need to be told and to be preserved. The only way that all those down the line will know these stories and feel the pride of these men that served is to experience it. Visit the Yorktown, attend the reunions, meet the families of those that served with your family, meet others that served on the Yorktown in more recent years and hear their stories. Dad’s memories and all those that served on the Yorktown live on through the continuing efforts of the Association, and our support allows Todd and the Board and all the volunteers to keep those memories alive.
The Yorktown meant the world to Dad and so it now does to us, his children. It’s our way of honoring him. Helping to allow something to continue that meant so much to him. So, why do we continue to support the Yorktown and why do we try to attend the reunions? Two words – My Dad.
Mary Branning, Tim Branning, Barbara Branning Flanagan, & Beth Branning
Proud children of TMV/2 Edward A. Branning Jr.