Son to share story of World War II veteran's preventable suicide

By NOK-NOI RICKER | Bangor Daily News, Maine | Published: October 17, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (Tribune News Service) — The story of a University of Maine chemistry professor who served in World War II and returned to the U.S. only to take his own life will be discussed Saturday by his son who has written a trio of books based on nearly 700 letters penned by his father.

The is hosting the talk by Hale Bradt, a Korean War veteran from Salem, Massachusetts, who spent part of his youth in Orono, to show that post-traumatic stress disorder is treatable and suicide is preventable. Bradt will give his talk at 2 p.m. at the Augusta Armory.

“This presentation will serve as a powerful reminder of how our past and future warfighters must cope with the stresses of combat,” Maj. Norman Stickney, spokesman for the Maine National Guard, said Friday in an email. “Fortunately, the military has made some great advancements in diagnosis and treatment of these injuries for service members to seek help.”

Wilber E. Bradt was a professor and head of the Chemistry Department at UMaine when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, and the draft called him away to the Pacific as part of the Army’s 43rd Infantry Division.

He was 41 at the time and his wife, Norma, and two children, Hale and Valerie, remained in Orono for a time but eventually moved to New York City.

Wilber Bradt was an avid writer, and his letters track his service during his three-year deployment in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and the Philippines, sometimes in graphic detail. His son, Hale Bradt, folds in his memories of his father’s difficult return home, and the effects his father’s suicide had on the family in the trilogy, “Wilber’s War: An American Family’s Journey Through World War II.”

Lt. Col. Wilber Bradt was assigned to the 172nd Infantry Regiment Combat Team, then based in Vermont and now based in Brewer, and returned stateside in October 1945 with a Purple Heart with cluster, Silver Star with two clusters and a Bronze Star for his service, according to the Bangor Public Library’s Book of Honor.

He commanded the 169th Field Artillery in Munda; 152nd in New Guinea; and the 172nd Infantry in Tokyo, the database states. It also states he died in Washington, D.C., “of accident.”

Bradt took his .45-caliber service revolver and used it to take his own life on Dec. 1, 1945, according to his son.

He was a “beloved teacher” and “learned student of electro-organic chemistry,” the library listing states.

“Advancements in the understanding of the neurological underpinnings of PTSD combined with the use of evidenced based interventions and complementary alternative treatments have proven their effectiveness,” Hahna Patterson, the Maine Guard’s director of Behavioral Health, said in a Friday statement. “Early intervention efforts within the [Department of Defense] and [Veterans Administration] have also contributed substantially to the treatment for those struggling with the symptoms related to their military service.

“Although new treatments are in development and more research is needed, the scientific community has made great strides,” Patterson said.

Forty-seven Maine veterans killed themselves in 2013, which also is the year that active military deaths by suicide resulted in more , including . The numbers got the attention of officials in Washington who pushed for reform and funding for suicide prevention, leading the Maine National Guard to launch a to support soldiers and airmen in crisis, according to Stickney.

Veterans, servicemen, servicewomen and their family and friends who need help with a crisis can connect with trained counselors through the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255, press 1 for the Military Crisis Line. They also can chat online at MilitaryCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text message to 838255 to receive free, confidential support 24 hours per day.  


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