Voices from the Grave: Carl Ulander Jr – 70 years gone
“Please be assured that a continuing search by land, sea, and air is being made to discover the whereabouts of our missing personnel. As our armies advance over enemy occupied territory, special troops are assigned to this task, and all agencies of the government in every country are constantly sending in details which aid us in bringing additional information to you.”
The letter came just a day after the telegram. Both had been signed by Major General J.A. Ulio the Adjutant General and were addressed to Mrs. Ann Ulander. Ann and her husband Carl Sr., had two sons, Carl Junior who was 22 years old and Robert who was just 19.
Both boys had enlisted in the service, Carl, the oldest, worked as a navigator on a B-17 “Flying Fortress” while his brother, Robert was in training to be a Flight Engineer.
Carl Junior had been born in Rockford on July 28, 1922. He graduated from Winnebago Community High School and had been employed at Swan Peterson and Sons Florist. Carl had entered the service on June 1, 1943. His parents were very proud of him when he received his commission and navigators wings on April 22, 1944. He was now addressed as Lieutenant Carl G. Ulander Jr. Robert, the younger son of Carl and Anna was stationed at Lowry Field in Denver, Colorado. He would later serve on Saipan and Guam as a flight engineer on a B-29.
Carl Sr. and Ann heard from Carl Jr. shortly after his arrival overseas with the 8th Air Force. He had only been there for two months and had not yet been sent on any missions.
It was on one of his first missions that Carl was part of a four-pronged Allied attack on Germany. More than 1,100 American bombers were sent on the attack on German war factories in Magdeburg, Kassel, and Mersberg. This attack would prove very costly for the 8th.
The 8th Air Force lost 42 heavy bombers and 16 escorting fighters during the attack. Carl’s parents would not learn the details of his mission for many months. His Flying Fortress participated in the air raid over Magdeburg, Germany on September 28–it was around 11:35 a.m. and the planes were close to reaching their target when they were attacked by enemy aircraft.
Carl’s plane was hit by enemy fire and left the formation. The plane dropped its bombs and then suddenly it went into a dive. No one saw what happened to the plane after it began its descent.
Carl Ulander Jr. was declared missing for a year. His parents received a letter from the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces H.H. Arnold in October 1945 finally declaring Carl as killed in action, expressing his sympathy and also spoke of Carl Junior’s excellent military reputation.
Lt. Carl Ulander was awarded the Purple Heart in November 1945 for his sacrifice. His brother, Robert would leave the service shortly after the notification came. Robert had also been awarded an air medal and the Asiatic Pacific Theater ribbon with two battle stars for participating in “Aerial Missions over Japan.”
The letter announcing Carl Junior’s award of the Purple Heart has the Secretary of War seal and very eloquently states, “Little that we can do or say will console you for the death of your loved one. We profoundly appreciate the greatness of your loss, for in a very real sense the loss suffered by any of us in the battle for our country, is a loss shared by all of us. When the medal, which you will shortly receive, reaches you, I want you to know that with it goes my sincerest sympathy, and the hope that time and the victory of our cause will finally lighten the burden of your grief.”
I received a packet of papers from Robert Ulander’s wife, Ruth. She requested that I tell of Robert’s service and of the sacrifice of his brother, Carl. The letters that were so carefully preserved: first by Carl and Robert’s mother, Ann and then by Robert himself, spoke so clearly of a family’s pride and grief. Their loss, now over 70 years ago, was obviously felt and carried by each member of their family.