Sloan Column: Author recounts life, career of WWII veteran father-in-law
So what inspired Grady Weaver III to write a book detailing the life and military career of his late father-in-law, Frank Trimual Wall, a World War II Marine who signed up for active duty just two days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
According to Weaver, it was a cookbook co-authored by his wife.
The book, “Fire Creeping in Short Grass: Reflections on a U.S. Marine's Journey: Before, During and After WWII,” is available on www.bookbaby.com in hardback for $33.45 and as an eBook for $3.99. The book is also available at other online bookstores and retailers.
A retired National Guard lieutenant colonel and resident of Hartsville, Weaver said the book initially began as a sort of gift to Fran, his wife 49 years.
“One day I overheard her say she wished she knew more about her father and I guess that’s what kind of lit the fuse,” said Weaver.
Frank Wall died of cancer in 1957 at the age of 32. Fran was four years old at the time.
Fran and her friend, Harriet Lemke had recently co-authored a local cookbook. The cookbook included recipes and families stories, a few of which were about Fran’s father.
After overhearing his wife speaking of her desire to learn more about her war hero dad, Fran shared with Grady that she also had in her possession some 300 letters her father had written to her mother, Thelma, during the war. Her mother had kept them all and passed them on to Fran.
Grady then went to work, getting copies of Frank’s military records and any information about his father-in-law that he could get his hands on.
“It was a triangulation really – the stories, the letters and his military records,” said Grady of how the book came into being.
The book tells the story of a country boy raised by his aunt and uncle in the mountains of North Carolina. At a young age the boy was drawn to the military, the U.S. Marine Corps to be specific. Frank Wall wanted to be a Marine.
On Dec. 5, 1941, two days before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Frank’s aunt and uncle signed the consent form allowing him to become one of “the Few and the Proud.” A few weeks later, Frank shipped out for boot camp at Parris Island.
Assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, an infantry regiment of the 1st Marine Division, Frank survived some the Pacific Theater’s fiercest combat during the battles of Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and Peleliu Island.
After the war, Frank continued his career in the Corps and even played baseball for the USMC squad in the National Baseball Congress.
Frank was still on active duty and stationed in Albany, Ga., when he was first diagnosed with cancer. He was later transferred to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., at that time home of one of the nation’s premiere military hospitals. Frank Wall died on Feb. 27, 1957. He is buried in the Florence National Cemetery.
It took Grady about six years to complete the book. Grady said his wife was quite happy with the finished product.
“She treasures it,” said Grady. “It’s helped her rediscover him.”
When the first box of books arrived at the house,Grady said he opened it,took a copy out andinscribed a personal note tohis wife before handing it toher.
“A few seconds later Ilooked over and she was crying,” Grady recalls. “I askedher how far she had gotten inthe book and, through tearsand sniffles, she said, ‘thededication.’”
After a 27-year career inthe National Guard, GradyWeaver returned to his homecounty and began work atSonoco of Hartsville. Heretired from Sonoco in 2014after 37 years of service. Hepresently serves as PastPost Commander of Darlington American Legion Post13.