THE FOUR LILJA BROTHERS OF NATICK MASS THAT SERVED WITH THE MARINES IN THE PACIFIC DURING WWII
My sons and I needed a two story high brick wall for our batters box and a long field to begin our annual stickball game. This year the elementary school on Bacon Street in Natick became our home-field. I chased our last surviving ball to the front of the school near the monument that honored the four Lilja brothers of WWII. My sons were anxious to finish the game but I drew them closer to the monument. They understood how anachronistic I can be and asked a few relevant questions. I had none of the answers.
I was going to lose sleep over this until I learned more about the Liljas. This freelance blogger has many moments like this. I pursue local heroic Baystaters that the media has under-reported. The story of the Lilja Brothers of WWII that follows is one that could easily have been a classic American movie. In time, we shall report on the other set of sixteen Natick brothers that fought in this nation's wars.
My inquiries began with Paul Carew, Director of Veterans Services, Natick, Ma. He provided me with a wealth of information on the town’s veterans from wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Town of Natick left nothing on the table. There are over 52 squares and 5 major monuments to those that served. The credit for the concentrated chronological look of the Lilja brothers was principally provided by George ( Lucky) Lilja son of Verner Jr. and Effie Hall, cousin to the brothers. They have provided a very personal look in the genealogy linked below.
The Brothers at Arms from the Town of Natick
Steven Spielberg produced the movie, "Private Ryan" loosely based on the true story of the Niland brothers, of Tonawanda New York, that served in WWII. All four brothers were in active combat on D-Day. Two brothers died at Normandy and third brother was captured in Burma after parachuting from a disabled B-24.
Private Ryan was symbolic of many communities and families with multiple sons lost or wounded during WWII. Unfortunately, sons serving in the same war, theater or military unit are not new to US history. Joseph Warren Revere, the eleventh child of Paul Revere, lost two of his sons in the Civil War. Similar losses occurred during WWI, including the Souls twins and their three brothers. The six of seven Smith brothers were lost to Australia during WWI. Too many Gold Star Mothers suffered the loss of more than one son in WWII though only one in sixteen serving in the U.S. military, engaged in real combat. Unfortunately in war, "All gave some and some gave all."(1)
Every town on either side of a conflict has a Private Ryan story. The Town of Natick sent many family members to war as blood brothers in arms, often in the same regiment. Fifty-two from this town of 14,000, during WWI and WWII, were killed in combat. Patriotism and volunteerism was the undying story behind each of them.
The brothers below and many other individual soldiers of Natick are memorialized through town squares in their honor. Below is a list of those Natick families that sent two or more sons to war.
Six of the seven Arena brothers served in WWII; the youngest was wounded in Korea.
The Seven Franciose brothers served from WWII to Vietnam.
Six Arthur brothers served from WWII to Korea.
All five Morris brothers served in WWII.
The five Sheas including Esther, the first WAC was honored by the Town of Natick.
Five Sinclairs spanning WWII, Vietnam, and Iraq.
Five White brothers that served in WWII.
Five Grassey brothers served in WWII, one did not come home.
Four Hall Brothers.
Four of five Grupposo brothers served in WWII and Anthony served in Korea.
Four Barber brothers served in WWII and a fifth in Korea.
Four Ordway brothers all fought in WWII. Both Casey brothers served in WWII.
Vito Cadellicchio was KIA in WWII and his two brothers served in Korea.
Both Gay brothers of Natick were KIA in France and a brother-in-law KIA in Germany.
The Hadlick brothers served in many combat locations.
Each of the four Liljas that served in WWII were born in America in the first quarter of the 20th Century. A brief genealogy back to Sweden is linked with their family tree and a collage of WWII and family images. The Liljas represent a classic look at a family devoted to America and each other. A fifth son, Robert, nine years old at the start of WWII, fought with his brother, Edwin, in Korea.
There was no exemption sought by any Lilja: they all volunteered to serve.
By clicking on the link below you will be taken to a page devoted to;
Historical Family Documents back to Sweden
Effie Hall's reflection on her four cousins - scroll to the bottom
Each additional page has a collage of photos related to the Lilja family.
Hover your mouse over the photo to display any additional captions and click on
the photo to expand it and continue in a slide show format.
(1) From a song by Billy Ray Cyrus 1989
(2) The above linked website is part of the Eagle Scout project of Ben Jennings, a member of Natick’s Troop 1775.
Please write to Mitch Lapin firstname.lastname@example.org with additional information, corrections or images.
Edited by Nancy Dlott, retired reference librarian!
Continuing Member Massachusetts Historical Society
First, they came for the Catholic Priests and Nuns, then the mentally ill, gypsies and Jews, then political opponents, jazz musicians and writers, then the books and the brown shirts, then the slavs, French, Belgium, and English.
In nine months he targeted women, physically challenged, reporters, DACA’s, "stupid Iowans", Muslims, Seventh-day Adventist, African Americans, Asians, Cubans, veteran POWs, LBGTs, socialists and other Republicans right down to the NFL!
Sound familiar? He needs to take a leave of absence and seek help!