The military records of the Lilja brothers of Natick that fought in the Pacific during wwii
Sorted by date of birth.
RALPH LILJA DOB AUGUST 28, 1913, DOD JUNE 15, 1944 FORM NAVMC 106-PD USMC Previous Service: National Guard active duty November 13, 1930 - October 6, 1933 Born 8/28/1913 at Boston, MA Enlisted USMC September 27, 1933 Killed in Action - Saipan - June 15, 1944 Rank First Sergeant Battles/Engagements: Roi-Namur, Marshall Islands February 1-8, 1944 Saipan June 15, 1944 Awards: Purple Heart, Presidential Init Citation ribbon bar with star, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal
Military records show that Greta’s first son was born in Boston, MA in 1913,
Although Ralph attended public school, he did not graduate high school. As a teenager he painted houses with his dad. He was employed as a grocery clerk at the First National Store located on Worcester Street in East Natick.In 1930, at age seventeen, he enlisted in the Massachusetts National Guard.Shortly thereafter he enlisted in the USMC. Some records indicate 1931 while others 1933.
Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, he had already served a decade, including two years in Shanghai. After returning to the states, he wasstationed at a variety of East Coast bases, and then was assigned to sea duty aboard the USS Enterprise near the Panama Canal. Ralph also served aboard the USS California, USS Charleston, and USS Erie before returning to the Enterprise as a corporal at the end of 1940.
In December 1941, while stationed at New River, NC, he married Dorothy Kerr of Pennsylvania. Ralph was assigned to Charlie Company, 24th Marines, as the company First Sergeant - the senior enlisted man of the company.He was one of Charlie Company's "old salts."
After training the younger Marines at Camp Pendleton, he got his first taste of pitched combat on Namur in February, 1944. On June 15, 1944, just one month prior to the birth of his son, First Sergeant Ralph Lilja, age 31, was killed in actionjust hours after landing on Saipan.
He was buried in Plot 3, Row 11, Grave 701 of the Fourth Marine Division Cemetery located in Iwo Jima. For the following three and half years, Dorothy Kerr Lilja and son, Ralph Barry Lilja, lived at the Lilja home on Earlandson Road. Dorothy was employed at a Wellesley Hills restaurant.
Following the end of WWII, Verner and Greta petitioned the US government and Ralph’s body was returned to Natick, MA.His funeral was held in Natick’s Loker Memorial Chapel on January 27, 1949. Records of the East Natick Methodist Church indicate that the funeral included church participation. Ralph Lilja is buried, along with his parents, in Natick’s Dell Park Cemetery.
In 1949 Dorothy and Barry relocated to Tampa,FL to live near Kerr relatives. Dorothy remained a single mom. In June 1951 Barry flew from Tampa to Boston for a three month summer visit with his Lilja grandparents, Uncle Robert and Uncle Verner Jr. After attending University of Mississippi on a NROTC scholarship, Barry was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the USMC in 1966. His eleven year military service included a 1967-68 Vietnam tour. After receiving an Honorable Discharge with a rank of Captain, he worked as a contracts administrator/manager in both the private and public sector. Barry retired in 2008 and lives in Florida.
GEORGE LILJA NICKNAME “JIGGER” DOB OCTOBER 26, 1916, DOD SEPTEMBER 19, 1944 National Guard Bureau form 55 dated Sept 8, 1938 Enlisted Feb 25, 1936 at Natick, MA OCCUPATION: scholar Honorable Discharge Sept 8, 1938 in order to enlist in USMC- Single-good health- Excellent character Qualified as EXPERT Rifle DGO #9 12/27/1937 USMC form NAVMC 106-PD dated March 25, 1949 Form delivered to Mr/Mrs Verner A Lilja 19 Erlandson Road, Natick,MA
Born (at home) October 26, 1916 atNatick, MA 5’7”, blue eyes, white hair, fair complexion.
Enlisted September 8, 1938 EXTENDED his enlistment 2yrs on Sept 7, 1942 Rank Private First Class Left US Jan 14, 1939 Puerto Rico Jan 20, 1939-March 11, 1939 Arrive US March 17, 1939; Left US Oct 13, 1940 Cuba Oct 23, 1940 – April 16, 1941 Arrive US April 19, 1941 Left US April 10, 1942 Asiatic-Pacific Area April 17, 1942 – Sept 19, 1944 Battles/engagements Guadalcanal-Solomon Islands Sept 18,942 – November 9, 1942 (WOUNDED) Eastern New Guinea Oct1, 1943 – Dec 24, 1943 Bismarck-Archipelago Dec 26, 1943 – May 1, 1944 Peleliu, Palau Islands Sept 15, 1944 – Sept 19, 1944 KIA Peleliu Sept 19, 1944
Navy Cross-Purple Heart with gold star-Presidential Unit Citation ribbon bar with two stars-American Defense service Medal with Base Clasp-Asiatic/Pacific Campaign Medal WWII Victory Medal
If his enlistment had been terminated by discharge, it would have been HONORABLE.
George was quiet, had a serious nature, and was very shy. He was the only Lilja brother allowed to take on the responsibility of babysitting for younger cousin Effie Erikson.
George played baseball, football, and hockey during junior and senior years at Natick High School. Both he and his younger brother, Edwin, graduated high school in 1936. The circumstances for George graduating at age 19 remain unclear. Somehow, he was able to enlist in the National Guard in February during his senior year.
Before entering the USMC, he worked a couple of summers in Kennebunk, ME. There he was employed by one of the resort hotels as service staff. At the end of the summer season, he would return home by train and give his mother all of his earnings. This might total $25. George spent one summer in Ipswich, MA living in a mobile trailer with his uncle, Sven Erikson. They took on side jobs painting estate homes.
He did not marry and was never engaged to be.
George was two only months shy of his 28th birthday when he was killed in action at the battle of Peleliu.
Following the end of WWII Verner and Greta petitioned the US government to have George’s body returned to Natick, MA. The request was denied. Sadly, the government replied that there were not enough remains recovered on the battlefield to justify transfer. The remains of George Lilja are buried in the Cape Gloucester Military Cemetery, located on the South Pacific island ofNew Britain.
EDWIN LILJA NICKNAME “CURLY” DOBSeptember 17, 1918, at home in Natick DOD January 9, 2006 MILITARY Form DD 214—records incomplete Enlisted USMC May 19, 1938 Discharged 1957 Rank Gunnery Sergeant Weapons Qualification: Rifle Marksman, Completed Special Munitions Course
Service (sea and foreign) USS Texas August 1938 - August 1940 Banika Islands, Russell Group, BSI August 1944-Jan 1945
Recruiter duty-Keene, NH Active duty as weapons MDGT in Quantico, VA and Camp Lejune, NC Retired at Paris Island in 1957
Awards Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Presidential Unit Citation National Defense Medal, Pacific Theatre Medal
In 1944 Edwin’s three brothers became casualties, two KIA and one severely injured. Because of communication difficulties, he did not immediately find out that his two brothers had been killed. He was told that George was killed when he landed on the island on which Georgehad been stationed. He was later informed about Ralph’s death and Verner Jr’s injury when the military transport plane landed. Under the “sole survivor policy,” Edwin was ordered to return stateside. Against his wishes, the government did not allow him to remain with his unit and engage in combat. Edwin served almost twenty years in active duty.
Because of his vivacious and outgoing personality, he developed many lifelong friendships. It has been said that Edwin could charm the spots off a leopard. As a teenager, he earned money by caddying and also took piano/accordion lessons for four years. The music lessons probably contributed to his remarkable talent for ballroom dancing. Edwin played varsity baseball, basketball, tennis, track and hockey. He graduated Natick High School with the Class of 1936 and entered the USMC in 1938.
While serving as a USMC recruiter in Keene, NH, he married Barbara Huntley on February 28, 1942. During their fifty five years of marriage, they raised and supported a family of three daughters (Johanna, Beth, and Susan) who reflect that their dad never talked extensively about growing up, his brothers, or WWII. Following Edwin’s USMC discharge in 1957, the family moved to Tampa, FL where he continued his education in electronics. He owned and operated a successful TV sales and repair store for ten years. All three daughters graduated from Tampa High School and married men from South Dakota. Currently their families live in South Dakota.
In the late 1960’s Edwin retired to travel with Barbara in an RV. For the next twenty eight years they enjoyed traveling coast to coast. Fishing, dancing, and golf were among his favorite senior activities. The onset of a serious eye blinding condition, ocular pemphigoid, brought on a need for Edwin to attend The School for the Blind in Salt Lake City in 1994. They eventually moved to the Veterans State Home in Hot Springs, SD. Barbara passed away in 1998 as a result of chronic heart disease. Edwin later married Doris Stidham in Hot Springs, SD. They lived in Custer, SD for seven years. Edwin continued his daily walks with Doris and the family dog, Lady. He remained active in senior center activities and faithfully attended service and bible studies at the First Baptist Church. In spite of his blindness he remained cheerful and always ready to dance. Following a Christian based lifestyle was the focus for Edwin and continues with his extended family. At age 87Edwin died from colon cancer at Rapid City Regional Hospital. Edwin and Barbara Lilja are buried in Fort Meade Black Hills National Cemetery at Sturgis, SD.
Edwin’s funeral included full military honors that were provided by the Belle Fourche Honor Guard.
VERNER ARVID LILJA JR NICKNAMES “BABE” (child) “BEB” (adult) DOB December 26, 1921, DOD March 27, 1995 From USMC Discharge Record dated February 28, 1945* Due to unavoidable war conditions the info on this discharge certificate is incomplete Rank PFC USMC serial467574 Born December 26, 1921 at Natick, MA
Enlisted September 29, 1942 @ Boston, MA 5’7” blue eyes, blond hair ruddy complexion Weapons qualifications Rifle Marksman Nov 20, 1942
FOREIGN SERVICE: Roi and Namur, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands WOUNDS RECEIVED IN SERVICE:June 18, 1944 Saipan-Marianas Islands BATTLES: Roi and Namur, Kwajalein Atoll, MarshallIslands, Saipan SERVICE: honest and faithful AWARDS:Purple Heart (August 11, 1944), , Certificate of satisfactory service, andHonorable Service Button
Objections to reenlistment: Physical Disability Paid in Full: $212.41 MOP $100
After completing boot camp at Parris Island, Verner Lilja Jr. became a BAR gunner with Able Company, 24th Marines. Platoon: Rifle PFC Lilja served on Namur, and was wounded early on in the Saipan campaign, June 17, 1944. He wasevacuated to Fleet Hospital 108. Due to a gangrene condition, the left leg at the knee had to be amputated.
He was transferred to US Naval Hospital at MareIsland, CA to receive rehabilitation services. USMC rehabilitation assessment records dated February 26, 1945,indicate that Verner Jr hadprewaroccupations as welder, electrician, and machine operator. After discharge, his vocational goal included training and job placement in the air conditioning/refrigeration industry.
From 1921 until Robert’s birth in 1935 Verner Jr was the youngest of the brothers and acquired the nickname “Babe.”As a child and young adult he was rather shy, quiet and serious minded. The older brothers acted as role models and taught him the skills to complete daily house chores and develop physical agility. Trying to keep up with Ralph, George, and Edwin must have contributed to Verner Jr’s development of exceptional athletic skills. Like his brother Edwin, he enjoyed being on the dance floor.
As a youngster he was usually the first chosen when making up teams for a neighborhood “pick up” game of baseball or pond hockey.
He attended Natick public schools and was a member of the graduating Class of 1939 and served on the Class Executive Committee.His high school varsity sports included baseball, golf, and hockey. During senior year, Verner Jr was unanimously voted hockey captain. Following the 1938-39 hockey season he was selected as an all star for the Eastern Mass Schoolboy Hockey League.
Like his brothers, he also earned money for the family bycaddying andpainting with his dad and uncles.
Following his military discharge in February, 1945, he returned to Natick to live with his parents and younger brother, Robert. The left leg amputation presented challenges to overcome. Independent performance of the activities of daily living, physical mobility with use of a prosthesis, and renewed self confidence were all personal goals he achieved. He attended Northeastern University and completed courses in drafting.
On June 1, 1946, Verner Jr married Shirley Robblee. They were married for over forty-nine years and raised a family of three boys: George, Verner III (deceased 1956), and Michael; and three girls:Deborah (deceased 2009), Beverly, and Donna. Verner Jr and Shirley first lived in Millis, MA and moved to Natick, inthe early 1950’s.From 1950 through 1986 the family lived at three different addresses in Natick.All the children attended Natick public schools. The family enjoyed summer months at their cottage at Agawam Beach in Wareham, MA.
During the early 1950’s Verner Jr was employed as a draftsman at the Fenwal Engineering Company in Ashland, MA.
In May 1956 the Town of Natick granted him a retail package store license. For thirty years he owned and operated Lilja’s Package Storelocated on Rt 9 in East Natick. He was considered a respectable and honest businessman and was extremely generous in supporting local charities and organizations.
In 1997, his estate presented a gift in the form of a Technology Grant to the Lilja School. The donated funds were used to purchase hardware equipment and software for the new student computer lab.
Married life and business ownership probably provided the impetus for Verner Jr to develop a more extroverted personality with a sense of humor. Adult friends and family remember “Beb” as a likable guy who always had a positive attitude.“Beb” and Shirley rarely missed a dance beat when the orchestra played.
During his adulthood Verner Jr was a member of the Natick Elks, VFW, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, and the Natick Amputee Association.
Despite his physical disability, he continued to excel in athletics. He was a member of the Natick Men’s Bowling League and the first basemen for the regional Amputee Softball Team. Passion for the game of golf remained throughout his life. He was a member of the Natick Elks Golf League, New England Left Handed Golf Association and the National Amputee Golf Association. In the early 1960’s he won the National Amputee Golf Championship in Dallas, TX.
As an adult Verner Jr was not a member of any church. Shirley raised the children Roman Catholic.
Following his retirement in 1986, he and Shirley took summer residence in Wareham, MAand spent the winter months in Englewood, FL.
In 1967, at age 44,Verner Jr suffered his first heart attack. In 1979 underwent open heart bypass surgery at the University Hospital in Boston. The arteriosclerosis and heart disease probably triggered a mild stroke in the late 1980’s.
At age 73VernerJr diedas a result of cardiac arrest at Florida’s Englewood Community Hospital.
At age 79 Shirley Robblee Lilja diedfrom a cardiac arrest and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease complicationsat Wareham’s Tobey Hospital.
Verner Jr, Shirley, and Verner III Lilja along with Deborah Lilja Nordblom are buried in Natick’s Saint Patrick’s Cemetery.
The Color Guard of the Massachusetts Marine Corps League provided military honors at Verner Jr’s interment at Saint Patrick’s Cemetery.
ROBERT JOHAN LILJA, “BOBBY” DOBFebruary 11, 1935, DOD July 11, 2011 From form DD 214 November 2, 1956 RANK CPL USMC Serial (1446065)
Enlisted November 2, 1953 at Boston, MA
Single Male-blond hair,blue eyes, hgt-5’11” wght-156 lbs Discharged from active duty and transferred Marine Corps reserve (November 2, 1956) MOP $100 Terminal date of reserve obligation November 1, 1961 Character of Service-HONORABLE SERVICE DATA (6441) Aircraft Repairman DOT 5-80-120 Aircraft Mechanic