Personality Plus best describes her spunk and spirit, and I knew a story of love and sacrifice resided in her heart. Little did this journalist know that her home front narrative would open the door to one of the most remarkable untold accounts of World War II. If made into a movie, I’ll volunteer to write the screenplay.
Born and raised in Covington, when asked her birthdate, Miss Virginia replied with a smile, “Now, that’s not something you ask of a lady.”
Married without her parent’s knowledge at the age of sixteen to Fred Lott, Miss Virginia and her husband would travel a familiar path of the Greatest Generation, one of service, sacrifice and rebuilding their lives after a worldwide crusade.
“Fred joined with his two brothers, Fred the Army, Henry the Navy, and Herbert the Marines,” Miss Virginia said. “I guess they figured joining three different branches would offer a better chance of at least one returning home.”
Miss Virginia joined her husband briefly during his training in Texas and his first posting in California. “Fred was in charge of an anti-aircraft unit protecting the West Coast,” she said. “But it wasn’t long before he was sent to Seattle for deployment in the Pacific.”
Pregnant with their first child, Miss Virginia traveled home to Georgia to live with her parents and to await the return of her husband. The fact that Fred Lott did return from the Pacific is something of a miracle.
The words of Fred Lott Jr: “Dad didn’t talk much of the war but I know he was in charge of a half track with a 20mm anti-aircraft gun and a seven-man crew. He and his crew saw action in the Palau Island Group (better known as the Battle of Peleliu Island) and I know at one point they were in hand-to-hand combat. After that fight dad hit a couple more islands before his last battle.”
Fred Lott survived his last battle on a speck of an island called Iwo Jima. Sent ashore with a half track and gun crew, the following pieces of the story are recollections by Miss Virginia and her son, Fred Jr:
Miss Virginia: “My husband and his men arrived on Iwo Jima as the flag was raised atop Mount Suribachi. Fred said there was great joy by the ground troops and ships at sea upon seeing the Stars and Stripes flying over the island. Moments later they hit the land mine.”
Fred Jr.: “Moments after the flag raising, Dad’s half track hit a ground rocket (a land mine crafted from a Japanese artillery shell). All his men were killed; dad was the only survivor.”
Now an extraordinary quirk of fate and the unpredictable nature of war reunited three brothers. The odds must be astronomical, but this is the story:
Fred Lott’s back was broken and his chest shattered. Evacuated to one of four LST (H) ships (large LST landing craft converted into hospital ships, each with four surgeons and 27 corpsmen), he was stabilized and shipped to one of the larger hospital ships, either the USS Samaritan AH-10 or USS Solace AH-5. Aboard the larger hospital ship was Corpsman Henry Lott, Fred’s brother. Although in critical condition, Fred talked with his brother before being sent for additional medical treatments in Saipan, Guam, or perhaps the Mariana Islands.
Meanwhile, on Iwo Jima, Marine Herbert Lott received a ‘million dollar’ wound, serious enough to get him out of combat but not permanently debilitating. He was evacuated to the same hospital ship on which his older brother had received treatment and the other brother, Henry, served as a corpsman. The Lott family is not sure if Henry and Herbert met aboard the hospital ship, but fate did save all three brothers from the indispensable cost of freedom, all three at the same place and at the same time in one of the most horrific battles of WWII, plus ended up on the same hospital ship.
After extensive research I could not find another occasion during WWII where three brothers serving in three different branches of the service became united during the same battle at the same time. This is truly one of the best kept untold secrets of WWII.
After further surgeries and a long hospitalization in Hawaii, Fred Lott ultimately returned to Georgia. He remained in a body cast for over a year, hospitalized in either Savannah or Milledgeville, after which he wore a back brace for two years.
Miss Virginia: “It was difficult to visit Fred since gasoline was rationed, but we did the best we could. Herbert had recovered from his wounds and was home, too. Herbert managed to find enough gas for us to visit Fred on occasion. Fred Jr. was one year old before my husband saw his face. My husband suffered with back pain all his life but after 10 years of rehabilitation he found employment at the Covington Post Office and worked alongside his brother, Herbert.”
“God was good to us,” Miss Virginia continued. “We had a full life and raised three children, Fred Jr., Susan and Nancy. We were grateful for jobs and a good life. Fred retired from the post office and also served as the Commander of the American Legion. I worked in banking.”
Miss Virginia’s humble statement does not reflect her brilliant career at the Bank of Covington: Starting in March of 1957, Miss Virginia worked as a filing clerk, teller, branch manager, bank vice-president and branch coordinator until retirement in 1989 - 32 years serving the people and community of Newton County. “I loved every minute of it,” she said.
Her final thoughts: “I was a member of the home front and it was hard waiting on your man to come back from war. I wrote him a letter every day and he wrote me when he could. But I had great support from my family and friends. We had a good life.” Fred Lott passed from this life in 2004.
When asked if I could take her picture, Miss Virginia said, “No, I’m not properly dressed and I haven’t done my hair this morning.” Thanking her for the interview and offering an apology for asking her age at the beginning of our talk, Miss Virginia replied with a grin, “I appreciate the apology…….and I’ll be 90 in October.”
Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran, columnist and freelance writer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or aveteransstory.us.