By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
Two Trumbull County men,
Herbert W. Seelbach of Girard and Robert H. Brothers of Howland, veterans of World War II and the Korean War, respectively, have been selected for induction into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
The Nov. 6 induction ceremony in Columbus will be combined with the Veterans Day Parade. Gov. Ted Strickland will present the awards.
Many members of Seelbach’s and Brothers’ families will be in attendance to see the men receive the recognition both say they are grateful to receive.
“It’s an honor,” said Seelbach.
“It’s quite an honor. At this time in my life, it couldn’t be a nicer thing to be associated with the people in the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame,” Brothers said.
Robert H. Brothers’ story
From the time he left Korea until 1995, Brothers never talked about the war — not to his family or other veterans.
One day, he read about a ceremony June 25, the day the Korean War started, and he and a buddy went.
There were about 150 Korean War veterans there, and “we talked and talked. I went home and cried for two days,” he said.
Brothers quickly became active in the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 137 of the Mahoning Valley and served six years as chairman of the Korean War Veterans Tell America program, telling students about the so-called “Forgotten War.”
Over the years, Brothers estimates he has told the Korean War story to more than 40,000 students in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties, and to many civic, veterans and church organizations as well.
Brothers said he was “just lucky” not to have been wounded in Korea, although he still has trouble with his feet, caused by frostbite.
He said it was terribly cold in Korea, sometimes 30 or 40 degrees below zero, and the winter gear hadn’t arrived at first.
He said that of the 395 days he was in Korea, for all but one week of rest and recreation he was on the front lines or within 10 miles of the front. He said they learned to dig up the fermented spicy cabbage called kimchi, which the Koreans buried in the ground, and eat it so they would smell the same as the Koreans.
“Meat eaters smell different and they could find us. After eating the kimchi, there were times at night we would bump into each other. We couldn’t tell the difference,” he said.
It is stories such as that Brothers tells the older students to give them an idea of the horror that is combat, how real and terrible it is. To the younger students, he talks about military life and “what we ate.”
“Combat is not a television show. I did some things during the war I’m not proud of, but I can say publicly I am proud to have served my country,” he said.
“Fortunately, I survived the war, and I survived long enough afterward to find some peace of mind,” Brothers said.
He said the Korean War was America’s second “bloodiest” war after the Civil War.
Sixty percent of the casualties were teenage boys — Brothers celebrated his 18th birthday in Korea — and 4,597 were killed in his division alone. He said 350 Americans died for every square mile of South Korea.
“If there was a way everybody could experience combat, maybe we could find a better way to settle differences,” Brothers said.
Herbert W. Seelbach’s story
Seelbach, born in Utica, Ohio, enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 31, 1943, after graduating from The Ohio State University in 1938 and teaching for several years in southern Ohio.
He had made a name for himself as a clarinet, flute and saxophone player in college, and the Navy assigned him to bands that entertained the troops.
One of his favorite memories is playing in the band in August 1944 for a Bob Hope/Frances Langford show on the Admiralty Islands shipyard in the South Pacific, where he was stationed.
He said he once hoisted Hope onto his shoulders so Hope could change a bulb on the stage that had burned out. Seelbach said he had hoped to travel with the Hope show, but the intestinal illness that cut his Navy career short also ended that dream.
He said he enjoyed playing for the troops but added it was sad they had to be there. He said it was “quite exciting’ to play “California Here I Come” for the sailors whose ships couldn’t be repaired there and were being sent back to the states.
Seelbach returned to teaching at Bucyrus schools after his discharge but in 1945 came to Girard High School, where he taught instrumental music and directed the band until retiring in 1977.
Over his 32-year career, he brought the gift of music to hundreds of students, including his own children, Herbert Jr., who played the tuba, brass horn and bass violin; Mark, trumpet; Brad, clarinet; Sharon, clarinet, and Scott, trombone.
He also brought the tradition of service to his family. His son, Herb, was on a Navy destroyer and in the Navy band in South America during the Bay of Pigs incident, and his grandson, Skylar, recently completed Naval basic training. His granddaughter, Renee, after graduating from college, taught music at a Navaho Nation school for eight years.
In addition to his public-school musical duties, Seelbach was master of ceremonies and conductor of the Packard Band in Warren for 20 years, was a member of The Kenley Players Orchestra for 20 years, toured with many notable bands, including the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and the Ray McKinley Orchestra, and had his own group, the Seelbach Dixie Land Band.
A 93, most of Seelbach’s contemporaries have died, including the musical friends with whom he used to golf. He said he participates in activities at the Girard Senior Center when he can.
But, he has his memories.
“I’ll tell you, I just liked working with students,” Seelbach said.
WHO THEY ARE
ROBERT H. BROTHERS
A lifelong resident of Trumbull County and decorated Korean War veteran, Brothers served on active duty in the Army’s “A” Battery, 92nd Anti-aircraft Artillery (automatic weapons) Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division from 1949 to 1952. He was in Korea for 395 days, from July 18, 1950, to Aug. 13, 1951, fighting in six major campaigns and never more than 10 miles from the front.
Family: Parents, the late Gerald E. and Alta Brothers; wife, the former Virginia O’Reilly of Niles, whom he married Aug. 29, 1953; children, Ann Louise Bush of Millersburg; Robert W. in Texas; and David W. of Niles; 13 siblings, 11 of whom are still alive, including a brother, Kenneth of Warren, and two sisters, Elaine Mansfield of Southington and Dorothy Kelly of Mecca.
Residence: Howland; grew up on Warren’s west side and lived for many years in Howland and Niles.
Education: Warren G. Harding High School, Class of 1949; numerous work-related continuing-education courses at Kent State and Youngstown State Universities and the companies for which he worked.
Military service: Ohio National Guard, 1947-1949, Heavy Mortar Co., 145th Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Division; Army, 1949-1952. Fought in six major campaigns in Korea.
Decorations: Good Conduct Medal, Army Occupation World War II (Japan), National Defense Medal, Korean Service Medal with six Bronze Stars, United Nations Medal (Korea), Korean War Service Medal Republic of Korea (ROK), and numerous citations.
Rank when discharged from the Army: staff sergeant.
Employment: Lordstown Ordnance Depot, 1952-1954; Republic Steel Corp., Warren, 1954-1959; Alcan Aluminum Corp., 1959-1964; General Motors Corp., Packard Electric Division, 1964-1992, where as a waste analyst from 1985 to 1992 he was recognized for saving Packard $1.7 million the first two years of the waste program.
Veterans organizations: Past commander, American Legion William McKinley Post 106, Niles; Korean War Veterans Association, Chapter 137 of the Mahoning Valley; committee to fund and erect a memorial in the Mahoning Valley for Korean War at Austintown Wickliffe Park; chaplain, Trumbull County American Legion Honor Guard; member, Trumbull County Veterans Service Commission; member, Western Reserve Veterans Memorial Committee.
Civic activities: Member, First Christian Church, Niles, where he was a cast member for 34 consecutive years of “It Is Finished,” a production of the church; volunteer, Red Cross Bloodmobile; past president, Niles Historical Society; trustee, Niles Churches for Housing and Interfaith Churches for Housing; named one of 10 Community Stars for 2007; member, County Red Cross.
HERBERT W. SEELBACH
Musician Herbert Seelbach attended The Ohio State University, where he was first-chair solo clarinet of the band from 1935 to 1938 and was elected president of the Concert Band in 1938. His talents also include flute, and tenor and alto saxophone. After graduation he accepted several teaching appointments throughout southern Ohio until his enlistment in the Navy on Dec. 31, 1943. His musical skills were recognized, and the Navy selected him for various Navy musical organizations, including one that performed with comedian Bob Hope and movie star Frances Langford on the Admiralty Islands in the South Pacific, entertaining the troops on one of Hope’s USO shows.
Family: Wife, Thora, deceased; children, Herbert Jr. of Findlay; Mark of Columbus; Brad of Girard; Sharon Gilbert in California, and Scott in Florida.
Military service: Enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 31, 1943; discharged Feb. 19, 1945, his Naval career cut short by a severe intestinal illness.
Rank when discharged: Musician second class.
Education: Ohio State University, bachelor’s in education, 1938; Youngstown State University, master’s in music education, 1972.
Employment: Instrumental music teacher and band director at Girard High School from 1945 until his retirement in 1977; conductor and master of ceremonies, Packard Band in Warren, 1957-1977, including a performance of the Packard Pep Band on Oct. 9, 1960, when it played for John F. Kennedy in Warren Courthouse Square one month before he was elected president; member, Kenley Players Orchestra, 1958-1978; member, several well-known musical groups, including the Jimmy Dorsey and Ray McKinley orchestras; formed his own group, the Seelbach Dixie Land Band; instructor, YSU, 1970-1972.
Honors: Freedom Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award, 1968.
Civic activities: Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for 65 years; Supported the Shriners by marching in their parades; lifelong member of the Methodist church.
Sources: Robert H. Brothers and Herbert Seelbach