Fairfax City WWII veteran writes memoir
Thursday, November 12, 2009
On Dec. 8, 1941, Bernard "Bud" Loftus walked into a Marine recruiting station in Philadelphia and volunteered to serve his country, motivated by the attack at Pearl Harbor the previous day. The Marines accepted him but told the 17-year-old he should finish high school first.
About a week after graduating, Loftus was on a train headed to Parris Island for basic training. When most of his platoon was shipped off to battle, Loftus stayed behind and held a variety of administrative and training positions.
"I figured I would not get into the war," he said.
Ultimately, he did get his wish to serve in the Pacific theater late in World War II, helping to supply troops and battling Kamikaze fighter planes during the Battle of Okinawa. His ship, the USS Karnes, later went to Manila and other areas of the Philippines.
Although nothing he did as an individual made it into the history books, Loftus' story of military and government service is a typical "American dream" narrative, said his daughter, Cecilia Lahiff, who urged her father to publish his memoirs.
"You just don't see that type of hard work anymore," Lahiff said. "He was proud to serve his country."
Loftus, 85, began writing about his life and his family history in the mid 1970s, after visiting his relatives in Ireland for the first time. Ultimately, he completed a 315-page memoir, "Bud Loftus: An Irish-American's Journey." Published by Lulu.com, a self-publishing site, the book is set for a Nov. 26 launch.
Loftus grew up on welfare in Philadelphia, the son of Irish immigrants. He and his siblings were able to attend a local Catholic school for free, and his education and test scores set him apart from some of his fellow young recruits in the Marine Corps.
At the end of the war, the Marine Corps "put us out and said we could go to college for free," Loftus said. He seized the opportunity, completing the pre-med program at LaSalle University.
Loftus got a job at the Food and Drug Administration and worked his way up. He ultimately served as the agency's first director of the Division of Drug Manufacturing.
After retiring from the FDA, Loftus worked in the private drug industry for 17 years, at times meeting German and Japanese counterparts who shared his vivid memories of World War II, he said.
Loftus and his wife Jane, 42-year residents of Fairfax City, raised seven children and now have 17 grandchildren.
"It's an incredible gift to all of us," Lahiff said of the book.