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Howard James Breisch Sr.

CPL in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co A

ASN#13055070 Casualty: Wounded

Born 1917 in PA, Died 1993


County of enlistment: Philadelphia, PA
Other residence(s): Bethlehem, PA
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: skilled painters, construction and maintenance
Notes: AKA Hop
Source: 603rd Camouflage Engineer Roster provided by W. Anderson; 603rd handwritten list; B Company and Casualties; List of Casualties (Unofficial); photo from Ancestry®, Liberty HS yearbook 1935

Howard was born on August 24, 1917 in Bethlehem, PA. He graduated from Liberty High School in 1935 having played on the high school football team which had won the state championship in the fall of 1934.

His enlistment record shows that in 1942 (at the age of 25) he was 5'8" tall and weighed 213 pounds, so clearly he still had the build of a lineman.

His first job at Bethlehem Steel, shortly after graduating from high school in 1935, was as a laborer, running up and down 3 flights of stairs all day, hitting a large, swinging dust spout with a sledgehammer to keep it from clogging. (There's that football body at work again!) The air in the shop was thick with dust but there were no dust masks. They would tie bandannas around their faces as their only protection.

During the next few years he alternated between jobs at the plant and jobs his father was able to wrangle for him in city or state projects. He worked for a year as a file clerk in the Pennsylvania Health Department, and then returned to the plant. A 1938 layoff found him breaking rocks with a sledgehammer as part of a road crew, but he was back at the plant when they re-hired, working as a member of the plant patrol—a large in-plant police force with "one cop more than the city of Bethlehem," said Breisch.

He took a few more years off during the war, enlisting on March 11, 1942.

After enlisting, he completed a course at a radio school in Fort Monmouth, NJ in the summer of 1942, "following in the footsteps of his father, one of the radio pioneers of Bethlehem," and then was transferred to Fort Meade, MD.

He spent a total of 3 1/2 years in the military—28 months domestically and 14 months overseas (May 3, 1944-July 2, 1945). During that time, in June 1943, he married Elizabeth Wagner, also a Bethlehem native.

After his discharge on August 31, 1945, he returned to Bethlehem Steel and stayed there until his retirement in 1978. He had moved from a patrolman to a plant patrol first aid instructor and a training officer for the plant patrol. Then he was hired to be an artist in the safety department—sketching scenes of plant accidents for the corporate safety bulletin.

He also put his artistic skills to use in other ways—in 1972, for example, he was one of the contributing artists for a series of Bethlehem notecards, designed, printed, and sold as a community fundraiser.

During his last six years at the plant, he served as the OSHA liaison.

During that time he also served as tax collector for Bethlehem Township (an elected position) from 1965-1969. He was also a member, and former Sunday School teacher, at Salem Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.

In 1984, Bethlehem hired him back two days a week as a plant artist and graphic designer, making signs, posters, and flipcharts. (Interestingly enough, one of the things I noticed on his Veterans Compensation Application was his artistic printing—when I looked at that document, I was surprised that he wasn't an artist or architect, but it turned out he actually was!)

Late in life, he was a member of the Steelworkers Veterans Memorial Committee, which in 1989 erected a memorial to those steelworkers who served in the military.*

He died on March 31, 1993 at home, and is buried at Nisky Hill Cemetery in Bethlehem. He was survived by his wife and four children. (Elizabeth lived until 2015.) Two of his kids lived (in 2015) in North Carolina, one in Maine, and one in Pennsylvania.)

*The memorial was built with the aid of Bethlehem Steel plant personnel and machine shops and constructed in the shipping yard maintenance shop. It was originally located outside the company’s employee entrance to Bethlehem Steel. In 2020, it was moved to a new location outside the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, PA.

Photograph at age 18

Photograph at age 70


Draft card, 1940

Newspaper article 1942, describing early military service

Pennsylvania Veterans Compensation Application 1950

Newspaper article, 1972, describing his artwork

Newspaper article 1987, discusses his career history

Newspaper obituary

Veterans Burial Card

Find a Grave record

Wife's Obituary, Elizabeth Breisch, 2015

Article on Lehigh Valley Live website, 2020

Article on WFMZ website, 2024 (quotes from his Ghost Army website biography!)

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