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
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 6 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!)
He died on March 31, 1993 at home. 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 Pennslyvania.
Photo at age 18
Photo at age 70
Draft card, 1940
Enlistment record, 1942
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
Veterans Burial Card
Wife's Obituary, Elizabeth Breisch, 2015