It is often said that there is a brotherhood formed between those who wear the uniform of the United States military. That statement means much more if you are one of the six Carpenter brothers from Independence who grew up together and were closer than most siblings are. They did everything together; that includes serving their country in World War II and Vietnam.

With the help of three of the Carpenter brothers' sons; Mike, Jeff and Kent, and surviving uncle Alva Ray Carpenter, they were able to reflect on the many stories of the five brothers that served in World War ll and younger brother Donnie who served in Vietnam. The oldest of the brothers was Clayton Elmer, US Navy pilot WWll; followed by Claude Leon, "Sonny Boy", US Marines-WWll and Korea; Gerald Leland "Tennesse Jed", US Navy WWll; Alva Ray, US Merchant Marines; James Kyle "Hongry Dog", US Navy; and Donald Eugene "Donnie", Navy Vietnam. There were two sisters, Alene Corn, the oldest child and Lila Carol, who was the sixth child, who did their duty back home to make sure the brothers were coming home to the family that loved them.

According to Kent Carpenter, son of Gerald, "We would gather for our annual family reunion and the brothers would gather together and tell stories. I remember as a kid sitting there listening to everything they were saying." 

Their father, O.R. Carpenter, pastored a couple of churches in the community and traveled the area as an evangelist, and with the help of their mother provided the family with a foundation of faith. 

"The brothers joined the military fairly close together. They all decided that they should join before being drafted and not having a choice of what branch they would be placed into. They all joined within days of each other with the exception of Elmer, who was the oldest," said Jeff Carpenter, son of Jim.

In November of 1943, Claude Leon "Sonny Boy" Carpenter, USMC, was part of the first landing party on the island of Tarawa, where he saw some the most intense battles in the Pacific theater of the war. Sonny Boy was presumed mortally wounded in one battle, but as he lay on the battlefield his best friend approached his body and noticed a pulse. The friend slung Sonny Boy over his shoulder and carried him back the the medics.

"I remember a story about Grandpa O.R. pacing the floor in the house when Grandma went up and asked him what was bothering him. He told her, 'Something is wrong with Sonny Boy.' That was the night that Sonny Boy was presumed mortally wounded at Tarawa," Carpenter said. "Grandpa Carpenter had that premonition that something had happened to his child. Grandpa and Grandma had tremendous faith, and it was that faith that took them through the days that their sons were at war." He added that it was a miracle that all of the boys came home alive.

At the age of 17, Alva Ray Carpenter joined the U.S. Merchant marines during World War ll. He completed his training at Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1941. On his first mission his ship encountered enemy German ships five miles off the East coast of the United States of America.

"The Germans were running up and down the coast as if they owned it," said Ray. 

Ray served as 1st Mate, "Wheelman," on a 10,000 ton P.T. boat. The boat had a crew of 16 men with three captains on the ship. The branch of the Merchant marines were widely considered to be the most dangerous job that a sailor could have because of the material and personnel that they carried. 

As a Wheelman, Ray was expected to maneuver the vessel through the dangerous waters while avoiding German torpedoes and floating mines.

"These mines were nearly impossible to avoid in the black of night," remembers Ray. "Our P.T. boat was often loaded with supplies and artillery and troops that were headed to land on a beachhead. Naval operations, for the Merchant marines, took place in all elements, brutal weather conditions, day and night and the men working 18 to 20 hour shifts. All the men were constantly watching for heavily armored vessels in their attempt to avoid enemy attacks from both the water and the fighter planes overhead."

Many of these ships were lost in battle and many lives lost. Ray reflects one such incident.

"We were under attack from an aerial assault during the Normandy invasion. An explosion erupted into a fiery blast that blew men overboard. It created a sea laden with burning oil slicks from the crippled boat," he said.

Ray suffered serious injuries to his arm and hands, still he was able to seek out his fallen shipmates that were blown off the ship and trying to stay afloat in the icy waters. 

"I remember diving into the cold water to rescue the injured and those that were unable to swim," Ray says. He personally brought a total of seven men to the safety of the shore that day. 

Ray credits his physical attributes to his brothers and their growing up as boxers and sportsman.

"We all excelled in athletics, but especially in swimming and boxing. However," Ray continued, "It was my faith in God, that my father instilled in me, that carried me through those years. Through the grace of God, I believe that he had watch over me with each step I made during that time. I've never prayed so hard in my life."

His military duty sent him to various theaters of action, Northern France, Africa, India, Tarawa and through that treacherous waters of the English channel.

"I was a Kansas boy, and I did what I thought was needed to be done," Ray proudly stated. 

"They were a tight knit group. They were always proud of each other. That's the thing I always remember the most of their conversations. Whenever we were at the family reunions, they were always found a way to talk about what each brother had accomplished. They bragged on each other and very proud of each of their brothers. That was just the way that they were raised," said Jeff Carpenter.