Peter Du Pre was born in May 1923. He has three brothers and one sister. He was the oldest boy. His father was in the tobacco business during the depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1939 in the United States]. They were not rich, but they were not poor either. They moved around New York and at one time were in Pennsylvania. His mother was a nurse. She was Canadian and she came across on a ferry to go to nursing school in New York. She became American by marrying his father. They were lucky because people had a need to smoke and that kept his father with a job. Du Pre walked to school. There were no buses. Northern New York is family-oriented. They were a close-knit family. His father loved to fish. Both his parents were in World War 1. His mother was a nurse with the Royal Air Force [Annotator's Note: Royal Canadian Air Force or RCAF] and served in Europe. His father was an infantryman in World War 1. His mother was the nurse for the neighborhood. His mother passed away while he was young. A few years later he lost his father and then he took care of his younger brothers.
Peter Du Pre was riding in his friend's truck when he heard on the radio that the Japs [Annotator's Note: a period derogatory term for Japanese] had bombed Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. There were binoculars in a storeroom at Pearl Harbor that had been hit by a bomb. They did not break, but the prisms had to be realigned. They sent the binoculars back to Rochester [Annotator’s Note: Rochester, New York]. The shop had to hire more staff to help repair the binoculars. Du Pre was one hired on to help with the repairs. He met his wife at this job. His father remarried and the lady did not like him and his brothers. He took care of his brothers. They all went into the service after that. The Army drafted his three brothers. Du Pre got a draft notice, but he got a deferment to fix binoculars. He and his brothers took advantage of the G.I. Bill [Annotator's Note: the G.I. Bill, or Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, was enacted by the United States Congress to aid United States veterans of World War 2 in transitioning back to civilian life and included financial aid for education, mortgages, business starts and unemployment]. Du Pre worked for an insurance company after the war.
Peter Du Pre turned down his next deferment and joined the service. His three brothers were already in the service. They sent him to Fort Niagara [Annotator's Note: Fort Niagara, New York] for basic training. While he was there the Army decided to put together a General Hospital. They needed every able-bodied person to be sent to Fort Bragg [Annotator's Note: Fort Bragg, North Carolina] because they needed medics. This is how Du Pre ended up in the medical field. The medical training was in Atlanta [Annotator's Note: Atlanta, Georgia] and they studied from two in the morning until seven at night. It was medical training express because they were preparing for the invasion of Europe and knew there would be a lot of casualties. His mother was a nurse during World War 1. The General Hospital was everything a regular hospital was, but it was mobile. They were getting assembled in England to be prepared for the invasion [Annotator's Note: D-Day; the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on 6 June 1944]. They did not receive men directly from the battlefield at first. They traveled with the Atlanta ambulance service to see how they dealt with stabbings on Saturday nights. The purpose was to build the hospital and take it to Europe. When they moved they would recreate the hospital. They practiced taking it apart at Fort Bragg and then sent it to England. When they got to England they reassembled it. They never ran out of people to work on. They became very proficient at their jobs. It was a highly functional facility. They worked on all wounded men. The day the war ended with Germany his hospital closed up because they were going to be sent to Japan. They would get a 30 day leave [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] before going to Japan. They became the medics for troop transports.
Peter Du Pre went to visit his sister in Fort Scott, Kansas. He spent a week with his sister before returning to New York. He worked on troops who arrived on troop transports. He was paid by check. He had intensive medical training. He decided to go to college and be a doctor. The school was full so he went back to work instead. He worked in a photographic sales department. He retired in 1979. He does not regret serving. Both his parents were gone. His experience without his parents helped him be prepared for war. The other medics like the pharmacists were GIs [Annotator's Note: government issue; also a slang term for an American soldier] just like him. He tried to learn from them. When he was in England he tried to learn things rather than go to the pubs. His father was in the lost battalion, the 77th [Annotator's Note: 77th Division], in World War 1.
Peter Du Pre talks at schools about World War 2. He thinks the younger generations have no idea about the war. He feels he is part of a disappearing breed. Through his time in service, he learned a lot of good stuff. He learned there was more than book learning. In England, there were two groups, the guys that wanted to go to pubs and the guys that wanted to learn. Du Pre was interested in learning while he was there. He thinks places like the Museum [Annotator's Note: The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana] are important.
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