A tale of three brothers
By Malinda Allison
Jan 3, 2024
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Upon learning of the recent death of Gene Diedrick, I recalled conversations I had with him in 2017 about his two brothers who died in World War II.

William (Bill) Diedrick

Brice Diedrick

The conversations started when I was contacted by a French woman, Wendy Lopez, who was in a program in which individuals “adopt” a grave of an American soldier. The purpose of the program is to teach younger generations about the sacrifices of these soldiers and to keep their memories alive.

Wendy had adopted the grave of William (Bill) Diedrick. She visited his grave and placed flowers on it. The American cemetery where William is buried is near the village of Colleville-sur-Mer, in Normandy. It overlooks the beach known as "Omaha."

According to the cemetery, he served with the 28th Infantry Regiment, which was then part of the 8th Division. After leaving New York Harbor in late 1943, they were stationed in Northern Ireland. From there, in July 1944, they were taken to Normandy and probably landed on the beach they called "Utah". He must have fought in the first part of the Invasion of Normandy that followed the June 6, 1944 landings.

Wendy sent a photo of Bill’s grave in France, on which she had placed yellow roses because he was a Texan.

Wendy wanted to contact the family and learn more about Bill. I put her in touch with Gene, and the two of them became frequent “pen pals” via email. They exchanged recipes and I understand that she made and
enjoyed Gene’s chili.

Gene shared with me a piece he had written about his brothers, which is below:

Brice and Bill Diedrick were as different as night and day. Brice was short, blond, hot headed, brash and very intelligent. Bill was tall and handsome, not very ambitious but smart; however, he didn’t show nor use it much. He was more the likeable guy who just gets along. Brice was ambitious and had finished his undergraduate work at Texas A&M and was going into Law School when he volunteered for the Air Force.
Now, Brice didn’t have to go to the service. He was too short for the Air Force Flight Training program and had a built in deferment for academic achievement. Yet, he pulled political strings. He was devoted to Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives at that time, and the Representative from the Honey Grove District of Texas. So, he got into flight school.
Bill had avoided the draft as long as he could and finally was drafted into the Infantry. He was actually a pretty intelligent guy, so he quickly qualified for Officers Candidate School. He became an officer about the same time that Brice did.
By the summer of 1944 Brice had become a pilot and was flying a bomber called a “Liberator” out of a base in Italy . Their missions were to bomb the Oil Fields of Romania and cut off the supply of petroleum to the German Army.
Bill had spent an awful lot of time in Northern Ireland and went over to France in the second wave of the invasion.  He had become a Captain in Patton’s Army by then, and his group suffered heavy casualties. Bill had, through attrition, become the Platoon leader. He had stopped their advance to call the roll, count heads, get re-organized, and proceed. As he marshaled his group, a German sniper opened fire on them lobbing mortars into their positions. Bill was killed when one  exploded very near him. 

At that point in time communications were very slow.  Bill had been great to write frequently, so we knew there was a problem when his “V-MAIL” stopped coming abruptly.  Then the word came via telegram ---“We regret to inform you that your son Captain William-----“
I remember my parents and Arthur [the elder brother] discussing the problem of telling Brice about Bill’s death.  At first they were not going to tell him. Then they decided to send him a letter. My sister, Manon, wrote the letter, and it was sent via V-MAIL, which was amazingly fast for that time.

We pieced all this together later, and it’s an amazing coincidence and tragic in nature.  It seems that Brice was preparing for yet another mission over Romania. This time he was to be the flight leader. His plane would fly first in formation, and he would call the shots.
In the short time before they were to take off Brice received his mail, and there was the letter about Bill. At that exact moment a man named Merle Parrish from Honey Grove, Texas, an old school chum of both brothers walked into Brice’s tent. He was stationed nearby and had heard that Brice was there, so he had come for a visit. He walked into that tent just as Brice finished reading the letter. Merle told us about this many years later. He was a comfort to Brice.
Most men would not have gone on that mission. But Brice, the patriot, was determined to fulfill his dream of being the flight leader and destroying Germany’s oil supplies. He went ahead and flew the mission even though he was in deep shock.
Of course, he was killed when his plane went down in Yugoslavia . The locals hid the remains of American flyers in caves high in the mountains where it was cold enough to preserve the bodies.  After the war the remains were returned to the U.S. and buried in a mass grave in St, Louis, as individual bodies could not be identified. 

Bill was buried in France.

There is a beautiful memorial for both boys at Oakwood Cemetery in Honey Grove.

If you drive by Oakwood Cemetery it is easy to see this memorial from the road. Every time I drive by I think about the sacrifices this family and many others made during World War II. It is also heartwarming and surprising to know that the sacrifices of Americans are still honored and remembered by the French people.