|Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (summer resident of Arden, Delaware)||Student|
|European||Company “I,” 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division|
|Military Occupational Specialty||Campaigns/Battles|
|745 (rifleman)||Battle of Normandy|
Early Life & Family
Louis Waldo Bellow was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 13, 1924. He was the son of Louis Isaac Bellow and Jeannette Cotlar Bellow. Bellow’s father had emigrated to the United States from Russia around 1891 and subsequently become an American citizen. Census records periodically recorded changes in the elder Bellow’s occupation: cotton goods jobber (1920), distributor for an electric washing machine wholesaler (1930), and treasurer for a finance company (1940).
The younger Bellow went by his middle name, Waldo. He had two older sisters and a younger sister.
The Bellows were recorded on the 1930 and 1940 censuses living at 5423 Gainor Road in Philadelphia. The Bellow family was Jewish but not particularly religious. They spent their summers in the Village of Arden, an enclave for artists and intellectuals in northeastern New Castle County. Jeanette Bellow wrote in a letter to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission:
We had a cottage in Arden, Delaware for 15 years where Waldo spent every summer. It was the place he loved most– […] He gave solos (on his violin there (in Arden) since he was 8 years old.[)]– He carried on a weekly news sheet for several years. He edited and wrote it. The Ardenfolk considered him belonging to them and I have letters to that effect.
An article printed in Journal-Every Evening on August 7, 1939, noted his participation during a music festival held in Arden the previous weekend: “Waldo Bellow, a young violinist, who is a summer resident here, played ‘The Legend,’ by Wieniawski.”
Journal-Every Evening also reported that when Bellow “was 16, he entered a peace essay contest, sponsored by the Golden Slipper, a Masonic organization. The title of his prizewinning essay was ‘Airplanes Over France.’”
In 1941, after graduating from Overbook High School in Philadelphia, Bellow enrolled in nearby West Chester State Teachers College (now West Chester University), where he studied music and journalism. Bellow’s school newspaper, Quad Angles, described him:
He was a quiet, rather retiring student; nevertheless, his musical talents were unusually well rounded as he participated in the Orchestra, but was also an unusually gifted violinist. In addition, he was an earnest student of the classics and an authority on the theories and trends that lie behind the work of modern composers.
One of his college classmates, Joseph Doran, wrote about Bellow in a column in Quad Angles that “To see him without his violin under his arm would be as startling to students as to see any other fellow without trousers.” Doran added that Bellow’s “friends sensed in him a radiating beam of genius and an attracting surplus of fine, if dry, humor.”
In the fall of 1942, Bellow began writing a column in Quad Angles entitled Overtones. In one of his pieces, printed on November 13, 1942, Bellow passionately argued that music could inspire the country, colorfully ridiculing those people who claimed the arts should not be taught during wartime:
Who are these Lilliputians who with tiny fists beat their chests in which slumber microscopic souls and proclaim the end of art? Will they never learn that no war is bigger than the bigness of only one man’s soul who pours out his life’s blood in creation or in sacrifice? Only crazed animals march into Klin and with gorilla hands, shaped only for clawing and not creating, destroy Tschaikowsky’s [sic] manuscripts. Who are these local fascist superintendents who croak, “This is war. Abolish music and art from the curriculum.” […]
The second front is on. And it moves on with a song in its heart. And when you stifle the song in men’s hearts, that’s when defeat is near. We will know that the tide has turned when the Horst Wessel [Lied] begins to flat and the choir thins out.
While in college, Bellow decided to join the U.S. Army’s Enlisted Reserve Corps (E.R.C.). College students were encouraged to sign up for the E.R.C.—they could do so as young as age 17—with the understanding that they would be able to continue their schooling until the Army needed them, no sooner than their 18th birthday. A document suggests that Bellow joined the E.R.C. on November 27, 1942. Regardless, a notation on his draft card shows that he was in the E.R.C. by the time he registered for the draft on December 12, 1942. The registrar described him as standing about five feet, 6½ inches tall and weighing 130 lbs., with brown hair and eyes. She noted that Bellow wore glasses and had a two-inch scar on his forehead.
The choice to serve was entirely Bellow’s. His niece, Lyndie Callan, recalls: “He wore thick glasses and had flat feet and would have qualified for 4F [unsuitable for military service] status, but he wanted to crush fascism, even at the cost of his own life.”
Bellow was one of 120 E.R.C. men from West Chester State Teachers College called up for active duty in early 1943. They reported to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, on March 1, 1943. In her statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, his mother wrote that Private Bellow arrived at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, around March 5, 1943. She wrote that after basic training, her son transferred to Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida, around May 1943 and to Camp Pickett, Virginia, in June 1943.
At Camp Gordon Johnston, Private Bellow likely joined Company “I, ”112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. Indeed, a Company “I” history stated that “In May  trained replacements were received from Camp Walters, [sic] Texas and Camp Robinson, Ark.” The company boarded a train on May 31, 1943, and arrived at Camp Pickett the following day, movements consistent with Bellow’s mother’s statement.
Coincidentally, the 28th Infantry Division had originally been part of the Pennsylvania National Guard. After the division was federalized on February 17, 1941, however, personnel transferred in from all over the country.
The short, bespectacled musician stood out in an infantry unit. The battalion history noted Private Bellow was “fanatic about classical music[.]” Perhaps the only Military Occupational Specialty (M.O.S.) that would have really fit him as a member of an infantry rifle company was bugler (which in combat also served as a messenger and clerk). But by the time Bellow completed his training, the U.S. Army needed riflemen first and foremost.
Private Bellow was assigned to 3rd Platoon, Company “I,” 112th Infantry. Private Bellow’s mother wrote that his platoon leader, 2nd Lieutenant Frank S. “Pendleton wrote me [that Private Bellow] used to lift the morale of the regiment in [bivouac] by whistling tunes of symphonies wherein they would join in[.]”
During the summer of 1943, Bellow’s unit arrived in Elkins, West Virginia, for several weeks of exercises in the Allegheny Mountains of the West Virginia Maneuver Area. The unit then moved to Norfolk, Virginia, for amphibious training.
On September 30, 1943, Bellow’s unit entered staging at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts, before shipping out from the Boston Port of Embarkation on October 8, 1943. Their transport, the U.S.A.T. Santa Paula, arrived at Cardiff, Wales, on October 18, 1943.
Bellow and his unit trained in Wales for the next five months before moving to England in March 1944. A company history mentioned him on an entry dated March 22, 1944: “Lt. Buitendyk and EM [enlisted men] Ford, Estes, Johnson, Walls, Ash, Ayers, Finch, Bellow and Seeley went to Anti Aircraft School located at Aberayron, Wales, a British Anti Aircraft School.”
During the spring of 1944, Company “I” continued with regular training: marches, field exercises, and time at the firing range.
The 28th Infantry Division was dispatched to France some six weeks into the invasion of Normandy. During that time, the Allies had established a secure foothold but struggled to push inland against tenacious resistance by German forces in the hedgerow country of Normandy. 3rd Battalion of the 112th Infantry boarded ships at the port of Southampton on July 21, 1944, disembarking at Omaha Beach two days later. Bellow and his unit marched to the area of Bricqueville. Their first few days in Normandy were quiet except for regular nightly harassment by a single Luftwaffe plane, dubbed “Bed-Check Charlie.”
While waiting to enter combat, Private Bellow continued his intellectual pursuits. According to correspondence written by his mother to the War Department, Bellow was writing what he called a “Peace symphony” and taking notes so he would eventually be able to write a book about his experiences. Indeed, a history of 3rd Battalion, 112th Infantry—compiled at war’s end—mentioned that around July 24–28, 1944, Bellow “was in the throes of completing the composition of a violin concerto.”
The battalion history added that Private Bellow had some good-natured fun at the expense of his squad leader, Staff Sergeant Alex L. Horishny (1918–1987): “Pvt. Bellows, [sic] 19 years old, showed great talent in ballad writing also. He wrote a little ditty to the tune of ‘Little Orphan Annie’, sat[i]rizing Noah-Pickles-Sirah Horishny, who enjoyed teasing him.”
In the meantime, the U.S. First Army launched Operation Cobra on July 25, 1944, finally breaking the deadlock. Although the Allies finally broke out into open country, the fighting in Normandy was not quite over yet. On the afternoon of July 29, 1944, Bellow’s battalion moved by truck to Saint-Lô, a crossroads city that had been all but destroyed during the recent fighting. 3rd Battalion continued another five miles southwest of the city. Bellow’s battalion came under some artillery fire and that night German aircraft bombed the area, but they sustained no casualties. 3rd Battalion continued south by during the subsequent days but saw little sign of the enemy.
The 28th Infantry Division’s baptism by fire in World War II would be the assault on Percy. The town’s small size belied its strategic importance. Like Saint-Lô, Percy was a crossroads, making its capture vital in securing surrounding areas, where hedgerows rendered cross-country travel impractical.
Combat in Normandy
The 112th Infantry entered combat for the first time near Percy. For most of August 1, 1944, Private Bellow’s battalion (3rd Battalion, 112th Infantry) was in reserve but went into the line that evening.
On the morning of August 2, 1944, 3rd Battalion launched its first assault, with Company “K” and Private Bellow’s Company “I” in the lead and Company “L” in reserve. The attack began inauspiciously when one man in Bellow’s company was killed by friendly artillery fire that fell short, although the Americans soon took the village of La Gendrinière, southeast of Percy.
During subsequent days, the 112th Infantry continued advancing to the southeast. On the afternoon of August 4, 1944, 2nd Platoon and Bellow’s 3rd Platoon fixed bayonets on their rifles and launched an assault on another hill, with the rest of the company providing support. The battalion history recorded: “They cut the barbed wire and kept advancing till the high ground was taken….throwing fragmentary grenades as if in a baseball game.”
The following day, August 5, 1944, 3rd Battalion moved to the vicinity of Champ-du-Boult. On August 7, 1944, Company “I” took Hill 215 with a flanking maneuver, taking heavy casualties in the process. 3rd Battalion continued its advance the next day, assaulting high ground in the neighboring 110th Infantry Regiment’s sector.
In a 1947 letter to the Office of the Quartermaster General, Jeannette Bellow stated that she received a letter from Private 1st Class William Nealis (1922–1953) and that “He wrote that on Aug 8- 1944 he was saved by my son.” She summarized Nealis’s account in her own letter:
Nealis was stricken by a bullet in the leg. He lay helpless. My son spied him and amidst furious shooting ran to aid him. He gave him his own canteen of water. There were no medical aides around. My boy called to his Sgt. Alex Horishny.
In spite of the intense shooting around, they both ran a few miles, to get the medics and a litter. They were stationed in a little woods off to the left, facing the firing lines.
They put Nealis on the litter, my son assisting carried him off until Nealis was out of reach of the whizzing of snipers all around.
The 112th Infantry found that in Normandy, there was always another hill. On the afternoon of August 9, 1944, near Les Monts Bonnel north of Sourdeval, Companies “K” and “L” launched an assault on Hill 288, with Company “I” in reserve. The attack quickly lost cohesion and both assaulting companies were pinned down until nightfall, when they were able to withdraw under cover of darkness.
The next morning, August 10, 1944, 3rd Battalion renewed the attack on Hill 288, this time spearheaded by Private Bellow’s Company “I.” 1st and 3rd Platoons (along with a platoon from Company “K”) led the advance, supported by mortar and machine gun fire.
By this point, Company “I” was so short of officers—2nd Lieutenant Pendleton had been wounded on August 5, 1944—that a platoon sergeant, Technical Sergeant Carl Smith, was commanding Bellow’s 3rd Platoon. The 3rd Battalion History stated:
While assaulting from hedgerow to hedgerow, T/Sgt. Smith and force were pinned down by intense small automatic and sniper fire. A hedgerow was the only cover afforded the brave unit. The enemy lay in a sunken road, completely covered. With only 15 yards between them, they hurled fragmentary grenades at eachother, [sic] casualties being inflicted on both sides. 1st Lt. Paulger asks Don’t-get-Smart Sgt. Smith if he thought he wanted to withdraw.
T/Sgt. Smith replied fiercely, “I would rather die and go to hell than withdraw. I’ll take it with my own platoon!” And he did!
During the battle, Private Bellow again jumped into action when one of his comrades was hit. In her postwar letter to the Office of the Quartermaster General, Jeannette Bellow wrote of an account relayed to her by Staff Sergeant Horishny, himself wounded on August 10, 1944, during a visit to her home:
He told us that my son ran to help another buddy by the name of Hartley, who was shot and killed.
While he was trying to help Hartley a bullet went through my son & killed him.
I am giving you these details as I feel sure you would want them recorded in the National Archives instead of just “Killed in action[.”]
Private Bellow’s burial report stated that he was killed by multiple shrapnel wounds. However, the hospital admission card filled out under his service number stated he was struck in the face by a bullet or other projectile and killed. (Hospital cards were filled out even when a soldier died prior to reaching medical care, as in this case.)
3rd Battalion secured Hill 288 around 2116 hours that night.
The inventory of Private Bellow’s belongings was short: a wallet with a photo, a fountain pen, souvenir coins, two identification cards, a mechanical pencil, eyeglasses (with one lens missing), and sunglasses.
In 1946, Jeannette Bellow wrote to General Omar Bradley:
I am hoping you can get details of the incident for me; as that cold, detached telegram failed to do. […] I am particularly anxious to get a “Peace symphony” he was composing and also a small address book in which he had jotted down ideas to formulate a book after the war.
It is two years since he was killed yet I can’t give up the idea of trying to get back everything that was attached to him – He was my only son and would have made a fine contribution to the world–
There is no indication that the books or symphony were ever found.
Private Bellow was initially buried at the military cemetery at Le Chêne Guérin on August 16, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. After the war, his family requested that his body be repatriated to the United States. In 1949, Private Bellow returned to the United States aboard the Liberty ship Barney Kirschbaum. The body, accompanied by a military escort, arrived in Claymont, Delaware, on March 23, 1949. Bellow was subsequently buried at the Village of Arden Memorial Garden.
In a letter to President Harry S. Truman dated March 8, 1946, Bellow’s mother lamented:
Our country is poorer for having lost boys of creative ability. He had composed a number of things for violin and piano in his all too early youth; but never permitted to have them recorded as he always felt they needed perfecting. I do have many of his writings before he went into the army. Several prize winners.
Although Private Bellow was a Pennsylvanian, due to his strong connection to Arden, Delaware, he was included in the Delaware Memorial Volume and honored at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle. His name was also included on an honor roll at West Chester State Teachers College.
The man that Private Bellow died attempting to save was in fact wounded, not killed. Morning reports and hospital admission card records document that Private 1st Class Julian Allen Harley (1918–2017) was wounded in the buttock and hip by a rifle round and treated at the 44th Evacuation Hospital. He returned to duty in November 1944 but in January 1945, he was severely wounded by the nearby explosion from an artillery shell. He suffered lung injuries and a hemothorax. He was discharged from the hospital and the U.S. Army in June 1945 and lived to the age of 98.
2nd Lieutenant Pendleton (1921–1997), Staff Sergeant Horishny (1918–1987), and Private 1st Class (later Corporal) Nealis (1922–1953) all recovered from their wounds but were discharged from the U.S. Army due to disability incurred in the line of duty.
Military headstones provided to families of deceased servicemembers after the war typically listed only middle initial. The U.S. Army complied with a request by Jeannette Bellow to have her son’s read Louis Waldo Bellow, since he went by his middle name.
Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives, to Private Bellow’s niece, Lyndie Callan, and to Thomas Brady (son of Lewis John Brady, a man in Bellow’s platoon) for contributing information and photos. Thanks also go out to the Delaware Public Archives and Special Collections, Francis Harvey Green Library, West Chester University for the use of their photos.
“3rd Bn 112 Inf. History.” Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library. https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/4394/rec/2
“120 E. R. C. Men Leave For Army.” Quad Angles, March 2, 1943. West Chester University Digital Collections. https://digital.klnpa.org/digital/collection/wcnp01/id/10968/rec/4
The 1942 Serpentine. Courtesy of Special Collections, Francis Harvey Green Library, West Chester University. https://archive.org/details/serpentine1942penn/page/172/mode/2up
The 1945 Serpentine. Courtesy of Special Collections, Francis Harvey Green Library, West Chester University. https://archive.org/details/serpentine1945penn/page/90/mode/2up
Applications for Headstones, compiled 1/1/1925–6/30/1970, documenting the period c. 1776–1970. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2375/images/40050_1220705228_0384-00199
Bellow, Jeannette C. Letter to General Omar Bradley, September 29, 1946. National Archives. https://delawareswwiifallen.files.wordpress.com/2022/11/jean-bellow-letter-to-general-bradley.pdf
Bellow, Jeannette C. Letter to the Office of the Quartermaster General, October 19, 1947. National Archives. https://delawareswwiifallen.files.wordpress.com/2022/11/jean-bellow-letter-to-qm.pdf
Bellow, Jeannette C. Letter to President Harry S. Truman, March 8, 1946. National Archives. https://delawareswwiifallen.files.wordpress.com/2022/11/jean-bellow-letter-to-president.pdf
Bellow, Jeannette C. Letter to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, October 31, 1946. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/17664/rec/1
Bellow, Jeannette C. Louis Waldo Bellow Individual Military Service Record, October 31, 1946. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/17658/rec/1
Bellow, Louis W. “Music, Art, Are Essential For Success.” Quad Angles, November 13, 1942. West Chester University Digital Collections. https://digital.klnpa.org/digital/collection/wcnp01/id/10909/rec/1
Blumenson, Martin. United States Army in World War II European Theater of Operations: Breakout and Pursuit. Originally published in 1961, republished by the Center of Military History, United States Army, 1993. https://history.army.mil/html/books/007/7-5-1/CMH_Pub_7-5-1_fixed.pdf
Doran, Joseph. “Today’s America.” Quad Angles, February 2, 1945. Pg. 2. West Chester University Digital Collections. https://digital.klnpa.org/digital/collection/wcnp01/id/11237/rec/28
Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4383874_01109
Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4639456_00263
“Music Features Life at Arden During Past Week-End.” Journal-Every Evening, August 7, 1939. Pg. 22. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108724736/bellow-arden/
Morning Reports for Company “I,” 112th Infantry Regiment. July 1944 – August 1944. U.S. Army Morning Reports, c. 1912–1946. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri.
Paulger, John W. “Unit History Company I, 112th Inf.” World War II Operations Reports, 1940–1948. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1905–1981. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
“Peace Essay Winner Gives Life in War.” Journal-Every Evening, September 5, 1944. Pg. 1 and 15. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108725380/bellow-kia-1/, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108725411/bellow-kia-2/
“Private Louis Waldo Bellow Reported Killed in Action; Details of Death Withheld.” Quad Angles, September 29, 1944. West Chester University Digital Collections. https://digital.klnpa.org/digital/collection/wcnp01/id/11177/rec/25, https://digital.klnpa.org/digital/collection/wcnp01/id/11180/rec/25
Shapiro, Murray. “History – 3rd Battalion – 112th Infantry 17 Feb. 41 to 23 July 44.” https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/4394
Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/M-T0627-03724-00544
“Two Service Men Killed, 2 Missing and 2 Wounded.” Wilmington Morning News, September 2, 1944, Pg. 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108725608/bellow-death/
“Unit Report No 2 From: 1 August 1944 0001 To: 31 August 1944 2400.” 112th Infantry, September 18, 1944. World War II Operations Reports, 1940–1948. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1905–1981. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942–1954. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/704157106/bellow-louis-w-us-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954
World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=13175555&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=789527
WWII Draft Registration Cards for Pennsylvania, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44033_10_00021-01804
World War II Veterans Compensation Applications. Record Group 19, Series 19.92, Records of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/3147/images/41226_622204_0840-01778
Last updated on November 8, 2022
More stories of World War II fallen:
To have new profiles of fallen soldiers delivered to your inbox, please subscribe below.