The Suburbanite
  • WW II: Then and Now: Decoded missions

  • During World War II, Staff Sgt. Chester Bartram knew about bombing runs before the bomber pilots. He was the one who decoded the mission orders at bases in England and Italy.

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  • During World War II, Staff Sgt. Chester Bartram knew about bombing runs before the bomber pilots. He was the one who decoded the mission orders at bases in England and Italy.
    As a result, Bartram received 12 battle stars for his role in the 301st Bomb Group’s participation in the war in Europe.
    A native of Nolan, W.Va., Bartram was inducted into the Army at Fort Thomas, Ky., on Feb. 2, 1942. After training, his 301st Bomb Group was shipped overseas aboard the U.S.S. Uruguay. The 301st was stationed at an air base north of London, and the group’s B-17 bombers began flying daily missions in Europe.
    Bartram, who was trained in cryptography while in England and a school in Africa, coded and decoded messages sent and received by the bomb group.
    “After you received it, it would be in code, so you’d have to translate it into everyday language and give it to the pilots, so they’d know where they’d be going.”
    The need for secrecy was shown in the manner in which the messages sometimes were passed on to pilots.
    “Sometimes we’d write it on rice paper,” said Bartram. “The idea was that in the event they got captured, they could chew the message up and eat it.”
    Including Bartram, five cryptographers were assigned to the 301st Bomb Group’s cryptography office, which was manned at all times. The office at different times was in tents, a school, a winery, a barn, and a railroad station in England or Italy. Sometimes, Bartram and other cryptographers lived in the same structure.
    The bomb group flew about 300 missions during the more than three years that Bartram was stationed in England and Italy. He said that one of the toughest jobs he had was recording the loss of bomber crews that didn’t come home.
    “We’d watch the planes leave and come back and if anybody died on a mission we would send messages that they had been killed,” said Bartram. “It was very sad. We knew a lot of them.”
    Still, there were good memories of his war years.
    “The big thing that I enjoyed, I think, was the travel,” he explained. “When I was in England, I was in London several times. Then later, when I went to Italy, we were there for almost a year and I always tried to go to the local places.”
    Not long after the war ended in Europe, Bartram returned by ship to the United States — one of six ocean voyages he made during the war — and after a furlough was assigned to Columbia Army Air Base in South Carolina. Following the end of the war in the Pacific, he was discharged Sept. 9, 1945, at Fort George Meade in Maryland.
    Page 2 of 2 - AFTER THE WAR
    Coming from a family that stressed education, Bartram earned a bachelor’s degree in 1947 from Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., and a Ph.D in 1956 from The Ohio State University. He began his teaching career at one-room schools in West Virginia, and later became a professor and chairman of the education department of the University of Mount Union, before he retired in 1983.
    He met and married Eva Jividen Bartram, when both were teaching at one-room schools. She later taught in Alliance City Schools. Before her passing in 2010, they were married for 68 years.
    Carrying on a dedication to education, all four of their children went to college. Dr. Chester Bartram Jr. of North Canton is a physician. Bart Bartram of Middletown, Md., is a physicist. Joette Bartram McCaw of Massillon is a retired teacher. And Judy Bartram Lundquist of Canton teaches in Canton City Schools.
    In retirement, Bartram turned to writing, researching and publishing three genealogy books. He also wrote two autobiographies: “Yesterday” in 2004 and “The Journey Home: Experiences of WWII and Beyond” in 2010. He also co-authored with his niece, Nell Dean Ross, “Journey Into Yesterday: Along the Bartram Trail.”
    In recent years, when illnesses affected his speech and sight, he nevertheless turned to art as an interest.
    “That’s what keeps him going,” said his daughter, Joette McCaw. “He does artwork with colored pencils. He’s such a positive person. We’re so proud of him. The grandkids love him and look up to him. They think he’s wonderful.”

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