The United States’ involvement in World War II may have begun in 1941 and ended in 1945, but the scars it left behind still linger in the memories of many families today. Such is the case with the Barré family of New Orleans.
Born into a large family with six older brothers, Theda Barré was the center of attention in the home. As the only little sister, she was protected, loved and spoiled by big brothers: Lawrence Jr., Lloyd, Ferdinand, Clarence, and twins Stanford and Stanley Barré.
They were the children of Lawrence and Marguerite Cuiellette Barré. All attended Valena C. Jones School while their father worked as a carpenter/contractor and mom stayed home to take care of the busy household.
By 1937, the Barré home at 3231 Pauger Street was filled with six teenage boys now attending high school. It was here on the evening of Sunday, 25 September 1937, word arrived that Lawrence Jr. (oldest son) had been rushed to Charity Hospital after being accidentally injured with a gunshot wound to the abdomen while on a hunting expedition near Lucy, Louisiana in St. John the Baptist Parish. Lawrence Jr., only 17 years old, died that night and his grieving parents were forced to begin making preparations for his funeral. Viewing took place two days later at the family’s home and a Mass was held at Corpus Christi Catholic Church. This would mark the beginning of several tragedies this family would endure.
Six years later, in July of 1943, we find the next three Barre boys all enlisting in the Army. Clarence and Lloyd enlisted on July 8th and Ferdinand on July 16th.
Tragedy struck again, one year later, when Lawrence and Marguerite Barre received a telegram informing them that their son, Private Lloyd George Barré was killed by enemy action on 13 July 1944 in New Guinea. Just prior to going overseas, Lloyd, on furlough in New Orleans, brought his little sister, Theda, an entire box of Hershey chocolate bars as a present on this last visit home. Marguerite, upon her son’s death, requested and received some Japanese money her son kept as a souvenir in his wallet.
His remains were first sent to a temporary cemetery in New Guinea before being moved to a US Armed Forces Cemetery in the Philippines. He was finally shipped back home, four years later, upon written request from his father. Arriving by train on the Illinois Central with military escorts leaving from Memphis, twenty-one year old Lloyd George Barré was finally laid to rest at home in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously which his family chose to turn over to the World War ll Museum in his memory.
Just a month later, a second telegram was delivered to the Barré family. Knowing of the lost this family had just endured, the bearer of the news went to a neighbor’s home and asked Mrs. Barré to come over. Upon arriving, she learned of the death of another son, Ferdinand, who had drowned off the coast of Africa on 7 September 1944 and was lost at sea.
Father Harry Maloney, S.S.J., the Pastor of Corpus Christi, described how painful it was to watch this grief-stricken mother as she was delivered the news. Unfortunately, Ferdinand’s body was never recovered. Instead, only his personal possessions were returned. Inside were his duffle bag, four blankets, a mosquito net, mattress cover and several other items; all placed inside of one box and shipped to his parents.
Nineteen years old Ferdinand left behind, not only parents and siblings, but also a young son, Ferdinand Jr. An obituary was placed in the Times-Picayune on Monday, 09 October 1944, informing the public of his passing.
In the meantime, Clarence, the 3rd son to have enlisted into the Army in July of 1944, graduated from Dillard University the previous year and had entered the Army just six hours after receiving his B.A. degree. Shortly after having already lost both boys, Lawrence & Marguerite Barré were informed that the military was now preparing to send even Clarence overseas.
One can only imagine the level of stress and anxiety this family was now experiencing after having sacrificed two sons to the war efforts. Realizing the sufferings they had already endured, Father Maloney took it upon himself to immediately send a letter to the War Department begging for an appeal to this decision. Amazingly, just three hours before sailing overseas, Sergeant Clarence Barré was placed aboard a transport at an Eastern Port of Embarkation and ordered back to New Orleans and to Camp Plauche.
“Although we want to do all we can, we thank God that our other son has been saved for us,” stated his mother.
Stanley and Stanford Barré
Not having been called into service, seventeen year old twin brothers, Stanley and Stafford Barré, worked as civilian employees at Camp Plauche. They would, however, enlist on 9 July 1945, exactly two years after the death of their two brothers. Fortunately, World War II ended on 12 September 1945 and all three of the remaining six sons were now safely back home.
Today, Theda Barré Gaudin is the only surviving sibling. Her six brothers, along with her parents, are all buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in New Orleans. Mrs. Barré often said that the death of her sons’ never went away.
In the archives of the World War II Museum in New Orleans, I was able to find a folder telling the story of the Barre Brothers. The photos above were found there as well as news clippings, certificates, a letter of condolence from President Roosevelt, and the Purple Heart Medal, all donated by the family. Engraved bricks with the Barré boys’ names can be found on the museum’s walking path.
In 1948, the Barré Housing Project for Negro War Veterans was named in their honor.
The Sole Survivor Policy, also known as “Special Separation policies for Survivorship,” was not enacted until 1948. Under this law a set of regulations was placed in effect by the U.S. military. It was designed to protect members of a family from the draft or from combat duty if they have already lost family members in military service. The need for these regulations came after the “Five Sullivan Brothers” on 13 November 1944 were all killed aboard the USS Juneau which sank after being hit by a Japanese torpedo in the Solomon Islands.
If this law had been in effect before October of 1944, Lawrence & Marguerite Barré would not have had to suffer the loss of two sons.
World War II is said to have been the most destructive conflict in history. It cost more money, damaged more property, killed more people, and caused more far-reaching changes than any other war in history. It is just so sad that so many young men had to lose lives and so many families had to live with the memories of young ones gone too soon.
Sources: The Times-Picayune, 27 September1937 p.3; Pittsburgh Courier, 18 November 1944 p. 2, col.3; The Times- Picayune (Obituaries) 28 September 1937 p.3 + 09 October 1944 + 22 July 1969 p.16 col.3; The Times- Picayune, 30 January 1947 p.9; World War ll Museum/ Archival Department;
A special thank you goes to Jules & Theda Barré Gaudin as well as their daughter, Julie Gaudin Smith. Without their assistance, the retelling of this rich piece of local history would not have been possible.
Lolita V. Cherrie