16 million Americans served our nation in WWII and less than 500,000 are still living today. It would be astonishing to find a set of brothers both still living 73 years after the last shot was fired; even more shocking to find three brothers. But can you imagine four brothers—all Veterans in their 90s—who are still around to share stories from battles in Europe in the early 1940s?
Meet Bob (97), Jim (96), Rufus (94), and Harry (91) Dalton, four Charlotte born-and-raised WWII Veterans who have withstood the test of time. How have they achieved this longevity? It’s simple, according to Rufus, who explained to the Charlotte Observer that they are “just four guys that outlived everybody else.” This sense of modesty and an emphasis on family helped the four accumulate two Bronze Stars for valor, two Purple Hearts for wounds in action, two Legion of Honor Medals from France, and two Presidential Unit Citations.
Rufus, the self-appointed spokesperson for the family, along with their younger sister Sally, have compiled a service-career synopsis for each brother. Sally was a hero in her own right as well, serving her community during the war effort back home, constantly gathering articles and reports for her family. Bob, the eldest Dalton, set off for France in 1944 and was eventually honorably discharged after suffering a devastating leg injury. He later became the President of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, which is now the largest professional performing arts organization in the central Carolinas. Jim traveled overseas the same year as Bob, joining a combat military police company in the Army. He moved to Atlanta after the Japanese surrendered and eventually became the CEO of Caraustar Industries, a large manufacturer of recycled paperboard products. Harry, the youngest, joined the Navy in Norfolk, VA after qualifying for Naval Radio School, but the war ended before he could be sent to Europe. Finally, Rufus, who is the last remaining survivor from the Army’s 100th Infantry Division, entered the war in 1944 in Marseilles, France. Among many other accomplishments, Rufus is best known for taking a piece of shrapnel to the head and returning to the battlefield the next day. The Charlotte Observer didn’t ask him, but we’re sure he would say it was no big deal.
The Dalton’s mentality towards their achievements mirrors that of a successful sports team; every medal or award belongs to the whole family. Each brother was able to wake up and fight knowing that the others were doing the same, with Sally at home to help out with their parents. The Dalton family chooses to remember this tumultuous period of United States history as a time that brought them together, epitomizing the country-wide effort to play a role in the war.
In his interview with the Charlotte Observer, Rufus often brought up this meaningful support from the home front during World War II; how much it meant to receive a letter or see a picture from home paying tribute to the troops. According to Rufus, this kept the men going, along with visits from older brother Bob, who would keep track of his younger siblings and think of ways to surprise them in between battles.
The U.S. Senate recently honored the four brothers in the Congressional Record, stating that their service was “extremely rare.” The rare feat these brothers have achieved can undoubtedly be credited to the way in which they approached the war—and life—as a family. The selflessness, perseverance, and humility of the Dalton family serve as a reminder that small acts go a long way and our support of those who fight to protect our freedom extends far beyond one singular Veteran’s Day. We Salute you, Bob, Jim, Rufus, Harry, and Sally and thank you for your service.
Cover Photo: Courtesy of Lorena Rios Trevino/Charlotte Observer/TNS – Rufus, 94, Harry, 91, and Bob Dalton, 97, with Harry holding a framed photo of their brother Jim, 96, who lives in Atlanta.