Although most Americans have heard of the D-Day invasion, S-Day isn’t nearly as well known, even though it was an operation of roughly the same size.
The former took place when Allied troops landed in France, to begin liberating Europe from Nazism in World War II, while the aim of the latter was to free the Philippines from Japanese occupation.
S-Day was launched on Jan. 9, 1945, which was 75 years ago today, and locals can learn about it this weekend at the Second Sunday Chowder Lecture Series at The Pickering House, where Hale Bradt will discuss the invasion.
A retired physics professor from MIT, Bradt will quote from letters that his father, Wilber, wrote while traveling on a ship to take part in the landing at Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines.
“I’m going to carry the people on the voyage that goes from New Guinea to Luzon,” Bradt said. “If there’s time, and I think there will be, I will add a little bit of highlights from the Luzon combat.”
Bradt’s father, an artillery officer, wrote hundreds of letters to his family during the war, and his son gathered excerpts from them in a book, “Wilber’s War: An American Family’s Journey Through World War II.”
“The best part for me was the fact that he can write so well,” Bradt said. “That’s what turned me on to the story.”
Bradt, who served in the Navy during the Korean War and is now 89, started reading his father’s 700 letters when he was 50.
He first published “Wilber’s War” as a trilogy in 2016, then published a condensed version of the book in 2017. He has also written a version for the stage.
He said that S-Day involved nearly as many soldiers as D-Day, but differed in that landing forces had to travel thousands of miles from 16 different ports to reach Luzon.
One group of ships arrived early to bombard Japanese defenses, and 24 of these were sunk, while 67 were damaged by Japanese kamikazes, or suicide planes.
But as a result of this onslaught, there were no kamikazes left when American troops arrived, so their landing wasn’t nearly as bloody as D-Day.
“It’s well known that the kamikazes shot their bolt at the bombardment fleet three days earlier,” Bradt said.
The Japanese, who had 250,000 troops in Luzon, also favored a different strategy than the Germans used on the beaches of Normandy.
“The Japanese had learned to hole up in the mountains,” Bradt said. “They could do the most damage that way.”
This is the seventh year that the Second Sunday Chowder Lecture Series has offered stimulating talks on a range of topics at The Pickering House, which was built in 1660.
As the name of the series implies, the lectures are held on the second Sunday of each month, from January through March.
Restaurant-quality clam chowder is served, or visitors can choose an alternative that is prepared by Linda Jenkins, executive director of The Pickering House.
“I usually make either lentil soup or corn chowder, in case folks want something different,” she said.
The additional Chowder Lectures will explore the shipwrecks of Essex County, and some surprising similarities between early New England colonies and the city states of Renaissance Italy.
Along with the lectures, informal Fireside Chats are delivered at The Pickering House on the fourth Sunday of each winter month, when “cookies and tea and stuff” are served, Jenkins said.
The chats this year will range from discussions of the origins of American architecture and “the Judy Garland you never knew” to the Industrial Revolution in Salem.
While Bradt’s lecture will focus on the invasion of Luzon, his book covers the full range of his father’s service in the South Pacific, for which he was decorated several times.
“When I look at the whole thing, I think it’s clear he became a professional soldier as the years went by,” said Bradt, who served in the Navy during the Korean War.
But it also considers the war’s impact on Wilber, who was wounded twice and was eventually diagnosed with “combat fatigue.”
These emotional struggles, when combined with discord in his marriage, led to Wilber’s suicide shortly after he returned from the war.
“He clearly was dealing with both,” Bradt said. “You can’t go much further than that. Suicide is not logical.”
His book provides the historic settings for Wilber’s vivid accounts of combat, while also exploring his father’s personal life and tragic end.
“Both stories are absolutely compelling,” Bradt said.
If you go
What: “The 75th Anniversary of S-Day, the American Invasion of Luzon,” Second Sunday Chowder Lecture Series
When: Sunday, 12:30 p.m.
Where: The Pickering House, 18 Broad St., Salem
How much: $25; register at email@example.com
More information: www.pickeringhouse.com or 978-744-4777
Sunday, Jan. 26
Fireside Chat: “A Tribute to the Judy Garland You Never Knew,” with William Sano, 3 p.m. $15.
Sunday, Feb. 9
Second Sunday Chowder Lecture: “Shipwrecks of Essex County,” with Capt. Ray Bates, 12:30 p.m. $25.
Sunday, Feb. 23
Fireside Chat: “From the Veneto to Virginia — The Unlikely Beginning of American Architecture,” with Victoria Sirianni, 3 p.m. $15.
Sunday, March 8
Second Sunday Chowder Lecture: “Thus These Storms Were Blown Over,” with Richard Pickering, deputy executive director at Plimoth Plantation, 12:30 p.m. $25.
Sunday, March 29
Fireside Chat: “Salem and The Point, 1847: The Industrial Revolution Comes to Town,” with Robert Booth, 3 p.m. $15.
Sunday, April 5
Fireside Chat: “A Brief History of Salem as a Naval Military Base,” with Jeff Swartz, 3 p.m. $15.