Lawrence (Joe) United States Navy | George United States Navy, United States Army Air Corps | Robert and Donald United States Air Force David, John and Rosemary United States Army
If service in the United States military were a family business, then the Mulholland family could certainly claim it as their own. During a period spanning nearly 40 years, starting in 1943, at least one of George and Lucy Mulholland’s six sons and one daughter was wearing a uniform in one of the branches of the United States Military. With a great sense of pride, Lawrence Joseph (Joe) Mulholland says that none of his brothers or sister was drafted; each enlisted. “My mother didn’t want any of her boys to be drafted.” Additionally, she did not want her boys to go into the Army, concerned that they would become cannon fodder. Joe explains that she had a World War I mentality that had the horror of trench warfare burnished into it.
The Mulholland family grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. George and Lucy had eight children between 1927 and 1943, seven of whom survived to adulthood. George Anthony was the oldest child and the one to whom Joe, born a year later, looked up to. Joe recalls the
family living through some difficult times during the Depression. “We had a lot of kids but not a lot of money.” Joe’s mother subsidized the family income by selling cupcakes for two or three cents each. To this day, Joe has an aversion to cupcakes.
When the United States declared war on Japan and then on the Axis Powers in Europe in 1941, the Mulholland children were too young to serve. However, that did not stop the headstrong, firstborn George who grew restless after just a year and half at North Catholic High School. Lying about his age, he enlisted in the Navy in 1943 at the age of 16. “George wanted to get an education out in the world,” said Joe.
George was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois for boot camp. He was then assigned to duty in the Pacific Theater on Saipan which had been retaken from the Japanese. He was part of CASU, Carrier Aircraft Service Units, serving aboard the USS Antietam.
During this period, he would often write Joe warning him not to go into the service, “It wasn’t like the glamour shown in Hollywood.” Despite his brother’s foreboding, Joe went into the Navy anyway in January 1946. By that time, George had left the service and was employed as a civilian worker, something he grew to loathe. Before reentering the military in 1948, he often wrote Joe advising him not to come out of the Navy as things were tougher in the civilian world.
When George reentered the military in 1948, he joined the Army Air Corps which eventually became the Air Force. He spent the next 20 years in the service, doing tours in Korea and Vietnam. According to Joe, George had nearly two and half years in Vietnam, serving as a crew chief aboard a med-evac helicopter. When he eventually retired from the Air Force, he became a correctional officer at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia. He died in 1998.
Over the years, Joe remembers that George was sensitive to the fact that he did not have a college degree. When he was asked about it, he would say he didn’t have time for college, he was too busy getting an education. Joe recalls his brother as someone who could be rather sarcastic, “You could never get the best of him. He always had an answer.”
George never spoke much of his wartime experiences. Joe surmises that like most war veterans he just wanted to forget. Joe too is reluctant to talk about his own military experience as he prefers to “toot his brother’s horn.” It is very apparent that even after all these years, Joe still looks up to his brother as a hero.
Joe spent two years in the Navy and was stationed in Guam. During his enlistment, he said that every day he wrote his girlfriend, Jane Luci, whom he had met when he was 15 and she was 14. “We courted through the mail,” he says with a big smile. Ten months after he was discharged, he and Jane married. They recently celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary.
Joe remembers that his parents instilled in him and his siblings the obligation to serve their country. “I came from a very disciplined family,” Joe recalled. He said they believed opportunities for education were in the military.
Besides George and Joe, five other Mulholland children enlisted in the military. His brothers Robert and Donald made the Air Force their career. David, John and Rosemary enlisted in the Army serving four, five and two years respectively. In total, the Mulhollands served 77 years in the military. Joe takes a great deal of delight and pride in this fact.
~ CHIP BERTINO
(Reprinted with permission of Chip Bertino)