Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

08 October, 2014

THE UNTOLD STORY OF ELDRED BRANDON

Ken Wright (left) and Eldred Brandon, lifetime 
friends and members of the Dresden Continuation 
School Soccer Team, 1914-15.

My father, Ken, and Eldred Brandon were best chums all through school in Dresden (ON) and life-long friends.  They were both born in the year 1899 and their families were neighbours in the small town in the heart of Kent County.

There was always a mystique about Eldred, even in those early days.  He was unquestionably a genius and by my dad's account, just a little different than the other kids.  They got along well however.  Ken and Eldred just seemed to have mutual respect and understanding, the type that transcends years and distance. 

After high school, my dad embraced the barbering trade and Eldred, for some unexplained reason, decided to join the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, February 29, 1916.  He was only 17 years of age at the time and lied about his birth date.  It took the army seven months to catch up to his deception and he was officially discharged November 8, 1916, after being declared unfit for military service. 
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Prior to World War 1, Canada had a small permanent standing army and a much larger Canadian militia. The Minister of Militia and Defence, Sam Hughes, was ordered by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden to train and recruit an army for overseas service. At the time, Canada had a regular army of only 3,110 men and a fledgling navy.  Although the Chief of the General Staff, Willoughby Gwatkin, had been planning for a mass mobilisation of Canada's armed forces for some time, the mobilisation plans were scrapped in favour of mobilising a completely new land force, the Canadian Expeditionary Force, to be based on numbered battalions and reporting to a separate ministry, the Ministry of Overseas Forces of Canada
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Eldred Brandon
...short-lived military career
Always a brilliant student, an undeterred Eldred then turned his mind to higher education by applying, and being accepted, to Queens University where he earned an honours degree in mathematics and was awarded a fellowship in the Canadian Bankers Association.  He would subsequently become a director of the Controllers Institute of America and was associated with a bank and trust company in the United States. He was employed as an accountant with Sylvania Electric Products in New York when, by some strange quirk of fate, he became involved with the American government.  In story book fashion, he would climb diplomatic ranks, culminating with an appointment as a valuable and highly-regarded attache to General Douglas MacArthur, stationed in Washington where he would entertain international dignitaries in his penthouse apartment.

I well remember Eldred's letters to my dad and Christmas cards bearing the return address of the American Embassy in Japan.  After Japan's World War 11 surrender, MacArthur's occupation staff in Tokyo at first numbered about 1,500 and grew to more than 3,000 by 1948. Like Eldred, most of MacArthur's minions ranged politically from conservative to ultraconservative, and they established policies that continued, rather than dismantled, the zaibatsu (business conglomerates) that had long dominated the Japanese economy. 

Eldred also travelled with MacArthur to Honolulu and the Philippines. Without going into third-hand classified detail, it seems Eldred was privy to some extremely sensitive and potentially damaging inside information involving MacArthur's command and as a result was methodically degraded and discredited to the point that he was eventually hospitalized with his mental stability very much a bone of contention.  There were hints in the recounting of his experiences that Eldred was methodically brainwashed during his hospital confinement. In 1949 he returned to Canada, virtually a broken man, and lived out the balance of his life with his elderly parents in Dresden.  

The much decorated MacArthur meantime (seen in this photo with his  celebrated  corn cob pipe), Commander of U.S. Forces in the Far East from 1941 to the end of the war in 1945, was synonymous with the conflict in the Pacific.  Often referred to as a "megalomaniac" and an extremely "political" general, MacArthur imposed complete censorship of everything in his theatre.  All words attributed to him had to be good news, otherwise they were censored.  All credits went to him instead of his respective field commanders.  He was known to pander and manipulate those on his staff.  Everything that came out of MacArthur's headquarters from 1942 onward, was predicated on the next U.S. presidential election which he coveted.  Poor Eldred had the misfortune to be caught up in all of this...He knew too much and was dispensable.  Effectively eliminated, you will find no mention of an "Eldred Brandon" ever being a member of MacArthur's staff in the 1940s.  His "military aircraft" flights to Manila in the Philippines and Honolulu, Hawaii, via Pan American airways in 1947, are clearly documented however.

I recall a nervous Eldred sitting in our living room at home in Dresden, incommunicado and complete with hat pulled over his ears, half covering sun glasses that he never removed, and a trench coat down to his ankles (a Great Dane guard dog at his feet), relating his incredible story to my father. His last visit to our home was cut short when the Great Dane began barking uncontrollably. "They've caught up to me. They're outside!" stated Eldred obviously referring to Secret Service agents he claimed were constantly following him. "I'll take my leave Ken," he said with eyes darting in all directions..."I don't want to put you and your family in harm's way!"  In haste, he was gone and I don't recall him ever again crossing the threshold of our home other than to be a pallbearer at my dad's funeral in 1952.

Eldred had previously entrusted Ken with the authorship of a book that would tell his story in detail, potentially blowing the lid off the secrecy of the extremely controversial MacArthur era...An untold story, as it were. Sadly, the longtime friends both died before the book ever saw the light of day and they took Eldred's tale of intrigue with them. I was too young then to appreciate it all, but it has always bothered me that I could not turn back the clock and capture all that priceless information for myself.  I am left only with the vague recollections of a spellbound little boy sitting at the feet of two old friends and a huge, panting dog.

I wish I could do better for Ken and Eldred, but they did not leave me with much to go on...This is the best I can manage after so many years.

I trust that in due course I will stop looking over my shoulder for any secret service agents who might still be lurking in the shadows 70 years later.

Special Note:  I originally planned to post this item on the Dresden Virtual History Group's web site, but it was rejected by Facebook for some unknown reason.  The mystique strangely continues...Perhaps coincidental, but curious nonetheless.  I AM DETERMINED.  I OWE IT TO TWO OLD DRESDEN CHUMS who never got to tell their amazing story. 

Eldred, incidentally, was the son of Dresden Postmaster and local historian Robert Brandon and wife Edith (Hazlett).  They lived on the north corner of Holden and St. George streets.  Eldred had two younger brothers, Alfred and Grant.  He was twice married while living in the United States.  A daughter, Daphne, died in infancy.

A truly brilliant and complex man, always a little different.

1 comment:

Susan Brandon said...

Eldred Brandon is my Great Uncle, really enjoyed reading your story.