Presented by Prince George County Regional Heritage Center
A new exhibit featuring a hidden WWII Army trunk and its contents will open on May 29 for Memorial Day. The exhibit will continue through June 30.
Mrs. Barbarba Skomorowski found an old Army trunk in the basement of her West Hartford, CT. home. She had bought the house from Mrs. Betty Lord-Wood whose health was failing. Barbara knew that the widow, Mrs. Lord-Wood and her husband had built the house years ago and she was just the second owner. When she finally opened the trunk she was amazed at the contents. It was full of service commendations, like the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, letters, pictures, scrapbooks and mementoes from military career and World War II. There was also a diploma from the Military Academy at West Point for a Pierre Bontecou dated June, 1944. Bontecou had been Mrs. Lord-Wood’s first husband and she apparently had kept this trunk all those years.
When she went to the internet, Mrs. Skomorowski found that, in Virginia, Lt. Pierre Bontecou’s name was inscribed on the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, the Hopewell War Memorial Monument on 15th Avenue in Hopewell, part of which was erected after World War One and near where Pierre would have explored with his friends. His name is also listed in the book of Gold Star Honor Roll of Virginia in the Second World War. Deciding that the old trunk commemorated a special fallen warrior, she reached out to donate the trunk to the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center.
Lt. Bontecou’s War
On April 5th, 1945, at approximately 2:30, a young man from Hopewell, First Lieutenant Pierre “Robert” Bontecou was killed leading a rifle platoon in Company “B” of the Fifth Infantry, 71st Infantry Division on a mission in Bad Soden, Germany. He was 24 years old. May 8th, thirty days later, Germany surrendered and the war in Europe was over.
A letter received from his commanding officer stated: “In his short time in combat he proved to be a superb leader. On one occasion, near the town of Trulben, he led a combat patrol to the very edge of the Siegfried Line. Under intense artillery and mortar fire he accomplished his mission, for which I recommended him for be given the Silver Start for gallantry in action. On subsequent occasions he proved himself a superior leader and I considered him one of the most promising young officers I had ever known. The men in his platoon have told me that they would go with him anywhere, anytime. This tribute from his own soldiers confirmed my great admiration for Lt. Bontecou.”
He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, in addition to many other service awards.
Lt. Bontecou was one of 77 men from Hopewell and Prince George who died in service during World War II.
Pierre Bontecou, called Bob by all his friends, grew up in Hopewell’s City Point on Brown Avenue. There, he lived with his mother, Eva Archer Bontecou, and his grandfather Walter C. Archer, originally from Wallingford, England. At age twelve he became a Boy Scout and later a Patrol Leader where he began to develop his leadership skills.
He graduated Hopewell High School in 1938, third in this class; was a speaker at the graduation; was voted president of this class in his junior year and was active in many school activities. After high school, Bontecou attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute joining the Corp of Cadets. In July of 1941, he received confirmation of his Congressional appointment to the Military Academy at West Point. Graduating the Academy on June 6, 1944 (which, by coincidence, was the D-Day invasion of Europe) on the same day he also married Betty Louise Books, whom he had known since childhood.
The honeymoon was short as he was sent immediately to Fort Benning, Georgia, for Officer’s Basic Course which he completed September 30, 1944. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on January 22, 1945 while on the transport taking him to France.
Lt. Pierre Bonticou’s body was returned from Alsace, France in 1948 and was finally laid to rest in the United States Military Post Cemetery at West Point.
At the time of his death, his wife, Betty, was living in Philadelphia. She received the news of Pierre’s death and she then informed his mother, Eva. Years later, she married Mr. Everett Lord-Wood and they built the house in West Hartford, CT. Pierre’s Army trunk was moved with her.
For more information call 804-863-0212, [email protected] or 804-704-2859
The Heritage Center is located at 6406 Courthouse Road in Prince George, 23875.
Ginger Hawks – 804-720-7253, [email protected]