Seven Rostron Brothers of Somerville Served in World War II
One Made the Ultimate Sacrifice for his Country
By Bruce Doorly
Just outside of Somerville’s Main Street at 82 Grove Street sits a house that today just looks like any other house in the neighborhood.

But during World War II the home was the only one in Somerville that had a Service Flag in the window with seven stars on it.
These Service Flags were hung in the front windows designating that the family had a family member(s) serving in the war. The flag had a white background with a red border. There would be one blue star for every family member who was serving in the military. If they were killed in the war, that blue star would be replaced by a gold star. Service Flags were very popular during World War II.

The Rostron family’s stars were for their sons Richard, William, Frederick, Robert, Edward, George, and Charles.
William, Robert, Frederick, Richard
Edward, George, and Charles
In February 2024 the last surviving Rostron brother who served in World War II, Charles, passed away at the age of 98.

His passing prompted this author to write a long overdue article on the Rostron Brothers.

The Rostron family came to Somerset County from Brooklyn around 1930. All the children of George Sr. and his wife Caroline were born in Brooklyn. There were eight boys and one girl with the girl Margaret being the second youngest. They briefly settled in Finderne before moving to Somerville.
With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the U.S. was drawn into World War II. Boys rushed to join the military.

It is not known whether the Rostron brothers were drafted or joined voluntarily, but the dates that they started serving point to volunteering as most draftees were in the second half of the war.
The first four boys enlisted in the Army – William, Frederick, Richard, and Robert.

The next three were in the Navy – Edward, George, and Charles. By June of 1943, six of the Rostron sons were in the military.

The local population and the local newspaper took notice. Articles appeared stating that the Rostron family had the most sons in Somerville serving their country.
This photo was sent to the boys during the war.
From left - Shirley (Edward's wife), (sister) Margaret
Mom, Jean (George's wife) & Betty (Robert's wife).
That's younger brother Jim at bottom.
Unveiling Somerville’s Honor Roll

In 1943, Somerville decided to create and publicly display an “Honor Roll” consisting of a list of all the men and women from Somerville who were serving in the war. It would be an 18-foot by 6-foot wooden structure elevated by three-foot posts. It was decided that this display would be on the courthouse property behind the fountain which is at the corner of Grove Street and Main Street.

The Somerville Military Service Committee was formed for this purpose. It was led by Rev. Robert Graham. Seventy-five volunteers had gone door to door to make sure that all those serving in Somerville would be included. For the unveiling of the Honor Roll, the town chose Caroline Rostron. Who better than a mom who had six (later seven) sons in the service.
The date was set for Sunday, July 25th, 1943. The town of Somerville made a big deal of the unveiling as a parade preceded the unveiling. Three thousand people were in attendance when Mrs. Rostron took the cover off the Honor Roll.

Father Graham spoke of Caroline Rostron saying that “we are proud to have her as a citizen of the borough.” He then presented her with a basket of flowers.
The Boys in the Service

William, a Corporal, had enlisted in the Army in January 1942. He served in Italy as an armorer (providing the flyers with bullet proof equipment) with a fighter-bomber group of the 15th Air Force. He was awarded two Oak Leaf Clusters.

Frederick, a Sergeant, was attached to a Field Artillery unit of the 77th division.

Richard, a Staff Sergeant, was with a detachment at Mason General Hospital in Long Island.

Robert was a mechanic with the Air Force at Randolph Texas.

Edward, Fireman First Class, was in the Navy. He served 19 months aboard a submarine in the Pacific.

George, aerograph’s mate third class, was in the Navy. He was a weather observer on Midway Island in the Pacific.

Charles, Fireman First Class, was in the Navy with an amphibious force in the Philippines.
Charles, Fred, and Richard

Overseas there were a couple of times that two of the brothers met.

Early in 1945 Frederick and Charles met in the Philippines.

In July of 1945 Edward and George met at the Midway Islands.
Edward & George meet in the Midway Islands.
Bronze Star for Frederick

Frederick was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism in a battle against the Japanese on Leyte in the Philippine Islands. The citation read “On December 11th 1944, during an artillery preparation, Sergeant Rostron was ordered to move forward with his radio so that an observer could relay more accurate fire direction. To the front of him, mortars opened up and flying fragments from the shells tore around him. Despite this Sergeant Rostron continued to operate with the same cool, efficient devotion to duty. His actions were a source of inspiration to those with whom he served.”
Frederick makes the Ultimate Sacrifice for his Country

In early June of 1945, Frederick’s wife Antoinette received a telegram that every family dreads – starting with the words “Regret to inform you ...” stating that Frederick was killed in action on April 30th 1945, while fighting at Okinawa.

This was just a few months after he had received the Bronze Star. He was 30 years old at the time. A picture of him, along with a plaque, would be displayed in his parent’s home until their death.
Frederick's grave site at Okinawa.
After the war

Richard never married. He worked in advertising at William Morrow Publishing. He died in 1985.

William, whose nickname was Knobby, was an inspector at PSEG. He married Ursula Terry Tuccillo from Trenton and had three daughters - Carole (Cunningham), Barbara (Klobusicky), and Donna (Morrison). He passed away in 2011.

Robert worked in construction for Reedhead Brothers. He also did carpentry and repair work for Princeton School System. He married Betty Dennis from Somerville. They had four children – Bobby, Linda (D'Errico), Judith (Smith), and Susan (Carella). He died in 2008.

Edward was a carpenter. He married Shirley Niles. They had three children - Ed, Niles, and Marcia (Forman). He died in 1989.
The Rostron Family in later years.
George Jr., whose nickname was Pickle, was a carpenter for Schenck-Brokaw. He married Jean Schenck from Somerville. They had a son Freddy and a daughter Lee (Mazzucco). For a while he had a bar on Division Street in Somerville called the Pub. He died in 1992.

Charles was a policeman in Somerville who rose to the position of Police Chief. He married Marie Bacchilega of Raritan. They had two daughters Nancy (Cramer) and Arlene (Coady). He passed away recently in February of 2024.

William, Edward, and George all served in the Somerville Fire Department.
In 1949, Frederick’s body, which was initially buried overseas, was brought back to Somerville. He is interned at The New Cemetery in Somerville.

Let us hope this article is not the last time that we hear about the Rostron brothers. Perhaps a new street or park can be named after them.