BRUNSWICK — For most of his adult life, he chose not to speak with his family about his experience fighting in World War II.

Then, over dinner one night, his grandson Jon Chadwick asked him about the missions he flew as a navigator on a B-18 bomber.

Much to his family’s surprise, tears started to stream down his cheeks as he recalled some of his war experiences.

Lt. Col. Arnold M. Bryant, a decorated veteran, died Sunday at the Mere Point nursing home. He was 86 and had been living there since May 2008.

“For years, he hadn’t spoken to us about the war. It just never came out,” said his daughter Jean Chadwick of Nobleboro. “But my son had been studying U.S. history in high school. I guess he asked the right question because my father unloaded that night.”

Mr. Bryant grew up in the Deering neighborhood of Portland and graduated from Deering High School in 1941.

He delivered the Portland Press Herald on his bicycle when he was a teenager.

His family had deep roots to Portland. His grandfather, a minister named Judson Bryant, helped establish the Central Square Baptist Church in Deering.

After high school, Mr. Bryant enlisted in the Army Airs Corps. He became the lead navigator for his squadron, which manned a bomber called False Courage.

During World War II, Mr. Bryant and his squad members completed 29 combat missions. Based at Mendelsham, England, False Courage flew bombing missions over France and Germany.

Mr. Bryant saw many of his comrades shot down and killed in action.

“He would lay down at night and the bunk next to him would be empty,” his daughter said.

His duty as lead navigator was to make sure that all of the plane’s bombs were dropped during a mission, which meant he sometimes had to select targets that weren’t military targets.

“It bothered him, not knowing if those bombs killed innocent people,” his daughter said.

After the war, Mr. Bryant was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross Air Medal with four oak leak clusters, along with the 34th Bomb Group Citation.

In October 1945, he finished active as a first lieutenant and became a reservist with the Air Force. He retired in 1983 as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves.

After his military career ended, Mr. Bryant worked for the Loring, Short & Harmon office supply store in Portland.

He eventually moved to the midcoast, where he was Thomaston’s town clerk from 1951-54. Mr. Bryant also worked at the Huston Tuttle office supply store in Rockland.

He and a partner acquired Huston Tuttle, which they operated for seven years.

He left Rockland, taking a position as a sales representative with the National Blank Book Co., which was later bought out by Dennison Manufacturing.

He worked for Dennison for 19 years before retiring in 1985.

One of his favorite pastimes was tinkering at his camp on Alford Lake in Hope. The building was moved from Owls Head to Hope in the late 1950s.

Over the years, Mr. Bryant stayed in touch with crew members from the False Courage.

“He was a hero, but there were a lot of heroes back then,” his daughter said.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]