Living the American Dream
Henry L. Bretton, born May 18, 1916 in Berlin, Germany, son of Hans and Betty Bismark, emigrated to the US in 1938, followed by his mother, now deceased. (Parents being divorced, his father remained in Germany). His wife of 56 years Marian Sinclair More and their son Alexander are now deceased. Their daughter, Elizabeth Sinclair More Bretton, MD, lives in Albuquerque with her husband John F. Lorio. At the time of his death, Henry Bretton lived at the Retirement Home, Montebello, on Academy in Albuquerque.
Inducted into the US Army he was assigned to Military Intelligence. Upon graduation from the US Military Intelligence (MIS) Training Center, the War Dept. recommended that he change his name for security reasons. (On Hitler’s personal orders, formal German citizens, if captured in enemy uniform, were to be “executed on the spot or, if not feasible, turned over to the Gestapo for special treatment”.) The name change was effected by Court Order. He served in the European Theater of War with an MIS team of six; attached to an Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, part of Gen Patton’s Third Army He was awarded the Bronze Star and several Battle stars. At war’s end he was transferred to the Secret Intelligence section of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). His highest rank, conferred after the war, was First Lt. (Reserve) Counter Intelligence.
A photograph next to his desk is a reminder that, had it not been for a courageous German woman, he might well have been among the last casualties of the war in Europe. On May 7, 1945, he and two of his MIS comrades, in an open jeep, still attached to the Armored Recon Squadron, were among the first American Military to enter a town near the Austrian border. They had been ordered to attend the town’s surrender. As they were about to turn a corner, that woman stopped them, warning them that a tank commander, in a disabled tank, but still armed with a fully functioning tank gun, was waiting for them. According to her, that German officer had sworn “to send to hell the first Americans coming around that corner, “They reversed direction, alerting the first tank behind them. On the following day, May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered and the war in Europe came to an end. The photograph was taken a few days later when then Tech Sgt., 4th Class Bretton sought out the woman to thank her on his and his comrades’ behalf. She turned out to be a professional photographer. Violating Gen. Eisenhower’s Non-Fraternization order, he gave the brave lady a kiss on the cheek. He learned later that the tank commander was holder of the Ritterkreuz (Knight’s Cross), one of Germany’s highest military medals.
Discharged in September 1945, thanks to the GI Bill of Rights, Bretton, then just a German High School Grad with no more than one semester night school at NYU, entered Yale University in February 1946 a thirty year old second semester freshman. Opting for an accelerated and highly exacting special program for returning Veterans, after three full semesters and two summer schools, taking all required courses, he graduated with honors (Member of Pi Sigma Alpha) in August 1947. There followed Graduate School, up to PH.D., at the University of Michigan, followed by twelve years advancing from Instructor to full professor. In 1969, the Trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) offered him a position as Distinguished Professor – at the SUNY College at Brockport. While on the staff at Michigan and Brockport, he served as Visiting Professor, for one year each, on Ford and Rockefeller Foundation and Fulbright grants, at the following Universities: 1956, Innsbruck (Austria), 1968 Ghana (West Africa), 1969 Nairobi, (Kenya) 1988 University of Vienna and Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. He was a guest lecturer at the US War and Naval Colleges, and conducted seminars in International Relations at the University of Ohio and, on a Ford Foundation grant, for African diplomats in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. He published five scholarly books of his own; numerous articles in scholarly publications, chapters in books authored by others and presented scholarly papers at conferences in the US and in France.
Among non-teaching academic, government and community services he would list first, Chairman University Awards Program, Research Foundation, State University of New York, 1977-1983; Member, Advisory Council on Africa, US Dept. of State, 1962-1964; President, African-American Community Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1962-1964; President, Faculty Senate, College at Brockport, 1973-1974. At the time of his death, he was one of the oldest, longest enrolled members of the American Political Science Association. He also was a member of the Academy of Political Science, United University Professors (UUP), Fulbright Association, Sandia Presbyterian Church, and Duke City Bridge Club.
Friends and family may visit Saturday, August 4, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at FRENCH – Wyoming. Memorial Services will be held Friday, August 10, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. at Sandia Presbyterian Church, 10704 Paseo del Norte NE, Albuquerque, and NM 87122. Interment will follow at Sunset Memorial Park with Military Honors.
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