APL Colloquium

May 17, 2019

Colloquium Topic: The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family's Quest to Bring Him Home

This extraordinary adventure of three brothers at the center of the most dramatic turning points of World War II is “liable to break the hearts of Unbroken fans, and it’s all true” (The New York Times).

They are three brothers, all Navy men, who end up coincidentally and extraordinarily at the epicenter of three of the war’s most crucial moments. Bill, a naval intelligence officer, is tapped by FDR to set up and run his secret map room in the White House basement. Benny is the gunnery and antiaircraft officer on USS Enterprise, one of the few ships to escape Pearl Harbor and, by the end of 1942, the only aircraft carrier left in the Pacific to defend against the Japanese. Barton, the youngest, gets a plum commission in the Navy Supply Corps because his mother wants him out of harm’s way. But this protection plan backfires when Barton is sent to Manila and listed as wounded and missing after a Japanese attack. Now it is up to Bill and Benny to find and rescue him…

Based on a decade of research drawn from archives around the world, interviews with fellow shipmates and POWs, and half-forgotten letters stashed away in attics, The Jersey Brothers is “a captivating tour-de-force” (San Antonio Express-News) that whisks readers from America’s front porches to Roosevelt’s White House to the battlefronts of the Pacific. But at its heart The Jersey Brothers is a family story, written by one of its own in intimate, novelistic detail. It is a remarkable tale of agony and triumph; of an ordinary young man who shows extraordinary courage as the enemy does everything short of killing him; and of brotherly love tested under the tortures of war.

Colloquium Speaker: Sally Mott Freeman

Sally Mott Freeman was a speechwriter, PR executive, and non-profit leader for 30 years before launching research for The Jersey Brothers. After penning speeches for an FCC commissioner and later its chairman, she became FCC's spokesperson and News Media Division Chief following the court-ordered breakup of AT&T. Sally was also a VP for Telecom at Fleishman Hillard, Inc., a global public relations firm, as well as Communications VP for two technology trade associations. 

A Smithsonian top history book of 2017 and an Amazon Best Book of 2017 in both the History and Memoir categories, The Jersey Brothers is a war and family saga that was critically acclaimed in several literary reviews. The New York Times called it  ”… highly dramatic history.” The Richmond Times Dispatch wrote, “The Jersey Brothers …shines in singularity. A blend of history, family saga and family questions… The book [is] a winning and moving success....” Kirkus gave the book a rare starred review, calling it “…a suspenseful and deeply troubling story of one family’s patriotic devotion and betrayal.... Meticulously researched and compelling history.”

After four terms as Chair, Sally is now Board Chair Emerita of The Writer’s Center, the premier independent literary center in the Mid-Atlantic. She has also served on the boards of Washington Shakespeare Company, American Diabetes Association, The Washington Tennis Foundation, Saving Sweet Briar, Inc., and St. Anne’s-Belfield School and Sweet Briar College Alumnae boards. She is also a member of the Monticello Cabinet.

Sally graduated from St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville VA, which honored her with its 2017 Distinguished Alumna Award, and from Sweet Briar College (English Literature), which honored her with its 2016 Distinguished Alumna Award.