Brookline War Memorial
James P. and Ruth C. Mullen

James P. and Ruth C. Mullen
United States Army (1945-1953) ♦ United States Navy (1944-1954)

James P. and Ruth C. Mullen.
James and Ruth Mullen in June 1945.

United States Army (1775-present)    United States Navy (1775-present)

Ruth Catherine Mullen was born June 9, 1917, and her brother James Paul a decade later, on February 8, 1927. Parents Leo and Helen's middle child was daughter Louise, born on June 26, 1923. The Mullens originally lived at 831 Rossmore Avenue, then moved to a new home at 925 Bellaire Avenue when Ruth was just a child.

The Mullen children all attended Resurrection School. Each went to different high schools: Ruth to South Hills, Louise to St. Francis Academy, and James to North Catholic High School.

Among her many hobbies, Ruth was an active member of Resurrection's Girl Scout troop along with younger sister Louise, and she rose through the ranks to serve as a counselor at G.S.U.S. Camp Redwing in Butler County. James served as an altar boy during his school years at Resurrection and was also active in scouting.

Runt Mullen at Camp Redwing - 1936.
Ruth Mullen, top row fifth from right, and other counselors at Camp Redwing on July 21, 1936.

Ruth was working in sales at Joseph Horne Company downtown when she joined the U.S. Navy WAVES on March 31, 1944. She reported to Hunter College on May 17 for boot camp at the U.S. Naval Training Center, Bronx, New York, Class V-10.

The training objectives for the WAVES were similar to those of the enlisted men. The range of instruction included: Navy ranks and rate; ships and aircraft of the fleet; naval traditions and customs; naval history; and emphasis on physical fitness. Between February 17, 1943 and October 10, 1945, nearly 81,000 WAVES completed the training course.

Naval Wave Graduating Class July 29, 1944.   Ruth Mullen - Naval Wave Graduating Class July 29, 1944.
Ruth Mullen (Row 2-second from left) with her Naval WAVE graduating class (left),
and on the right standing with one of her fellow graduates.

Navy WAVES went on to serve in over 900 shore installations within the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii. Ruth Mullen completed her basic training on July 29, 1944 and was rated as Specialist Striker, stationed at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Squantum, Massachusetts.

On June 29, 1945, after high school graduation, James also entered the military, enlisting in the U.S. Army. After basic training he was sent overseas to picturesque Austria, where he served as a driver for a one-star general and as a POW Camp Guard.

William Mullen recalls the only story he heard of his father's time in Austria:

"One evening when dad was standing guard he dozed off, only to be awakened by a German POW with a homemade dagger in his hand. After a moment of concern, he learned that the prisoner was only interested in trading his contraband item for a few cigarettes."

...   ...   ...
James Mullen during his time as a driver and camp guard in Austria.

Both Ruth and James were discharged from active duty after their World War II service concluded and each remained in the reserves. During this time James enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh to study engineering, joining the school's Reserve Officers Training Corps detachment. He attended ROTC Summer Camp in 1949 at Fort Belvoir in Virginia with several fellow cadets from Pitt.

Ruth completed her reserve time and was discharged honorably on April 10, 1949. She reenlisted the following day and was assigned to Volunteer Composite Unit 4-4. That assignment ended on September 15, 1950 when she was reassigned to the U.S. Naval Technical Training Center in Memphis, Tennessee. Ruth was inactivated on June 14, 1952, and discharged on January 10, 1954, marking the end of her distinguished naval career. She was rated as PNSC--Personnelman (Supervisor-Women's Reserve) with a rank of Chief Petty Officer (E-7).

Ruth Mullen's Medals.

James college studies were cut short by the outset of war in Korea. He was called back to active duty and commissioned a lieutenant in the Headquarters and Service Company of the 185th Engineer Combat Battalion. For a time, his 1st Platoon, Company C of the 1343 E.C.B. was the northernmost engineer unit on the Korean peninsula. Lt. Mullen and his men were responsible mainly for road construction and building Bailey Bridges in support of troop movements, often in hostile conditions.

...   ...

During his time in Korea, Lt. Mullen was twice awarded the Bronze Star. One of the citations reads as follows:

First Lieutenant JAMES P. MULLEN, 02202956, Corps of Engineers, United States Army. Lieutenant MULLEN, platoon leader and Company Commander of the 1343 Engineer Combat Battalion, is cited for meritorious service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy in Korea during the period 13 May 1953 to 15 July 1953. Lieutenant MULLEN discharged his duties in such an effective manner that positive results were obtained at all times. His organizational ability and effective coordination of the heavy work loads assigned to his command directly contributed to the successful completion of all assigned tasks. Through his competent efforts and technical knowledge his unit attained and maintained a high standard of operational efficiency. The meritorious service rendered by Lieutenant MULLEN throughout this period reflects great credit on himself and the military service.

Jim Mullen's Medals.

After the war, Jim returned home and, in 1954, married his sweetheart Ann Kennedy. The couple raised six sons: James Jr., William, Thomas, Leo, Michael and John.

Jim left Brookline with his family to pursue a career with the A. B. Chance Company in Centralia, Missouri, eventually retiring as Vice President of Marketing and Sales. He passed away on March 16, 2013, and is buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Peters Township.

U.S. Navy WAVES veteran Ruth Mullen also came home to Brookline after her decade of service and returned to the Joseph Horne Company, spending her entire professional career as a women’s fashion buyer. Ruth never married, and passed away on October 22, 2002.

Louise Mullen also remained single and spent most of her life living in Brookline. Louise was one of the founders of the Brookline Meals on Wheels program and worked in the kitchen for thirty-eight years as a volunteer. She was also the family caregiver, first for her many aunts and then her parents. Louise passed away on September 28, 2010, and along with Ruth is also interred at Queen of Heaven Cemetery alongside their brother James.

Jim's son William, who has provided the photos and information on this page, wrote that his father was quite proud of his time in Korea and the work he did as a Combat Engineer. He often spoke of the men in his unit and of his admiration for the South Korean people, but he never spoke about the challenges of being a commanding officer, nor did he speak of the ever-present dangers he and his men faced.

William Mullen got his first real glimpse into his father's actual wartime experiences after his death, when he learned of the Bronze Star citations in James' obituary. Later he located an old cigar box that had been tucked away for years.

Newspaper Clipping showing Lt. Jim Mullen under fire.

Inside he found a photo of his father sweeping an open area for mines and a newspaper clipping showing him returning sniper fire. The box contained James' medals and several letters addressed to him as the commanding officer. The posts came from families inquiring about loved ones in his unit. William was kind enough to share much of his father's history with us here.

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Army ROTC Summer Camp - Fort Belvoir - 1949

ROTC Class - 1949 - Fort Belvoir.

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Lt. James Mullen Bronze Star Citation.

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Photos of Lt. James Mullen's Unit in Korea

Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.   Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.

Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.   Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.

Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.   Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.

Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.   Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.

Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.   Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.

Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.   Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.

Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.   Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.

Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.   Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.

Lt. James Mullen's Korean War Photos.

* Thanks to Bill Mullen for providing the information and photos *

Written by Clint Burton - March 12, 2021

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