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©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 3:12 p.m. PST

"When Japanese forces invaded the Philippines in early 1942, General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of U.S. Army forces in the Far East, was ordered to leave. He escaped to Australia but famously vowed to return. By the time he fulfilled his pledge two and a half years later, the Japanese were prepared to defend the Philippines to the death. They dug in on the island of Leyte, prepared for a fight that would decide the fate of the Japanese Empire. At the center of MacArthur's dramatic return in October 1944 was Captain Julian Proctor Van Winkle Jr., a 30-year-old tank commander from a well-known Kentucky whiskey family.

In 1932 Van Winkle had gone to work at the W. L. Weller & Sons Distilling Company in Louisville, Kentucky, which had been by founded by William Larue Weller, a veteran of the Mexican-American War. In 1915, five years before Prohibition, Van Winkle's father, Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle, had bought Weller & Sons with a partner, after 19 years as a salesman for the company. By the time Julian Jr. joined the company, Weller & Sons was selling medicinal whiskey made by the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery and hoping for the end of Prohibition, which, as it turned out, was only a year off. Soon the six-foot-four teenager was rolling full 48-gallon barrels around the warehouses with the intention of bulking up to play football at Princeton University, which he would enter in 1933. Two years later, on Derby Day in 1935, Weller & Sons formally merged with the Stitzel concern to become the Stitzel-Weller Distilling Company.

Julian Jr. continued his summertime work rotations at the distillery until his graduation from Princeton in 1937. The following year, when he became the company's treasurer, business was booming, thanks largely to the success of the Old Fitzgerald and W. L. Weller bourbon brands. But everything suddenly changed on December 7, 1941, for the nation and Stitzel-Weller, with the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. Compelled by patriotism and a sense of duty common among his generation, Van Winkle volunteered for the U.S. Army…"
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