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Youngest of 19 reflects on a well-lived life

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by Chris Braithwaite

NEWPORT — In the early summer of 1945 Harvey Robitaille was in basic training, an Army draftee being readied for what was predicted to be a long and bloody conclusion to the Second World War — the invasion of Japan.  In terms of the Robitaille family, which moved from Quebec to a farm in Westfield in 1922, Harvey was following a well-worn path.  At 18, he was the youngest of the 19 children born to Victoria and Dominic Robitaille.  And he was the seventh of them to serve in the war.  If he came late to the engagement — Hitler was dead, Germany a defeated shambles — he was in an Army that knew from experience, as Japan defended its island outposts across the South Pacific, that it faced an opponent who would defend its homeland to the last man.

Then on August 6 everything changed.  The atomic bombs that demolished Hiroshima and, three days later, Nagasaki, led to a quick Japanese surrender.  Harvey completed his basic training that December, put in a year at Fort Benning in Georgia, then mustered out of the Army and came home to Newport.

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