Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Greatest Generation - My Dad

My parents just celebrated their 68th anniversary!  Wow!  I've had some good talks with my Dad lately.  Like many WW2 vets, he almost never talks about the war, but I think he wanted to talk this time for two reasons.  One, they've walked through this with us through our sadness at losing two friends in THIS war; and two, because he's getting older, and really, finally, wants me to understand.  My parents are continually preparing us for their death in small ways.

My dad met my mother by tripping her in a roller rink.  A hot skater, he went all the way around before he came back to pick her up.  In more ways than one.  They dated for a couple weeks and he went straight into the army.  Continually writing letters back and forth, he came back on leave and they were married.  He'd sent her an engagement ring in the mail!  Back to the war.

He was in t 463rd AAA Automatic Weapons Battalion under General Patton.  His unit was shipped over the Atlantic in February in terrible weather.  He said just about everyone on the ship got sick, including the shipmen!  He admitted that he was fine, until he was in a lunch line and the guy in front of him turned around and threw up on his food tray!  Then he joined the rest.  Later they found that February is the absolute worst time of the year to cross the Atlantic.  Good start.  These were the beginning stages of the D-Day events.

He described places, times and operations.  He saw lots of carnage and killed many.  At one point their engineers set up a bridge and my dad, along with other men, were on it, holding it against the enemy.  He told me it was a pretty naked feeling to be standing on that bridge when the Luftwaffe came over in waves, strafing the bridge.  I guess he was in EXACTLY the right place, because he's alive!

They saw 144 days of continual combat in enemy territory.  My parents' first anniversary found him in heavy fighting.  I mentioned that, and he replied, "We didn't even THINK of those things - we just fought." You don't want to hear it all, just think Saving Private Ryan, he tells me.  He did have a special moment when General Patton himself spoke directly to him - he was driving a truck across a bridge, and, coming from the other direction in his usual position, STANDING in a truck, General Patton yelled at him, "BACK THAT TRUCK OFF THAT BRIDGE!!!"  He backed up.  Fast.  Dad waited as Patton and his entourage of trucks and tanks crossed the bridge for 15 minutes or more.

He participated in The Battle of the Bulge.  Fighting was never-ending.  Finally, after 144 days, they were told they could have two weeks' leave at a nearby resort in France.  They spent about three days there, then were all called back into action.  Again, they continued fighting in enemy territory for months, until the War ended.

He told me that the stone walls erected all over the countryside were the death of them.  Germans, who were already holding that ground, were behind them waiting, and there was no way to know who or what was behind them.  The stone walls, 100s of years old, were overgrown with trees and bushes, impossible to get through.  He said they finally just bombed them and made big holes through which to pass – still, they didn’t know what was behind them.  He told me they were issued “clickers” – you know – those little metal children’s toys shaped like a cricket that you would press to make a loud, irritating click.  This was one way they could identify friend or foe.

No wonder they call them "The Greatest Generation."  I do not in any way mean to make light of the war we're in right now - we've participated in that pain - but many more men were killed in WW2 each day than have been killed in this war, we heard 2,500 so far.  My parents knew unending amounts of people that died, and gave a LOT, as did many, many others from this generation.  When I think of their stories, I realize I don't even know what the word sacrifice means.

Dad, I salute you. 

If you are privileged to still have someone around that was in World War 2, show some interest in that time, hear a story, and thank him.
Here are my parents on their anniversary.  Oh, my goodness, I love these people!

No comments:

Post a Comment