Author Topic: Seventy Years Ago Today ......  (Read 3145 times)

JoeInCT

  • Guest
Seventy Years Ago Today ......
« on: December 08, 2011, 11:45:55 AM »
my Dad reported for induction into the Army under the newly passed Selective Service Law. I cannot imagine what was going through his mind. Pearl Harbor had been ambushed, a nutjob wallpaper hanger named Adolf Hitler had been raising hell in Europe, and the Japanese had been expanding their Economic Empire in Asia for many years, obliterating the nations of Korea and Manchuria, and waging horrific warfare against the Chinese, including atrocities that Americans couldn't imagine, and didn't believe when first reported by western journalists.
 
Basic and Advanced Training was at Fort Belvoir, just down the road from Mt. Vernon, and trained him to be a Combat Engineer, what he had hoped to get into, since he had been  working full time during the day at a local machine shop and taking classes at night in a local engineering college. He learned how to build Bailey Bridges, set up and clear mine fields, build roads and pipelines, and repair battle-damaged bridges of all kinds which existed in the world. What he didn't know was that the Army Air Force, headed up by Gen. Hap Arnold, was working on a new battle concept called Close Air Support, which involved building airfields, setting up defense perimeters, flushing out snipers, repairing enemy airfields which were suitable for use by our air groups, comprised mostly of an ugly looking airplane called the P-47 Thunderbolt, and creating ordnance dumps for the bombs and rockets and .50 caliber ammo that the Thunderbolt used (she had 8 machine guns and was capable, just like her son, the Fairchild Thunderbolt II, nicknamed the Warthog, of taking out the heaviest of the tanks in the Wehrmacht inventory). His first assignment was to join several of these new "aviation engineer" battalions to take over Iceland from the Brit Engineers, and to create airfields near Rekyavik and Keflavik for the airplanes ferrying from Canada and the USA to the UK, and back.
 
He had qualified on the M1903 Springfield Rifle, but shortly after arriving in Iceland, he was issued a new rifle called the Garand, a brand new one with a serial number in the 3,000 range. Damn, it was semiauto, and could spit out 8 rounds long before a soldier with a bolt action M1903 could get off his 5 rounds! He spent his time in Iceland until May 1944, when he was sent to the UK to fill up open positions in the troops preparing for something called Operation Overlord. On D+1, he landed at Omaha Beach, and the only thing he would ever say was that bodies with Big Red Ones (First Division) and Silver Crescents (29th Division) on their helmets were still floating in the water, some missing pieces, when his Higgins boat hit the beach. Mom told us, after he passed away in 1980 from cancer, that for about 2 years after they were married (June 1946), he would periodically wake up in the middle of the night, screaming. He ended the war on the Czechoslovakia/Germany border, preparing to put up a bridge that the Germans had blown up to slow our guys down. I guess because of his time in service, he had the points needed to come home in November 1945.
 
I was the first of 5 children they had, arriving on the 2nd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. They call me a Baby Boomer, and I am coming up on retirement age this summer. Mom passed away in May, 2009, and I often think about what they and their generation accomplished. There is no other way to say it. They truly were, The Greatest Generation.

Offline GhostWarrior

  • I'm very humble, you can ask me.
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3039
  • Benefactor & Life Member NRA
Re: Seventy Years Ago Today ......
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2011, 05:16:44 PM »
Amen
If at first you don't succeed, then Skydiving is not your sport.

Welcome Home every Veteran and active Service personnel and Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sacrifice

b5.5dan

  • Guest
Re: Seventy Years Ago Today ......
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2011, 08:00:33 PM »
And 70 years ago today, we were at war. I talked to my students about it, and my heart broke. I am in charge of the Flag at my school, and I took my students out early to lower her to half mast. It was a reverent moment for me, but it was lost on them (and they wouldn't DARE say anything about the tears in my eyes!). We have our heart cut out for us in order to make sure that this generation knows what sacrifices others made (and continue to make). I don't speak in religious terms too often, but God Bless all those who gave their lives to protect and defend the freedom of this Great Nation, God Bless all of those who accepted the very real possibility that their service would be rewarded by them being called upon to make the Ultimate Sacrifice, and God Bless all of those WONDERFUL AMERICANS who continue to make that choice; to live and die for the freedoms that define this nation and make its citizens the luckiest people on the face of this great planet.

From the bottom of my heart, for now and forever, Thank You.

TexinMaine

  • Guest
Re: Seventy Years Ago Today ......
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2012, 08:32:45 AM »
Joe,
Thank you for the story. You do your father a great honor in the sharing and telling of it. And you also brought up a good memory from my childhood. My father was in the Navy and I spent 2 years in Keflavic as a kid. The greatest hot dog I have ever had was a Icelandic one. It has been over 35 years and I can still remember how wonderful it was. A while back I attempted to buy some but our USDA doesn't allow the import of the meat.  :sad: Oh well.

JoeInCT

  • Guest
Re: Seventy Years Ago Today ......
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2012, 04:58:36 PM »
GW, dan, Tex, thanks for your considerate replies.
 
As Stephen Ambrose said before passing away himself in 2004, the men and women who fought and won that conflict didn't want to talk about it much when they came home, probably because most of them had witnessed horrors that they wanted to forget, and they didn't consider themselves "heroes" (not the real ones, anyway), and so they tried very hard to forget and get back to the "normal life" that they had been torn away from. However, we are losing them at the rate of over a thousand per day, and their story must be told before it is lost to history (for example, the name of the American sniper who took out the British general in command at the land battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812 has been forever lost because no one thought to record it and pass it along to higher authorities. He was killed immediately by British troops after killing the British officer, and other Americans nearby quickly ran away as the Redcoats approached his tree to kill him, so perhaps that is the reason no one realized his contribution; having killed the enemy commander, the Redcoat attack stalled and ended, with the Americans chasing them back to their boats.
Like the remains entombed at Arlington Cemetary, wherever that young fellow was buried, carries with it a headstone  with the unrecorded inscription which says, "Here lies in honored glory, an American soldier, known but to God".
 
There is one more important thing about my Dad I omitted. During the Battle of the Bulge, he and his platoon were in charge of a P-47 airfield on the northern side of the Bulge. They were waiting for the weather to clear so the P-47s could take off and pound the German troops and armor surrounding Bastogne. While checking map directions with an MP at a crossroad, he heard an incoming artillery round. He immediately turned and dove into a nearby ditch, but a piece of shrapnel hit him in the left leg before he was all the way into the ditch. When he crawled out of the ditch, wet and bloody, he saw that all that was left of the MP was his helmet and boots; the MP had been hit directly and had been vaporized. Dad made it back to the airfield, where the medic removed the steel from his leg and then he was driven to the nearest Aid Station and then to the nearest hospital. He was awarded the Purple Heart. As we were growing up, Dad could always tell us when bad weather was coming, because the scar on his left leg would hurt him and he would have difficulty walking. That made life difficult for him, since he was a route salesman for Wonder Bread and clutch work for his truck would be very painful for him during stormy weather. As we got older, we learned to leave him alone after supper, get things for him so he didn't have to get up, and let him sit in his favorite chair, watch TV, and relax a bit after having worked his @ss off for us all day in pain and out in bad weather. He never stopped being a soldier, and was a great example to us all; all 5 of us continue to miss him terribly (+1980). He was a hard act to follow.