[May 16, 2022] We rarely have the honor today of speaking with WWII veterans. Nearly all have passed away, with only 240,000 still alive of the 16 million who served. The War was the deadliest of all wars, lasting about six years and causing 70-85 million deaths worldwide. It was the greatest generation who served, but we are fortunate that many WWII veterans’ children tell their stories.
This past weekend, I was with a small group of men raising funds for a WWII Memorial. “May Fest” is a popular day with thousands turning out in our community. I enjoyed hearing the many stories about dads, moms, uncles, and cousins during the War. I heard many stories about these men and women and what they did during the War, and I appreciate that these family stories are being passed down.
Some of these stories were:
- An uncle and a grandfather were on Iwo Jima.
- A grandfather who was in the Navy at D-Day, driving a Higgins Boat.
- Two uncles in the 101st Airborne during the D-Day invasion.
- A grandmother, a nurse in England.
- … and many who told me about their relatives in the Korean and Vietnam War.
Here are three more detailed stories that I liked. There are many more; space limitations prevent me from giving more information. But I was privileged to hear these three.
- His mother was a French Resistance Fighter. From a small town about 30 minutes south of Geneva, France (near Italy), his mother delivered messages to resistance fighters in the mountains, helping coordinate their sabotage efforts against the Germans. She also housed and coordinated the hiding of Jewish families. His mom was 18 years old. Most of her friends from her village were captured, tortured and many executed. His mother moved to America after she had her first child but did not tell her story until 1973, when she was invited to Israel and France to give a talk on her war efforts. Her story is detailed in a book written in French. Maybe, one day, it will be translated.
- On his first run over Germany in October 1943 to attack the ball bearing manufacturing factories in Schweinfurt, Germany. This is one of the most famous and most destructive bombing missions of the war. It was also known as Black Thursday because of the American losses. Of 291 B-17s, 77 were lost and 121 damaged. The lady’s dad was the tail gunner on one of the surviving B-17s. She described her dad’s story as “riveting” and “scary as hell.” His aircraft was hit 115 times with shrapnel from anti-aircraft artillery. Nearly every man on his plane was wounded, two died, and three returned to America with injuries too serious to return. Her dad flew another 21 missions before his bomber was shot down. He was lucky that U.S. Army forces found him before the Germans.
- His dad “Frank” was with Patton’s Third Army and part of the relief of the Battle of the Bulge. This battle was the largest and bloodiest single battle fought by Americans in WWII. A “sergeant” in a tank battalion, his dad was part of a unit that broke through the lines to relieve soldiers in the siege of Bastogne, the 101st Airborne. After he was grown and 30 years old, his dad told him about the unrelenting attacks, the noise, the horror of the battlefield, the freezing cold, the snow, leaving friends wounded and mourning those who died. His dad was fortunate to meet Gen. George S. Patton personally.
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