Monday, March 17, 2008

WWII Veteran's Story

This is not a knitting story, but a story of a closeknit bond that I have to my dear Uncle Bob. This last week, I invited my 82 year old uncle to come to my school to be interviewed for an oral history project. Uncle has many interesting WWII stories to tell.

First there was the story of how he asked for a deferrment of his draft date so that he could finish High School. Not only did Uncle Bob receive the deferrment, but the draft board also deferred the enlistment date for his twin brother, my dad, (who had dropped out of high school to work and didn't deserve an educational deferrment)Their deferrment meant that they would not have to report to duty until June 20th, 1944. If they had been inducted on their 18th birthday in January, they would have completed their basic training with perfect timing to be shipped off to Europe for D-Day. That gives a whole new meaning to the value of education.

My father entered the Navy and was in the battle for Okinawa. Uncle Bob went into the Army, arriving in Europe in September of 1944 as a replacement troop. Although he arrived late in the war, he saw plenty of action, earning two battle ribbons and the bronze star.

Telling his stories after 64 years, Uncle was still able to graphically describe in great detail, the battles he was in, and his strategy for survival.
My favorite story though, was not a battle story, but a human one. It was the spring of 1945, at the end of the War in Europe. Uncle Bob was assigned to string telephone communication wires in a German town that the Allies had occupied. He was going from house to house in and out of apartments so he could string the telephone wire. In one apartment, he came upon a heavyset, middle aged german man in a room filled with money. Gold coin and german bills were heaped on a table. Who is to know how the man acquired the money, Uncle didn't ask, but he assumed it was not honestly, or the man wouldn't have been hiding it in his apartment. Uncle lashed out in anger, calling the man a *!@!* Nazi. He scooped up an armful of money and threw it out the window. Then he filled his rucksack with more of the money . . .

Listening to this story that I had never heard before, I was worried about where it was going. I needn't have been.

"I took that money, and went to the outskirts of town, where there was a D.P. (displaced persons) camp. I gave them people all that money. They were so grateful. They didn't have a thing. They didn't even have proper clothes or shoes and nothing to eat. I suppose I could have set myself up good if I had kept some of it. . . but, oh, they were so grateful."

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