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My great Uncle Ed was shot down in WWII and was a POW.  A few weeks ago me and my son participated in Wreaths Across America at the cemetery where he is buried.  He was honored in the ceremony by his story being told.   I had never heard his story until that day.   

While I did have conversations before he passed about his time as a fighter pilot, he really only told me about his training, and not about the war.  I knew he was a POW but never asked him about it.  He passed in 2000.

While many from the Greatest Generation share their stories, most did not.  When I would ask my grandfather or papa about their time in the war, I was told they just did what was needed to be done and didn't get much more information then that.  Now that they are gone, I wished I would have asked more, as stories like this need to be told.

Enjoy the story, and yes there are trains involved, but only a small part.  If Rich or Arnold want to remove this thread I understand.

 

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Last edited by Jdevleerjr
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IMG_0946_zps175699c9Reading this story reminded me of a desire to create an O gauge 40&8 box car.  I know they were "buggy sprung" short wheelbase cars with only 4 wheels.   I had thought it might be possible to take a 6 inch Marx car and build a wooden coffee stirer body fashioned after the real 40&8 boxcars.  Any body who could improve on this basic design would be appreciated.

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Last edited by rkenney

JD...   Thanks for sharing the riveting memories of your great uncle.  The little I know of my father's time in England, France and the Pacific islands is very precious to me.  Along with pics and letters I have, the knowing of what all went through during the war gives me all more reason to feel the blessing of what we, as Americans, have to be grateful for.  My father and I, as many others, spent many hours together running trains and building our layouts.  Always trains when Christmas came around, something to add each year, along with birthdays.  Yes, they were, are, the greatest generation and our debt to them immeasurable.

Jesse   TCA

It was a great story and read, and we should be thankful for those who were able to tell their stories and respectful to those who didn't or weren't able to.  In most cases these men, who were many times only boys but rose up to meet something they and those asking them to didn't fully understand, still aren't able to mentally fathom what they went through.  I had 3 great uncles who were in the war, my grandfather working for the SP was deferred 13 times and did not.  I listened when they told stories, asked questions when able, but never tried to pry.  I think the protective mechanisms in our brains for trauma make it near impossible for people to talk about.  They're not called The Greatest Generation for nothing, and we need to always share and celebrate them and their stories like these when available.

Thanks very much for sharing this!

Wow, there’s a lot to read here, all well written. Oh how lucky we are to have had intelligent young men, like  your uncle, to fight for our Country, with honor and dignity. I began reading your story and could not quit, very interesting, a moment by moment description of real life in harms way. Sometimes I think we simply take for granted our Freedom, it’s not really free. There’s someone out there, our Military, taking care of Us, and we should be so Thankful for this. We should all show Love to everyone we know, even if it hurts, because God is Love, He brought your Uncle home, against all Odds. Yes, there were many trains mentioned, and it’s because of model trains, that we know You. Thank you for bringing  this fantastic story to our attention. Amazing. May God Bless your family. I consider him an unspoken Hero. Happy Railroading 

I know this post is old but Thank you for sharing @Jdevleerjr  and others. Gets me mixd up emotionally- my Pop was the youngest of 16, 5 of his older brothers served in WW2, his father-in-law, along with 3 of his brothers'-in-law(that come to mind off the top of my head). I was fortunate enough to have known 4 of his brothers and 2 of the in-laws who served, I was told from a young age that you don't ask about "it"- the war experiences. Hence That quote of yours, "While I did have conversations before he passed about his time as a fighter pilot, he really only told me about his training, and not about the war.  I knew he was a POW but never asked him about it.  He passed in 2000.", specifically resonated with me.  When one of my great-uncle's was in the hospital- the 3rd oldest brother, and we didn't know if he'd pull through, I did ask his thoughts on war- just in general- I'll never forget the look on his face as he said with conviction how, "it was so stupid and unnecessary" regarding it's causes- sad things that should've never risen in the first place. He wasn't saying that it was stupid and unnecessary from the U.S. perspective to get involved, he knew that the axis had to be stopped, but he also knew if things had been different btwn. the wars there wouldn't have been a need for it. Hence the unnecessary and stupid parts.

The reich generally treated British, French and American POWs better than prisoners on the eastern front. That said, this account still goes to show that it was by no means easy for our POWs in Europe. Of the 5 of my pop's brothers- one got bombed in a squad car, one a medic shot in the heel, the other 3 no injuries. My great-uncle who had been in that squad car had a terrible case of shell shock. Even upon his return home, he was despondent, had boils on one side of his face. My pop said that for 6 months he just sat in the front room listening to opera. Of all of them, I believe he had the hardest time moving forward but he did so none-the-less.

In 8th grade I interview My great-uncle Joe- my pop's brother in-law,  who served in the Pacific, as someone I viewed as a hero. He was rather open about his experiences. He lost 2 of his brothers. He talked to me with such a kind, gentle cadence and expression on his face. Indeed, all of them always were that way. Almost as if they'd seen or experienced so many terrible things that they somehow either "turned-it around" or carried themselves that way because they'd seen the worst of it, and anything after paled in comparison to the fortitude they had. I wish I still had a chance to ask them and wish my memory was better. I miss and love them all, I'm so thankful they were part of my lives and thankful for their service. I'm thankful to my Pop and his 3 brothers for their service in the 60s. And I'm thankful to my Pop that he relayed this family history to me, taught me the way to respect a soldier, told me his stories and stories of them, and for teaching me so much in general. I love and miss them all.  

Last edited by StevefromPA

amazing stuff my great uncle flew B-17's stationed in England won several medals---crashed and killed when two American planes hit each other on the way back from a bombing run over germany--at 19 years old!! my father and the family were never the same--still cant get over being 19 and having to do that---that generation was truly our best

Just saw this, and first of all, thank you for sharing this, it meant a lot to me personally. I am amazed at his recall and the way he wrote this, he obviously was a very intelligent person.  The one thing that almost every WWII vet I have ever met or read about (Stud's Terkel's book, "The Good War", is a classic, and it is a theme repeated there) is that the people who fought it saw it as something necessary, but also thought it was a total waste of lives and resources. You read about Europe or the Pacific and the one thing you realize is how brutal it really was and how a bunch of young kids were able to do what they did (I think about the way my friends and I drove at 18, and marvel at the kids flying planes like a P38 or a Mustang the way they did).

It is personal because my dad was a WWII vet, he was part of a tank killer battalion attached to the Third Army (initially they had a towed gun, after that the M36 Jackson tank destroyer, basically a stripped down Sherman with a 90MM gun that was quicker than a standard tank and could kill a tank at large range).  Like your great uncle, my dad when he talked about it never talked about the horrors that much,he talked about training and of course the funny stories, talked about having a 72 hour pass in Paris and spent the whole time walking around, raiding a castle on the Rhine River and hitting the wine cellar, things like that (some of which I can't tell here, violate TOS for being civilized *lol*).  He landed I believe about a month after D day and fought all the way until the end of the war (he saw both concentration camps and the camps for Russian POWS, he said they only differed in the way they killed people, not the end result).

He told story about troop trains, like they had the lowest priority around, so when they went to Texas from NJ it took well over a week. His story about troop ships (which someone in Terkel's book confirmed) was the chow was lousy, that officers were dining well and the men, well,not so much (the guy in Terkel's book said the same thing, fish heads for breakfast often).

I never even knew until I was well into adulthood that my dad had won the silver star, and that he had had a million dollar wound, ducked the hospital and went back to his unit, and later on was wounded more severely. He and another guy were manning a tank in Luxembourg in Jan, 45, their M36 took a hit and it knocked out the engine, they abandoned it bc they thought it might blow up, then when it didn't my dad got anther guy to go back,  and according to the citation, knocked out several enemy tanks that threatened a retreat underway. The reason for the citation was simple, the M36 was lightly armored, it depended on speed and evasiveness, without an engine it was a sitting duck.

The one thing he said time and again that there was no glory in war or battle, that they were a bunch of young kids who were just trying to stay alive. He always said that the guys he saw glorifying war were the guys who were behind the lines, not people who had seen and yeah, smelled it (he saw Saving Private Ryan, which was rare for him, he generally only watched WWII comedy movies, said the movie came close but they couldn't reproduce the smell).

One of the things he said was that one thing that might have let the guys do what they did was the units had kids but also had older guys. He talked about a guy in his unit from Boston, an older guy who was a buddy of the infamous Mayor Curley there, who he said kind of acted as a surrogate father.

Sorry if I went on, but wanted to share this, and thanks to the OP for sharing that story. One of the sad things with WWII is a lot of the records were lost thanks to a fire in a St. Louis archive in the 1970's, I was able to get some of my dad's records (you could see in the copies where the original was burned) and a copy of his medals, but I always wanted to try and find his fitness report or whatever they called it, to see if my mom was right and he was kind of the archetype of the person always getting in trouble for being a smart mouth *lol*-that I think may have been lost, sadly

And oh, yeah, he loved Lionel trains

Last edited by bigkid

Veterans and their stories.  What your uncle wrote is a treasure.

My uncle Vance from the few stories he told at Scout Camp.

World War II Uncle Vance drove a Zippo Lighter, AKA, Purple heart box, AKA Sherman Tank in WWII. For Patton’s army at the end. The tanks had a high casualty rate. You were the prime target. He told us in training they were taught to shoot 1, then 2 rounds to adjust the aim and the third would be on target. After a few months in battle he said they could put a round thru the window of a house in 1 or 2 shots.

One time they were guarding the line and they spotted a German runner. They fired three rounds at him knowing they never had a chance of hitting him, more out of boredom. They had been taught the cost of a round, the estimated cost of an enemy soldier etc. They blew the economics of war shooting the 3 rounds.

I don’t think Uncle Vance would ever have told us a story where someone was killed. War wasn’t glory, just something that had to be done.

While driving the tank in a column through France one of the people waiting on a cross street couldn't stand to wait in his car anymore. Even with the MP trying to hold him back, he rushed the car between 2 tanks, but didn't make it. The tank caught the back of his car and smashed it flat. He was unhurt but screaming mad and yelling at the Americans. Uncle Vance said the Army probably paid him for the car. Even though it was all his fault. He never said if it was his tank or the one in front of him that ran the car over.

Near the end it was the Battle of the Bulge. Uncle Vance and the crew lost their tank early. They came face to face with a Tiger tank. The only hope of survival was to run away. They did in full reverse, right of a cliff. Uncle Vance thinks that was the day the initial injury was done to his back, but he didn’t feel it then. Since they didn’t have a tank they were put to work at the supply depot. Uncle Vance worked 72 hours straight loading and fueling tanks for something big. He was so tired he asked the supply Sargent if he could rest for 15 minutes. He was given the OK. He took a 15 minute nap in ammo bunker. He woke up and the sky was now bright and everyone was saying it was over. He had slept 24 hours and 15 minutes, right through the major battle. He said we could not tell anyone that he had slept through the Battle of the Bulge.

During the occupation, before he came home he was harassed by a German lady every day. Each day they would walk by the apartment where she lived and she would tell them in English how much she hated the Americans. They egged it on a little also. One day she said she was leaving and she would not have to see them again. They asked where she was going. “I am going to live with my brother in Chicago!”.

On his way home he was on a ship loaded with GI's.  He told us about going to get the first meal. It was the first time since they entered battle they had all the food they could want. He took what he thought was a good amount but found he could not eat much. His stomach was too small. He had to dump a lot of it overboard and feed the fish. The same thing happened to most of the GI's on the ship. Not eating food was almost a sin when he grew up and he felt bad. It wasn't many days though until he could eat a goodly amount again.

Last edited by VHubbard

Fantastic story, thank you for posting it.....

Stories like this about the valor and pereservance of these veterans brings tears to my eyes. They were truly amazing!

There are more stories of the plight of the prisoners from the camp in Sagan. A good book to read about their plight as they were moved by the Germans to escape the Russian 1945 January offensive is in John Toland's The Last 100 Days.....a book about the last 100 days of WWII in Europe.

Peter

JD

I read your great uncles account when first posted 2 years ago and posted then and now have re-read it.

It was a God thing that the Luftwaffe guards had a gun battle with the SS guards that were sent to kill all the prisoners and all the guards were gone afterward.  The reuniting with his family, who were told he had been killed was special too.

Those were special pages to have now, remembering his service in WW2.  Thanks for posting

Charlie

Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

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