Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Belated Veteran's Day - My Dad Served in World War Two


Dad never told many stories about the war, but he walked all through Italy, France and Germany as an Infantry Sergeant from 1942 through VE Day. 
(btw tissue alert maybe at the end of the post. Was for me anyway)
Here are a couple stories he told us.
  • He was in France and an appreciative French family gave him a couple bottles of wine at their residence. He put them inside his jacket near his chest,facing up. After they had left and were making their way through a field, some Germans started shooting at them. As they ran for the cover of the trees, one of the bottles of wine, excited by the up and down motion, popped its cork, hitting my Dad in the chin and making him think he had been shot. He had not been shot.
  • He said they were walking down a street in Italy once and a sniper shot and hit his buddy in the belt buckle dropping his pants. They ducked behind a wall and got things back together.
  • He told us about the statues he saw of Pompeii volcano victims and it was obvious that some of these people were buried in ash before they even knew something was happening. Some were standing or in other positions, and by the body language were quite relaxed and unaware.
  • He said he carried an M1 because “You couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a Thompson machine gun”
That was it. That’s all he ever told us and later when we asked about stuff, his answers were honest but short. We didn't ask a lot.  He wasn’t interested on rehashing or reliving any of it. Not with us anyway. And I don’t think with any of his buddies either. He liked Comedy and Variety shows on TV like The Carol Burnett or the Red Skelton show. If some tear jerker came on he’d say something like “Well, this looks like a real laugher” and go somewhere else.
Some of my memories that are about him and not me...
  • He had me on our slate roof, 50 feet off the ground when I was 4, and had me tied to a piece of rope which he held and was wrapped around the chimney, while I repaired something about the gutter that I can no longer remember.
  • He had me mixing cement in a wheel barrow when I was 6 or so, and laying down some new sidewalk squares. 3 of them. With the troweled edges and all. When I was 7 and 8, we rebuilt the front porch deck. Hammer and nails and nail sets and circular saws.
  • About the same time, he had my brother and I (who was also in some of the above projects) down in the basement shooting cigarette butts with single shot .22 rifle at about 50 feet.
  • He had my brother and I tearing our bicycles down to their shorts and putting them back together.
  • When we were about 4 and 5,he drove us out to one of the roads very near the Greater Pittsburgh Airport in line with the runway, and as a plane came in to land, very low above us, we ducked and he slapped the top of the car and told us the plane’s landing gear had careened off the roof. We believed him.  Later on, we watched one of the first Boeing 707 jets taking off from the "Observation Deck" of the Greater Pittsburgh Airport. A thing of the past to never return.
  • During those years, every time we came home from somewhere in the car, he’d pull most of the way into the garage, then tell my brother and I to hop out, go up front and blow out the headlights. We did it. By then we knew the score, but it was fun anyway. Man, I can still smell the car and feel the heat coming out of the front grill as we did that even right this very moment.

He was a heck of a fun Dad and even then we appreciated him a lot.
When he was younger, before and after the war, he had a Harley, an Indian '80, and a Henderson inline 4 cylinder motorcycle. Not at the same time. Once we started to show up, he got rid of them. 
He told us he and his riding buddies would put copper contacts on the wheel rims and install lights and the wiring and contacts necessary to light them up while they rode. Must have been quite a sight. Sorry no pictures. I’d never even seen a picture of that but I’m sure it’s all true.
He had one beer a night, and on Christmas Eve, he had a beer and some cookies we left out for Santa.
Here are some pictures.  I believe they are all prior to his deployment to Europe as none of them depict his rank of Sergeant.  I think now, he didn't take any pictures post WWII in uniform. Rather he was done with it.  I know what some but not all of what the medals and insignias mean.  I'll be posting this every Veteran's day now and add whatever I've been able to learn in the meantime.

I sure miss him, but at the same time, I'm happy he isn't around to see this Cluster of a country he fought so hard for. It would kill him.  I remember one of his oft spoken phrases even back in the 1970's was 'Aw Bullshit!'.  Can't imagine what that would be in 2011.

 The "Kidney Belt" was necessary.  Harley's in those days would vibrate the kidneys right out of your body.
 I remember he said when he got back on break after boot camp, he could do 250 push ups. Wish I could.  That's a Pontiac on the right, not sure about the left. Buick?
Here is the paper money he brought back from the war.  Not sure how Mexico got involved, but thought it was interesting the serial numbers were sequential on these El Banco De Chihuahau notes. Front and back.

Note the 50 cent paper money below.


Here is Dad and Mom after the war.  My one year older brother is on the left, and I'm on the right.  Later on, a little sister and a little brother arrived on the scene. At first glance it looks like I might be upset about something but my Mom told me later, I was actually pre-occupied and obsessed with pondering Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which had just been released a couple years earlier.. Makes sense.

Anyway, they're all gone now.

I Love you Dad.  You were a lot cooler than I'll ever be.
I Love you Mom.


  1. Such a Great tribute to your Dad.

    Sorry for your loss of both parents. I now know what that feels like.

  2. Hi Stopsign. Thank you. I'm sorry you have had this experience in your life now too.

    I hope you can celebrate their lives as I do my parents and I hope you didn't lose them too soon - knowing that's it is always too soon.

    Thank you for your comment.

  3. Yeah, my dad was a WWII vet, too, and never said much about it, other than it was no fun, and 'never volunteer for anything.'

    I never listened to any of that until it was too late. He knew what he was talking about.

  4. thank you - Kid--

    my Dad-4 years in the Pacific- hardly talked of the War---He did watch Victory At Sea whenever it was on TV--and he did tech us to shoot---
    and warned us about giving people $$$ for not working -welfare-Detroit-

    we know what Detroit is like today-he was right-as always--

    To our DADS!!!

    Happy Thanksgiving--my Patriot friend---

  5. Fredd, Judging from the true to life Band of Brothers movie, it was nasty, but no where near as disgusting as WWI. I can't even imagine those guys in the trenches.
    At least our guys in WWII were on the move. At least in Europe.

  6. Carol-CS, I feel for the guys in the Pacific more than any other in that war. The conditions and the Japanese were brutal. I'm sure glad he came home and any that did.

    As much as I hear about war, there is no rhyme or reason to who comes back and who doesn't. What nonsense.

    I'm often tempted to always push for the ultimate weapon against who ever attacks freedom. Yes, that would be disgusting, but what is the alternative? Years of suffering and lots of innocent life is taken anyway.

  7. This is a wonderful tribute to your Dad.
    I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving. God Bless.

  8. TCL, You too. Thank you.
    It's going well so far :)

  9. What a wonderful story! God's been good to us...being raised where we were...and by such Moms-n-Dads! Happy Thanksgiving LOOONG time to you and yours!!! JG

  10. Have a wonderful holiday and weekend JG.

    Yea, I have more than once wondered why some of us are born in America and some of us born a foot above sea level in Bangladesh...

  11. what a fabulous piece. It's like your dad still lives through you and you've told us all stories even WE will never forget! I may even tell friends about that very funny wine cork killing! TOo good!

    I agree with you about dads and what they'd think if they saw America today; I never thought I'd say I'm glad Dad's gone, but when it comes to America's situation today, I AM glad.
    God bless America....and please help things get back to NORMAL!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Kid.....

  12. Z, thank you very much. I just cleared my head and put my feelings and memories down. I think it's the only way to tell a story.

    I'm happy you enjoyed the stories, they've stuck with me verbatim a long time.

    My dad was a very positive and happy person, after all he and they went through and that will always impress me.

    I hope to sharpen the details on future Veteran's Day posts.

    I will always do my part to influence toward the positive. What else is there to do? ;-)

    Have a great Thanksgiving and weekend Z.

  13. Ah, Kid, this is such a beautiful post. Your family is so beautiful. What lovely memories you have of all the fun stuff your Father did with you and your brother. You are so very lucky to have such a great and involved Father!

    God Bless them, and I know they are very proud of you. It is a blessing our loved ones aren't around to see what this Country has become today, it would make them very very sad. Well, we can remember the happy times.
    Have a Blessed Thanksgiving, and take care.

  14. Thank You Bunni. We were poor but only in the material...

    Good times and bad times of course, but in the end, I think all of us only remembered the good stuff.

    I hope your holiday and weekend is great.

  15. You really do resemble your dad. I saw it right away looking at his first picture. For sure the eyes and face shape. And I knew the kid on the right was you. I'm good at spotting your childhood pictures now!

    Happy Thanksgiving. Sorry you have to spend it without your wonderful parents. (((hugs)))

  16. Opus, Thanks so much! :)

    Thank you for the hugs, I know they're genuine.

    Yes, Thanksgiving really is a family day. It's OK. I'm good. We had our fair share. Time just moves too fast.

    The best to you and yours. You have a great family.

  17. Thank-You for sharing this story with us.

  18. Hi FD, Thanks for reading. Hope the weekend is great.

  19. Kid that was a great tribute. Your dad sounds like he was an awesome person. Raised you right. I too bet he would not be happy with our country today,especially when in the the day they felt they could use a man like Herbert Hoover again. Thank you for directing me to it.

    1. Thank you so much Lisa. He was a fantastic guy. Had to work too hard though.

      Well, he tried to raise me right ! :) (guilty of not making it easy.)