Posted tagged ‘World War II’

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

June 6, 2014

The rain stayed all day yesterday, got heavy at times then finally stopped in the late afternoon. Today is sunny and warm with a breeze that sways the leaves. The clouds, though, keep coming and going, but the sun seems to win each time. I have errands to do. On a day like today, I don’t mind.

My dad served in the navy during World War II. He enlisted the day he turned seventeen because he didn’t need his mother’s or father’s permission any more. His ship plied the North Atlantic ferrying supplies. It was sunk, but he was rescued. The cold water did great damage to his legs so my dad spent a long time at a hospital in England. He was eighteen and to him war was an adventure. He never even told his parents he was in the hospital. They had to contact the Red Cross to try and find him. One of his memories, one of the few he shared, was about gliding a bicycle down the hill from the hospital to a pub. His legs were in casts so he couldn’t pedal. Someone would drive him back up the hill. During the Battle of the Bulge he was still in the hospital. He told us huge numbers of wounded were coming in and saying they were getting overrun by the Germans. That’s one of the things he remembered most.

My parents and my sister and I traveled together one year to Belgium and the Netherlands. At one point we were in the Ardennes where there were still tank traps looking like concrete teeth rising from the forest floor. My dad was in awe at being in the places he had heard about from the soldiers he had met in the hospital. At Malmedy he told us about the massacre of American soldiers by the Germans. He sounded both sad and angry. In Belgium, my dad wanted to see Bastogne where we stayed at a hotel overlooking Gen. McAuliffe Square, named in tribute to the man who told the Germans, “Nuts,” when he was asked to surrender the town. We ate dinner one night at a restaurant in the hotel where American officers had been billeted. We walked around the Mardasson Memorial which honors American soldiers who were killed, wounded or captured in the Battle of the Bulge. We visited the World War II Museum. My father said very little. Though he had never fought here, he held all of it in great reverence.

Today is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.

 

 

“When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?”

November 11, 2012

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, World War I ended. This day became known as “Armistice Day.” In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Similarly, unknown soldiers had been buried in England at Westminster Abbey and at France at the Arc de Triomphe. All of these memorials took place on November 11th to commemorate the end of the “war to end all wars.”

In 1926, Congress resolved to officially call November 11th Armistice Day. Then in 1938, the day was named a national holiday. Soon afterwords war broke out in Europe and World War II began.

Soon after the end of World War II, a veteran of that war named Raymond Weeks organized “National Veterans Day” with a parade and festivities to honor all veterans. He chose to hold this on Armistice Day. Thus began annual observances of a day to honor all veterans not just the end of World War I. In 1954, Congress officially passed and President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veteran’s Day. Due to his part in the creation of this national holiday, Raymond Weeks received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan in November 1982.

In 1968, Congress changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. However, the significance of November 11 was such that the changed date never really got established. In 1978, Congress returned the observance of Veterans Day to its traditional date.

On Memorial Day, 1958, two unidentified soldiers were interred at Arlington National Cemetery having died in World War II and the Korean War. In 1984, an unknown soldier who died in the Vietnam War was placed next to the others; however, this last soldier was later exhumed, and he was identified as Air Force 1st Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie. His body was removed.

The unknown soldiers are symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars. To honor them, an Army honor guard keeps day and night vigil.

National ceremonies commemorating Veterans Day occur each year at the the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 AM on November 11, a color guard representing all military services executes “Present Arms” at the tomb. Then the presidential wreath is laid upon the tomb. Finally, the bugler plays taps.

Each Veterans Day should be a time when Americans stop and remember the brave men and women who have risked their lives for the United States of America. As Dwight Eisenhower said, “…it is well for us to pause, to acknowledge our debt to those who paid so large a share of freedom’s price. As we stand here in grateful remembrance of the veterans’ contributions we renew our conviction of individual responsibility to live in ways that support the eternal truths upon which our Nation is founded, and from which flows all its strength and all its greatness.”

“Every man’s memory is his private literature.”

June 6, 2011

Yesterday all was well and today looks like a great day. The sun is so bright it’s almost blinding. I have an errands, but I’m putting them off until later so I can loll on the deck with a cold drink and my newest book, The Jefferson Key. My irrigation guy came by this morning and turned on the lawn system and my outside shower. My landscaper, who lives next door, was with him, and I asked him to have a few things done in my yard. The last of my flowers are waiting for planting, weeds in the front need to go to their heavenly rewards and the backyard has to be weed-whacked. Tomorrow, he said.

Today is D-Day. My mother once had a D-Day party and put up maps of the landing sites, played WWII music and had The Longest Day playing on the VCR. My dad used to tell us about when he was in the hospital in England during the invasion, and the wounded never seemed to stop coming. They told him our troops were getting slaughtered by heavy resistance. Most of the soldiers were pessimistic about our chances to defeat Germany. That, of course, was at the beginning. We visited a few sites on one of our trips to Europe. The Ardennes was the spookiest with its ground fog and its silence. In the woods were tank traps looking like dragon’s teeth. We passed signs for Malmedy, and my dad told us about the massacre of American prisoners of war by the “bloody Germans” as he called them. All the sites we saw and visited were new to my dad as well. He had been a sailor whose ship had been sunk by the Germans in the North Atlantic. We followed signs along the same route the Americans had taken as the army made its way inland; we visited WW II museums and stayed in Bastogne. It was a remarkable trip.

Memories of events grow dim and finally disappear over time. Each new generation loses something as the previous generations age and finally disappear. I grew up hearing all my mother’s favorite songs including her World War II favorites. I know all the words to them. My niece and nephews don’t know them, no reason why they should. The songs aren’t played any more. I remember all my dad’s World War II stories, and they have been passed down, but I suspect they’ll end with the generation behind me. They have no connections the way we did.

I am a child of the 50’s and 60’s, and I have so many memories of growing up then, memories of the things I did and what I believed. They are still vivid to me but only to me. Soon enough, they too will fade and finally disappear, and the next generation will fill the void with their own memories.

“I believe it is the nature of people to be heroes, given the chance.”

May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

A handful of old men walking down the village street
In worn, brushed uniforms, their gray heads high;
A faded flag above them, one drum to lift their feet—
Look again, O heart of mine, and see what passes by!

    There’s a vast crowd swaying, there’s a wild band playing,
The streets are full of marching men, or tramping cavalry.
Alive and young and straight again, they ride to greet a mate again—
The gallant souls, the great souls that live eternally!

    A handful of old men walking down the highways?
Nay, we look on heroes that march among their peers,
The great, glad Companions have swung from heaven’s byways
And come to join their own again across the dusty years.

    There are strong hands meeting, there are staunch hearts greeting—
A crying of remembered names, of deeds that shall not die.
A handful of old men?—Nay, my heart, look well again;
The spirit of America today is marching by!

                                                                   – Theodosia Pickering Garrison

I went to my town’s parade this morning. It lasted about five minutes, but that didn’t matter, only the occasion did. An old soldier and an old sailor walked in front of a WW II jeep to the music of bagpipes. A newer jeep carried two of their comrades, too old to walk. The middle school band played well. Boy scouts and girl scouts carried small flags and waved at the people along the roadside. It may have been small, but it was heartfelt.


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