May 29, 2016 – My Father’s Memorial Day…

My father passed away in 1992.  He was a World War II veteran.  He landed in France a few days after D-Day and marched across Europe.  But my dad never, ever wanted to talk about his combat adventures.  He was not like the members of the American Veterans of Foreign Wars who always seemed to want to recount the attacks they participated in and the medals they won.  My father wanted nothing to do with the organization.  He just wanted to forget it.  And I never quite understood why.

I knew that my father became a prisoner of war.  He was captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge.  He was marched with many other prisoners into Germany and spent the last six months of the war in a Germany concentration camp.  Most Americans think of Hogan’s Heroes or Stalag 17 when they think of the German POW camps.  Well fed and having fun.  But that wasn’t the case.

Not too long ago I came across a box full of documentation that my grandparents had kept from those war days.  Letters from dad.  A notice of him listed as missing in action in the New York Times.  Another notice from the Red Cross concerning his imprisonment in Germany.

A final post war document narrated my father’s experience in that prison camp.  He maintained his normal weight throughout the war of 150 pounds up until he was captured.  During his internment in the camp the prisoners were fed mostly grass soup.  That’s grass boiled in water.  That was it.  Sometimes there was a slice of bread.  Most times not.  

General George Patton’s tanks drove the Germany army deeper into Germany.  The enemy abandoned the camp overnight.  They just left the prisoners there for the American Army to find.  

When my father was liberated from the concentration camp he weighed just 100 pounds.  He was in as bad a shape as the Jews that were liberated from their prison camps.  But this is a story that has gone unnoticed and unheralded by the American government even to this day.

After I read all of this documentation, I understood why dad never wanted to recall the events of World War II.  But what was most amazing to me was that he never ever mentioned the horrific ordeal he went through in the prison camp.  Never.  And I never understood my father’s respect for food either until I read those documents.

I asked him once if he ever wanted to go back and visit his path through Europe.  I asked if he wanted to recount those days like so many other veterans who were returning for the 30th anniversary of D-Day.  With a sardonic laugh he exclaimed, “Hell NO!!”  And that was that.

That’s what I remember about Memorial Day.
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Commentary, World War II, Europe, Memorial Day, Germany, France, D-Day, remember, memories, combat, war, United States, Army, hero,

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About PepeLeDog
Not about me.

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