June 06, 2009

On A Day Like Today

Today is the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion during World War II.  On June 6, 1944, armies from the United States, Great Britain and Canada assaulted the coast at Normandy, France in an effort to re-take Adolf Hitler's Fortress Europe, a campaign that would end in victory for the Allies in April of 1945.

My Dad landed on the French coast as a PFC in Patton's Third Army the second or third week in June, 1944. He was classified as an engineer. He had been a corporal at one time, but he liked to fight a lot, so he was busted back to PFC by the time he arrived in France.  He and his unit built make-shift bridges over rivers for armored units to cross. While building one of these bridges about a hundred miles south of Paris, he was blown into the water by a mortar round and hit by machine gun fire while floating in the water.  His squad leader dove into the water and dragged him to the river bank before he drowned. Badly wounded, he was patched up and sent home on a hospital ship. He was recovering in an army hospital in Springfield, Missouri on VE day, where he met my mother.

And, the above paragraph is just about all I know about my Dad's military experience.  He never talked much about the army and the only evidence I saw that he had fought was a permanently crippled ring finger (shrapnel from the mortar shell) and a particularly ugly depression in his left thigh, the result of a 7.92 mm Mauser round.

He and I were not close and we never talked much, even when I was working with him.  He was slow to anger, but when the switch was flipped, he was terrifying.  During two of these times, he hit me with his fist and knocked me into a wall.  I don't remember the circumstances, but a suppose I deserved it.

After he died in 1980, a month short of his 60th birthday, my mom promised to tell me why he had been so "odd" during the time I knew him.  Twenty years later, she told me as much as she knew.  Several of her stories are pretty horrific, so only Jan and I will know those, but one or two stories stay with me.  A kind of before and after picture of my Dad.  Right before he was drafted into the Army, he had owned a 1937 Cord 812 sedan, and it had killed him to have to sell it before he had to report for duty.  Just a kid.  After the war, my Mom would wake up in the middle of the night with my Dad's hands around her throat, choking her.  He was killing Germans in his dreams.  A kid no more.

News reports today say that Presidents Obama, Sarkozy and Prime Minister Brown, who were not present during WWII, will honor our veterans at Normandy, while Queen Elizabeth II, who served in the military during the war as a truck driver for the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, sits snubbed and seething in her castle.

Such petty horse shit.  And I guess I could go on here, but if you have half a brain, you can guess what I would say to end this up, so I'll just cut to the chase.

It's a shame people get fucked up by events they can't control.

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