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BrianBM

WW II stories, from family

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At the request of a SOLster who might be a little shy, the following -

 

Do any of us have any stories of parents or relatives from WW II to share? What did you hear, in your youth, from the Greatest Generation?

 

I don't have much to offer myself, just a bit. My mother's cousin Johnny Marr was mentioned in "Guadalcanal Diary;" he went back into a sinking ship, a transport (I've wondered which one) to release valves on boilers and avoid explosions that would've killed men already in the water. Another relative, on my father's side, was imprisoned in Rangoon Jail; unfortunately I can't figure out which person he is in a book, "Operation Rangoon Jail," written by someone - an officer - shortly after the war about Japanese abuse of their prisoners.

 

 

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My uncle was a D-Day jumper with the 101st CO-H and went from Normandy to Berchesgarten. He put his whole story (Boot camp on. Great reading) onto an web page. At some point I'll dig out the disc and post a link.

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My father was a B-24 tail gunner, 491st Bombardment Group (The Ringmasters), Eighth Army Air Corps, flew 36 missions over France and Germany, including D-Day (which he described as one of the easiest missions of his experience). He never talked about it...ever, for about 40 years.  He reunited with his old outfit, including the remaining members of his flight crew, about 10 years ago, started going to reunions, including a D-Day 50th anniversary return to his air base in England. While walking the old runway, he had a flash back of a support crewman's head getting lopped off by a prop, and bouncing along the runway - "just like it was yesterday." I've heard from my uncles and aunts about a few of his experiences - anticipated "milk runs" that turned into nightmares of unanticipated German resistance, etc., and about how he was when he got home - a pretty clear case of PTSD, un-diagnosed and untreated...



 



He's also an amateur painter, and has at least one of his pieces hanging in the Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA. 



 



My Italian grandmother was illiterate, and could therefore not become a U.S. citizen...every one of her seven sons was in the service during the war, mostly in the ETO, and she still had to file as an enemy alien and report to the government monthly regarding her whereabouts...


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My Dad was raised in Sicily during the rise of Mussolini.

 

He attended medical school in Bologna.

 

He recalled being in Piazza Venezia - in Rome - when Mussolini gave one of his famous speeches.

 

After he graduated from University - he planned on returning to the United States, however he was conscripted into the military but his medical training placed him in the medical Corps or "red cross".

 

Italy invaded Ethiopia and my dad was sent there.

 

He was shipped back to Italy at the time the Allies invaded Africa.

 

He returned to Sicily with no orders but remained in his croce rossa uniform.

 

The allies began bombing Sicily - as a result the infrastructure of Catania and other major cities became disrupted.

 

Water-born epidemics ravaged Sicily to add insult to pulverization from the bombing.

 

I was always told as a child that my aunt had died from typhoid or cholera. When I last visited Italy my father's cousins shared more stories that dad wouldn't say.

 

His sister was killed in the bombing raids. The family homes and businesses were all but destroyed.

 

He decided to return to Bologna believing that the university would be a haven from the onslaught.

 

Interesting note: one of his cousins refused to be conscripted and joined a band of PArtisans in the north. They were called white partisans not to be confused with the Yugoslavian backed Red Partisans.

 

I was told that my father probably went north to seek out his cousin.

 

Ultimately, the Italian Government collapsed - with VEII running to Brindisi and Mussolini in Salo, when the Allies demanded a surrender, there was no formal governement to authorize a surrender.

 

As a result - the Allies continued to pulverize southern Italy and German fluctuated back and forth from Rome to Emilia Romana.

 

So my dad was headed right into the teeth of a German force in redoubt.

 

At a train Station civilians spotted him in his uniform. They warned him that nazi's / or gaultieri had been patrolling the area looking for "deserters" and shooting them on site regardless of uniform. They helped hide him during this phase of the journey.

 

He arrived at the university only to be warned that the nazis & gaultieri had set up offices on campus!

 

Again - he left Bologna and headed into the country - I speculate that he was probably in Reggio Emiglia at this point.

 

More fighting, he ran into a group of deserters and white partisans and they informed him that the Americans were coming, but the Germans were still lingering. He joned a skirmish with this group and held out with them for a bit.

 

It gets confusing because my dad never provided a chronology.

 

He was shot at by germans, threatened by a drunk Brithish officer that found it amusing to play a one sided Russian Roullette and eventually wound up in a farm house in Emiglia Romana where he was offered shelter by a man known as Caviliere Maugeri.

 

Ultimately he returned to Catania and assisted the allies. In 1946 he was able to return to America with a letter from the State Department signed by Truman certifying that he was born in America.

 

Every time I return to Italy, I try to retrace his footsteps and gather more information. Its amazing that I can meet his close relatives and - unsolicited - they patch together the events for me.

 

Rest in Peace Dad :)

 

 

 

 

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My Italian grandmother was illiterate, and could therefore not become a U.S. citizen...every one of her seven sons was in the service during the war, mostly in the ETO, and she still had to file as an enemy alien and report to the government monthly regarding her whereabouts...

 

My Grandfather on my Fathers side was an artillery soldier in the Italian campaign during WWI (against Austria-Hungary) and was wounded and ultimately immigrated to the US before the end of the war. When he got here, he found out the quickest way to become a citizen was to enlist and since he already knew artillery and learned how to speak Engalesha on the boat ride, BACK he went as an American Soldier :p .

 

 

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Mu uncle Harold was in a transportation unit, where you'd imagine that the opportunities for doing anything that merited the Bronze Star were limited. He was the driver for his lieutenant, and the Germans never seemed to target the lead Jeep in a convoy, when they came under fire. They usually targeted more "worthwhile" targets in the convoy.

 

One day, his lieutenant got a dispatch that a forward unit had captured two German officers who had valuable information. He dispatched my uncle and two MPs to pick them up, and to drive them to Intelligence for interrogation. He made the mistake of telling my uncle that their info "could be important". My uncle decided to ignore the map and take a shortcut--through a minefield. He figured he could follow the tracks of other vehicles. There was just one small problem---the tracks ended before the minefield did. Rather than try to drive a few miles in reverse, my uncle decided to take a chance and keep going. The MPs were hysterical the whole time, but he got through. Drove the prisoners to Intelligence. The MPs went running to their CO, and he called my uncle's lieutenant fit to be tied. The lieutenant (his name was Bigelow) tore my uncle a new one, told him that he was a ******* idiot, and he was lucky that he wasn't going to court martial his ass. And that if he wanted to be a hero he'd arrange his transfer to an infantry division. My uncle went away with his tail between his legs.

 

What Bigelow did was put him in for the Bronze Star.

 

A few weeks down the road., the unit gets called to assembly. A general is visiting. The general calls my uncle out of the assembly, and hands him the Bronze Star---which my uncle promptly drops to the ground in total shock. He bent over to pick it up, and the general called him to attention--"soldier, you're not stooping to pick that up in my presence---allow me". The general picked it up, and handed it to him again, saying, "take better care of it this time, son".

 

It turned out that whatever info the two captured Germans had was totally worthless. :laugh:

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My Uncle Marty was in the 9th Infantry Div, 47th Infantry Regiment, known as the "Old Reliables" Saw action in North Africa, landed Normandy D-Day +2, fought in the Hurtgen Forest and ended up liberating a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia at the end of the war. Received a purple heart at Cherbourg for shrapnel from an 88, and died with the shrapnel still in his leg. He said he was lucky compared to a lot of his friends. Funny thing...he never talked about it, until 2 weeks before his death. Him and my aunt came up from Florida to visit, so I stopped by my parents house one night after work to say hi. Him and I sat on the patio until 2 AM...and he told me his whole story...and i was the ONLY one he ever told it to. I guess I should feel fortunate. God bless Uncle Marty and that entire generation....oh yeah, forgot...my grandfather on my mother's side fought for the Kaiser in World War 1 as part of the Austro-Hungarian's. I believe he was in the infantry. I have all his paper work and books, along with old currency used back then.

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My wife's grandfather was a gunner in an Avenger in the PTO. He never really talked about what he went through- the family only found out when they read the book Flyboys in which he gave an interview. Look him up- Joe Bonn.

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I'm going to post some more of my DH's WWII experiences eventually, but this is rather funny in a way.  He won't see it on here.



 



When he was a Naval Air Cadet in Corpus Christie, his group went up to make their first night landings.  Evidently this was to prepare them for landing on carriers as the field was marked out and lit about the same size as a deck.  So an officer was standing on the ground with a very pistol and a flashlight.  He was supposed to shoot off the very pistol if they weren't to land, or something like that.  So the 5 planes kept circling the field.  My DH decided that this was silly so he peeled off to land (they were flying SNJs...The army also had the same trainer called T6?). 



 



So he did make a very nice landing, but he forgot to lower the landing gear!  He said that he was lucky they didn't wash him out.  As a punishment for being stupid, he was made to raise and lower the gear by cranking manually about 50 times.  That was a hard lesson to learn.  I asked him what happened to the SNJ because obviously the engine was ruined.  But he didn't know if they replaced the engine or just used the wreck for parts.



 



He was a good pilot so perhaps that's why the Navy kept him.     icon24.gif


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If you saw "Band of Brothers" you might remember a scene where they marched townsfolk who claimed to "know nothing" through a concentration camp and past trenches full of lime covered bodies.

My grandfather took those pictures, I have some of them.

 

He also won the Bronze star for singlehandedly capturing an artillery train but that's another story.

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If you saw "Band of Brothers" you might remember a scene where they marched townsfolk who claimed to "know nothing" through a concentration camp and past trenches full of lime covered bodies.

My grandfather took those pictures, I have some of them.

He also won the Bronze star for singlehandedly capturing an artillery train but that's another story.

 

was he in 101st airborne?

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My dad was a B-17 navigator in the 388th Bomb Group, 8th Army Airforce. 25 combat missions from England to Germany got them membership in the "Lucky Bastards Club". They transferred out after the 25th, and the plane (Slightly Dangerous) was shot down on the next mission.

Lost him this past year, love you Dad.

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