Got to thinking about Memorial Day today and was curious - do we have any WW2 Vets on the forum ?
By my reckoning you would have to be at least 84 or so to have seen service in WW2 so we may not have any.
If we do, please chime in and tell us your story.
I don't think Humble Howard Genrich, who has won every MTFCA award, has been on the Forum more than once, but I received this email from him just Saturday. A woman wrote Howard's life story to honor his 25 years delivering Meals on Wheels.
Joe Carriere replied with this:
Posted without permission.
Howard forwarded the life story you sent him. What a fascinating document; such an interesting and fruitful life. His is a great story about a caring person and a giving life. However you friends of his in Long Beach can only be aware of a small part of the story for he would never tell you.
From October 26, 1944, until he was wounded on January 13, 1945, I was Howard’s “Battle Buddy.” We were instructed to pick a buddy and from then on we operated in pairs. You watched each other’s back. You were always together, eating, sleeping. You shared your most intimate hopes, concerns and fears. I can recall standing outpost duty on the front line next to the window of a house sleeping soundly while my buddy kept guard just inches away. We have corresponded with each other ever since. I would like to tell you about the events of that fateful day of January 13 1945.
You were right and yet technically wrong to call it “The Battle of the Bulge.” Our 14th Armored Division was part of the Seventh Army with the Free French Army on our right and Patton’s Third Army on our left. The Germans drove into the Bastogne area of Belgium hoping to cut the Allied forces from their main supply port of Antwerp. As “The Battered Bastards of Bastogne held out General Patton’s Third Army pulled out of the line and struck the Germans on their flank. A brilliant maneuver well executed but it left a big hole in the line where the Seventh Army had to spread out to cover.
Eisenhower immediately ordered more divisions to be put in reserve to provide more depth of defense. The 14th was one of the divisions placed in reserve.
Hitler was personally controlling the troop movements and when he saw that the thrust into Belgium had started to lag down he immediately pulled several Panzer (tank) divisions out and supplemented them with the elite SS Mountain Division from the Russian front, These crack units were mostly equipped with the new Panther and the huge Tiger tanks both of which mounted the powerful 88 mm gun that could poke holes in the American tanks armor while at the same time the American guns could not pierce the German armor. This plan, dubbed “Operation Nordwind,” was to sweep around behind the Third Army, cut them off and take them out of the war.
Fortunately for the Allies the terrain was not good tank country. There was a good route up the Saar valley but the Vosges mountains on either side limited the maneuvering tanks needed. Like all mountain rivers the Saar valley narrowed as you approach the headwaters. This enabled the 315th Infantry Regiment to halt the drive at the towns of Hatten and Rittershoffen, about 2 miles apart. The regiment was surrounded on three sides and was holed up in the cellars in a desperate situation.
As is typical we Infantry grunts knew nothing of any of this. On January 12th we were in reserve at Merkwiller. We had just received replacements for our killed and wounded so our company was close to full strength of 210 men. when we got the order to move out. Under cover of darkness over snow and ice covered roads using only tiny blackout lights we traveled most of the night. Tanks are lousy on ice. We arrived at Niedenroedem (try saying that three times fast) and were bedded down on the wood floor of an unheated house.
On Howard’s fateful day we were up well before dawn, ate a cold can of C rations and moved out on foot for the attack. Have you ever heard the sound of almost a hundred tanks with their un-muffled 500 HP engines roaring? I had the feeling that we were invincible. We crossed over the wooded hill (mountain?) of the Hageneau forest.
“A” Company was the attack company while our “C” Company was held in reserve just at the edge of the forest overlooking the fields leading into Hatten. Soon a long string of our tanks roared through along the edge of the woods all the while being shelled by an intense barrage of German artillery. We knew that with the shelling that the tanks were “buttoned up” with hatches closed and driving looking through a periscope. We were praying that they could see our long line of infantrymen hugging good old mother earth. We were also feared of the “tree bursts” that spreads shrapnel far and wide. The shelling was so heavy that the braggart Damphousie got up screaming for his mother and ran away. The bastard took my rifle with him since I was carrying the machine gun to spell the gunner off.
“A” company was unsuccessful, (I don’t know how many men they lost,) so we were moved down along the railroad preparatory to our attack. Howard and I dug a foxhole through six inches of frozen ground using only our small pack shovels. Fear is a great motivator.
Finally at dusk we climbed up on tanks for the mad dash into the town. The tanks roared off with us hanging on for dear life. As each tank crossed the railroad a German machine gunner opened up on it. We could see the tracer bullets ricochet off the hull of each tank as it crossed. Then it was our turn to cross and we could hear those bullets pinging off the tank’s armor. Miraculously no one was hit.
It was dark when we jumped off the tank in an apple orchard at the edge of town. We were just trying to organize ourselves when mortar fire started dropping in on us. That’s when I heard Howard holler “Medic, medic.” But I couldn’t see him in the dark. I spent that night in the cellar of a burning house.
We spent the next eight days attacking and being attacked. The same few blocks would change hands several times. The night attacks were especially confusing. We finally retreated out of there with only 67 of our 210 men surviving. We felt defeated but we found out later we had won a victory. We had stopped the cream of Hitler’s war machine cold.
Back in reserve we were treated for the many minor wounds and scrapes (I had trench foot and nearly lost a few toes to gangrene.) I had the opportunity to ask the doctors about Howard. They told me that both of his legs were wounded and that he had crawled almost a half mile through the snow to get to the aid station. When they lifted him up onto the table his remark was, “I hope I’m not causing you fellas too much trouble.”
I looked up those towns in NE France on google maps satellite view. They look like German names, but they are French. Merkwiller is a few miles straight east of Bitche.
Some of us spent some time at the Rochester Cemetery today, remembering not only WWII Vet's but all Vet's.
Here all the names of the local guys that served from the Civil War through the current war were called out and honored. It was cool and rainy day, rather uncomfortable, but nothing compared to the what these guys endured.
We later drove our Model T's in the parade, one of the oldest continuous Memorial Day parades in Wisconsin (since ~1860).
I saw today that the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs gave a Memorial Day speech at Margraten Cemetery, in which he quoted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I was not familiar with the Longfellow poem.
But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.
All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!
Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
We held our annual ceremony at the Senior Center in town instead of the cemetery due to rain. My Dad was the last World War 2 veteran at the service. However, he stopped being in the firing squad two years ago due to poor mobility (guess that happens at 90).
We have a few WW 2 veterans left in town, but the list is dwindling (we lost two uncles in the last year, my Dad's brother, another WW 2 vet, and my mothers last surviving sibling, a Korean War Vet).
As a boy, WW 2 veterans were in their prime and I thought these men would be around forever. Obviously, I was wrong.
So, to get back on thread, my Dad isn't on the forum, but he and his brothers grew up driving a Model T pickup. And, I gave my parents a lengthy ride in the K today
One uncle was in the first war, one was in the second, and one was in both. When you're a kid they've been around all your life, and you can't imagine that they'll ever be gone. Sixty years later the world where you grew up might as well be on another planet, and you sure miss those old timers.
I was in the Koren "CONFLICT", I joined when I was 16 and worked along side many a WW II vet. All I can remember is that we dropped Bombs every night, Two bad our leaders stopped short of the mission. We would not have any trouble over there know.
BLESS ALL THAT HAVE GOWN BEFORE US.
I was in the Navy on LST #291 We carried the Army over to Normandy on D day and casualties
back to England We made 52 round trips be fore
the war ended On our 2nd trip there were 4 LSTS
on the beach unloading and a German air plane flew over and dropped 4 bombs They lit between 1 and 2.2 and 3 .3 and 4.and beside 4 Missed all 4
ships How lucky. Lee Motor Machinist Mate 1st class
I have been honored to know many members of what has been called the Greatest Generation. Most of those have now passed. Every day that goes by, those that remain become fewer by the hundreds or more.
I would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to all who have served in defense of liberty, no matter be it a war, cold war, police action, conflict, or whatever name of the situation that put you in harm's way.
If you know a veteran, please thank them. We owe our freedom to them.
The Memorial Day celebration at the museum is one of the few opportunities I get to hang out with some dear friends who call me 'Kid'. Guys who were shot out of B-17's over Europe, guys who are still suffering from the effects of malaria on Iwo Jima, guys who fought at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, my 'Nam Brothers' who fought at Ke Sanh in Viet Nam and yes, even those I call 'kids' who fought to take Baghdad in Iraq.
It's a day I cherish, some of these guys aren't going to be around for Memorial Day next year, well not in person anyway but they will always be there in spirit and the rest of us will speak their names as if they were standing next to us, because they are. That's why it's called 'Memorial Day'.
As far as I'm concerned, if there are people who speak fondly of you and your service to this great nation, 'the land of the free and the home of the brave', when you're gone, you've done God's work.
Dennis, well said! Dave
Dave, I'm going to post one more thing before this topic becomes 'yesterday's news'.
Every (with a brain) knows the first verse of the poem "The Defence of Ft. McHenry" it's our National Anthem. Few however have read the last verse. It has a connection to what we now call Memorial Day.
"O! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov'd home, and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto - 'In God is our trust!
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."
This is probably the best version of the National Anthem I've ever heard. I've probably watched it a hundred times and I still can't do it without wiping my eyes.
After all, isn't this what we go to war to protect? So little girls like these, don't have to grow up wearing Nazi arm bands or Burkas.