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Pirschjaeger
08-14-2005, 08:09 AM
An interesting read from Yahoo news.

TAMPA, Fla. - Willard "Mac" McLain's story of survival after his bomber was shot down over occupied France is like the plot of a movie, a five-month journey of intrigue and danger, avoiding the murderous Nazi Gestapo while moving secretly through an underground network of French resistance fighters.

As America observes the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II this month, the 83-year-old McLain is among a dwindling number of men and women still around to tell the tales.

When McLain visits the VA hospital in Tampa, veterans of the Korean War, Vietnam War and the Gulf War seem to outnumber the World War II guys now.

"We're disappearing," he says.

Of the 16.1 million Americans who served during the war, fewer than 4 million are still alive. With the youngest of them in their late 70s, they're dying off at a rate of about 1,000 a day.

McLain, then a 21-year-old Colorado ranch worker, was drafted in July 1942 but enlisted in the Army Air Corps hoping to be an airplane mechanic instead of a foot soldier.

He ended up as a ball turret gunner in a B-17 bomber squadron based in central England. His job involved folding his 5-foot-9 frame into a near fetal position inside the ball turret that rotated in the belly of the aircraft, then blasting away at attacking German fighters with a pair of .50-caliber machine guns.

"We were a bunch of green farm kids, most of us," McLain says of his crew mates on the plane, nicknamed "Black Ghost." "I barely knew where England was."

They flew in daylight bombing raids on Germany and occupied France, terrifying flights depicted in movies such as "Twelve O'Clock High" and "Memphis Belle."

Two out of three young men €" their average age was 20 €" who flew on those missions did not survive the war.

The "Black Ghost" and its crew survived 13 missions, but anti-aircraft flak and the Luftwaffe's Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters claimed the airplane on Sept. 6, 1943.

With the damaged bomber kept aloft by just one of its four engines, pilot Ralph Pulcipher ordered the crew to bail out. McLain jumped from 10,000 feet. A German fighter circled his parachute, the pilot waving at him before peeling off.

He hid in a forest while Nazi spotter planes circled overhead. The next day, he approached a farmer and, despite the language barrier, learned that the man knew someone in the Underground, the resistance movement.

During the next few months, McLain moved from the home of one family to another in the Underground, dressed as a farmer and getting forged identification papers. He moved among Nazi soldiers who might have shot him if they had known his identity.

From Paris he got a train to the south of France, where in January 1944 he found himself among 62 aviators €" American, British, Canadian and Australian €" sent to smugglers who were paid to take them across the rugged Pyrenees to neutral Spain.

They traveled only at night in sometimes waist-deep snow. No fires were allowed, food was scarce and their feet were soon blistered and frostbitten.

On the third night, the smugglers disappeared and the airmen trudged into a Spanish town €" where they were immediately thrown in prison.

Within days, however, they were taken to Gibraltar and put on a plane back to London. McLain returned to the States, where he trained other men to fly B-17 missions.

All 10 of the "Black Ghost" crewmen survived, although six of them were captured and spent the rest of the war in a German prison camp. They held reunions over the years, but only three are still alive.

McLain says his experiences in the war gave him perspective that still serves him well.

"I think it impacted my philosophy of life to the point that I consider life dear," he says, "and I take it day by day."

Recently, he drove to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell to see the place where he wants to be buried.

About 35 graveside funeral services are held there every day, most of them for World War II veterans, director Billy Murphy says.

"You're seeing an era of veterans coming to an end," Murphy said. "These guys have a lot of stories. I've heard these stories over my lifetime, and I tell people they need to listen and pass them on. Because when these guys go, their stories go with them."

Fritz

Udidtoo
08-14-2005, 09:35 AM
It has been a great privalage of mine to have known so many veterns personally. My father and 3 uncles in the U.S Navy.

My Godmother served in the WACs in Australia. I've known 2 Englishmen,1 German,2 Italians and 1 Pole that all served. There have been others in passing but these people I knew well.

They all had unique percpectives on the war and the way it changes their lives and their countries. Now they are slipping away and all too often taking their stories with them. Only Uncle Paul and Ellah remain.

If I live to an average age then I will witness the last of an era and that will be a sad day indeed.

Pirschjaeger
08-14-2005, 09:39 AM
It's a strange but realistic thought that eventually we'll see the last one go.

Fritz

Nick_Toznost
08-14-2005, 02:18 PM
I saw an interview recently on the news with a 108 yr old British WW1 veteran, he saw action from the battle of the Marne in 1914, the only man alive to have seen action in all 4 years of the war. Incredible. He was totally compus mentis too. A patronising interviewer said to him:

"I heard you saved your regiment"

"yeah, I shot the cook"

I'm sure that was much funnier in WW1.

Anyway I thought it's incredible that there's someone still alive who experienced the horrors of trench warfare, such a long time ago.

ploughman
08-14-2005, 02:26 PM
A different world back then.

horseback
08-14-2005, 03:28 PM
Both of my grandfathers served in France in WWI; although both are more than ten years gone, I've made a point to pass down the stories I heard from them or get my Dad to tell the ones he heard to my sons, nieces and nephews, so that they may more fully appreciate what members of their own family have done to earn the fruits of liberty and democracy.

The one who served in a fighter squadron as a maintenance chief (Sergeant First Class) loved to tell the story about his squadron's conversion from Nieuport 28s to Sopwith Camels: in those days, there was no conversion or training in a specific plane; a pilot was a pilot, and all he should need was to know where the controls were and the direction he needed to point it. So it was that the unit's pilots took off one day for a flight in the Nieuports to the aerodrome where their new Camels awaited, there to spend the day getting a decent meal (no one having shot the cook-yet), a night's rest in a real bed, and then taking off bright and early in their new mounts to return to their base.

It had rained most of the afternoon and evening that they were gone; the grass field was thoroughly soaked. When the (non-flying) Major commanding the squadron walked to the field to join my grandfather and other ground personnel waiting to see the new aeroplanes (that's how he pronounced it, very carefully, and that's how I think of any biplane: as an 'aeroplane') arrive, he was carrying his customary swagger stick and wearing the usual boots and jodphurs.

Grandpa recalled him as a tough old Regular Army S.O.B., and as each pilot landing learned that the Camel was significantly more nose heavy than the Nieuport (by means of nosing over almost immediately upon touchdown & breaking the wooden prop), the Major would slap that swagger stick sharply against his own right thigh. It sounded like a gunshot to Grandpa, and he heard it twelve times (there were 14 Camels coming in...).

When the last Camel had landed (more or less), the Major was redfaced and trembling with barely suppressed rage. He glared about furiously, until his eyes alit on poor Grandpa (he would have been no more than 24 at the time, never having been further from Butler, PA than Pittsburg before).

"Sergeant!" He roared. "Every! -****ed! -One of Those!...Aircraft! WILL! Be! Ready! For! Take-Off! At Dawn!" and with that, he limped off, noticably favoring his right leg.

Working through the night, my grandfather and his crews re-drilled every spare Nieuport prop they had to fit the Camel's prop mounts and were able to get all twelve of the damaged Camels in the air at dawn the next morning.

Check the photos of American operated Camels in WWI and you will see a few with non-standard looking props with 'extra' mounting holes on them, courtesy of Sgt Fred R. Faull.

cheers

horseback

Xiolablu3
08-14-2005, 05:10 PM
We need to get these guys on film with their opinions cos sadly their time is running out.

I would love to talk to a real vet, unfortunatly our family were farmers during the war and all had to stay on the 'home front' producing food for the nation.

I say unfortunatley but I guess that is not the case for them. There would be a very real prospect of me not being here if my Grandads had gone to war, My Dad was bron in 1943 and mum in 1945, if either of my Grandads had gone they may not have come back to have my Mum and Dad. SO I guess it was a blessing.

I would love to have a grandad Vet to talk about exoperiences too tho.

You guys related to Vets should film their thoughts, would be very interesting.

Nick_Toznost
08-15-2005, 07:06 PM
"bump" as they say. This is a good and important thread. More comments needed. We are flying in the shoes of people who are still alive to tell the tale (but not for much longer). Post your (grand)parents stories here..........

WarWolfe_1
08-15-2005, 08:03 PM
Originally posted by Pirschjaeger:
It's a strange but realistic thought that eventually we'll see the last one go.

Fritz


And with the last so will the memory, maybe not to us, but how long can you pass on to your children, and them to theirs, before it becomes a small chapter in the history books.

My greatgrand father servered in WWI ( I Have his Lee Enfield), Both my grandfathers in Korea, one having lost a foot to frostbite the other has 8 bullet wounds and recieved the bronze star. My father and 2 uncules in Vetinam (none saw combat).

Honor. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif

Pirschjaeger
08-15-2005, 08:59 PM
Originally posted by Pirschjaeger:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by WarWolfe_1:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Pirschjaeger:
It's a strange but realistic thought that eventually we'll see the last one go.

Fritz


And with the last so will the memory, maybe not to us, but how long can you pass on to your children, and them to theirs, before it becomes a small chapter in the history books.

My greatgrand father servered in WWI ( I Have his Lee Enfield), Both my grandfathers in Korea, one having lost a foot to frostbite the other has 8 bullet wounds and recieved the bronze star. My father and 2 uncules in Vetinam (none saw combat).

Honor. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

You have a lot to be proud of. I don't know your age but I'm assuming you are quite young since your grandfathers served in Korea. I'm gussing 20ish? I'm pushing 40 now but we have something we can both consider ourselves lucky for; the fact that we missed the big war periods.

To be honest, when I hear someone is able to say where and when their family fought, I feel a little jealous. My family didn't talk after 45' about WW1 and WW2. Between Opa and Oma they had twenty siblings in 1938. In 1945 there was only one surviving sibling who eventually never survived Siberia. He was captured at Stalingrad.

After the war it was taboo in my family to discuss the war. After Oma passed away Opa started to tell me a little but then he passed away not long after. My father and my uncles know nothing of what happened to their 20 uncles and aunts.

I plan to move to Germany within a year and also start researching. I feel that if I don't try to find the details no one else will.

It is important to remember the veterans but I think it's even more important to remember those in our families. No matter what nation they are from, are what government they had, they were fighting, sacrificing, and dying for us, their families

Fritz </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

WarWolfe_1
08-15-2005, 09:37 PM
I'll be 26 in Novemeber. The military is a large part of my family. Nearly every male has served. I did my part for 4 years and realized I was never going to get to do what I wanted.

My father still is mad at me for leaving so soon. He retired a Sgt. Major.

I wouldn't have it any other way though. Military teaches alot of things, and has a way of making a man out of boys very quick. I played football (nearly 8 years worth) and baseball (12 years worth), I still was not prepared for my service. Even though I only served a short time, I will recomend it to my children. I will not push them.

WarWolfe_1
08-15-2005, 09:45 PM
After the war it was taboo in my family to discuss the war.


So many have passed and never told their stories. Good or bad.

Those passing is a lose no doubt, but letting their stories go the grave with them is a much larger lose.

Steven Amborse had it right, "One vets Story is worth a thousands pitures".

If you have family that has served get their story in writting or tape. Korea, Nam, WWII, GulfWar.

If nothing else it helps them cope. Anyone try keeping the face of a man you have shot in your head for 20, 30, 40, 50 years? Time can heal but it can kill the same. Ask Pappy Boyington, his demons got to him too.

arcadeace
08-15-2005, 10:41 PM
I have read the same account by Mac McLain before and it has always stayed in my mind because of how they all survived. It€s a wonderful story endless in appeal, thanks for sharing Fritz.

Pirschjaeger
08-15-2005, 10:55 PM
Originally posted by WarWolfe_1:
I'll be 26 in Novemeber. The military is a large part of my family. Nearly every male has served. I did my part for 4 years and realized I was never going to get to do what I wanted.

My father still is mad at me for leaving so soon. He retired a Sgt. Major.

I wouldn't have it any other way though. Military teaches alot of things, and has a way of making a man out of boys very quick. I played football (nearly 8 years worth) and baseball (12 years worth), I still was not prepared for my service. Even though I only served a short time, I will recomend it to my children. I will not push them.

I was born and raised in Canada. From the time I was 12 I want to join the military. I have always needed a challenge and I had figured with my stubbornness and rebellious attitute a successful military career would have been a real challenge. My parents were always against this.

In those times it was very difficult to get into the Canadian military and the waiting list is long. My next idea was to join the American military. My parents convinced me that it was legally impossible. Years later a marine friend from Maryland told me that at that the time I wanted in the military the Americans were very happy to take Canadians.

Then, just 5 years ago I found out that I was a German citizen by default. My parents failed to inform me that although I was born in Canada my father still hadn't applied for the Canadian passport. That makes me a dual passport holder. This kinda pi$$ed me off since by law I was supposed to enter the Bundeswehr as soon as I finished school. But, somehow, my name was missed and now it's too late.

I will also recommend the military to my children, but not push. I feel this is the way to go between high school and university. I also think that at the end of high school we are not old or mature enough to decide what we want to study in uni. I hope my children will either choose the military or some sort of volunteer program abroad. I think it would be a good growing experience.

Fritz

Pirschjaeger
08-15-2005, 10:59 PM
Originally posted by Arcadeace:
I have read the same account by Mac McLain before and it has always stayed in my mind because of how they all survived. It€s a wonderful story endless in appeal, thanks for sharing Fritz.

I think it's a nice change from the usual topics. What would be really nice is if anyone has some good family veteran stories to share, Allied or Axis.

Many members of this community have family that have served at onetime or another. It would be great to hear their stories.

Hint, hint. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

Fritz

Luftwaffe_109
08-16-2005, 01:01 AM
Interesting conversation you all are having. I agree it would be nice to hear veterans' stories, they are invaluable to the study of military history and need to be preserved if at all possible. Like many in this thread, few in my family liked to talk much about the war. I think this is quite understandable, what I have gathered from that time period is that it was a period of serious harship and suffuring, for both soldiers and civilians. The soldiers, because all war is of misery and suffering, the civilians because of the famine that resulted from occupation.

My father (who was very young at the time) fought with the Greek Second Army until it capitulated to the Germans on 9 April in 1941. He was part of the 18th Infantry Division, situated west of the river Strimon along the Metaxas Line, in northern Greece.

Like all the Greek prisoners of war he was released by the Germans after having been disarmed. He passed away quite a number of years ago.

Best Regards

Pirschjaeger
08-16-2005, 02:24 AM
Sorry to hear about your father LW-109.

It just occured to me that when we think of war veterans we think of those who served in WW1, WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. But what about the guyz who served in Afghanistan or Iraq? Are they not war veterans? I know some of the guyz in this community have served during hostile times.

War is war. Over time the weapons change and evolve but a few things don't change. Whether it was WW1 or Iraq, people die, people defend, and people fight. If some of the members of this community would like to share their service experience I would be more than happy to read it.

Fritz

waffen-79
08-16-2005, 02:36 AM
That's what I like about History Ch and Military Ch, we get to hear the stories of those BRAVE men.


Originally posted by WarWolfe_1:
My greatgrand father servered in WWI ( I Have his Lee Enfield)


the Enfield what a superb! bolt action rifle http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif

Luftwaffe_109
08-16-2005, 06:45 AM
Sorry to hear about your father LW-109.

It just occured to me that when we think of war veterans we think of those who served in WW1, WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. But what about the guyz who served in Afghanistan or Iraq? Are they not war veterans? I know some of the guyz in this community have served during hostile times.

War is war. Over time the weapons change and evolve but a few things don't change. Whether it was WW1 or Iraq, people die, people defend, and people fight. If some of the members of this community would like to share their service experience I would be more than happy to read it.

Thankyou Pirschjaeger. Likewise I am sorry to hear of the terrible destruction that the war evidently inflicted on your own family (your twenty uncles and aunts).

I agree with you that, in war, the few fundamental truths don't change. And we may talk about the heroism, and the duty and the bravery of all these men - and indeed they all are brave.

But more important is that war (all war) is misery and suffering and loss, or at least that is what I seemed to understand from my father on the few occasions that he talked about it.

Curiously he was not at all bitter about those he fought in the war, actually I felt he had a favourable impression of the German troops who set him free after he had surrendered and been disarmed. Interesting how sometimes one can find humanity in war.

And yes, let's keep those veteran stories coming if any have them, they are most interesting to the study of history. They can give quite unique perspectives on these fascinating conflicts.

DxyFlyr
08-16-2005, 08:04 AM
I've got a couple uncles that served in WW2 and a grandfather that served in WW1. All have passed now. None of them would discuss their military experiences. One Uncle (who passed 2 years ago) was at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. His son (my cousin) asked on a couple occaisions for him to describe it. Both times the response was, "Never ask me about those things."

My Grandfather, similarly, would not discuss the war. I remember as a kid, when a war movie would come on TV, he would leave the room saying "I've seen enough of that".

I went to college about 30 minutes from his house. He was 96 years old at the time and still living alone and flying his flag every day. I spent a couple weekends with him and finally dragged some info out of him on one visit.

He grew up in a tiny place in Arkansas. When he left for the service, he wore his only good suit of clothes. I'm not sure if he was drafted or volunteered, but the impression I got was he wasn't excited about it. They went by train to a brand new training camp where he had to sleep on the floor because there were no cots yet. The place smelled like sawdust because everything had just been built. He woke up to find that a nail had ripped his only pair of pants. He said, "I didn't much like the army after that".

He served in France, and spent most of the time in the hospital at Paris with double pneumonia. The only mention of combat I got out of him involved a German plane that would make daily visits to his unit to drop a bomb and then scurry off. They didn't think much of it until one day the bomb overturned the soup table. "I didn't much like Germans after that." http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

Then, he claimed to be the last US soldier to leave France after the war. Of course I have doubts about this claim, but he was totally serious when he said it. He says the hopital ship was the last to leave, and he was the last one boarded.

When WW2 started he volunteered to serve. He drove ambulances between army hospitals all over the south-east US.

He told me he had a good life and was ready to go. I said, "Popaw, can you wait til I get back to school?" I think that was the last time I saw him laugh out loud. He died at 97.

panther3485
08-16-2005, 09:20 AM
Hi guys!

I like to talk to veterans whenever I get the chance.

My Dad recently turned 80 and he was 18 (going on 19) when he landed at Normandy; Sword beach. When I was a kid, I was full of questions and curiosity but he didn't seem to want to talk about it much. "Whatever we do, we must try never to have another war", I remember him saying, on numerous occasions.

Over the years, I've sensed his sadness at the human folly of war and the fact that it still goes on, despite our best intentions.

In recent times, he has opened up a bit on some of his memories and observations, including the fighting around the Caen area, and I've come to know different dimensions of my Father, his life and his thoughts. Sobering stuff.

Both my grandfathers served during the 'Great War' of 1914-18 but one died when I was about 5 and the other when I was about 12 and I didn't get to hear much from them.

The only great-grandfather I know anything about served in the Boer War (1899-1902) and by chance, a recently deceased relative left me some photographs of him taken during that time. The photos from that period are amazing both for their quality and quantity.

I guess it's a 'family thing' for many of us and I continued this dubious 'tradition' when I joined the Australian Army, serving for 9 years. Luckily for me, I never had to go to war - all peacetime training, but at least I gained an appreciation of military life.

Yes, the time is not far off when almost all the WW2 veterans will be gone but sadly, wars go on happening; seemingly part of the human condition. And even if they are smaller in scale than the World Wars, there will continue to be a steady trickle of new veterans coming home to many countries.

How much has really changed?

Best regards to all,
panther3485

Pirschjaeger
08-16-2005, 12:03 PM
Nice post Panther. Would you be willing to scan and post those pics here?

Fritz

Pirschjaeger
08-16-2005, 12:09 PM
Dxy Flyr, it seems like your Grandfather had a good sense of humour, may he rest in peace.

Thanks for the post http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

Fritz

Pirschjaeger
08-16-2005, 12:19 PM
Speaking of humanity during war LW-109, I was fortunate to know a gentleman from my village who had served in WW2. He had great stories to tell and sometimes I thought they may not have been real, that is until he showed pictures or newspaper clippings.

He had served in the Canadian navy on river-class frigates. He told me that they had been torpedoed on 2 occasions. Both times he was rescued by the very uboats that put him in the water.

Another interesting thing he told me was that their guns were bad luck. He explained that frigates and corvettes were built in Canada and that due to some silly arrangement with England, they had to sail to Britain to have their guns fitted. He said they never once saw the enemy while they were totally vulnerable.

He was bitter with the British because Canada had to use the old British design for the ships. He said Canada had a newer and better design.

It was funny listening to him tell his stories. He seemed to have more problems with the British than with the Germans. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

Fritz

huggy87
08-16-2005, 02:02 PM
Hmmm.
I wonder how many WW1 vets are left. The youngest would have to be about 105.

It is also strange to think that when my father was born (1947) there were still a few US Civil War vets alive. My grandparents can remember them as children (1920's).

DxyFlyr
08-16-2005, 02:28 PM
Interesting thought, huggy87.

Reminds me of my Grandmother's story of walking on the other side of the street when a certain Civil War vet was sitting in front of the local store. Apparently, he could spit tobacco juice between your toes at 20 paces.

Nick_Toznost
08-16-2005, 02:43 PM
Originally posted by DxyFlyr:
Interesting thought, huggy87.

Reminds me of my Grandmother's story of walking on the other side of the street when a certain Civil War vet was sitting in front of the local store. Apparently, he could spit tobacco juice between your toes at 20 paces.

I once saw a film from the late 30s where Civil war veterans were shaking hands across Burnside's bridge at Antietam. They all looked seriously elderly and were dressed in their original uniforms sporting long white beards. There were about 10 of them.
I'm English (we have almost too much history) but I'm fascinated by the civil war, been to all the battlefields, cemetaries etc. Amazing piece of history. Nothing like it, first use of proper machine guns, morters and trench warfare. So many Americans died. Antietam is second only to D-Day for US casualties in battle apparantly, it was 80 years earlier and you were fighting each other too!.

DxyFlyr
08-16-2005, 03:34 PM
You're not alone Nick. I can't help but notice how many foreign visitors there are at Civil War sites I've been to.

I've only got a passing interest in the Civil War (I find WW2 much more interesting), but I can say that I would not be here today were it not for the maggots that clotted the blood in the neck of a forefather who fell at the Battle of the Wilderness.

That was a particularly nasty war.

WarWolfe_1
08-16-2005, 05:53 PM
Originally posted by waffen-79:
That's what I like about History Ch and Military Ch, we get to hear the stories of those BRAVE men.

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by WarWolfe_1:
My greatgrand father servered in WWI ( I Have his Lee Enfield)

the Enfield what a superb! bolt action rifle http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif </div></BLOCKQUOTE>


Very nice indeed, many a deer has fallen to it. May more fall as well for my children too, when their time comes to hunt with it.


For a good read anything by Stephen E. Ambrose. He has learned to let the vets tell their stories. Very good Books, D-Day, Citizen Soilder, Wild Blue, and Band of Bothers grace my book shelf.

My grand father told me some of the basics of his time in korea, now that I look back at it I see that was all it was, anything other than that was offlimits.

I once asked about any friends he had that served with him, I've never seen a mans face look as his did that day. I can not convey in words what it looked like, nothing that would suit.

Whan I asked about his foot all he would say was it was cold, and do a lot of mumbling when I would leave him because I could see I was making him mad.

panther3485
08-17-2005, 07:49 AM
Hi Pirschjaeger,

Thanks.

As the pics of the great-grandfather came to light fairly recently, most of them are currently doing the rounds to various members of my family, who are making their own copies. I'm hoping to get them back in maybe a month or two. At present, I'm only holding a few (one each of him and his young bride-to-be, my soon-to become great grandmother; he's in civvy clothes in that one, taken I think just before the 1899-1902 conflict. There are also a few shots taken around Claremont, Cape Town, South Africa, where my great-grandparents settled just after that war). The 'more interesting' shots of him in uniform etc are the ones doing the rounds.

In the meantime, I do have uniformed shots of one of my WW1 veteran grandfathers and his mates, taken in 1916, that I've had for years, plus one or two of my WW2 Dad and his mates, all of which are available right now. I've also got some interesting original documents, such as military discharge papers and the like, for the grandfather and somewhere too, I think, for great-grandfather. I would just have to figure out how to post the scans on this forum as I've never done that before. I guess it would be good practise for when I get the Boer War pics back in my hands (hoping they DO come back!! An act of faith and trust, with some members of my family).

On the subject of the Boer War, some years ago I stumbled by chance upon a very good book, entitled 'To The Bitter End - A Photographic History of The Boer War 1899-1902', by Emanoel Lee. It contains a lot of excellent photos, together with quite a moving narrative. Apparently, the Boer War was the first war where the handy-sized 'box camera', developed in the USA, came into popular use. It was reading this book that gave me my 'taste' for photos from the period, so imagine my delight when the pics from my own family turned up.

Anyway, will see if I can work out how to do this and start with a pic each from WW1 and WW2, if you are interested in those also.

Catch you all again soon,
Best regards,
panther3485

DxyFlyr
08-17-2005, 09:01 AM
Panther,

That's quite a lineage. Great find on the Boer War pictures. I do hope you get to post those at some point. Do you know what unit your Great Grandfather was in?

The little reading I've done on the Boer War was about Sir Baden Powell (founder of Boy Scouts) and the seige at Mafeking. I was amazed at what he accomplished there... devising fake artillery pieces and shuffling them around with the few real pieces at night to make it appear that he had many, erecting fence posts even when there was no wire because at a distance the enemy couldn't tell. Very clever man.

We've got only one picture of my Grandfather in uniform from WW1. It's a formal Unit photo. One of those panoramic photos about 4 feet long. I'd love to scan it one day, but it is framed and half a country away over a cousin's mantle. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif

I wonder if scanning will damage older photos? It can't be good for them to be exposed to bright light. I know sunlight will fade a pic to nothing in no time at all. I'm not sure how destructive a scanner or copier light is. Maybe there is an archival expert in here?

geetarman
08-17-2005, 10:04 AM
My dad served in the US Army's 77th Div. in WWII. He's gone now almost fifteen years and I miss him more each day. As a snot-nosed kid, who thought he knew everything there was to know about the world, I used to give him alot of grief. I realized as I aged, however, what a great man he was for serving and seeing a lot of action. He raised six kids, had a successful career in banking and real estate and died fairly well-off.

Just a couple of brief stories from his time in action. Maybe someone can remember these and let a younger person hear them. I know I tell my kids. They are random moments in combat, not a complete story.

Guam - 6/44.

Attached to the 902nd Field Artillery Battalion as a forward observer. Spent the entire war up at the front, trying to spot for headquarters artillery.

Landed at a contested beach and had his radio pack shot off him by a bullet the sheared the straps.

Observed a G4M get shot down by a P-38. The G4M crash landed just off the beach. As the crew got out, they were all cut down by US troops on the beach. No offer of surrender given.


Leyte - 1944

Same unit. Uncontested landing. Later was involved in the seaborne pincher movement to cut-off the Japanese inland. I believe the 77th's commanding general was killed on Leyte which occurred very near his position.

With a group of soldiers, came upon a sleeping Japanese soldier during mop-up operations. Without a discussion, he was to be killed. A butcher from Minnesota, however, insisted that the soldier be awoken just prior to being killed.

Re: the small caliber Carbine he was issued. A lone Japanes soldier darted from out of tall grass besides a road he was walking on with his squad. My dad wheeled around and began firing. Had to empty his entire clip into the back of the guy to get him to drop.


Okinawa - 1945

His transport was almost run down by USS Iowa after it had mistakenly taken the Iowa's berth! They got under steam pronto!!

While approaching Okinawa, the Army troops were constantly ordered up and down, from deck to hull, all day and night. Hard to rest. When a sub was feared nearby, they were ordered up. When kamikaze's were approaching, down they went. This went on for days.

Finally, one afternoon they were ordered below decks. My dad began to hear the 5" guns of an escorting destroyer start going off. Although concerned about the kamikaze's, he fiqured they were safe. Soon after, the 40mm Bofor's on his transport began going off, followed in short order by the .50's. The troops now were really scared.

Suddenly, the ship was rocked by a huge explosion and a dead sailor rolled down the gangway at the feet of my father. The troops began running up on deck. The sight he saw then never left him. A Jap Zero with a bomb still attached to it had crashed into the transport near where one of the loading derricks. The high-tension guide and support wires to the derrick had been cut, scything them through the Navy personnel on deck, causing horrendous damage. Ship remained afloat and under power as the bomb never went off. Japanese pilot observed still in his cockpit.

The true horror of war: On Okinawa, the battle was very hard. My dad remembered the day Ernie Pyle got it. The Japanese fought tenaciuosly and prisoners were not usually taken.

While attacking caves, the more seasoned US troops would send a guy up above the opening to swing large amounts of TNT and satchel charges on a long rope into the opening. The newer troops would try more direct approaches into the opening and would usually take many casualties.

While on patrol, a trio of Okinawan women approached. All were civillans. They were ordered to stop as they approached. They did so, about 15 yards away. They ordered them to stay still. One of them began reaching into her blouse for something. My father shot her dead. The other wowmen cried out, but remained still. The troops approached the dead woman. My dad reached into her blouse and found a pack of Lucky Strikes.


Le Shima

Saw action there too, but I can't remember any acounts.


My dad was a sophmore at Fordham at the time of Pearl. He joined with the rest of his class. Somewhat curiously, he never had any problem talking about his involvement in WWII, including the parts that were not very good.

He always told me that he joined becasue of the attack on Pearl. He grew to hate the Japanese through his training and felt no compunction in killing them. This feeling tempered quickly once in combat.

After a few months of combat, the vast majority of citizan soldiers in his division began to feel that war was a job that had to be completed quickly so they could all go home.
They operated on the idea that whatever ended the war sooner (in a US victory) was ok with them. It really boiled down to doing a job according to him.

His was sitting on a transport waiting for orders to hit Japan proper when the bombs were dropped. He occupied Japan for about six months and was discharged in early 1946.

Later in life, his cardiologist and close friend was Dr. Hachiro Nakamura!

telsono
08-17-2005, 11:30 AM
In my family there are two who actively served during WWII.
First, my Uncle Sonny was in the merchant marine on the Atlantic Convoys. He survived the sinking of 3 vessels.
My father's Uncle Joe, saw some pretty harrowing experiences during the war. He missed out the invasion of North Africa by being bitten by a venous coral snake while on manuevers. He was lucky that the snake bit him in front of the hospital tent as he reacted strongly to the venom.
On D-Day he was assigned as a motorcycle messenger for a combat engineer battalion. He went in on the first wave but didn't make it ashore there. Their landing craft was hit about a mile off shore and they drifted in sector for Gold Beach. Of his company, the Captain, a sergant and himself were the only non-casualties. The same current at Omaha beach that sank so many of the DD tanks on their way to shore was what saved him.
On the way across France he rescued a crew from a burning Sherman. A Lieutenant nearby wrote up the incident with a little artistic license. The LT got the Silver Star and Uncle Joe the Bronze Star. Uncle Joe didn't mind since he didn't get what the LT got the next week, the farm.
His unit was stationed in the Ardennese when the Germans counterattacked. Riding his motorcycle down a cement paved road he was ambushed by German squad. After the initial fire he slammed his bike on the pavement. Further bullets hit the pavement just ahead of his head and sent chips across his forehead which bleed profusely. Seeing the blood the Germans didn't take time to examine him and left in a hurry. Waiting for the German squad to leave the area, he wiped off the blood, remounted his bike and got out of that area in a hurry.
There were at least three other family member is Poland, officers in the army. We only know that they met their fate in Katyn among many of their other countrymen.

OlavFalco
08-17-2005, 12:03 PM
Hello all

My grandad was a Flight Seargent Engineer in the RAF, Flying on Lancasters, Halifaxes and sometimes the "flying coffin" the Short Stirling.

He is always willing to talk about his time in the war and about day to day life was like back in the aerodromes.

On one occasion he said a really "important" officer came down and that the day before the whole place had been cleaned up with petrol (despite the fact it was in such short supply) and all the props on the planes lined up, new tools and uniforms issued.....

the officers response was "do you lot do ANY work around 'ere?"

Another story that comes to mind is that a friend of his was shot down over europe and captured, and as him and others were waiting at a train station to be taken to a P.O.W camp a train full of SS troops came into the station... of course being the "unsavoury" fellows the SS ave the reputation to be they disembarked their train ready to kill the British airmen, but luckily for them the Luftwaffe fought the SS off....

Goes to show that there was indeed a lot of respect between the professionals in the airforces.

My girlfriends grandad was in the Wehrmacht and was injured fighting russians in hungary or romania (he doesnt really talk much about it but i do have photos that show the badges he got Wound badge and the panzer combat service medal)

Another thing my grandad was happy about was his evasion of having to be a pilot of a horsa glider.... he took one look at the controls and said "no way" he said how it just resembled 2 piece of wood stuck together in a rather poor fashion.

One thing he has always taught me about war is just as many Germans didnt want to fight as he didnt want to and has never held any ill feeling towards them (which is cool because my girlfriend is one!!!)

Cheers for reading and if anyone has questions about lancasters or halifaxes or anything about the RAF just post them and I will be happy to ask him

Slickun
08-17-2005, 03:58 PM
Fellas:

All of you have posted GREAT stories that I read very carefully. Thanks for posting them.

Now. Quickly. GET AN ORAL HISTORY from the fellow. Before he's gone. He will love giving it, you will love hearing it, and you will have the story, for all time.

I did it with my Dad, several tapes of his experiences, thoughts, and war stories, just a few months before he passed 6 months ago. I am so thankful I got it on tape, the stories I'd heard most of my adult life.

Dad never really opened up to me until I had served in VN. After that, he began to confide the "good stuff", like how it felt to plant several 500 pound bombs along a convoy at night. Or that an A-26 could pull more G's than an A-20 (he flew both).

Do it. Get the oral history. You will be so very glad you did!

Nick_Toznost
08-17-2005, 07:09 PM
Both my Grandfather's were slackers really, both worked for the UK ministry of Agriculture, stayed on the home front, doesn't really make for an exciting war story.

My Grandmother however was a journalist for Time magazine (she makes me 1/4 American). She came over to the UK in 1940 to cover the war in Europe (as it was for you then) and met my Grandfather, the rest is history as they say. She went back and forth across the Atlantic between 1940 and 1943 on convoys dodging U-boats and suchlike. She wrote a book in the mid 50s called "The Churchill Convoy" as she once shared a boat with Winston Churchill who was en route to meet Roosevelt. It's been out of print for many years.
There's a myth over here that the Americans "stole" our women during WW2. Well, in my case it was the other way round, gender wise anyway.

A sadder story follows my paternal Great-grandparents, they both served on the Western front in WW1, as a nurse and soldier (you know who did what). My Great-grandfather then served in WW2 as an officer, gained a lot of medals and they both survived. However they took a retirement holiday in central Africa (Zaire I think?) in the early 70s, there was a revolution and they were hacked to death.

Just seems odd that they both survived the two bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century and then die in old age on holiday. Bizarre.

There are much more interesting stories that I gained from old boys who I just randomly got chatting to in my local pubs. One guy I met called Joe, who died 2 years ago now, was in Aushwitz for 4 years, he was captured after parachting down from his aircraft, (a Halifax I think), he kept escaping from various prison camps and subsequently ended up in Aushwitz. He was kept alive because he could speak fluent Polish apparently and worked as an interpretor. His arms were horribly burnt, as he showed me once, made me go weak at the knees, Nazis with blow torches allegedly. Joe died a lonely old man. I attended his funeral, as a vague aquaintance really, just someone I got chatting to in a pub and he had so much (horrible) life experience. People are so easily forgotten.

Bet that cheered you all up, sorry. It just occurs to me that we should take note of these people's experiences as they are truly unique, while they're still alive.

Pirschjaeger
08-17-2005, 11:19 PM
Opa was a Musiker during the war and only saw action when he was off-duty. He didn't talk about it until he knew his days left were few.

He told me once about how near the end of the war food was worth more than gold in Germany. He had a wife and 3 young children. He talk a bit of an SS officer that he really hated. This officer used to go door to door in the ir village and confinscate the people's food. One day, Opa was on his way home with a flat of eggs, barefoot. He had just traded his last pair of shoes for food for his family. The SS officer stopped him and demanded he hand over the eggs. Opa said at this point he had had enough of this guy. I asked Opa what happened and Opa would only say that his family ate the eggs and the SS officer never bothered anyone again. I pressed further to find out the outcome but Opa would only say "He got what he deserved." Although he wouldn't say it outright, I know he had killed him.

Oma and Opa always had a sort of hatred for cats. I could never understand this and when I asked my father why, he said "Don't talk about it." As years went by I pressured my father long enough to talk about it. He told me that during the later stage of the war there was no food but plenty of cats. Well, you can figure out the rest.

Also, he said that one day the whole family had left home. When they returned they had found that the cats had eaten their ration of powdered milk that was supposed to be for the children. My father was less than a year old at this time, late 1943.

After hearing this I still couldn't understand their very deep hatred for cats but I was young at the time. I realized now that cats simply provoked memories of the worst times.

Another story Opa told me was that when he had a little RnR during the war he had returned home to his tiny village to find his home had been bombed. They lived in the Braunschweig area(Between Hamburg and Magdeburg). He said it would take him days of going to the surrounding villages to find the fate of his wife and three children. I can't even imagine this feeling. Worse than this, he had to do this on seven diffent occasions during the war.

He told me that he always wanted to move his family to the south of Germany where it was safer(much less bombing)but this was illegal.

I wish I had had the chance to speak with Opa more about this time before he had passed away. As I mentioned in a previous post a great majority of my family, both in service and civilians never survived the war and even this simplist info is gone. I envy those who know of, or still have the opportunity to get the answers.

BTW, interesting note. Opa seemed to forgive cats after talking to me about them before he passed away. But he never seemed to forgive the SS officer for forcing Opa to do what he felt was wrong. I don't think Opa regretted killing the officer but he regretted having to.

Also, Opa never said anything against the Allied forces, even though his harmless villages had been bombed seven times. But he hated the leaders on all sides. Something to think about.

These stories that you guyz are sharing are very interesting. My thoughts are the same as Opa's. I would never blame the people who participated in the war but rather the leaders. I'm not even going to assume what it was like as there are just too many details that are missing and have been taken to the graves.

The story posted above about the civilian woman being shot for reaching in to her blouse is a good example. The shooter was not wrong to shoot her. She could have had a grenade and guns sometimes misfire. The soldier acted according to the situation. This was war.

Although many vets don't like to talk about the war and their experiences, I think they want to but are afraid of emotions and possibly being judged. I also feel that they have been judging themselves for years. But I also think, in many cases, it's a relief to get these things off their chests. I pushed Opa to talk about it and somehow I feel by doing this his last days were more peaceful to him.

Fritz

DxyFlyr
08-18-2005, 12:23 AM
Pirschjaeger,

Your family's experience sounds awful. It's hard to imagine such circumstances and what it must be like to live through them.

I met a man last year, a GI through several campaigns in the ETO, that spoke at my Church on Veterans day. He described his whole service, but spent the majority of his time speaking about acting as part of the occupational forces in Berlin. He said they were initially instructed to walk down the middle of the streets (never alone), avoid "dark alleys" and be wary of any and everyone. He quickly learned their fears were unjustified. He made lots of friends on his "beat". Most of them were most concerned to know when the Americans were going to push the Russians out of Germany. Many invited him to dinner even though they had very little to eat themselves.

He had some dark stories too, like searching a large home in the country and finding 4 or 5 members of the family hanging in the rafters of the attic. The youngest was no more than 4 years old. All were dressed in their best clothes. He says that's one image that will never go away.

He bought a BMW motorcycle from a street kid. He never could get it to work, so he sold it to a buddy for half of what he paid. The kid showed up again and offered to fix it for the same price that he sold it for the first time. They agreed. The kid flips some switch kind of hidden up under the gas tank and the thing fires right up. Live and learn he said. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

Pirschjaeger
08-18-2005, 12:48 AM
Dxy Flyr, that "BMW" story gave me a good chuckle. The kid was obviously a capitalist, and a good one at that. That switch was for the coils(early anti-theft device). http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

A funny story my uncle told me was that near the end of the war, post and pre, he was around 9 or 10, he used to sneak out of the house at night and meet his Kompels(buddies) and head off to the allied camps. They used to do any little thing they could to give the allies a hard time, including cutting power cables and greasing railroad tracks on hills. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

He said he was very proud of this and when he told Opa he what he had been doing he soon learned that it would have be better to be captured by the allies. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

Fritz

OlavFalco
08-18-2005, 02:37 AM
is it ok that i post some pictures when I get back later.... dont wanna fill this thread up with loads of photos but i have some photos of my girlfriends grandad in the wehrmacht and her grandma in a FlaK battery searchlight group.

OlavFalco
08-18-2005, 02:39 AM
(all the photos of my grandad in RAF era are in england so sometime i can post those)

Pirschjaeger
08-18-2005, 04:07 AM
Originally posted by OlavFalco:
is it ok that i post some pictures when I get back later.... dont wanna fill this thread up with loads of photos but i have some photos of my girlfriends grandad in the wehrmacht and her grandma in a FlaK battery searchlight group.

That would be great, to put the face with the story. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

Fritz

HotelBushranger
08-18-2005, 05:19 AM
My great grandfather was in WW1. My mother has done a sterling job on the family tree, and has uncovered almsot my families entire history, dating back to my descendant being a Superindendant on one of the first convict ships that headed for Australia. Anyway, he was in the Royal Engineering Corps, possibly at Gallipoli but definately in France. We still have a Christmas card that is dated 1917, that is IMO the most precious heirloom in the house and wish to inherit it when I'm older. He must have been scarred by it, because he never talked about it when he got back. One day, he was on his farm climbing over a fence when his rifle discharged and he died. Although it was reported as an accident, my mother thinks it might have been something less accidental. He must have been a well liked man, because his obituary was a very praising one, and IIRC, most of the town (small one to prevent modesty on my part http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif ) attended.

My grandfather on my Finnish side was in the FAF, but post war. I try getting stories off him, but he's rather cenile lol.