Each infantryman, regardless of the time spent facing the enemy in attacking or in defensive action in any given territory has stories to tell of the horrors that would frighten the listener or reader to a point of disbelief, so it’s best not to speak of it.
~John A. Aller
Granddaddy was a machine gunner in World War II. He was in the US Army 83rd Division 331st Infantry Company H along with the man quoted above, the author of I Saw it Through. They landed at Normandy a few days after D-Day and continued fighting through Europe for over 330 days, basically following General Patton’s path. In addition to oftentimes intense fighting, they liberated some concentration camps.
Granddaddy didn’t talk about the war. Occasionally he would mention things like the hedgerows, but mostly he kept silent. Once my sister discovered his bronze star for valor. When asked how he got it he said by being stupid. Apparently he was in the third row of machine gunners. They were engaged in a firefight with the Germans when Granddaddy’s machine gun jammed. He noticed the gun in front of his was open so he moved up a row. That one, too, jammed. He noticed a gun in the front row was open so he moved up again. He continued to shoot until the Germans stopped shooting. That’s when he learned that his group had retreated. He hadn’t heard the order. I wish I had more stories like these, but Granddaddy kept them to himself and I can’t ask him now since he died almost 10 years ago.
I Saw it Through was a book I had to read, but didn’t want to read. I had to read it because I wanted to know more about what Granddaddy went through. I didn’t want to read it because war is terrible and the author didn’t sugarcoat things. The best part about reading it also made it hard. The grammar is terrible (“we was going”, tons of extra commas, etc.), but it so reminded me of Grandmomma’s letters. She wrote the same way. I really felt as I read it like I was sitting at the feet of an 80 year old man telling his stories about the war.
As I was nearing the end of the book last night, I realized that as Granddaddy was beginning to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, Grandmomma was giving birth to Daddy. Daddy was born on Christmas Eve in 1944 (Grandmomma’s mother told her not to get pregnant when she went to see Granddaddy while he was on that weekend pass…). Ten months later Granddaddy met his son and was reunited with his three year old daughter and wife of four years.
I have a new appreciation for Granddaddy. From the beaches of Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge, he saw it through.
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