Archive for May, 2011
Every year, I spend some part of Memorial Day with pen (or keyboard) in hand, thinking about those who serve their country in one way or another, one war or another, one endeavor or another. This day is all about memory, and history – personal history, family history, national history. As far back as I can remember there was a deep feeling in my family about the day.
My father was always sad on Memorial Day. He drank more than usual. I knew that he was thinking of men he’d served with, men who had died around him, and brothers in arms who had passed on since then. In the years I knew him he never attended a reunion, never sought out men he knew in those days. It wasn’t until the last year of his life that I was able to convince him to talk with me some about the War.
Dad died in November of 1979, when I was 22. He was a difficult man to know. Looking back, I feel sadness for him; seeking and feeling love but not knowing how to express it. He ended up dying alone because – although he was in the hospital – he had let his health go for such a long time that when the end came, it was so sudden that we could not reach him in time.
Maybe because I lost him early – or maybe because I never really knew him – those things of his that I have are precious to me. Among these are many letters that he wrote to his parents during World War II. Every year on Memorial Day I take a few out and read them. This year, I found one with this date – May 30 – 1944. Dad was in England, with General Patton, engaged in a subterfuge designed to mislead the Germans about “Operation Overlord” – the landings at Normandy on D-Day. The Army built up a fictitious unit around Patton, who was kept busy giving speeches. In fact, Patton was distanced from the action as part of the fallout for the “slapping incident” in late 1943. But the trick was successful; so convinced were the Germans that Patton was assembling a mighty fighting force that for months after D-Day they kept expecting the “real” attack to begin.
Time was short. D-Day was just a week away. Afterward, my father would become a Captain in Patton’s 3rd Army which was soon to be activated and aimed at France. On this day, he could feel something coming, and was taking the last moments of English hospitality he would have for almost a year.
One of my father’s favorite songs was “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Yesterday when I found this letter, I called some friends and we recorded it.
I love you, Dad. Thank you – and thank you to all who serve this country in whatever capacity – who dedicate their lives and passion and capabilities to our nation.
It is Spring for certain here now as the flowers are all coming out.
I am doing very well. There is no danger here so please do not worry about me. We have been spending a good deal of time reading reports and doing paperwork. The unit we are with has been very busy. I can’t say more because of the usual problem with information.
The Old Man has been cross of late. He is giving a lot of speeches but his mind is elsewhere. We wonder if he is in trouble again or if something is coming down the road. He is keeping to himself a lot.
I suppose I should be resting up. The food is alright and the Brits are very good hosts. We hear rumors all the time but they are just that. I am not allowed to repeat them. A couple of the fellows I work with have their ears to the ground. They want to know what is going on sooner than the rest of us even when they are not always right.
I don’t really care about rumors. I care more about doing a good job. We know things will change. I try not to spend a lot of time thinking about it. I just stay focused on doing my job and do it well so the other guy knows he can always count on me. That’s what the Army is all about.
I was glad to hear that Aunt Flora’s fall was not serious. Please tell her hello for me. I haven’t received any letters from Dick and do not know where he is stationed. If you have any news of him I would appreciate it.
Please continue to write. It is always good to get letters from home.