Yes, I realize I'm several days late with that statement. Tuesday was actually my mother's 83rd birthday, so I was more interested in making sure I honored that than I was with making a fuss over the veterans.
I was one of those kids with older parents, parents who were almost as old as my classmates's grandparents. In social studies, the teacher would say something like, "raise your hand if your grandfather was a soldier in WW2," and I would say, "No, but my father was."
My father was 21 when the US entered the war, and he remained overseas for over three years. After going from Scotland through Europe and down through Africa and collecting a lifetime of experiences on the way, his division ended up in Tunis. The military conducted a lottery to determine which soldiers would be sent home, and my father won.
He told us stories when we were growing up, but it wasn't until I had an interview assignment for a writing class that he sat down with me at length and answered specific questions. Something that really struck me was his view of General Patton. All I knew of Patton was what little I learned in school and what George C. Scott told me in the movie. From my father's perspective, the man was a pig.
When the 1st Armored Division was in Northwest Africa, my father's unit was driving tanks through the desert with Patton in command. There were German fighter planes overhead, and in the skirmish, the track fell off my father's tank. The rest of the tanks kept moving, and my father and the other man or two in the tank were trapped. Patton left them, and in my father's mind, abandoned them to be blown up by the Germans. They managed to get the tank back on track and caught up with their unit, but things were never the same after that.
When the Americans made it to safety, stories came out that some of the tank guns had been aimed at the Germans, but some of them were actually aimed at Patton. Patton gave a very heated speech and said he knows his own men tried to kill him, but he survived, and they'd never get him. He was transferred not long after that.
I knew to take some of my father's stories with a grain of salt, but it was fascinating just the same. With this in mind, here is today's article in Small Town Paper.