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Thread: The Continuing Ripples of World War II...

  1. #1

    The Continuing Ripples of World War II...

    As the years pass rapidly by, more and more Americans forget what happened and the impact World War II had on those who lived it, our families and our nation. When I was a child in the sixties and even as a young adult in the eighties, the affect of the war had on America was keenly felt. Although we had fought in two major conflicts since, World War II still washed over us in continuous waves. Now, it seems to be a just ripple of a forgotten past, growing fainter with each passing generation. Yet, those ripples are still felt, even when we're not consciously aware of them.

    For me, the war was two generations ago. My father was a small boy and my mother just a toddler when the Japanese bomber Pearl Harbor. My grandfather was in his early thirties with three young children. His youngest, my uncle, was born in December 1941. Grandpa was born in Minnesota and remembered being a young boy traveling with his family in a horse drawn wagon to homestead in North Dakota. He rode the rails during the Great Depression to find work. He ended up in the Finn Settlement area in western Washington, working as a lumberjack, where he met my grandmother. Grandpa and Grandma were both first generation Americans, their families having come to America from Finland, fleeing Russian tyranny.

    Around 1940, Grandpa moved to from Washington to California to attend a trade school to learn aircraft sheetmetal and take advantage of new opportunities opening up in the fast growing aviation industries Los Angles and the surrounding areas. LAter, he sent for his wife and infant child. My mother and my uncle were born in California. When Grandpa graduated, he had a job waiting for him at the Douglas Santa Monica plant. When the US declared war, he was building C-47s for service in the United States Army Air Corp. Grandpa hated US government for giving Finland a raw deal after the war. When I asked him if he ever tried to join the US military to fight in World War II, he said "Why should I die for those traitorous bastards?" Years after his death, I told this to Grandma and she chuckled. I was shocked when she told me he did try to sign up. "But of course, they turned him down because he worked at a critical job."

    Mr. Olsen, who lived with his family across the street from my grandparents, was a taxi cab driver for longer than I'd been alive. During the war years, he worked at the same plant as my grandfather. He worked to get the cranky hydraulics system for the landing gear of the Dauntless dive bomber to work long enough for the Navy to take delivery. The landing gear system was a complicated affair that had to twist the wheels as the gear folded back on retraction.

    My Great-Uncle Urho, my grandmother's brother, joined the Army and was there for D-Day and helped liberate Paris. He dropped a grenade down the hatch of a German tank, killing the entire crew. He took a Broomhandle Mauser off the dead tank commander and brought it home as a war trophy. We think it was a commercial variant the the tank commander's personal sidearm brought from home. Uncle Urho died before I was born. I'm not certain, but I think he had some kind of stomach problem and died of slow starvation under the care of a VA hospital.

    My father's Uncle John fought at the Battle of the Bulge as a "cannon cocker". It was hard for me to imagine that affable, five foot nothing, bandy legged bachelor raining death and destruction on anyone, fighting for his life against countless Nazis on a frozen battleground. I didn't get a chance to know him very well. We didn't stay in touch and was saddened to hear he'd passed away. I didn't find out about his death until some years after he died.

    These influences had a profound effect on my family and myself personally. I realized that great sacrifices were made that I could enjoy the rights and freedoms I was blessed with. I grew up loving America and chose to serve in the US Air Force. Not to fight for my freedoms. My freedoms were fought for by my father's generation and my father's freedoms by my grandfather's generation. I joined to defend the freedoms of my children and they in their turn, serve to defend the freedoms of the next generation to follow.

    I asked the same questions of my co-workers and got some interesting answers. One friend had five uncles serve in World War II, all in the Army. His father, too young to serve in WWII, served in Korea as gunner on a bomber. He became one of the first boom operators for air-to-air refueling. His grandfather had served in the British Army during World War I. He was twice a prisoner of war at the hands of the Germans. He joined at the tender age of 14! My friend is in his sixties and is retired from the US Air Force. Many that could point directly to someone who lived during the war years who supported the war effort back home or in the service all had one thing in common- They have a deep appreciation of our freedoms.

    How many generations back is World War II for you and your family? Who was alive and what did they do? How has it affected you and your family? Are they alive today? Have you ever met them? How has it shaped you and your family in the years since?
    Last edited by MistWolf; 07-11-2019 at 06:33 PM.
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  2. #2
    Gray Hobbyist Wondering Beard's Avatar
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    One generation. My father's family lived under Nazi occupation and my mother's family lived in the Caribbean and had little to do with the war. I have one aunt on my father's side left alive and two aunts on my mother's side. They were all kids during the war. I know my aunts well and so does my wife though they live in different countries.

    My wife is also one generation from WWII. Her mother was three and a refugee from essentially both the Nazis and the Soviets before coming to the US; her own mother had studied in the US before the war. My wife's father was also a kid at the time but American and became a West Point grad (I don't know what his parents did during WWII). None of them remain but we knew all them well (the grandmother worked for the CIA after the war as an analyst).

    Their effect, and their experience with the war, on us is too complex to even begin discussing but one important part of it is that I came here to make my home.
    “An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn
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  3. #3
    Member cor_man257's Avatar
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    I recently posted this on instagram.

    http://instagram.com/p/BzliHcoAvha/


    I recently got my grandfather's basic training, and pre-deployment unit photos. These were in an uncapped cardboard tube since 1943.

    My study isnt painted yet, and I'm sure they arent level... but I had to get them hung the moment I got home with them from being framed.

    My grandfather, Calvin, was long since passed when I was born. Never met him, but really proud to have a piece of family history like this to display.
    My maternal Grandfather served in WW2. He joined along with his father and older brother. His younger brother joined shortly after when he came of age. He passed long before I was born, and spoke little of his wartime service. I was told he drove a truck, and carried a 12guage trench gun. I haven't been told much else. After he died they found that he had been awarded the Purple Heart (I think I remember it being twice) but nobody could be sure how. He didn't talk about it.

    I know that when he left the Army he felt the bureaucracy of the military hadn't done him any favors. I don't know if he disliked the Army, or the VA, or whatever system was in place at that time but I know he kept his thoughts on the topic mostly to himself.

    I later joined the Army (NG) and served my contract and a little deployment. Not really because of him, but for my own reasons. None the less I'm proud to have that heritage in my history. He is pretty much the only member of my family that served. My paternal Grandfather couldn't serve due to injuries from a previous car wreck, and his siblings were considered vital working their family farm.

    -Cory

  4. #4
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    My paternal grandfather was a machine gunner in the 30th Infantry. I don't have complete records for him but over the years he told me and my brother many stories from his time in the Army during and after the war. We compared notes later since by the time we were old enough for him to tell us the stories we usually weren't both there at the same time. I'd have to say my favorite, just from the way he told it, was the story behind the majority of his hearing loss. As he related it, he was walking/moving across in front of a tank "when the gunner thought he saw a German on a hill and fired".

    Anyway, he was taking cover under a tank within a couple hundred yards of Gen. McNair when the general was killed, was later wounded by shrapnel at St. Lo, and was involved in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he got out, spent a week in civilian life, and re-enlisted. He retired after 26 years, most of which was in intelligence (he was the son of Hungarian immigrants and after some work at Monterey spoke fluent Hungarian). His wife, my grandmother, was also full Hungarian and also in the army, somewhere on Eisenhower's staff in England during the war. They met at Monterey (outranking him by a few months at the time), and she later got out and became a teacher.

    Interestingly, I was talking to my dad a couple months ago and told him that we'd heard a lot of war stories from him. My dad was shocked--"he never told me anything like that!" I don't know if it was just he wasn't ready to share them yet when my dad was younger, or if it was that grandparent-grandchild bond, or what.

    My mom's father enlisted during the war (unsure of branch/unit), but he was a little younger and his unit didn't deploy before the end of the war. He later attended college via ROTC and did a few years more in the Air Force. At some point along the way he served as a navigator on bombers, which I still find utterly hilarious because the man couldn't read a map on road trips to save his life.

    My mom's mother was too young to be directly involved, but her brother Ray was a crytpanalyst. I didn't see him very much and he passed away a couple years ago.


    My paternal grandmother passed when I was 9, and multiple strokes (presenting like Alzheimer's) meant I never heard stories from her. But I was very fortunate to know my grandfathers well and for almost 30 years; they passed away within a month of each other in 2014.

    I can't point to any direct, obvious "ripples", but at this point I'm probably on the younger end of people to have ever met in person, and heard the stories from, those who were there. My son (3) probably never will.
    "Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire." - R. A. Heinlein

  5. #5
    One generation. My mother was an Army nurse in the Pacific. She was in
    the Philippines when Manila was taken back from the Japanese. She took care
    of some of the rescued men from the Capbanatuan POW camp. Her hospital ship
    was in Japan right after the war.

    Dad was in Italy in the Army Air Corps as grounds crew for the bombers attacking
    Germany. He and our neighbor were on the same base but on different sides of
    the airstrip. They didn't find out till long after the war.

    Had an uncle who was a company clerk in New Guinea. and a cousin who served in North Africa.
    My father in law was kept stateside as he was pretty old when he went in. He was on a base outside
    San Francisco and told me whenever they went into the city they took the
    wrecker. "Nobody got in our way then," he said.

    One distant relative was on a Japanese ship our planes sank. The crew rowed
    around in lifeboats and beat the prisoners in the water on the head with
    oars. He was the only relative I know of who was lost in the war.

  6. #6
    I have posted much of this before. My father, all of my uncles and virtually (when the word was non-electronic) all of their friends, co-workers and associates were WWII veterans. My wife's father also, and her Uncle was a posthumous recipient of the Silver Star, which when reading the citation, one wonders why not the MoH. The Bulge, Market-Garden, Arnhem, Iwo, Okinawa, Jerry's, Krauts, Nazi's, Japs and Nips were common invocations. I did my small part when it came my turn. My great-grandfather and several of his brothers fought in the U.S. Civil War. My great-uncle earned the MoH at a place that is now known as Ft. Benning. My wife's family goes back to Robert the Bruce, and eventually settled on land in New England awarded to her ancestors for serving in the War for Independence.

    My father, brother, daughters and sons have or still work in public safety.

    Its a family affair, (with a nod to Mr. Stewart).

  7. #7
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    The first piece of tactical equipment I ever owned was a surplus web belt, canteen pouch, and metal canteen with cup.

    My father was in the Taiwanese MPs. Before we threw away his uniforms not long after his death, I noted that most of his equipment appeared to be olive-drab hand-me-downs from the US. I still have his field jacket somewhere, which is still in good condition for everyday wear.

    My grandfather fled from China to Taiwan during a time when it was physically unsafe to be identified as a member of the Kuomintang.

    Only one of my blood relatives served in the US military to the best of my knowledge. Of my entire extended family, only her, myself and an uncle married to my youngest aunt were in the Army. Everyone else has been in the Air Force, I speculate mainly due to the influence of that uncle as he served in the Air Force for the majority of his career and was only in the Army briefly during the Vietnam war.

    As heavy as the costs of the current campaigns have been, I believe we will not be able to thrive as a nation unless we have enough people in it who understand violence, and I believe that understanding impossible to maintain without also understanding fighting in war.

  8. #8
    Pizzagun Dilettante Joe in PNG's Avatar
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    Two generations for me. My dad's father was an "old man" of 32 when he was recalled to active duty, and wound up in Papua New Guinea. After the war, he never wanted to step foot on a beach again.

    His brother, my great uncle, was classified 4F- but insisted he could lick anyone there who was a sergeant or lower, and so wound up in the Army Air Corps as a gunnery trainer.

    On mom's side, Grandpop worked his way up the ranks and was commissioned into the Army Air Corps, and later retired a major in the USAF in the 60's. I don't have his service details, sadly.
    "You win 100% of the fights you avoid. If you're not there when it happens, you don't lose." - William Aprill

  9. #9
    My Grandmother, who's 99 this year, got a job, with the help of an Army General in Honolulu. Her brother, two years younger, was an assistant, to that General. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, I believe he was on base. They were nisei, Japanese born in America to Japanese immigrants. Of course the times were terrifying to them, but my Great Uncle joined the 442, and earned a Silver Star for his actions in France. They never talked about the war, and things like discrimination, or injustices to Japanese-Americans. They just got on with life, working hard, and trying to raise good families.

    I think there were lots of great lessons for us. Put your head down, and work hard. Do what's right, even if it's frightening. Do what's right, even if it doesn't benefit you. Fight hard for America, even if lots of Americans hate you. And fight for for those who can't fight for themselves. Believe in America. Be brave.

    Last edited by theJanitor; 07-13-2019 at 12:51 PM.

  10. #10
    My father commanded a landing craft at Okinawa and Ie Shima. He was going to be part of Operation Olympic if the war continued, and after visiting those landing beaches post war he thought it was unlikely he would have lived. He thought that he, and all his friends on Okinawa, owed their lives to President Truman's decision to use the bomb. He also had no doubt that Truman had saved millions of Japanese lives as well. My dad lived for another 72 years.

    My father later wrote a short piece about the kids his age in his neighborhood and his fraternity brothers in college. A huge percentage of them died in the war. The list is amazing--and sobering. Boy after boy on his block; house after house. Almost all houses had stars in the windows showing a son overseas, and by the end of the war the gold stars overwhelmed the blue ones.

    My father's father and uncles had served in the 30th Infantry Division in WWI (the division broke the Hindenburg Line while under British command, losing half their men doing so). Their grandfathers had fought for the Union in the Civil War; and those men's great and great-great grandfathers had fought in the Revolution and in the Colonial wars before then.

    I served in the Army, my younger brother served in the Navy, and every family member going back to the Revolution of whom we are aware served as a volunteer (well, except for one great, great uncle, whose mother refused to let him to join the Union forces with my great great grandfather and other brothers because he was only 15 and because surely the Confederates wouldn't draft a 15 year old when they came through. They did, and he was the family's very, very unwilling Confederate).

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