Earlier this week my sister observed the 70th anniversary of my parents’ wedding by sharing the bill for the reception: $270.16 for 105 guests, including $99 for 18 bottles of champagne. Today, for the 75th anniversary of VE Day, I offer these pages from my dad’s war journal:
“TODAY IS VE DAY – The Germans have surrendered unconditionally to us. The terms were signed in Rheims at 4:41 GMT yesterday. The hostilities end official at 12:01 GMT tonight.
“It is hard to believe – that after nearly six years of war the Allies have driven the Germans from Africa, Italy, France, Belgium, Russia and a score of other countries and forced defeat on them on their own soil. Yet it’s true; no more 88’s or ME0109’s or anything.
“We heard addresses by Churchill, Truman, and King George today. We also attended an informal Thanksgiving service at 3:30. Even the Germans seem glad. They knew it was only a matter of time.
“Half of our mission is accomplished. Now we shall either occupy Germany or head for the other war.
“A day later he learned that they’d be assigned as security guards ‘near Nuremburg for awhile.”\'”
He’s glad it’s over; there’s only a hint here of what he had endured. But on the first page of the Engineer’s Field Transit Book he used to record his thoughts, he explained his reason for journaling:
“I am going to keep this diary so that in future years I may remember more clearly the day to day events of my Army career. I especially want to remember – in the days of normal living coming again in the not too distant future – the days of hell of our present existence in combat. For, as Sherman said, war really is hell – crowded with misery, discomfort and uncertainty – uncertainty as to whether or not you’ll be alive in the next minute.
“In the peaceful sort of living which was once normal and which will follow this conflict, surrounded by the things which I have longed for so constantly, I may lose sight of this fact. Old memories will soften with time. Thus, the mission of this diary: to remind me, should I need the reminder, what it was like, and to make me work unceasingly to make certain that my son does not march off to war; or if he does – and I say this with the sad knowledge that our fathers fought for the same ideals – he goes prepared.”
My brother never did go marching off to war, mostly because his age cohort was too young for Vietnam and too old for all that followed.
Not because humanity had somehow come to its senses about senseless armed conflict. Lord, have mercy.Continue reading