Thread: For WW II &/or History Buffs
10-28-2009, 12:07 PM #1
For WW II &/or History Buffs
I thought I'd share this experience a friend of mine, and his family, is going through. Is hard to imagine, in this day and age, that a "current" story or situation will arise over 60 years later to bring closure to an incident that happened in the last Great War.
A little background info: Shawn is a lifelong friend of mine. Our dads have been best friends since grade school, hence our relationship. Some of you might have met him at this past year's Mudbug. When Lasportsmn and myself were giving "swamp" tours, Shawn took it upon himself to ride as sweep in case of any emergencies that may arise. He's also so my caving buddy, in case any of ya'll came across those pix on my GH profile. Super guy all the way around.
So here's his family's story and the events that took place during World War II which effected them in a very direct manner. Some of his messages were sent via an Iphone, so forgive his grammar/spellings. I've taken the liberty to omit some of the personal info.
I rec. this on Tuesday:
An exteraordinary day. I day I will never forget.
Stepping out of the car onto soft farmland we followed our new
aquantences to an precise spot fifty yards onto the fields. A small
plastic bag was handed to us and described as 'found just this week.'
Two gentalman in their seventies began to explain in english, and with
translation, what they found on November 26, 1944 after riding their
bikes over to the place where they saw the plane go down. A lifetime
of family history and lore began to swirl and conjure into new
understanding as the words from these men described the actual crash.
They noted that the numbing cold today was the same as the night of
the crash. I watched and listened transfixed on the story. My father
and his brother became emotion filled. I felt the ground spinning. It
was the most powerful of human emotions: the archeological moment of
revelation. This flood of paradyne shifting, history rewriting is so
powerful it makes your ears ring. It was incredible to experience.
Years of speculation as to what happened so far away were being wiped
out with real people, places, hardware, cold weather, language,
artifacts and stories. My mind raced with thoughts of real people in
this village and their prospective. I forced myself to take pictures
and Kevin video to capture some of the moment. After about 20 minutes
I had to get dad back into the car to warm up. I am still numb with
the whole experience. It is always impacting to have ones perceptions
changed, this was overwelming. It was emotional but in a very good
way. The kind of spirit lifting feeling that bonds you with people
forever. I think I will always feel the people of Oerie are special to
me. I hope they share some of our emotions.
We came back to Thomas's parents house, the Pohls, to have coffee and
potato soup. We spent the next three hours talking and discussing the
history between us. They were very hospitable taking us into their
homes and lives and sharing all that we questioned. I find it very
hard to imagine life in Germany in 1944 mainly due to my prejudice and
perception. I've read a few accounts that stated somewhat accurately
what we found ourselves imersed in Ourie. But today these thoughts
and memories became much more real for me. Today everything changed in
my mind about 1944 in Germany and everywhere else for that matter.
Uncle Raymond's tragic death has a place for me now.
I received this last night:
Guys, I am here in Ireland, just came from Switzerland and Germany. I wanted to send you a note about what I am doing. I know some of you are wondering what I am doing in Europe this week. A bit of family history. It's a chapter in our family history that is coming to closure here in Germany.
Ok, let me give you a some M. family history. My father, Barney M. is the youngest of six children. He had two older brothers and three older sisters. The oldest brother, Raymond was 18 years older than my father. Raymond was drafted into the military in 1943 and served in the airforce. He was trained as a gunner on bombers and went to England in July of 1944. On his fourth bombing mission to Germany his plane was shot down in Germany, all nine airmen were killed. The summer before Raymond left for England, he was married. 8 months after his death his wife had their only son, Raymond Jr. This is all I ever knew about my uncle Raymond.
Now skip ahead to 2002. A guy named John M. who lives in Switzerland retires and decides to research the plane that crashed behind his house in Holland in 1944. Through investigation he finds that 34 American bombers, 346 airmen died that day when he was five years old and a plane crashed in his back yard. One of the American planes that day was named the Ark Angel that my uncle Raymond was on. This guy, John, contacts our family for information about Raymond and eventually finds my father Barney and his other brother Larry. My father decides that this is a story that needs to be published and decides to make the book for John, with all profits going to the author.
Now, the book gets published listing all 34 planes downed that day and detail of each airman including my uncle Raymond. It's called Not Home for Christmas. Earlier this spring, my cousin Kevin, who is my age and the son of Larry M., contacts me with the suggestion that we take our fathers to Germany to see the crash site. We agree and talk our fathers into making the trip this October. As the trip gets closer, we encounter health issues with our fathers beyond anything I could have imagined. We call off the trip only to have them decide they can go two weeks before the original dates. With great care, Kevin and I arrange to take our fathers, Larry and Barney aged 77 and 72 to Germany to see their brothers crash site. They both have pace makers, defibrillator implants.
As the author and the local people learn of our coming, articles are run in local German newspapers about the crash and the book and the brothers coming from America. As it turns out, two eyewitnesses of the crash call in to the paper. When we arrived in Oerie Germany last Thursday, there were many people there to greet us. Three newspaper reporters, two eyewitnesses (who were 10 at the time), the town historian, the town mayor, and several others. It was bitterly cold and windy, just like the night in November 1944. The tiny Germany village where my uncle's plane crashed has not change very much at all. The people were all very kind, helpful, and endearing.
It was a tremendous experience on many levels. Hard to explain. Best I can do is show you the email I sent out to the greater M. family after the meeting in Germany along with some pictures.
10-28-2009, 12:55 PM #2
Great story Billy. I've always been fascinated by WWII history since spending time in Holland as a teenager. My aunt & uncle live in a town called Hoek van Holland where many of the bunkers that were part of Hitler's "Atlantic Wall" are still in the dunes. Also, some of the older houses that quartered German troops still have underground bunkers in their back yards. My grandmother was in her 20's when the Germans invaded Eindhoven & she has some amazing stories.
I was in Belgium last summer & stumbled upon a sign for Dunkirk & decided to go check it out. It's a pretty beach town now...hard to imagine so many died there.
06-07-2013, 10:50 AM #3
TTT - as I think my friend may have now come full circle in regards to his uncle being shot down over Germany. Check out his latest "report" here: http://southerncanyoneers.blogspot.c...er-flight.html
06-07-2013, 09:09 PM #4
A similar thing happened to my wives family. Her dads uncles bomber crashed just after take off in England during WWII. After the advent of the Internet a man who was a child at the time of the crash found a cousin on a message board. He had witnessed the crash and still lived in the area where it happened. He would go back every year after the farm field was plowed, where the crash happened and dig through the area for artifacts from the plane. He found a ring in the wreckage debris field and sought out to try and find out who the ring belonged to. It just happened it was my wives great uncles class ring. Once he found my wives cousin he disclosed that he had the ring and set up to come over and return it to the family. Him and his son in law made the trip over from England to Jacksonville Texas to meet the family and hang out for a few days at the family reunion that we have every year. Really nice guy. He brought over a bunch of pieces that he had found over the last 60 or so years. It was really cool to see the closure that it brought to my wives great aunts and her grandmother who didn't know the whole story of what happened on that fateful night so long ago. English law requires that any artifacts found be returned to the national war museum. He managed to bring us several pieces of the plane and returned the ring to its rightful place, it's family.
06-07-2013, 10:56 PM #5
When I got out of college I went to Europe and while I was there I followed my great uncles unit from landing on Omaha and to Germany to a little town out side of the hurtgen forrest called Duren where he fell. I have the whole story and his units history there but it's too much to type but great experience none the less...filled me with a lot of pride and at the same time great sadness. In tribute, I brought home a can of the dirt in the area where he fell. I had a really good guide that had all the records available for each man in the unit. Not much of my uncle was brought home so I felt in a way I helped bring him home.
06-08-2013, 10:51 AM #6
I never remember seeing this thread. It really hits very close to home. My father (who passed in 2006) flew 44 missions as a waist gunner on a B-17 with the 8th AAC out of England. He never spoke that much about it but did share some things with me as he got older. I do know from talking to his brothers and sisters that he carried some big emotional scars with him all his life. All the guys who were in combat during WWII no matter the theatre went through hell. But, those guys in the 8th AAC flying the heavy bombers REALLY went through hell. He was in England from early January 1944 until late Feb. 1945.
Last edited by Beagleman62; 06-08-2013 at 03:51 PM.
06-08-2013, 11:07 AM #7
Amazing how that generations influence and sacrifice continues to inspire some of the greatest stories and still more incidents like this develop.
Not only did these folks carry their countries and their families when it counted most. They carried on that attitude when they came home in a very dignified and respectful way. Tempered by experience and scrappy as then they came home they then worked hard and lived well.
06-08-2013, 06:49 PM #8
This story hits close to home for me. My grandfather was a belly gunner on a B-17 that was shot down over Belgium in March of 1943. He evaded capture by hiding in a haystack and was taken in by a Belgian farmers family. He lived behind enemy lines for over a year and when the SS would come through searching he would act like he was deaf and couldn't speak clearly. Keep in mind the whole time he was missing my grandmother presumed that he was dead,all the while raising the infant" my uncle" that she had given birth to a couple of months before he was shot down. He was rescued sometime in the summer of 1944 as the American forces that landed at Normandy pushed there way towards Germany. My grandfather passed away when I was three years old so I really don't have much of a memory when it comes to him. It's really awesome that he has those artifacts from his uncles crash site. My father has been researching my grandfathers crash,escape,evasion and rescue here lately and I know that he would love to have a physical object like that to hang on to.
06-10-2013, 06:43 AM #9
Thanks, guys, for sharing your family's stories along w/my friend Shawn. These men and women made the ultimate sacrifice - I sure hope our future generations do not forget them...
06-10-2013, 08:45 AM #10
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