For quite some time now I’ve been on a search to learn more about my grandfather, mainly to learn about what he did during World War II. When I would ask him about it, his response would be that I was too young. Unfortunately he passed before I was ever old enough.
Of course through intervening years I’ve found that I doubt I ever would’ve been old enough. He didn’t really share that information with his own children. He pretty much kept it to himself. He had medals, but he never displayed them. I know he was he was POW, but not much of the details to that.
Since the advent of the internet however, I’ve been able to start to piece a few things together here and there. I’ve managed to find out his unit information, to the point of getting to read some after action reports. While only a couple mention him specifically, I have at least been able to learn some things. I’ve even managed to learn what Stalag he was held in although I haven’t been able to do much with that information yet.
Most of the information I acquired was a few years ago through some communications with people who were there. While none remembered him, all these people I’ve been in communication were in different platoons or different companies of the same regiment. But, at least I’ve been on the right track. These men who didn’t know me from anybody, took time to help me. Took time out of their lives to help me learn more about the life of my grandfather.
I received a letter yesterday out of the blue and completely unexpected. The interesting thing is, when I saw the return address, I knew who the letter was in regards to. This one individual, several years ago, had corresponded with me quite a lot trying to help me get information. As usually happens, we ended up falling out of touch. I know it’s been at least 7 years since I last heard from him.
As I said, when I saw the return address the memories of this man flooded back. However, the name on that return address was different. I opened the letter and there was a photocopy of that man’s obituary. His daughter had found my address in her father’s address book and thought I’d like to know. I intend today to write his daughter back and let her know how much I appreciated her father’s help.
I also want to take to this forum and thank all of that generation. For the individuals who have helped point me in the right direction. For all the ones who have helped anyone else looking for answers. I can imagine that I’m not the only one who’s been trying to piece together a deceased family member’s life to learn what they did. That these people who have taken time out of their lives to help others in such a way is incredible. So I say, emphatically, THANK YOU.
I also have a request. To those of that generation, who served in World War II. I beg and plead, tell your story. At the very least try to write it down, or find someone to dictate it to, who will keep it safe and can pass it along when you want it passed along. Tell it to your family and let me tell you, the you aren’t old enough excuse is crap. Your stories should not be lost to time. So I beg of you, don’t let them be lost.
Thank you for your time today. Now I’ve got to go and write a letter.
Originally published July 9, 2013