Sunday, May 20, 2012

A GI's WW II Scrapbook

Soon, Memorial Day sales will be shouted from every newspaper and TV ad, overshadowing the true meaning of the day.  To many, it's just another holiday, a day off from work

My father was a WW II Signal Corps photographer and when I think of the sacrifices of our service men and women on Memorial Day I honor him as well.

Upon his death in 1984 he left me the contents of his desk, actually the only inheritance I ever received from either of my parents.  My mother, who passed away some twenty years later, essentially became estranged from us after his death.  I feel more sadness than anger over this as she missed seeing her only two grandchildren grow up.  

But on a Spring day in 1984 I remember ascending the stairs into the attic where my father had lived separately from my mother, in my old childhood bedroom, and from my father's desk I recovered some of his photographs, family memorabilia, his silver pocket knife which I still use and cherish, some letters he wrote to my mother and his brother during the War (onecan be read at the bottom of  this entry), and his scrapbook from the army.

That scrapbook reveals my father as a young man, a person I did not know.  The person I knew as a kid went off to work, returning to a home of discord each evening.  He aged before his time.

He almost never talked about the War, but as his scrapbook attests, he was justifiably proud of his service to his country.  Until recently, it hibernated in a closet.  My son and I recently photographed its contents.  Only a small portion of the scrapbook is incorporated here, but it is fitting to post this as Memorial Day approaches.

It begins with some of the insignias he wore.  I think he was particularly proud that eventually he joined the 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles:

Dad's order to report for induction:

His records and ID cards:


Each GI was given a pamphlet "When You are Overseas:"



The call went out for "mentally and morally sound" women to join the WACs:

He took several leaves in Switzerland as my mother was half Swiss. There are a number of brochures covering the places he visited: 




Some other kinds of R&R:

WW II European currency:

A couple of the men he served with were artists, in addition to being photographers, and a few of their sketches even include my dad:


Naturally, there are hundreds of photos in the scrapbook, and these are just a few, but they give a sense of his time there:

This particular page had two photos of Marlene Dietrich who had become an American citizen and toured with the USO overseas:
 This document covers executions at Bruchsal and he was probably there at the time:

A sad letter mentioning my father from the parent of a fallen comrade:

Finally, the letter our service men and women received from President Truman. Indeed, "the heartfelt thanks of a grateful nation:"