Showing posts with label Signal Corps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Signal Corps. Show all posts

Saturday, June 18, 2016

My Dad in Germany – A Video for Father’s Day

After the surrender of Germany in 1945, my father was hoping to be sent home, although fearing he would be shipped off to the Pacific Theater.  Meanwhile he was part of the occupying force and after months of combat could finally relax with his friends.  I had told my cousin Bob that I had donated everything I had of his war memorabilia to the National WW II Museum and he asked whether I had the film my father brought back from that time.  I did not and was happy to learn that Bob had converted that old 16 MM film to DVD.  He immediately sent me a copy.  So the time machine of film allows me to post this brief glimpse of my Dad’s life at the conclusion of WW II and poignantly for me, on this Father’s day weekend.

The original film was in very poor condition and some content was more travelogue than revealing of my father, but I managed to find a few parts and piece them together into a four minute montage.  There is no sound.  I posted it as a YouTube video for its preservation.  Filmed in Wiesbaden, it shows my father kidding around with friends, all “waiting for the orders,” passing the time by comparing photos of family.  He’s the one sitting on the right of the step smoking, showing snapshots of me. (The video is best viewed directly on the YouTube site.)

As a Signal Corps photographer he had access to color film and so this video segues to a very short but touching color film of him giving a stick of gum to a small German boy, about my age at the time.  I’m sure that is why the child drew my father’s attention and patience to film this event against the backdrop of devastation to Wiesbaden.  It concludes with a very poorly preserved film of a party his friends gave him to mark his 7th wedding anniversary (he’s the one cutting the cake), so that would have been early September, 1945, only days after Japan surrendered; no wonder they were all in such a jolly mood.  But it wouldn’t be until the end of the year that he finally received his orders to return home.  He was just 29.

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:"

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

“Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.” -- John Adams

That is how I concluded an entry I wrote three years ago on Memorial Day.

I still think about the profound significance of the day and of my Dad who served in WW II as a Signal Corps photographer. He was not the type of man who talked about his experiences in the war much, particularly the day he was one of the first army photographers who entered the Buchenwald concentration camp. He had horrific photos in his private collection which I discovered as a kid. Also I remember today was known as Decoration Day, but the intended meaning of honoring our veterans has not changed. Thanks to them all we live in a country which in spite of its problems is always striving to "form a more perfect union."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day Thoughts

On this Veterans Day I take a moment to remember my father who fought in WW II. He was a Signal Corps photographer, and although that doesn't sound very dangerous, he had his share of close calls, fears, and uncertainties. He did things he never imagined he'd be asked to do or see, such as having to film a German concentration camp as soon as it was liberated witnessing first-hand those demonic atrocities. Or having to go up in gliders to silently land near enemy lines, and, generally, having to be away from his wife (Penny) and young son (me). He rarely talked about those war years, preferring to just put that part of his life into a compartment, locking it and throwing away the key.

My father had some notoriety, appearing on the pages of Stars and Stripes, the venerable newspaper of the armed forces that has been published since the Civil War. My father was filming at enemy lines overlooking the Rhine River, under a German sign reading "Photography Forbidden."

Now that he is long gone I regret not trying to talk to him more about the experience. I have some of his letters that he wrote to my mother and my Uncle and below I quote one of my favorite passages as it is so revealing. Towards the end of the War he wanted to get home so badly. Who could blame him? I'm sure all Veterans, current and past share those feelings.

Here are my father’s hopes and thoughts on Aug. 12, 1945, in a letter to his brother, Phil, from Wiesbaden, Germany:

“As you no doubt already know, I informed my sweetheart [Penny] some very discouraging news – that is being stuck here as [part of the] occupational [force]. On the heels of that letter came the wonderful news that Japan is asking for surrender. As this wasn’t definite as yet, I can’t say that finally war is ended, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of a day or two.

The Atomic bombings, and Russia’s entry into the conflict just overwhelmed the Japanese, especially the Atom smasher, a deadly and destructive thing, which has great future development for the betterment of mankind, but what I fear is some nation to use it for a complete destruction of civilization. I hope that this fear never will materialize.

What I began to say concerning the news [staying here as part of the occupational force], which I hated to tell Penny, is this – the sudden ending of all hostilities can possibly bring me and hundreds of other guys back to homes sooner than is predicted. I’m sure that those who are the law makers at home aren’t going to leave us in these foreign lands against our will – especially as there are millions of other Joes who have never left the good old USA and faced a future of sudden death.

I fought for freedom, freedom for all peoples. Now that we have won victory over the oppressors, haven’t I the right to enjoy that freedom? The Army is composed of civilians. Is it not the democratic way that we all share the fruits of victory, especially those who fought for it and were fortunate enough to be sparred a hideous death?"