Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pieces of the Puzzle Finally Filled In

My father, who died several years ago, never talked about his WW2 experiences. I knew a few things, that he was a pilot, that his plane was shot down over Italy and he escaped to Switzerland where he was interned until he escaped and return to his squadron, that he flew a B-24 Liberator. That's pretty much it. I didn't even know that much until I was out of college. Like Tom Brokaw said in The Greatest Generation, men came home from that war wanting to forget everything they had seen, ready to get on with their lives. My father obviously carried a lot of the war with him. He was an angry person with a quick temper and an absolute inability to forgive anyone or anything. But to his children, we knew nothing about his war experience and how it might have affected him.

I've been half-heartedly doing research here and there to try and piece together just where my father was stationed, what his war experience was like, the squadron he was attached to, etc. But I never found much of anything until today. Today, I hit the jackpot. I found out his Bombardment Group number (55th), his Bomb Squad number (778th) where he crash landed and when (Oct 4th 1944, 13.90 hours, Dubendorf), his plane ID and serial number (Brown Nose/Dutchess Alice), and even the names and identification numbers of the entire crew. Jackpot! I even found out about a book written specifically about his plane and another plane, both shot down with squads interned in Switzerland.

Now that I have this information, I can get his service records and learn just what they mysteries are about. I know he earned several medals, but I don't know for what. I know about the internment, but I don't know exactly where (Davos, Switzerland) and for how long. Nor do I know how he got back to his squadron.

Knowing this information is exciting. It fills in a part of my childhood that was totally missing. The men that fought in WW2 were notorious for not sharing their past. They were also known for being very distant and detached fathers, something I didn't know until I read Brokaw's book. So many of the men described in that book sounded like my father. Unlike men from subsequent wars, the vets from WW2 didn't ever get to process their experiences. They came back from Europe or the Pacific fronts, still shell-shocked at the inhumanity they witnessed. But they were expected to find work, to get married and have families, to buy homes with the GI bill, and to forget about their experience with war. My father was one of those vets that did everything expected of him. He married my mother after knowing her for 2 weeks and going out on two dates. Yes, he WAS insane! He and my mother had my sister the following year. They bought a starter home, a tiny little cape in one of those brand new developments built just for the vets. They started their professional lives, raised a family, moved several times, each to a larger and fancier home. But the experience of war was never spoken about. Never. It just happened, and it went away without ever being processed.

As a child raised in this type of environment, it was difficult to ever know my father. He wasn't interested in his children, he wasn't loving or friendly or even caring. He earned money, he brought it home, and that was the extent of his involvement with his family. He wasn't a happy person. He had no friends, nor did he want them. He didn't like or trust people. He was a loner long before it was cool to be so. Because he was such a stranger to me, I have this need to find out more about him, about his war experience. I want to try and understand why he was so afraid of enjoying life. I think the key is in the military records. I just can't wait to find out more.

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Blogger yellojkt said...

That is great that you found so much information. My grandfather was Army under Patton in the Signal Corps in Europe. I really don't much more.

michele sent me.

29/9/07 9:51 PM  
Blogger -E said...

I'm glad you're learning more information about your father, it must be interesting. My grandfather was in WW2 and I don't know much more than that either. I do know he didn't fit the bill as being the distant father/grandfather though as he was the most loving person I have ever met.

I came from Michele's and hope you continue to learn new things.

29/9/07 10:10 PM  
Blogger Reflekshins said...

Fascinating stuff. My dad just e-mailed me photos of my great grandfather, and his father's headstones with their Confederate regiment engraved on them. Fortunately for us we didn't have to live through those moments.


30/9/07 12:11 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

What a gift to have this piece of your past filled in. War, however justified, takes a terrible toll on everyone in it.

My grandmother never spoke a word about her own family because she was so wracked with guilt over having survived when they didn't. The only information I have came from my grandfather, who grew up in the same village (and dated her older sister there, but that's a story for another day).

30/9/07 1:36 AM  
Blogger Nikki-ann said...

Good luck in your research, it definitely sounds interesting. I get excited about things I find out about people who died long before I came along, let alone closer relatives.

30/9/07 3:11 PM  

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