An open interview: My grandfather is a 91-year-old American WWII medic who served in England, France
My grandfather is a 91-year-old American WWII medic who served in England, France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany, liberating a POW camp. Ask him Anything!
What was the first thing he did once he returned?
He says he kissed his mother :) He'll never forget when he was walking down the street when he first got home and recognized his own mother walking in front of him, and came up to her and kissed her. She was shocked to see him!
What did he dream of doing while overseas?
He says he dreamed of getting laid. BAHAHAH.
I understand he was a medic but to what extent (if any) did he have to use his weapon?
Did he injure the enemy in any way? Thanks for doing this. He says he bandaged a German officer but then said: "Drop dead, you son of a bitch," and then he walked away. Also, medics do not carry weapons during combat -- he walked around with a weapon most days but never used it against anyone.
Good story though: Once he threatened to kill one of his own medics because he deserted his post during combat; he held a gun to the guy's head and said that if he ever deserted during combat again, he would shoot him himself!
Thank him for his service please. Where was the POW camp and what condition were the prisoners in when freed?
The camp was in Mannheim Germany and housed mainly British POWs. He says they were in very poor condition -- they were ill-fed, poorly clothed, and he observed evidence of torture. He won't elaborate on that last bit though, sorry.
Which camp did he liberate? What were the occupants' reactions? What is his attitude to Germans and Japanese people, both now, and straight after the war?
He doesn't remember the name of the camp, but it was in Mannheim, Germany. He says he still has an unfavorable opinion of both the Japanese and the Germans. It took him literally 50 years to be able to get into a German car -- I remember him refusing to get into my mom's BMW.
I've gotta thank your gramps for what he went through. My question is this: How prepared were you mentally for the rigors of war? Were you told just how brutal it could be?
He says he had no concept of how brutal it would be. He said he was once asked to indoctrinate 6-7 new officers because he had the most combat experience in the battalion at that time so he told them the only thing they could do to survive was to "keep their head on their shoulders"...literally, and make sure they went back home to their mothers.
Would he be able to describe how he learned about the concentration camps? Was it through the media, or within the military?
He learned about the camps through actual survivors, after they were liberated. He also had friends in platoons that liberated some of the camps, who told him about them and showed him photographs. In other words, he didn't know about them until late in the war.
Have you kept any mementos of the war, besides your memories and medals? He brought home souvenirs that were "liberated," including weapons, Nazi flags and arm bands, a Nazi helmet, and other military equipment. He also took photographs of bodies stacked up in the Buchenwald concentration camp that were given to him by military officers he knew.
Have you heard of people taking "war trophies" home after/during the war? If so, what were some things brought back?
He says other people he knew brought home mostly weapons (pistols, rifles, etc).
What was the most gut-wrenching, tense moment he experienced in all the war?
He says this question is unanswerable, because it was all horrible. But he says the most difficult part was just day to day, standing up and hearing bullets go by your head and not knowing if one has your name on it.
Did he participate in any specific battles, go through any specific towns/cities? Memorable expierences?
There was a coin toss between two companies about landing on D Day because the commanding officer was looking for volunteers. The other company won the coin toss and they landed on D Day, and he landed two weeks later. So basically I would likely not exist if he lost that coin toss. He was in Normandy and a bunch of little towns in France, including Isigny.
Does he think their should still be a draft? What does he think of the treatment of veterans today?
He thinks there should still be a draft because if the country needs it, we should do it.
He says that veterans are not treated well today, but he won't describe in what sense...
How has his time in the war affected the years since?
He says he had PTSD when he came home: nightmares for 6-8 months and general anxiety. He used to dream about artillery shellings and would jump under the bed for cover, even after he woke up.
Do you remember any moments of beauty amongst the chaos around you? Also, what would you say to young people considering enlisting in the army? Thank you for taking time to answer our questions!
He doesn't remember any beauty, except for a woman he met in Switzerland, and another woman in France...lol.
And as far as enlisting...he says good luck. :)
Did he ever save an enemy from dying?
He says the POW camp he liberated also had civilians in it, because Germans took civilians from other countries and housed them in these camps.
Where did he enter Europe? Involved in any major battles? Sleep in a foxhole? See a German tiger tank?
He says he was stationed in England and then sailed to Normandy from there. He did sleep in a fox hole many times (and envied the guys in the Navy because they always had clean, dry beds) and saw a German tiger tank (and was scared!)
What base was he at in England? We just returned from RAF Mildenhall :) Let him know that a random Air Force wife thanks him for his service. He doesn't remember :/
I know this has been said time and time again but tell him thank you for his service. My great-grandfather served in France and was killed during a battle in which his unit was pinned down. Was there ever a time in battle where his unit was pinned down by enemy fire?
He says that when he was in France, his unit was pinned down by German fire. During that time, no soldiers he knew died, but he says that he felt guilty for living while those around him died.
Can you ask him about some of his memories from VE Day and VJ Day? Was he fortunate enough to be back home for either of those?
He says he was preparing for Japan's invasion after VE day, so he wasn't lucky enough to be at home -- he was still in Germany. He remembers it being a really joyous day :)
He says the same of VJ day. He's not super descriptive sometimes -- wish I could type more!
What is the greatest hardship he faced while serving?
He says the greatest hardship was being away from home, which was even harder than being shot at on a regular basis. He also says the Germans had an .88 mm canon, which was scary.
What was the most interesting thing that happened to him while serving? And if he knows what CoD is, what does he think about it? Also tell him how cool he is for doing this and tell him I said thank you for serving.
He says the most interesting thing that happened to him was not getting killed (LOL). I asked him what else was interesting, and he said, "Not getting killed more than once." A straight shooter, he is.
He has no idea what CoD is, but you're welcome!
Can you give your grandpa a high five for me? Tell him Pedraam said hi.
Hahaha sure, thanks for your support.